Friday, January 30, 2015

Atun con tomate, yum!

Hello, everyone.

I was starting to make lunch today, opening a tuna can, and I found myself thinking back to the time we had Bocadillo con Atun y Tomate. It was a small bar/cafe in, ummm, I forget which tiny village. When I walked inside to get our lunch, the owner was playing "The Streets of Laredo"--he is a Johnny Cash fan! Who would have expected it? But I was there to get us lunch. And I'd had an unending string of bocadillos with jamon serrano y queso, all ordered by my sweetie who likes to eat the same thing a lot. So I got a wild hair and looked up at the sign board and said, "un bocadillo con atun y tomate, por favor."

That was a big portion of tuna with lots of fresh little tomato chops in it and I was delighted. My half of the bocadillo was a good big lunch.

So as I dumped the tuna into the bowl with the onion chops, I got to thinking that one of our garden tomatoes would be good with it.

Tuna with onions and tomatoes on lettuce
It was good, too. Even if today I didn't have a fresh loaf of baguette bread to put it in!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

We walked today

Hello, everyone.

I am delighted to say that we got out of our house and walked today. It was only 2 miles, but it felt wonderful!

A housekeeping detail: y'all will notice that I've added a "search" box for the blog on the side. If you're here wondering about socks, or octopus, or shoes, or Madrid, well, the search box should be your friend. If it doesn't help, post a comment and let me know what you were looking for.

And if there's a town on the Camino that you don't see me talking about in the July-August-September posts, feel free to post a question in the comments on a recent post. If I can find anything we noticed about it, I'll talk about it. And if we didn't go there for an actual reason, I'll probably talk about that, too.

Weather here was Chamber of Commerce great today. (It was extremely dewy last night, but neither rain nor clouds today.) My sweetie's orchids had a great time, hanging under the lemon tree on their accustomed branches. We are expecting that tomorrow afternoon they will have to come inside for some days. It's supposed to take a chilly turn and nights may be back in the 40's (F) for a while.

A Texas picture:
Near Lost Maples
This area is in the hilly country west of San Antonio. The Lost Maples are a relict population, they say, left over from an Ice Age time when the bigtooth (?) maples were growing all over the area. Now they only grow in the Lost Maples Park area. (There is another "lost tree" area in Texas. East of San Marcos there are the Lost Pines. The tree and gardening books say they have a similar origin.) The nearest decent-sized town to Lost Maples is probably Kerrville. It's a pretty area. I'd like to go back, with water bottles in the car!, and do some walking. When we were there, we didn't know just how remote Lost Maples works out to be. We had the silly idea that there'd be a concession nearby when we found the place. There isn't. And 3 PM with no water bottles is no time to be taking a walk out in the wilds of west Texas!

This was the scenery when the cameraman turned 180 degrees to get the other direction. The fence marks somebody's property line. You will notice that the area is fairly arid. The Lost Maples may have moisture, but they're a lot lower down on the hill and they have a canyon with at least seasonal water in it.

I can't tell from this picture if the shrubs and trees in the background are the standard southern/western Texas scrub vegetation or not. There are a number of lime-green blobs that might be Brasil trees. But it's impossible to tell.

One thing anyone can see from this picture: we weren't prepared for anything like a hike that day! Flip-flops? Not even. But when we set out on this drive, it was to get a look at the area more than to do a big hike. Or even a medium-sized one.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Hello, everyone.

I was reading Needle n Thread today and Mrs. Corbet has been talking about needles. Well, about needles and pincushions.

It was enlightening.

I was inspired to throw my few, pitiful pincushions into the mix.

I have one for sewing machine needles:
Pincushion with embroidered labels for sizes and types: B for ballpoint and S for sharp, Roman numerals for sizes
I have another one for pins, and the strawberry for that one holds a few hand needles for use at the sewing machine:
Some of the many pins in the tomato, and a few hand needles in the emery strawberry.
And then I have one, special, pincushion for embroidery needles. Most of the needles still have threads in them from the last time they were used. The beading embroidery needles are there, too--still sporting bits of Fireline. (Link goes to Fire Mountain--but this thread is fishing line and can be found in the sporting goods sections of various stores. Along with the line cutting scissors you need to cut the stuff.)
The embroidery pincushion. It really is a tangle, and even though I tried to separate needles by type, it's gotten rather confused. Still, the needles here are not used for hemming and suchlike. They're for embroidery or for bead weaving.
There are a couple of really bent-up needles in that multicolored tomato. They earned their bends, doing the bead embroidery on DD1's wedding dress. I think of them as being retired, not isolated from their still-working brethren, but not called on to do much.

