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Graves Into Gardens

At first glance, Good Friday seems like a strange name to refer to a day that designates pain and death. If Jesus suffered and died on this day, why is it called Good Friday?

The sins of the whole world were poured out on Christ when he hung on the cross. If you had spoken with his friends and family on the day he died, they would not have said it was a good day. All hope seemed lost, evil and death seemed to have triumphed. So, when only looking at a single day, it really was a horrible Friday.

However, on that Friday, Jesus willingly suffered and died as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Three days later, the forces of evil were defeated and death was destroyed. From that day, we all have a way to be free of sin and death. So, when viewed in the context of events that happen just three days later, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, it was indeed a Good Friday!

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Extraordinary Bread – Fougasse

Fougasse is a type flatbread baked in Provence and likely to have additions like olives, cheese, or garlic. Traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven, Fougasse was made daily. The time it would take to bake gives an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread can be loaded (hence the French phrase ‘il ne faut pas brûler la fougasse’: ‘do not burn the fougasse’).

One of the shows I like to watch is The Great British Baking Show. I enjoy the creativity of the bakers and the variety of baked goods that the show highlights. So, when the Extraordinary Breads collection included Fougassa, one of the technical challenges from season 1 of the show, I knew I had to try this recipe.

The King Arthur Baking Company Recipe calls for chopped onions and olives in the dough. Since, I absolutely hate olives, I decided to add some seeds instead (sunflower, poppy and sesame). I also made two flatbreads instead of one really large one.

One of the flatbreads was cut with the traditional slits. For the other flatbread, I cut it to look like a palm leaf. While this idea worked well, when I make this for Palm Sunday, I will cut the tips so that they are pointed rather than blunted.

After baking the flatbread tasted great, especially when pieces were dipped into garlic-herb infused olive oil.

I have now baked each of the twelve Extraordinary Breads. I think I need to try some low carb baking for a while.

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Extraordinary Bread – Potika

I am nearing the end of my recent attempt to try all of the recipes in the King Arthur Baking Company, Extraordinary Breads collection. Today’s recipe is another nut filled recipe, Potika. I am very thankful I purchased a large bag of ground walnuts when I was at Fleet Farm a few weeks ago. I was saved the hassle of having to grind the nuts myself!

Each loaf had over 2 cups of ground walnuts in the filling!
I am thankful that my youngest son likes nut bread. He actually ate most of the loaf.
This loaf of bread was really pretty when cut into and it tasted great!

I may try making this again using ground pecans.

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Extraordinary Bread – Cinnamon Star Bread

The King Arthur Baking Company recipe for Cinnamon Star Bread is one I have made several times. It’s actually a rather easy recipe to make and tastes great.

So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and to try something different, I decided to make a savory version of this recipe and try to make shamrocks instead of a star. The changes that I made are not really Irish, but rather Greek in flavor. The color, however, is most definitely an Irish green.

One drop of green food dye gel was added to the dough when mixing.
For the filling, I put 4 ounces of cooked spinach leaves and 1/2 cup feta cheese in my mini food processor and pulsed until a creamy paste resulted.
The dough was flattened into discs. Instead of making one large loaf, I opted to make two smaller loaves.
The filling was spread over six of the discs.
Three discs with filling were stacked one on top of the other with a filling free disk placed on top. Then slits were made through all layer
Two adjacent sections were twisted together to create the three leaves of the shamrock.
After a 45 minute rise time, the dough was sprinkled with sea salt and baked.

These were very tasty and a very green for St. Patrick’s Day. But, I think next time, I’m not sure I like the green colored bread. Next time I make this I will leave the food dye out of the dough.

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Let The Adventure Begin!

Today was my last day of work. I am now officially retired!

When thinking about today, one of the things I had planned to do was to have my own playlist of songs to listen to at work. I figured that it was my last day – so, if there were complaints about my music choices, it really wouldn’t matter since I would not be returning to work at the office again. Well, unfortunately, I forgot that my new phone does not have an audio port. And, our office audio system did not have a lightning plug. So, unfortunately, I was unable to play my selected songs.

On my way home, I did start listening to the songs on my list. One of those songs was “Dear Younger Me” by Mercy Me.

When hearing this song today, it prompted me to think about what advice I wish I had been given when I were younger. These thoughts fell into several categories, one being professional advice I would have appreciated hearing when I was younger. After thinking about it a while, I decided to write my thoughts down and post them on a forum for other Pediatric Dentists. Here is what I wrote:

After five years of planning for my retirement, and then a five month delay due to Covid, my last day of work is finally over. Leaving work today, I felt the joy I would have when heading into a week of vacation. It probably won’t really sink in for another week or two that this is more than a vacation. To my long term friends and colleagues in academia and in private practice, thanks for the many good times and I hope there are many more to come. To my colleagues in the middle of their careers, don’t let crabby over demanding parents get you down. Don’t fret over treatment outcomes that are dependent upon things out of our control. Don’t let hypocritical colleagues and/or partners make you feel any less of yourself. For my colleagues who are at the start of your careers, don’t let your finances dictate your happiness. The adage “money doesn’t buy happiness” is very true. Treasure the small victories in your day and leave your frustration behind. Do yourself a favor, find a hobby or two (or more) to give yourself a mental break and creative diversion from work. To all of you, make each day great, look for the good in every experience and in everyone you meet. And, most importantly, thank God for the many blessings he has given you.

I was extremely surprised to see the response my words had. Many younger colleagues commented that they appreciated my words of encouragement and advise. I’m glad someone will benefit from my thoughts!

I now look ahead to what the future will bring. This is truly the first time in my life that I do not have things planned out. Yes, I have lots of things to keep me busy. Yes, I will still keep doing my various hobbies. But, it’s kind of strange to look at my calendar not have my career dictating my schedule. I appreciate everyone who has made an impact on my life and my career. And, I do look forward to figuring out this next phase of my life.

