Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009


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Shelburne Falling Star

A few weeks ago I saw an announcement on Stitched in Color for a Shelburne Falls contest. I wasn’t going to participate, but then, while shopping for fabric to finish the picnic blanket, a couple of half yards of fabric found their way into my basket.

Buying fabric? Easy.

Figuring out what to make with the fabric? That’s an entirely different puzzle altogether. My mom asked me how I came up with the idea. Honestly? I have no idea. I read quite a few blogs (by which I mean I skim through them while focusing on the ones that most catch my eye) so it’s more than likely that someone made something with stars. From there it’s a Google image search for quilted stars, barn stars, free stars, paper pieced stars. I looked at patterns (free, Etsy, Craftsy), but none of them really seemed like the thing.

Carol Doak’s “50 Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars” made its way home from the library, mostly for the Colorado star, but when it arrived I fell in love with her Wisconsin star. Heh, I live in Wisconsin, is that too kitschy?

A week ago today we had our local quilt guild’s sew day and seeing as the husband was off, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on this quilt. While brushing my teeth it dawned on me – stars…falling stars….Shelburne Falls….Shelburne Falling Star. This, dear reader, is how inspiration is born.

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I could have done the traditional thing. Four stars matched up with a neat little square of HSTs in the middle. Yeah. I never follow a recipe as written and likely couldn’t even if I tried, why would I follow a pattern as written?

One week, two Shelburne Falls fabrics, four Kona solids, a full Saturday, some Diet Coke, just about the entire third season of NCIS, and countless hours later my kitchen is a mess, the children have had pizza for dinner more than once. Oh, and the quilt is finished.

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It’s perfect, yes? I can’t say that it’s exactly how I thought it would turn out because to be honest my vision before beginning was fuzzy. I love the way things evolve. Mistakes become focal points. Pieces are shuffled. While I enjoy the finished project, I think I prefer the process a great deal more than the finishing. Wrestling this quilt through my domestic machine was no picnic not to mention how I feel about hand stitching binding, but there is a certain satisfaction with having arrived even if it’s a little bittersweet.

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Speaking of binding…I will now bind all of my quilts in stripes. I just love the way the stripes look marching all in a row down the edge of the quilt. Perfect.

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I’m off to link up with Stitched in Color. Fingers crossed, dear reader. We’ll know on Monday (I think) whether or not I made it to the next round.


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Oh no! (or Whatever happened to The Baker’s Window?)

The family and I had an outing planned for today that included a trip to the Madison Children’s Museum, Ian’s Pizza, and my favorite little bakery.  Today dawned with two of my little ones under the weather ala upper respiratory crud.  Not being one to share our germs with other children when at all possible, we decided to postpone our trip to the museum.  Cold or not, lunch was still a go as was a trip to the little bakery for pain au chocolat.  Best two out of three?

Would you believe we were only able to follow through on lunch?  The little bakery, while open, was quite different.  Gone were the artisan breads with their caramel colored loaves.  The croissants were lackluster in appearance with nary a layer in sight.  The big bags of flour that used to sit out by the little counter were nowhere to be found.  What replaced it were various vegan pastries and one gluten-free oddity.  Something wasn’t quite right about the cheery little place that reminded the husband so much of his trip to France.  How could they do that to our favorite little place?

The husband suggested a trip to Starbucks afterwards to try and redeem our trip.  Using their WiFi, I was able to figure out that the husband’s hunch was correct – the original head bakers were no longer associated with the bakery and hadn’t been since September of last year.   Hard to believe it had been that long since we had last been there.  While we’re hopeful that their new venture will open soon, that still left us with a gaping pain au chocolate hole in our day.  How to remedy this?

IMG_1394Not my bread – this one’s a batard from La Baguette.

Forgetting about Madison Sourdough completely (which would have been much closer), we decided to head out to the west side of town and stop by La Baguette on Mineral Point Rd.  Sadly, no pain au chocolate there either (not their fault, they were out) which left us wondering if there was some grand conspiracy afoot (only slightly, not literally anyway).  The husband decided he would buy something…anything, seeing as we had driven all the way out there.  In the end, he got to exercise his high school French and I got another day off from my new un-paid part-time job.

I can’t say as the day was redeemed totally, but it’s certainly a start.


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More Bread

I had to take two of my children to the doctor this morning for their yearly physical and it was…horrendous.   Hellish, you might say.  One child threw epic fits over the least invasive/scary and most painless tests you could have at the doctor’s office – the eye chart and the hearing screening.  Epic.  We ended up leaving the clinic without completing the last one because the ragged gasping, nose running, hysterical crying she was doing wasn’t getting any better the more time went on.

