Monday 28 January 2019

2018 Crafting Year in Review

I'm rather late getting my "year in review" post done, but I wasn't sure if I was even going to bother doing one. After packaging up 5 quilts for the recipients today, I thought it would be a good idea to do a review after all, just to see what I've actually accomplished craft-wise. I think I will keep my comments to a minimum and just let the pictures speak for themselves. 
 Potholders and dishcloths, First Finish of the Year

 Orange dishcloths for my daughter
 More dishcloths
 I wanted to see how many dishcloths I could make out of one Big Ball of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton.
 Even more dishcloths
 And a not-too-successful attempt at crocheting a bowl to put them in.
 They're reproducing! 
This pattern is one of my favourites.
(I still have to tack down the hanging sleeve on this one, but the quilt itself is finished).
Not much in the way of crocheting finishes this year, only dishcloths. Knitting: more dishcloths and two afghans. Eight quilts, five of which were completed on my own longarm. It's amazing how much more quilting you can get done when you have one at home!
Hopefully, 2019 will be even more productive, especially now that I'm only working 4 days a week. I think I'd better get more of those crochet projects finished. 

Sunday 27 January 2019

My Beloved's Vineyard

Very challenging to find a place to take a picture of a queen-sized quilt that shows the whole quilt
I started this quilt 2 years ago and it was supposed to have been for my sister Judy's 65th birthday. She'll be 70 in August. But I am gradually closing in on my goal of creating a quilt for every sister. Janet, Cindy and Judy will now have one, and I have the fabric for the quilts for the remaining two sisters. Plus a zillion other quilts. Currently I'm working on my very first signature quilt for a nurse that retired. 
This is just the beginnings of it. I'll have to be careful to whom I give these, or every health care worker I have ever known will think they need one when they retire/resign/move...
But back to Judy's quilt: if you want to know more of it's story you'll need to read my post, "Un-squaring Square Quilts." I've had the quilt top done for nearly 2 years. And I actually had some rental time booked on the longarm to finish it. Then I injured my back, was off work for a few weeks and I was in no shape to do the quilting. Especially when, as a renter, I would have to do it all in one shot, and I estimated this quilt would take me 8 hours to quilt. 
After the back injury healed, I tried to book my already paid for time on the longarm, but was not getting any response from the rental studio. And really, I didn't want to pay for it again at another studio (the first studio still owes me 8 hours of quilting time). I kept hoping that I would be able to get the basement renovations done and purchase my own longarm. That didn't happen until September of 2018. Then I had problems with the flooring and had to wait until that was taken care of before I could get to this quilt.
Vineyard Pantograph from Urban Elementz
Once I was finally able to start quilting it, I,unfortunately, was having major tension issues. I would set it to where I thought it was a good tension, but the thread kept breaking. I don't think I finished a whole row without at least one thread break. I kept reducing the tension and thought I was finally going to be able to quilt, but then suddenly it was too loose and I had to rip out loops of thread on the back several times. For polyester thread, I had a lot of lint accumulating in the bobbin area.
I went through a lot of thread with all of the re-starts I had to do. 
Look at all of that thread in the garbage, and the quilt is only half done!
I thought maybe it was that particular spool of thread, so when it ran out, I was hoping that maybe a new spool would be better.

I tried 3 different needles, hoping that would make a difference and finally resorted to the manual and reset the tension at least three times. It would work for a short period of time and then start breaking or looping again. Plus the rear display was not working consistently, which is not good when you primarily quilt from the back. I had no end of headaches, messaged the company, emailed the vendor, spoke with them in person, spoke with them on the phone. Just by sheer persistence, I eventually managed to finish the quilting
and took the longarm into the vendor for repair. In spite of all of my stops and starts, I think that the quilting is quite attractive. And I'm so thankful it's finished.
Mystery assisted with the binding
and was very helpful. 
Now, I just have to find a box that's the right size and get it mailed to my sister. And hopefully, the repairman will be able to find what's wrong with my machine and remedy it quickly. 
Trialling the quilt on my bed

