Thursday, January 30, 2014

Making Vanilla Extract

If you're here from the Grow Your Blog Party you'll find my intro post here. 

When I was kid I always wanted to play with the stuff the boys had  - train sets, bows and arrows and most especially chemistry sets. That sort of thing just wasn't encouraged for little girls in the 50's no matter how much I begged. All I ever got was an endless parade of insipid, glass eyed dolls. Don't get me wrong, I can dress up a Barbie with the best of them but I'm a big girl now and I can satisfy my need for chemistry experiments by stepping into my kitchen and letting the alchemy begin whenever I want.

Today's science lesson class shall be turning fragrant beans into flavorful elixir. 

This is our text book. So many weird kitchen science experiments in this book we'll be using this again I promise.

A word about vanilla beans. This is a side by side comparison of vanilla beans bought at the grocery store and the beans at got on-line. The beans on the left are grocery store beans - dry, tiny hard and brittle. On the right are the beans from Beanilla - huge, plump and pliable. Wow, who knew there would be such a difference? I'll never buy those grocery store beans again.

The recipe/formula calls for 8 vanilla beans and 1 cup of vodka. Come on now, you know me - go big or go home! I used 1/2 pound of Madagascar vanilla beans and 2 liters of vodka. If I'm gonna experiment I want it to be worth my while. Besides I wanted to make enough of this stuff to give away. 

The first step is to split the beans and scrape out the teeny, tiny seeds. There are about 60 beans in 1/2 lb. and that took a LONG time but as you can see I got it done and the result is a surprisingly oily mass of seeds. The kitchen smelled wonderful, in fact the whole house smelled wonderful for about a week.

The next step is to chop up the pods, put them in a medium sauce pan and just cover with vodka. Heat over low heat just until hot, about two minutes. Keep the sauce pan covered because you don't want to burn off the alcohol. Also, no lifting the lid. Don't want that vodka to ignite. Use cheap vodka, it doesn't have to be fancy. The label has been covered to protect the innocent.

Immediately put the pods and seeds into a clean, heat proof jar. Let the whole things cool completely before covering the jar and place it in a cool dark place and WAIT. WAIT AT LEAST SIX WEEKS.

Because it's hard to wait and do absolutely nothing for six, eight or even 10 weeks give it a stir whenever you think about it. Or not. Up to you.

I waited 10 weeks because I wanted maximum strength out of my beans and because I kind of forgot about it. Then it was time to strain it. I started out straining it through a coffee filter but it was so thick and syrupy that it would not go through the filter. I ended up just straining it through my finest mesh strainer. There were virtual no seeds left, they had completely dissolved leaving behind a very fine sludge. There might have been more residue if I had left it sit a shorter amount of time. This is ALL I got from the whole jar.

I squeezed the pods with my hands to try and get the maximum out of them but not much came out. This extract is thick and oily much more so than any store bought I've ever used. 

I got just under two quarts of vanilla extract from my 60 vanilla beans. That's right - 2 QUARTS, 8 CUPS of luscious, very strong, grade A premium vanilla extract. A stroke of genius on my part to fill the 4 oz. bottles in the muffin tin. I only overfilled one but the spill went into the muffin cup instead of all over the place and making a fragrant mess.

Now for the dollars and cents - vanilla beans, 1/2 lb/60 beans $26.50; 12 4oz bottles $33.00; vodka 2 liters $10.00  including shipping for the beans the vanilla cost approximately $6.55/bottle. Not the least expensive experiment I've ever attempted. This cost compares to premium vanillas you can buy at specialty stores or Whole Foods.  I gave some to the Hill & Dale Society at our last dinner and they seemed really pleased. I think any of your foodie friends would appreciate this magic in a bottle. 

If you come to my house and I gift you with a tiny bottle of Madagascar vanilla as you're going out the door you'll know that I really like you.

A word about supplies: the cookbook is Made From Scratch by America's Test Kitchen; I got my beans from Beanilla they have all kinds of exotic vanillas, I bought the least expensive. They also have bottles but I got a better deal on I do not have an affiliation with nor do I accept compensation from anyone these are just my experiences and opinions. Take it or leave it.

You don't have to live on a farm to join this hop!
 Farmgirl is a Condition of the Heart~ MaryJaneButters 

Brag a little ( or a lot ) about your farmgirl talents! Include lots of photos of your farm, crafts, animals, quilts, home decor projects and thrifty make overs, your backyard garden, chicken coop, recipes, studio or workshop. You get the idea! Please include the Farmgirl Friday button ( or link back here ) in your post and remember to share this hop with all of your blogging friends!

Until next time,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How My Week is Going

 If you're visiting from the Grow Your Blog Party my intro post is here.

Some weeks start off slow and just chug along and some start out like a bullet train and never slow down. I think I might be on that train this week so I'm taking a moment to share some quick thoughts before I forget.