Pam’s Retirement Playlist
Ain’t Got Far To Go – Jordan Smith
At Last – Etta James
Dear Younger Me – MercyMe
Deep Enough To Dream – Chris Rice
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Done – The Band Perry
Even If – MercyMe
God of Wonders – Third Day
Goodbye Ordinary – MercyMe
I Dreamed A Dream – Susan Boyle
I Won’t Give Up – Trisha Yearwood
If I Knew Then – Lady A
If Tomorrow Never Comes – Kent Blazy and Garth Brooks
My Way – Frank Sinatra
Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
New Lease on Life – MercyMe
Oceans(Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United
Postcards from Far Away – Coldplay
Teach Your Children Well – Jeff Healey
The Very Next Thing – Casting Crowns
Unchained Melody – Susan Boyle
When We Were Young – Adele

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Extraordinary Breads – Stuffed Bagel Buns

Several years ago, I made a recipe called “Bagel Bombs“. They turned out great and tasted amazing. But, unfortunately, life got busy and I had too many other recipes to try. So, I never made them again.

When the list of Extraordinary Breads from King Arthur Baking was recently release, I saw that a similar recipe was included in their collection and decided it was time to make these tasty treats again.

For my filling, I did not have any cheese powder and really did not want to have to purchase any new baking supplies. I also did not have a malt powder. But, luckily my sister-in-law did have some malt powder. For my flavors, I used what I already had available in my refrigerator. I had a small amount of garden vegetable cream cheese – enough for four bagel buns. I also had some honey butter cream cheese – I decided to make four of these as well. For the remaining buns, I used the 2 ounces of plain cream cheese that I had and mixed it with 1/2 T of lemon paste and 2 T of crushed freeze dried raspberries. This made enough for six buns. Each of these cream cheese flavors were shaped into balls and frozen.

The dough was kneaded and allowed to rise while we were at church this morning. After returning from church, it was time to make the bagel buns. The dough was divided into small portions.

Each ball was then flattened and molded around one of the frozen cheese balls.

The stuffed dough was then boiled quickly in malt-water, similar to how bagels are made. The garden vegetable buns were sprinkled with coarse sea salt prior to baking in the oven. The honey butter and raspberry buns were sprinkled with pearl sugar.

These each taste great, but my favorite (by far!!!) is the raspberry filled buns.

Besides learning a bit more about baking breads, I think the other very useful thing I have learned from my recent baking endeavors it that freeze dried fruits add a tremendous amount of flavor to baked goods. The next time I get groceries, I will probably be adding a few more fruits to my purchases.

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Extraordinary Bread – Dios Beigli (Hungarian Walnut Roll)

Beigli is often referred to in English as “walnut roll” or “poppy seed roll” and it is considered to be a typical Hungarian pastry at Christmas. Its traces can be found in folk traditions as well, where both fillings had their different symbolic meaning: walnut provided protection against hexes, while poppy seeds — which were imported from Eurasia through the Ottomans — meant prosperity. The most popular theory is that beigli is based on a type of a cake from Silesia, while other sources claim that it originates from Armenia. It reached Hungary in the second half of the 19th century. It was first made only by families for celebrations. (Read more at Daily News Hungary)

The recipe I used is one included in the King Arthur Baking Company Extraordinary Breads collection (see recipe here). This is basically a roll of enriched bread dough filled with a lot of walnuts.

The dough is then rolled tight and the edges sealed. The dough is brushed with beaten egg yolk prior to allowing to rest for 40 minutes. This allows the egg glaze to adsorb slightly. After the rest, the surface is brushed with beaten egg whites and chilled for 30 minutes prior to baking. The two egg glazes help to create the beigli’s final crackled appearance.

When preparing the filling, I left out the raisins (due to my allergies). I did a taste test and found the filling tastes very much like Baklava. This should not be too surprising since the recipes originate from the same geographical region of the world.

While I did like this bread, I would have preferred less nuts in each slice or a creamier nut mixture.

Perhaps the next time I will combine a couple recipes. I thought the dough from the lemon braid was amazing. For the filling, honey mixed with the cheese filling and then topped with a walnut paste instead of the fruit filling. This might give an even better Baklava flavored bread. Something to try when I am finished making each of the Extraordinary Breads.

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Extraordinary Bread – Garden Focaccia

For dinner last evening, I made spaghetti with roasted vegetables. The King Arthur Baking Company Focaccia recipe was a nice complement to the meal.

Before baking, I read the blog post by Kay Ameden on the King Arthur Baking Company website and looked at the numerous creative entries into the Extraordinary Bread contest. I wanted to come up with some creative approach to the embellishments of my Focaccia. Since the theme of flowers was well represented in the many photos, I thought about what other items were in my garden that I could use as inspiration.

Having made several fused glass pieces of garden art (mushrooms, turtles, ants, and others), I considered replicating one of these in the focaccia design. While looking through photos of these previous projects for inspiration, I was reminded of the glass stepping stones that I had made. Several years ago, when our front yard needed a major update, I created a path with custom stepping stones. One of these was involved a playful and colorful set of swirls around a center daisy.

This idea did, however have one problems. While I was able to think about what vegetables and seeds to use for most of the colors in the swirls, I was unsure what to use for the blue swirl. Blueberries would have provided the color I wanted, but berries in a savory focaccia didn’t seem to be the best combination.

A perusal of the vegetables, herbs and seeds at the local grocery store was also not successful. So, I decided to do a little experimenting to see if I could use food dye to change the color of another vegetable. Since blue is a primary color, I knew I would need to use something that was white or light cream in color. I first tried sesame seeds. The seeds, however, were not porous enough for the color to penetrate. This limitation would make other seeds likely not be be successful. After scanning through of my baking/cooking supplies, I decided to try to dye dried onion flakes. If successful, the onion would blend nicely with the other herbs and vegetables I was planning to use. I used one drop of gel dye mixed with 1 teaspoon of water and 2 tablespoons of onion flakes. The onion picked up the color of food dye very well. After letting these dry on some parchment paper for two hours, they were ready to be used.

Each of the vegetables I was planning to used were chopped finely.

