Wednesday, December 14, 2022

It was Christmas time, the snow was softly floating down from high, think Thomas Kinkade, and I had found a recipe that looked inviting: Nut Rocha. Chocolate and toffee with nuts on top that you snapped apart once it was set.  

  

This is the true story of what NOT to do. 

  

The recipe clearly called for a three- quart pan which I could not find although I was sure we had one. There didn’t look to be that much in the way of ingredients. Surely the one quart pan that I did have would work just as well.  

 It was all downhill from here once I made this judgement call. 

 The mixture boiled over! Thinking quickly, I decided that since the rimmed cookie sheet was ready (yes, I did think ahead), spillage would just go there even though it hadn’t hit the desired temperature of 290 degrees. And really, how necessary was that little tidbit? Anybody could see it was hot. Stir, boil over, dump onto sheet, stir, boil over, dump unto sheet, stir . . . you get the drift. 

 The candy thermometer must be broken. It hasn’t moved past 225 degrees and I am sure that I am hotter than this myself. Some of the mixture has run down the outside of the pan onto the burner and stove top. Meaning: smoke in the house! I open the window to the now raging snowstorm outside. 

 Still stuck at 225 degrees. The cookie sheet has buckled under the heat causing everything to run to one corner. It has spilled onto the counter, down the cupboards, and to the floor; trying its best to continue its escape by way of the heat duct. 

 Loss: 50% of the Nut Rocha. Hey, at least all of it is now out of the pan and onto the cookie sheet. The hard part is done.  

 Let me backtrack a little to say that earlier in the week my husband Bill and I found the trash can of my dreams. I have needed one that you can step on so that I can bake, throw things away and not touch the garbage can. We found one that ran on batteries. Pass your hand over it, it pops open, pass your hand a second time over it, it closes. It worked great all week. 

 I grab paper towels, scoop up as much as I can of the confection, carry it to the garbage can and pass my hand over. Nothing. Pass my hand over. Nothing. The contents are hot, oozing out between my fingers and dripping onto the garbage can, pass my hand—forget itI throw it all in the ‘papers only’ receptacle (we’re recyclers). 

 Please do not be fooled by this calm telling of my story. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am doing the full array of yelling, screaming, and swearing. While Bill, sitting in his recliner in the living room, reading a book says serenely, “How I hate when you get in these moods.” 

 I clean up the counter, cupboards, and floor and then proceed to the living room to unload on Bill what I think. He has a lot of nerve. It’s while I’m talking to him that it suddenly dawns on me: the Nut Rocha is to sit for five minutes at which time the chocolate chips are put on top so that the heat can melt them. Then I can nicely spread them across and finally add the nuts. It’s been at least 15 minutes! 

 I go running back to the kitchen, round the corner, only to discover that my cleaning of the floor with paper towels was unsuccessful. My feet go flying out from under me as I hit melted butter, corn syrup and sugar residue. I instinctively grab for whatever is near to catch myself: the baker’s rack. It doesn’t save me. I land flat on my back on the floor (picture a gingerbread man with no smile). Everything from said rack comes raining down on me: spices, flour, sugar, utensils, kitchen accessories, bowls, everything. 

 Bill makes a comment about how my cleaning skills are not the best. As an afterthought he wondered, did I want some help?  

 “NNNNOOOOO!”  This is no longer a Thomas Kinkade moment but an all-out version of Munch’s ‘The Scream.’  Maybe I posed for it in another life. 

 I use my Swiffer, plus mop and dish soap. I get on my hands and knees and run paper towels all around. Test it with my hand. It’s clean and no longer slippery. With the filthy paper towels in one hand, I pull myself up on the counter not realizing that the cookie sheet is right there, and the towel is partially in it. 

 After what I’ve been through, I am not throwing the Nut Rocha out. We will definitely not eat that corner and I won’t be sharing with any friends, but I’ve sunk too much in the way of ingredients, time, and emotions to quit now. 

 Wait a minute. I STILL haven’t put the chocolate chips on! I slam the window shut. Because of all the butter my wedding ring goes flying off—can’t be bothered with that now—and grab up a handful of chocolate chips and dump them on. They sink to the bottom. Aren’t they supposed to sit on top so I can spread them all over nicely once they’re melted? Does this mean the candy thermometer wasn’t broken and I need to have more patience? 

 I stick four fingers all over this creation trying to find a spot that has set up. Oh, wait! This is the same hand that scrubbed the floor that I haven’t washed yet. Okay, there is no salvaging any of it now. I—in keeping with the mood and okay, I have a bit of a temper—fling the cookie sheet toward the sink where it hits and throws Nut Rocha on the window where it finally sets up. 

