Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Upward Turn & Cooking Salmon On The Stove Top

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published On Death and Dying where she introduced The Five Stages of Grief model explaining the five different stages that one goes through on their journey toward acceptance of a loss or change. These stages are not chronological nor are they a one way progression as one can vacillate from one stage to another, skipping some altogether.

As this is a history blog I felt like sharing with you where I am right now in my progression - see that graph above?  I'm definitely on the upward turn of that line which to me sounds so positive and hopeful - something that helps me in my transition to my new life without my father.  I've skipped a few of those emotions on that downward slide - maybe I'll slide back, maybe I won't but for now I am looking up.  

Onto the food!  

Yesterday afternoon I was inspired to try a new method of cooking salmon to help out a friend who was looking for a health way to cook fish on the stove top.  I love salmon and prefer it cooked on the BBQ with just a light covering of olive oil and kosher salt which leads to a crispy exterior and a creamy/buttery interior.  

As I began thinking about my meal, I thought how could I replicate the BBQ effect on the stove top?  I started with the pan - no cast iron or Calphalon for this project.  I went for my small nonstick pan as I wanted to eliminate all possibility of the fish sticking to the pan.  

Then I prepped by salmon just as I would for the BBQ - a light covering of olive oil with a sprinkle of kosher salt on the top.  

With the pan heated up to a level four (out of ten), I laid in one of the salmon steaks, skin side down.  The majority of the cooking is done with the skin side touching the heating element (pan, BBQ, etc.) as it is a natural protector to keep the fish from burning. 

Now it's time to wait patiently for the salmon to cook.  No turning, no fiddling, just waiting.  

With the photo above you can see that I've just added the salmon to the pan.   About five minutes later it looks like this.  See how the bottom layers of the salmon are turning a pale peach color and losing the translucent salmon color? 

When it looks like the cooking is halfway up the steak, the steak is very close to being done.  Now it's time to turn the steak in order to finish cooking the sides and top and to give it a little color/crunch.  
Pick a side and turn it.  It should sit right up without falling over as mine did.  Let it stay here for about a minute. The sizzling you will hear will result in the exterior crunch.  Then turn it over.  

 Wait another minute on the other side and then place it face down on the pan. At this point the salmon is done and only needs a few seconds face down to give it some color per your preference.  
This is where you need to help your salmon steak out a little - see how it doesn't sit flat?  A little yoga pose inspiration is needed here - Use your tongs for a little upward facing dog:
And a little downward facing dog:

I know, silly...but I'm in a good mood so I'm going with it. You end up with this...
I was very happy with the result as the salmon had that exterior crunch that I adore along with the creamy/buttery interior.  The salmon cooked for maybe eight minutes max- talk about a fast and healthy main part of a meal.  With some fresh sliced tomatoes, gently boiled potatoes and greek yogurt my meal was complete.  

Have a great day everyone~

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

T@tT: Comfort Foods - Spaghetti Bolognese

After a week of take-out, yogurt and peanut butter sandwiches, I went back into my kitchen yesterday afternoon and cooked for comfort. Cooked to soothe, cooked to remember and cooked to forget.  It helped.

I wanted pasta and I wanted it from Marcella Hazan.  She lives on a canal in Venice, Italy and cooks....lucky lady.  I could be very happy living on a canal in Venice, walking the local streets every morning to the market to buy food, greeting my neighbors in Italian along the way.  If you have a chance, listen this this NPR story about her from 2010 - here.
My boys and I on a canal in Venice, Italy 2006
Spaghetti bolognese is rather simple: a mirepoix of onion/carrot/celery, ground chuck, white wine, whole milk, a dash of nutmeg, tomatoes and S&P.  The process of gently cooking the mirepoix to the right temperature/ consistency and then waiting for both the milk and then wine to reduce down takes the longest in terms of hands on time.  Once you add the tomatoes, you stir and walk away.  Bolognese needs a long time to gently simmer on the stove and Marcella's recipe calls for three hours - I started early and let mine simmer for five. Go here for the recipe.

Everyone was happy to have a home cooked meal in front of them when I called them to the table and it pleased me to watch them dig in and go back for seconds.  The spaghetti bolognese was warm and comforting - just what I needed to soothe myself at the end of the day.

