Friday, July 31, 2015

Canadice Grapes and a Galette Recipe

On July 24, 2015, our grapes were ready.

Of course they didn't look like much last spring...
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April 2015

...however by summer they looked hopeful. I say hopeful, because the birds and snakes like the grapes too.
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June 2015

In fact a black snake got stuck in the netting my husband put around the grapes to keep critters out. Profuse thanks to my husband for releasing the snake.
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June 2015

By July my husband started harvesting the grapes, a bit too early. Even so, aren't these beautifully frosty looking for July grapes? They always look like this. Absolutely beautiful.
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He was so anxious that we get to eat them before the bugs got to them, that he picked them all. Actually the purple grapes are much sweeter than the green grapes. Sadly there were few purple grapes. The green grapes were a bit sour. Usually this stuff is like zingy champagne when eating them...in August. One month more on the vine does make all the difference. However one exciting thing is that this is the largest harvest ever! My husband gave the bag to our neighbor who first gave us the grape plants. When we first moved here my husband asked me what we should grow in the bare spot against the house. It is very sunny and hot there in the summer, so I told him to espalier some grapes there. While talking about what types of grapes to grow, our neighbor gave us extra grapes from his recent planting at the same spot at his house! So every year the guys compare notes. For some reason our neighbor's grapes didn't fare well this year. In the beginning their grapes produced before ours did, so they shared with us, a few clusters from the little bit of harvest they had. Each year the harvest gets larger. This was so prodigious I might have to find some canning recipes for next year!
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In summers past I never got to cook anything with the grapes because everyone eats them right up. They went so quickly because the harvest was smaller...and sweeter. Everyone liked these, despite the sourness, but they were a bit too sour for digging in so abundantly and I was afraid of having to toss them soon. So I found this recipe for a grape galette! For a video on a great crust, see this. And here is an interesting bit of history on galettes, from Rome to Europe. Many thanks to the Europeans for the addition of butter to the crust!
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The dough was super easy because I've had a box of puff pastry in the freezer from a history presentation meal a few years ago. I dug it out, let it thaw, then rolled it out. Then I added the sugared grapes to it, then I pinched up the sides. Galettes are free form so no need for perfection. yea! Pie crusts are a challenge for me. This is more fun anyway. 
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Ta da! Doesn't that look delicious? But it gets better...
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Yum!

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Just wait until next summer! I have new tips loaded with TLC for growing grapes that I'd like to try next summer. A few weeks ago I attended a lecture at The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. This day was fantabulous...from the tour of the gardens to the lecture with Michael McConkey of Edible Landscaping. My husband sent me on a mission for all of our gardening woes and I came home laden with answers! It was so exciting! Also fun because as soon as Michael started talking, he said he recognized me. Where have we met before? lol Who's to know but there was lots of teasing and that was fun, I must admit. I'd have gone to his persimmon event last weekend (I got to taste my first one at this lecture and it was a wow!) However I was already scheduled to  pull docent duties at a nearby museum for a quilt show that had historic quilts! Stay tuned with more on both the garden tour and the quilts! Meanwhile, hope you enjoy the recipe! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A July Visit to Colonial Williamsburg

Back in July, on the 26th to be precise, we took a journey to the 18th century of Colonial Williamsburg. We had made a few trips to the historic area this summer primarily at the prompting of a friend who was interning there during the summer. In all the previous visits my friend and I had lovely chats, but she kept urging me to return with my family so we could do lunch. Finally, this was the day!
Arriving on a hot, sultry day begs a leisurely walk to enjoy the scenery. I greatly enjoy the architecture and would love to recreate more of these looks in my own home. It's not often we enjoy this back portion of the historic area so I seized the moment. 

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This is quite possibly my favorite house because it is tucked away from the busy-ness of the town. It's secluded among the horses and the trees which allows the soul to quiet and calm from the craziness of the 21st century.
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I like all the variety of gate and fence styles.
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Crepe myrtles abloom...
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The tranquility of a rippling brook...
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After lunch with my friend we went to the Oval Project to see the official photography in action. We grabbed a few shots ourselves!
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Then we went to the armoury kitchen where the air smelled delicously of bread baking in the oven. We had a wonderful food chat while being tantalized by delicious smells we were not allowed to eat.
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Protected under this cloth is the butter...a prodigious  Paula Deen-ish amount of butter!18

