Photos, Organization and Retirement

My husband, Jeff is retiring. His employer threw him a retirement luncheon yesterday at TGI Fridays at Miller Park. It was very nice that the company allowed all his coworkers to leave work for an extended lunch. Jeff's boss invited the immediate family so me and two of my three kids attended. It was a wonderful and thoughtful event.

Because of this event, I decided to make a collage called 'Jeff...through the years'. That meant sneaking around gathering photos over the course of the last few weeks. When I realized that this was a tremendous undertaking, I was determined to organize all of our photos no matter what. I had photos everywhere. They were in file cabinets, in photo boxes, stashed in envelopes in cubbies, just everywhere.

I dug up every single photo from every place I could find them. Then I told Jeff it was a good time to get all these paper photos in order. After all, in this digital world, I should only have to do this once. It's not like we print photos anymore. And my digital photos, I am proud to say, have always been very organized. I can find any photo in a moment's notice. That's how good I am at labeling and storing my digital files.

But these paper photos - what a mess! Jeff was oblivious to any plans I had in making something for his retirement lunch. I just started going through all the stacks of photos as I gathered them up around the house. Then I opened all 6 of the photo organization storage boxes I had from the back of the closed. What a mess! As we sat around in the evenings unwinding, I just sorted and sorted and sorted some more. As I sorted, I started a pile for the collage I would eventually make.

After a week went by, I tried to talk myself into quitting this project. I felt like I wasn't making much headway and this was way bigger of a project than I thought. But I still plugged away. I told myself that even if I ran out of time to get a collage completed, it's still not a bad idea to get through all these photos. And memorabilia. There was lots of that all over the place too. Ticket stubs, programs, pamphlets, you name it. I had it stuffed all over the place.

The hard part about organizing photos is deciding how to categorize them. Once I looked through them some sorting was pretty trips to Niagara Falls, motorcycle events, Christmases, family, etc.  Some things were a little more difficult to sort, like photos of friends and events like weddings (were they a friend's wedding or a family member's wedding?). I set the most difficult subjects aside and worked with the easy ones first. Before I knew it, I had the photos filed in 4 of the 6 photo boxes and labeled properly. A 5th box contained all the negatives and the memorabilia so I was feeling confident I was making good progress.

Another tough thing about these photos was the memories that the provoked. So many people in them are now long gone. My dad, Jeff's parents, my brother-in-law and so many aunts and uncles. It was easy to cry over them all. So much sadness in the photos of Jeff's best friend who now has dementia and has no idea who anyone is yet so many blessings in those same photos. Happy memories were everywhere. Once in a while I had to remind myself of that.

At this point I stopped because I really needed to concentrate on the collage. I looked at my stack of photos of Jeff that I set aside and that familiar feeling of being overwhelmed came rushing back. I eyed the photos and chose to apply the same concept that I used when filing all the rest of the photos. I sorted them by subject. Just Jeff, hunting & fishing, family, friends, sporting events, etc. It got easier and easier. Then I made cute labels to print out and add to the collage.

Just one day before the luncheon, I still did not have the collage ready. I didn't even have a display board to use. So I ran to the store and picked one up. I hid it just before Jeff came home from work. That evening, I tried to print my labels for the collage. Much to my dismay, the printer drivers weren't working and I had to reinstall them. So here it is, Tuesday night and I still have no collage to take to the lunch the next day.

I got up at 5:30 the morning of the luncheon. I had renewed vigor to tackle the collage. I decided that if I got it done, great and if not, oh well. No stress. I chose some blue card stock and loaded it into the printer. Instead of printing all 6 pages of my labels, I just printed one page. It worked perfectly! So I printed the other 5 pages and I was off and running.

I took the display board out of the package and laid it out flat. I cut all the labels from each page and started plopping the photos on the display board in piles by subject. I threw the labels I printed on top of each photo pile like I was dealing a deck of cards. One and a half glue sticks later, I had all the photos pasted on the board. I was ready. I even had time to go through the newspaper clippings about Jeff and the ticket stubs and other memorabilia, make copies of them and paste them on the board as well.