I'm linking up with Debbie's Tuesday at the Table feature - go see the cookies she has posted about today - they look fabulous!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Unexpected Life Changes

For the last eleven years I have been a caregiver, first to my mother and then to my father after she passed away. I embraced this role gladly without reservation nor resentment as I felt it was just something I was supposed to be doing - caring for my parents.

Suddenly without warning this past Monday afternoon I was no longer a caregiver. My father passed away in his own home and on his own terms - the best possible scenario for him.

I am heartbroken and missing my father so much I can hardly bear it. He was an integral part of my daily life as I was always thinking about him, talking to him on the phone and seeing him around town on his little red scooter: in Trader Joe's, in front of the local donut shop or even on campus at CSULB. I always enjoyed how he would light up when he realized it was me walking toward him when we met outside of our homes. He'd call out to the nearest stranger, "look- here's my daughter, my very own daughter!".

I have no regrets, only sadness that it will be a very long time before I see him again but am comforted by the thought that he is now back together with my mother.
Bill & Jean
Bear with me here while I take the time to get back my crafting/cooking/blogging mojo.
Take care,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quilt Block Makeover: Before and After

Don't we all love before and after photos?  Makeovers on people, homes, landscapes or restaurants -  we get the condensed "wow" factor version that gives us the opportunity to compare how good the "after" looks compared with the before.  Now here in the quilting world we all love to show photos of of our finished blocks, quilt tops and the ultimate - a finished quilt but a couple of days ago it popped into my head to show what the before looks like.

Comments from the quilt judges:
Very one-dimensional, too many squares and rectangles.
Needs some oomph, some pizazz.
What were they thinking when they chose this fabric?
Wow, this baby has it going on....it jumps out at me.
I want to take it with me to my LQS.
This one has me going in circles...in a good way.
Amazing transformation - didn't think it was possible.
After - Flying Geese Pinwheel Block
Again - more comments:
Where is this one going?
There is no way those fabrics are going to work together.
That yellow/blue square in the middle is the ugliest thing I've ever seen.
It's working for me...
The interplay of the four quadrants against each other makes for pleasant block viewing.
The points match up perfectly...although the stray threads need a little help.
After - Boxed In by Faith Jones
And the winner of the best makeover by the quilt judges is.....The Flying Geese Pinwheel Block.  Of course I get to pick my favorite, right?  Haha
By the way, who cares about the Super Bowl...it's World Nutella Day!

Be safe, have fun - enjoy your day!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

HQ Podcast Episode 21 Signature Quilts

This past Wednesday I recorded and uploaded History Quilter Podcast Episode 21 where I spoke about Signature Quilts.  The episode is now available on Podbean and iTunes. You can also listen directly from this website by clicking on the Podbean link to the right.

What is a Signature Quilt?  Signature quilts are quilts that have names inscribed on them either with pen or embroidery and are created with fundraising, fellowship and memory as their goal.  The International Quilt Study Center and Museum located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a new exhibit called What's In A Name? Inscribed Quilts which I talked about almost exclusively in regards to Signature or Inscribed Quilts.  The link for the exhibit is here.

Have you ever participated in a Signature Quilt project? Do you have a Signature Quilt from the past?  Please comment below or send me an email if you have any experience with Signature Quilts.

In the three days between uploading the podcast and publishing this blogpost, I have already received one comment from listener Jane who sent me a link to a fascinating Quilting Board forum thread about the Signature Quilt top featured below.  The thread is called Paris Texas 1931 Friendship Quilt Top.  Go check out the link here to read how quilters/genealogists are attempting to help BrendaY, to identify whom the signatures belong to on the quilt top.

Paris Texas 1931 Friendship Quilt Top
Recipes:  Three-Cheese Lasagna With Italian Sausage
The 241 Tote by Anna Graham of Noodlehead that I made about a week ago:
241 Tote by Anna Graham of Noodlehead
Come back tomorrow for a little "before & after".

Have a wonderful Saturday wherever you are~

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

T@tT: Lasagna In Shifts

One of my favorite time of the day is when the four of us sit down together to eat dinner and luckily we still do at least five out of seven nights of the week.  With my older son playing club soccer some nights he is away playing until 8pm and would rather eat his dinner after he returns from practice - something I completely understand as who wants to eat a big meal just before you go run around?  The later meal for him does not require the rest of us to wait...we eat in shifts.  Last night's meal was perfect for a meal in shifts: Lasagna. 