The Art and Science of Mathematics

He was a mathematician who had worked in the oilfield, so his mother told me. But by the time we met, he was incapable of telling me that himself, no longer able to verbally communicate. He was dying. I remembered a friend telling me that her father was presented with a quilt while he was in the hospital dying, and how much it meant to her. So, I determined to make this mother and son a quilt. 
I like to customize my quilts as much as possible, so I googled "math quilt." I found this one from Whistlepig Creek Productions. The picture on the pattern shows the quilt in very bright, vibrant colours, but I didn't think that was the most appropriate for this situation. And I remembered seeing some fabric at Fabricland that might be appropriate. I just couldn't remember if it was math or science. 
When I arrived at Fabricland, I discovered it was mainly science. But, to me, math and science are very closely related. I selected three fabrics to compose the quilt top. 
I chose "Galileo" from Windham Fabrics for the background. 
It's not a typical background fabric because it has a very distinct print. But I tend to find solids boring and I couldn't find a more appropriate tonal, and I wanted the background to "say something." 
The other fabrics I chose were "Compass" by Alison Glass for Andover
and "Science," a Timeless Treasures fabric. 
This one is, of course, chemistry's periodic table of the elements. I really like this one. 
Unfortunately, the demands of my new job kept me from even starting this quilt before he passed away. But I still wanted to make it for his mother. 
I reduced the size of the quilt from 63" x 83" to 63" x 63" by reducing the number of blocks to 25. Determining to make the quilt more "sophisticated," I created templates to add square root and pi symbols to the quilt, not just the basic math functions. I decided to complete all of the appliqué blocks first, and "accidentally" created double the amount of division blocks I needed, only to realize that, without the appliqué dots, they were actually the minus blocks. 
So, I had 4 out of the seven symbols completed. My job required commuting 40 minutes each way, and it was exhausting and demanding, so I didn't get this quilt done as promptly as I might have liked.
Especially when I had to wait first for the renovations to be completed and then the flooring issues in my quilting studio had to be resolved. 
Finally, I had the quilt top completed and on the longarm. 
I chose Meandering Numbers from Willow Leaf Studio as the most appropriate pantograph (another hold-up: I also had to wait for the pantograph to arrive). 
It's now finished. I just have to get the mailing address of the recipient so that I can get it mailed off to her. 
So why did I choose this name instead of just "Math Quilt," as the pattern is titled? First of all, way back when my daughter was born, one of our neighbours was a university math professor. And he stated that he believed that mathematics is an art. And, in a certain way, I have to agree with him. There is a beauty in the symmetry and precision of math. It can also be used in various art forms, as any quilter can attest. However, it's also very important in the sciences, particularly chemistry and physics. And, of course, the fabrics used in this quilt reflect the sciences. Like my profession of nursing, mathematics is both an art and a science. And even quilting is both. So combining both art and science, I created a quilt that celebrates mathematics and the life of one particular mathematician.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Vegan Under Pressure - A Cookbook Review

