Friday, March 26, 2010

Birthday Present

This one's for my mom. Her birthday isn't until Sunday (she turns 60), but I don't think she really checks my blog, so I'm posting the picture a little early. The pattern is from Leisure Arts' Learn to Machine Quilt with Pat Sloan. I don't have a long-arm sewing machine, so I didn't machine quilt. Instead I did all the quilting by hand.

The flower and flower pot are fused onto the background fabric, and then I blanket-stitched around the edges. The quilting is all by hand, and other than quilting around the outer edges of I just stitched random patterns.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Book From the Teen Section of the Bookstore

Wings (Wings, #1) Wings by Aprilynne Pike

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Entertaining enough. That is what Aprilynne Pike's Wings was for me. It kept me occupied, just enough, on the elliptical machine at the gym. However, it was missing something. I noticed it while I was reading and finally realized that the characters were not developed enough for me.

Wings starts with Laurel Sewell meeting David Lawson on her first day of public school (she was homeschooled until tenth grade). Their relationship/friendship immediately blossoms, and David is incredibly non-judgmental of Laurel--she is a vegan; she does not get cold, despite the cooling fall weather; and always wants to be outdoors. Then Laurel notices a bump on her back which quickly turns into a flower. David barely blinks at this revelation when Laurel turns to him for helps. When Laurel learns that she is a faerie from a mysterious green-eyed, green-haired faerie named Tamami, David is as calm and accepting as ever. I think he might even take it better than Laurel.

It was hard to take seriously. Everything moved along so quickly that I only had a shallow connection with the characters. I really did not fall in love with this the way I usually do, which is too bad. Pike really did put a different and interesting spin on faeries, and I liked the connection to King Arthur. Hopefully the next book will dig deeper.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Creamy Shells with Peas and Prosciutto

I love tomato-based pasta sauces, but Seth likes cream sauces, so sporadically I try out a recipe for him. Tonight I made the America's Test Kitchen's Creamy Shells with Peas and Prosciutto. It was a winner and will be making future appearances at dinner.

The recipe says it serves four, but I think that's a bit off. It calls for a pound of small pasta shells, and between the butter and whole-milk ricotta, it's a filling dinner plus lots of leftovers. I also cut down on the amount of salt because prosciutto itself is so salty.

Creamy Shells with Peas and Prosciutto
from the America's Test Kitchen

1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 T unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound small pasta shells
2 cups frozen peas
1 T fresh lemon juice

  • Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.
  • Combine the ricotta, Parmesan, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl that's big enough for the pasta.
  • Cook the prosciutto and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, about five minutes; or until prosciutto is well-browned and crisp. Place prosciutto on paper-towel-lined plate. Leave the oil in the skillet.
  • Add the onion to the skillet and cook in oil over medium heat until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir the onion/garlic mixture to the ricotta mixture.
  • When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook al dente. Add the peas during final 30 seconds.
  • Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking water. Drain shells and peas. Whisk lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the pasta water into the ricotta mixture until smooth. Add the pasta/peas and toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the remaining pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Sprinkle the prosciutto over the pasta and serve.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I couldn't help myself. Yesterday I finished The Hunger Games, immediately started on Catching Fire, and read until I finished, which was very late last night/very early this morning. Now I must wait five months for the publishing of Mockingjay, which is August 24, 2010.

Catching Fire lived up to my HG-standard, and I loved it. Although, Katniss is driving me a slightly nuts when it comes to Peeta and Gale; but I know it has to happen this way. Now I'm obsessed, and I find myself hunting for fansites and even dreaming about the books.

The funny thing is that this piece of young adult fiction is really is making me think beyond the book. I find myself wondering if our country really would regress to a totalitarian state should we ever be decimated by storms, droughts, fires and rising oceans. And then I think that if Panem came true, we would rise above such a dystopian world.

Speaking of dystopia, I always knew about "utopia" but just discovered "dystopia" in my search for all-things-HG. I realize now that "dystopian society" better describes Katniss and Peeta's world than does "post apocalyptic".

Back to the books. Stop reading my thoughts on The Hunger Games Trilogy and go read the actual books so you too can anxiously wait for Mockingjay on August 24.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book. Life in a post-apocalyptic world is not usually my favorite subject, but Suzanne Collins has created an amazing world in The Hunger Games.