I got the project done with an hour to spare. At the lunch Jeff was so touched and surprised and his coworkers enjoyed picking up on a little history about Jeff. The display was a great hit and I am so glad I got it finished. It's nice to have a little conversation piece added to any party.
So now I am looking at the unfinished box of photos that is left. I was really sick of going through photos but I knew if I didn't finish the sorting and filing, I would regret it. It would become another unfinished project tucked away on the to-do list in my brain. I had to finish. I would only feel good if I could totally remove this from that list of things to do. So this morning, I sorted everything that was left and filed it away. Yes, it took me another 3 hours but it is done. Completely, without anything left over to file or to review. And I am happy to report that if I had to find something, I could easily.

Those photo boxes are back in the closet and there is more room in my file drawers. What a great feeling and a great week of making new memories.


The Quilter's Apprentice

I finally took the time to read The Quilter's Apprentice. My friend Judy recommended it years ago and I just didn't want to read it. I have a few reasons for not wanting to read it. The first is that Judy is really into genealogy and she is passionate about books that reference history. I, on the other hand, have no real interest in my family's roots. I prefer to look toward the future than review the past. I guess I am just not that curious. And this book links some real history within the quiltmakers' stories.

Another reason for not wanting to read this book is that I knew Jennifer Chiaverini's novels were in a series. If I end up liking the book I didn't want to get hooked on more novels. I have an endless list of books I want to read and more would just stress me out.

I know how silly that all sounds so I took the plunge and read the book. Of course, Judy was right. It was worth reading. More for the historical links than the quiltmakers' stories. That was a little on the cheesey side. I did enjoy some of the quilt making references and it was an easy summer read. 

So I am hooked. I'm already waiting for the second book in the series to be ready for me to pick up at my local library.

One down, nineteen to go!

  1. The Quilter's Apprentice (1999)
  2. Round Robin (2000)
  3. The Cross-Country Quilters (2001)
  4. The Runaway Quilt (2002)
  5. The Quilter's Legacy (2003)
  6. The Master Quilter (2004)
  7. The Sugar Camp Quilt (2005)
  8. The Christmas Quilt (2005)
  9. Circle of Quilters (2006)
  10. The Quilter's Homecoming (2007)
  11. The New Year's Quilt (2007)
  12. The Winding Ways Quilt (2008)
  13. The Quilter's Kitchen (2008)
  14. The Lost Quilter (2009)
  15. A Quilter's Holiday (2009)
  16. The Aloha Quilt (2010)
  17. The Union Quilters (2011)
  18. The Wedding Quilt (2011)
  19. Sonoma Rose (2012)
  20. The Giving Quilt (2012)


Happiness is . . .

kohlrabi. In summer sewing takes a back seat to gardening. Mother Nature waits for no one so I have to bow to her demands. So every morning I spend time weeding, tending and raking in my garden. After that, there's a good amount of time spent watering all the plants around the house. I don't just grow vegetables in my garden, I also have a raspberry patch, pumpkins, cantaloupe and cucumbers (viney things) growing on trellises next to the house. Everything requires much attention so by the time I am finished in the garden, my back is pretty sore and I have to rest. I don't mind the sacrifice but it is really hard on my spine fusions. Here are some of the benefits of the hard work.


Quilts for Kids - Wonky Block Quilt Completed

Quilts for Kids
 I finished the wonky block quilt today and I just love the fabrics in the blocks. The whimsy of the dog and cat print along with the whimsy of the crooked blocks is a perfect combination.

I don't work with blues much - it is not one of my favorite colors so I didn't have much to work with from my stash. So the binding on this quilt is a blue that is just a shade off of the sashing for the blocks.

The backing is made of gray flannel with a blue flannel (left over from another quilt) strip that makes the back just a little more interesting. I hope this quilt is enjoyed by the recipient and that is brings whoever gets it some healing.
Quilts for Kids


Independence Day

It's a family tradition to attend the 4th of July parade. It is followed by games and events at our legion post and we meet up with extended family there.

My granddaughters always enjoy the tradition and I hope we spend many years together following it.

