The visitor and the quilts….

With the help of my wonderful husband, my sister showed up at my door just before Thanksgiving.  What a surprise!!  Suitcase in hand and without anyone else’s knowledge, I had her all to myself.  🙂 Normally with such a big family, we all share her when she visits, but with no one aware that she was even here…she was all mine!  I felt like we were little girls again…hiding from the world in our bedroom closet.

She was a great help and with perfect timing, she came right in the middle of all of our craziness and was staying for a whole month!  One deliriously tired night as we were driving home from a busy day at the shop, we thought it would be nice to make a family gift, something for everyone. So we concocted this crazy idea that we’d make memory quilts from my Dads clothing that I had saved. Crazy, right?!?

 3 years ago when my Dad passed, I had saved some of his clothing with the intention of making quilts and just like most ideas…it was an “eventually” idea.  Meaning I would get to it, eventually.  When we were throwing out ideas for this present, I proposed this crazy idea and she accepted.  One tiny issue…we had never done anything remotely like this before.  She didn’t’ sew at all and I had recently rekindled my relationship with my sewing machine making some Halloween costumes and we were still in the dating phase, my machine and I.

 Now, when making something so sentimental, you can’t make just one and expect everyone to share, everyone will need their own to snuggle with, so this meant making 6 memory quilts!  The other issue was that we had 3.5 weeks to make all 6…AND it was our busiest season at our businesses, which meant a lot of time away from the secret project.

With a serious deadline looming over our head we got to work…watching Youtube videos on  how to make quilts.  Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. 🙂

Our next step was to find enough clothing to make 6 quilts.   I had some, but it wouldn’t be enough so we broke the code of secrecy and asked my brother if we could dig into his stash of Dad clothing to add to ours and he agreed.

Then we got to cutting….being that we were making so many, we didn’t really have a ton of money to spend so we headed off to the fabric store with our coupons to buy the batting, backing and cutting equipment that we’d need.  Needless to say, we were at the fabric store a lot in this short 3 week time frame!

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We cut, and cut and cut some more until we had enough squares to make the quilts.  We laid them all out in the patterns that we liked, making sure that each quilt had the same amount of quintessential Dad clothes.  Each had a special, very recognizable center square and each had at least one pocket from his famous short-shorts, and for good reason.   You see, Dad’s clothing still smelled like him!  3 + Years of being in storage and we could still smell him!  We probably smelled every piece of clothing 10 times trying to jam that smell back into our memory again…it had been so long.  We figured that since everything was out in the open, that the smell would fade and we wanted for everyone to be able to smell him again…so everyone got a pocket in their quilt.  In these special pockets, everyone got pieces of Dad’s clothes that still smelled like he did.

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We ironed and pinned and sewed.  Then we ironed and pinned and sewed.  Then we ironed and pinned and sewed.  We learned as we went, taught ourselves and made some mistakes along the way but it was fun and very rewarding.  We laughed, we cried…I think we even healed a little.
I can’t even remember how many hours we put into these quilts.  It matters not. 🙂

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One of the 6….

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Mom’s quilt made out of al of Dad’s Sweaters

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My little machine sure got a good work out that week. 

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Laying out the batting and backing before edging

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All  done.

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The patch we made to sew on each quilt.

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Folded and ready to be boxed for Christmas…we finished one day before my sister’s husband came for Christmas!

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My Mom after she opened her quilt…the edging we used was one of their old sheets.

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My Dad…My Hero.

I thought I would put my quilt in the closet, never to be used because it was so precious to me.  I was wrong.  On Christmas morning my kids snuggled up (without my permission) under the “Pepere Blanket” as it is known around here and I’m pretty sure that my heart grew bigger that morning as I looked at them.  It felt as though Dad was hugging my little guy once more and finally giving my little lady the hugs she never got because he was gone before she was born.  The blanket has remained on the couch ever since….warming us all at different times during the cold days and nights.

Hugging us all, one more time…

Let the pressure begin…..

After our fun with canning session last fall during a hurricane (cause what else are you going to do with all of the stuff that would otherwise splatter all over your house?!?), we decided to invest in an aluminum pressure canner. I say invest because they are not cheap.

At first we thought that we could use the monster as a canner AND cooker, which we can, except we are not too keen on the idea of adding aluminum, forcibly to our food so we opted to also add a stainless steel pressure cooker to the pots and pans repertoire.  Needles to say that they couldn’t have come at a better time as a serious case of the sniffle, sneezes and coughs has entered our home.  First on the list of things to make….chicken soup!  The hubs ran out to get the fix-ins for some amazing organic chicken stock and of course beef stock, hey, might as well, right. 😉

So the stock making began and with the help of the pressure cooker took…wait for it, 30 minutes!!!  Holy cow!  I couldn’t believe it!  Normally I would start a stock in the morning and it would be ready for dinner. It needs to cook that long to extract all of the animo acids and other goodness necessary to be a proven cold fighter.  It is our go-to for colds and general sickness. 🙂  This stock was the color of a cooked-all-day stock in 30 minutes!  Why doesn’t every mom have one of these??  Perhaps it is because all I could picture when the idea was proposed was a cartoon skit where the roof is blown off of the house by a wayward pressure cooker.  That however, was not the case, the roof is intact and so are all of our limbs. 🙂 Yay!
Then, came time to play with the pressure canner…that thing is scary looking and HUGE!  I must admit that it is very intimidating like something out of a Dr. Jekyll movie.  Long story short, it took about 2 hours total to can 9 quarts of stock.  3 Chicken and 6 beef stock and we had a huge pot of minestrone for dinner.
After canning the stocks became even darker!  That is chicken stock!  It is a dark caramel color.  I can’t even get stock that color from reducing all day.  I am amazed and can’t wait to dig into that stock.  We promised ourselves that we’d save those for sick days so no one has to go out or stand over the stove.  So that’s it…a day in the life of a little pressure.
Here is a good recipe for some great stock.  This is NOT a pressure cooker recipe although it probably could be.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
  • 4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 gallons cold water

Directions

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer.  Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups and sauces.
I am planning on a “how to use a whole chicken” blog soon so save those bones!  Since I use EVERYTHING….some call it frugal or even cheap….I call it resourceful and NOT wasteful, I even use the carrots and celery that have been used in the stock.  Most of the good stuff has been transferred to the stock, but there is still some left so take those out, hold them aside.  My kids will just walk by the counter and munch as I strain.  The ones they don’t eat, make for a quick side dish for them or throw them back in with some of your stock and blend it all up with a stick blender, add a little tomato product and some cumin and chili power.  Heat and serve with cheese and tortilla chips for a yummy tortilla soup. 🙂
Off to bathe the babes now…