thanksgiving, a.k.a. eat lots of pie day

my poor neglected blog.  looks like the time-intensive and forever disappointing job market has taken away yet another thing i enjoy.  grrr…

but on a more optimistic note, PIE!!!  around the holidays, my cousin cori and i often get into a text messaging frenzy about this very important topic.  “what kind(s) of pie are you making this time?”  “what is your favorite combination of apples to use in the caramel apple pie?” “have you roasted your own pumpkin for pumpkin pie before and, if so, is it worth the extra time?”  if only we didn’t live so many miles away so we could bake together!

this year, i was determined to make a pie from the 1966 better homes and gardens “pies and cakes” cookbook that i picked up at an antique shop last summer.


this book has all of those great cool whip-based pie recipes that my granny loved, and i decided to try out the whipped pumpkin pie recipe.  the recipe called for strange things like packets of vanilla-flavored whipped topping mix, and with my mom’s help, i was able to piece it together.  we decided that an essential ingredient is this item:


one of my favorite pies as a kid featured dream whip and syrupy cherries, so i was excited to use this magical product in a pie of my own.  it did not disappoint.  look at this lovely mound of dream whip, pumpkin, and spices (and of course i had to use my grandmother’s pyrex bowl since baking from this cookbook so reminds me of her):


then i folded in some fresh whipped cream, put it all into a homemade graham cracker crust, and chilled!  voila!  a pumpkiny delight that tastes like pumpkin pie and whipped cream all together in one fluffy dessert.


pair it with some of these stand-bys and you’ve got yourself a nap-inducing thanksgiving meal:



and…the husband approves!


hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

up next: holiday gifts!  my mom and spent an entire day working on some amazing gifts for some of our favorite people (and the cats even got in on it).  can’t wait to share photos!


fall draws near

I picked the last summer beets this evening.  August tends to be a bitter month because I’m always melting in the heat and playing catch-up to finish the things I didn’t get to in May and June when I thought there was so much time left in the summer that I could blow off one more day to play in the garden instead of draft that article to submit for publication.  The nice thing about this August is how cool and fall-like the weather is, so it makes everything else a bit more tolerable.

And some of the plants are just now starting to flourish in the milder temperatures.  My dad grew Mexican sunflowers every summer and I took a bunch of seeds from his house to make sure I have enough to keep planting them year after year.  This is the first blossom.  So bold, vibrant.  I have been sad lately thinking about him being gone.  This helped, made me feel like he is still a presence in my life.

As I trudge forward into the busy months ahead (job market, finishing my dissertation, teaching), I still make time for the Pirate’s Daughter quilt.  I finally cut out all of the little pieces and am working on constructing the arcs.

20 complete and many, many more to go, but it feels like progress!  I love working with all of these colors.

I also made some quilted baby bibs for a dear expecting friend and derby sister last week.  A group of our leaguemates threw a really fun baby shower for Bridget (otherwise known as Oi!Rish) on Saturday.  A baby shower full of roller derby gals is quite different than the average baby shower…no one sits around and waits to be told to eat, we all just ravenously dig in; the shower games get super-competitive; and the language is not very lady-like.  I must admit, it was pretty refreshing.

 I made 2 bibs for Bridget.  For the first, I used the colors of her team, the Devil’s Night Dames: red, orange, and black.

The second was Star Wars-themed (Bridget is such a fan she has Han Solo tattooed on her leg).  And so many other crafty people gifted their handiwork at the shower as well.  There was a beautiful baby quilt and some great knitted caps, including a little green yoda hat.

Well summer, it’s been real.  Time for pumpkins and sweaters.  Hey, that sounds pretty great, actually.







a dark and stormy quilt for peter, and more veggies!

I finished a quilt for a new little pal, Peter Arthur, who was born just a few weeks ago.  He belongs to my good friends Alison and Tommy.  They live in Maryland, so I haven’t had an opportunity to meet him yet, but I wanted to send him a little something to welcome him to the world!


 I couldn’t help but make another zig-zag quilt especially since Alison is into chevrons.  And because Alison and I share a deep love for Halloween, I decided to make a dark and stormy Halloween-style quilt with some greys, purples, aquas, and smoky teals to compliment some of the print fabrics I chose from the Tula Nightshade and Ghastlies lines.  Image



Here are some close-ups of some of the prints:





I backed the quilt with ash Kona cotton and made a strip in the middle out of some leftover pieces I trimmed off of the quilt top and some solid strips.  This was just an experiment at first to see if I could make use of scraps, but I was really happy with how it turned out and wanted to incorporate it into the backing!




I was so happy to wrap this quilt up and send it on its way today. I hope I have the opportunity to meet Mr. Peter very soon!


And a quick garden update…check out this purple carrot!



And these delicious golden beets from the garden that I ate for dinner the other night!




Summer is good. 

veggies and fruits!

While we all waste away in the sweltering heat, the vegetables continue to thrive.  I snapped a few shots from the garden yesterday.

The first guy is a purple kohlrabi plant.  My dad grew kohlrabi when I was a kid, and this is the first time I’m trying it.  Happy to say the kohlrabi is thriving, a nice tribute to my father’s green thumb which he was happy to pass on to me.  The second is a cucumber vine tendril, followed by a young brandywine tomato that looks like it has a squinty face.  Finally, my largest tomato yet.  I believe it’s a Celebrity.  Can’t wait for it to ripen!


Also, the temperatures finally started to decline a bit this weekend, so I did my annual fruit run to the farmer’s market, where I purchased some peaches and blueberries, supplemented by some store-bought strawberries and raspberries, and made some jam.

I was happy this year to have the help of my good pal Sarah and her son Sam, who is a little over a year old.  They kept such good jam-making company and didn’t mind that I made their kitchen hot!  The first kind we made was a peach strawberry freezer jam.

The second was a mixed berry, which we cooked and canned.

Also, for each batch we split them in half and did half with classic pectin and half with low-sugar pectin to compare taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I love super-sweet jam, but I also enjoy variety.  I’m excited to do the taste test and see which I prefer.


Last but not least, I’ve almost finished a baby quilt for the little-over-a-week-old Peter, my good friend Alison’s baby.  For Alison and I, Halloween is an every day of the year celebration, so I was excited to make Peter a Halloween quilt, even though it is July.  I used some fabrics from Tula Pink’s Nightshade line, and some of my beloved Ghastlies fabrics, filled out with Kona cottons in greys, purples, and aquas.  Here is the stack of rectangles getting ready to become a zig zag quilt.  Just have to quilt and put on a binding, and this quilt will be ready to put in the mail!

some baking, some knitting, and some quilting

I know, I know.  I took all last week off, so the last thing I should be doing right now is taking a break from dissertation writing in order to write a new blog post.  But well, it’s summer, and I have some new photos, and dissertation writing can be such a drag.  So I’ll keep it short, and then get back to the grind.

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling with my family to Topsail Island, NC.  A few of us make this pilgrimage every year and enjoy a week of laying on the beach, working puzzles, and cooking delicious food.  This year, I owed my mom a Mother’s Day dessert since I wasn’t able to go home on the big day.  Her request: pie in a cake.  I tackled this confection twice before thanks to the lovely recipes over here, and was very excited to see the recently added recipe for blueberry pie cupcakes with lemon curd frosting.

Since I got a bit of a sunburn the first day at the beach thanks to aged sunscreen, I didn’t mind spending the day in the kitchen.  So with the help of my niece and mom, I started by making mini blueberry pies from scratch.  I combined a few recipes and used my old standby, the Epicurious best pie crust ever recipe, for the crust.

My mom and I had purchased the perfect summery cupcake wrappers before the trip.  


I made the vanilla cake batter and filled each cup with a heaping tablespoon of batter, and then dropped in the pies.  Cover the top with more batter, and voila!

We served them up with lemon curd the first day.  I used Martha Stewart’s lemon curd recipe.  I’m always amazed how quick and easy it is to make lemon curd because it issome of the tastiest stuff on earth.

We had a great week at the beach, and when we returned, I was happy I had a chance to block a sweater I made for my mom this spring, the Sea and Surf Sweater (pattern by Nicole LaRoche in Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n Bitch Superstar Knitting book).  My mom and I were leafing through the book in a local craft store, and both loved the sweater.