If I bust out the embroidery frame and a piece of fabric and tracings on Sulky Solvy to make that picture of the Risen Christ I've been wanting to do, the multicolored tomato is the one that holds the needles to do it. Well, that and the little packages of more needles like those. (Link goes to the Sulky site--you can find their products in lots of fabric stores.)

I have a few ends to tie up before I can start another huge embroidery project. And a few more decisions to make. But the painting calls to me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

We're still having soup weather

Hello, everyone.

As mentioned in my last post, Zuppa Toscana was on the menu. I had to go to my local HEB a second time, because I'd forgotten to include bacon on the shopping list the previous day. (Took advantage of having to go anyway to pick up a few things on sale--seasoned chicken leg quarters and suchlike.)

Then it was time to get cooking.
Browned Italian sausage, partly-cooked cut-up bacon, and cut up kale
The soup after the olive oil, onion and garlic and a little potato and cauliflower are added. The cauliflower substitutes for most of the potato.
Completed soup--with the meats, the greens, and the cream. Also a couple of nights in the fridge to marry the flavors!
 This was just the thing for a light supper on a chilly night.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

If you don't like the weather now, just wait a few minutes

Hello, everyone.

We got busy and didn't walk the last couple of days--my sweetie was getting exercise with the pruning saw instead. ;-) Plus, since he was pruning the brasil trees, he was getting stuck a lot.

This afternoon, about 5:30 pm, the temperature was about 70F and the sky looked like this:
Western sky in late afternoon today
Then, about 8:45 pm, it poured rain for five minutes! Not that I'm complaining. We are inside, after all, and even if we were out in it, there is no lightning. And it's not cold out yet. (That is supposed to build in tomorrow.)

Regarding other projects--
Peanut quilt is being pinned now--it has a wide border and a narrow one, which unify the bright colors and will, I hope, put a spark into the color when the blanket binding is added at the end.

The various peyote stitch bracelet items are sitting at the moment, too much else going on, and the collection of St. James prayer chaplets got little bags and insert cards with how to pray them, so they're ready to give away.

And I've been chewing on how to approach the whole business of the Risen Christ picture, the one I posted about a month or two back. It feels to me like it needs to be bead embroidery, not bead weaving, and so I'm wandering along doing things and thinking about whether the ivory silk piece in my closet (leftover doupioni from DD1's wedding dress) is the right background for it or not, or maybe instead a piece of black fabric? I've come to the conclusion that the painting I want to copy is kinda sorta what Mary Magdalene saw in the dimmest of dawn light on Easter morning: His eyes are bleary, His skin is pretty much bloodless, and "the morning after" a bad night is painted all over that canvas. I can almost hear Him saying "noli me tangere"--"don't touch me."

Other than that, I've been trying to get organized to make a pot of Zuppa Toscana--forgot to get the bacon yesterday at the store and had to go back today. And at the last minute today, when I was revving up to start cutting things up, we decided to go for take-out pizza instead. It will be colder tomorrow. Better weather for soup!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Walk report

Hello, everyone.

Today we got out of bed and said, it feels like walking weather. So we got into our shoes and windbreakers (and I wore my pink fleece) and headed over to the Hike and Bike.

There was a bike rider there when we arrived, just pumping up his tires. We saw him riding later.

It was about 8:10 a.m. and the sky was cloudy and there was a bit of light fog into the bargain. No wind.

There were more people there later, but when we started out we convinced ourselves that nobody was there. (Silly idea--we saw 4 - 6 bike riders and a few walkers.)

Wildlife seen: Roadrunner (possibly saw him twice), male cardinal, green jay, chachalaca on ground, several cottontail rabbits, possible coyote. Also the ducks that hang out in the irrigation canal, and a flock of tree ducks that flew overhead.

About the first bend in the trail. (This is before the stretch where we once saw a herd of javelinas running.)

The irrigation canal. There was a duck, in the distance, but it doesn't show in this picture.

When we got home, I found this little red guy watching me from the faucet!
It was a great walk! After the first mile, we got our circulation working and were sorry to stop. (Temps low 50sF, got warmer as we walked, probably at 55F when we got back to the car about 9:10 a.m.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Niner Chaplet

Hello, everyone.

Today is a little update on some of the beading that's been going on around here.

Before we left last spring, I discovered the Chaplet of St. James. It is one of a crowd of little chaplets called "niners." These are short chaplets, only taking a few minutes to say, in honor of one saint or another. They are one of the old traditional devotions that helped people to stay in the strait path.

