Scrap Happy Sweets

I have so much baking to do. Many, many cookies, to please the different members of the family this holiday, and to please myself.

And my sister and husband want turtle bark, with dark chocolate, caramel, pecans and fleur de sea.

But these all have to wait. I don’t have the ingredients on hand. Oh, I have the butter and the sugar and the vanilla . . . those scraps of ingredients we all have in our kitchens.

But what can I make from those scraps, while I wait for my personal shopper (Don!) to make a trip to the grocery store?

Only possibly the best Christmas candy of all—English toffee.

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It’s 6:30 a.m. at my place and the house smells great—all buttery and caramel-y, with slight burnt overtones. 

I’ve written about my toffee before, and given the recipe I use, so I won’t go through it all again here but, if you’re looking for a culinary scrap happy project, this might be the answer.

Ingredients? Butter, sugar, water, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, for the basic toffee. For the coating, some sort of chocolate you really like. I temper Callebaut chocolate (which, yes, I always seem to have on hand) but quality chocolate melts or chips work fine, too. 

Want nuts? What have you got lying around? Almonds, walnuts, pecans? No nuts? The toffee is so good, you won’t miss them.

Really, the biggest scrap you’ll need for making toffee is a scrap of patience, since you need to be willing to continuously stir the cooking ingredients for 20-25 minutes, the time it’ll take to reach 300 degrees F.

But it is so worth it! No scraps will make you happier than these!

So, when you’ve used up the scraps of yarn and fabric and pretty paper and glitter, wander to the pantry—and find the sweet scraps for toffee.

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ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen and Connie

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Hand Quilt Along: An Old-Fashioned Quilter

quilting-2581992_1920“You think you’ve got it bad?? When I was your age, we walked 5 miles to school. In blinding snow. And it was uphill . . . both ways!”

We’ve all heard this sort of harkening back to the olden days and how much easier the younger generation’s life is. And we’ve been annoyed by it.

Well, this is Hand Quilt Along Sunday and Kathy Reeves had this notion that maybe the hand quilters were busy doing other holiday-type things, with little time for quilting these past three weeks. She suggested we write, instead, about how we got our start in the world of quilt making.

For a lapsed hand quilter, such as I, this was a welcome invitation! 

And what I have to say to the newer, younger generation of quilters is:

You think you’ve got it bad?? When I started quilting there were no rotary cutters! There were no specialty quilt shops, no celebrity quilters with YouTube channels. No fancy, odd-shaped rulers and dandy cutting mats and twee kits for every conceivable quilty creation.

We had scissors. Cardboard templates. Fabric from JC Penneys. 

I made my first quilt wen I was about 17. I have no idea why I made it, really.

I come from a crafty family but no one quilted. I don’t remember ever seeing a quilt. Fine hand-crafted clothing, crocheted afghans, embroidered pillowcases abounded but no quilts . . . 

But, when I was 17 or 18 years old, I had a book and there was a black and white photo of a double Irish chain quilt. And I was smitten.

I went to Woolworth’s, the local 5 and 10 cent store, and bought fabric in three colors, off-white, pink, and a deep red that matched the ruby glassware my grandmother loved.

The book didn’t provide a pattern but I figured things out and used my mother’s old sewing machine and made that quilt, big enough for my double bed. I used a light blanket as batting and tied the corners instead of quilting it. 

And I loved that quilt to pieces. It is long gone but fondly remembered. I wish I had a photo to share!

I didn’t make another quilt for nearly 20 years and rotary cutters still hadn’t been invented, or at least they hadn’t made it to my small town. But I had a good book to guide me, the classic Quilts, Quilts, Quilts, by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, and I bought somewhat better fabric. I learned to hand quilt and made two or three quilts, and then took another multi-year hiatus from quilting.

Then I retired and have had time to get back to quilting but, my, how that world has changed! New techniques, new tools, new, and expensive, machinery. New ways of teaching and learning, and tons of sources of information. In my quilt guild of about 180, only two or three of us quilt by hand, everyone knows the names of the fabric designers, and most of the quilts are made from instructions by famous quilters, or from kits.     

I felt, and still do, really, that quilting had left me behind. I feel as out of touch with modern quilting as my grandmothers would feel if they were alive and set down in our modern computer-driven, social media world. 

I could, of course, move into the modern. I could get the long-arm quilting machine and the fancy rulers and a big stash of expensive designer fabric.

I started my quilting life modestly and I think that’s where I’ll end it. I am drawn to what quilting used to be more than what it is now.

I will stick to the traditional patterns and come up with my own colors and ways of putting blocks together, using graph paper and colored pencils. I’ll sew with my reliable Singer Featherweight. I’ll come up with an idea and go find fabric rather than accumulating a huge stash. I’ll quilt by hand and finish, maybe, a couple more quilts in this lifetime. 

I’ll admire, stand in awe of, quilts by modern quilters . . . but to my own self be true.

But don’t try to take my rotary cutter away from me! You’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands . . . 


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  NanetteSassy , EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Beyond My Ability to Capture

They’ve come. 

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They’ve gone.

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And I still haven’t gotten a really good photo of them . . . 

Few things cause me more agita than seeing something spectacular and a little unusual and not being able to share it with you.