The color and yarn were so perfect in the original pattern (Blue Sky Organic cotton in Azul) that we decided to stick with it.  Here is the sweater being blocked just before I left WV to head back to Michigan.  I can’t wait to post a photo of my mom modeling it!

I love the wave pattern!

Finally, I just finished a quilt last night for my cousin Katrina’s new baby, Gideon.  I haven’t washed it yet, so it’s a little wrinkly.  But I thought I’d post up a few shots anyway.

I used some leftover Castle Peeps fabric because I love it so much, and finally made my first zig zag quilt! Here are some close-ups.

I can’t wait to meet Gideon and give him his quilt.


Oh, one more thing. Some shots from the garden.  When I left for North Carolina, the tomato plants had beautiful flowers on them.  Have you ever looked at a tomato flower up close?

And when I returned, there were a ton of young, green tomatoes!


Okay, back to work.  I leave you with a preview of quilts to come…the first two fabrics selected for the Pirate’s Daughter Quilt.  Hope everyone has a great week!

The Pirate’s Daughter quilt

My mom bought this beautiful print to hang in the room of her house that my 7-yr-old niece, Amelia, and I share when we visit.


It’s called “The Pirate’s Daughter”, by Maia Larkin.  Mom shared the image with me and asked me if I would be interested in making a quilt for our room inspired by the painting.  This is a quilter’s dream!  I’m so excited to get started.

As I have a list of other quilts I want to make for friends who are having babies, I won’t be working on this one right away, but I have (of course) already started daydreaming about patterns and fabrics.  I’m thinking about using the washed out grey tone as the dominant color, and incorporating an array of vivid shades from the rainbow to reflect the pop of color in the painting.  Here are some of the colorful fabrics I’ve been thinking about.




And perhaps I will finally tackle Denyse Schmidt’s Single Girl quilt pattern for this quilt?


Here it is in a grey with bright, bold colors and beautiful hand stitching (by see lori sew).


I also like this quit with a simple triangle design of grey and bright colors by Red Pepper Quilts.


Also, what about this cute fabric for the backing?


And I don’t want to get too literal, maybe black and white striped binding to match the little lady’s socks?


Let me know if you have any thoughts/ideas!


P.S.  Can you tell I’m not very focused on my dissertation writing today?  Got back late last night from an awesome roller derby tournament with my league’s B-level travel team, The Motor City Disassembly Line.  Feeling pretty tired and beat up…will be more diligent tomorrow!!!

New fabric and book!

As you might have suspected, things haven’t been all cupcakes and roses here.  The grieving process is certainly rocky and unpredictable.  But I have been keeping my head up as much as possible, and unexpected acts of kindness and reaching out from friends and family has sustained me.

Just last week, in fact, I received the most thoughtful series of packages from my Aunt Judy!  Judy is, as I have mentioned before, one of my sewing and quilting mentors.  She is so talented and generous, and I have gained so much from her.  The packages arrived last week and I knew from the weight and feel of them that there was fabric inside.  I was so excited to rip into them and discover a layer cake and several larger pieces of Kate Spain’s Good Fortune line.


Such a vibrant and exciting collection!!!  I am so happy to have these fabrics in my stash to draw from for a future quilt.  Judy knows I love the color orange, and the color is generously sprinkled throughout this collection.  I can’t wait to figure out what kind of pattern will best display these fabrics.

And the new book that Judy sent me, The Modern Quilting Bee Block Party, will help me decide!!!


There are such beautiful designs in here, like Sarah’s Book Quilt:


and Jacquie’s quilt “Profit Margins” (you know how I love Dresdens):


I cannot wait to try some of these.  Thank you so much, Aunt Judy, for brightening my week!

The new fabrics cheered my up so much that I finally bit the bullet and purchased a fat quarter bundle of Tula Pink’s new line “Nightshade”, which I sort of feel was created just for me.


I mean, just look at those apothecary jars!


The 3 colorways are called Vapor, Evening, and Absinthe!  Yeah, simply perfect.  I can’t wait until they arrive, at which point I will squirrel them away and fret about how to use them.  I keep hoping I will win the lottery so I can buy at least another half yard of each print so I can keep sewing with them for years to come!  Now I just need to save up for fabrics from Alexander Henry’s Ghastlies collection, and I will have the perfect Halloween quilt!

It’s funny how new fabric can lift your spirits.