Here they are happy and having fun.


Antique Quilt Delivered

My client came to pick up her quilt today. She brought her family along. They were quite amazed at the result and loved it. I am so very happy with the results of this project and even more happy that they all were thrilled with the quilt.

It is so nice to accomplish something for a nice family. I hope they get many years of enjoyment out of this heirloom.


What's on the design board?

This month my Kindred Frivols kit is in the works. The kit came with the Hello Darling fabric collection that is really pretty. I seriously don't think I would have chosen this fabric because I don't usually work with these kind of floral prints. I love stepping outside of the box and trying new things, so I am not complaining.

The block is made up of quite a few pieces so it took a little bit to get going. In fact, since I'm working with a kit, I was terrified that I would make a cutting mistake. I'm not so sure there will be a lot of fabric left over so I paid very close attention to the instructions. But once I had one block completed, the ones that followed just kept getting easier to make.

I can't wait to complete more blocks since these look so very pretty.


Client Project on the Machine

I quilted this pretty navy blue and white quilt for a client today. The fabrics are beautiful and it actually made me want to work with blues.

I am normally not a fan of blues. This quilt will encourage me to try these colors.


Antique Quilt - Completed

Yesterday I finished Nancy's father-in-law's mother's quilt. Phew! That was a lot to follow. I finished sewing the binding last night and let her know it was ready for a quilt label. She is thinking about what she wants on a label and I told her to take her time. It doesn't take long to sew on, so there's no need for a lot of advanced notice.

I look forward to delivering this challenging quilt. It was a little tough to work with since the old, delicate fabric is pretty aged. I sure hope she likes the final result.


Strawberry Picking Time

Yesterday was the perfect day for strawberry picking. Even though it had rained the night before and we knew it might be a little wet and sloppy, the weather in the morning was perfect. My daughter and I decided to leave her girls home and just the two of us go. That way we would get it done a lot quicker. In less than an hour, she picked 9 pounds and I picked 12 pounds. It sure was quicker but not as much fun.

After I cleaned and packaged up all the berries, made a strawberry pie. It's my husband's favorite - except for lemon meringue. I think of the lemon pie as a winter thing and the strawberry pie as a summer thing. It just makes sense since the berries are so very fresh right now. They were nice and large and perfectly ripe. We chose the perfect day to go.

The pie was so very easy to make. I baked a pie crust, let it cool, filled the shell with a bunch of fresh berries, then poured some cooked berries over the top. A few hours in the fridge and viola! a beautiful summer pie. What could be easier.


Baby Robins

The robins have been building a nest in the bush on the south side of my house every year for a very long time. This year I got a glimpse of the babies up close as soon as the mother went off to dig up some worms. I couldn't wait to seize the opportunity to get this shot of the babies. I just wish I could have shot the photo from a little higher angle, there's a third baby in the nest hiding behind these two.


Box Bag - Peppa Pig Tote

Peppa Pig Tote
I used this box bag tutorial to make a cute little Peppa Pig bag. The instructions were easy to follow however I did change how the lining is attached.

The instructions state to hand-sew the lining near the zipper but I chose to leave an opening between the contrasting fabrics and hand-stitch that opening.

I will make another bag like this and remember to take photos of how I did the lining for a clearer description.
Peppa Pig Tote


City Sampler 100 Quilt WIP

I'm making progress on my City Sampler quilt top. I still need to add the borders to the sides but all-in-all, there's not much left to do to finish the top.

I had mapped the placement of all the blocks in a notebook just to make sure I had them all. As it turned out there were 101 blocks. As I tried to located the double, I discovered that I had 2 doubles. That meant I missed making one of the blocks so I checked off each one and found the missing block. I had to go back and make that last block. I really needed to accomplish all 100. So now I have 102 blocks in this quilt top. And that's ok, I just added the extra 2 right in.

I placed the blocks in uneven rows in order to get the look of a city skyline. I like the look of the intermingled colors of the blocks better than separating them out by colorway. It took a little while to sew up the rows, ensuring all the blocks line up nicely.

Now I just have to buy some backing fabric and I will be ready to quilt.


