Category Archives: quilting

Posts about my quilting projects.

Exciting Developments

My weekend was highlighted by two very exciting developments.

The first was the realization that almond flour is in fact…ground almonds. Perhaps I’m the last one in the know here, but for several weeks I’ve been trying to justify spending $35 on a bag of flour. Unfortunately, little financial inconveniences kept cropping up: you know, paying for rent, laundry, new running sneakers (doctor’s orders), etc.–I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge.

But I’d heard too much about the wonders of this grain substitute: high protein, distinct rich flavor, and gluten free (which actually makes little difference to me, but is still intriguing). So I did some research (ie Googling) and discovered that ‘flour’ is a somewhat misleading term in this instance.

Fortunately, due to my current obsession with homemade granola, I do keep my kitchen well-stocked with nuts:

The fourth jar from the left just so happens to be blanched almonds.

It gets better. The ratio of slivered almonds to almond flour is apparently equal–how easy is that! So I measured out a cup and a half of nuts, placed them in the food processor and pulsed away until they had a grain-like texture. (Warning: over-processed nuts will turn into butter).

While many think of Friday night as an opportunity to hit the town, in the Eccles household this was always (and still is) pizza night. Pizza night involved pajamas, plenty of wine, a good movie, and, of course, pizza. It’s a tradition that I’ve never entirely gotten over, which is perhaps why the majority of Friday nights I still find myself craving a nice cheesy pie.

As luck would have it, almond flour can be used to make a delectable pizza crust. It has quite a strong, almost sweet flavor. What’s the word I’m looking for…nutty? And it’s firm but moist, more like a thin crust than deep dish. Best of all, it’s quick, easy, and well worth a try if you’re looking to put a new spin on your pizza pie.

Almond Flour Pizza Crust

1 ½ cups almond flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the almond flour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and olive oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Place a piece of foil on a baking dish and grease it very generously. Press the dough into a 10″ circle. Cook the crust for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove, add toppings, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Using almond flour makes the crust such a distinct component, there’s really no need to go crazy with toppings. In this case, I used what I had in the kitchen pre-Saturday morning grocery trip: sweet potato, broccoli, tomato sauce, and lots of cheese. I baked the sweet potato for an hour at 400 degrees, mashed it with salt and thyme, and stirred in about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce. I spread this on the crust, sprinkled it with a hefty amount of shredded cheddar, and topped it off with steamed and salted broccoli.

Exciting development number two: I think I’ve gotten the hang of this double wedding ring quilt. I spent some quality time on my misbehaving seams and we seem to have to come to an agreement. I won’t bore you with the details of ironing/seam-pressing/pinning techniques… but lookie here:

I did a little more work after this picture was taken and I have officially finished one row. Only seven more to go. And you know what? After all my talk of not being in the mood for a big, time-consuming project, I’m loving this. It’s methodical and slow-going, but I’m finding that mode of working very comforting at the moment—my quilting muse works in mysterious ways.

I hope you made some delightful discoveries this weekend too!

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Some More

When I was in Cairns, Australia last summer, I bought these pants…

 

Actually, they’re not quite pants. They’re sort of a harem pants/skirt hybrid. Sometimes wearing them makes me feel like a genie, other times I feel like a total dork and can’t help but be reminded of Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed and her gaucho pants…but they’re not really gaucho pants either.

All that really matters in the end is that they are incredibly comfortable. They’re soft, swishy, and allow all the free leg movement of a skirt, but all the ‘coverage’ of pants (meaning I can bike in them, sit cross-legged, pop a headstand if I’m so inclined). I love them.

So this Saturday, while it thunderstormed outside my window, I decided to make some more of them.

I made a pair out of my Jay McCarroll Germania knit:

 

And another out of this fun, paint-swiped fabric that I bought at Mecca for approximately $2:

 

And then… I made three more.