 Loss of Nut Rocha: 100% 

 “Ya know,” Bill drawls coming around the corner, “this could have all been avoided if you’d waited until we found the three-quart pan.”   

 “Well, we didn’t find it and I was really craving Nut Rocha!” I yell. 

 “You’ve never had it before so how can you crave—” He finally reads my face (clenched teeth, clenched hands, nostrils flaring . . .)  “Is there anything I can do to help?” 

“Yes, please change out the batteries in the trash can. They’re dead.” 

 So, while I’m cleaning up the mess by the sink and window and knowing that I still have the stove top and burner to clean, Bill cheerfully says, “What are you talking about?”  Hand over, open, hand over, close. “Works fine for me. Sticky though.” 

 HIS saving grace? He’s much too big to fit into the trash can. 

 As I sit in my bedroom eating a store-bought piece of chocolate, I glance down to see my brand-new pants full of either Nut Rocha, Swiffer cleaner, butter or most likely, a combination of all three None of which is going to come out.  

  

Santa—what I need from you is possibly a new candy thermometer, definitely a three-quart heavy-duty pan, a new hardwood floor, new pants, a rimmed cookie sheet that doesn’t warp when heated, a detective to find my ring, and—depending on how the rest of the Christmas season goes—possibly an extra-large trash can.  

 Happy Holidays!  

PS. Yes, I found my ring! 


 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Fairy Tale Forest

I'm not one to join a BOM (Block of the Month) because I like my quilting to be different from others.  If I'm putting all that time, energy and money into something, I want it to be unique, to show my personality.  Having said that I fell in love with DuckaDilly's Fairy Tale Forest pattern.  It's paper pieced which I enjoy doing.  I signed up for the 12 month course.  I have received Box 10.  

 

I recently finished Box 3. 


                                                      Two to a box: This is block 6

I have a lot of different white fabric but I don't have a lot of yardage for any one, so I'm using different whites for the background. 

In this one I have sewed various white scraps together and then did a cross hatch

Each month we are given a specific amount of fabric to complete the block.  When mistakes are made sometimes you don't have the fabric you need.  Since I don't want mine to look like everyone else's this is just fine with me.  I will cobble together what scraps I have leftover to make the block

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Quilt to Dress to Pants

 Although I've been doing plenty of quilting during the last 2 years I haven't been posting.  Need to start again.  


This is my latest -- and when I find the pattern I'll tell you the name of it.  But right now I'm working on a new quilting studio and everything is in disarray.  

The front: 



Angel:


Part of front with back and cat that we are cat-sitting making herself at home


I got the idea to add lace.  Needed 11 yards, the place I ordered from had 12!  Just came in the mail and will put that on this weekend.


This is actually what is left-over from the backing!  I think I can make myself a dress and pants!  At least shorts! 



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Homemade Apple Cider

It's that time in Michigan when the leaves are turning color and my thoughts turn to apple cider and donuts.  But until last year it never entered my mind to make my own.  

When we bought our place out in the country there were four apple trees.  Over the years I've made apple pie filling and applesauce to store in the freezer to have through the winter.  Two of the trees eventually died but we discovered two more had grown where their seed was dropped so we have those two out in the field.

But I had gotten to that point where I didn't want to store up on apple pie filling and applesauce.  And yet, I hated to see the apples go to waste. This year my two older trees were nice and green however no apples.  The two out back had just a few.  I breathed a quiet sigh of relief that this year, at least, I didn't have to do anything.  Enter my friend.

"Our trees are loaded.  You've got to come over and get some apples."
"No."
"We've taken what we want.  Do you know how much applesauce I have made?  The neighbors have been here, the kids . . . get over here!  The branches are still weighed down."

Mumble, mumble.

I brought a bag home and looked at my husband.  "Should we try our hand at cider?  We talked about doing it last year, remember?"
"Too expensive."
"Actually no.  I found a press for around $60."  We discussed it.  I researched it further.  From the reviews the press worked well however, there was a lot of cleaning involved.  Not a fan.

And then I opened a magazine.  How to Make Cider Without a Press.  I read through.  It sounded easy.  Actually my biggest problem was finding cheese cloth.  Every place I went was sold out.  Eventually I found it and we were in business.

 The two of us worked for an hour and fifteen minutes and then we were done.




 I wrapped up the cloth tightly and laid a dutch oven on top.  My husband filled a water jug full of water and set that inside.  Now it's got some weight on it.  Leave for 4 hours or over night.



