Saturday, January 26, 2013

Showers and Quilts

I finally have some finished projects to show you.  It is all because my friends are having babies.  Thank goodness it isn't me!  For my friend Renata from Brazil, I made a cloth book of The Tawny Scrawny Lion.  Do you remember that book along with The Saggy Baggy Elephant?  I remember reading them to my brother.

I got the fabric panel from Elaine's Quilt Block.  It was zippy-quick to put together.

I bought some darling Marmalade by Moda fabric charms from Quilts Etc. and knew that it would make a sweet quilt for Amanda.

No baby shower would be complete without food.  And my dear neighbors brought over wonderful food.  

Don't you wish you could come to a baby shower at my house?  No silly shower games for us.  Just great food, good friends, and lots of presents.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sibelius Violin Concerto: Tobias Feldman with the Utah Symphony

I took my mom to the symphony on Friday.  My mom, the one who wanted me to be a violinist? Remember?  

We braved a snowstorm and slick roads so I could see one of my favorite violin concertos, the Sibelius.  After the overture, this boy, no kidding, walks on stage.  Although in his early twenties, Tobias Feldman could have easily been mistaken for one of my daughter's high school friends.  His playing, however, was nothing like your typical high school student.  

I know the Sibelius Violin Concerto inside and out.  Not because I've ever played it mind you (wishing that I could play it doesn't count), but because it is one of my two top favorite violin concertos of all times.  I have listened to it a million times over.  I know every nuance, entrance, cadenza, and orchestration.  So I was slightly shocked near the opening when the first harmonic didn't ring true, a few of the double stops seemed rough,  and the orchestra didn't play with the energy deserving this concerto.  

But then it was as if they all took a deep breath and dug in.  Never did I notice anything but sheer virtuosity after that.  What beautiful playing by all parties.  As a matter of fact, we, the audience, broke with tradition and clapped after the first movement, a definite no no, but we felt the beauty of the playing.  Tobias graciously nodded to the audience but appeared surprised at the interuption.  The passion and the pain of Sibelius's personal struggles are apparent throughout,  and the tensions between the orchestra and violinist in the third movement were played out perfectly. 

Jean Sibelius
Jean Sibelius

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the guest conductor, Gilbert Varga.  Mom and I both noted his perfectly white hair and impeccably pressed tuxedo.  He conducted the last to pieces, a dance by Kadaly and then a rhapsody by Enescu, without a score in front of him.  He was  a joy to watch.  He had fun with the musicians and made these two pieces, which I had never heard, delightful to listen to.  I must mention as I did in my post on Gershwin, how fabulous the clarinetist is! How often is it that someone sings the praises of a clarinetist twice in a row!

Gilbert Varga photographed by Felix Broede

Thank you Utah Symphony for making my evening out with my mom so enjoyable.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Anise Jacket Progress #3 and McCalls 5523

Since my last progress report on the jacket, I am happy to say that I have finished the collar, facing, welt pockets, and am half way done with the sleeves.  

Here are photos of the inside and outside of the welt pockets, which, by the way, were much easier than bound button holes.

I didn't sew down the edges of the pockets at the time I took this photo.  I figured I could do that while watching Downton Abby!

I'm on page 27 of the 33 page instruction book and I am taking a break!  I tried on the jacket without the sleeves and it seemed a little big.  I basted in the one sleeve to see if that would make a difference and it didn't.  I also had those annoying sleeve puckers that the basting is supposed to ease out.  That never works for me.  So I've decided to put it aside for a few days and mull over how to take the jacket in and learn how to do the sleeve without puckers.  

I will finish this jacket, by gum, but I need a rest.  It is all I have been doing for weeks and weeks now and I need to work on something fresh. I have a few gifts to make (no peeking yet), and I started cutting out McCalls 5523. View A.  Eight pattern pieces, straight seams, and a zipper.  Refreshing.


What is left? Setting the sleeves, the hem, the lining, and I am done. Oh, to be done with this project.  What bliss!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Three Gifts I Love

I was so thrilled to get a new, enamel-covered, cast iron Dutch oven for Christmas!  It wasn't one of those super fancy $400 dollar models.  It was just the cheap knock-off from Sam's Club.  Despite being 90% less than the other model, it works just fine and I have made three meals with it so far. And it's red.  I love the color red!

Notice the beautiful cutting board behind the Dutch oven. My daughter made that for me in wood shop at school.  Isn't it lovely?  I'm never going to use it because I never want to scratch it.  I'm going to display it in my kitchen forever and admire my daughter's handiwork.

The first dish I made in my new Dutch oven was Ropa Vieja.  Here is the link to the recipe.  Delicious.  Everyone ate it, had seconds, and then we served it for leftovers the next night.  

