Saturday, October 14, 2017

Free Pattern--Christmas Tree Skirt, Part 1

We are barely into the month of October, but I am already finding Christmas decorations at Costco, Wal-Mart and the big box stores. That seems a bit premature.

However, if you are making your own decorations, time's a-wasting. 

The photo above is NOT something I made. I found it on Pinterest about a year ago. There was no pattern, no link to instructions, no "you can purchase it on Etsy". Nothing. Dead end. I have searched everywhere, and come up empty-handed. Well, there's no "quit" in this girl. I decided that if I couldn't find the pattern, I'd do it myself. And so, this blog post.

I haven't completed my version of the Christmas tree skirt, so you are going to be sitting in the passenger seat while we go on this unmapped journey together. Are you ready?

Materials and Equipment You Will Need:
  • light-weight interfacing 
  • pen
  • ruler
  • straight-edge 
  • rotary cutter
  • rotary cutter mat
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board
  • neutral color all-purpose sewing thread 
  • an assortment of fabric scraps (about 1/4 yard each of 8 colors)
  • 1/2 yard each of two background colors (I used dark navy and white)
Draw the Pattern
  1. The tree skirt is made up of 16 equal-sized wedges. Sewn together the 16 wedges make a full circle. Begin by using your straight edge and ruler to draw a line on your interfacing 16.5 inches long. Envision that this is the vertical portion of a letter "L".
  2. Next, draw the horizontal line that makes up the bottom portion of the "L". This line will be 7.5 inches (Illustration No. 1).
  3. Draw a horizontal line 1.25 inches long from the top and a second line 1.5 inches up from the bottom (Illustration No. 2)
  4. Join these two new line segments to create a solid geometric shape (Illustration No. 3)
  5. Draw a line from the upper right-hand corner to the left. The endpoint will be 0.25 inch from the upper left-hand corner (dotted line at top of Illustration No. 4).
  6. And finally, draw a line from the lower left corner to the top of the 1.5-inch line segment, lower right (dotted line at bottom of Illustration No. 4).
  7. Cut on the dotted lines. You now have the correct shape for your template. (YEA TEAM!!)
We Still Have a Ways to Go, But Getting Closer (Don't Give Up)
  1. Next, we'll draw the lines on the template that create the woven ribbon effect.
  2. Beginning on the left side of the wedge measure down 2 inches from the top and make a mark. Measure 3 inches down from that point and make another mark, and then 3 more, each spaced exactly 3 inches apart.
  3. On the right side measure down 4 inches from the top and make a mark. Measure 3 inches down from that point and make another mark, and then 3 more, each spaced exactly 3 inches apart (Illustration No. 5).
  4. You're now going to connect the dots, from left to right and right to left. Look at Illustration No. 6
  5. You now have a zig-zag line that forms a series of triangles. The final step in completing this pattern is bisecting each of those triangles. See Illustration No. 7 for this final step (see the dotted lines).

Now that you have one pattern complete, guess what? You need to trace it 15 times. Use a dark pen so that you will be able to see the lines from the front and the back. That will take a while, so let's break for today. Check back next week and I'll show you how to

  • Determine which fabrics to use, and where
  • Pre-cut your fabric for easy assembly
  • Use stitch-and-flip to construct 16 wedges on which all of the intersecting lines and seams will match up PERFECTLY. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fifty Eight Crosses in Las Vegas

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; 
my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
Psalm 31:9

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pretend Tuna Salad


I know that lately, I've been posting a lot of recipes. I promise to get back to the gardening/quilting stuff pretty soon. In fact, I have a Christmas Tree Skirt in my studio that I really need to get back to. But there's one more recipe I want to share with all of you. 

If you are vegetarian or vegan you will love this. If you make this for a vegetarian or vegan, they will love you. And if neither of those applies, you still might want to give it a try because it's:

  1. healthier than tuna
  2. easy to make
  3. did I mention healthy? Tempeh is high in manganese and copper (both important in wound healing and tissue strength), protein, riboflavin, and niacin. 

My daughter is devout (I'm not exaggerating) vegetarian, but she still pines for the taste of foods she enjoyed in her childhood.
There are many manufacturers of protein substitutes that mimic the taste and texture of beef or chicken, and most are very good. However, there are few if any products that reproduce the taste of seafood.
Canned tuna is one of those food loves my daughter still craves, and so I set out to find a way to replicate the taste and texture of tuna salad without killing a fish.

Cook Time

Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 1 hour
Yields: 1 or 2 servings

Utensils you will need

  • steamer basket (not mandatory, but helpful)
  • box grater (not mandatory, but helpful)
  • large mixing bowl


  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle, finely minced
  • 1 sheet noiri, crumbled (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or Veganaise if making for one who does not eat eggs)
  • 1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
  1. Place the tempeh in the steamer basket. Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from basket and set aside to cool (about 30 minutes).
  2. Grate tempeh on large hole side of a box grater or chop finely. Place in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss lightly. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or ground pepper if desired.
  3. You may use immediately, but I think this "tuna salad" tastes better if the flavors are allowed to meld for an hour or more in the refrigerator.

