Thursday, May 31, 2012

Organizing: Jewelry wrestled, fabric tackled

As I've mentioned, I've been on a rampage.  Cleaning, organizing, editing, revising. My space, my things, my life, my mindset.

I've made some significant progress on the first two. :-) ( I imagine I'll be working on the last two for eternity. As we all should be, really.)

My jewelry drawer has been a source of constant frustration for a long time.  I wandered into an aisle in the grocery store the other day and came home with some inexpensive ceramic dishes.

I cut into some leftover felt that I made (from the Scrappy Afghan that is no longer such - more on that another time...) to line them and prevent scratches.

Et voila!
Little tip I picked up from Martha:  Use spare buttons to keep pairs of earrings together.  Thread them through the holes and they don't get lost.  OR if you lose one, you lose both - out of sight, out of mind. :-)

And after seeing many organized fabric stashes around the interwebs, I finally bought some comic book boards.  Mini bolts.  Love them.
Yeah, this isn't all of it.  There are more mini bolts behind this stack and in the bin to the left...
And now that I once again know what I have, I used a big chunk to sew a spring top. (Coming soon to a blog that might be this one. :-)  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The New Recipe Rule: Aioli, Steak, and Cake

At the end of April,  I decided to try at least one new recipe a week.  I've had some interesting results so far - the sourdough being the most (and unexpectedly) challenging.  But I've enjoyed myself and tend to get ridiculously excited when I find the next one I plan to try...

When I saw this list posted at littlebrownpen, it sounded amazing but I was skeptical about the aioli My understanding of aioli was that it was a fresher, fancier version of mayonnaise.  I loathe mayonnaise.  I won't even use a knife that's been used to spread mayonnaise even if it's been wiped clean on a piece of bread.  I ask every server at every restaurant what exactly I can expect if I order a particular sandwich and ask for them to hold the mayo every time.

However, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it and I'd always heard that fresh was amazing, etc. I hadn't bought a Mother's Day gift....

HOLY AIOLI!  It's definitely not mayonnaise.  It's definitely a workout. It's definitely worth it.

I made the other recipes, too.  It's probably one of the best meals I have ever made in my life.  One of the best I've eaten, too.  Seester was in charge of the bbq.  She cooked the steaks perfectly.  She'd want me to tell you that.  I want to tell you that the fresh parm on top melts into the steak and adds just the right bite...

I did use potatoes that were larger than large apparently so I'll be wiser next time. But dipping them in the aioli was delicious!

For dessert, I stuck to a old family favourite from a community fundraiser cookbook that lost its cover decades ago.  I had already tackled three new ones in a single meal - I figured I was safe.  And it's new to you. :-)

You can tell from the picture that it's well-loved and oft-made. It's not too sweet, has a rustic texture, and a really nice flavour.

I top it with balsamic strawberries and frozen vanilla ice cream or yogurt.  For the strawberries, hull and slice (or quarter) two pints of strawberries.  Add a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a couple tablespoons balsamic vinegar (trust me!) and let the berries macerate.  I leave the bowl on the counter and stir it once every 15-30 minutes for a couple of hours... Delicious.

Recipe links - found via littlebrownpen:
The Creamiest Aioli  - lots of garlic and lemon goodness
Baked Potato Wedges - it's the garlic and fresh rosemary that make these special
Grilled Filet Steak and Arugula - I used mixed field greens with herbs instead of 100% arugula with great success


PS:  If you borrow recipe books, magazines, etc., and forget to photocopy or type up the recipes you want to try until 3 seconds before you were going to give the book, magazine, etc., back to the lender, whip out your phone or camera and snap a picture of it. You can also take a picture of complicated technique photos or the finished dish photo.  That way, if you never end up making the recipe, you haven't spent a ton of time or photocopier money, copying the recipe.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Giveaway Winners

UPDATE:  After two weeks and repeated attempts to get in touch with the first winner and in consultation with Sew, Mama, Sew, I've used the Random Number Generator to pick a new winner for the fat quarter bundle:

Congrats, JustPam!  I will get that bundle in the mail for you this weekend!


Thank you SO much to everyone who entered and entertained me with their comments!  I appreciated every single one and had a great time reading them.  I even tried to imagine what some of these movies would be like...  

If there was a movie about my life, I'd like it titled "Rock(the boat)&Roll(with it)", and starring Sean Connery as me.  If he's not available, I will settle for Naomi Watts. Or Michelle Yeoh. It would be about a  teacher who finds herself in the middle of political intrigue, on the run, with only her wits and knowledge of theatre sports to help her until she meets a charming spy (Chris Evans) trying to take down the corrupt government chasing her. Wacky hijinx ensue...  Directed by Wes Anderson.

