Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Parsonage Projects

Last summer, my husband became the part-time pastor of a small church in a small town about an hour from our home.  He spends a couple of days here during the week and then we're both here Friday through Sunday.  We have house-sitters in our house in town while we're here.

Fortunately, the church has a parsonage that we've enjoyed staying at. It's almost - but not quite - like having a vacation house.  There was no furniture when we arrived, so it's a pretty Spartan vacation house and it's not exactly a vacation-type setting, but it's quiet and peaceful and we are enjoying our time here.  Church members have donated some "vintage" furniture, so we have quite an eclectic vibe going on here - everything from mid-century modern to the 1970s to today!

We intentionally decided on not having a television here.  We can stream TV and movies on our laptops when we want to, or we can listen to the radio or read or we can just be quiet.  Typically, I have some kind of work to do when I get here.  It's a great place to work on grant proposals or marketing materials for the capital campaigns I work on in my "outside" life. Sometimes I have trouble working from home because I'm easily distracted by laundry, cooking, cleaning, Dr. Phil re-runs, eating, errands, yardwork, house projects, more cleaning, more laundry and anything else that I think needs to be done right that minute.  Those don't really apply here, well, except for the cooking and eating and a small amount of laundry and cleaning.

Of course, there's no way I could spend any amount of time anywhere and not have something crafty or quilty to do.  Over the months I've brought crochet, English paper piecing, embroidery and small quilts to work on.  I've had to get creative with my set-up.  I have a small sewing machine that is my "travel" machine and I've set it up in the bedroom that was supposed to be (at least in my mind) "the pastor's study" on a desk donated by a church member.  Dave prefers the kitchen table - more room to spread out.  And he does spread out!

However, if he's using every inch of the kitchen table, I can't use it as a cutting or ironing area.  I can set up one of those mini ironing boards on the kitchen counter and that works pretty well.

Last weekend I discovered that the laundry room makes a perfect cutting area.  My 18x24 mat fits perfectly in a little "indented" area (I can't think what else to call it) on top of the dryer and I can lay out small quilts on the top of the washer.  There are bright overhead lights in this room and a huge window (just to the right of this picture), so the light is just perfect.  Can't do huge projects there, but can do small ones really easily.

This little quilt is the latest of what I call my "parsonage projects."  It's a little doll quilt/table top/wall quilt that I will probably/maybe put on etsy or Ebay when it's complete.  Its made mostly of civil war type prints.  I just realized this morning, though, that I didn't bring any pins with me this week.  Off to the WalMart in the next town, I guess.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Battenberg

I made a Pumpkin Spice Battenberg from a recipe in this month's Southern Living magazine.  Generally, I love the recipes in Southern Living because they're very well tested in the magazine's test kitchens and they're usually delicious and fairly easy in spite of the fact that they typically have a jillion ingredients.

I didn't know what a Battenberg was before I saw the picture in the magazine, but the minute I saw it I wanted to make it.  I've been baking since I was very young and fancy baking has been somewhat of a hobby of mine in the past.  It's a hobby I've sort of departed from as the healthier eating movement invaded the world.  My husband does not eat sweets - at all - so when I bake something, either I eat it all, which is very not good or I give it away - which I love to do, or I take it to work, which I have done frequently in the past.

Dave and I have been reading a book called The Artist's Way, which has exercises in it that are supposed to help you become more creative.  One of the exercises is to write down 20 activities you love to do but maybe haven't done in a while.  Then you are supposed to choose two from the list and spend some time rediscovering them.  One of the activities I wrote down was baking.  I saw the recipe a few days after that.  I really enjoyed the whole process.  I enjoyed thinking about baking the cake and planning the baking and figuring out what I was going to do with the cake.  And I really enjoyed the actual baking.

My cake is pictured above, and Southern Living's is pictured here.  Of course they look very different!  For one thing, you can see how unevenly I divided the layers.  And for some reason, the portion of the batter I added the pumpkin mixture to became much more dense.  The marzipan I bought was not white, it was decidedly off-white. (Although it looks lighter in the photo.  Maybe theirs does too).  And there's no way I could have rolled it thinly enough to cover all six sides of the cake.  I had to settle for not having any marzipan on the bottom, which was really okay.

I didn't actually purchase the marzipan myself.  It was on the list when Dave did the shopping last week.  I told him what aisle it was on, but he still had a little trouble and since he couldn't find a store person (can anyone ever find an employee when you need one?) a nice couple shopping the same aisle helped him look.  One of them asked him what marzipan was exactly and he said he didn't know but thought it had something to do with pumpkin!  Funny!

I have to admit, I ate most of it.  I took several pieces to my sister and brother-in-law and Grace came over on Saturday and had some.  All said it was delicious.  I don't know if it made me more creative, but I certainly enjoyed eating it!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Fellowship Food: Plummy Parsonage Bars

We have a coffee fellowship between worship and Sunday School each week and people bring all kinds of fun snacks - doughnuts, cake, cookies, even chips and salsa!  Last week at our welcome luncheon the congregation gave the parsonage a microwave oven - it didn't have one before.  So I wanted to make something in the microwave for coffee fellowship time and found these:
I couldn't remember the name of the recipe at church yesterday so we decided to call them "Plummy Parsonage Bars." 