I used the Three-Cheese Lasagna With Italian Sausage recipe from Epicurious.com.  You can find it here.
Three-Cheese Lasagna with Italian Sausage
Lasagna in Shifts Timeline:

6:00pm Lasagna out of the oven
6:10pm Focaccia out of the oven
~conversation between the husband and I~
"Susan, that smells and looks so good, let's eat it now and skip the gym tonight." 
"Are you sure you don't want to get a run in?" 
"No way - I'd rather eat that instead of run." 
6:15pm Serve dinner to younger son (he actually likes it - score one for me)
6:45pm Serve dinner to the husband and I after taking older son to soccer practice (both he and I like it - score another two points for me)
8:35ish pm Serve diner to the older son (Perfecto! he exclaims after his first bite....eats enough for three - another point for me)

Nothing like making people happy with the food you make - even eaten in shifts. 

Normally I would ask you to visit Debbie's Tuesday at the Table feature to see what other's are sharing this week and I still am....but I also want you to visit her One Year Blogiversary post - please visit to wish her a Happy Anniversary and to enter her giveaway.  We are all richer to not only have her around our table but also to have her in our quilting blog community. 

Enjoy your day!

Monday, January 30, 2012


My father turned 84 yesterday.

I love the above photo as it was taken on a waterski trip to Lake Shasta, CA sometime in the 1960's.  My father loved to waterski and before my younger brother and I came along, my parents would take many trips with my older brother to go water skiing all around California. The photo above is the perfect representation of my father - happy, fun-loving and always with a smile.

The following is a brief photo-collage of some of my favorite photos of my father:

The hair gets me every time - 1948
Wedding Day 1952

On board the USS Columbus  Pireus, Greece 1953
My father was in the Navy reserves by the time my younger brother and I came along and I remember the few weekends he would have to leave to go on his Navy Reserve duty. That's me in the middle.
Lake Oswego, OR  1973

Mom & Dad - 1976

The "perm" years...oy vey
Giving me away at my wedding

Always teasing his grandchildren
My father and I had a lovely dinner together last night - just the two of us enjoying take-out and conversation about the past.
Happy Birthday Dad,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Another Saturday in Pictures

The gorgeous weather we are having today pulled me out into the garden earlier this afternoon to see what I could find - I've added potato harvester to my resume. 
Potatoes & Tomatoes
I completed the Fireflies Block (block 6) of the Sew. Happy. Quilt. QAL this morning.  So happy how this one came together.   
Fireflies Block  12" x 12"
 And here are all six together:
 Two weeks ago I gave a local long arm quilter my School Yard quilt top and the pieced back.  Guess who had not made the back wide enough?  
School Yard enjoying the 80 degree weather
 Thank goodness I had more of this fabric (it's blue&white pinstriped) so as I was about to sew on another panel to the side I thought to myself - I need to piece in a label and make this right.  I found some leftover binding fabric and set in a fun ticket label.   

My first pieced label!  
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, hope you are having a great day~

Friday, January 27, 2012

Road2CA Quilt Show in Photos

Last Friday I went to the Road to California Quilter's Conference and Showcase in Ontario, CA with my buddy Zina and something surprising happened - I did not purchase anything...well except for lunch.  I told Zina while we were on our way to the show NOT to let me buy any quilt kits and other than eyeing some really lovely Anna Maria Horner Velveteen for $22.95 a yard (ouch), I came home empty handed but with my camera full of photographs to share.

Before I begin I have to say that every single quilt we saw was truly a work of art and although we did not like everything we saw, all was appreciated for the skill and talent that went into each piece. Quilting is such an underrated art. 

First Zina and I viewed the faculty quilts - which I have to say I had no idea what that meant until I learned that the faculty were those whom were teaching the classes going on during the show.

