Happy Garlic Day

April 19, 2017

According to my food holiday calendar, today is Garlic Day.

A decorative member of the garlic family

In honor of this made-up celebration, here are my favorite garlic recipes:

Garlic and Sage Chips

1 tablespoon – 1 stick of butter (depending on how decadent you feel)

1 tsp olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced REALLY thin (basically shaved)

1/8 cup fresh, whole sage leaves

salt

Melt the butter over medium heat in a frying pan. Stir in the olive oil. Turn up the heat to high and spread the garlic slices/shavings evenly in the pan. After about 30 seconds, stir in the sage leaves and salt. Fry until garlic is golden brown, stirring often. The garlic chips can turn into garlic charcoal in the blink of an eye, so stay alert. Use the chips as a topping for baked potatoes, salad, soup, or Brie.

Garlic and Split Pea Soup Base

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp olive oil

10 cloves garlic, peeled

1 pound yellow split peas

4 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the olive oil in a medium-size pot. I prefer my onions to be nearly caramelized, but you can stop when they are translucent, or even leave them a little crunchy. Add the garlic cloves, and cook for another minute or two. Add the yellow split peas and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until split peas are soft (about 20 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. You can strain the liquid and use as a clear soup base, or puree the lot for a creamier soup base. This is a great substitute for chicken stock when you are cooking for your vegetarian friends.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half

1 tablespoon butter

cream

salt

Put the potatoes and garlic in a medium pot and add cold water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are mashable. Some people like a little substance to their mashed potatoes, others want it to be as smooth as yogurt, so you get to decide what done is. Drain the potatoes, put into a bowl, toss in the butter and mash away. Add cream until you like the consistency (or you start freaking out about your arteries). Salt to taste.

The proper keeper for those who really love their garlic

Luck and wisdom!

Endings and Beginnings – From The Mummy to The Mystery

April 12, 2017

The Progressive Part finished up our Movie Project. My movie was The Mummy (1932, Boris Karloff). Here is the quilt the group made.

I love every inch of this quilt, and you’ll see more details as I begin the quilting and embellishing. For now, here is a sample.

With every ending comes a new beginning, especially in quilting. Our next project is Abandoned Fabric. We each brought three bags containing a quarter yard of something we once loved but never used. The bags went on a table and we picked our poison. Here’s what I discovered when I opened my bags.

My assignment – make a quilt from this

I laughed, because the whole point of the project is to create a challenge. I think I’ve got a boat-load of challenge in this collection. I started auditioning fabric for what is now my mystery quilt. Here is one scrap that I thought I might include.

A scrap from another Progressive Party project

Here is another.

Auditioning fabric for this project may take a lo-o-o-ong time. I could see going through my entire stash before an idea hits, which might not be such a bad idea. The drawers could use a good sort-out and refold. Who knows what treasures I might unearth?

Luck and wisdom!

Return of the Flowers

April 5, 2017

My husband became the gardener in the family when the drought descended. He started experimenting with what could grow in our dreadful soil with very little water. Turns out, bulbs do quite well. He ripped out the lawn and put a bulb garden in part of the yard. This is year two for that section, and the results are much more interesting than any of the results of my week in the sewing room.

Such a soothing shade of yellow

The front yard used to be almost entirely green – grass, trees, juniper bushes. Having some color is quite a treat. As luck would have it, the yellow iris started blooming just a day before the blue. Blue and yellow is such a calming color scheme in quilting that I was pleased beyond all proportion for these two flowers.

Wouldn’t this shade of blue be a fabulous accent in a soft yellow quilt?

The next blossoms will be from this little sprig. I can’t remember what it’s called, but I loved the way the buds looked this morning.

I have no idea what the flower looks like, but the buds are terrific

Here’s a new flower that we got for a planter box. We had all sorts of things in there last year, but it seems they weren’t quite up to the unusual cold snap we had this winter. They curled up their toes and died. With any luck, the new plants will be hardier.

There’s a quilt in this flower

This plant survived the garden redesign. It’s been growing outside my sewing room window since we moved into the house. Neither drought nor frost have caused it a moment of worry, so we decided to keep it.

The bush is a massive thing, but the flowers are quite delicate

We’ve no idea what it is called, but it grows and blooms, and that’s good enough.