The real name is Microwave Oatmeal Jam Bars and I found the recipe at the website.  
  • 34 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 34 cups unsifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 12 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 34 cup raspberry jam (I used plum, but you can use any fruit jam or preserves.  I have some homemade apple butter a congregation member made and I think that would be delicious.  Will definitely make them with strawberry jam during strawberry season.)
  1. Lightly grease an 8-inch, heat-resistant, non-metallic baking dish.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda and oats. Combine until well blended.
  3. Press one-half of mixture into bottom of prepared baking dish.
  4. Heat, uncovered, on FULL POWER 5 minutes.
  5. Spread jam evenly over baked oat mixture.
  6. Crumble remaining oat mixture over jam and press lightly.
  7. Heat, uncovered, on FULL POWER 7 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick.(It should come out clean).
  8. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

They were delicious and it was easy to make them in the parsonage kitchen, which doesn't have a lot of equipment.  Note:  the parsonage microwave is an 1100 watt oven.  You probably need to consider adjusting the time if you have a more powerful one.  These were not too dry - nice and chewy on the bottom and slightly crumbly on top.  Yum!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It grows and grows!

This is my grandmother's flower garden that I've been working on for a couple of years.  I love English Paper Piecing.  The last time I posted a picture it looked like this:

Quite a difference!  I had this quilt on the design wall for the longest time, until one day when our exterminator came by for his quarterly service appointment.  He came downstairs and grinned at me and said, "So, I see you're still working on that same quilt."  Apparently he had several quilters on his regular route and knew the routine well!

This is the project I usually take along on trips because EPP is so portable.  Because of that, I try to go by a quilt shop wherever we are and buy some fabric that represents that place.  You can see on the border the little red, white and blue saleboat from a trip to the coast.  (That's what we Texans say when we're going to the Gulf Coast of Texas - we just call it "the coast."  I've also got some other "symbolic" stuff worked in - music, holidays, names, words, animals, Texas.  I have really, really old fabric and brand new fabric.  I just finished a strawberry flower because my husband is now pastoring in Poteet, which is the strawberry capital of Texas!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What to do, what to do

Oh, blog, I have no idea what to do with you.

I wanted to have a fun, quilty, cute blog that people would read, where I could show my quilts and crafty things that I make.  I wanted to share recipes once in a while.  I wanted to write stuff people wanted to read.  Maybe make a friend or two.  But life certainly gets in the way of what I want waaayyy too frequently.  And that has never been more true than recently.

I love to read blogs.  You can check out the ones I follow.  They're mostly about quilting and crafting and homelife.  In my very wildest dreams, I even thought I could maybe do some quilt designing and share patterns like Judy Laquidara or Shelly Pagliai.

A big issue for me in blogging has been where to draw the "share" line.  I could never quite figure out exactly how personal I wanted to get.  Most of the blogs I read are by writers who share all the fun and happy stuff they are doing, the joys their families are experiencing, their fun vacations and jobs they love and that's great.  But all of life is not fun and happy, at least not for me.  And I know everyone has their "issues," trials and tribulations.  I don't blame them for not feeling the need to share those bumps in the road with the world of people they don't even know.  In fact, I sort of thank them for not sharing their problems!  But at the same time it does seem sort of false that all we read is the good stuff and it even gets me down sometimes.  I hate that jealous, wish-I-had-her-life feeling.  Plus, there's the privacy issue.  I'm a pretty private person.

For me, the most basic block to writing the blog has been the "time" issue.  I started the blog when I was working full-time and then some.  Trying to create creativity in my time away from work was tough!  I'm currently working something between part and full-time.  Meaning, I have one actual part-time fund raising job, but also do freelance grant writing and fund raising work "on the side" with a consultant friend.  So that suggests I should have a little more time available for writing, and I guess maybe I might.

So I'm not sure I'm ready to give up completely on blogging.  I'm thinking I might try one more time.  I have some goals for this next stage of my life, and one of them is to be the "me" I really want to be.   My daughter is grown and has left the nest, (with frequent return flights to Mom's kitchen and laundry room).  I do have a bit more time, given my somewhat reduced workload.  I love to write.  I love to share creative ventures. (but not too many personal details).  And I think it would do me some good to concentrate on my own "fun and happy stuff" instead of my "issues, trials and tribulations."

So, good luck to me.  I hope this works.  I have no idea who might read this!  Does anyone know My Quilted Nest even exists?  I wonder.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge


My friend Lisa does this on her blog every week.  It's something that another blogger, From This Side of the Pond started I guess a while back.  Every time I read Lisa's hodgepodge I think, I ought to do that one day.  Today's questions were so cute I thought I'd jump in. 

1. Is your home air conditioned? If it's not air conditioned, is that by choice? Did you grow up with air conditioning? If not how did you cope with the heat? Share about a time or place you remember as being too hot-the temperature kind of hot, lest anyone be confused.