I got the jars ready!







And then the next morning:




Hmm.  Okay.  So you get a lot more with pie filling and applesauce, but . . . this was delicious.  

My husband thought that for getting 26 apples ready there should be more.  He tried his hand at squeezing.


                                                             Okay, doubled our profit!

We don't know why it's a different color but it's also delicious, even though it's a slightly different taste.  He thinks it's sweeter, I think it's less apple tasting.  

Went back to my friend's house and got two more bags.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Handkerchief Quilt



I have been given several handkerchiefs and wanted to do something with them.  Here is my first start.  On the outside edge I have appliqued fabric plus machine embroidery.






Although I sewed around the outside of the handkerchiefs there are two that have a fancy corner and I wanted to showcase this somehow.  So I hand embroidered a little surprise underneath each one.


                             I have over 100 handkerchiefs to go!  Need some new ideas!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Kind of Trees






Recently I was reading someone's comment on a quilting blog that they had had to help someone clean out their relative's fabric stash as the person had passed on.  She talked about what a daunting task this was (?) (Personally I'd love to go through someone else's stash and check it out          however . . .) Her recommendation was that if a person had that much fabric they should be using it.  At least make the top.  It was a lot easier to go through tops than fabric.

I thought about that.  I do have plenty of fabric and recent events have given me time on my hands.  Nobody ever said I had to make these tops into actual quilts.  What if I did go through all my books/magazines/printed off instructions and made the tops?  What a concept!

I have several boxes full of scraps and I love making these into diamond shapes.  The thing is I have 3 quilts made exactly the same.  They look different as far as scraps and background however, the same pattern.  I need to find a new pattern and I found this one in American Patchwork & Quilting, February 2018. Here it is.  In case you can't tell they are trees.

The butterfly background I have had since I worked in a quilt shop in the '90's.  And it's now small enough that it can go in the scrap box (Yay!)

I am also making my quilts, for the most part, smaller.  I don't need more quilts on my bed.  I have three spots in my house where I can hang and change out quilts/tops at will.  If I do decide to make it into a quilt it won't cost me as much as a king size and it won't take me as long to get the binding on.

Also, since I have an embroidery machine -- put that thing to work!  I have a couple of designs that form a frame.  I'm going to do up those and attach them to my tops. I've seen so often someone finding an old, beautiful quilt while they're out shopping and they have no idea who made it or any of it's history.  The time that someone put into that, lost forever.  So your family isn't interested.  Someone out there will be. When I'm gone and my kids take these to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or wherever, my name with information will be there for the person who finds it and actually wants it.

Can you imagine 100 years from now someone saying they have an old quilt by J. R. Armstrong.  'Oh, I have one, too.'  'So do I!'  'How many do you think are out there?  Maybe we should compile them in a book?'

Hey!  What if one of my quilts ends up living on Mars?





Tuesday, June 6, 2017

To Swear or not to Swear

I am often asked when I'm out doing book signings if my books have swear words in them.  Well, yes, they do, although I don't use the F word (I seem to not like 'ph' sounds no matter what the word: fill, fix, phone, elephant, it doesn't matter).

I have asked other authors how often they are asked this question and I always get a puzzled look along with "never." I seem to be an anomaly.

Do I come across as some hard-core biker?  Is it my red hair that gives visions of an Irish temper?  And who doesn't yell without swearing?  "I'm gonna let you have it, you no-good-guy-whose-mother-never-married!"  Really doesn't give you the same punch, does it?

I did an author talk one time along with three other authors.  Afterward, I got to chatting with one of them and we talked about our current projects.  I asked her if she ever got the question about swearing.  She frowned and said 'no' so I proceeded to say I was now working on a book in which I would have no swear words so that I could hand it over when the question came up with, "Here's your book."

"No,don't do that," she warned.

"Why?" I asked.

"People get upset, people swear.  Your book won't come off as real and you want your characters to act like normal people."

I dismissed this at the time considering that the book I'm now working on I state as: a-feel-good-book-for-the-end-of-the-world and has some spiritual connotations. I really thought I could pull this off.

However, when strange fiery balls are falling out of the sky toward Earth I have to agree.  How many people are going to stand there and exclaim, "Jiminy Cricket! What's that?" "Holy excrement! Run!"

Recently I've discovered, and will laminate before the next book signing to have at the ready, two magazine articles expounding the virtues of cussing.  Those who do, tend to have a wider vocabulary (sign of intelligence), helps reduce and endure pain, and they may be more honest.