Over the hearing test.

Yeah.

I have decided to divest myself of all responsibility for any medical related things for this particular child.  I let the husband know that I’d take care of 2/3 of our children, but he’s on his own with the remaining 1/3.  That seems fair, right?

I have also decided to take a day off of baking because it’s just now afternoon and I feel like I’ve been up and going for an entire day.  I’m hoping the family can coast by on the remaining two loaves of bread (plus a lackluster loaf of sandwich bread) until I no longer feel like running down the street screaming.  In the meantime?  How about some pretty pictures?

Earlier this week I checked out Ken Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast:  The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza” because while I’m perfectly happy with Peter Reinhart, have you seen the pictures in Forkish’s book?  I don’t own a dutch oven (cast iron or no) and I’m not planning on buying one anytime soon so I can’t speak to his bread recipes, but I can speak to the pizza.

Up until now I’ve been using a recipe from my vintage ” Joy of Cooking” that includes a bit of olive oil in the recipe and we like it well enough.  It’s an easy mix and I don’t have to think any further than two hours ahead, but it’s just ok.  It’s not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination.  But Forkish’s recipe?

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Reader, it’s out of this world fantastic and about as good as a home baker is going to get sans fancy pizzeria oven.  He leverages a long ferment (and the tiniest bit of yeast) into a crisp and chewy end product.  The only pizza crust I like better is Ian’s in Madison which is doubly appreciated because I don’t have to make it.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I’m the primary cook in our kitchen.  I don’t know how this happened since the husband is a passable cook in his own right and more than capable at following a recipe.  I, on the other hand, can be a bit…scattered and tend to cook like I write:  frantic and absent-minded.  Before we had children meal preparation was a side by side venture as we’d get lost in the process before enjoying the end result in the comfortable sort of companionship found in new relationships.  Somewhere along the way, though, meal preparation became my thing and the husband took over watching the kids.  Still, there are some meals that I save for his days off when I need an extra pair of hands.

I can (and do) make homemade pizza all by myself, but I’d rather be in charge of the dough while someone else takes over the toppings.  Typically, if I leave the husband on his own, it’s more about how much cheese he can get on the pizza.  This time I was able to restrain him just the slightest bit with a “less is more” kind of approach.

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I even gave him a little tutorial on how to get the pizza off the wooden cutting board and onto the pizza stone in the oven which he easily got the hang of on the first shot.  By the third pizza we were a well oiled machine.  (Yes, we made three pizzas.  You’ve met Groceries, right?)

In addition to the five pizza crusts I made a few days ago (two of which are waiting in my freezer for our next pizza night), I’ve also been keeping up with the family’s demand for bread.  Since the last time I posted I’ve made ten additional loaves.  You saw the first loaf.  The husband the kids ate loaves two and three and my mom got loaf number four.

IMG_1370Pictured here are loaves five, six, seven, and eight which my family ate last night for dinner along with the most satisfying onion soup.  Oh, and when I say family, I really do mean the husband and my children.  I had a reasonable two pieces while some of my family probably ate their own loaf.  Loaf number nine disappeared today with breakfast while numbers ten and eleven sit on my kitchen counter.

Rest assured, dear reader, they won’t make it past tonight for if my husband’s whistling and singing last night are any indication, I may have found my calling.  As my mom pointed out today, it’s fast becoming a part-time job.  I’m going to need a bigger mixer.


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WIP Wednesday – Mostly Linen

Most of the surfaces in my kitchen seem to have a fine layer of flour sitting on them, even though I’ve tried my best to wipe everything down.  It’s probably not a surprise then that I’ve been doing quite a bit of this:

IMG_1351(from Ken Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast“)

And not so much of this:
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That’s not to say that I haven’t accomplished anything, it’s just been quite a bit slower than usual.  Most of my “to do list” remains in tact, but I did get a few choice (and very exciting) projects finished.

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First up is my very own Pleated Beauty Bag from “Bend the Rules Sewing” by Amy Karol.  I started it last week and finished it up this last weekend.  I realize that I’m probably a less than unbiased judge of the bag, but in my most humble opinion, if it’s not squee-worthy then I don’t know what is.  No, seriously, with all due respect to last week’s composition book cover, this is hands down my most favorite project ever.