 

It probably goes without saying that these are incredibly easy to reproduce. And I now have a lifetime’s (or close to a week’s) supply of genie pants. How marvelous.

Speaking of some more of a good thing, when I was put in charge of dessert for our Mother’s Day dinner, only one thing came to mind. Summertime meals in the Eccles family are all about outdoor grilling and this often followed by roasting marshmallows over the remaining coals. However, I decided to step it up a notch this time and make the s’more ingredients myself.

First, I whipped up a batch of graham crackers from this recipe. Quite easy and loaded with cinnamon:

 

Then I tackled the slightly more daunting task of homemade marshmallows.

Whenever I’m going to make a recipe that intimidates me, I read through it several times—often over the course of a few days—so I know exactly what to expect. This is helpful, but can also exaggerate the difficulty of the task. Making marshmallows did require some attentiveness—I diligently watched my thermometer for about 8 minutes until the sugar-water mixture was exactly 240 degrees—but it wasn’t rocket science.

And the result, if I do say so myself, was pretty divine:

 

Fluffy, sweet, soft…delicious. And even better when roasted.

 

In case you were wondering, you can also roast a marshmallow over a regular old candle. I may have experimented with this on Saturday afternoon—you know, just to be sure these babies were really truly marshmallows.

And while I bought Hershey’s Dark chocolate for the s’mores (I figured making 2 out of 3 of the ingredients was good enough), I did make some other chocolatey treats this weekend.

Friday was a crazy busy day at work, so by the time I got home I was craving some comfort food, nothing complicated or fancy. In fact, I really just wanted one flavor. The solution could only be chocolate pudding:

 

No words. Really, there are no words. All I can say is that whatever comes in those individual Jell-O cups is not even remotely the same dessert. Fresh, warm chocolate pudding is like eating a bowlful of the gooey middle of a piece of warm chocolate cake—which is the best part anyway (and we all know how I feel about warm chocolate cake). Oh, and if you’re thinking that warm chocolate pudding topped with roasted marshmallow would be as close as your taste buds can get to heaven, you’d be right…

My only two alterations to the recipe would be this: I found that I didn’t need to use a sift, and the only way this would amount to 5-6 servings was if you have the willpower of the gods.

I also made dark chocolate-covered espresso beans for my Dad’s birthday (which is today):

 

Basically, there’s always room for some more chocolate.

Progress on my latest quilting project has been a bit more modest. Those of you familiar with traditional patterns probably recognized my sketch of a Double Wedding Ring Quilt. Yes, I decided that in light of my recent engagement, I had to make one of these quilts—I’m an art historian at heart, after all, and I love the quilting tradition as much as I love its contemporary counterpart. I figured that using my own multi-colored dyed fabrics would allow me to put my personal stamp on it.

So far, I’ve managed to cut nearly all the necessary pieces:

 

But have only gotten through this much actual piecing:

 

Turns out, I’ve taken on a very ambitious project—methinks that this pattern was invented at a time when young brides-to-be had nothing to do but sew (hey, no judgment; I often wish I had nothing to do but sew). So far, the process is slow-going and finicky, but hopefully it will start to come a little more naturally. Either way, I’ve committed to this project and I’m determined to succeed. It will be hard work, but worth the effort—not unlike a successful marriage.

And if Kyle this quilt ever really starts to stress me out, at least I’ve got lots of leftover marshmallows and a bowlful of chocolate pudding in the fridge.

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Moms… and Madness

I honestly don’t know what I would do without my mother.

When I tell her I need a larger container for my fabric dyeing, she shows up at Hamersley’s Bistro with a large, red, horse feeding bucket.

 

At our impromptu family dinner the other night, she gave my sisters and I the type of gift that only a mother could give.