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In the course of bread handling one roll attempted to escape to the ground but was gallantly rescued  by the cook so that he could enjoy the yumminess. Such a tease. lol
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Tortured by not being able to eat freshly baked bread, we moved on to the leather workers across the way...
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The circles are where buttons have been cut out for the leather breaches. Many buttons of the era were made of horn or bone.
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After we left we walked down the street to meet with General Washington. Along the way we saw Mann Page and James Madison! My son walked over to chat with them after Mr. Page cheefully hailed him.
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We have chatted with Mr. Page many a wonderful time, but this was the first time we've ever had a chance to chat with Mr.  Madison! That was great!
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Our visit with General Washington, as always, was warm, encouraging and fantastic! After listening to his terrific public talk we got to chat with him on many an interesting and fascinating topic. All of these interepreters, such wonderful people. They make Colonial Williamsburg relevant. They care about us as guests and research their history deeply so that they can converse with us in many situations. How I miss them. They are my number one reason for visiting Colonial Williamsburg!
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The day was coming to a close. As we walked to the Cheese Shop for dinner I took a few more photos of the quaint scenery as we passed by. 
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These are 4 o'clocks which open during dawn and dusk. I grew up with these and used to play for hours with the large seeds they produce. They are extremely easy to grow. I have a seed pack at home that I forgot to plant this season. next year.
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As dusk began to fall it was time to drive home. Looking forward to another visit to the historic area and the interpreters who are so willing to share their 18th century world with us!
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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rowing, Sewing, and Winning!

A few weeks ago I posted all the details about this year's rowing adventure. Then I got busy to the task of quilting which put me a bit behind on the blogging. However now that my Rowing adventure has come full circle, I've a bit of time to share about all the fun! This year's row theme is "water."   (The official details can be read here at the Row by Row Experience webpage.) 

This year my daughter joined me in the rowing which gave us a lovely bit of girly time. The beginning of the Rowing entails collecting free quilt patterns from various shops in America and Canada. We plotted our route and began our Rowing through lovely Virginia where the tall green trees, rolling hills and mountains abound! For us, we don't get to go on vacation this year, but this made a great staycation activity since there are so many quilt shops in our area.

Our first stop was in Great Falls, Virginia to the Jinny Beyer Studio.

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Now I have to tell you that I have been a fan of Jinny  Beyer for years, ever since I first saw her on Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson in the early 2000's. (Is that how we type that? lol) She was always one of my favorite guests. At the time she was living in Australia and she showcased stunning brilliantly colored vibrant quilts that were all hand sewn. Even though I do a lot of hand sewing today, I did very little of it back then and I was perplexed, however I get it now! =) She explained at that time that since she flew a lot around the world, she did all of her quilting by hand so it could be portable on the plane, in the airport, at the hotel. (I'm sure a Dr. Suess book could be written about this!) Well, shortly after those shows aired my world became quite busy with homeschooling teenagers, then we moved from Texas to Northern Virginia where I was even busier. When I first started plotting my Row quilt shop travels, and I saw the Jinny Beyer Studio, only 30 minutes from my house, I assumed it was simply a brand name for the lovely quilter from Australia. I knew she had her own line of fabric, of which I had a few in the fabric stash, so I assumed she had her own line of quilt shops too. I did a bit of investigating and pleasantly discovered I was wrong! Jinny now lives in Great Falls and this is her own store! I had no idea she is now my neighbor! How cool is that? I now follow her shop on facebook and had fun seeing her garden. I had no idea she enjoys gardening, like I do. I love her garden. It looks like a quilt and is actually representative of the 18th century gardens of which I'm so fond and often blog about!

Visiting the shop was fun! It is cute and of course filled with brilliant color. Without a doubt I had to buy the row kit with Jinny's personal selection of vibrantly hued fabrics to recreate the nearby Great Falls! My family and I did some hiking there a few years ago and you can see the vibrant color of the falls yourself at my blog post here!

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After purchasing the kit my daughter and I explored the gorgeous shopping area at Great Falls Village Center which reminded us of some of our favorite spots back in Texas. We found great food at The Old Brogue Irish Pub that had outdoor seating of two lovely choices. There is a water feature and tables with fire pits in the front. We chose the quiet solitude of the deck in back looking over the gardens. Of course there is indoor dining too. We enjoyed a crabcake sandwich that was delicious! Included was a coleslaw with mandarin orange in it. So tasty! I'm a picky eater and this Texas gal doesn't rave about many restaurants in Virginia, but this is worth a visit.

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Now to fast forward, here is a peak at my work on Jinny Beyer Studio's row...

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Now back to the collecting of  Rowing patterns, our next stop was Haymarket, Virginia to Oh Sew Persnickety! This row was designed by Polly from Aunt Polly's Porch. I started reading her blog after meeting her at the Haymarket Quilt Guild. She had done a trunk show of her quilts and they were fabulous!

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This quilt shop is cute and bright and airy...all of which I enjoy. It is surrounded by streets named after Lafayette, Washington, and Jefferson, so of course I loved that!

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This was actually the first row that we began. My daughter wanted to learn to quilt and this looked the easiest from our collection. We used our own fabrics from the stash and laid everything out to applique in one night! Mine are the yellow and my daughter's is the pink and purple.

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Our next rowing stop was Kelly Ann's Quilting in Warrenton, Virginia. Not far from her shop is the infamous Lafayette Stepping Stone, which we visited a more than once!