So what if I made most of that up?  It's my movie. :-)

Fat quarter Bundle:
Number 75 is:
Charm Pack:
It was HARD to pick my favourite for the charm pack. Really hard. I loved so many of them. I weeded it down to ten, and then to five, and then finally, based on the fact that someone in the room with me nearly wet themselves when I shared it, I picked this one:
Congratulations, cakegirl and Joy! I have sent you emails and can hopefully get those fabrics in the mail for you soon!

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing food recipes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My spiderweb quilt, begun years ago, is finally complete.  I think it is my favourite quilt that I have ever done. I'm completely serious. I can't even tell you the insane love I have for this quilt. Are there flaws? Yep. Am I going to point them out? Nope.  I'm just going to bask in pride and love.

My inspiration pieces were here and here.  I loved the one because the webs didn't touch and were two different sizes and the other because more than one background fabric was used.  So I sketched.  And counted. Made templates. Traced. Cut. Glued.  It was a while before I got going with the sewing.  Other than the linen-coloured Rouenneries and cream muslin backgrounds, the rest is scraps and a pair of my father's old trousers.  The back and binding is a bed sheet leftover from my teacher quilt.

I've named it Homespun.  Spiders spin, quilts are homey, and I had that line from A Midsummer Night's Dream running through my head for some reason... "What hempen homespuns have we here?"  They were a ragtag bunch, definitely fitting for a scrap quilt.
I quilted the name into one of the webs.
I'm insanely happy with the quilting. Pebbles, and echoes, for the backgrounds (thanks to Audrie who suggested doing more than one thing in the back) and improved spirals and squiggles in the webs.
I discovered while quilting that there was a hole (a HOLE!) in one of the fabrics.  Yeah.  So I sketched a spider over it.
His name is Troy.  I don't know why.  It just is.
Measures about 76" square.  Photographed just before it started raining.
NB: When using very light binding and backing, clean your hang-froms before hanging your quilt from it or all your fears about using a light binding and backing will come true and your efforts to keep your cat off it are all for naught. :-)

Yep, I really love this one.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sew, Mama, Sew's Giveaway Day: Fabric!

UPDATE:  Giveaway is now closed.  Winners will be announced soon!  Winners have been announced HERE.  Thank you (so much) to everyone who entered - I was greatly entertained by your biographical movie titles and star choices. :-)

Hello, everyone!  This is my first Giveaway Day as a host and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Today, I am sharing a bit of my stash! I have a Samba Dazzle Fat Quarter Bundle (8 fat quarters!) for you:

a Chrysalis Charm Pack.

All you have to do is answer me this:  If they made a movie about your life, what would the title be and who would you like to play you?

I'll close comments around 6pm CST on Friday, May 25th.

The winner of the FQ Bundle will be randomly selected.  For the charm pack, I will pick my favourite answer so have fun with it!

International entries are welcome!

Important:  If I can't contact you, I can't give you a prize SO please make sure your profile contains an email address or is not set to no-reply.  If you're unsure, please leave your email address in the comment!

Have a great week everyone and thanks for visiting CitricSugar!  For more great giveaways, head back to Sew, Mama, Sew...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bloggers' Quilt Festival: Myself, as a Teacher

This is my entry to the Spring 2012 Bloggers' Quilt Festival, which is a first for me.
The quilt, finished at the end of March, was conceived as a homework assignment for a class in my final semester in the College of Education. It ended up being far more meaningful to me than I could have expected.
The back - a metaphor for ways we learn.
After deciding to use the quilt as a way to learn new techniques and block styles while expressing who I am as a teacher and what I stand for as an educator, I sent out a call for help to my fellow bloggers to contribute.  Quilting, like education, is a community-based and collaborative activity.  I was lucky enough to have 5 special women lend me a piece of themselves for this project.

There are many different elements at work here.
Turning darts to feathers
An awareness of what it means to be an antiracist, anti oppressive educator, a commitment to being a lifelong learner, and a uniqueness that I hope to inspire in every one of my students.
Random crumbs - no contribution too small
Unpacking pop culture and looking at influences on our young people - all part of the job
Humour also plays a part, as does improvisation and working with limited resources.
Tiny piecing - this is about 9" square.
Firsts, such as free-motion quilting, paper-piecing, and new-to-me block styles are there; modern techniques and traditional knowledge are there, too.
However, the most important idea is love, which is not only the cornerstone in the quilt and hidden in the stitching, but the absolute foundation of my teaching practice.