 Her style is a bit more elegant and, frankly, subtle than mine, but she knows my taste well enough to buy me fun and funky accessories like this multi-colored cuff:

 

She keeps me well-stocked with fresh chicken eggs:

 

And delicious little surprises like stinky cheese. This  Roquefort made my usual salad-and-sandwich lunches so much more interesting this week:

 

 She gave me a bottle of Vitamin D for Christmas, and a few weeks later sent me an email about the dangers of taking vitamins due to their high folic acid content.

 

She makes me part of a larger history. I’ve inherited so much from my mom, including the majority of these threads and a lovely packet of crochet hooks which I’m finally putting to good use these days!

 

I can’t even begin to photograph all of the pots, pans, and kitchen accessories that she has passed down (not to mention bed sheets, table cloths, furniture…). I’ll take her hand-me-downs and all their memories over new goods any day.

Whenever there’s some sort of mishap or crisis, she sends out an email with the ‘victim’s’ name in the subject line. My most recent example: an email titled “Z” about my little sister’s car crash. I wonder how many “Pippa” emails she’s sent out over the years…

She has an incredible garden, full of fresh fruit, veggies, flowers, and even chickens—and requested a Mother’s Day dinner rather than brunch so she could spend the day tending to it. She also requested our help, so in addition to my usual crafting endeavors and an abundance of long-neglected chores, I’ll be spending my Sunday in a sunshiney garden.

On that note… Happy Mother’s Day!

Meanwhile, is it possible that I’m  a crochet convert? Granny Puffy squares are just so full of possibility…

 

Just as crazy—did I actually make a rough sketch of my next quilting project instead of taking my usual, improvisational approach?

 

Craziest of all: could it be that I met my chocolate cake match last night at Prezza and wasn’t able to finish every last drop of this incredibly rich, succulent, flourless beauty? OK, so I only left a couple bites, but still…

What is the world coming to?

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Engagemoon

When I discovered that the latest meeting of the New England Modern Quilt Guild was going to be held at this marvelous place:

 

I decided that this would be the perfect excuse for a little getaway. Portsmouth is only an hour (or 45 minutes when Kyle is driving) away, but it’s one of the most charming, classically New England towns ever so once you’re there, you inevitably want to spend the night. Conveniently, Kyle proposed a week before the guild meeting, so we had yet another excuse to go: our Engagemoon.

What does an Engagemoon involve? Well, after ogling some gorgeous quilts at the guild meeting’s show-and-tell, I managed to escape Portsmouth Fabric, which is a literally overflowing with temptation, having only purchased this:

 

Really, the last thing I need is more fabric, but who can resist such a lovely fat quarter pack of Kaffe Fassett polka dots?

 

 Sigh, I didn’t even try to fight it.

Afterwards, Kyle and I met up for an evening on the town, starting off with a bit of bar hopping. In honor of the Kentucky Derby, one bar was offering $5 Mint Julips. This may sound like a light, refreshing summer drink—and don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely tasty—but as far as I can tell, it’s basically just sweet whisky and this made the rest of the night rather entertaining.

We dined at Black Trumpet, a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall restaurant where we enjoyed lots of delicious food, the highlights being duck confit and a cheese sampler:

 

Hours later, we ended the night with Izzy’s ice cream where I got the best possible combination—warm, gooey, chocolate brownie buried beneath coffee heath bar ice cream. I didn’t take a picture; I was eating.

The lovely thing about made-up holidays, is you can use them as an excuse to do whatever you like, and to declare every little mundane aspect of the day(s) special. Our Engagemoon, therefore, included much more than just the trip to Portsmouth. It extended all weekend long and included homemade berry muffins (from Jessica’s recipe—thank you, they were delicious!):

 

And turning my fat quarter pack into a swingy, polka dot skirt:

 

Not to boast or anything, but this was quite the success given that I used no pattern, and really wasn’t sure how well it would turn out. It fits beautifully, and isn’t it just so joyful? Wearing it puts me in the mood to twirl.

Part of our Engagemoon also involved grungy clothes, the new red bucket that my mother gave me…

 

And a whole lot of fabric dyeing.