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This is such a cute shop in the historic area and this was their warm quilty Row by Row greeting on their porch!


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This was my first time to ever work with half square triangles...

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That ended our first day of Rowing pattern collecting. The next morning my daughter and I left for a lovely day of driving in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Our first stop was to the Scrappy Apple in Winchester, Virginia! This charming shop was full of fabrics that I could barely resist. I'm a fan of florals, swirls and batiks, like my daughter. We bought a few watery batiks to aid us in our rowing. My compliments to the shop worker who gave us a heads up about a traffic blockage down the road which included a SWAT team. Although she suggested a detour we drove straight through and all was well. Funny in that I had e-mailed my husband about our drive out west that day. When I left the shop I read his e-mail that said, "Have fun and be safe." lol We were!

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I liked her cleverness in designing this one which features Old Rag Mountain which is a popular yet difficult hiking venue. I've yet to attempt that one!

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We continued up the road towards West Virginia! We came so teasingly close to the border, only a couple of miles, that the mountains beckoned us to come. Driving up in elevation and driving on the curvy mountain roads reminded me of my trips to Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania when I was a little girl. Alas, not today. I told my daughter perhaps we can do some West Virginia rowing on another day. Meanwhile we finally came to a combination antique and quilt shop on the side of the road, Liberty View Quilt Shop at Cross Junction.

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The surrounding view was so lovely that my daughter and I ate our lunch in the car looking at the mountains and corn fields. That's my type of view!

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Next we set the gps towards Staunton, which is a long drive. However I loved their row pattern and have always wanted to visit their town so this was the day. I took a break at the Apple Tree farmer's market which was huge! Finally we arrived at Rachel's Quilt Patch in Staunton, Virginia!

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Wow! Rachel's Quilt Patch is located in the historic area, specifically in an old railroad station. Aren't the guys of our family going to be jealous. They love trains! This quilt shop really got into the Rowing theme as the canoe has a Row by Row sign inside it to greet us!

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And inside there was a kitty to greet my daughter!

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The interior walls are old brick from the train station. I love history and kitties. What a great combination!

This row used partial seaming, which I've seen on Simply Quilts and I've read about. This was the first I've used partial seams to complete a block.

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The scenery that day kept getting better and better. We drove home from Staunton in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains on back roads which are always the best! We enjoyed dinner on the deck when we got home and told the guys about everything they missed from mountains to trains to kitties! It was such a beautiful day that I felt like I had come home from vacation!

Our final day of rowing was in the local area since we had appointments in the next few days. We had to run by Suzzie's Quilt Shop in Manassas, Virginia for this adorable seahorse pattern which ended up keeping me busy for a week! lol It was worth it though.

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I planned my strategy by going through all my scraps to find great water fabric, then great seahorse fabric to compliment them. I shared my quilting journey on facebook, a few teasers on my public page (linked on the right) and these photos on my personal page. The seahorses drew lots of likes. I have one friend from college who kept commenting on each one, "This is my favorite." lol It was a lot of fun to visually share with my friends and kept my momentum going with my crazy driving schedule to get my kids in opposite directions to college and work each day.

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At this point I let my friends vote on which seahorse I sewed next. Purple won!

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Our next stop was Aurora Quilts in the historic area of Manassas, Virginia. I thought her saying on the fabric license plate was quite clever!

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Every few days I shared progress photos with my friends...

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You can see I've added a red cardinal to my umbrella row. I embroidered a black french knot for his eye.

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To the watering can row I've added flowers that were left loose and three dimensional by stitching them down only in the center with cute little buttons for pollen.

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Finally it was quilt sandwich time! I did purchase a license plate from Jinny Beyer Studio, but they were on back order so after payment, I self-addressed an envelope. They will mail one to me as soon as they arrive! I think it will say, "Row and Sew."

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Alas, this is the final photo I took of my quilt. Since the sewing machine tends to be the bane of my existence, I tend to hand sew as  much as possible as evidenced by my Hawaiian quilt. I hand quilted it as I hand appliqued everything. I used homespun looking long runnning stitches for a folk artsy feel. I stitched in the ditch and around most of the motifs. I also added beads to some of the rows, as described in the directions. I added blue beads to look like water streaming from the watering cans. I added blue beads to act as rain drops to the umbrella row. I added three dimensional green fabric ruched seaweed to the seahorse row. I also added pearl bubbles coming from the seahorses' mouths. I also meant to add teal seashells to the beach scene (my idea because I have these gorgeous seashells in storage and all the bead work inspired me) but I completely forgot. However I did include my quilt label. So why don't I have more pictures of my quilt???? Well....

This morning my husband drove me to a  lovely quilt shop for me to submit my quilt and...I won! Since this post is so long, and that story of winning was so full of fun and loaded with its own set of pictures, that will be tomorrow's post. If you would like a sneak peak at the win, click on my facebook button in the right column!