The Great Big Lemon-Off

Once upon a time there lived a girl (named Sis) who moved to sunny LA and bought a lemon tree. This lemon tree flourished on her apt deck and eventually after a year began to produce little baby lemons.

One sunny morning Sis excitedly went out to check on her beloved lemon tree only to find it missing. In the dark of the night a dastardly bandit had reached over her deck walls and pilfered the lemon tree!

After a long trek through her apt complex in search of a discarded lemon tree, Sis sadly returned home and vowed to never buy a lemon tree again.

2 years later I decided to issue a challenge. A Lemon-Off. First one to fruit wins*. Lemon trees were bought and the race was on.

Sis has the advantage of living in the climate where lemons actually grow but I have the advantage of living on the second floor where no one can steal my treeย ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

*FYI I have no illusions on actually being able to win this Lemon-Off. I live in Seattle. Lemons don’t grow here for a reason.


All the fabric, fiber and yarn have been packed up due to an upcoming move. Unfortunately Tour de Fleeceย  (Rav link) starts the same weekend as the move which may throw a wrench in my plans of participating for the 4th year in a row.

My every waking (and sometimes non-waking) moments are occupied with figuring out how to de-clutter in record time and still find time to shop for a new bed so I have somewhere to sleep besides the couch.I come from a long line of pack-rats so moving is an incredibly stressful and long process.

I’ll be back later to post about the June Daring Bakers challenge but don’t expect too much from this already quiet blog until after the 4th. I promise to show good stuff once I’m back. I even have a new toy that I need to show off too ๐Ÿ™‚

High off the completion of the Bento Box quilt I jumped right into starting the London Tube quilt. The fact that I had set myself a goal of finishing it by Jan 1st 2012 and being able to reward myself with a new machine has absolutely nothing to do with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

First step was printing up the design (one I created based on the Zone 1 map) and making sure I could keep all the blocks straight. There are a total of 48 10.5″ finished blocks and only 5 of them are solid white, the remaining 43 are unique so being able to keep them organized was vital. A color printout of each block glued to an envelope means I can grab one and have a placement guide for the squares without having to pull out the master design.

The quilt has so much white I chose to pre-wash all the fabrics even though I typically don’t do this for any sewing projects anymore unless it is clothing. Even tossed in some of those laundry colorcatcher sheets and was surprised at how little color transferred to them. I think I would have been safe not pre-washing but wasn’t willing to take the risk. Since each square is only 2.25″x2.25″ I am also trying out some homemade starch spray. From everything I’m reading online it should make my piecing a little easier and more accurate considering how small of a fabric piece I’m working with. I noticed right off the bat that cutting the starched fabric was much easier than the non-starched, I got sharper lines and less fraying.

Incidentally I seriously underestimated how long it would take to cut 1700+ squares, I honestly thought it might take a couple hours tops. Turns out it took about 4 days of working a couple hours at a time so I wasn’t even close. This is something I will tuck away to remember the next time I come up with a “brilliant” quilt idea.

I have 8 months left in the year and am only now getting started. If I want to give myself a decent buffer for work/life/other hobbies that means I have to aim for completing 2 blocks a week. Aggressive yes but hopefully with all my organization at the beginning it won’t be too painful. I’ve decided that every time I blog (regardless of topic) I will post a little tally of how many of the London Tube Quilt blocks I have left to piece together.

LTQ: 48 of 48 blocks left to do.

April Daring Bakers

April’s Challenge is a Maple Mousse in an edible container.

This month’s challenge was hosted by Evelyne and while I was sorely tempted to try out her example of a bacon cup filled with mousse I opted to go for something less meaty this time. Maybe because Spring is so slow in arriving this year I’ve been fixated on summery treats and what is more summery than ice cream sandwiches?

I chose to make a half batch of maple mousse since I wasn’t sure how it would hold up as a frozen mousse filling for my sandwiches. When it came time to decide on the cookie portion of my sandwich I toyed with the idea of a nut cookie but the idea of using cake was appealing too.

I settled on thin slices of the Browned Butter Pound Cake from the August 2010 DB challenge. Each slice was toasted so they could hold up to the mousse and give a little crunch to the whole dessert.

Sweet and delicious. I’m now ready for summer so all I’m waiting for is the weather to cooperate.

Holy crap I had no idea when starting on my first fullsized ‘real’ quilt just how long it would take me. According to my notes I started the Bento Box quilt back in Nov 2010. It took almost 6 months to finish everything and while I know my actual active time on the project wasn’t that much it was still a big undertaking.

Back in Nov I had this pile of fabric to cut and piece together.

By early 2011 I had 20 completed blocks to cut up and rearrange.

Then in early April I finally tackled the border dilemma and knocked out the backing in 2 days.

Mid-April I bucked up and powered through the quilting. I may have spent some time cursing my ancient Singer and resisting the temptation to run to the nearest Bernina dealer to sooth my frustrations. Turns out that writing a huge tax check to the govt on a day when all you want to do is shop is AMAZING at killing that desire ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s done!