Katniss Everdeen is the main character and she lives in Panem's District 12. Panem is "...the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America." North America was destroyed by droughts, storms, fires and the ocean. Katniss is a fighter and survivor. She ends up in the Capitol's Hunger Games, which is basically a fight to the death.

And really, I cannot tell you anymore because I would not do Ms. Collins' book any justice. I truly enjoyed this book, and it had me enthralled from the first few pages, all the way through the very end. Read it--especially if you love young adult fiction.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Deep-Dish Pizza

I have been wanting to try this recipe for Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza a couple months. Seth and I love pizza, and especially the deep-dish kind.

This is a relatively easy recipe to handle; the dough only requires mixing a flour-cornmeal-salt combination with yeast, kneading, and rising. Seth did not love the toppings, but I thought they were pretty good. The "sauce" is only diced tomatoes, basil and oregano so it doesn't have much kick, but it works for this recipe. The crust was good, and I thought it was better than the pizza dough from America's Test Kitchen. But, the pizza-guru in the house, Seth, likes the ATK pizza better.

Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
12.38 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 3/4 cups), divided
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 precooked mild Italian chicken sausages (about 6 ounces), casings removed, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 11.25 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) flour, cornmeal, and salt in a bowl. Stir flour mixture into yeast mixture until dough forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll dough into an 11 x 15–inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough in a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; press dough up sides of dish. Spread 1 1/2 cups cheese evenly over dough. Arrange chopped sausage evenly over cheese.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. Chop tomatoes; place in a sieve. Stir in oregano and basil; drain tomato mixture 10 minutes.

6. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add mushrooms to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in bell peppers; cook for 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Arrange vegetables over sausage; spoon tomato mixture evenly over vegetables and sausage. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until crust browns and cheese bubbles. Cool 5 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Finally, I have a stockpile of one for my dollee inventory. It's a girl's baby blanket, finished with crow's foot embroidery tacking.

The backing is flannel with tiny rosebuds on a pale yellow background. Sorry, not picture of the background, just the blanket-corner.

Hopefully you can see the crow's foot stitching. I used Aunt Lydia's bamboo crochet thread in zen green for the embroidery.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Do Love Books

Moving to the Bay Area truly has reunited me with books. Commuting on the Bart for over an hour each way was the initial spark, and it got me back in the library; then there was Twilight. I think the last time I read with such voracity over such an extended period of time was high school.

Reading all these books has also made me interested in seeing authors in person, talking about their books. I got this chance at Comic-Con last summer when I saw Neil Gaiman on the Coraline Panel. And now Melissa Marr (and several other author friends) are coming to San Francisco on September 18 for the Smart Chicks Kick It tour. Unfortunately, it looks like Cassandra Clare's three appearances don't include the City. At any rate, I must go!

The only problem is that this right smack in the middle of football season, and I do love my college football. Luckily, USC is at Minnesota and UCLA is playing Houston, so I don't think I have anything to worry about.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Drawstring Bag with French Seams

As nice and clean as a French seam looks, I wish I had a serger. If I had a serger, I could easily finish raw edges, which would be especially helpful when I make drawstring bags.

I wanted a drawstring bag the size of a large trash bag so that I could nicely cover our suitcases (which sit in the garage). The difficult part of using French seams in this case comes when you leave an opening for the actual string. I found two different options online:
The instructions from the Creative Thimble were easier for me to understand, but I think the directions from Between the Lines is the more "correct way." Of course, I could always just line the bags, but the dimensions were so big that I really did not want to use lining.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Litter Bugs Me

The first sight I saw this morning as I drove to work was the couch that someone dumped next to our back fence.

How. Incredibly. Inconsiderate.

The waste management company said we had two options: For $40 they would pick the couch up, but we would have to haul it to the front of the house; or call the city and have them pick it up.

So I called the city but because it was on our property they would not pick it up. The couch actually needed to be on the street. Apparently there are people who pretend that trash has been left on their property in effort to get free trash-hauling service.

Forget the trash pick-up. The fact that someone (most likely a neighbor) was rude enough to make their trash my and then the city's problem, is just infuriating. Ugh. Malama ka'aina, people. I learned to respect the land when I was little kid, not to mention other people, and you can still learn.