Friday 1 March 2024

My Sourdough Starter Misadventure

 It started with what would have been my mother's 99th birthday, Valentine's Day. Or maybe I should go back a little farther. My second oldest sister passed away this past October. She was the one that stepped into the matriarchal role once my mother passed away in 1998. Now, I'm not only missing my sister, but it's made me miss my mother more. So, as her birthday approached, I determined to make foods that reminded me of her on that day. Pancakes for breakfast,

lazy cabbage rolls (I don't believe my mother ever made lazy cabbage rolls, but I was too lazy to make rolled ones)
and Waldorf salad for dinner, and a Western sandwich for supper (using this recipe for the omelette).
I would have liked to have had pumpernickel bread to go with dinner. Mom never made it from scratch, that I can recall, but she did like to eat it. And so do I. But, even though she never made it, I want to. And I've tried several recipes over the years, without the success I'd like. I want the light, dark-coloured, round loaf, not the dense rectangular loaf as found in my World Encyclopedia of Bread. Occasionally, Mom would buy those as well - I still remember one brand: Dimpflmeier - though that bread is definitely an acquired taste. 
So I googled and found another recipe to try on the King Arthur website.Unfortunately for me, as it turns out, this one called for sourdough starter. I'm not sure why this is the one I found because this website has at least a couple more pumpernickel recipes that don't require the starter. Well, I had been considering trying making my own sourdough starter, so I decided that this was the time, and King Arthur happily obliged with a recipe
I started out with my "blob" in a Gem jar because the recipe called for a jar that was "at least" a quart, and I figured that I would err on the larger size and these jars are 1½ quarts. However, I soon realized that that mouth wasn't big enough to do all the messing around in the jar that I had to do: removing discard, adding flour and water and stirring it in. So, I switched the blob to a 1-quart wide mouth jar. 
One of the first issues was what to do with the discard. According to the instructions, with each feed, I had to discard one cup of the starter and add a further one cup of flour and half a cup of water (I actually used my kitchen scale for accuracy, and weighed in grams). I hate wasting food, but King Arthur kindly obliges with a bunch of recipes for using sourdough starter discard, most of which require the 1 cup that I had to remove each time. 
However, after the first couple of days of "feeding" the starter once daily, I then had to bump it up to twice daily and was beginning to feel overwhelmed by sourdough starter discard, and sent this text to one of my sisters:
And I tried using it in some of the recipes:
Sourdough crackers, which were pretty tasty, 
sourdough pretzels (the recipe doesn't tell you to poach them, but any pretzel recipe I have read does, so I did),
sourdough pancakes, 
and sourdough biscuits, here used with my vegan breakfast sandwiches. But still, I had this mountain of discard, and was now adding 2 cups to it daily. And I was getting tired and frustrated with trying to figure out what to do with it.
My mountain of discard
I was also beginning to wonder if my starter had "gone south" when it smelled something like bad beer. But the next time, it smelled like nail polish remover! According to my online research, that acetone odour just meant that my starter needed to be fed. Seriously?!? I was already feeding it twice daily and struggling with the amount of discard. There was no way that I wanted to add a third feeding. So, instead, I tried switching up the "feed": according to the instructions, I had mostly just been feeding it unbleached all purpose flour. But now, I added spelt, rye, whole wheat. By this time, the starter was over a week old and still was nowhere near active enough to actually be used to make bread. And the next time I fed it, it smelled like acetone again. 
When I shared my vegan breakfast sandwiches to a vegan group on Facebook, one commenter asked me about the sourdough. This is my reply: 
And guess what? Even after feeding it my precious organic, whole grain flour, it still smelled like acetone the next time I was supposed to feed it. But there wasn't any feeding that time. I just dumped it in with the rest of the discard. 
Meanwhile, I had determined to try to use up a whole lot of discard at once, and I tried making bread. After all, the discard was just flour and water, so I should be able to just add some actual yeast, and maybe some more flour and water. Unfortunately, I ended up with more of a batter, rather than a dough and I wasn't sure if I even wanted to bother putting it into the oven. After more than an hour's baking time, I did end up with some reasonable looking loaves. 
But the crust was really thick and tough and the inside was gummy. 
The taste was definitely sour and rye, reatlly not too bad. I put two of the three loaves into the freezer and ate a good part of the third loaf before deciding that it likely wasn't healthy bread, being so dense and gummy, and tossed the remainder into the compost. I'm not sure what I'll do with the ones in the freezer. Or with the rest of the discard, which is still sitting in my fridge. As I mentioned, I hate wasting food. But likely, instead of feeding the starter, I will be feeding the compost.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Vegan Breakfast Sandwiches