My sister, who puts me to shame as a cook, gave me this fabulous cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perlman.

My sister swears by Deb's blog, Smitten Kitchen, and says she never has created a bad recipe from the blog.  

I spent hours reading this book before even trying a recipe. My husband and daughter poured over it as well.  I love the writing style and the humor as the author explains her creations.  

I tried my first recipe from this book tonight.  I gave my kids the choice of three and they chose 'Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary.'

I don't think they realized the olives were Kalamata olives and not black olives (the kind that they like to put on their fingers at Thanksgiving).  I don't like Kalamata olives myself.  I'd never had any other kind of olive but black until, as a student, I traveled to Greece and had a Greek olive.  That olive bit me back!  I'd never had such a flavor before and none since for that matter. 

Thus, I was skeptical about this recipe but forged ahead anyway.

Wowie! Was this a delicious recipe!  The kids ate it and loved it.  We weren't to fond of the cooked olives, but roasting the chicken with the olives gave the chicken and the sauce a rich flavor.  It was fantastic.

Did you notice my Dutch oven in the background?  I thought so.  It is on top of the trivet that my son made in Cub Scouts for Mother's Day.  

The chicken needed to roast longer than the cookbook suggested in order to reach a safe temperature.  However, the whole process only took an hour, and now that I have made it once, I will be able to make it again in less time.  Which means, for all you busy cooks out there, you can make it on a weeknight.

Tuesday night I am trying 'Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies.'  I'll let you know how they turn out!

All my lovely gifts I give 5 out of 5 stars.

The roast chicken recipe I am giving 4.5 stars.  We didn't like the olives so that was worth 4 stars, but they flavored the chicken so well.  For a family who doesn't like Kalamata olives we sure loved this recipe so that bumps it up a half a star!

Linking with



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Thursday, January 3, 2013

January Soul Searching

My favorite photos will be scattered throughout this post and may not have anything to do with the content!

I've been doing a little bloggy soul searching trying to decided what direction my blog should take. 

Originally, due to the horrible Mexican restaurants in Utah, (you've heard my rants on this before) I thought I'd review restaurants and local businesses.  I would get discovered, become a famous local reviewer, and viola, make a little money in the process.  

Instead, I found more support in the on-line sewing and quilting community.  Book blog people can be snobby and no one ever looks at the links on book linky parties.  Camping and outdoor blogs don't have linky parties.  I've rarely had a bite (get it? a bite?) on the linky parties for recipes.  As for local restaurants and businesses, it appears that the local newspapers have the corner on that market.

I asked a few blogging friends for advice, and it was all fabulous.  I asked if I should keep my blog the same.  Should I narrow it down to just sewing and quilting?  Should I actively try to generate new followers?  How much time does that take?

I have decided keep my blog the same with some minor changes until April when I have to take an language arts test for teachers.  And it is all former President Bush's fault and the ill-fated No Child Left Behind Act.   (If everyone can blame current and past presidents for anything that may be wrong, silly as it is, so can I!) You see, even though I have taken, and passed (with flying colors I might add)  teaching and content tests in all the states that I have worked in, have taught successfully and with great evaluations for 19 years, was the 'Secondary Special Education Professional of the Year' last year, and the State of Utah found I was qualified enough to issue me a teaching certificate, somehow, according to NCLB, I am not highly qualified to teach English.  Math, yes.  English , no.   

Am I bragging? No.  Well, maybe a little.  But I wanted you to see the ridiculousness of me having to take a test to show I'm highly qualified to teach English.  Good grief.  I am a special education teacher.  I'm just trying to get my awesome students to put periods on the ends of their sentences.  Teaching iambic pentameter in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is not going to help with their life skills.  

Alas, I must study obscure poetry references, past participles, and gerund phases.  Oh yes, I still have a family, a job, church, and most importantly, I have to help my son prepare to leave for missionary service in February.  Thus, my time commitment to my blog will remain the same as it has always been.  I am actually quite happy with this decision at the moment.  I love my blog. I love my followers. I am such a slow seamstress, it is amazing that I post any sewing at all.  

I do have a few goals for the year that hopefully won't take too much time away from studying.  Or maybe sub-consciously I hope they do take time from studying!

Pile O' FabricI joined Pile O' Fabric's 'Skill Builder Block of the Month.'  That won't be too hard to keep up with.  And if I get behind, there is always spring break and summer to catch up.  I also might write a guest post for another, bigger blog.  More on that to come.  Those are my only blogging goals so far this year.  

I hope you enjoyed this post.  I hope you enjoy all my posts or I wouldn't write them.  I you have any suggestions for my blog or have an opinion about the content, please feel free to comment or send me an email.

Lest I forget, the No Child Left Behind Act receives zero out of five stars for more reasons than I can even list!