Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend Progress Report, April 28, 2012 & April Goals Assessment

I didn't receive the Tokens and Trifles cards in the mail yet so my plan to work on my scissor keep exchange was derailed.  Instead I continued to work on The English Band Sampler and put in an hour or two back stitching my own design for a bookmark, Riona's Book Nook.  Here are a few photos.

On the left is Part I of The English Band Sampler with the Rosebud motif completed ... I am thinking of putting the intitial R stitched over one in the darker green in the open space in the center.  And on the right is Riona's Book Nook bookmark.  I still need to stitch the geode beneath the slanting books on the second shelf and fill in the spider plant on the top shelf and finish the back stitching.  Once that is done, I will finish it by backing it with some very soft flannel cut from an old bed sheet and fringe the edges ... my usual way of finishing off a bookmark.

And, now to assess my April Goals: It is fairly obvious that I spent more time on my garden than on my stitching this month.  The unseasonably warm weather in early April threw me off track and I remained off track for the entire month!

2010-11 WIPs: Stitch Block 3 of Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie.  NOT AT ALL.
2010-2011 WIPs: Stitch four blocks on Jacobean Elegance Afghan.  NOT AT ALL.
2012 New Start: Start work on TW's Woodland Angel Stocking for Liam. NO, but I did manage to pull the fabric and what DMC I had and make a list of what I need.
2012 Start: Kit up and start the next Town Square SAL ornament: The Primitive Shop.  NOT AT ALL.
Class Project Challenge: Finish Phyllis Mauer's Japanese Kogin Tea Cozy.  Progress was made but it is not yet finished.
Sewing and Assembly Finishing: Two pillows.  NOT AT ALL.
TSS Scissor Keep Exchange: Stitch scissor keep and fob.  Still waiting for my Tokens and Trifles cards.
Off goal stitching:   One hopes that there won't be anything in this category by the end of April.  What with the Woodland AngelThe Primitive Shop and the scissor keep for my TSS exchange, my appetite for new starts should have been satisfied. Well this didn't go as planned.  Once I received the fabric for  SANQ's Part I of The English Band Sampler, I simply had to get started on it.  Now, all I have left to do on Part I are the queen stitched strawberries and the motto line in the alphabet section.  I am hoping to chart my chosen motto today and start stitching it.  I am like a child, saving the best [queen stitches] for last.

MAY GOALS: I have to do some serious retrenching this month.  As the weather warms, I can't help but hear the siren call of garden, patio and park.  Then, too, there are First Communions, Confirmations, Registration for Sept. 2012 and final exams/progress reports for 2011-12 to manage this month.  June and July are much easier months professionally, so I expect to get back up to speed then.

2010-11 WIPs: Stitch Block 3 of Primitive Needle's Black'd Skie.  
2012 New Start: Order the remaining floss and start work on TW's Woodland Angel Stocking for Liam.  I hope to have the Name Band and Borders stitched by the end of the month.
2012 WIP:  Finish stitching SANQ's Part I of The English Band Sampler.
Class Project Challenge: Continue work on Phyllis Mauer's Japanese Kogin Tea Cozy 
HOE Project: Stitch a Christmas Bird ornament.
TSS Scissor Keep Exchange: Stitch scissor keep and fob & mail by early May.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Garden In Progress

Square Foot Garden Planter: Zucchini, Cucumbers, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Thyme and Basil

Basil and Chives, The poles are for Blue Lake Green Beans that have yet to sprout

My Garden guardian and a small Christmas Tree

The Van Houten Spirea in bloom above the retaining wall.  It will need some serious pruning this fall.

Just a few shots of the garden that has been consuming my time and energy for the past week or two.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday's Tale

Monday morning's rain prevented me from turning my finally filled planter box [4 feet x 4 feet square x 32 inches high] into a square foot garden a la the old PBS gardening show.  But I managed to screw in the i-bolts Tuesday morning before heading to work.  I hope to lay out a string grid and start the planting today between work and the Parish Advisory Committee meeting.  I bought a variety of vegetable flats over the weekend: three kinds of tomatoes [sauce, sandwich and snacking], some zucchini and cucumber sets, sweet peppers, broccoli, and some herbs [thyme and basil].  I'll pick up some eggplant when it becomes available.  And that should pretty much cover the first planter box.  The second one will be planted up in mid-May with lettuce, carrots, radishes, a second round of green beans, and some lima beans.  In early August, I am hoping to put in some late September/early October harvest items: peas [since I missed the boat for a Spring planting] and spinach.  This coming weekend, I'll hit the nursery yet again, hoping to see some eggplant flats and picking up some stakes and tomato cages.  I'll also be making the final payment on a wicker chair for the patio that suits my husband's taste and comfort requirements, an early Father's Day and birthday gift.  I can't see making him wait till he's lost a month of patio sitting weather just because of a few arbitrary dates on a calendar.

As to stitching, I am anxiously awaiting my Tokens and Trifles cards for my scissor keep exchange.  In the meantime, I am continuing work on The English Band Sampler.  There hasn't been quite enough progress to justify another photo.  In light of my recent activities, I'll have to scale back my monthly goals considerably as the weather warms.  There are so many other things to do in Spring and Summer: gardening, barbecuing, reading on the patio, taking day trips to flea markets and antique malls, picnics at the various parks along the Hudson River, enjoying membership at the town pool.  Somehow, life just seems to open wider in late Spring and Summer.  I don't abandon stitching totally but it does tend to take a back seat to other interests.  So the tone of this blog may change a bit: fewer entries a week and those entries may be more diverse in subject.  The occasional run of rainy weather may restore stitching to its more usual priority but for the most part, things will slow down a bit till Fall.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekend Progress Report: April 22, 2012

This has been one of those weeks that I didn't blog much so this post will be longer than usual.  I didn't manage to get in any stitching time on Monday at all.  But Tuesday morning, I managed to squeeze in some twenty minutes or so after breakfast.  And I managed a bit more early morning stitching on Wednesday.  In spite of the pollen counts, I have been having my breakfast and my morning stitching on the patio.  Having been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency at my last physical has made me more conscious of the need to get a little more sunshine in my life.  My project for the week, Phyllis Mauer's Kogin Tea Cozy pattern is very easy: all straight stitches of varying sizes.  The trick is in the counting and the placement.  And even that is a relatively simple process.  So this piece is the perfect early morning project for a bit of drowsy outdoor stitching before one has finished that first mug of life giving Assam or Irish Breakfast.  However, Thursday morning was just a bit too cool for the patio.  Even with the best of wills, I can't stitch with cold fingers.  But Friday the weather was balmy and I spent my day off relaxing on the patio reading, napping and intending to stitch but never quite getting round to it.  All I really got accomplished was trimming away some hideous vines that were growing over the fence from the neighbor's yard and planting some Blue Lake green beans.  Saturday was more organized if only because I had more to do: getting to the nursery for 4 more bags of soil and 1 more bag of peat and assorted  vegetable flats, catching up on the laundry, cooking and baking ahead for the next few days and doing a quick housekeeping of the living room, dining room and hall.  My youngest son came Saturday afternoon and helped with adding the soil to the planter box.  He then stayed for a very pleasant visit.  I am beginning to think of my planter boxes as huge black holes:  we had to buy 4 more bags of soil on Sunday but, at last, one of the boxes is finally ready for planting.  I filled the second planter box two thirds of the way full of dead leaves and will let it season till mid May in hopes that I'll be able to halve the total of  14 bags of soil and 2 bags of peat greedily consumed by the first planter box.

Mauer's Japanese Kogin Tea Cozy
English Band Sampler, Final band, Part I
As to stitching this past week, here are photos of my progress on the two pieces that saw any stitching at all.  I alternated between the two projects you see pictured here: two very different pieces in style and technique.

Wednesday afternoon, when I got home from work shortly after 5pm,  I had to breach a barricade of packages, boxes and bags just to enter the house.  The milkman had made his delivery, my seeds had arrived as had my order of loose leaf teas from Culinary Teas and the latest Nora Roberts book, The Witness.  And there were three packages for my husband as well.  Since I went to bed before he got home, I still don't know what he had ordered.  I have mentioned before that I dislike the chore of shopping.  All that sweaty effort of running hither and yon, wasting gas, and you still end up settling for not quite what you set out to buy.  This is why the internet is such a boon: the endless variety, the delivery to one's doorstep, the effortlessness of sitting at one's computer in one's pajamas with a cup of tea at one's elbow.  Of course, Wednesday's bonanza was unique enough to comment upon; often weeks, even months, go by without a package.  Bill and I must have been bitten by the consumer bug at much the same time.  Next week will be another week of "deliveries" but this time from Girl Scouts bearing cookies.  Word has gotten out in my religious education program that Mrs. D used to be a Girl Scout leader and Service Unit Chair.  Four of my students came with their cookie sales sheets and of course I bought several boxes from each.  I am only afraid that the numbers of Girl Scouts will rise in a geometric progression next year as the word continues to spread.  As it is, I'll be donating a lot of cookies to our Midnight Run  for the NYC homeless.  But, what can I say, I remember the years my daughter sold cookies to earn enough for camping trips or other outings.  It's a good cause and who can resist a little girl's hopeful smile as she asks you to buy cookies?

I also admitted defeat in my search for my Tokens and Trifles triangles and ordered another package.  Given Murphy's Law, this means I shall find the missing pair any moment now and then have four extra in my stash when the replacements arrive.  But I have to get cracking on my scissor pocket exchange.    I also pulled the fabric for my Christmas Bird ornament exchange but have yet to cut  and bind the edges of the two pieces needed.  I have a favorite chart that is quick and easy to stitch and has the added advantage of using up any odds and ends of colorful floss one happens to have on hand.  So, if this week is all about the Tea Cozy, next week will be all about exchanges.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Photos to Go With Yesterday's Post

The new planter boxes

Here are the promised photos, now that my camera battery is properly recharged.  I am very pleased with the new planter boxes and will be even more pleased once I have finished filling them sometime this weekend.  I expect I'll be haunting my favorite nursery over the next few weeks, purchasing topsoil and peat and sand, checking out the vegetable seedlings as they arrive, picking out my stakes and trellises.  I am also anxiously awaiting my package of heirloom seeds so I can get some seedlings of my own started.  There's still a bit of work to do in the backyard.  I never did get around to painting the back door and frame and remounting the bird feeder.  And I would also like to get to work on the concrete retaining wall [at my back as I took this photo], scrubbing it, sealing it and painting it white.  Next year will be soon enough for doing something about new fencing.  One major investment in this space at a time.  This year it was the planter boxes.
And below, my current progress on the English Band Sampler: the Redwork section is complete and I have nearly finished work on the leaves of central tree motif.
English Band Sampler from SANQ

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekend Progress Report: April 15, 2012

Things have been a bit hectic here this weekend.  The garden is coming along.  The raised beds are assembled and one has been half filled and I need to buy more topsoil and peat this week to finish filling it.  And I have made a start on filling the second one by filling it 2/3rds of the way with leaf mold.  I figure I'll let it season till  early May and then top it off with a mix of top soil and sand and peat for my lettuces, radishes and carrot crops.  I ought to be ready to do some planting next weekend.  I ordered some packets of heirloom seeds for a number of vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant; and a few packets of wildflower seeds for the front yard planter box.  The flowers are billed as "often self seed" so there is a chance that if they take this season, they may return next year.  I filled three of those heavy duty paper Lawn & Leaf bags with the remaining leaves and swept the patio.  No sooner did I get everything nice and tidy then a breeze sprung up sprinkling everything with tree pollen and tiny little yellow green florets.

As to stitching, there has been some progress there as well.  The English Band Sampler has gotten some quality time and Part I is closer to a finish.  The Redwork section is done.  Though I like the look of it, I am not sure I'd ever want to do a whole project in Redwork.  And I have worked steadily on the tree in the center of this bottom band, nearly completing all the leaves.  A lot of that stitching was done out-of-doors yesterday.  It is always nice to stitch in natural light.  I don't need a magnifier even for 40 ct when I stitch in natural light.  The weather was a very pleasant mid-70 degree day with light breezes every so often.  I had been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency at my last physical and had been making it a point to spend at least 15 minutes a day in the sunshine.  But yesterday I spent most of the day outdoors.  The simple joys of Spring!  And I shall have my breakfast on the patio this morning.