I'm featured this week in Connie's blog. So excited! Connie always has so many wonderful projects to share and I'm honored that she chose to feature one of mine.

The Saturday Grow Your Blog event was a HUGE success! I received so many visitors over the weekend that I've been a little overwhelmed trying to return the favor and especially trying to make sure I answer every comment. A warm hello to my new followers and a grateful thank you to my faithful friends. If I have missed answering your comment I'm so sorry. Please leave me another and give me a second chance.

There's plenty of time for all of you to find some new blogs to get lost in. Just click on the link on my sidebar which will take you to a list of over 500 blogs of types and interests to try. Get a cuppa something nice and warn the family that you'll be gone a while, these folks are seriously creative!

I have doctor appointments (Chris not me), and dreaded housework, and lots of other stuff demanding attention before the train reaches the station so I'll say good-bye for now.

Until next time,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Valentine Table Runner

If you're visiting from the Grow Your Blog Party my intro post is here.

I gave you just a peek last week when I showed you the strip sets I was working on.

Well, I've made quite a bit of progress over the course of the last seven days turning those strips into these squares -

And those squares into these hearts -

Isn't that cute? I can think of so many uses for hearts like this. This time I'm turning hearts into a table runner using a pattern I read about on Barbara's blog  - Cat Patches. She worked on this last year and I bookmarked it thinking someday. As you can see my someday is here! This pattern appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of McCall's Quilting. If you like that pieced heart block, you can find the free instructions right here. I don't have the magazine but a friend did and she was able to come up with the complete pattern for me. 

If you click on the link and look at the pattern you'll see that I did something completely different for the center of my runner. I just did not like the fussiness of their center. Besides, because I strip pieced my 9-patch blocks I had left overs and wanted to use them. The math on this was simple. The heart blocks are 8" unfinished (7 1/2" finished) so my three center squares needed to be 8" unfinished whatever design I chose to make them. EZ.  This is now sewn together and ready for quilting. I have some ideas I'm working on for that which I'll share soon.

Now for a tool tip. There are quite a few 2" squares to cut for all those corners and for that I used my Shape Cut ruler. Do you have one of those lurking in a cupboard and don't know how to use it? Get that baby out! It can save you a ton of time and inaccurate cutting mistakes.

First I use it to cut my 2" strips X width of fabric. I leave the fabric as is and pick up the tool and turn it perpendicular to the cut strips. In this picture the selvedge is on the left and the fold is on the right. There are little tear drop slots to fit your rotary blade into at the 1" and 1/2" marks on this particular tool.

I'm going to cut at the 0 that will get rid of the selvedge and then I will cut at the 2", 4" 6" etc. until I reach the end of my strip.

Voila! All the 2" squares I need in one go. No muss and no fuss. I actually have two sizes of this ruler. When using it to cut say 2 1/2" squares I use masking tape at 2 1/2", 5", 7 1/2", 10" so I don't have to take time to count over each time and possibly loose my place. I'll show you that the next time I need to do it.

Linking up as always to Patchwork Times and all the wonderful Design Wall Monday inspiration.

Until next time,

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's a Grow Your Blog Party!

I'm Patrica and this is where I share all the happenings on Dogwood Lane. That's PATRICA just one i. I know it's different but that's how it is and most of my friends are used to it by now. I'm retired now but most recently I managed the local newspaper. These days I happily pursue my passions of quilting, gardening, cooking, reading and dreaming. I'm learning about photography, volunteering with the Flying Doctors and keeping up with our far flung and growing family.

Time to meet new people and find some new bloggers so I've joined the Grow Your Blog party hosted by Vicki at 2 Bags Full.

2 Bags Full

This is the perfect opportunity to get to know each other better and find some new friends.

I'm coming up on my second blog anniversary in February and I'm so glad I decided to jump into this whole blogging thing after thinking about it for at least three years before taking the plunge. I've learned a lot over the last couple of years about writing, photography and computers and I've gotten to 'know' so many nice people in cyber space. I've even met a couple of my blog readers in person and that's been the nicest thing of all.

 I originally thought I would just be talking about quilting.

 But then we got a puppy and named her River.

I just had to share the antics of my rooster Silent Bob and his ladies.

River grew up and I wanted to chronicle the trials and triumphs of our puppy raising.

Then there's our attempts at organic vegetable gardening, still a work in progress.

 If you like to cook as much as I do you know how you love to trade recipes and show off your success and sometimes lament your failures. Yes, sometimes that recipe just does not turn out as expected.

Blogging  has turned out to be so much more than a quilt journal, it's a journal of my life and I'm happy to share what I learn with you. At the top of my page you'll see tabs to click where you can find recipes, my quilts and even some tutorials. Please come back again and stop a while on Dogwood Lane. Be sure to leave a comment and if you have a blog leave your address so that I can visit you too. 