The chaplet uses a prayer for the intercession and assistance of a particular saint, said on the medal at one end of the strand, a series of Our Fathers and Hail Marys and Glory Bes, and if there is a crucifix at the other end, an Apostles' Creed.

Several niner chaplets of St. James, and the bracelet project in process.
The niner chaplets here are made with wire-wrapping. There is a crucifix at one end and a St. James devotional medal on the other. One each group of three beads, one says Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. (Obviously this is a quick devotion for busy people!)

The bracelet project started out as playing with peyote stitch designs. These are all two-drop peyote: a pair of beads is treated as one throughout the beading process.

Bracelet, first draft. 
 From left to right in the first draft, the squares are: Cross of St. James in black--not really the customary color, but I didn't have red Delicas at that time; a scallop shell, the Cross of St. James in red, a collection of pilgrim staff, tiny scallop, and pilgrim's hat in brown; a yellow arrow way-marker.
(The swirly bits on the crosses are the top and both arms. The other is a pointy bit, usually rendered to look like a lance point. But when the bead framework doesn't have a true center bead, the pointy bit ends up a little more spade-like.)
The path of the Camino is often marked with yellow arrows like this. (I have read that the walking path to Fatima has blue arrows.) Many times they are on a bright blue background, other times they've been spray-painted on whatever is handy along the trail.
Old marker with new yellow arrow added

Yellow arrows on bridge posts...not that there was anywhere else you could go at this point!

Yellow arrow on a rock.
In cities, there was a tremendous variety of marker styles. One had to look, not only at the pavement for steel or brass or carved stones, but on buildings and light poles for signs and spray paint. And in Burgos, the path was partly marked by a stone pattern of slanting lines that met at the drain holes for the storm drains.

As you can see, though, the yellow arrow has become one of the primary symbols of the Camino de Santiago, because so much of the trail is marked with it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Brother Victor's Radish Greens Soup

Hello, everyone.

I finally got the pictures uploaded from when I made the radish greens soup a little ways back.
My favorite soup cookbook.

My go-to recipe for radish greens or mustard greens. Even arugula thinnings can go into it!

The oil is in the pan, and the onions, and now also the greens are beginning to stew down.

Since i'm watching my carbs, I only use one potato--then use a head of cauliflower for the rest.

Cooking with broth.
I got too busy cooking to make a picture of the soup in the blender, or at the very end, in a bowl with a dab of yogurt in the center.

Changes I make to this recipe: subbing a cauliflower for 3/4 of the potatoes. Using broth instead of plain water to cook it. Using heavy cream for part of the half-n-half. And the aforementioned yogurt garnish.

It's good, it's especially good when the weather outside is damp and cold and windy. (Brother Victor is apparently a fan of serving it ice-cold, but my family rebels at cold soups, so hot it is.)

And one more picture, just because:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gardening--and food ideas

Hello, everyone.

It was 46F when I went outside this morning, it was cloudy, but the wind wasn't blowing and there was no wet stuff coming down. So after feeding the birdies I went over to the garden to thin some of the plants. (I did mention that my sweetie sowed *very* thickly on the rows he planted?) I didn't get them all, but I did take a big bowl of arugula (rocket) and a good sized bowl of mixed gai lan and Portuguese kale. Also there were a few small, just-turning tomatoes to be brought inside.
After first washing, the bowls ready to go inside.
I have in mind that the gail lan/kale mixture will be just right for using in the Suppa Toscana recipe--truth to tell, I wanted to get more Tuscan kale seeds and they were hard to locate, so I got the Portuguese kale instead. Now I read that it's a tougher leaf. But the leaves of that and the leaves of the gai lan "Happy Rich" look identical and, more importantly, feel identical in texture. So I'll cut them up and use them in the soup and see how it goes.

The Tuscan kale is the best for that soup--not too tough of leaves, good flavor, and no annoying frilliness on the green bits when you're eating. IMHO. And if you want it, and don't have a handy farmer's market to buy it in, you have to grow it. The only kale type stocked in grocery stores--even the fancy type of the HEB--is the curly stuff that looks so pretty on plates as a garnish. Fortunately it's a great fall garden plant and will hang on through cold weather (even light freezes) until the heat comes in in late spring. Now all I have to do is remember to buy some hot Italian style sausage, a potato, and a head of cauliflower. (I make a low-carb version of the soup, with just enough potato to keep the texture and a whole lot of cauliflower to make up the difference.)

The arugula I'll share with my sweet DIL and her mom. (There's a lot in that bowl! And there is still a whole lot in the garden.)