I know have a massive pile of hand-dyed fabric, ready and waiting.

 

Again, I stuck with solids; I’m drawn to them these days. I also enjoy the low-water immersion method since I get that mottled, imperfect look which gives the fabrics more character. Wait until you see what I have planned for these fabrics—it’s a little different than my usual quilting, but it’s sort of a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity.

What we didn’t expect was that our Engagemoon would involve a massive water contamination problem in the Boston area, and having to boil all of our water before drinking it—not incredibly convenient. But if there’s one thing the Eccles family does well, it’s turn lemons into lemonade (made with bottled water, of course). So we (my parents, sisters, Kyle and I) used this unpleasant problem as an excuse to get dinner together at the Summer Shack in Cambridge, one of the few non-contaminated towns. What a lovely way to end the weekend—with people I love and a dinner that’s just as classically New England as Portsmouth: a big old steamed lobster.

 

 Delicious.

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My Sewcial Saturday

Look what I made on Saturday:

 

Look what else I made:

 

In case you’re a little slow on the uptake, these are one and the same thing. Yes, I made a quillow. It was  rainy, dreary day and all I wanted to do was stay inside and sew. So, I whipped out a packet of sample squares from Deb Strain’s Saltbox Harvest line by Moda (as I’ve mentioned before, free fabric is another one of the many perks of working at a quilting magazine) and…I sewed. All day long. It was exactly what I needed.

I actually had no idea what a quillow was until Friday morning when I stumbled upon the term in an evening course catalogue that I was flipping through. I signed up for the upholstery class instead, since a quillow sounded like something I could figure out on my own; it is, quite simply, a quilt that folds up into a pillow. Furthermore, when unfolded, the pillow pocket can function as a foot warmer. Brilliant. I kept this super simple–straightforward patchwork, a pillowcase binding technique, and ties instead of quilting stitches, because my main goal was to figure out how to make this marvelous hybrid fabric creation.

But that’s not all, folks. I also squeezed in some hand stitching, and completed four of my Kandinsky quilt squares:

 

And began two more:

 

I warned you: Saturday was a very anti-social, but sewcial, kind of day.

Actually, my little hibernation began the night before. Kyle, who is working for Charlie Baker’s gubernatorial campaign, had a work-related even to attend to, but I just wanted in a going out mood. Instead, I came home and got all decked out in my Friday night best:

 

I made myself one of my favorite dinners, one that has gone through much trial and error but which I finally have down: sweet potato gnocchi with creamy tomato sauce.

 

I realize they look like dog kibble but, trust me, they’re delicious. It took me some time to find the perfect potato-to-flour (whole wheat, naturally) ratio and to become truly adept at rolling and cutting the individual gnocchi, but I now have a system that works quite well and doesn’t take absurd amounts of time. I’ll get the recipe up here some day soon.

I also couldn’t resist trying out another soufflé. This time, I went with chocolate.

 

It was exquisite, if I do say so myself. Moist, warm, fluffy… It even rivaled my beloved warm chocolate truffle cake from EVOO! This is good news for my bank account but for my waistline? Not so much.

Thank goodness I enjoy working out, and started off my Saturday with a run in the rain. This is surprisingly pleasant and kind of invigorating—and definitely better than the treadmill—but it does call for a nice warm recovery breakfast. So, inspired by last weekend’s brunch, I made my own homemade granola:

 

The best thing about making your own granola, aside from getting to choose exactly what goes in it (in my case: oats, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, raisins, and dates), but eating it fresh out of the oven and still warm. Heavenly.

