Photo Challenge: Hallelujah

February 8th, 2017

Last week’s theme was Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.   I asked Joshua to bring his guitar for family dinner night, perhaps the acoustic.  Thank you dear son for letting me take pictures of you!  And Ashley, thank you for letting me take pictures of you with him…those may be my favorite shots of the week.

I heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
You don’t really care for music, do ya?
Well it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
This is the shot I submitted as I felt it best represented the challenge.  My older son Joshua is a brilliant guitarist.  Our living room was exceedingly dark (the low key darkness works for the mood of the song), so even with a crazy high ISO and low F-stop, needed Dodge and burn edits, a crop, and minor adjustments in LR.  I really like the angle of the shot, but because of the lighting think it could be improved. Will try this again during the daytime or with studio lighting to make the best of the angle.

Here are a few more of the better shots, all dark–which actually fits the mood of the song.

This was my second choice, and I think a better composition.  Photoshop edits include dodging and burning, crop, and minor adjustments in LR.

Joshua zones in his music they way I zone in my art.

After a bit, Ashley said, you do the right hand, I’ll do the left. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this photo of them!

And one more…..

One more of Joshua and Ashley…I love these two so much!


Blueberries and Apricot Cookies/Bars

February 5th, 2017

Well, sort of on both counts.   As usual, when I get really busy I neglect the blog (but you know that already, don’t you?  Thank you for coming back even when I’m a bit absent)!  I’ve been working on a smallish art quilt, 18 x 33, and have posted tidbits of progress on Facebook.   Because we all like pretty things, here’s a sneak peek:

A wicked tease. I’ll tell you about this quilt and what I’m doing eventually …probably in March. The tidbit for reading my blog… Quilting Arts TV tapes in March….

I also mentioned that for family dinner last night, I made some new cookies and posted about that over on FB also.

Apricot, Pistachio and Cranberry bars…YUM! Add decaf tea in winter, lemonade or something citrusy and sprightly in warmer weather.

A couple of you asked for the recipe, so I’m sharing right here.  I looked at my cookbooks and decided that for once I wouldn’t fix something chocolate, and I didn’t want to trek into town, so I had to be able to use what I had on hand.  I ended up using a recipe for Peach Bars from one of my favorite small cookbooks, Country Cookies:  An Old-Fashioned Collection by Lisa Yockelson.  Yockelson used to write about food and do recipes in The Washington Post when we lived there.   The brilliant news is that this 1990 cookbook is available for a penny at Amazon!  I also have her Country Pies, but didn’t get the one on cakes because really, is there a cake (other than perhaps coconut) other than chocolate?

Peach Squares (page 104) uses (duh) dried peaches, peach preserves, golden raisins and pecans.   None of which I had.  However, I had a lot of leftover dried apricots that I took with me for the Women’s March on Washington and apricot jam in the pantry.  I had dried cranberries (great on a salad with Balsamic vinaigrette and walnut bits).  And I had some  hazelnuts and some walnuts, though not enough of each.  THEN I spotted pistachios–bingo!   Atlantic Bakery in Rockland makes an awesome oatmeal cookie with apricot and pistachio.  So here is my variation,

Apricot Squares (with pistachio and cranberries) batter

Apricot Bars

  • 1 1/4 c. unsifted all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. unsifted cake flour (which I didn’t have so I used regular)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/s tsp ground ginger
  • 1/s tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (scant)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional but I love it)
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
  • 1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temp (mine was cold)
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks at room temp (mine were cold)
  • 1/2 c. apricot preserves, (Lisa’s recipe calls for blending with 1 tsp vanilla extract, which I totally missed, I’d do that next time)
  • 1 c. chopped dried apricots
  • 3/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 3/4 c. chopped pecans

Makes 24 squares.

I actually made a half recipe–getting half an egg was a challenge but I managed!   I used a small glass pyrex dish which made timing iffy…smaller recipe, but pan doesn’t heat/brown as well as metal.  I ended up cooking longer than the recipe specifies because my apricots were quite moist.

  1. Lightly butter and flour a 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan (I used baking spray); set aside.  Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and cardamom.
  3. Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer on moderate speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes.
  5. add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute longer.
  6. Beat in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  7. Blend in the preserves.
  8. On low speed or by hand beat in the sifted mixture in 2 additions, beating just until the particles of flour have been absorbed.
  9. By hand, stir in the dried apricots, cranberries and pistachios.
  10. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it into an even layer with a spatula or flexible palette knife.
  11. Bake the squares on the middle-level rack of the over for 25 minutes, or until set and firm to the touch.  (The cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the baking pan when done.)
  12. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack until it reaches room temperature.  Cut into squares or long “fingers” and store in an airtight container.

There!  We agreed this was definitely a make-it-again recipe.  Feel free to copy this recipe into a document to print and try on your own.  If you come up with some great variations, do SHARE with us all in the comments!


Productive procrastination

January 15th, 2017

So, I am supposed to be working on something that has a FIRM due-date of mid-to-early-ish March.  I have dyed the fabric and know what I’m going to do, but got sidetracked for a few days doing something I’ve wanted to do for eons:  paint the basement room that has the furnace, water heater, fuel oil tank, and water pump in it.  WHY?  Well, it’s where I do my fabric dyeing.   Since fabric is a lot more attractive than cement, here’s my last two batches of fabric.  Remember them, you’ll see them transformed at some point this year.

My time at the dye pots was FUN! And more interesting than a basement utility room which is what this post is really about.