What is tempeh?

According to Wikipedia, tempeh is a soy product that is originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty.
Tempeh begins with whole soybeans, which are softened by soaking and dehulled, then partly cooked.

What makes this recipe work?

  • Unlike tofu, tempeh has a firm, meaty texture which, when grated, better replicates the mouth-feel of canned tuna.
  • Many of the flavors that we enjoy in tuna salad are ingredients other than the canned tuna. Creamy mayonnaise, crisp celery, tangy dill pickle, a bit of pungent minced onion--these are the things of which a good tuna salad is made.

What to do with mock tuna salad?

  • make a traditional tuna salad sandwich--white or whole grain bread, tuna salad, fresh lettuce leaves, sliced tomato (optional), and perhaps a smear of dijon mustard.
  • Create a salad by placing an ice-cream scoop of "tuna salad" on a bed of salad greens. Surround with grape tomatoes, black olives, sliced hard boiled egg, avocado slices, chopped walnuts, and drizzle with your favorite salad dressing.
  • Spread "tuna salad" on a slice of rustic bread. Top with a slice of cheese and another slice of bread. Grill or toast in a panini press.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Giant Reeses Peanut Butter Cup (be still my beating heart!)

My younger daughter adores the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I usually make some type of peanut butter and chocolate confection for her birthday dessert. 

Today this popped up on Facebook.

My search (for this year at least), is complete:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Red Pepper Fish Chowder

For weeks we have endured record-breaking high temperatures and a record-shattering number of days without rain. It seems that the entire western part of the U.S. is aflame, while in the south a year's worth of precipitation descended in a 48-hour period.

But today we received a brief respite--there is rain in the forecast and for once I won't have to turn on the sprinklers in an effort to keep alive the landscape we have tried so hard to build in the past quarter century.

I have many indoor projects that can now receive my undivided attention (two quilts and a basket of knitting yarn), and I have an excuse to prepare a big pot of fish chowder for dinner.
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 55 min
Yields: about 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, minced
  • 3 slices turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, diced, but not peeled
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, (don't use non-fat!)
  • 1 large tomato, chopped and seeded
  • 3/4 pound firm white fish cut into 3/4-inch dice, (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fennel fronds, (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey bacon and sauté about 5 minutes more (until the bacon is crispy and the vegetables begin to turn golden in color).
  2. In the same pan add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the diced potatoes and corn; cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir together the cornstarch, water, and sour cream. Stir this mixture into the hot broth, whisking constantly, until the broth begins to thicken.
  4. Add the chopped tomato, fish, and black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes more or until fish is cooked. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish with chopped fennel.

What type of fish can I use?

  • halibut
  • cod
  • turbot
  • tilapia
  • mahi mahi
  • scrod

What Makes this Recipe Work

  • Lots of vegetables!
  • Use what you have on hand
  • Quick and easy to prepare
  • A one-pot meal
  • Did I mention easy?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Thought for Today, in the Aftermath of Harvey

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” 

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” 

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” 

“We only have what we give.” 

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead.”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Smoked Salmon Hash

One Potato, Two Potato

I love breakfast--in fact, I'm happy to have "breakfast for dinner" But pancakes, waffles or cinnamon rolls are not really my thing. My number one love is potatoes--creamy and whipped, fluffy and baked, or crispy fried.
Today I had three potatoes in my pantry--one russet and two yams. And a large sweet onion.
What to do?
My thoughts turned to hash. But what protein could/should I pare with a mix of potatoes that are somewhat sweet/somewhat earthy? Ham or bacon are obvious. But I don't do obvious.
...And then I noticed the smoked salmon tidbits in the seafood section of my local grocer. They're not beautiful fillets--but who needs beautiful fillets when you're making hash? Little bits are just fine. And smoked salmon with dense russets, sweet yams, and creamy sauteed onions sound like a perfect match to me.

Equipment you will need

  • Microwave
  • Paring knife
  • Large knife and cutting board for dicing potatoes and onions
  • Large sauté pan
  • Spatula


  • 1 large russet potato
  • 2 medium sized yams
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 pound smoked salmon
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced dill, (optional)


  1. Using a small paring knife, pierce the russet potato in several places. Microwave for 4 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the peel and dice the potato (about 1/2-inch dice).
  2. Pare the yams and dice (about 1/2 inch).
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the diced potatoes, yams, and onions to the pan; cook about 3 minutes or until the onions begin to soften and the potatoes brown a bit.
  4. Mince the smoked salmon and add to the potato/onion hash. Continue to cook and stir until the salmon is heated through.
  5. Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve.