Well, it seems like every time I blink, two weeks passes by. How does this happen? I don’t know, but I hear it happens to everyone, so I am trying not to let it get to me. There’s a lot happening around here and most of it is good, I think. Here are some things I have been working on, in no particular order.
First: Knitting. The last time I talked knitting, I was trying to decide what to knit while watching the Olympics. I ended up deciding on a sport weight pullover called Polwarth by Ysolda Teague. Out of my stash, I dug out some sport weight yarn called Brigantia by Spirit Trail Fiberworks that is a polwarth and silk blend.
After doing a quick gauge swatch, I cast on during the opening ceremonies and attempted to do brioche stitch for the first time while watching. For the most part, I did not find the brioche stitch all that challenging, but the little triangle gave me some trouble. The shaping directions for the triangle were a bit confusing, but I muddled through. I think it looks pretty good, but not perfect.
The rest of the sweater is mostly stockinette stitch, which is great for watching sports. Unfortunately, by the time the second week came around, I was growing bored with it and for some reason, the track and field events were not holding my attention as well as the swimming in the first week. Despite my ennui, I plodded ahead and by the end of the closing ceremonies last night, I had finished all but half of a sleeve.
Even though I did not finish, I am pretty happy with how much I got done, considering I really only knit while watching the olympics. The last half sleeve should only take another night or two of knitting and then I’ll have a new sweater!
Second: Baking. Blueberry season is pretty much over (sad face) and peach season never arrived up here in New England. A couple of frosty days in February and March killed almost all of the peach crop in the New England states. We’ve had to rely on the grocery stores for our peaches (another sad face). Last week, I was able to score a bunch of organic peaches that were pretty good and was really happy to make these peach buns.
These are my version of the traditional Baltimore Peach Cake and to say that we love them would be an understatement. Since I posted this picture on Instagram, I’ve had a few requests for a recipe. It’s really something that I have cobbled together over the years by combining a brioche recipe and a crumb topping recipe. All you need is a good brioche recipe (here’s one if you don’t have one) and your favorite crumb topping recipe. Combine those with peaches and you have a wonderful fruity breakfast or afternoon snack bun. I froze a bunch of blueberry ones, which I think will be good. The peach ones do not freeze well and are best eaten within 24 hours, just so you know.
Third: Sewing/Quilting. Gift quilts are so tricky to sew because I can’t show any photos anywhere until the recipient receives it and then sometimes I just forget. So here are two small ones I have finished in the past year. The first is a baby quilt for a dear friend.
If the fabrics looks odd, it’s because 13 different people went out and picked a fabric to represent themselves and sent them to me to put together a quilt. It was really fun to see what everyone picked and a fun challenge to figure out how to put them together in a quilt. I just realized I don’t have a photo of the whole quilt, but that’s ok. I love that it is being used by that cutie pie!
The second quilt is for my dad that will go well with in his log cabin in the woods.
He picked out the fabric a couple of years ago and I finally got it finished (almost-I was a week or so late) in time for his birthday last month.
I made the front and back different so that it could be displayed in two different ways. It was more work that way, but I like the way it turned out. Hopefully, he does, too!
I’ve also finished another couple of blocks from my craftsy block of the month class. Sewing progress was minimal the last couple of weeks because of the heat and all the knitting I was doing. I’d like to get back to that and finish off the blocks for the class and then get back to sewing the Splendid Sampler blocks.
Fourth: I have a bad case of wanting to start lots of new projects.
Today, I plan to cast on a mystery knit along shawl by SusannaIC using the yarn above, and I want to join in on the Fringe Association’s Top-down sweater knitalong. That last one might just take more brain energy than I have right now. There are about five other sweaters I would like to start as well as a couple of other little things. Oh, if only there was more time in the day!
What do you want to work on today?
One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own. We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades! There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house. Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything. Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away. Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.
We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.
I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm. After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here. Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.
It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again. And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks. There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam. Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter. And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies. And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.
Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together. The hardest task is zesting the lemons. Everything else can be done with a whisk. These are my favorite kinds of recipes. Simple. Tasty. Unfussy.
When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.
Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing. You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it. However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness. Plus, it makes it really pretty.
Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread
makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume. If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)
1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
zest of half a lemon
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Mix together the ingredients for the icing. Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk. Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature. The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.
So far, this has been a really hot summer. We were told when we moved to New England that it is normal here for houses not to have central air conditioning. Why install an expensive air conditioning system when it will only be used for a few weeks out of each year? Well, all I have to say is that we have most certainly wanted/needed air conditioning for more than a few weeks so far this summer and the summer is far from over. Although we have some window AC units, we are not able to cool every room in the house with them which means some rooms are pretty much being unused during the hot days. One of those rooms contains my sewing/quilting supplies. As a result, even though I usually sew quite a bit over the summer when our daily schedule is lighter, I have not been sewing much lately, except on days when the temps don’t reach 80 degrees. Those days have been few, but with much relief, we have had several this week.
This past weekend, as soon as the highs dipped below 80, I started sewing. Right now, I am working on getting caught up with Amy Gibson’s Sugar Block Club. She releases one block pattern a month. I abandoned the project back in March when the kitchen renovation took over our lives. Here finally is April.
And today I finished July.
My goal is to combine these blocks with the blocks from her free Craftsy Block of the Month class from 2012 to make a new Queen sized quilt for the guest bedroom. As long as the weather is cool and my schedule stays uncluttered, I’ll be attempting to make a block a day until I am caught up. The blocks are fun to make and there is a good deal of variety, so it does not get boring. I also like the scale of the blocks. They are not so small as to be fiddly, but also not too big and cumbersome. I’m trying to use scraps as much as I can as I feel they have been getting out of control lately. Hopefully, this will not make them look odd together?