White Onion
Yellow Pepper
Orange Carrot
Red Pepper
Asparagus
Blue Dyes Onion Flakes
Purple Onion

For the black daisy in the middle of the design, I cut a template out of parchment paper. The surface of the focaccia was lightly coated with olive oil and the template was pressed onto the oil. Poppy seeds were then sprinkled onto the template. After making sure there were no loose seeds, the template was removed and discarded.

The chopped vegetables were then added and a cherry tomato was used for the center of the daisy.

After baking, the focaccia resembled my stepping stone and was very tasty!

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Extraordinary Bread – Braided Lemon Bread

This bread tastes amazing!!

I woke up early today to make this bread before leaving for work. When I thought about making this bread, I had read that the recipe made two very large loaves. To avoid having too much bread, I had originally planned to make a half recipe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking clearly at 6am this morning and completely forgot that I was going to cut the recipe in half until I got to adding the flour into the mix. So, I just went ahead and made the full recipe.

With so much dough, and not wanting really large loaves, I split the dough into three portions instead of two. My homemade curd and jams came in handy this morning.

Loaf #1 – 1/2 cup lemon curd

Loaf #2 – 1/2 cup Triple Berry Jam with freeze dried raspberries

Loaf #3: 1/2 cup orange marmalade

I brought the lemon loaf to work today and it disappeared in about three hours. This is a recipe that I will definitely make again!

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Extraordinary Bread: Nan-e Barbari (and Creamy Vegetable Soup)

In Persian, Nan-e Barbari translates to “bread of the Barbars,” a group of people, now referred to as Hazaras, who traditionally lived near Iran’s eastern borders. One of the unique features of this flatbread is that its surface is spread with roomal, a flour and water paste, before baking, which puts a layer of moisture directly on the bread. Over the years, steam ovens have replaced the use of the ancient bread-baking technique. This recipe lets you create a bread with a crisp crust without the need to make steam in the oven.

The recipe can be found at King Arthur Baking Company.

For dinner tonight, this flatbread was paired with homemade Creamy Vegetable Soup. While many vegetable soups include cubed potatoes, when I make soup I opt to leave the cubes out and to use a different form of potatoes. For thickening my soup, I added potato flakes instead of heavy cream. This decreases the fat in the soup while still including the taste of potatoes to the mix.

Creamy Vegetable Soup (serves 4)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 Tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen green beans
2 carrots, sliced (today I used some shredded carrots left over from making a carrot cake)
1/4 cup potato flakes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon of each of these spices: dill seed, oregano, parsley, thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
Over medium heat, cook the celery, onion and garlic in olive oil until softened but not browned. Add water and bouillon and bring to a slow simmer. Add the vegetables, potato flakes, milk and spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Extraordinary Bread – Scaccia


Scaccia is a stuffed flat bread in Sicilian cuisine. “Scacciata” derives from the Sicilian word meaning to drive away, equivalent to the Italian word “schiacciata” meaning to crush or to flatten.

This bread is made with a very thin rectangular layer of dough, folded on itself three or four times. It can be stuffed with different ingredients, the more common variations are ricotta cheese and onion, cheese and tomato, tomato and onion, or tomato and eggplant, depending on location, taste, or season. It is baked and can be eaten hot or cold.

A great option for a lunch, I made this King Arthur Baking Company recipe today. As I have a habit of doing, I did change the recipe a bit. Scaccia is also referred to as Lasagna Bread. So, I decided to add one of my favorite lasagna ingredients to it – Italian Sausage.

The dough was mixed, kneaded and allowed to rise in my bread machine. After a two hour rise, the dough was rolled and stretched prior to adding the filling
To the filling recipe, I added 1/2 pound of browned Hot Pork Sausage.
Unable to find the cacciocavallo cheese, I used shredded Romano cheese.
Half of the meat sauce was spread over the center of the dough and covered with half of the cheese. The dough was folded, meat and cheese added, folded and more meat and cheese added, and then folded one last time.
The bread roll was then placed in a baking pan.
It may not be pretty, but it sure was tasty.
After removing from the oven, I sprinkled shredded parmesan cheese on the top.

This loaf was extremely tasty. The next time I make this recipe, I think that I will try to make individual sized portions that I can warm for lunches.

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ExtraordinaryBread – Cinnamon Conchas

Conchas, which means “shells” in Spanish, have a the twisted streusel top that is supposed to look like a seashell. They are Mexico’s national sweet bread. The history of the concha dates back to the colonial era, when French, Spanish, and Italian bakers established themselves in Mexico, bringing their recipes, like brioche and baguettes, with them. Traditionally a type of pan dulce, they usually come in either chocolate or vanilla flavor. The King Arthur Baking Company recipe uses cinnamon for the topping.

The ingredients for these rolls are fairly standard. Thus, I did not take a photo. The recipe is also fairly easy. When first shaping the rolls, they seemed really large. So, instead of making ten rolls, I made eight of two different kinds, cinnamon and chocolate, for sixteen total.

While an easy recipe, I did forget to place the egg wash over the rolls before adding the topping. By the time I realized this, the rolls had already started to rise and I did not want to mess with them. I was pleasantly surprised after the rise to find that the streusel topping had created a cracked appearance, removing the need to cut lines into the topping.

The cracked surfaces baked fine as well. Even though I made them smaller than the recipe called for, they were still plenty big. I think the next time I make these I will make them even smaller.

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#ExtraordinaryBread – Butterflake Herb Loaf

Another recipe done and another tasty loaf (actually two loaves) of bread. For the complete recipe, see the King Arthur Baking Company recipe. This is a recipe I have made before. This time, I made a few adjustments.

Instead of regular milk, I used 1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk, mixed with 1 cup warm water.
For the flour, I used 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup unbleached bread flour and the rest (by weight) was all purpose flour.
The recipe calls for splitting the dough into two balls, rolling out the dough and cutting out ten circles for each loaf of bread. Instead of rolling out the dough, I manipulated the dough into discs with my hands. I also like numbers that are easily divided in half, so I did 16 circles for each loaf of bread.
The recipe lists numerous herbs for the filling. Herbes De Provence has nearly the same herbs and I had a jar in my cupboard that I need to use up.
I spread the herb-butter mix over the disc, folded in half and spread on one of the outer sides to help the bread pull apart easier.
Two pans ready to rise.
Ready for baking.