What provoked this flurry of activity?  The Elfa sale at the Container Store, where good quality closet storage stuff goes on an annual 30 percent off sale.  Decided after much research it would be the best option for getting some shallow shelves above my “not a legal sink but a a basin” in my dye room because it would require the fewest screws going into the cement foundation walls and those few could be above grade (important for when the ground and snow melt in spring).    Here’s the before:



Panorama shot of the basement in the before stage…which I remembered to take only after I had started putting the DryLock paint around the window.  Click to make larger.  

I decided that I couldn’t stand putting the Elfa stuff in without finally painting the walls white (which will help with light and visibility in the room), so I started painting.  Four days ago!

First coat of DryLock paint partly on.  Better already!

Just about done except for the cleaning and moving stuff back in place and waiting for the shelf stuff to arrive.  A vast improvement (did another coat of primer on the wall at the far left).  Now, if I could just convince Paul to let me paint our dark living room……

I finished the last of the painting/priming today.  I used DryLock which helps keep water out on the cement walls.  It is like trying to paint with sludge/mud/thick paste.   ICK.   Primer on the base of the chimney/stone fireplace, and semi-gloss on the wall behind the sink as well.    I’ll post pics of the shelf stuff once it arrives and is installed.   It will require a masonry drill bit and Advil for the arthritis in my hands that will be aggravated from drilling the holes!

Published in Australia’s Quilters Companion!

January 9th, 2017

It’s been rather the international year for me, since my Milkweed No. 2 art quilt, in “a matter of time” exhibit curated by Australian Brenda Gael Smith (no relation alas!) has also been published in Quilters Companion, an Aussie magazine!

Cover of Quilters Companion; first line item on the red banner at the bottom is A Matter of Time.

Opening pages of the article.

and here’s “my” page, with my new friend and fellow exhibitor Mirjam Aigner.   I have to say I love the internet…how else would I have found this call for entry, sent my quilt off to the other side of the world to tour, and made new friends without having met them in person?

My Milkweed No. 2, on the left, and Mirjam Aigner’s multi-layered work on the right.

You’ll have to track down a copy of the magazine to see the other quilts.  I do miss the days when international postage wasn’t insane!  I used to subscribe to an Aussie and a New Zealand quilt magazine, but the  price became prohibitive.  But for an issue in which I’m published, yep, I’ll take that!

App2Applique by Dianne S. Hire

January 4th, 2017

Before I moved to Maine, I met Maine quilter Sally Field via the QuiltArt online quilt list; in fact, she is one of the ways we found our way to the Camden and Hope area!  After moving here, she kept telling me about her friend Dianne Hire, who lived maybe half an hour north of me.

Dianne’s Scrolls, on the right, is the quilt I began on this life-changing weekend.  Dianne Hire’s Yellow FraShizzle is on the left, and I have to giggle–I have that same plaid fabric! The book is APP-2-Applique, available here.  Just keep reading!

The second year (or thereabouts–circa 2006) that we were here in Maine, Dianne was scheduled to teach at Paul Smith’s Quilt Camp  in the Adirondacks (New York).  Alas, she injured her back–badly–just a couple days before.  She didn’t want to cancel on the venue and students, but she was on serious pain meds and couldn’t drive.  The quilters network went into overdrive, and to make a hectic 36 hours short, I ended up being able to take a week away from family, drive her to the camp, help her with the heavy lifting and schlepping of stuff (all quilt teachers know how much heavy lifting, literally, is involved!) and in exchange, get to take her classes and stay for free.  I met Dianne, then, for the first time as I went to pick her up to head out to camp.

That weekend was to become life-changing for me:  for the first time, I was on the teacher’s site of a retreat.  I met other quilt teachers and realized hey!  I teach locally now, I can do this.  That weekend is what led to me becoming a national level quilting teacher.   I had never thought of that, but this weekend opened my eyes, I saw a doorway, and off I went!

Fast forward many years:  Dianne’s APP is for Applique became a quilter’s favorite.  But she had (of course she did!) more ideas than could fit in one book.   After life happening (including back surgery) for her, she finally got to  put  more ideas into APP-2-Applique.  The book is so much fun–not only does it have great patterns, quilts by my local peeps (who are of course HER local peeps too), but it teaches you how to make your own designs, too.  Way cool!

APP 2 Applique by Dianne S. Hire–use the patterns or learn to design your own.

Dianne’s first class that weekend was the designs that became this book, and I was having so much fun, I just kept working on my quilt in her next classes.  And I have to say, it is a testament to Dianne’s goodness that despite the incredible pain (even with major pain killers) that she was unfailingly polite, gracious and kind to one and all that weekend.  Utterly amazing!

In the section on the Scrolls pattern, Dianne talks about selecting fabrics to make the scrollwork pop, how to prepare the pattern to get two blocks for the effort of one, and more.

And Dianne includes quilts by others to give you an idea of the many ways this design can be interpreted.

One of my favorite of Dianne’s quilts in this book is this colorful beauty!  Diane’s work is full of joyful color.

So I thank Dianne, for her friendship, for including my quilts in her books, for teaching, for showing me the way.  When the books arrived at her house, she called us all up and we ended up (a bunch of us published in the book) going to Dianne’s house for tea and signing the books–like autographing yearbooks.  I treasure being in this book with my friends!   Thank you, Dianne, for all you have done for me and shared with me.

Dianne’s Scrolls © Sarah Ann Smith. Published in APP-2-Applique by Dianne Hire.