When I posted to a facebook group for vegan Instant Pot recipes that I had received my order of this cookbook from Amazon, I was asked to share my opinion of it. So I figured the easiest way to do that was to write a cookbook review on my blog. First of all, here's the link to the cookbook:Apparently if you purchase through this link, I will get some money. I have no idea how much because I have yet to earn anything by posting Amazon links... 😄
You might want to click on the "Cookbook Criteria" tab above to review what I look for in a cookbook.
Is it vegan/plant-based? Check.
Is it whole food? Not 100%, but most of the recipes are. It does have a couple of recipes for Seitan, plus recipes that use Seitan, which, of course, is not a whole food. Oil is called for in many recipes, but is usually listed as optional, and it's only small quantities. And the risotto calls for Arborio (white) rice.
Does it use meat analogues (fake meat)? Not that I could find. It even provides a recipe for making your own vegan sausage.
Does it limit the use of obscure, exotic and specialty ingredients? Not sure whether I should put tempeh into this category or the above or the below, but there are recipes that call for it. And tomatillos, soba noodles, ume vinegar, kombu, miso paste, okra... I'm talking about things that are not readily available in the grocery stores in my small town in rural Alberta. For this category, it depends on the individual recipe - whether the item can be left out or subsititued. Or if I, or another cook, really want to try the recipe with that ingredient, am I willing to include it on a shopping list for my next trip to the nearest big city? Maybe or maybe not. Most of my trips to the city involve fabric stores, which are not generally reliable sources of ume vinegar...
Easy to follow instructions: yes.
Limited use of ingredients I don't like: fennel, mushrooms, cilantro and tempeh are found in recipes in this book. However, I have found plenty of recipes that either don't include these or I can readily substitute. Unfortunately, the vegan sausage recipe calls for mushrooms and I'm still debating on whether I will be able to substitute eggplant...
Awesome food photography? Yes, but not enough of it to suit my tastes, and I would rather have it accompany the recipe that's pictured than lumped together in one spot.
Glossary? yes. Plus lots of tips for cooking with a pressure cooker. And seasoning recipes for the seasoning blends called for in recipes in case you want to make your own or can't find them in the grocery store. Also cooking timetables for individual foods (grains, beans, vegetables). Excellent!
While some of the above comments are negative, bear in mind that there are very few cookbooks out there that would have no negatives in response to my criteria. These criteria are ideals, not absolutes.
Now let's explore some of the recipes.
The first meal I made was the Potato Vegetable Salad (page 140) and Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers (page 234), with a side salad. As I mentioned in my Cookbook Criteria, I do not like the taste of licorice. Anything with a licorice-like flavour is not included in my cooking. So I substituted fresh dill for the tarragon in the dressing. And it was delicious! The only correction I would make is that the directions fail to say to drain the potatoes before adding the dressing. Otherwise, you would end up with your potato salad swimming. 
Normally I use a canning jar ring and lid to make my burgers, and they turn out nice and round and uniform, but I couldn't find a lid. They still tasted good, but I felt that they needed some salt added. Perhaps it was because I used low sodium vegetable broth. Otherwise tasty and nice texture. 
The next meal was Graciela's Colombian Beans (page 108) and Basic Risotto (page 78). You'd have to really like "hot" in order to use a whole tablespoon of chili powder in the beans. I used only 1 teaspoon and I still found it too hot for my tastebuds. In step 4 of the recipe, you are to add the vegetables and either bring to pressure and cook for one minute or let sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. I tried just letting it sit for 5 minutes in my Instant Pot and found the veggies still hard and crunchy, so I then did the 1-minute pressure cook and they were fine. And the dish was tasty. For the risotto, I did not use white rice. I don't buy white rice. Instead I substituted short grain brown rice and cooked for 22 minutes, as per the instructions in the rice cooking table (page 53). I also sauteed the onion and garlic in vegetable broth, rather than oil. To the best of my memory, I have never eaten risotto. I wasn't even sure what it was, other than a rice dish. So, I googled it, and this turned out nice and creamy like Google says it should. I threw in some spinach for added nutrition. Afterwards, I looked down at the bottom of the page and saw that there actually is an option for Spinach Risotto, but it has more than just spinach added. I might try that next time. 
I get together with my ex-husband, daughter and grandson for Christmas, and all I'm generally expected to bring is my own vegan entree. So, while I don't generally make or eat Seitan because it isn't a whole food, I decided to give the Chicken-Style Seitan a try and make it "Kentucky Fried" using a so-called KFC Original Recipe that I found online. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture, but I will tell you what I did with the recipe. In the dough, I substituted 1 tablespoon of chicken style seasoning for the 1/2 teaspoon salt. (I used Blaney's brand, and if you're in Alberta, you should too, because it's a local product). In the broth, I switched Bragg's for the tamari and reduced it to 1 tablespoon, omitted the kombu and the ginger and added 3 tablespoons chicken style seasoning. It turned out delicious with a nice texture. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of following the recipe for KFC seasoning. It's been over 40 years since I've eaten KFC, but I highly doubt it was ever that peppery. And this was peppery in the extreme, to the point where pepper is about all I could taste. And I never was a pepper fan. So I definitely do not recommend that you follow this recipe without drastically reducing the pepper. But that's no reflection on this cookbook. The KFC recipe was from an external link. But here's what I actually did do differently with the KFC recipe: for egg, I substituted a ground flax/water combo and for buttermilk, I put a tablespoon of lemon juice into a 1 cup measure and filled it with soy milk and allowed it to sour. And I baked, not fried. If I had an air fryer, I would have tried that, but nothing would have helped tone down the overwhelmingly peppery taste. My grandson wanted to try it, but my daughter wouldn't let him after I commented on how peppery it was. Fortunately, I at least tried the Seitan before I nearly destroyed it with the KFC recipe so that I at least knew it had tasted good. 
Next up was the Spring Split Pea Soup (page 190). I'm not a seaweed fan (not to mention where do I buy it locally?), so I omitted the dulse. Instead, I added a couple of shakes of liquid smoke, and the result was yummy! The only change I'd make would be to cook it a little longer as I found the split peas still slightly crunchy. 
Finally, I tried the Herbed Polenta (page 70) 
and Greek Stewed Lima Beans (page 109). For the polenta, I ate a bowl of it, and then spread the remainder into a square glass baking dish, allowed it to cool, sliced it and baked it, topped with Daiya cheddar flavoured shreds (another product I seldom use, but I had it in the fridge and decided to try it on the polenta), in the oven at 450०F for 15 minutes. Next time I might try the broiler and crisp it up a bit. Otherwise, very good. Another first for me. I'm used to eating cornmeal mush for breakfast with maple syrup and milk. This is the first time I've eaten polenta. And it was good. 
For the lima beans, I swapped out the fennel bulb for celery and the fennel fronds for dill. And it was scrumptious. I brought leftovers of both these last two dishes to work and got comments, "Does that ever look good!" 
All of the recipes I've tried so far are "keepers": ones that I will likely use again. And so this cookbook is also a keeper. In addition to really good recipes, it gives lots of worthwhile information on using the pressure cooker as well. While the author uses a stove top cooker, I personally own an Instant Pot, which is what I used to test these recipes, and found that they worked well. I did do a fair amount of tweaking of the recipes, but that's mostly a reflection of my personal tastes and experience in cooking for many years, not how good this cookbook is. I already have several vegan pressure cooker/Instant Pot cookbooks on my Kindle. But I prefer an actual book when it comes to cookbooks. This one came highly recommended and I second that recommendation. I already have several more recipes from it on my menu for the coming week. It's seldom that I trial this many recipes from a cookbook without having at least one dud. But so far, it's all good.