You can read more about the individual elements of this quilt in this collection of posts.
"Myself, as a Teacher", finished March 2012.  Approx 72x80.
Pieced by hand and machine, machine-quilted.

Thank you to Amy for hosting, and to you for stopping by!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Wearables

I can cross a few things off my list.
I managed to finish the socks I was working on a couple weeks ago while watching hockey.  Knit using  Purl Soho's Perfect Fit Socks. I used the Anzula Cloud yarn they suggested but while the socks were easy and feel much softer than any socks I've knit before, I didn't particularly enjoy knitting them.  The yarn split. A lot. It was difficult to keep a good tension with it, as you can see below, and I never have tensions problems. I don't think I'd be inclined to use that yarn again.
And at long last, here are pictures of that sweater I finished what seems like forever ago.
I'll be completely honest, the pattern wasn't all the easy to follow in places so it had its completely tricky moments.  But I figured it out (or made something up - who can tell.)  If you'd like to try your own, it appeared in the Holiday 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting - it had Martha on the cover.
While I am not a person predisposed towards glitter, I used the exact yarn they did which has a metallic filament in it.  Berocco Flicker, it's called.  It had a braided ply so it knit beautifully (no splitting!).  
How it looks open - one of the not-so-good shots from before...
Despite the glitter, it satisfies my sensibility: feminine, but not girly.  And there is something so Gatsby about it...

I took a brief time-out from my works-in-progress spree to whip up an apron for Haiti by Hand. I've been meaning to do more goodwill sewing and the timing on this was perfect. Maureen McCracknell put up a tutorial for quick aprons and a link to the organization's info. The deadline is May 31st, if you'd like to add one to the bunch. Is it bad that I asked my mum to model an apron on Mother's Day?
The rest of my works-in-progress, Scrappy Afghan and my spiderweb quilt, are coming along, though now in the home-stretches Scrappy Afghan no longer wants to be that.  I'll tell you more about that later, but for now, we're well past the felting point.  The spiderweb is quilted and will get binding today...
Figured out a trick to make small pieces of tape stick to the quilt top - pins. :-)  Double-reinforced quilting barriers.
Further on the list of things I've been meaning to do, I have decided to enter the Blogger's Quilt Festival tomorrow so I'll be posting (again) about the Teacher Identity Project quilt.  If you're sick of it, feel free to skip tomorrow's post. :-) And because I'm feeling fun and crazy, on Monday, I'm going to be giving away some fabric for Sew, Mama, Sew's Giveaway Day.

Have a wonderful Thursday and long weekend (if it's a long weekend for you!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sourdough: The Complete First Series (photo-heavy)

So I mentioned that I picked up this book.
And I mentioned that I'd started a starter and planned to make sourdough. The starter now lives in the fridge, by the way.  I named it Keith.
Then came about a week of trials and a whole lot of errors.

Episode One: The Trusting Home Chef
I am a person who follows a recipe very faithfully the first time I make it.  I made my starter from my other starter (two starter process - odd I know) the night before and left it to get all fluffy and yeasty. It was beautiful, stretchy and sticky, and there was more than enough for two so in the morning, I saved the extra second starter and popped it in the fridge with Keith.
Son of Keith
Then I measured out my ingredients, dissolved Second Starter in a little warm water and dumped in my flour and salt.

It felt dry.  However, this author is an award-winning breadmaker with international credentials so I trusted that he wouldn't steer me by the wayside. Bah!
It's not a tumah...
Dough did not relax during its initial pinch-knead-rest cycles.  Dough did not rise in the first hour in the bowl stage.  Dough did not rise during its 3-6 hours in a colander lined with a floured tea towel stage.  After a few hours, I grew desperate and popped it in the warming drawer of the oven on the dough-proofing setting.  Dough did not proof.  Dough dried out.  Dough was a brick. Dough ended up in the garbage never having realized its destiny. Bah!

1) I need to use my kitchen scale for bread ingredients - don't know why I didn't.  Really foolish. But 2 cups of flour and 8 7/8oz can be dramatically different things.
2) The kitchen is too chilly for rising.
3) My warm water was too cold in the beginning.

Episode Two: Scale Away With Me
This time I weighed my ingredients. I ended up using almost 1/2cup less flour (from 2 cups total!) Professional bakers always use weights instead of volume, right?  Hmm.
A little like old chewing gum
Dough felt better but still stiff. It didn't rise a lot in the first stages but I figured in the colander stage, this time it would work. Bah!  Once in the colander and covered with the tea towel, the top of the dough again dried out. Disgusted, I left it sitting on the counter as I whipped up another second starter.