But it is time to get cracking on my stitching goals for the month.  Having spent the last week on an off-goal project has put me a bit behind.  I intend to spend the entire coming week on the Kogin Tea Cozy.  It is my goal to complete that monthly goal during the week since I spent so much time off-goal in the earlier part of the month.  And since I haven't found my Token and Trifles triangles in my stash, I'll have to order some from 123stitch.  I have one last place to look but I am not optimistic.  I figure I won't find these elusive little cards till I have ordered the replacements!  Happily, 123stitch tends to mail quickly since my scissor case has to be stitched and mailed by early May.

Photos will have to wait till Tuesday since my camera battery needs a recharge.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Looking to the Weekend

The modules for my raised bed planter boxes arrived in record time.  My husband and my youngest son will be assembling them tomorrow.  I am very excited about this and can't wait to fill them with soil and compost and peat and leaf mold.  I am thinking seriously about emptying the richer soil in my large round terra notta containers into the raised beds and refilling one of the containers with a sandier soil mixture suitable for growing carrots.   I miss fresh baby carrots.   The other container will be used for lettuce since I'll be able to put it on a wheeled water well and move it to shadier spots when the weather starts to warm too much for ideal lettuce growing conditions.  I have even looked up directions for making a cucumber frame for use in one of the raised beds.  I am so looking forward to gardening again.  It's been too long!

The Redwork section of the Band Sampler thus far
As to my plans for stitching yesterday, things didn't go as well as I had hoped.  I am still plugging away at the redwork section of the bottom band.  But I hope to finish that section today and get going on the tree motif.  I got side-tracked by some literary nostalgia.  In doing some of the Spring cleaning, I came across my daughter's complete set of Anne of Green Gables books and nothing would do but I should settle in to reread this classic series.  Cleaning was suspended, stitching ignored, but I spent a very pleasant afternoon and intend to continue reading all about Avonlea and Prince Edward Island for the next little while.  I have decided that at my age I should spend my time doing things I enjoy at least as often as I do things I ought.  That's my justification for leaving some of the Spring cleaning till Summer.  The real purpose of the Spring cleaning urge, anyway, is to gather up all the extraneous stuff that Bill and I have accumulated in the past three decades spent in this house for one huge yard sale.  The neighbors will probably think we are getting ready to move but in truth I am only looking to declutter  the closets, cupboards and the junk room and make this house easier to maintain.  And it won't hurt to make a few dollars in the process.  As we get older there are so many things we no longer use or need.  My husband's complex of arthritis/gout/rheumatism all prevent him from being the handyman he once was, so all the power tools can go.  We have books we have accumulated, books we have inherited and books left by our grown children.  We have all sorts of odds and ends of housewares and giftware that just gather dust or take up space in cupboards, never seeing the light of day.  I just want to trim down our possessions to a reasonable degree.  No more overflowing closets or untidy junk rooms.  I would like to have the space to bring some treasures ought into the light but first I must weed out the unnecessary to make room for the cherished!  And if, in the process, I find a few old friends to reminisce with [like Anne] then I shall enjoy the chore all the more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More About the Band Sampler

Today, I plan to finish the red work section of the sampler and begin work on the satin stitched tree design in the center of the bottom row of Part I.  I have decided to stagger my satin stitches so as to make them look more like the natural striations in the bark.  There's still quite a bit to do after that: the queen stitched strawberries, the cross stitched bunch of grapes, the Jacobean floral motif, the remaining leaves on the tree and, of course, the saying in Row 3 of the alphabet section.  Even so, I feel I have made quite a bit of progress on this sampler and am confident that I will finish Part I well in advance of the publication of Part II.

On the gardening front: after several false starts in which I thought I had found the right planters on-line only to discover that websites had not been updated to match inventory and what I wanted was no longer available;  I finally found a  modular system that will allow me to construct two planters 4 feet wide by 4 feet long by 32 inches tall.  Of course, it ended costing me twice as much as I had planned.  I figure it will take four years of vegetable gardening to recover my costs but then there are all the benefits of organic food, fresh from the garden.  Priceless!  This year I will just go to the local nursery and get flats of vegetable sets.  But next year, I will plan ahead and get catalogs that specialize in "heritage" vegetables and I will start my garden from seed.  Starting from seed is much less expensive and using old time vegetable varieties tends to be so much more flavorful.  So many modern varieties  were developed with hardiness, ship-ability and insect resistance taking priority over flavor.