What's on the design board?

I won this cute little Frivols kit last year at a quilt show. I've decided to finally start making the quilt top. All I need to add is some background fabric and I will be all set to go!

The fabrics in the kit are very pretty and I look forward to getting started. So this covers my monthly 'What's on the design board?' post. So the answer to that question is nothing.


My sewing room sure looks neat and clean.

That seems weird to me, but it is getting near summer and gardening has taken a priority over sewing. And Mother Nature waits for no one. So the garden is in and the little seeds are popping up all over. The warm weather has sure made things grow quickly and I am thrilled. This year I am adding pickles to my garden because my girlfriend gave me a crock. I look forward to making pickles in the fall and will have to post my results here.


Antique Quilt WIP

I am working on a really interesting client project. This is a quilt that was started by my client's husband's grandmother. Unfortunately, she passed away before finishing it. When I received the package containing the quilt, I was amazed at the work. The basket blocks were nicely done and the setting squared were all cut. The odd thing was that the setting triangles were sewn to the border.

The first thing I had to do was take the setting triangles apart then unsew the border pieces. After that, I laid out all the quilt blocks and determined where each basket block will go. I sewed the entire top together then put the border back together. I was amazed how nicely all the pieces went together. Especially after all that unsewing.

The fabrics for this quilt consist of blocks that look like they were made from men's shirts. The fabrics are both faded, stained and discoloration has occurred. The setting square fabric has worn thin. I was happy that the pieces went together so well because if I had to stretch the setting square fabric even a little, I am sure I would have torn it since it is in such delicate condition.

I would love to know the history of the shirts in this quilt. I imagine that they have some sentimental value. Now I am ready to pick out some backing and binding fabrics to finish this quilt.

Wonky Sashing Quilt WIP

I used up some Quilts for Kids donated fabric to make the sashing around these cute animal print blocks. I love the wonkiness of the blocks, it really makes the cute animal print even cuter. I found the tutorial for this quilt here. All I have to do is pick out some backing fabric and I will be ready to quilt this little gem.


Quilting Project on the Machine

Free-Motion Quilting
I finished another client project today. I started quilting it yesterday while my granddaughters were here. I was worried that they would need lots of attention because they usually do right after school. I fed them their supper and that seemed to settle them down so it turned out to be pretty easy to do.

Avery hung out with her grandpa and Chloe sat at my computer desk next to my sewing table and played one of her online games. We chatted while I did some free-motion quilting. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

This morning I thought I would finish it to both get it off my machine and my to-do list. I am happy I can give it back to its owner this week!


Client Project - An Antique Quilt

Today I worked on an interesting project. It's a very, very old quilt. I received it in a box that has definitely aged. Inside the box, there were finished basket blocks made from men's shirts. The setting squares were made from a pink calico floral fabric. They were stacked nicely in the box. The box also included a pink calico floral border with half-squares attached to the borders. Yes, the borders were finished before the blocks were sewn together.

The first thing I did was get out my seam ripper and take the border/half-square triangles apart and stacked them up. Then, I rearranged the blocks with the help of a quilting friend. Sue and I arranged and re-arranged the basket blocks until we had a reasonable layout. I quickly snapped a photo of the arrangement before I started sewing the blocks together.

I ironed each block out carefully. After all the fabrics were pretty delicate due to their aging. I mean the yellowing, aged fabrics and the thinner spots in the floral print were signs of how old this quilt is. I then squared up the blocks before sewing them together. Some had to be stretched a little because the piecing was a little off. I got the whole thing sewn together the worked on adding the borders. Much to my dismay, they were too short to complete the quilt top. That was disappointing. It also explained why the pieces were in the box; I bet the sewist knew there was an issue.

So now I have to think a little about how to resolve this issue. The client really wants this heirloom completed. It has so much sentimental value. Now that the top is sewn together, I will have to give them a quote on the backing, batting, quilting and binding.


Happy Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day and I had a wonderful day filled with family and love. I really felt like a queen. Spending time with my mother, sister, daughter, granddaughters, husband and son made the day perfect.