1) I have often heard that Canadian flours are harder and you need less of them for most recipes that aren't developed in Canada.  Weighting or not, the amounts are going to be off.
2) I'm not getting the dough enough moisture or warmth. When using a two-bowl covering system (the book recommends covering the dough in the first couple of stages with the bowl that held the flour), probably shouldn't use a plastic bowl to cover.  They don't collect condensation on the inside and don't absorb the warmth in the air.

Episode Three: Jungle Fever or The Sun Rises Faster
In the morning, I had a fresh batch of Second Starter. For those keeping track, this was my SECOND Second Starter, which overnight, had outgrown its container and was slipping out underneath the lid it had managed to pop off.  Don't care, I'm using it anyway.  I plop that starter into some very warm water and whisk it until it's all dissolved and the kitchen smells like a brewery. I also discover that Dough Two, that I abandon on the counter and forgot about, has managed to do some rising underneath the dried out top.  Hunh.  Well, I figured, set it on a pan, cover it and we'll bake it with Three, just for sh*** & giggles.
I measure the flour by feel.  I add only as much as the dough can handle and still look like the picture. I'm okay with it being a little sticky if it's still elastic and pliable. It has a little give to it. The first pinch-knead-rest cycles feel awesome.  I'm thinking that I might have nailed it this time.  I start plotting bakery takeovers like Daniel Day Lewis... There will be Bread! I even have a bit of a crazy old prospector jig in the kitchen. (There Will Be Blood - Anyone? No?)
Getting closer
This time, I mist the inside of the covering bowl and place warm towels over it.

And it barely rises.  I give it 7 hours and it barely gets bigger. And it's starting to dry out. I know the recipe said small loaf but COME ON!  Two rose higher and its half-crusty already. Bah!

I heat the oven with a small pan on the lower rack.  I place deformed and dried out Dough Two on the sheet with sluggish Dough Three.  When the oven is hot, I readjusted the temp, throw pour boiling water in the hot pan, slide in the sheet and bake.
That's Two on the left, tiny Three is on the right. Dark photos at 9pm - sorry!
Bread has good flavour.  It's a little too done on the bottom and man, it's dense, but it's enough of a step forward to keep me going.
1) In my growing impatience and familiarity with the recipe, I mis-measured the salt. Salt kills yeast.  Dead yeast=no rise.
2) My water in the beginning was too warm.  Hot water kills yeast.  See above.
3) The oven was too hot.  It has difficulty at very high temperatures so rather than crank it up and turn it down, set it to the lower temp in the first place.
4) The hot pan for steam was too close to the bottom of the baking sheet.  I should've set it on the very bottom of the oven.

Episode Four:  The Reckoning
I will lick this thing if it kills me.  This time, I use my wrist to determine water temperature. I measure the salt precisely before adding to the flour, of which I use just enough to arrive at that perfect tacky dough feel.  I cover with a metal bowl.  The pinch-knead-rest goes perfectly.  Meanwhile, I have turned on the fireplace in the living room.  It does its one-hour in the bowl near the fireplace in the warm living room.  I transfer the dough to the lined and floured colander.  This time, I place a wet tea towel over the top of the colander.  It returns to its set near the fireplace.
Four hours later, it's doubled in size.
I heat the oven to 425, not 475.  I place the steam pan in the bottom of the oven.  I add my hot water.  I move my too good to be true at this point Dough Four to the pan, which sticks to the towel a bit and mucks the top but I don't care. I cut the v's and I slide it into the oven.
Instead of a prospector jig, I'm holding my breath, like I'm defusing a nuke.  (Red wire? Blue wire?  Oh, no, they're all yellow!)

And it's beautiful.
And delicious.  
It's a small loaf but it's a decent size if you don't want it to get stale. And I have cracked it.  I own this recipe! Haha!!  Back to the jig.  Cue the butter!

Final comments:
1) I love that the starter is just flour and water.  It relies on wild yeast.  Therefore the recipe was remarkably cheap to screw up several times.  Flour, water, salt, starter.  That's it. Hmmm, chemistry and biology working together. Delicious and educational!

2) The book, though I have no doubt of the talents of the chef, is not written for the novice/average home baker.  If I hadn't made breads from scratch before, the first few attempts would probably put me off trying again.  It was MY experience with bread and Canadian flour that allowed me to tweak what was going on and not his advice.  However, now that I know that the flour measure will be tremendously off, I feel confident trying other recipes from it.  Find an easier recipe if you've never made bread before.

3) It makes great french toast.