I've been wanting to make vegan breakfast sandwiches for some time. But trying to find the right recipes for the sausages and eggs was a challenge. I didn't want just store-bought processed vegan food products. Those are okay in a pinch, but I prefer to make my food from scratch and then I'm in control of the ingredients, and can make sure that they're mostly (if not all) whole foods and healthy. 
I tried the vegan Unsausage recipe first, and was happily impressed. Nice texture, great flavour. I found it in my cookbook, Give Them Something Better. But I have since found that the cookbook authors have posted it online here. This time, I cut they cayenne to 1/4 teaspoon as the first time I made them, I found them a little hot for my taste. I also allowed the mixture to sit for at least 10 minutes, not the 5 that's in the recipe. Using a wide mouth canning jar lid to form the patties, I found it made about 13. With a narrow mouth lid, it makes about 25. 
The next thing to tackle was the "egg". I had tried a chickpea omelette once before and really wasn't impressed with the taste or texture. Recently, I decided to make foods that reminded me of my mother on what would have been her 99th birthday, Valentine's Day (she passed away in 1998). One of those things was a western sandwich, which is basically an omelette between 2 pieces of toast. I googled "vegan western sandwich" and found one that sounded tasty, but it was basically a scrambled tofu recipe. And the filling in a western sandwich is not scrambled. So, instead, I googled "vegan omelette" and found The Best Vegan Omelette Recipe. Honestly, I can't say that I've tried every single vegan omelette recipe out there, so I can't say that this is "the best", but it certainly worked out best for me. It's simple, fast and tasty. To use it in a sandwich, I mixed sauteed onions and red peppers into the batter and cooked it on both sides, rather than fold it. In order to fit it into the breakfast sandwiches, I cut it into 4 pieces, so there was enough for 4 sandwiches (and no, I didn't eat four sandwiches. I ate 2, and regretted it about halfway through the second sandwich). 
Originally, I had planned on putting these sandwiches into store-bought English muffins. Eventually, I am going to try making my own, but in the meantime, I can at least find whole wheat ones in the supermarket. However, I have been playing with sourdough lately (more on that in another post) and have been trying to find ways to use up the discard (you have to discard some of the starter daily or twice daily before you "feed" it with more flour and water). I don't like to waste food, so I've been following recipes that use sourdough discard, so I don't have to "discard" it. This is the recipe for the biscuits I used for the sandwiches: Buttery Sourdough Biscuits. Buttery is the operative word, and I likely won't be using this recipe again because there is too much fat! I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread for the butter and whole wheat pastry flour for the flour. They taste good, but I don't want to be consuming things that high in processed fat on a regular basis. 
So, two thumbs up for both the sausage recipe and the omelette recipe. One thumb up for taste on the buscuit recipe, but one thumb down for fat content. 

