Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A few cheerful birds …

Here we are closing out November and entering the Advent season. For this post I thought I would share a couple of projects that illustrate the close of fall and beginning of winter. These projects are from a block of the month series by Bonnie Sullivan called Bertie's year. In case you haven't guessed from the top picture, Bertie is the little bird that is featured in each of the monthly quilts. Each of the small quilts (only about 12 x 18 inches) in this series features a wool appliqué center surrounded by a pieced border of half square triangles. As you will be see in the pictures below, each quilt arranges the half square triangles in a different way to create different border patterns. 
2016 has been my year to focus on finishing projects so these two were on my list to complete. I had actually purchased the winter-themed quilt pattern first and had even ironed the fusible web to the wool pieces over a year ago but had just never taken the time to fuse them to the background flannel and start stitching. Although this quilt was designed for January, I think it also works well for December. I added the tassel to the top of the bird's hat and sorted through my button jar for the red buttons. What do you think about the heart-shaped one? Here is an up close picture of this quilt.

Here is the November quilt. I completed the wool appliqué part during our summer vacation road trip. For good or for bad, it took me until just after Thanksgiving to put the top, batting, and back together and then add some hanging tabs to the back. I love the little scarf that Bertie is wearing in this quilt.

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet. Before I sign off, I thought I would share a few of the birds on my big Christmas tree. As I shared in last December's blog, our big tree has a bit of a "birds and berries" theme to it. Here they are along with their stories.
This first little bird in its nest is one that my husband and I bought for our first Christmas tree in 1989. His tail has become a bit bent, but he still has his place on the tree.
Starting in my teenage years, I began collecting Hallmark ornaments. Sometimes my collecting focused around a given animal, such as a seal, or a given series of ornaments. I dot believe this little partridge was part of a series. I think we just saw him and liked him and bought him. 
Cardinals are one of my favorite birds. I love their bright red color and am of the opinion that you can't "not be happy" when you see one. A few years ago, I bought a cardinal ornament for an ornament exchange. I liked it enough that I bought one for myself, too.
As we welcome the Christmas season, I pray that you will be of good cheer. Even though this isn't typically thought of as a Christmas-themed verse, these words of Jesus still reflect the cheer and comfort that only He can bring. Jesus alone is the one whose Advent can truly bring cheer and cast out fear.
Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. Matthew 14:27 (KJV)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cranberries for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm a bit slow getting anything posted this month. I hope that these cranberry sauce recipes might be useful as you make your final Thanksgiving Day preparations. 
I've liked the taste of cranberries even since I was very little. My earliest encounters with cranberries were Alaska cranberries. These berries grow in the wild and are reported to have more anti-oxidant properties than the cranberries grown in the lower 48 states. We had  preserved some of these cranberries before we left Alaska in 1971. For several years, they were a part of our Thanksgiving dinners.
Fast forward a few years to my middle elementary years when the Alaska cranberries were gone, and we had to make our sauce using the cranberries that you buy in the store. I will confess that even though I liked cranberries and cranberry juice, I did have to get used to the new taste. 
Cranberries are actually grown across the acidic bog regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The species most commonly associated with Thanksgiving Day is Vaccinium macrocarpon. It is typically grown in the area highlighted in green below, which includes New England. In the United States, Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries, followed by Massachusetts.
Regardless of the precise species of cranberry, it is grown on a dwarf creeping evergreen shrub. Although cranberry beds were traditionally developed in wetlands, today's methods of cultivation are engineered to support more precise engineering. Cranberries are harvested in the fall using a water reel harvester. The ripe cranberries actually float on the water. Here is a picture of a cranberry harvest in New Jersey.

So, back to the recipes. First of all, is the recipe for traditional cranberry sauce. 

12 ounce bag of cranberries (this is the typical size you will buy in the store)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
  • Rinse and sort the cranberries - sometimes you will find some squishy ones that need to be discarded.
  • Boil the water and sugar together on the stove
  • Reduce the heat, and add the cranberries. Stir together until the cranberries begin to "pop."
  • The longer you boil the sauce, the more of a jelly-like consistency it will assume. You can take it off the heat as soon as the berries start popping or let it boil a few minutes longer. 
Now for some cranberry relish:

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 whole red apple, remove the core. I will also cut it into slices.
1/2 of an orange, include the peel. I will remove some of the white membrane and center core to help reduce the bitter taste. I will also cut the orange half into about 4 pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

The directions are pretty easy - mix everything together in a food processor. I typically just add everything in order, pulsing the food processor as I go. Because the orange takes longer to get chopped up and mixed in, you could consider adding it first and chopping it before adding the other ingredients. I think I will try that approach next year.

Enjoy! and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!