As expected, since I had made this recipe before, these loaves tasted great!

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#Extraordinary Bread – Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)

Several years ago, I watched the movie “Julie and Julia” with some of my friends. The movie involves two story lines. One details Julia Child’s start in the cooking profession. The other follows a blogger named Julie as she challenges herself to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s first book, 524 recipes, in one year. I enjoyed the movie and always thought cooking through a cookbook would be a fun thing to do.

When King Arthur Baking Company announced last week that they were having a contest (randomly drawn winner) for bakers to make any of the twelve recipes in the Extraordinary Bread collection, I thought I would give it a try. I plan to try out each recipe and post some tips and suggestions with each.

While I am definitely not the writer that Julie Powell was, nor are my cooking/baking skills any where near a professional like Julia Child, I do enjoy trying new things.

Today, I made Khachapuri. The bread is shaped into flat “boat-like” ovals and filled with a mix of cheeses and topped with an egg. Based upon the ingredients, I assumed the bread would taste somewhat like a flattened bagel. With that in mind, I made some modifications to half of the “boats”.

For the recipe, visit the King Arthur Baking website.

Measured out each of the dough ingredients. My flour tends to be rather compact in my storage container.
So, for greater accuracy and a better bake, I would strongly suggest weighing the flour rather than going by the cup measurements.
Dough mixed and kneaded in bread machine.
Cheese filling combined in mini food processor.

The recipe makes four bread boats. I knew that my family would likely not eat all four of these. So, I only made a half batch of the cheese filling to be used with two of the boats. For the other two boats, I combined 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese with 1/4 cup Cinnamon Sweet Bits (found here).

The recipe says to roll out the dough into ovals.
I found it worked well to just push the dough into ovals with my hands – less mess, no need to wash the rolling pin.
Two ovals were filled with cheese filling and the edges turned up.
Two ovals were filled with the ricotta-cinnamon mix and the edges rolled up.
Before baking, I brushed the edges with egg wash. I sprinkled Swedish Pearl Sugar on the edges of the cinnamon boats.
An egg was cracked over the cheese filling prior to the last ten minutes of baking.
The Ricotta-Cinnamon filled bread tasted like a cinnamon bagel with cream cheese.

Each type of Khachapuri tasted really good, but I especially liked the Ricotta-Cinnamon combination.

The loaves are rather big – each loaf is enough for two or three people to eat. I think next time I make these, I will make twelve small loaves rather than the four large loaves.

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A 3D Christmas

Now that all of the Christmas gifts that I mailed have finally arrived and been opened, I though I would share some of the fun things I made this year. Wanting to put my 3D printer to use, I looked on-line for gift ideas I could print. I found several useful ideas. My go-to source for printing ideas is Thingiverse. They have an incredible number or free printing files.

Among Us Ornament. During our Thanksgiving family video conversation, my adult sons wanted the entire family to play an on-line game called Among Us. While I didn’t really understand the game (perhaps because I became a ghost about 15 seconds into the game), the boys seem to enjoy the game. For a creative gift, I found a pattern for making the characters from this game. Thinking that they would make nice tree ornaments, I created a remix of the pattern that had a ring on the helmet to attach some ribbon for hanging.

After printing these, I found out that there are several fun “hats” that the characters can wears. So, I decided to remix some more patterns to make some hats to fit over the ring for each. These were really fun to make.

Can Holders. I would have put individual names on each of these, but the customizer in Thingiverse was not functioning at the time that I made them. There was an existing customized file for the Green Bay Packers. So, I made several of these for family members who are Packer fans. The rest were printed without a label on the handles. These are useful for several reasons (1) keeps a cold can away from your hands, and (2) helps identify which can is yours. I made 18 of these in various colors.

Battery Boxes. In these boxes, the batteries load from the top and the ramps inside feed the batteries to the opening at the bottom of each box. I made 14 sets of these in various color combinations.

Christmas Tree. These trees store flat and add a nice decoration for a small space.

I already have some fun ideas for next Christmas.

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Hidden Hugs

Image result for inspirational quote of hugs

I read somewhere that hugs may be necessary for survival. While that may not be the case, hugs are definitely important for mental health. Unfortunately, in our social distanced pandemic lifestyles, we have become a fairly touch-deprived society. Hugs are avoided for everyone’s health and safety.

I have many young patients, who, when they arrive at my dental office, are eager to give me a hug. Unfortunately, their parents will now stop them and reprimand them for doing so. I miss that part of my job. It was always a lift to my day, especially when the patient was one who had previous difficulty with going to the dentist.

See the source image

So, in this pandemic era, I need to look for other ways to “hug” through words of praise, words of thanks, and words of encouragement.

Tomorrow is National Hug Day. To celebrate the day, I decided to make some treats – Brownies filled with Hershey’s Hugs. To make these, I used my favorite brownie recipe, but any recipe or even a box mix would work. Before baking, place a hug into the batter, bake as normal. After they have cooled, you will have a hidden treat – a Hidden Hug.

So, even though real hugs may not be possible, look for the hidden hugs in your life.

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Love Intentionally & Unconditionally

There is a lot of discord in life and some days it can be overwhelming. Lately that has been the feeling I have had. I don’t think that I have radical or controversial opinions, so when I started writing a blog, I never dreamed that people would send negative, sometimes hateful emails. But, I have received numerous anonymous emails from people condemning me for what I write or how I write.

Too often, people say things behind the guise of anonymity that they would never say in person. So, my suggestion to anyone reading my blog. If you don’t like what I write, just move on to something else. If you are following my blog and don’t like what I write, just unfollow me. And, if you are reading this on Facebook and you don’t like what I write, just unfriend.

This unfortunate state of communication is all too common these days. Too often, people think that if someone doesn’t agree with their thinking, then the other person is wrong and they need to be “put in their place”. There seems to be no room for differences of opinion. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, and it seems like now more than ever we need a reminder of that.