My husband made me a wonderful breakfast. My son brought be the beautiful flowers. And my daughter and granddaughters spent the afternoon with me while visiting my mother and sister.

My sister made this amazing cheesecake and I added some fresh strawberries and whipped cream to it. There are none better than her cheesecakes.


Quilting Project on the Machine

This is my second client project this month. I'll finish the quilting on this today and then I have a little project to complete for a client in Illinois. After that I have another quilting project to complete by next week.

I have a very large quilt project coming up where I'll take antique quilt blocks and piece them together with setting squares and add a border. Then I'll have to quilt it and add the binding. After that, I have another quilt to complete.

My client projects are keeping me pretty busy and I am really enjoying the variety in them. I love sewing!


Quilting Project on the Machine

I have a quilting project on the machine today. I promised that I would get two baby quilts quilted by Saturday.

I purchased the batting today and did my best to get them pinned and ready. I've got half of the quilting completed on one of them already and I am happy with my progress so far.


City Sampler 100 Layout Plans

The Tula Pink's City Sampler 100 quilt blocks need to be sorted. I have to decide how to lay out each of the blocks. I am certain I don't want to just go from block #1 to #100. I am not certain exactly what to do. I'm thinking about an arrangement where like colors are all together. Maybe with 10 rows of 10 blocks...or maybe not.

I will try an arrangement where all the colors are intermingled to see how that looks but I have to say, moving around 100 blocks can be pretty exhausting! I think I will get some opinions from the family to see what they think.

I also might try to stack them up with more blocks in some rows and less in others so it looks like a city. Once I decide on a layout, it should be pretty easy to sew everything together, I just need to make that final decision. It sure was fun to make these blocks and some of them I will definitely make again.


My Small World Quilt Project

I completed the 16 2-inch pinwheels for the My Small World quilt project. I thought it would be difficult to sew such very small blocks but I pressed open the seams of the half-square triangles that make up the pinwheels and that really helped keep the bulk to a minimum.

It was great fun to choose the color combinations for the little pinwheel blocks. They are so much smaller than the 3 pinwheel blocks I made for this quilt earlier. Now I will start on some of the paper-pieced little blocks.

Every part of this quilt project is a bit of a challenge and I look forward to learning from each and every part of this process.


What's on the design board?

I have this one lonely block on my design board today. I've dug up the 182 day winter solstice project and completed the block for week #12. The block is called Buckeye Beauty.

Currently, my view on this project is that it's become the thing I work on when I am between projects. I think I like the blocks with the least amount of white in the backgrounds. I just might re-do some of the earlier blocks. I am pretty sure that will help turn my lack of interest into enthusiasm.

The My Small World project is still in the works and I am at the point where I have to do some hand applique. I look forward to honing my hand sewing skills.


Happiness is . . .

Happiness is the view from my sewing room window. It's been raining since 4:00 yesterday afternoon and it is still an amazing view. Especially since spring is here and everything is turning green.

The trees are budding and seeing the fenced-in garden reminds me that I can start thinking about planting vegetables. I've already planned out where things will be planted and I've made a list of seeds and plants I need to purchase. It's still a bit early to actually do the planting but it's fun to think about it.

Even through the gloomy day, I love this view.


My Small World Project

Yesterday I cleaned my sewing room. I love how nice it looks once all my fabrics are organized and put away. All the notions are stashed away and there's no more piles of batting and other stuff laying about. It's like starting with a clean slate. I even took all my city blocks off my design board. The room even feels brighter.

I thought I would take the opportunity to make a few more blocks for the my small world project. There are so many very small blocks in this quilt that I've decided to work on it a little at a time. The quilt has seven sections and I am still on section 1. I'm really not in a hurry to finish it, I want to enjoy the process and take my time. It sure is fun to mix new colors into the project.

This will definitely be a long-term project. I'm thinking maybe I can complete it by the end of summer. That feels like a reasonable goal. For now, I will work on the pinwheel blocks. I need to make 3 4-inch pinwheel blocks and 16 2-inch blocks.