We have hopes that this afternoon will be at least 60F and we can bring the orchid pots out for some decent light. The blossom stems on one are showing actual buds now! (These are the butterfly type that is so easily available at the stores these days. They do well for us, hanging from the lemon tree The few other ones we're still learning out to grow along.)

It's about time to plant tomato seeds for spring/summer garden, if I can find a place to set them when they sprout. (Not outside in this weather!) Planting time for our area is mid to late February, and we never need to use gadgets like cold caps. (No wonder we weren't expecting the kind of normal spring weather we encountered in Spain! But that place is at a much higher latitude than we are. "Normal spring" is colder and wetter.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dreams of spring to come

Hello, everyone.

A while back I posted about bringing my sweetie's orchid plants inside the house, because it was supposed to go below 55 during the night. Well, we've had them inside again, for days now, and yesterday they got a short visit outside in the afternoon--it was about 60F. You're probably thinking to yourself, that's a lot of trouble for a few flowerpots!

It is. Of course, they aren't exactly flowerpots. The orchids are in hanging baskets with bark or fiber outsides, and most of the time they hang out (ahem) on the branches of the lemon tree by the back door. This is convenient for me to splash water on the centers of the plants and the water to drip down and be out of the way. It is also convenient for us to view the blossoms when they send out flower stalks. Speaking of which, we have a bumper crop trying to come out now:

Left hand pot perching on top of freezer, two or three stalks growing 

Right hand pot perching on top of freezer, another stalk growing

Third pot, perching on top of fridge, two stalks growing
 As you can see, not only are they long-lived plants that my sweetie likes a lot, they are also getting pretty busy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Chamber of commerce weather"

Hello, everyone.

Today is, indeed, a Chamber of Commerce bragging type of day. The sun is out, the temp is about 60F, there's little or no wind, and we were so invigorated that we walked down to the corner to get a lotto ticket. (It's a mile, round trip.) It felt great!

We have been reminded of the chilly days we encountered last May on the Camino a lot lately. We wake up thinking about it. We say "remember the time when" a lot. ("Remember the afternoon it was darned chilly, but there was this tiny patch of sun and we sat on the lawn of the albergue to let that sunshine work on my feet?")

I don't think I've posted these pictures before. They're all from Pamplona or just after that.
Elegant simplicity of an altar in Pamplona

Retablo at Zarequiegui

More on the rain at Alto del Perdon, after Zarequiegui. I was too intimidated to photograph the downhill path of this mountain, it was just a scary pile of bigger and smaller rocks.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Winter: when it's not "Chamber of Commerce weather" in South Texas

Hello, everyone.

Today it's about 40F and not expected to improve much. Tomorrow is supposed to be even chillier! We wake up and wonder why we aren't rolling up our sleeping bags and hitting the trail before dawn.

A small progress note on the Peanut Quilt:
The stack of squares, with their coordinate labels, in correct order to be seamed one after the other.

I am not going to put up a lot of pictures showing the quilt top until it's with its baby--I think that Mama looks in here once in a while!--to preserve the surprise.

Dogs and cat, contemplating each other
And on the old homestead, the day before the current cold snap hit, the dogs treed another cat. (The neighborhood cats have taken to perching on the top of the green shadecloth of the chicken pen.) This time, the cat went up a tree. A few days earlier, an orange cat ran up the saguaro cactus--that's the fat pole-like things growing on top of the raised mound behind the tree--and perched on the very top! I wonder if what the cats are studying is the collection of small wild birds that keeps trying to sneak a few bits of my birdies' chow.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finishing up the tote bag

Hello, everyone.

I have almost finished the tote bag for DD2. (It only lacks a few snaps...she doesn't think it needs many, but the snaps will also be stabilizing stitches to hold the batting in place inside.)

The inside pockets in place (before stitching.) 

Clipping the seam allowance on the curved seams. These seams were not cooperative at all, and I had to hand baste them.

Adding a reinforcement strip to the sides at the top

Assembled bag, posing with dummy

I decorated the outside pocket with some red embroidered daisies--detached chain stitch is our friend--because the black square just looked awkward and monotonous without something. I think I want to add a snap to the top of this pocket, too, so her grocery list won't fall out. (and so the batting will behave!)

Review of the project overall: the method used at Sew4Home was to make a bag without gussets, and box the lower corners to get some shape. They recommended to sew the batting and the two fabric layers together, right sides of the fabric together and batting on the outside of the stack, turn the sewn block right-side-out, and then sew the sides of the block together. The finished edges would be inside the bag. I'm not really nuts about this method.

