Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Snowflakes

I'm not one of those people who gets overly sentimental when the Christmas tree goes down each year. To be honest, as much as I look forward to getting the Christmas decorations up, I'm actually eager to get them put away after January 1. Perhaps it has something to do with mentally setting the tone for taking on the new year. That being said, I find that the house does feel a little empty after the boxes are put away. My solution has been to reserve some of my house decorations that have more of a "winter" rather than "Christmas" feel to them for January and February. Last year, I shared the snowman quilt that hangs in my parlor this time of year. This year I will share a newly completed wall banner that is hanging in my dining area.
The project that I am sharing in this post is a wall banner that features English paper-pieced snowflakes. Although I adjusted the banner to be horizontal for this post, it actually hangs vertically.
This row of snowflakes is a row that was part of the 2014 Row by Row experience and was designed by Stylish Fabrics in Logan, Utah. 
For those of you less familiar with English paper piecing, it features paper templates, often in the shapes of hexagons. The quilter bastes fabric around the paper templates and then stitches the shapes together. In my March 2015 post, I described my work on a Block of the Week project: Shapes and Pieces. That post also describes some of the basics of paper piecing.
This snowflake project included not only hexagon paper templates, but also triangles, pentagons, and diamonds. Some of the pieces were rather small and a bit challenging, but I put the shapes together. 
After I stitched the shapes together to create the snowflake patterns, I removed the paper templates and stitched them to the background fabric using a blind stitch. As you are about to see with the next set of photos, each snowflake was further embellished with hand embroidery stitching using white perle cotton. I elected to machine quilt this piece myself using the walking foot for my machine. I haven't yet decided whether I want to add additional quilting. For now, this is what I have in place. My goal was to accent the snowflakes without detracting from them.

Here are two other pictures of winter-themed decorations that I have around the house. How do you decorate once the Christmas season is over?

This year in the Intermountain West, our snow has persisted since Thanksgiving. Although we are looking forward to the spring, these verses from Isaiah remind us of the purpose of the snow and how it accomplishes its purpose. Likewise these verses remind us of God's Word accomplishing its purpose.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Who doesn't like a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold, dreary day? We decided to attempt our own "gourmet"-style grilled cheese sandwich to pair with some of the tomato basil soup that we made last fall. Whether or not it truly fits the definition of a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich may be subject to further judgment. 

Here is a short narrative of our effort as well as some information about the cheeses we selected. We opted to combine sharp cheddar and Taleggio cheeses in our sandwiches. These cheeses are produced in rather beautiful regions of the world. If you are a cheese connoisseur and enjoy traveling, you just may wish to include these destinations on your itinerary.

Cheddar cheese is regarded as the world's most popular cheese. It originated in the English village of Cheddar. The history of the village of Cheddar dates back to Roman and Saxon times. 
Cheddar is known for its gorge, which is the largest in the United Kingdom. The region is also home to a number of caves which are available for touring. These caves provided the ideal humidity and and temperatures for producing cheese. Producing a strong, mature cheddar cheese requires up to 15 months. Here is a picture of cheddar cheese maturing in the caves in the Cheddar region.
To be honest, I hadn't heard of Taleggio cheese until just recently. As you might surmise from its name, its origins are in Italy. To be specific, it originated in the Val Taleggio, which is in the Lombardy region of Italy.

The Val Taleggio is an alpine region which is incredibly beautiful. Like Cheddar, it also has a gorge region. 
The temperatures and humidity of the Val Taleggio provide the ideal environment for producing this soft cheese. The history of this cheese dates back to the ninth century, and it was even used as currency in the thirteenth century. I should also caution that Taleggio cheese has a VERY strong aroma. The taste is relatively mild, but the smell can overwhelm you if you aren't prepared for it.

Now, on to how we assembled our grilled cheese sandwiches …
Here are the cheddar and Taleggio cheeses we used. Mind you, we didn't use all of them.
We elected to use a brioche bread, which is a French bread that includes eggs and butter. We had the loaf sliced at the grocery store. Although the thick slices seemed a good idea at the time, we will probably ask to have the loaf sliced a little more thinly in the future. 
We started by buttering the outsides of the bread slices.
Next, we grated, rather than sliced the cheddar cheese and loaded up the bread with it.

The next step was to add the Taleggio cheese. Be aware that this soft cheese does not "grate" well, so you will just have to do the best that you can. From this next picture you can get an idea as to just how much we added in relation to the cheddar. Even though this is a milder cheese, our goal was to use it to enhance the flavor of the sandwich.
We then repeated the cheddar cheese, topped the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread, and toasted them until the cheese was melted, and the bread was nicely toasted.
Here is one of our sandwiches ready to be consumed.
Have you tried your own "gourmet" grilled cheese sandwiches?
What cheeses do you like to include?