Life on Holly Ridge by Nancy Prince. Nancy Prince is a quilter who thread paints her quilts.  According to her website, Life On Holly Ridge took her over 1,500 hours to complete.  It was so realistic - it looked like a photograph to me.
Nancy Prince - Life on Holly Ridge 75" x 54" 
Seeking Balance by Karen Eckmeier.  As soon as I rounded the corner of the faculty exhibit and saw this quilt I wanted to go here.  Red roofed buildings, swaying palm trees and the play of night versus day made this quilt very appealing to me.
Seeking Balance by Karen Eckmeier 44"x 44"
We then moved onto the judged quilts of many different styles and techniques.

This next photo is obviously not of a quilt in the traditional sense but is a sculpture that is "machine-collaged/quilted surface over armature of plastic board, polystyrene foam, steel and fiberfill".  The artist,  Susan Else - had a large showing of her pieces at Road2CA -  please visit her gallery page here to see more of her amazing creations.  This one was moving!
On the Boardwalk by Susan Else
Oh and then we saw a quilt map...I love maps. The quilt maker, Rachel Wetzler describes on her website that the inspiration for this quilt was antique maps.  
The World by Rachel Wetzler 
The next one I found very interesting as it reminded me of flags all lined up in a row but in this case it was individually made quilt panels that could stand on their own, but when brought together create a lovely image of Humbolt Bay.  The description of Eureka!, quilted by Pat Durbin, stated that it was a group planned piece but individually made with each artist using their own technique.  Go visit her gallery here for more stunning examples of picture quilts.  
Eureka! by Pat Durbin 104"x 45"
And then we were "Star Struck" by this amazing beauty that was made and quilted by Cheryl L See.  12,256 handpieced hexagons made up this quilt and she won first prize for the Innovative Mixed category.  Kinda felt like playing Chinese checkers after I walked away from this one.  It was gorgeous.  
Star Struck by Cheryl L See 
The Road2CA Quilters Conference and Showcase 2012 Best of Show winner was Everlasting Bouquet.  This beauty was made by Molly Y Hamilton-McNally and quilted by Cindy Seitz-Krug.  Those talented ladies won $3,000 for this quilt. The description stated that Ms. Seitz-Krug quilted it on her home machine.

Everlasting Beauty by Molly Y Hamilton-McNally and Cindy Seitz-Krug
And as a record to be preserved for posterity....
Standing in front of two $1,000 winners
The show was exactly what we wanted it to be - inspiring and encouraging as we both talked of how we couldn't wait to get to our machines to sew.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

T@tT: Cast Iron Jambalaya

Sometimes a one-pot meal is what I want to put on my table.  Learning about dishes that can come together in one-pot is something I learned on my own in my adult years as my mother never cooked that way.  Her style of cooking was firmly entrenched in the three/four elements separated by space, presented on a plate.   It seemed a time when different foods were not allowed to touch either while cooking or on the plate.  I remember my brother's eating up those different elements one at a time whereas I would take bites of everything without worrying about flavors "marrying" together.  Jambalaya is one of those dishes where I get to taste everything together ~ no segregation of flavors or textures. 

Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp Jambalaya
Two reason's why Jambalaya is so versatile:  the entire meal is cooked in one dish and in my case it's a Cast Iron pan ~ my hand's down favorite pan/pot in my kitchen.  If I were banished to a deserted island, my Cast Iron pan would come with me. The other reason why Jambalaya is so versatile is although everything cooks together (some parts separately at first), if someone doesn't like any one of the proteins, let's say the shrimp, that portion is left out of their bowl.  Makes it easy to serve picky eaters...like my 13 year old.  

There are numerous iterations of Jambalaya all over the internet, mine being from American's Test Kitchen.  If you've never tried Jambalaya, go ahead and type it into your favorite search engine and start looking around.  

I've been sewing a lot the last week or so which has been wonderful - yesterday morning I made the 241 Tote by Anna Graham of Noodlehead that Toni had inspired me with back in early December.  It is a wonderful pattern and I am thrilled at how it turned out.  One bonus - it fits my iPad perfectly without lugging around a huge bag.  
241 Tote
I'm linking up with Debbie from A Quilter's Table for her Tuesday at the Table feature and 
 Fabric Tuesday  at Quilt Story.  

Spring semester begins today so I'll be filling up my backpack, queing up my iPod and walking to campus in a few hours to attend my first class.  I've got two methods class this semester - a lot to sink my teeth into but I'm more than ready for the challenge.  

Happy Tuesday to you all~