By mid-morning, I was sufficiently warmed up so decided to take my first stab at homemade ice cream in my cuisinart ice cream maker. My flavor of choice: chocolate banana. As I’ve said, I’ll eat ice cream in any weather, but I don’t normally have it at 11 in the morning. Well, I decided to treat myself to a pre-lunch mini cone since homemade ice cream calls for some rule breaking:

 

But this is where my successes in the kitchen ended. Remember that teff flour that  had been fermenting in preparation for injera? Epic fail. I’m not sure why—though I suspect it may have been that our apartment has been unusually cold these days and may have killed the yeast—but my Ethiopian bread-making attempt quite simply did not work. It fell apart, tasted sour, and looked more like concrete than bread. Let’s just say I was rather  disappointed. I’ll give it another go at some point, but at the time I wasn’t in the mood to troubleshoot so Z and I came up with a quick plan b and went to Sagra where I had…more gnocchi (this one in a lovely duck ragu).

 

Z also gave me a batch of her delicious mini chocolate chip banana muffins. Naturally, this paired quite perfectly with the chocolate banana ice cream.

 

Clearly, my Saturday night quickly recovered. Hey, you can’t win them all—and the failed bread was probably a sign that I needed to get out of the apartment at this point anyway.

Speaking of not winning them all, my Sunday morning yoga class was randomly brutal. I’m not a yogic master by any means, but I’ve been going to Baptiste for a while now and have many classes where I’m happily shooting up into crow or headstand (even the occasional handstand), effortlessly flowing through my sun salutations, feeling strong and balanced—this was not one of those classes. It was quite possibly the longest 90 minutes of my life. Even tree pose felt like an enormous amount of effort. Thankfully, yoga is usually a lot more pleasant, but I have to admit it’s good to have the occasional, humbling class. I slept and ate well the night before, I hydrated, and I did everything ‘right.’ But there’s only so much you can control: your body is going to tell you what it is and is not up for, and you really need to listen to it.

Nothing that a nice big omelet at the Cheesecake Factory, where I went with my Welton for brunch, couldn’t fix:

Is it just me, or is this post dragging on? I’ll end it here, and leave you with one last colorful picture that will hopefully brighten up your Monday:

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A Lucky Lady

I arrived back in Boston last night at around 6:30 pm utterly exhausted. Kyle and I grabbed a quick dinner, and climbed in bed while the hour was still a single digit. But, for some odd reason, I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned until single digits this morning, then finally dozed off. Needless to say, I’m currently enjoying injecting a large ice coffee with two turbo shots from Dunkin Donuts. It’s just one of those mornings.

I think I couldn’t sleep because I was still buzzed from having such a completely wonderful weekend. Once again, I had (more than) 48 hours that were full of so much goodness. All that joy and contentment was still swarming around in my head last night and made it hard to hit the hay. But I can’t really complain.

This weekend, my family (parents, sisters, grandma, and Kyle) went to Princeton, NJ to visit this handsome guy (my brother) and watch his crew race on Saturday morning (he won!):

 

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to visit (which I imagine is most), Princeton is one of the most charming and beautiful little towns ever. Definitely worth the trip. Everything about it, from the small boutiques to the funky restaurants, elegant architecture, and blossoming trees, has suchcharacter and appeal. The gorgeous weather helped as well. I started out my days with long runs in the cool morning sunshine (with my Dad and sister–much more fun than solo!). We shopped (I got, among other things, a wonderful new kitchen accessory that you will certainly be seeing soon), we wandered, we talked, we laughed, and we ate absurdly delicious food. Some highlights:

 

Peanut butter chocolate lava cake from Witherspoon Grill.

 

 A short ribs appetizer and some selections from the charcuterie plate at Elements (an outstanding restaurant all around).

 

A pre-dessert dessert of homemade bacon and an eggshell stuffed with French toast and some kind of frothy eggy topping. This was pretty glorious.

The eating extravaganza ended with a Easter brunch at a funky little restaurant called Rats, followed by a walk through the sculpture park.

 

Let’s just say the Eccles family knows how to celebrate in style. As we all get older and as life continues to be busy, weekends like this become increasingly special and essential. I’m in withdrawal already.