Of course, the forecast is calling for another hot spell, so I’ll have to find something else to occupy my time for a few days. Maybe this will help.
There are two days left to decide what I am going to knit during the Olympics and as usual, I am in the throes of indecision. Should I knit a sweater, a shawl, or socks? It has to be easy enough to knit while watching the Olympics, so I dug out all my worsted weight and chunky yarn, but now I am concerned that it will be too hot to knit something chunky in August. Maybe a lace shawl would be better? But lace can be complicated and the last thing I want is to lose my place in a chart while watching the swimming finals. I could just knit plain socks and see how many I can churn out over the course of 17 days. I did this with mittens four years ago. Hmm. The only thing I know for sure is right now is that I will be casting on something new during the opening ceremonies on Friday. What about you? Do you knit or craft while you watch tv?
This summer is going to be recorded in our family history books as one of the busiest and fastest moving summers we have ever had. I feel like I have barely blinked and two months have passed by. Another thing I discovered this week as I opened up this blog for the first time in weeks is that this blog is five years old! Amazing how the months roll by. At the time, so many moments seem to last longer than they should, but in hindsight I wish they had lasted longer. Oh well. C’est la vie. I will try not to waste my time in past regrets, just like I won’t waste your time by going on about how I did not mean to be gone from the blog so long. The truth is, we all have to do what we need to do in the time that we have and sometimes we have time for extra things and sometimes we don’t. My goal is just to be grateful for what I am doing right this minute, which is talking to you, and also to be grateful that you are spending your precious time listening. Thank you.
Now, onward. To kind of celebrate the five year birthday of this blog, I’ve created a new tab at the top of the page here for recipes. Hopefully, when you click on that, you will find a nice tidy list of recipes with hyperlinkies attached that I have posted over the past five years. They are separated into categories that I hope will be helpful if you are looking to make a particular type of food.
It was fun to go through all my past recipes. There’s lots of cake and jam and cookies, lol! It’s really amazing to think about how much sugar and butter we have gone through in the past five years as well. People often remark that they wonder how we stay so skinny with all the goodies I make. Well, all I can say is that we have two growing boys who are very active and they keep us active and busy enough that a piece of cake or bread treat a day isn’t going to make us fat. Also, we try to keep our portions small and I utilize a big deep freezer for extras. We hardly eat any packaged foods, which also means any treats we eat we usually make ourselves. Sometimes, we share as well!
The photos above were taken on our various travels lately, which included visiting both coasts of the continent. Thankfully, for the next few weeks, we are at home and experiencing our first New England summer. (Even though we were here last summer, it did not really count as a summer for us as we were stressed with moving and new home and job stuff.) The first thing we did when we got back was to enjoy the local produce.
I hope to have some more inspiration and ideas to share with you soon. In the meantime, enjoy the new tab with all the recipe links!
Many people have been asking me lately if the kitchen is finished and the answer is yes. And no. Officially, according to the building department of our town, we are finished. We had our final building inspection last Friday and we passed easily. In a lot of ways it is true that the kitchen is finished. All of our appliances are working, the plumbing is all functional, and the cabinets are all full. (that last one took at least of week of unpacking and organizing to accomplish)
There are still some things that remain undone, though, most of which are cosmetic. For example, we still need to replace the window trim. It has to be remade because the old stuff won’t fit anymore over the extra layer of drywall that was added when the plasterer came to do his work.
There are also some trim panels that still need to be put up to hide unsightly bits of hardware and gaps behind cabinets. We are also contemplating putting up a decorative panel on the side of the peninsula next to the doors. It just looks a bit blank there. We’re not sure how that would work with the options that Ikea has, however. They do sell decorative panels, but they are flat and pretty boring, which is sort of what we have already. Another option is to buy a matching door and mount it instead so that it would at least match our cabinet fronts. My guess is that we will wait awhile to decide because none of us are really eager to make another trip to Ikea anytime soon.
Two other big things that you will notice that still need to be done are the toe kicks and the flooring. Those sort of go together and since we probably will not be doing the flooring for at least a year due to budgetary constraints, the toe kicks will have to wait as well.
The kitchen has seen a good bit of action already as a site for science experiments. I’ll be honest and tell you that I did not jump into the kitchen right away and start cooking and baking a lot. It took me a couple of weeks to get myself and the kitchen organized. It turns out that not doing something for a couple of months can really break some habits, such as cooking!
One of my favorite features about the kitchen layout is how we can open the dishwasher and unload most of our dishes and silverware right into the cabinet that faces it. The boys especially love this since it is their job to unload.
Now that I have used them for a little while, I have really been enjoying the new appliances, especially the stove. It’s wonderful how the burners light up right away and pots of water actually come to a boil. Our old stove did neither one of those things.
I have yet to take the oven through all its paces, but so far, it has baked cookies, cakes, a few loaves of pan bread and a cobbler quite nicely. It has yet to be subject to my high temperature baking or any broiling, but I have no reason to doubt that it will do well.
Another thing that I love about the kitchen is the number of electrical outlets! It’s wonderful to be able to plug things in at multiple locations and not have to juggle them all out of one or two sockets.
So, this is about as finished as the kitchen is going to get for the time being and I am OK with that. We did enough home improvement work in the two months that it took to get to this point to last us for quite awhile. For now, we are just going to enjoy the fruits of our labors and get to the other things once we have the proper motivation. In the meantime, as you can imagine, we have a lot of other things to catch up on that we have been quite neglecting, not the least of which is the lawn. It’s almost the end of May and we have yet to mow the lawn once. I say we, but it’s really the husband. Poor guy has lost of lot of sleep and time over the kitchen and now he has to go straight to yard work. Home ownership is a lot of work!