And for that reason, the snow geese that come through here on their migration have  been a source of great agita.

Every November, septo-quazillions of snow geese arrive. I think they choose this area because we have lots of water and protected bays as well as many, many corn fields that have recently been harvested. 

They are the absolute highlight of late autumn for me. I follow them around with a camera and, yet, I am never satisfied. I can’t capture the sheer numbers of them, I can’t capture the racket they make, I can’t capture the way their white wings, with the black tips, glitter against a blue sky, and the way a mass of them, rising from the lake, appear to be a storm of snowflakes, falling up.

The first time I ever saw them, I was taking a walk by the lake and could see a line of snow across the bay. But it was well above freezing and that couldn’t be snow . . .

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Plus it was moving.

My mother and I went to watch them a couple weeks ago. The geese were all placid and happy and chortling near shore. I said to my mom, “If I were a different kind of person, I’d throw a stone, just so we could see them all take off at once.”

A moment later, a small plane flew low overhead . . . and the geese all took off at once. And me, not quick enough to get a video that might’ve conveyed the majesty . . .

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A few days later, I drove home at twilight. We’d had snow that covered the ground and made it difficult for the geese to find leftover corn. But at that moment, three huge harvesters were at work in the fields . . . and uncountable geese were whirling and swirling and rising and falling around the harvesters.

A Thanksgiving all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry birds.

All along the rural road, cars pulled over to watch the scene. I sat and gawked and took a ton of photos and was so excited  . . . and the photos look like nothing special at all.

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Maybe some moments are not meant to be captured, to be frozen, to be stopped in time. 

Maybe the snow geese are simply to be experienced. 

Maybe you need to come next November and see them for yourself!

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Scrap Happy, Interrupted

It was to be the perfect scrap happy project. Scraps of leftover handwoven fabric, scraps of leftover commercial fabric, scraps of sweet-smelling filler what had been languishing a long time.

And, yet, it has not come to pass.

It seems that whenever I weave multiple kitchen towels, from lovely cotton and linen, I inevitably end up with a piece of pretty fabric that is too short to be a towel.

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I’ve tried passing them off as bread basket liners or small table mats but discerning folks seem to know that they are simply too-short towels.

What to do with pretty scraps? I mean, it’s woven by hand and I can’t just throw it away!

Well . . . how about combining them with scraps of white cotton fabric, leftover from some long-finished quilt project, and adding some balsam or lavender or even cedar shavings, all of which I have on hand (I know—that’s odd, isn’t it?) and making sweet sachets?

I love this idea. Easy to make, cute to behold, perfect for a little gift.

Off I went to make a prototype. I had fusible web already cut in 5-inch squares from another project. I stabilized and cut my handwoven fabric, I cut my backing, I sewed them together, I clipped the corners, and turned it all right side out.

I cut the top off a plastic soda bottle to make a little funnel.

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And I went to dig out my bags of balsam, lavender, and cedar shavings that had been languishing.

Languishing far too long, as it turns out.

They all, every one, have lost their scent. Nothing sweet, or spicy, or woodsy left at all.

And what is a sachet without a scent? Just a bag of organic matter . . .

The scentless stuff won’t go to complete waste—it will add depth to my compost pile, I’m sure.

I know where to get more balsam, and lavender, and cedar shavings. Scraps of fabric, both commercial and handwoven, seem to multiply while I sleep.

This scrap happy project has not come to pass. But it will.

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ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen and Connie

Autumn Respite

It seems the internet and airwaves are awash with bad/crazy/scary news. I care about it all and am paying attention and cannot wait until next Tuesday, when I will be pressing my nose up against the window at my local polling place, eager to vote.

And yet . . . one needs a break. One needs a reminder that our world isn’t only bad/crazy/scary. You, my blog friends, offer many and excellent reminders of that. And I want to contribute my own, from my lovely part of the world.

Autumn has been awesome this year. It’s always my favorite time of year, here in upstate New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, near Lake Champlain. But this year the color of the trees, in addition to being bright, has persisted longer than usual or so it seems to me. A few trees fade and more have taken their place.

I can’t give you the freshening breeze that makes the leaves dance and sparkle. I can’t give you the tang of woodsmoke or the crunch of dry leaves beneath your feet. I can’t give you the snap of an Autumn Crisp apple or the sound of the snow geese as they make their raucous way south.

But I can give you the sights of autumn. Many, many sights of autumn. You can click on them as you choose . . . I just know I feel better having been out there, in our pretty world.

 

 

An Autumn Pet Peeve

I love a field of autumn corn. The stalks all golden brown, lined up, and waiting to be harvested. It’ll be cut down, chopped, and used for silage to feed cattle during the long winter. (Silage goes in a silo and that’s what most farmers call it. I grew up on a farm very near the Quebec border and never heard the word silage until a few years ago. We used the word “ensilage” exclusively–the French influence, I guess.)

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I even love a field of mown corn. It looks restful, harvest finished, and its sere, muted shades make the surrounding foliage seem all the more radiant.

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But this? This make me peevish. Who does this?

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Who harvests an entire field and leaves one last corn stalk standing? So untidy . . .

(And can you see the blue jay photo bombing the picture?!)