I'll also try to squeeze in some sewing finishes in with the Spring cleaning and routine house-keeping that is crying out for my attention.  Full time employment and maintaining a home isn't easy in the sixth decade.  I am just going to have to win a lottery and get maid service!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some Books Are Best Read Piecemeal

I have been reading George Carlin's Last Words.  It has been a slow journey.  I have always enjoyed his work even as I have considered some of it problematic.  Also, sharing the NYC Irish Catholic background, I can understand him without agreeing with him.  I know something of the experiences, good and bad, that shaped him, for better and worse.  But for all his brilliance and wit, he was an embittered and angry man ... and that makes reading his story a slow and sad experience.  I tend to read just a chapter at a time and then move on to other things ... the mundane, the ordinary, the gentle, the satisfying routines of everyday life serve as an antidote to the overwhelming bleakness of Last Words.  It is a book well worth reading as much for what it reveals about my ethnicity and my church as for what it reveals about George Carlin.  Of course, what it reveals is heavily skewed toward negativity.  But, it is sometimes a salutary experience to examine the failures of an institution, the darkness within a tribal group.  I had much the same feeling when reading Angela's Ashes.  It doesn't do to romanticize one's heritage.  It stops all growth and development and evolution, all forward motion, when one is so busy glorifying the past that one forgets to analyze it.

At this rate, I'll probably finish the book sometime in the summer.  But along the way, there will be plenty of thought and reflection.  And isn't that precisely what a good book does: provoke thought and reflection?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Progress Report" Easter

In between errand running, garden clean-up and visiting, I have continued to work on the English Band Sampler this weekend.  Part II will be arriving in the SANQ Summer issue and I would like to have Part I completed before that time.  I have gotten to the more interesting and more complex section of the sampler: satin stitches, long stitches, Queen stitches and Algerian crosses have begun to crop up as well as more complex motifs in cross stitch.  I have decided to stick to the colors as charted.  The colors are typical of the 15th century embroidery on which the design is based.  I must say aesthetic sensibilities as regards color have changed dramatically since that time period.  The color palette is definitely not particularly pleasing but I have chosen authenticity over aesthetics for this project, at least as regards color.  

After Easter Mass, I set up the small composter we bought at Home Depot.  I had the spot in the backyard all picked out.  After an afternoon alternately stitching and relaxing with season one Picket Fences DVDs, my husband and I met my youngest son for our Easter dinner at his favorite Japanese restaurant.  I know sushi isn't exactly a traditional Easter meal but sometimes traditions need to be jettisoned.  I have never really liked ham since one summer in our childhood when my Dad's union was still on strike ... the contract ended December 31 and negotiations broke down sometime in January.  As the strike lingered on for months and months, the union officials decided to buy a couple of truckloads of canned hams and distribute them to the striking workers to help ease the pain of lost wages.  When all you eat is ham for a whole summer, it tends to lose its appeal.  My Mom was considered a creative cook for her time, but even she could come up with just so many ways to present ham.  I can still enjoy a real ham ... one that is slow cured, like a genuine Virginia ham or a ham from Amish country ... but most of what is available in supermarkets is anathema.

Today, I'll celebrate the first day of a week off from work:  I'll plant the pansies in the front planter box, continue my on-line search for the right planter boxes for the backyard, get some house-keeping and some more garden clean-up done and, finally, continue my work on the sampler.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Margaret Woodleigh Band Sampler

