Featured

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.

Featured

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).

Featured

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
Featured

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.

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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.