The way we interact with others can reflect God’s love and bring glory to him. God accepts us, despite our imperfections, our impure actions and motives. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:17). God accepts us, despite our messy lives, impure motives, and irritating attitudes.

My thoughts and beliefs may not be the same as yours. Ultimately, which of us is right or wrong is not something to argue and debate about. This is something between each person and God. This means we accept others’ quirks and look past their faults in order to see individuals created in the image of God.

We need to learn how to accept one another unconditionally, just as Christ accepts us unconditionally. The Bible says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7 NIV).

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Flowers, Friendship and Eternity

Miltoniopsis Lennart Karl Gottling 'Hula Skirt'

Fifteen months ago, after attending a professional meeting in San Francisco, my eldest son (who lived in SF at the time) and I visited the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. One of the plants I saw there was a very unique and absolutely gorgeous orchid, Miltoniopsis Lennart Karl Gottling also called ‘Hula Skirt’ Orchid.

After seeing it, I search the internet for a source to purchase one, but was unsuccessful. This particular orchid was “out of stock” everywhere. One of the growers did have the ability to indicate if you would like to be notified when the orchid was in stock again. At the time, I filled out the request. But, since then, I had accepted the fact that I would be unable to obtain a plant for myself and thus totally forgot about my search.

Well, on Monday, I received an email from Orchid Web notifying me that the orchid was in stock. Needless to say, I was surprised by the notification and immediately went to their site to order one. When placing the order, I discovered that the store is located in Plymouth, Minnesota, just a few miles from a friend’s dental office. This was fortunate because I could pick the plant up in person, avoid paying shipping, and avoid potential damage to the plant during transit.

See the source image

Since I would be driving to Plymouth, I sent my friend a message to see if she would like to get together and whether I could bring her lunch when I came. She responded with an even better offer. For a holiday celebration, she was treating her staff to a catered meal from “Gardens of Salonica”, a Greek restaurant and invited me to join them at her office. This was an offer I could not pass up.

I had a nice lunch comprised of good conversation with an amazing friend and some truly great Greek food!!

Being a member of my professional study club, I had also made her a table/wall quilt over the summer, which she received a few weeks ago.

While she is several years younger than me and will likely not retire for a while, she does have her “pre-retirement” quilt. This quilt was made utilizing the Greek Key quilt pattern. I picked this pattern for several reasons. The obvious one is that she is Greek. But, more importantly, the Greek Key is a symbol for infinity or eternity. This is very fitting because she is a constant friend who is always there for me.

My photo of the front of the quilt is a bit out of focus. But, the photo of the back does highlight the quilting that was done. In particular, quilting clearly shows the continuity of the Greek Keys in the piecing and in the quilting.

These eternal rings symbolic of the eternal love and support we have as friends. And, also a symbol of the love we celebrate this time of year at the birth of our Lord.

See the source image
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English Paper Piecing – best enjoyed when making small projects.

We have five members in my professional study club, and I have previously written about two of the quilts I made for these friends. Continuing with quilts for my other study club friends (who actually don’t retire for a few more years), I needed to come up with two additional designs.

The parents of one of the other friends is originally from England. So, I decided that her wall quilt would be a good opportunity to try English Paper Piecing.

EPP involves placing a paper template onto the wrong side of the fabric, folding the fabric over the paper template, tacking the fabric to the template with water soluble glue and then hand stitching the various shapes together. It’s almost like a fabric form of Tetris!

The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece by [Katja Marek]

Five years ago, while attending the Minnesota Quilt Show, I purchased a book “The New Hexagon – 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece” by Katja Marek. The beautiful blocks really caught my eye and since it was 52 blocks, I originally thought I would just try to make one each week for a year. Well, unfortunately, other projects always came up and the book sat on my shelf unopened.

Then, last year, while browsing various quilting sites on-line, I saw a posting by the same author about a Millefiore Quilt Along. This quilt along was completed a few years earlier, and the pictures were stunning.

Because the technique involves hand stitching the pieces together, I thought that a wall quilt would be a good place to start to learn the technique. This project would not be too large and intimidating, and would be easily carried in a bag to work on when I was not at home.

Since this particular friend has beautiful flower gardens at her home, I started out by doing some simple flowers. Many of my quilting friends will already know that hexagon flowers are commonly made using paper piecing.

Unbeknownst to my friend, I was stitching the flower pieces together when we were working in the same office on several occasions. I’m not sure she realized after receiving the quilt that I had been sewing the pieces together right in front of her!!

Once I had a few hexagon flowers sewn, I needed to figure out the rest of the quilt design. To personalize the quilt for my friend, I played around with creating my own paper piecing designs. She is an avid biker, so with the help of her husband, I found a photo of the type of bike she rides. Using Electric Quilts, I created the paper piecing design to make a bike for the center of the quilt.

With the bike designed, I next needed to figure out what to do for the background of the quilt. After playing around with a couple ideas, I decided to make it look like the bike was on a trail. The flowers would then be stitched into groupings on either side of the bike.

Hand sewing the pieces of the bike together was time consuming. And, the background was going to be larger pieces with straight seams. Thus, I settled for machine sewing the rest of the background around the bike and the flowers. After machine quilting, I added some hand embroidered stems for the flowers and some ribbons.

I enjoyed learning this new technique, it is much more “portable” than machine quilting.

See the source image

After this project was completed, I thought about what paper piecing project I could try next. Since the millefiori quilt idea really stuck with me. I spent some time designing my own take on a Millefiori quilt. Early November, with two weeks off of work and I started out with great intention of creating a full sized quilt using English Paper Piecing.

However, I quickly realized that I am not a fan of hand piecing quilts. The amount of time needed to cut out the paper templates, glue them to the fabric and then hand sew the pieces together was overwhelming. And, I really wondered how durable my hand stitching would be. I certainly didn’t want to spend hours and hours sewing together a quilt that would easily pull apart at the seams.