From the moment I saw this English Band Sampler in the Spring 2012 issue of  Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly, I knew I had to stitch it.  I can't resist Queen Stitches.  It will be published in three parts, with Part II and III in the Summer and Fall issues.  I don't normally stitch things that are published in parts ... I am always afraid that some mischance will cause me to miss one of the published sections.  But I have been subscribing to SANQ for years and they are very reliable.  Now, normally, I would pull a piece of linen out of my stash and dive right in. But I have had this issue floating on the top of my to-do pile for nearly a month. I did not have a piece of the 30ct Northern Cross cream linen as called for in the chart, or anything comparable.  All my neutral linens were too dark ... more raw linen shades of tan and beige than cream.  Since I had to buy fabric anyway, I figured I'd go with a 35ct Northern Cross cream rather than the charted 30ct.  As it is my fabric is 15" x 31", which allows for a 2 1/2" margin all around.  A 30ct fabric would have been commensurately larger and I have to think ahead to framing costs and how the framed sampler will fit on the dining room wall.  I have pulled all the DMC colors as charted but I have serious doubts as to using the rather bright purple for the grapes in the lower right corner of section I.  I'll probably substitute one of the lighter greens, 732 or 733, for use in the grapes.  On the other hand, according to the photo of the whole sampler, there is more purple and blue violet in Sections II and III, so perhaps I should stitch the grapes as charted.  This band sampler was adapted by designer Susan Haverson who is quoted as describing her process, "To me, part of the joy is discovering new patterns, combinations and ideas and re-combining them."  So, I had no compunction in taking the process a step or two further and deconstructing and then reconstructing the published design to my own tastes.  I didn't care for the way the alphabet was stitched: row one had Margaret Woodleigh's name, row 2 had the letters V through Z and the numbers 1-9 and the date 1659, and row 3 had the letters A through T.  The letters J and U were notable by their absence, not unusual in an antique sampler, but still an affront to my sense of order.  I've stitched things up a bit differently: row 1 has the letters A through R; row 2 has letters S-Z and the numerals 1-9 and a 0, minus any date; row 3 is still not definite.  Since I am planning on hanging this piece in the dining room when finished, I am thinking of stitching, over one, my favorite grace before meals in that space:  Lord, to those who have hunger, give bread and to those who have bread, give the hunger for justice. Amen.  But I have yet to chart that out to see if it will work.  If it doesn't, I will come up with some other suitable phrase or personalization.    For now, I will leave Row 3 blank and move on to the rest of Part I.    Another project I would like to tackle is the Spring Sampler Challenge from one of my online stitching groups.  But I have committed to a scissor keep exchange and to a Christmas bird ornament exchange this spring and may not have time for the sampler challenge.  We shall see how things go.  The commitments have to be met first.  I can always design a sampler at a later date - it's really no big deal.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

I recently read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Blacksheep's Bit of the Web, that listed Edgar's all time favorite cakes.  He noted that one of the favorites was his Grandmother's Walnut Pound Cake. He wrote about how, since his mother no longer bakes this family favorite, it has fallen to him to carry on the tradition. And speaking of traditions, he noted that he has taken up the family tradition of baking it as a birthday cake for Jesus each Christmas. And that had me plunging into nostalgia: all the cakes that have been significant to me, intimately tied to family memories and traditions.  

First and foremost, a simple but showy cake that my mother used to bake for the annual Christmas Bake Sale at St. Catherine of Genoa's Elementary School.  A simple apple-sauce spice cake to which she added fruit cake citron and chopped walnuts and raisins.  Mom liked citron but didn't like the heavy as a brick style fruitcakes that are everywhere ... so she made up a lighter version by combining recipes.  The first year my Mom made this cake for the bake sale, the nuns quietly set it aside for their own Christmas table and shame-facedly confessed their greed to my Mom when she showed up to work the bake sale.  Thereafter, Mom made three every Christmas: one for us, one for the nuns and one for the sale. I make this cake now, for me and for my brother, as we are the only one's who really like it ... the in-laws and the youngsters turn their noses up at just another fruit cake no matter how we try to explain that "it's different, really, it is!"  But like my Mom, I couldn't help tweaking it to make it more to my taste.  Instead of the light dusting of powdered sugar she used to finish it, I make a light glaze by melting two tablespoons of butter with two blocks [ounces] of bittersweet dark chocolate and drizzling it over the cake.  She used a spring form pan, I use a bundt pan.  But it is still the cake of my childhood.  