I was out and about almost all weekend long, but I did get some crafting done in the 5-hour plus car ride there and back. I worked a bit with my Easter egg-dyed yarn, but I spent most of time sewing. Yes, I decided to mix things up a bit—I always forget that a needle and thread can be portable, too. And I’m not going to lie; I’m pretty psyched about this latest project.

I mentioned earlier that my sewing muse had flown the coop, and that I needed a more bite-sized approach to my quilt making. I prefer making larger finished pieces, but these days something about tackling full-sized quilts has felt monotonous and daunting. Fortunately, I’ve found a solution that has me re-invigorated and suits my current working style. I’m making individual 12″ blocks which can be worked one at a time, and which I will satin stitch together to form a large, finished piece.

It took me a while to figure out the pattern/shapes, etc. that I wanted to go with and I didn’t push it. I just let the pile of bright cottons that I bought at Sewfisticated sit in my sewing room for a couple of weeks until the right aesthetic came to me, and I’m glad I was patient because I’m very pleased so far:

 

These blocks are a combination of appliqué and reverse appliqué, and now that I think about it, they reveal my fondness for the artist Kandinsky. I’m still in hand stitching mode these days, so I’m going to embellish each block with embroidery floss:

 

So far, I’ve been using chain stitch, buttonhole circles, and good old back stitch. Some of my zigzaging lines aren’t perfectly straight, but hey, I was stitching in a moving vehicle, and I never do mind a bit of wonkiness.

This project has instantly clicked with me. I’m excited to work on it, and I’m  liberated by the one-block-at-a-time approach. Good times with loved ones and inspired sewing—I feel like one lucky lady.

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My Weekend Necessities

I have a serious aversion to rush hour traffic (hence my unusual work hours of 7 to 4) so I normally drive straight home from work without a single detour, park my car, and either cozy on in for the night or, if I go somewhere, stick to public (or Kyle-driven) transportation.

But for some reason,  yesterday  I decided to brave the bumper-to-bumper madness and do some post-work errands (in the end, the traffic really wasn’t so bad–I think I’m little paranoid). My mind had been busily brewing all day and I had come up with a several fabulous ideas (read: recipes and sewing projects) that I am determined to try out this weekend. Since I don’t want to waste any time, I thought I’d squeeze in a trip to the grocery and my favorite place on earth so I would have all the necessities ready as soon as the weekend officially arrived.

Here’s what I came away with in the fiber-department:

 

 That’s approximately 9 yards of 100% cotton fabric that cost me less than $20 (have I mentioned how much I LOVE Sewfisticated lately?) Like I said, my quilting muse is back and I have a plan that’s giving me itchy sewing fingers…

But I haven’t forgotten about my other little project which I’ve been slowly working away at and will hopefully finish up this weekend as well.

 

 Bet you still can’t tell what it is. It will make sense soon enough…

I also—finally!—got myself a new self-healing mat. For a long time, all I’ve had was this dinky little 18″ x 12″ mat (the first one I ever bought!)

I’ve been meaning to get a larger one forever, but whenever I go to spend money at a fabric store, I usually feel guilty buying anything besides fabric. When I saw this glorious 24″ x 18″ mat for only $16, I knew it had to be mine.

 

 As far as food is concerned, this is the only ingredient I needed (that I didn’t already have) to execute my weekend meal plans:

 

And, actually, I do already have this but I’m down to half a bag and whole wheat flour never lasts long in my apartment.

The only thing I still need is one of these:

Which Kyle agreed to procure since he’ll be the primary benefactor of my culinary masterpieces 🙂

For the first time in a long time, I plan on leaving my apartment as little as possible, aside from: 1. An evening excursion that I must attend tonight and 2. A knit-a-thon. Yes, such miraculous events really do exist—and I’ll be meeting Kristin Nicholas. Hooray!  

Otherwise, I’m sleeping in, sewing, and spending some quality time in the kitchen. Pure joy.

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