Thus after finishing one section of the quilt (the center section in my hand drawing), I decided that the rest of this quilt would be sewn by machine.

There will be many difficult seam junctions to line up when sewing this design by machine. But, I am much happier with the way the rest of the quilt is coming together (more on that in a couple weeks). And, while I enjoyed learning English Paper Piecing, I am also happy that I learned that this is not something I will use for designing larger quilts.

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Quilting with Shadows

Earlier this year, I wrote about a wall quilt I made that depicted the skylines of Minneapolis and St. Paul. This quilt was made as a retirement gift for a friend who spends a lot of her time volunteering with various organizations, serving on foundations and helping her friends and family members within the Twin Cities. She truly has a heart of giving and I was hoping this quilt would show her that the people around her appreciate all that she has done.

After completing the quilt, I decided to make a few more wall quilts before giving it away. Being in a study club with five members, I realized that if I were to give her a wall quilt for retirement, the others in the group would know what to expect when they retire. Thus, four more wall quilts were completed over the summer and fall. And, while she retired at the end of 2019, I was recently able to gift this wall quilt to her.

One of the other wall quilts I created was for a friend who will be retiring at the end of 2020. When thinking about a theme for her quilt, I kept coming back to how often she posts pictures of her family, especially her children, and the great ways the all interact together.

Her family represents several heritages and she loves to travel. So, the quilt design I selected was a piecework pattern called “Trip Around the World”. This classic piecework pattern involves using uniform squares, radiating out from a center. While this pattern looks time consuming with all the squares, using strip quilting makes this pattern super easy!

The colors of the quilt were based upon colors in a fused glass plate that she purchased from me a few years ago. At the time, she said the colors matched her home.

I also wanted to depict her family in the quilt, but without detracting from the beauty of the piecing. To do this, I decided to use the quilting to show her family.

The entire quilt was first quilted with a rather simple swirl design.

After that was completed, I quilted a shadow of a family. To design the quilting of the family, I used a photo of a family of five jumping and expressing joy. Each person of the “family” were quilted with a different color of thread.

A sixth member of their family is also included in the quilting. Eighteen years ago, at just under the age of three, one of my friend’s daughters passed away from childhood cancer.

I know that she is still in the minds of her family, so I wanted to include her as well. In the shadow quilting, I stitched a girl on a swing. She is seen swinging on each side of the family, thus, creating somewhat of a circle around the rest of the family members.

This was an enjoyable quilt to make and even more enjoyable to recently gift it to my friend. I wish her a wonderful retirement!

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Tian

Tasty, interesting and nutritious.

Okay, so that is an acrostic, not really a definition. But, the word choices do describe this dish.

A Tian is actually a shallow French baking dish. It is also the name of the roasted vegetable dish often made in the dish and baked in an oven. The dish is native to Provence and can be constructed in beautifully arranged layers to provide a pleasing appearance as well as flavor.

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a Tian she had made. Thanks Pat! It looked really good, so I looked up recipes to see if it was something I wanted to make.

Based upon the recipes I was seeing, the dish was somewhat of a cross between Ratatouille and au gratin potatoes. Since I already had an excellent au gratin potato recipe, I decided to adjust my existing recipe to make my own Tian.

The vegetables were sliced and chopped.
Then placed in the baking pan in rows of alternating vegetables.
The cheese mixture was poured over the top.
And, the dish was baked.

This turned out really well and will certainly be made again. If you want to try making it, here is the recipe I put together.

Tian (serves 4)
1 large carrot, sliced 1/8″
2 potatoes, sliced 1/8″
1 zucchini, sliced 1/8″
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/8″
1 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/8″
1 white onion, chopped
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
2 ounces parmigiano reggianno cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
Grease a 6 x 8 baking pan. Place sliced carrots and potatoes in an 8 cup glass bowl, add 3 cups water. Heat on high in microwave for five minutes until vegetables are al dente. Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic until tender and then transfer to the baking pan making a thin layer across the bottom of the pan. Drain water from the potatoes and carrots. Add cold water to cool vegetables slightly for better handling. Alternating vegetables, or creating a pattern, place the vegetables in the baking pan. Mix together dairy products and spices and pour over the vegetables. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes until vegetables are tender, and the sauce is bubbling and golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

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Apple Table Runner (& Checkerboard)

With fall weather settling, a week ago, I decided to make a new table runner for my kitchen. This runner was made with apples to depict the bounty of the fall harvest. The runner turned out really nice.

After it was done, I realized that the center section could be used as a checkerboard. All I needed was some checkers.

Originally I thought about purchasing some apple shaped wooden pieces that could be painted. However, when I looked at the options available at the local craft stores, I thought I would need to do some carving of a crown on one side. This, to me, seemed like a lot of work. Then I thought about engraving a crown. This also seemed like a lot of work.

One day, while I was at work, I had a great idea – I could print checkers on my 3D printer. Using Tinkercad, I designed some apples that could be printed. I did try to make the checkers interlock so that they could be stacked for designating a King. This, however, did not turn out well. So, I went back to Tinkercad and designed an indent on one side of the checker that showed a crown. Problem solved.

Having extra fabric, I decided to make a second table runner/checkerboard. This one, I have posted on Etsy. Hopefully someone will like this item.

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National Cheese Pizza Day – a little slice of homemade heaven.

Recently, when looking for a recipe to use up an abundance of zucchini, I ran across a recipe for “Naked Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burgers” on Skinny Taste. I’m not sure whether it is truly a greek recipe, but it did sound really tasty. To make it more “greek”, I made some homemade Tzatziki sauce and wanted to serve them on Pita Bread rather than hamburger buns.

Unfortunately, I did not have any pita bread and did not want to run to the store just to buy one thing. So, I went to my favorite baking site. King Arthur Baking to find a new recipe. “Quick and Easy Flatbreads” were just like the name says, quick and easy. And, they were really tasty as well. This recipe includes both yeast and baking powder and were ready to eat in less than an hour. The result was a successful dinner with left over pita/flatbreads for lunch sandwiches.