Another cake that was a big part of my childhood wasn't a home baked treat at all.  I grew up in Brooklyn in the 50's and 60's and that meant several things for what we would now call "the foodies": Jahn's Ice Cream Parlors and Ebinger's Bakeries and the Brooklyn Terminal Market in Canarsie.  Ebinger's cakes were to die for.  Every Sunday my Dad would stop off at Ebingers on the way home from Mass and stock up on rolls, crumb cake, pecan coffee cake and for dessert  for Sunday dinner, a chocolate layer cake.  Most often the layer cake was the yellow cake filled with chocolate butter cream and iced with the bakery's signature hard dark chocolate icing.  But every now and then I was able to convince Dad to buy the somewhat more expensive yellow cake filled and frosted with chocolate butter cream that had sliced almonds pressed all around the sides of the cake.  On those days I was truly transported to heaven.  Another baked item that was an important part of my childhood was Italian sesame cookies.  These little sausage shaped cookies, rolled in sesame seeds before baking, were cheaper than the fancy cookies that one bought for company.  My father, who loved them, always called them the lousy cookies, because they were what you bought when you couldn't afford better.  On Saturday mornings, after making the rounds to the Italian butcher and to the Italian stalls at the Terminal market [for cold cuts, cheeses, dried figs, olives and all the other necessities of life], we'd stop at the Italian bakery for our weekly three long loaves of seeded Italian bread and some cookies.  If there had been overtime in that week's paycheck, we'd get pignoli cookies packaged in a white cardboard bakery box and tied with red and white striped bakery string.  The box was sacrosanct until we got home and Mom opened it and had the first cookie.  In the car, we kids would have to settle for the heels of the Italian bread, broken off and munched on the journey home.  But if it was an ordinary paycheck, the cookies of the week would be the humble sesame seed cookies, a pound tossed carelessly into a plain white bag.  In the car we would each receive a cookie to munch on the way home.  But best of all was when great Aunt Ida [my Dad's godmother] made the home-made sesame cookies from her fiercely guarded family recipe.  Much as my Dad begged she wouldn't share that recipe with my grandmother, my mother or later with my sisters and myself.  The tyrannical old matriarch is probably spinning in her grave now since, shortly after her death, my cousin Nettie shared that recipe with my Aunt Anna who passed it on to the rest of the family.  I now try to make those cookies most every Christmas in memory of my Dad's fondness for the lousy cookies.  And, I confess, I am very fond of them now myself ... much more than I am of the cherry studded butter cookies that were coveted during my childhood days.

Once I married and started cooking to my own tastes, I developed different favorites.  I must be channelling some ancient Pilgrim, or more likely one of the Salem witches, because my favorites are true New England Gingerbread [made with dark molasses] and Bread Pudding.  I make them as soon as the weather gets cooler.  And of course, there are my husband's favorites: Verona Loaf and Orange Peel Nut Bread.  Come to think of it, I haven't made the Verona Loaf in a couple of years, mainly because a key ingredient is saffron threads and they cost dearly.  But Father's Day and his birthday come up close together ... I think I'll be making time to make this yeast risen sweet bread [more of a coffee cake really] again.  Another favorite is Joel Richert's bannana cake, more for the icing than the cake.  The icing, made from heavy cream, extra fine granulated sugar and baker's cocoa, reminds me of the chocolate butter cream from Ebinger's in taste, texture and color.  My well-meaning husband once bought me the Pepperidge Farm frozen chocolate layer cake in an attempt to recapture the Ebinger's experience but it was only the palest ghost of the real thing.

But right now I am jonesing for some Hot Cross Buns.  This being Holy Week, they won't be around very much longer.  Ebingers no longer exists but there are still boxes of Entemann's baked goods to be found and they make a fair Hot Cross Bun.  For those who didn't grow up in Brooklyn: Entemann's was the poor Long Island "cousin" of Ebinger's ... no where near as good but an adequate substitute when no better alternative presented itself, at least in a Brooklynite's opinion ... a Long Islander might have a different take on the matter..

