Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Contemplating Projects

For those of us who enjoy sewing and quilting projects, acquiring fabric can be as much of an art as the process of piecing and sewing it together. No matter how many projects we are working on at the present, we always seem to be able to justify the purchase of more fabric - often for some yet-to-be-determined project. The cartoon below provides a rather clever illustration of this practice.
Earlier this month, I need to confess that I acquired fabric in contemplation of some future project. I had a meeting in Seattle, and used the handy-dandy quilt shop finder app on my iPhone to locate quilt shops in the area. Fortunately I was able to locate a shop, Undercover Quilts, within walking distance of my hotel. This is a somewhat small shop, tucked away in the famous Pike Street Market, but I very much enjoyed the feeling of being in a local shop, visiting with the owners, and browsing the fabrics and patterns unique to the shop and the Pacific Northwest, in general.
I picked up a pattern and kit that was designed by one of the shop owners. I love polar bears and am becoming more adept with machine appliqué, so this seemed an appropriate kit to try. I will post pictures when I finish it.
The fabrics that particularly caught my eye, however, were these beautiful ones, designed by a Seattle-area artist, featuring wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. The artist has done a beautiful job of incorporating native art styles into the outlines of the sea-based and land-based wildlife.
Although I only lived in Alaska for a very short time, I do have images of the totem poles and other native art and am still very much fascinated by them. It's hard to say which of these images I like the best, so I will go ahead and share pictures of the wildlife featured in these fabrics.

The challenging part now is going to be to determine how to combine and arrange these  fabrics into a quilt that showcases their beauty. At the present, the fabrics are already amazing and beautiful, however, their full potential of being placed into a larger project that can be used for decoration or warmth (or possibly both) has not been realized.
As I contemplate what that future larger project might be, I also find myself reflecting on my own state as a project in the works. In his final book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis penned a chapter titled "Farewell to the Shadowlands" in which the characters come to realize that their lives in this present world had been only a shadow of the greater "real" world that they were experiencing as they followed Aslan "further up and further in."
Even so, our lives are yet an image of what is to be experienced in heaven. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul likens this present world to an incomplete image seen in a mirror. He also gives instruction as to what our conduct should be as we look ahead to the complete reality to come.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully know. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.       1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Cake

Truth be told, I typically prefer pies or cookies to cake. This cake, however, has become one of my favorites through the years. I call it "Easter Cake" because I usually only make it once a year, at Easter. It often doubles as my sister's birthday cake given that her birthday often falls near Easter. 
The yellow cake base itself can be made either from scratch or from a box. My preference is to do my baking from scratch - to me, the cake just tastes better that way. Here is the recipe that I use for the cake.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour or spray with nonfat cooking spray a 13 x 9 x 2 inch oblong pan. Beat all ingredients on low speed, scraping bowl constantly for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl frequently for 3 minutes. Pour into pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Even though I can bake a cake that tastes good, I don't always bake a cake that comes out of the oven looking pretty as you can see in the photo below. Fortunately, this Easter Cake features a number of very tasty toppings that cover a multitude of flaws.
While the cake is baking, you can begin preparing the first topping. This one is a layer of crushed pineapple. Boil together the following two ingredients until thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes.
  • 1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple, including its own juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
While the cake is still warm, poke holes across the top of the cake at about 1-inch intervals. 
Pour the pineapple mixture over cake and spread evenly. Allow the cake to cool completely.
After the cake has cooled, mix together:
  • 2 packages (3 1/2 oz each) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 cups milk
Note that the amount of milk for this step is less than what you would use if you were preparing the pudding per the box directions. This smaller volume of milk will result in a thicker pudding topping for the cake. Spread it over the top of the cake.
The next step is to prepare the whipped cream topping. If you wish, you can use Cool Whip. If you are like me, the superior taste of real whipped cream is worth the extra cost and effort. You will need the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; continue beating until stiff. Spread over cake. Refrigerate overnight.

Before serving the cake, sprinkle with 3/4 cup of toasted coconut. I like to use a "shortcut" and "toast" the coconut in the microwave. I use a microwave safe container (typically a plastic one), and toast the coconut for about 2 minutes, pausing every 20-30 seconds to stir the coconut and prevent it from burning. Here is how the coconut turns out, followed by a picture of the completed cake.

In celebration of the Easter season, here is a song that celebrates the glorious resurrection day! Easter blessings to you all!