While making the flatbreads, I thought that they might taste good as a pizza crust. Unfortunately, the extras were eaten rather quickly and I was unable to try.

This morning, I saw an advertisement that said today is National Cheese Pizza Day. Okay, a good excuse to try out my idea for flatbread pizza. I used the KAF recipe (I doubled the recipe this time) and added a tablespoon of Pizza Dough Flavoring (also from KAF).

The dough was mixed in my bread machine.

Left to rise for 45 minutes,

Split into small balls of dough,

Rolled out to 1/4″ thick circles, 6 to 9″ in diameter,

Fried in a dry frying pan (no oil) over medium heat,

Flipped and fried on the other side.

After about 15 minutes, I had a nice stack of flatbread.

To make my homemade pizza, I spread some pizza sauce over the flatbread and topped it with several types of pizza, spices, thinly sliced scallions and chopped yellow pepper. The pizza was placed on a pizza stone and baked at 425 degrees. Because the flatbread was precooked, the pizza was ready to eat in just a few minutes. Watch carefully, because mine was done in about 5 minutes.

What I liked about using this recipe for the pizza crust:

  • quick and easy, once the crust is made, the pizza is ready to eat in less than ten minutes,
  • since the crust is precooked, there was no concern about being soggy near the center of the pizza, and
  • can be refrigerated or frozen for a quick pizza dinner on another day.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!

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My Cat loves my new Jelly Roll Rug

I love fabric, and so does my cat.  She will crawl under, lie on top of, and occupy any surface that has fabric on it.

Whether it’s a pile of quilts…img_2289

A quilt on my sewing room sofa…img_2256-1

My footstool…

IMG_2349

A drawer of fabric that I am trying to find something in… img_5257

A quilt on my sewing frame…IMG_2723

Or just a basket of scraps.img_5260

She pretty much spends her entire day in my sewing room, sleeping on one soft surface or another. This weekend was no exception. She was my constant companion (for good and bad).

Having ended a long week at work, this weekend I really wanted a “mindless” project that didn’t require much thought but would make me feel like I had accomplished something.  A Jelly Roll Rug seemed like the perfect project to work on.  For a nice tutorial on making a rug, see Erica Arndt’s video.  I had never made one before and surprisingly, it was a rather quick project and perfect for my weekend.

I’ve seen Jelly Roll Rugs in the past and have thought that I would like to make one.  In fact, nearly two years ago, I sorted through some of my scrap batik fabrics thinking that they would make a lovely rug for my sewing room.  The fabrics were stacked in my closet, and promptly ignored because of other projects that I wanted to make.

IMG_5244Taking this pile of fabric out of the closet and placing it on my sewing desk was “heaven” to my cat.  She kept wanting to lay down on top of the fabrics. To make the rug, instead of using a Jelly Roll, I sorted my fabrics into a rainbow gradient and cut my own 2.5″ strips.   I used a total of 22 different fabrics.  Rather than doing a standard jelly roll rug pattern, I wanted each fabric to make one complete circle around the quilt.  This meant I needed to complete each round before added the fabric for the next round to the  project.  I also pieced my fabric with straight seams rather than cutting at an angle (I hate to waste fabric).

IMG_3373

 

Starting with one strip of the first fabric, each round increased in size.  The last round used 3 strips of the darkest fabric.  Thus, I used anywhere from 2.5 inches to a maximum of a quarter yard of fabric.

IMG_5248

For the batting, I cut 2″ strips from scrap batting until all of my leftovers were used up (Yeah – I emptied an entire storage container of odd sized pieces of batting!).  When I ran out of leftover batting, I decided to try using a precut batting spool.  This was an easier and quicker way to work on the rug. To manage the roll, I clamped a wooden rod to my sewing desk.  With the roll on the rod, the batting came off  without twisting. This also kept the roll off the floor where my cat would try to play with it.

IMG_5247I found a handy folding tool that I used to make the project go faster.

All in all, this was a fun project that I was able to complete in one weekend.  If I had used a precut jelly roll and precut batting, I could have easily completed it in a day.

 

I now have a colorful rug on my sewing room floor.IMG_3378

And, my cat seems to enjoy it as well.  Luckily she has no claws!

IMG_3385

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Child and Doll Visors.

One of the joys of working with children is when they express their joy in seeing you.  That has been especially true this summer.  For many children, a visit to the dentist has been the first trip away from home and family this summer.  For that reason, some are really excited when they come to our office.

I recently saw one of my favorite patients.  While only eight years old, she has already expressed interest in being a dentist when she grows up.  She is always excited when she comes to the office.

That was no exception this summer.  Even with all of our extra protective equipment on, she was still excited for her visit.  In fact, she was so excited, that she went home and made personal protective equipment for her doll. So sweet.

Her imagination gave me the idea to make child and doll sized face shields like the ones I was making for my office.

Since I didn’t have any young children, I used the average size head for an eight year old and adjusted my STL file.  The shield I made was 6″ in diameter and fits a head 16-20″ in circumference.

Not having any dolls around the house (the result of raising four boys), I went on Amazon and purchase a doll for myself.  Perhaps I just want something to play with.  Or, perhaps I am planning for future grandchildren.  In either case, I now have a Journey Girl doll that graces my sewing room.  Measuring the size of the head, I adjusted the STL file to make a shield that is 4″ in diameter and will fit the head of an 18-20″ doll (American Girl, Journey Girl, etc).

To complete the  PPE ensemble, I also printed appropriate sized ear savers.

After printing a Doll set and a Child set, I gifted these to my patient.  She loved them.  Her mom sent me numerous photos of her pretending to be a dentist, complete with her doll as her assistant.

Given how much she enjoyed the face shields, I thought maybe other children would enjoy being like their mom or dad, or the favorite health care worker.  Thus, I have posted these on Etsy.  If you have someone who might like a set, you can purchase at the link.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/851392013/child-sized-or-doll-sized-face-shield?ga_order=date_desc&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=child+face+shield&ref=sr_gallery-2-22&organic_search_click=1&col=1

 

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Experimenting with Sun Resist Dyeing

When writing about my latest Shibori project, I alluded to some sun dyeing I had attempted.  After that first attempt, I decided to do some experimenting to determine the best protocol to use for sun resist dyeing.