Sunday 28 January 2024

Christmas Spice Blend Collection


One of our local fairs has a fairly large Christmas craft section in their bench show, and this past year, I determined to enter as many classes in this section as I could. 
I don't know why, when I was in a time crunch to get the projects completed for the fair, I would pick patterns like these. 
Definitely not in the quick and easy category! As it turned out, I didn't complete the placemats until just before Christmas. The tops were made before the fair, but I ran out of time to get them quilted and bound. 
Creating these placemats required 11 different fabrics. The table runner required only 8, but since I wanted them to coordinate, I used the same fabrics, just omitting 3 in the runner.
Finishing the edges on this odd shape would have presented a challenge, so the instructions said to stitch it together inside out, then turn it right side out and quilt it. But I wanted to quilt it on the longarm, which I did, using an old broadcloth fabric from my stash as a false backing. I then stitched it inside out with the actual backing fabric, turned it right side out and stitched the opening closed. Finished!
I used the Amber pantograph to quilt it as I felt the it echoed the curves of the table runner. 
When I purchased the fabric, I chose clearance fabric that my local quilt shop sells in pre-cut metres and half-metres. So, I started out with 11 metres of fabric (or maybe it was only 10½ because one of them might have been just a half metre), so plenty not only for these projects, but for others as well. 
This is the Spiced Tea Mat from 50 Country Quilting Projects. You may recall that I'm trying to gradually work my way through this book, completing every project. I think I've still got 40 projects to do after this one. The idea behind this one is that, instead of just a regular hot mat, you create it with a pocket on the back to insert a little packet of spices. The instructions said to make the little packet using fusible interfacing, which didn't seem like the best idea to me. Instead, I made it using muslin. And because it was a Christmas hot mat, I used a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. It smells wonderful. And that was the inspiration for calling this collection Christmas Spice Blend. Since I was using a collection of mostly unrelated fabrics, I needed a name to call the assortment of projects I was making from it. And since it's a "blend" of 11 different fabrics, I figured that name would work. 
I have set a goal of making a different wallhanging for the living room and table treatment for the dining room for each month of the year, so naturally I needed a Christmas wallhanging for December. 
I love the vintage look of this wallhanging. To me, the colours are so rich.
I quilted the placemats, together with the wallhanging using a pantograph called Cappuccino. It's an older pantograph from Golden Threads that I bought second hand. Because both of these projects have small pieces, I wanted a fairly dense pantograph and this one fit the bill. I don't know if it's still available or not. When I try to go to the Golden Threads website, I get a warning from my security software. And it's not the same as the Cappuccino pantograph from Urban Elementz. 
Next, I decided to make some pillows for the couch. 
I used a colouring sheet I printed off the internet as a pattern for the applique. I call it Christmas bells. 
It's funny how the circle looks distorted into a rounded square once I placed the pillow form inside. I didn't have any extra 12" pillow forms, and they're not readily available or cheap, so, since I have a big bag of stuffing, I made my own using muslin. 
This block is called Swamp Angel. I found it during a search on my BlockBase+ software and found the name so intriguing that I decided I needed to make it. 
I later googled to find out what a "Swamp Angel" actually was. Not exactly consistent with the message of Christmas. 😕 But it's still a great block and made an attractive pillow. 
Remember my Christmas Tree napkins I made for the previous Christmas? 
They just happen to be made from fabrics that I included in the Christmas Spice Blend, so they coordinate as well. 
I still have plenty of fabric left from this collection, so more projects may be forthcoming. But that's enough Christmas projects for now. 

Monday 1 January 2024

Christmas in July: Let It Snow

 It's New Year's Day, so why am I posting about Christmas in July?

I don't always do a "Christmas in July" project, but this past July, I decided I would. I had a fat quarter bundle of snowflakes and stars fabrics in blues and whites that had been in my stash for several years. Why not see what I could do with that? 
Having designed the Grandmother's Twins quilts (which I will share at a later date), which use 10" blocks set on point to create a "snuggle" size quilt, I chose that layout. 
Then I had to choose the blocks. Why I chose two different blocks is anyone's guess. July seems like a lifetime ago and I really don't remember. Or why I chose Jinny Beyer's book, The Quilter's Album of Blocks and Borders, rather than my BlockBase+ software, is also unclear, though I can probably figure that one out. It's easier to find a 10" block in the book by just going to the 5-patch chapter, whereaas in the software, I would have to open each individual block to see if it was a 10" or not. 
The first block I chose was Here's the Steeple
Not a simple block and I had to draft it myself from the approximately 2" picture in the book and then create my own templates. I was able to use Tri Recs tools for some of the pieces. 
My second block choice was Follow the Leader or Pinwheel Square.
As I had insufficient fabric left from my fat quarter bundle, I had to "borrow" from my stash for the small dark blue triangles and the white half-rectangle triangles. And I had a note in the book where I had already done the calculations for the pieces. 
Neither of these were simple blocks, but I was able to create 3 of the Here's the Steeple block and the remainder were partly finished, plus one of the Follow the Leader blocks with most of the pieces cut out. Then I realized that the local fairs were drawing closer (they're in early August) and I needed to get some projects completed if I wanted to have entries for the fairs. And this project was left idle. For months. 
Once the hubbub of Christmas was over, as the year was drawing to a close, I wanted to complete the quilt I'm making in honour of the coronation of King Charles III. 
I figured it was a good idea to actually finish it in the year that his coronation actually occurred. However, this is not a simple block. 
And I needed 16 of them. I had finished 1 and partially finished a second one. I completed this second one, but it's that square in the middle. There's no easy way of getting it there! It requires several partial seams with small pieces, so not much room to work. And when I looked at the foundation paper piecing option in BlockBase+, there really wasn't an easy solution there either. I would still have to figure out a magic formula for getting that square in the middle. It was kind of discouraging. And then I found out that my local quilt shop was closed during the week between Christmas and New Year's, so I couldn't get backing fabric anyway. There was no way I could finish this quilt in 2023 even if I got the top done.
I have to admit that I was not really reluctant to relinquish this project for some time in the future. Sorry, Charles. Instead, I decided to complete my Christmas in July project. I already had purchased the filler fabric for the alternate squares and setting triangles, plus the backing fabric, a blue fleece with white snowflakes. And because I had already cut out most of the pieces and partially finished several of the blocks, it went quite quickly. 
I chose the Snow Winds pantograph from Urban Elementz for the quilting and Super White Glide thread. 
Perfect for the "snow" theme of this quilt, and I christened it "Let It Snow". 
By the time I was finished, I had already determined to see if I could complete a couple of other snuggle quilts before the end of the year. 
The tops were finished. I had the backing fabric and the binding strips were already cut. I just needed some polyester fibrefil batting, which is what I use when quilting with minky or fleece. I was able to get that at Walmart. But you'll have to wait for later to see if I was able to get those finished or not. 