Luck and wisdom!

Spring Serendipity

March 29, 2017

My friend and co-author Ann Anastasio and I went to the Monet exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. On the way there, I noticed a house in the distance that had a striking orange paint scheme. “There’s a quilt in there,” I said. Spring Serendipity event #1, I saw this painting at the exhibit:

Regatta at Argenteuil, 1872 – postcard of painting

Here’s a closer look at the house. Although the one I saw was on a city street, not next to the water, I can still use this as a model for the quilt I would like to make.

The museum kindly sold me postcards of all the paintings that had elements I can use in projects I want to do. They would have sold me a book, too, but postcards are a lot easier to pin up on the design wall when one is auditioning fabric.

On the way back to the train station, Ann suggested we go to Britex Fabrics. Never one to pass up a fabric store, I promised myself I would only buy what I absolutely needed. Spring Serendipity event #2, I found the sashiko needles and thread I need for my lobster-beetle project.

Of course, now I have to decide whether I’ll use the red thread or the white thread, but that’s a decision for another day.

Luck and wisdom!

My Secret Weapon

March 22, 2017

I made a little progress with my lobster-beetle quilt. I’m definitely going to use embroidery, but it will only be sashiko-ish – I don’t have the right thread, and the motif is definitely not Japanese. To be honest, I’m not sure what shape the motif will ultimately take. That made me hesitate to do any marking at all until I remembered my secret weapon, soap.

I learned to use soap slivers to mark cottons from Maria Sakiyama, a good friend and fabulous seamstress. It lasts long enough for hand-work, but washes out easily. It’s readily available, easy to store, and easy to use.

That is, it is easy to mark a line. That doesn’t mean my needle will follow the line that my hand has drawn. Let me explain. This is the top with borders.

I drew a long, swooping line from the totem square down to the lower beetle strips.

Then I started embroidering. Lo and behold, my hand strayed from the line.

I have no idea why I couldn’t follow the line, but there it is. Now I have to decide if I’m going to keep the lines I’ve sewn or take them out and begin again. Since the soap line will wash away, I actually have a choice. If only all my mistakes were as accommodating.

Luck and wisdom!

An Inordinate Fondness For Beetles

March 15, 2017

Apparently biologist J.B.S. Haldane said this, and apparently he really was fond of beetles. I’m not fond of the actual critters, but I do like seeing pictures of them, especially the more colorful ones. I’ve even bought some beetle fabric, although in black and white.

While I was pulling out my lobster fabric, I found a small bag with the beetle fabric. Then I found my collection of animal totems.

“Self,” I said, “these are all black, white and red. You’ve got black and red lobster fabric, and black and red space fabric. What does that suggest?”

You’re probably thinking it suggests a little artistic intervention and counseling for me – no such luck. What did happen is I thought of labyrinths. Wouldn’t it be fun to make a labyrinth quilt from this collection?

Not so much, as it happens. I really don’t want to piece all the little sections that the design in my head requires. The work-in-progress is resting on my design wall, and I am considering quilting designs to enhance the labyrinth motif. Perhaps some sashiko would work. Suggestions?

Luck and wisdom!

L Is For Lobster

March 8, 2017

The latest Challenge assignment is to feature a motif that starts with the first letter of the maker’s name. I looked around at my fabric collections – lobellia, lightning bolts, lollipops . . . aha! Lobsters!

Yet another fabric collection I can’t really explain

My first thought was to make a convergence quilt, but the fabrics don’t play together nicely for that. Then I thought of keeping the lobsters as whole as possible and adding triangles to lead the viewer’s eye into a central panel. I counted the seams and decided I don’t want to work that hard on what is essentially a joke quilt. Then I read the Bridges post from Random Acts of Piece and thought, “Self, you could do this.”

Except I can’t. Not yet, anyway. The sad truth is every time I plan to use a large print, especially a novelty print, I need to make something that showcases the fabric first. Once I’ve got that done, I can slice and dice to my heart’s content. Until then, my hand hovers over the fabric, rotary cutter at the ready, but will not cut.

