Sunday, August 31, 2014

Meet Marigold

As we close out the summer season, I thought I would share one of my recently completed  projects. This one involves a sheep named Marigold. Come to think of it, I'm not entirely certain whether one can truly "name" an object. At any rate, this stuffed, wool sheep has been named Marigold.

Marigold was a "block-of-the-month"-type project sponsored by my favorite local quilt shop, K&H Quilt Shoppe of Kaysville. About a year ago, I received the pattern to make the sheep. Each month thereafter for the next 12 months, I picked up the wool appliqué supplies to make a new blanket for Marigold. About this time, I can imagine thoughts of, "Seriously? She's talking about making wool appliqué blankets for a stuffed sheep." I do have to admit that, as I am writing this, the idea does sound a bit odd. I don't know if I can fault anyone for any eye rolling that may be occurring.

At any rate, I did have fun with this monthly project. The pattern for the sheep and blankets is from Buttermilk Basin whose designs have a folk art flair to them. I've recently acquired another sheep project kit of theirs and am looking forward to working on it during my upcoming fall travel season.

Here are some pictures of the blankets. As you can see, a number of them feature blackbirds. I've also enjoyed the seasonal features of spring flowers, summer watermelon, fall leaves and acorns, as well as candy canes for Christmas. This project has also given me some opportunities to develop some creativity in working with each monthly pattern. Typically, with wool appliqué, the idea is to select a thread that closely matches the wool fabric. In some of the blankets, I have opted to use a contrasting thread (note the black thread on the candy canes) or even just a darker shade to add a little extra accent. 
Fall-themed blankets for September, October, and November. I think my favorite is November's with the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality and the sheep.

Candy canes for Christmas time. Note the contrasting black thread on this one.

A cozy log cabin for cold, January days and a lovebird with a Valentine heart for February.

Bouquets of spring flowers for March, April, and May

Strawberries and watermelon for June and July

I typically tend to be one who likes to "follow the rules" with projects. I tend to find myself referring back to the teacher's example if I am taking a class to learn a new technique or begin a new project. I've actually had some fun challenging myself to think more creatively and to focus more on what I want my project to look like rather than what I think it is "supposed" to look like.

I should probably add a word about why the sheep is named Marigold.  In an previous blog post, I mentioned that our family acquired some adult sheep when we first moved to northern Utah. Among these names we gave these sheep were Rose, Petunia, and Marigold. I was in the quilt shop at the time that the shop owners were discussing what to name the sheep as part of the promotion for this project. As we were discussing a variety of different names, I proposed Marigold.

In the midst of this Labor Day weekend, I pray that you are experiencing a time of rest and renewal during these few remaining days of the summer season. For this post, I will close with a passage from Ezekiel which describes God's heart for bringing restoration to His people who had been scattered by the enemy. Although I am just sharing two verses here, the imagery in chapter 34 of God as the true nurturing shepherd to his people is amazing and can only inspire deep gratitude for a God who is ever seeking to bring deliverance and restoration.
For thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I Myself all search for My sheep and seek them out … I will feed my flock and I will lead them to rest, declares the Lord God. 
Ezekiel 34:11&15

Friday, August 8, 2014

More Summer Salads

Last August, I wrote about summer salads. It seems only fitting that I go for an encore this August.
This time of year, we seem to enjoy trying out different salads, especially ones that will last over several days. A few weeks ago, I tried out a new Greek pasta salad recipe, and we really enjoyed it. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how authentically Greek it is, but it does include some Greek flavors. 
In addition to the pasta, which is not Greek, the salad includes spinach, red onion, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese. 
Bowl of Kalamata olives
Kalamata olives tend to be one of those foods hat you either really like or really don't. They are typically preserved in wine vinegar and olive oil. They also contain polyphenol which gives them a slightly bitter taste. Kalamatas are a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and  vitamins C, A, E, and K. The majority of their fat is monounsaturated, also known as "healthy fat." 
In case you are interested, Kalamata olives are named for the Greek city of Kalamata which is located in southern Greece (see map). Kalamata's history dates back to Homer. Homer's writings mention a city called Pharai which was located where the Kalamata castle now stands. You can see the castle ruins in the picture below.

Note castle ruins on the hillside above the houses
Kalamata was actually fairly prosperous during the Byzantine era. The following is a picture of the Church of the Holy Apostles which dates back to the 11th to 12th centuries AD.

Getting back to the food …
Here is the recipe, which, of course, includes our modifications:
16 ounce box of pasta (I have used both radiatore and bow tie pasta)
About 1/2 to 2/3 of an 8 ounce bag of fresh spinach
2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes (if I don't have fresh ones from the garden, I typically buy a container of Cherub tomatoes at the store)
10 ounce bottle of Kalamata olives (drained) Note: if you really don't like Kalamata olives, you could substitute black olives or even just omit them altogether 
8 ounce container of crumbled feta cheese
1 small, chopped red onion
Greek salad dressing (I like the Kroger store brand, but you can use whatever you like)
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse well and allow to cool.
2. Coarsely chop the spinach. What you see in the picture below is a large serving bowl containing a little more than half of an 8 ounce bag of fresh spinach. It's really up to you how much you want to use.  If you look at the picture at the top, you can get an idea as to how this amount disperses through the salad when it is all stirred together.
3. Cut the tomatoes in half. You could leave them whole if you want. For me, cutting them in half avoids getting squirted when you stick your fork into one. In the picture below, you can see the container of Cherubs tomatoes.
4. Stir all of the ingredients together and add enough salad dressing to moisten everything. I typically start with about half of the bottle but then often find that I need to add more dressing before serving.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.