 Oh yes it is air conditioned!  South Texas can be brutal.  The funny thing about this summer is that we have not hit the 100 degree mark yet, which is highly abnormal for late July.  We've come pretty close, though.  Growing up we didn't have "central air" in our house until I was about 10.  We had one window unit (for a pretty big house).  It was in the dining room, which we didn't use as a dining room.  We actually used our dining room as sort of a casual eating spot, like a breakfast nook and ate big fancy meals at the big table in the kitchen for some crazy reason.  There was a lot more room there, now that I think about it.  Anyway, even after we had central air installed my mom would set the thermostat at 80 always.  It used to come on around 10 in the mornings.  It would cut off for the last time around 8 or 9 p.m. and then the windows would be opened all over the house until it came back on the next day.  I remember many many nights of continuously flipping the pillow over to the cool side.  I actually thought I had discovered that trick all by myself!  I didn't know other people knew about it!

2. What's something in your life right now that falls under the heading 'up in the air'?

There's always something "up in the air" in my life!  The most immediate is, "What am I going to give my husband for his birthday?"  Whatever he wants, he buys.  (Within reason, of course).  His hobby is reading, but he buys books online to read on his tablet - one right after another.  I can't hint, either.  That puts ideas in his head and off he goes to go shopping and buy whatever I can get him to say.  So, I gave him a kidney and I won him a trip to the Super Bowl a few years ago.  Do I really need to give him ANYTHING else?

3. Your favorite light and airy dessert?  

A number of years ago I found a recipe in Southern Living called "Orange Dessert."  Not a very exciting name, but so tasty and very light and fluffy.

4. When did you last feel like you were 'floating on air'?

Well, it didn't exactly make me float on air, but I did get a really nice compliment from my boss today about an article I wrote for our donor newsletter.  I actually write all the articles for the donor newsletters.  He walked in my office at the end of the day today and said, "You are such a great writer.  This issue of the newsletter is wonderful.  I almost cried when I read it!"  He was talking about an article about a memorial garden we recently had a dedication service for.  In fact, I teared up when I was writing it!

5. Airport, airmail, airtight, airhead...which have you most recently encountered? Explain.

Airport last Friday and airport tomorrow.  My husband is out of town for a professional development event.
6.  Have you ever been to the Alps? If so where did you go? If not, is this a destination on your must-see list? If you were headed that direction this summer, which of the following would be your preferred activity...a gentle walk, a serious walk, a bike ride, a boat ride around one of the lakes, or summer snow skiing?

I've never been to the Alps, but I may have flown over them from London to Rome and back.  They're not on my bucket list, but if  someone said, "Here's a ticket; have fun," I wouldn't turn it down.  I don't ski and only ever learned how to fall off bikes, so any kind of walk or boat ride would be fun.

7. What is one saying or phrase that was considered 'cool' when you were growing up?

That was a long time ago.  I remember saying "Oh, that's attractive" very sarcastically a lot in college.  We said a lot of sarcastic things in college.  I remember that "right on" was very popular in high school.  Oh!  I just remembered.  I had one of those posters of the cat with his claws in the rope that said, "Hang in there, Baby."  I guess that was a popular phrase.  Remember those cigarette ads that said, "You've come a long way, Baby."  I saw a t-shirt that said, "I haven't come a long way and I'm not a baby."  So there.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I came upstairs an hour ago to sew and turned on the computer to tune in to some Billy Joel music.  Only it's an hour later and no sewing or Billy Joel has occurred.  Also, I just previewed this post and I can't figure out why the spacing is weird on 2. and 4.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

My new favorite quilt book

There's been quite the sewing frenzy in my quilted nest the past few days.

Our church has a huge Fourth of July extravaganza each year.  It started 10 years ago with just a Patriotic Pops Concert (organized and directed by my hubby) and now it's a pie baking contest, quilt show, vintage car show, ice cream social and Patriotic Pops Concert.  There were nearly 1,000 people at the concert last night, which was outstanding.

Anyway, Dave told me last weekend that they were short on prizes for the winners of the two categories in the apple pie baking contest so I volunteered to make two table runners using blocks from the Vintage Farm Girl book by Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet fame.

Let me say I love this book!  When I was purchasing it, the lady in line next to me at the quilt shop said, "What are you going to make out of that book?"  I said, "I have no idea."  I guess she was one of those organized, determined, disciplined people who only buy with a specific purpose in mind.  Silly!  I also bought fabric that day just because it reminded me of 1972!

Anyway, like I said, I decided that I'd make two table runners.  I made the first block Monday night.  I wouldn't have been so ambitious, except that I knew I had Thursday and Friday off of work and I knew I could sew all day both days, and I did just finish yesterday about two hours before the winners were announced.  I hope they like their runners.  They also each got a cookbook which was donated by one of the judges.

(You won't find a pattern for the apple in Lori's book.  I tweaked the pumpkin block and turned it into an apple!  I added the little white triangles at the bottom to give it that little "divot" that apples have on the bloom end.)

I love all the patterns in this book and can't wait to make some more.