I made the inside as a unit, the outside as a unit, the strap as a unit (with some interfacing in the strap), put the strap inside between the layers, the batting on the outside wrapped around it all and the lining inside it all (right sides of the fabric layers together) and sewed around the top edge except for the turning opening. Then I turned it, pressed at a low temperature to try and convince the edges to behave, and considered where to put snaps.

I don't think I am going to be a fan of using the batting as an interfacing without adding a step to quilt it all together. Maybe the felted-looking batting the ladies at Sew4Home used is better for these things, I don't know. I will in future just use regular interfacing on the outer layer to strengthen and stabilize it. That was what I did with the Aggie Bag (at least that's how I remember it anyway) and I think it makes a less bulky bag to tote around.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

We step away from the quilting project momentarily...

Hello, everyone.

I was going great guns on the quilt--got the coordinate tags pinned onto every square--when DD2 came to me and requested a bag to take with her back to school.

This bag should: be able to carry food. Fit under the seat in the airplane. Be easy to carry.

Then she sent me a pin from Pinterest--which pin led to long-gone reusable shopping bags--and so I chased down something like it on Sew4Home. This is a shoulder-bag tote.

Hmm. Doesn't look difficult. And--for all the marbles!--I can do something with purely the stash on hand. No shopping trip required.

The outer fabric, using a 3/4 yard cut of Texas Tech spirit fabric I had picked up on spec and some black broadcloth to make up the length at the bottom and also to make a gusset at the sides, and the lining fabric from the "grays" cubby of my quilting cabinet:

Off-cuts of the fabrics for the bag. I also used some scrap batting that was lying around.

The layers set up and cut to the desired top-edge shape. She isn't asking me to make something that folds over, so the batting will extend into the curve and I'll even add a bit of tulle for extra shaping oomph.

(I did remember to get the little Raiders right-side-up when I sewed the red panels to the black bottom fabric. Yay!)

The inner pockets being constructed from more of the black and some bits of red that was lying around. I zigzagged the seam allowances so they'd not fray all over when she uses the pockets.

It looks like there's going to be a snap added at the end, so the top will kinda-sorta close. She says that the closure is just to keep things from jumping out, not to be actually secure, so a snap is probably just about right.

And having studied the construction method in the Sew4Home project more carefully, I'm departing from it. Adding side gussets instead of making a flat bag and boxing the bottom corners means that I'm going to have to construct the lining as a bag, and the outside as a bag--I think I'll attach the batting layer to the outside layer--and then sew the completed parts together and turn through an opening. Rather like making a lined vest, really, without the problem of armholes to get into the way.
Just a strap instead...and the strap goes on at the end anyway.

I ended up with a bonus pocket, too, when I cut things out. (That's what happens when you cut the 8x8 inside-pocket piece as a 12"x8" rectangle and then cut off the end 4". And cut that 8"x4" piece in half. I did add red strips on the sides of the 4" squares, as you can see in the picture above, to get the 5" width of rectangle. I left the depth at 4" though, so the finished pocket is somewhere around 3 1/4" deep. But it's for shopping lists and suchlike anyway!

More in tomorrow's post, this has gone on plenty long already for one day.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A new year, and--hopefully--a new habit

Hello, everyone.

Today it was cold again--as in, when we got up and made coffee, it was 42F or so outside. We walked! True, it was only a mile round trip to the corner and back, but we walked. It felt great. And I busted out the Buff that my sweetie got for me in Estella (?) and put it on over my ears so there wouldn't be any earache. (This is a Buff with a map of the Camino on it. It replaced a neato one with a pattern reminiscent of a trout's speckles, that fell off my head while walking.)

And I'm working seriously now on Peanut Solares's quilt. The squares have been cut out--actually cut out just for this quilt!--and laid on the floor in the piano room, where no one walks much, to work on layout.

Next step for this quilt is to pin on the coordinate slips and start sewing the squares together in pairs, and then blocks, and then rows of blocks, and eventually into a whole top. Then the assembly of the quilt "sandwich" and pinning for stability and quilting--this part always means moving the sewing machine to the dining room for the greater space for the quilt to move around. And at the end, the attachement of the binding on the edges, partly by machine and partly by hand. Closing out with a final washing to take off random bits of dirt and chalk marks.

Initial selection of fabrics for Peanut Quilt (some newly bought, some from stash)

Layout plan for quilt. the blue X marks are squares that aren't part of the overall pattern, rather like the black spots on a crossword puzzle.
 I was going to put pieced squares with boats or tulips or fish where the blue X marks are, but the assortment of fabrics and the overall business of the tesselated design has persuaded me that pieced accent squares would be just too much. I'm going with plain squares instead, chosen from extras of the squares cut from the chosen fabrics.