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Limerick Contest Winner

This was a bit of a puzzler.  There were two real contenders, Rita E in Az and neverdyingpoet.  But I said I'd announce the winner at the end of March and it is long since time to do just that.  Since I can't narrow it down any further, there will be two winners of a $10 gc to 123stitch:: Rita and the stitcherman named Shirley.  Why that reminds me of the old Johnny Cash song, A Boy named Sue, I can't say, but it does!  I am still puzzling over what a swirly is ... some exotic boxing move? a sweet little stitched what-not? an imaginary object inserted for the sake of rhyme?  I'll be e-mailing the two winners later on today but right now I have to get ready for work.  Thanks to all who participated in my little contest.  I'll do it again next winter.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday, Monday

It's been an interesting weekend.  One of my Confirmation students' mother was so embarrassed by her son's failure to bring in his paperwork on time that she brought me two dozen eggs from her chicken coop and the promise of the remaining paperwork within a week's time.  All of the eggs were guaranteed to be not more than three days old.  On Saturday, I got the notion to do some cooking  and spent the better part of the day playing in the kitchen.  I had some leftover rolls that were a bit past their time for sandwich making so I decided to make some bread pudding.  Since I also had some dried Oregon Gold peaches on hand, I thought I'd do a variation on the usual bread pudding and make mine a Peach Melba Pudding.  I chopped the equivalent of 8 peaches into a fairly fine dice and layered them with the trimmed and cubed bread and slivered almonds [2 layers of each] and then drenched the whole in the usual custard mixture [4 eggs, 3 cups milk, 1/3 c sugar, 1 tsp salt], let it stand for a while to absorb the fluid nicely and then baked it in a 325 degree oven for a little over an hour.  Saturday night when I gently reheated it to serve as dessert, I fixed a quick raspberry sauce from some berries that were just a bit too ripe to serve with cereal Sunday morning.  I had quite a few bread cubes left so I sauteed some celery, onions and bell pepper, tossed two chicken bouillon cubes in two cups of boiling water, melted 4 Tbs of butter and tossed the whole together to make stuffing.  I had some skinless chicken breasts that I  pounded very thin, stuffed, rolled up and secured with toothpicks, sauteed and then baked.  And, voila, I had my main dish for Saturday supper.  I took some left over boiled potatoes, peeled and mashed them, added some parsley, a beaten egg and some bread crumbs and made some ersatz potato pancakes as a side dish for the chicken roll-ups.  But that still left me with a lot of eggs for a two person household.  I figured lunch would have to be my favorite quiche: chopped tomato, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese.  All well and good, but the tomatoes I had on hand were huge.  I only needed half of one for the quiche.  What to do with the other half?  Chop it into small dice, add some virgin olive oil, dried basil [didn't have any fresh basil in the house] and some minced garlic ... then pop it into a zip-loc bag and refrigerate till the flavors melded nicely.  Sunday, I served crostini as the first course for a lunch of left-over quiche.  It was an easy and quick heat-it-up sort of lunch after the long Palm Sunday Mass.  I started the weekend with 28 eggs and still have 18 on hand: I am guessing egg salad sandwiches are in my future and perhaps an easy late night supper of potatoes and eggs or a cheddar and onion omelet.  All this eggy goodness!!!  And I've done more serious cooking this weekend [as opposed to my usual slap-dash workaday cooking] than I've done in the last two weeks put together.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools Day

Iin keeping with the April Fools Day theme, I will confess to a bit of foolishness.  Although one of my goals this year has been to limit my purchases to fibers and fabrics to stitch up charts I already have in my possession, I broke down and ordered a "new"-to-me chart.  While not exactly a recent publication, I have been wanting Cedar Hill's Berry Patch Rabbit ever since I first saw it.  It's not like I have a thing for rabbits.  The only other rabbit piece I have ever owned and stitched is Workbasket's Rabbit Rondel.  Nor have I stitched many Cedar Hill charts, though I do think they are quite elegant.  The only other Cedar Hill piece I have stitched is The Spring Bouquet.  I can't always explain why a chart appeals to me.  It happens on a visceral level.  And that's what is going on with the Berry Patch Rabbit.  I have a gift certificate from 123stitch that was payment for the sale of an old Just Nan chart I'll never ever stitch and I am justifying my purchase of BPR with the rationale that it is really more of an exchange than an actual purchase.  Anyway that's my story.  I have more than enough charts - actual leaflets, magazines, legitimately printed freebies and even some old hardcover books - to see me through to retuirement and well beyond if not quite S.A.B.L.E.  I don't really need this one but I have wanted it for a long while and am going to indulge myself.  If that makes me a bit of an April Fool, so be it.