Until next time,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nellies Show & Tell

The Original Needle Nellies had our first meeting of the new year last week and as is our tradition we all brought the gifts we received at our Christmas party in December to show off. Truth be told at that December party we're all having too much fun talking and eating and just getting up to mischief to really appreciate our presents so the first meeting in January we devote to oohing and ahhing over these treasures and planning our upcoming events.

Let me just say that I'm blessed with a group of such generous and talented friends. We draw names in January for the following December so we have an entire year to plan the perfect project. The 18 of us have been together now for 16 plus years and we know each others likes and dislikes pretty well by now so no one goes away with a gift they don't want. Here are the pictures to prove it.

This darling Fall theme quilt was MY GIFT from Miss Helen! Isn't it just perfect? I love, love it!

I already showed you the gift set of place mats and table runner I made for Miss Bev.

A sweet miniature by Suzanne. Those squares are tiny.

I don't remember who made this pillow but there are several covers that go with this project and the covers can be changed out by unbuttoning them and buttoning on a new one. So clever.

A primitive flag theme with plaid border. Love the embroidery - Land of the free and home of the brave.

More embroidery in this sweet wall hanging. There were a lot of miniatures this year.

Another mini project this time in wool applique for a table stand. I have one of these table stands and like to make small projects for it.

I remember that this was made by Vicki for Natalie. Vicki is our resident machine applique expert and Natalie is our resident crazy cat lady. (You know it's true Natalie)

Just look at this unique project! A jewelery holder for the top of a dresser in the form of a velvet hat complete with peacock feather embellishment. There are a pair of earrings pinned at the top right to give you an idea of how this is used. My goodness this is cute. Marie made this and the mat it sits on.

Two talented women and their quilt! Helen on the left and Dorothy on the right. This was Dorothy's gift for Helen. Helen is beaming, Beam is her last name and a more fitting name there never was Helen is always beaming. Dorothy is an accomplished applique artist as you can see.

Finally, I must show you the quilt Suzanne just finished. She's been working on this beauty for quite some time in between finishing other project. Talk about an accomplished applique artist. Suzanne's talents are on full display with this quilt and I just love it. Quilted and bound. Well done Suzanne!

I seems I didn't get a picture of all the Christmas gifts.  But you can certainly see the talents of our group from the pictures I did get.  

Remember that I mentioned we used the first January meeting to plan upcoming events? Somehow I might have raised my hand and volunteered to come up with a Valentine project for the group to tackle at our next meeting. I'll be showing you what I decided to do soon.

Until next time,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Baby Rags Nearly Finished

The last time I showed this project to you I was merrily sewing cute motifs along my flannel strips. These pretty little sewing lines also act as the quilting for this baby blanky so don't think that they're just for show. This one that looks like a string of baby beads is one of my favorites.

 The next step is sewing the strips together back to back with about a 1/2" seam.

I have a few tips to make this go smoothly. My Janome 6600 has an even feed system and I'm so glad I bought this sewing machine because of this feature alone. But, if you're not lucky enough to have a feature like that please use your walking foot for this step. You're sewing through six, that's right six layers of flannel and a walking foot helps to keep all those layers moving together. Also, I use a jeans needle. A larger needle also helps to go through all those layers more easily. Slow down your machine, no peddle to the meddle here! Give the feed dogs a chance to grab and move the fabric along. As you can see in this photo I have apiece of masking tape on my machine bed to mark my seam allowance to keep it consistent, this helps me a lot as I'm not always the most accurate sewer. I know you're all surprised by that admission  - ahem.

Finally, sewing the outside edge. I'm not going to use a binding on my quilt. You can certainly use a binding for a more finished look and if you do you would trim it and bind it like any other quilt. But I'm going to rag the edge so to do that I sew around the four sides again with a 1/2 inch seam opening each of those intersections as I come to them. I use a triple jeans stitch here. It's a stitch setting on your sewing machine used for reinforcing and believe me it's not going to come out.

 On my design floor one baby rag quilt all ready to trim up. The final size for mine is 56"X39". Is a little longer than a standard baby quilt but a nice size to sit in a chair with a baby because it will cover both mom and baby and it's a nice size for a floor quilt. It can be any size you like depending on how many strips you use. Now I'll spend my next few evenings snipping it to turn it into a rag quilt and I'll run it in the wash to fluff it up.

Here's a tease for what I'm working on next. Valentines Day is just around the corner. I'm turning these luscious red strips into...

these super cute nine patch blocks. Valentines Day is a VERY special day on Dogwood Lane and I do not have one single thing that celebrates this important holiday. That's about to change in at least a small way. Stay tuned.

Today is Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times. Be sure to see what other amazingly talented people are working on by hopping over there.

Until next time,