EVER.

rsz_img_1306close up of the stitching and pleat

IMG_1309lining and pocket on the inside of the bag

Did I mention it was an economical project to boot?  Here’s the cost breakdown:

2/3 yard of 100% linen from JoAnn Fabrics – $7.10
1 yard quilting cotton from JoAnn Fabrics Saturday after Thanksgiving sale – $2.10
Incidentals from my stash (thread, fusible interfacing, fabric for purse bottom pocket, purse bottom) – $5

Grand total?  $14.20

The only change I made to the pattern was swapping out the flannel used in the lining for a light weight fusible interfacing that I already had on hand. I have no idea which one it was as I suspect I bought the interfacing in 2009-ish.  I was a bit short on the fabric needed to make the pillow for the rigid interfacing in the bottom so I just used some Kona Coal from my stash.  The rigid interfacing was the same one I bought for the crowns I made the kids this past Halloween.  I’m also planning on picking up a magnetic closure to put on the inside because it feels to me like it needs it.

I love the box bottom on this bag and was a bit uneasy about making it since I’ve found the process a bit frustrating in the past.  A quick search online to see if there was another way to do it netted this tutorial from Lazy Girl Designs that fit the bill perfectly (also pinned on my Sewing and Quilting Tutorials board).

If I made another one (which I’m definitely open to), I would either swap out the inside pocket for a zipper one or I would have stitched a few lines in it to make it a bit more useful and a lot less floppy.

IMG_1327My only other finish this week was a linen bread bag of my very own.  This one’s a bit on the small side since I didn’t have very much linen left.  I predict another trip to the fabric store is in order as we’re definitely going to need another much bigger one!

Quick Finishes (or the “finish it already!!” group):

Waiting:

  • Shattered – needs quilting and binding
  • fleece quilt (pictured here) – need to finish sewing nine patch blocks, need to finish sewing together rows and then needs some sort of binding to help keep it square-ish – but mostly waiting on inspiration.

In Progress:

Time Sensitive/Need to Get Started ASAP:

  • red/gold bunting for Imbloc/Chinese New year (need to purchase fabric)

The Great Big Wish/To Do List:

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From “Sewing in No Time” by Emma Hardy:

  • fireplace screen
  • drawstring toy bags
  • fabric covered storage box
  • floor pillows
  • floral pillow with ties

From “Quilt Revival” by Nancy Mahoney:

  • 30′s Shadow Star

From “Oliver+S Little Things to Sew by Liesl Gibson:

  • tutu (x2)
  • reversible bucket hat (x3)
  • travel quilt (?)

From “Handmade Home” by Amanda Blake Soule:

  • beach blanket

From Oliver+S:

From “Little Stitches” by Aneela Hoey:

  • Empire State Building Needle Case
  • Rain, Rain Go Away Hanging Hoop

From “Liberty Book of Home Sewing” by Liberty of London:

  • Sugar Bag Doorstop
  • Toiletry Bag
  • Bean Bag
  • Keepsake Board
  • Lampshade

Seeing Squares (small) from Empty Bobbin

Batik Squares quilt (my own design)


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The Amazing, Disappearing Loaf of Bread

The last time I wrote about bread, I was thrilled with my ability to reliably turn out a decent loaf.  Would it surprise you that I almost didn’t hit “publish?”  There was a small, but vocal part of me that worried if I would somehow jinx myself (even though I am aware that this is logically impossible) by seeming too successful at the whole venture.  True to my own illogical worries, I have since been plagued by a number of mediocre, shrinking, and otherwise not quite right loaves of bread.

Rather than throw my hands in the air and give up I decided to keep on baking (and failing) because even if I knew that they weren’t right, they were still tasty and not a single member of my family paid my failures any mind.  If it looks like bread and smells like bread, in their minds that’s good enough for lunch.  Mostly, I did a lot of reading, a little bit of troubleshooting, and watched a few more videos from my Craftsy class, “Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Bread Baking.”  It’s a lovely class – the perfect mix of the why and the how of bread baking.  I’ve already learned quite a bit and I’ve been working on this whole bread thing since 2009.

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Isn’t it pretty?  I’ve been mostly making enriched loaves lately, but there’s something quite wonderful about a nice lean dough – just flour, water, yeast, and salt.  I love the techniques used in the class.  They’re somewhere in the middle between “Artisan Bread Everyday” and your standard cookbook bread recipe.  Tonight it was all about catching the bread on the rise and trying not to squish too much of the air out of the bread when shaping the final loaf.

IMG_1347If the crumb is any indication, I’d say I was pretty successful with tonight’s lesson.  As for the taste?  Let’s just say the husband is lucky there’s any bread left for him.

Oh, and yes, dearest loved one, your loaf is coming.