Saturday 7 October 2023

Don't Choose Joy

One of my favourite parts of the book of Ruth in the Bible is when Naomi returns to the land of Israel, impoverished, having lost her husband and both sons, with only Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law as companion. Upon arriving back in Bethlehem, the residents questioned, “Can this be Naomi?” Naomi responds, “Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant). Call me Mara (which means bitter), for the Almighty has made my life bitter!” (Ruth 1). She is figuratively, if not literally, shaking her fist at God and blaming Him for the calamities that she has experienced. There’s no record that God condemns her anger, and if you finish the story (it’s only 4 short chapters), you’ll find that God blesses her and she, of course, does not stay angry. I find this story encouraging because it reminds me that God understands my sorrow, grief, anger and pain, that He does not judge me for expressing those feelings. He does not expect me to “just get over it”. He does not call for me to “choose joy” in the midst of my grief.
Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), so it’s not a sin to feel the depths of my sorrow and pain and express them.
Jesus wept (John 11:35), so I can go ahead and cry my heart out and sob with gut-wrenching, soul-crushing sobs.
I can scream and shake my fist at God, if I need to. His shoulders are broad enough to take it. He is not put off by my anger. He knows and understands. And in order to experience full healing, He knows I need to allow myself to go through the grieving process. Therefore, He does not call me to “choose joy” in my time of sorrow. 
The Bible says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b. The long night of grief and pain may seem to last forever, but just as the day dawns gradually, so, too, our grief will lift, our pain will heal – gradually. We don’t have to choose joy. It will come – in small bursts, as the healing comes, and as it gradually dawns towards fullness of joy in the resurrection morning

Saturday 19 August 2023


 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

As usual, my fair entries bought some surprises - both good and not so good. This tree skirt, for example, which for me was pretty simple and straightforward, and not a whole lot of work, comparatively speaking, won first place. And I'm not even sure I like it.