So, back to square one. I pondered why I buy lobster fabric, and decided it was because the little buggers look like space aliens. Then I remembered this hilariously awful 50s sci fi film – Teenagers from Outer Space – which features a monster (a screaming monster, no less) that is essentially a lobster silhouette superimposed on the frame. I pulled out my space fabric and auditioned a potential center on my design board.

A first draft

The more I looked at it, the more I realized I could keep this project simple. After all, what I really want is to remember the fabric as it once appeared.

Lobsters and space fabric

I may bead this, or sew on buttons that look like space ships. In any case, I am over my obsessive need to showcase the lobsters. Now maybe I can cut the critters up for something more artsy than jokesy.

Luck and wisdom!

Looking For Design Details

March 1, 2017

My friend Kat Mulkey gave me a present that I had to share – not the present, but the packaging. Someone went to a lot of trouble to design this box. Notice the details, especially the little feet.

Lidded box with feet

Lidded box with feet

I try to put details in my art that reward the viewer for taking a closer look. I try to put details in my writing that reward the attentive reader. Then I come across something like this little box and I realize what a lazy observer/reader I can be. There are wonderful design details all around me that I take for granted. Things like headlights and taillights sometimes escape my notice because I’m not a car person, but they can be amazing if you really look. Even your home can surprise you if you look.

Hall light fixture

Hall light fixture

I went around the house, examining everything from fixtures to furniture. Presumably I noticed the little design details when we bought the stuff, but dang if I haven’t stopped seeing them. I’m thinking I should start writing myself a note on the calendar to really see the world around me. It isn’t enough to know details are important. You need to remind yourself to look every so often.

Ceramic penny pig with cork nose

Ceramic penny pig with cork nose

Luck and wisdom!

Circles and Design Choices

February 22, 2017

This week’s design assignment focused on shape and placement of motifs. I couldn’t get a handle on what I was supposed to do until I unearthed some great banana fabric and decided to use that as my design inspiration. A piece of black fabric on the sewing table caught my attention, as did a piece of yellow in the scrap basket and a couple of rectangles of green on the design wall (sometimes I leave interesting squares up just in case I need a little surprise in my quilt). Here’s what happened.

Lani Longshore banana top

I had intended to fussy cut banana bunches and have them cascade down like wisteria clusters. After re-arranging the patches for the fifth time, reality set in. “Self,” I said, “keep a couple of bunches, but find a different shape for the rest. How about circles?”

Once I figured out that circles of bananas were the way to go, I decided to expand the motif. That is why the polka-dot fabric is cut into the shape of a banana (you can see it if you squint).

I learned my go-to technique for applique from The Chicago School of Fusing, but I knew eventually I’d be embroidering or beading all over the top. Yes, there are some lovely light-weight fusibles available, but I didn’t want to deal with even a trace of adhesive gumming up my needle. Nor did I want the extra bulk of a turned edge, no matter how scant the seam allowance. Instead, I choose raw edge applique with a hand-stitched zig zag.

Lani Longshore detail

My stitches on the first circles were less than stellar, but nothing a row of beads can’t hide. I got better with practice.

Lani Longshore another detail

This is another piece that might have to marinate for a bit. The fabric hasn’t told me what embellishments it wants just yet. I can wait.

Luck and wisdom!

Lions and Earworms

February 15, 2017

So, I was starting the next assignment in the design book my art quilt critique group has been using, and I got myself one doozy of an earworm – The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Couldn’t get it out of my head. Here I’m supposed to be exploring a dancing grid, and instead I’m dancing around the sewing room singing “awim away, awim away.” Then I spied a scrap of fabric that tied the two together.

In the jungle . . .

In the jungle . . .

I pulled out one fat quarter with a geometric pattern, and some other scraps that played well with my background and focus fabric.

Lani Longshore fabric collection

The piece ended up being more dancing columns than a dancing grid. It also needed something, so I tried the Laura Wasilowski method of adding embroidery.

Lani Longshore embroidery threads

Of course, there must be beads.

Lani Longshore beading

Here is the piece in it’s current stage.

I still have more room for embellishment

I still have more room for embellishment

So far I’ve kept the embellishments on the subtle side. You have to get pretty close to see the blue embroidery and blue beads on the blue fabric. That may change, but I have a feeling I need to let this piece marinate a bit – at least until I get that silly song out of my head.

Luck and wisdom!