I set up the first set of samples about a month ago. Two weeks ago I finished the first trial and started the second set.  This past weekend, with beautiful weather, I was able to complete these trials.

In order to created colorful fabric, something is needed that combines with dye to fix or bind it to the fabric. In low immersion dyeing, the mordant most commonly used is soda ash (sodium carbonate). When silk dyeing, the mordant I used was vinegar. For natural dyeing processes, soymilk is commonly used with plant extracts. While not actually a mordant, the soy act as a binding agent between the fabric and dye.

The idea behind sun resist dyeing is that objects placed on the wet soy-treated fabric will block the suns rays from activating the soy binding of the dye to the fabric.

Having read several different articles about dyeing with soymilk, I first wanted to compare the different ways of prepping the fabric and dyeing the fabric. Some textile artists use just soy milk, some use powder from soybeans and other use soda ash as a pretreatment. So I set up to test several different combinations of pretreatment and dyeing.

For pretreatment, I used used three old pieces of partially dyed fabric (browns and khaki dyes). Each piece was pretreated with either soy milk (1 cup diluted with 3 cups water), soy powder (1/4 cup powder diluted with 4 cups hot water), or soda ash (4 tsp each of soda ash and salt, diluted in 4 cups hot water).

After pretreatment, the fabrics were allowed to dry completely.

Mixing Blue dye (1/4 tsp) was then mixed with soy milk, soy powder or soda ash (similar dilutions as above) and painted on one-third of each piece of fabric. The fabrics were placed in the sun with various shaped buttons set on top. After the fabrics dried, they were washed with Retayne and dried in the dryer.

Fabric was pretreated with soymilk.
Fabric was pretreated with soda ash.
Fabric was pretreated with soy powder.

Based upon these test samples, pretreatment of the fabric with soy powder did not result in very strong binding of the blue dye to the fabric. Furthermore, mixing the dye with soy powder did not result in any binding of the blue dye to the fabric. Pretreatment with either soy milk or soda ash was successful in dye binding. However, only the mixing the dye with soy milk cause the sun resist to be visible.

I did a second round of experimenting to verify my findings. In this experiment, the fabric was pretreated with soy milk (left side) or soda ash (right side) and dyed with three different colors of dye (Golden Yellow, Fuschia and Mixing Red) mixed with soymilk.

Wet dye painted, leaves placed to block sun.
Samples after drying in sun
Samples after washing with Retayne.

I love the results! I can’t wait to do more sun resist dyeing.

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Busy Summer – Yes Indeed!

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Prior to March 13th, my schedule was very predictable.  I had come to expect my week to flow from a day of work, to a day off, to a few more days of work.  This routine schedule allowed for me to focus on some crafts when home, and to focus on patient care when at work.

After a few months off, I am now back at work.  My routine has changed.  I rarely have a weekday off now – I really do miss my free Tuesdays!  Normally, I wake naturally a few minutes before my alarm goes off.  This is really a nice, peaceful way to wake up, without the alarm beeping at me.  However, my body still has not gotten used to having to get up early on Tuesdays. So, every Tuesday, that beep (or on my phone it’s more of a fog-horn sound) startles me awake.

Our summer patient schedule is completely booked.  Several times a day, I am having to figure out how to fit some necessary patient treatment into an already busy schedule, all the while keeping to our office social distancing guidelines and avoiding overworking my awesome staff. At times I feel I am being pulled in all directions.  And, I know my staff feel that way too!  I think the entire office is looking forward to a slightly slower schedule once school resumes.

With the summer rush, I find this song “Breathe” really does describe the craziness of life right now. The chorus of the song goes through my head often each day and helps to calm my mind and remind me to “just breathe”.

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just

(chorus)
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Wanna make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say just

(chorus)
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

(chorus)
Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

Writer(s): Words and Music by Jonny Diaz, Jonathan Smith and Tony Wood

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Small Shibori Quilt

I originally published this post on Sunday. However, for some reason the article disappeared from my blog. I know it was originally there, but someone asked about why I took it down.  When I went to check, it was gone. Luckily, I had saved a copy on my computer so I am able to repost today. 

My previous post, “The Ants (and other bugs) Come Marching In“, was also changed after I posted it.  For some reason the date of that post was changed by a couple of weeks.  So, instead of being a mid-July post, it is showing up in June.  I am not exactly sure what is happening. WordPress has changed their setup and that seems to be messing with my blog.  

For those who already read this article, I apologize for your having to receive it twice. For those who did not receive the original, please enjoy.

Pam

Free time is hard to find now that I am back to work. However, while my office was closed down in the spring, I had lots of extra time available. One of the things I did during my time off was to work on some fabric dyeing ideas.One bright sunny day, I set up some sun dyeing on my deck. I had seen this technique on a different blog (Tamarack Shack) and wanted to try it.I wanted to try larger shapes that I could then quilt around. I cut some large flowers out of cardboard, placed them on the dyed fabric and set them out in the sun for a couple hours. Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, the wind must have been a bit too strong at some point, because when I went to check on it, the cardboard had moved and distorted. The resulting dye blocked shapes were rather indistinct. I did like how the pink and purple splattered dye turned out. But the shapes were not as I had hoped. So, I’m planning to try this experiment again. Next time I will weight down my shapes with rocks or something heavy.Rather than just stashing the dyed fabric away to use whenever inspiration hit, the next day I decided to work on an idea that I had for a Shibori quilt.Last summer, I posted about a Shibori table quilt I had made. Using the same technique, I designed the stitching pattern for the shibori, the fabric painting, and the quilting. All of the running stitches were completed with polyester thread. This is a rather time consuming step that took about fifteen hours to complete.The pink flowers were then painted with dye mixed with print paste.The Green leaves were painted.The threads were gathered and tied tight.And the background was dyed blue.This project sat in my sewing room for a few weeks. Now, after a couple hours of long arm quilting and I am finally done with this project.