And it was displayed at the fair with the backing side up, so you couldn't even see the quilting, which to me was the "main attraction". Yes, it has pretty backing fabric, but it's a whole cloth quilt, so it's about the quilting... And because I quilted it using a simple broadcloth on the back and then stitched on the actual backing fabric using the envelope method (stitch the edges of the quilt top and backing right sides together, leaving an opening to turn it right side out), you can't even see the quilting on the back! 😁
Then there was the Christmas Spice Blend table runner (I'll blog more about this with pattern info later). 
Rather tricky piecing, and I was sure it would win a first place, but it only won a second. The first place ribbon went to something in black, made with a panel. 
Because you're not supposed to touch the exhibits, and it was folded, I couldn't look at all of the details of the first place winner, but the only thing I noticed which might have surpassed mine was snowflakes quilted in the corners, which were too precise to be anything but computerized. If computerized quilting trumps complicated piecing, I might as well throw in the towel now... Admittedly, there might have been other details, like the fact that I machine stitched the opening closed, rather than hand stitch, so the stitches were visible - this was another envelope method project. But, personally, I hardly think that justified a panel project winning a first over mine. Nevertheless, it did win a first in the other fair in which I entered it. 
And then there was The Study of Geometry. 
I entered it in one fair last year, where it placed 2nd and a different fair this year, where it placed 3rd. And I thought it should be a first place winner. But this humble dishcloth (the pink and green one in the centre) won first place in both fairs in which it was entered. 
We all have surprises in our lives, both good and bad, many of which are far more significant than winning a ribbon in a local fair. The most important are what happens when life on this planet as we know it is over. As the Bible verse at the beginning of this post says, we can't even begin to imagine the things that God has prepared for us. It will be so amazing.
There are many misconceptions about eternity. Floating around on a cloud, playing a harp... No, that's not how God wants us to spend forever. Others think that it will just be an eternal continuation of life on this earth. I don't know about you, but I really don't want to spend eternity in the same kind of life we have here. Bars serving alcohol will not be there. Movies portraying crime and immorality will not be there. Revelation 21:27 says, "But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life." NKJV. Life will be perfect: no crime, no death, no sorrow. Only perfect peace and happiness forever. But note what that verse says: only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter there. How do we get our names written in the Lamb's Book of Life? Only those who have surrendered their hearts to Jesus and live their lives for Him will have their names written in the Book of Life. Jesus said, " I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9 KJV). 'Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." ' (John 14:6 NKJV). Acts 4:12 says, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Only through Jesus can we have eternal life!
To find out more about having a relationship with Jesus and receiving eternal life, follow these links: 
The Experience of Salvation
Saved From Certain Death
To find out more about heaven, the new earth and eternity, follow these links:
The New Earth
I put in a lot of work to produce my entries for the fairs and mostly was quite pleased with the results. But my quality of life would not be altered significantly if I had missed out on receiving those ribbons. But missing out on eternity is not a concept I even want to contemplate. 

Saturday 12 August 2023

Unfinished Projects

 "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." 
Philippians 1:6 NKJV

Unfinished Place Mat
It's fair season and I've been working like a machine, trying to get projects completed in time to enter in the fairs. There's the local fair in the town I live in, plus a couple of other fairs in nearby smaller communities. Three fairs, and because the one in town, which is a 5-day fair, overlaps the other two., which are one day fairs, anything I entered in the one in town could not be entered in either of the other two. And while I had quite a few projects finished, and while many of the entries in the smaller two fairs could be duplicates, there were still classes for which I wanted to make projects. And so I was making, and making. And I got down to the wire for making projects for the final fair and I just couldn't do it. Insomnia is a serious problem for me and while I sometimes do end up working on projects in the middle of the night because I'm wide awake anyway, I don't want to plan to do it deliberately. So I gave myself permission to not enter every class that I wanted to. As it was, I had 19 entries in the fair in town, and 18 each in the other two. 
And I have some unfinished projects left over. In addition to the above place mats (a set of four), I began an applique pillow cover and a wall hanging, with plans to also make a tree skirt. But I have a lot more unfinished projects than that. We call them UFOs in the crafting world, which stands for unfinished objects. Also WIPs for works in progress (I loosely define the difference by whether or not I've worked on the project in the last year. If I have, then it's a WIP. If I haven't it's a UFO). I do plan to finish them all eventually, if the Lord tarries, and I live long enough. I don't like unfinished projects. But I also get bored/distracted easily and move onto something new. It's a fault, I know (though recently my daughter and I were discussing our and my grandson's symptoms of ADHD/ADD, so that could be the issue). So, it takes self-discipline to see a project through to the end. And though I'm generally quite pleased with the final results and happy to have a project finished, it's getting there that is the challenge.
We are all works in progress. In the pressure cooker of life, God is working on developing our character, if we allow Him to, and making us better people, more like Him. But, unlike me, God doesn't get bored or distracted. As long as we cooperate by surrendering to Him, we will never become unfinished objects, neglected in a dusty corner somewhere. And like some of my projects that involve meticulous, painstaking work, there may sometimes appear to be little progress in our lives. But some tasks require more time and patience. And, as the opening Bible verse states,  "
He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." That's a promise! He will continue to work in our lives, as long as we allow Him to, so that we will be ready to meet Him when Jesus comes again!