I attached the binding in one evening and only had to go back on a few sections to make sure the binding was attached in the back. I used the handy binding tutorial from Heather Bailey. The binding was a great way to use up some of my scraps from the quilt top and I still have plenty leftover for another project. This was my 3rd or 4th attempt at this method of attaching the binding and the 1st time it even looked remotely close to good.

I opted to go with a simple quilting design for each block and quilted 2 squares in the center and the outside round in each block. The borders were quilted 1/4″ off seam. Very simple and yet with my machine at times a serious hardship. At one point I took a break to relax with some popcorn only to come back and find a cat cozied up on the half finished quilt. I can only describe the look she gave me as ‘oh like anyone would believe you didn’t make this for me’.

The colors are crazy, the prints are chaotic, the learning curve was steep and considering that Nicki refused to move from the bed the moment I put it on for photos I think it meets his approval. It was totally worth it. I already have the Tube Quilt fabric prepped and ready for action. I’m on a roll.

Quilt Details:
Pattern: Bento Box Quilt (I didn’t buy the pattern but made up my own sizes based on flickr photos and available fabric)
Fabrics: Kaffe Fassett Zinnia (Aqua), Fandango Sarabande (Azul and Ole), Michael Miller Emmaline (Teal), Happy Go Lucky Trefoil (White), Fandango Valencia (Sand), Michael Miller Peeking Polka Dot (Lime and Aqua ),Amy Butler Daisy Chain Wildflowers (Navy), Michael Miller Poppy Skinny Stripes (Aqua and Spice), Kaufman Kona (White) plus two fabrics I picked up at the LQS and never made a note of the fabric name (the green with red leaves andย  the white with multicolored flowers and leaves).

Bento Box progress

I have to admit after I decided to keep the “crazy” print theme going with my Bento Box quilt I folded the top up and put it back in the box with my backing and border fabrics.
It took several months for it to reemerge and eventually a finished top was made.
I opted to continue the chaotic look and put a 5″ border of the striped lime and blue fabric only to find out it was still a hair too small for my bed. “Thankfully” I now have a healthy fabric stash and I pulled out the white Kona to add those precious few inches needed.

I actually think the trim of white works well to balance out the chaos of the blocks but isn’t so wide that the striped fabric looks out of place. Then again I could be fooling myself since I originally thought these fabrics would not look insane next to each other.

I had 5yds total of these fabrics that I had set aside for the backing and since I also had plenty of strips leftover from the block fabrics I decided to add even more color to the back. Nicki was nice enough to make sure the quilt didn’t run away while I took photos.

The layers have all been basted together and are ready to be quilted. The plan is to go with a simple straight line quilting to mimic the Bento design for 2 very important reasons.

1: Straight line quilting is all I know how to do right now.
2: My old cranky Singer doesn’t “do” free-motion quilting. I’ve tried many times. My machine quilting instructor even tried. If I want to stipple a quilt I have to go as slow as molasses uphill and even then my thread shreds after a minute or two (vs the 30 seconds at normal speed).

Nicki is looking forward to his new blanket being finished.


March Daring Bakers

March Challenge was Yeasted Coffeecake with Meringue.

I have to admit I’d never heard of filling a coffeecake with meringue before seeing the DB challenge for March. Even after making the thing I’m still not 100% what the purpose of the meringue is since it doesn’t add flavor besides a little extra sweetness and in my finished coffeecake it didn’t even add any gooey filling.

Rather than making a ring as shown in the original recipe I opted for a braid to keep things simple and with time running out and a lack of inspiration I took a shortcut and filled mine with the last of the Nutella in the house.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should own up to now being more than 2 months into a weight loss program that is changing the way I eat (for the better of course). I’ve just finished up 10 weeks on the program and am down almost 20lbs (a number I really didn’t think was attainable so quickly) so pulling out the baking pans when I’m on such a roll was something I was resisting. I wanted to participate but the last 2+ months have been about reworking some of my own recipes to variations that are more WW friendly. Baking up a giant rich and sweet coffeecake was not in my plans.

Perhaps because of my worry about the challenge derailing my progress I found it hard to like the coffeecake. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination and I know normally I would have happily cut up and warmed up a slice to eat with my morning English Breakfast tea. However since starting WW I’ve been shifting my culinary treats to things I truly enjoy and while the coffeecake was good it wasn’t great. To be honest I felt the meringue was pointless, mine weeped while the coffeecake was proofing and baked up into a burnt sugar crust under the Silpat that took serious elbow grease to clean up, the remaining meringue dissolved into the dough leaving only the nutella as filling. I was hoping the meringue would leave a soft gooey center but sadly it did not.

It was an interesting variation on a typical yeasted coffeecake and perhaps other DB folks had better luck with theirs but mine turned out to be a treat that failed to tempt me.

If you want to try out the Yeasted Coffeecake with Meringue for yourself and prove me wrong the recipe can be found here.