The 100th Block

I completed my version of block #46 for the City Sampler. This is the final block so I now have all 100 ready to go! It feels so good to accomplish this very unplanned project.

Sometimes just winging it can be a challenge that doesn't work out to well but in this case, I really like the results. I can't wait to pick out the background fabric and set the blocks in place


Block #46

I am finally at the finish line with my 100 city blocks project. I am proud to say that using the charm pack, layer cake and jelly roll that I won a few months back, I managed to get all the blocks made.

That is all except one. That one block number 46 where I need 8 3-and-a-half inch squares - 4 from one fabric and 4 from a second fabric. The problem is that I only have pieces left 2-and-a-half inches wide or smaller. I really did not plan this out very well.

Actually, I didn't plan it out at all. I just decided to wing it. So I think I did pretty well all things considered. But for this last block, block number 46 I was at a loss.

My daughter stopped by to see my progress. I really think she wants this quilt when it's done. I had to remove blocks 1 through 40 from my design board. There's just not enough room to hold all 100 blocks on the board. So I could show here blocks 41 through 100.

When I told her my dilemma with block number 46 she says, "why don't you just cut 2-and-a-half-inch squares since that's all you have then put a border around the whole thing"? That is just genius. I guess I never thought about deviating from the book. But I really think that would be better than purchasing two fat quarters just to complete this project. Especially since I have enough jelly roll sized pieces to make it work.

Tomorrow I will get that last block completed so I can get to work planning on my layout. I also have to choose my background fabric. I'm not sure what color it will be, I just know it will be a solid. It's always fun choosing fabrics and I really look forward to it. So here are my blocks starting with block number 41 through block number 100 minus block 46!


Bird Houses WIP

I asked my husband to whip me up some birdhouses. I wanted 5 of them to place on top of the arbor that is the entrance to my garden. I was surprised how quickly he came up with these. My only request was that they were not all the exact same size to give them some interest and to make grouping them together much more appealing.

So I painted the birdhouses with some pretty colors. Now my granddaughters will want to embellish them with some cute designs on the paint. I was surprised how true to form the birdhouses were. They had no perches which helps keep predators out and the tall ones have false floors in them to make them more desirable to small birds. In fact the opening holes are cut just the right size for small birds.

I can't wait until they are installed over the garden gate. They will look so cute there!


An Earth Day Tradition

We always get a real Christmas tree. We are lucky to know someone who owns their own Christmas tree farm and all we have to do is just ask for a tree. We tell them we want a Frasier Fir, preferably a skinny, shorter version. Like a Charlie Brown tree. Of course, it's never like that. The trees are always very beautiful and we are grateful that all the fuss of going out in the cold to personally pick out a tree is removed from the process. Some people enjoy that ritual but not me, I am really not fond of cold weather. So this works out perfectly.

For me, the hard part about having a real tree is letting go. It seems such a shame to cut this beautiful living thing down for something so (realistically) unnecessary. But there is something to be said for the amazing pine smell that permeates the house. So I keep the tree up for as long as is practical. And once we take it down we place it in my garden for the duration of the winter where it becomes a refuge for the birds. It's amazing to see how many little birds protect themselves among the branches during bad weather. It's a beautiful thing.

Once spring comes I have to get the tree out of the garden. So we have a bonfire to turn the tree into ash. The ash gets turned with the compost that goes back into the garden. It's a great way to complete the circle and use every bit of that tree. So another year goes by and we feel good about renewing nature's gift and giving it back to the earth.


More Cheese Making

For my second attempt at cheese making I used a recipe called Super Easy Basket Cheese for Children. I had a spare gallon of raw milk that I had to use very soon before it expired. I could have froze the milk but I really didn't want the stress of knowing I had to eventually use up the frozen milk. I just wanted to use it while it was still fresh. I also kept the whey from my first batch of cheese. Some articles I read about cheese making stated that adding the whey made better cheese. So for this batch I used a gallon of raw milk and a quart of whey.

My first cheese making experience made me much more confident for this time. I poured the milk and whey into the pot and turned on the heat. I also added a teaspoon of salt right off the bat. My first batch was not salty enough. I wanted to fix that. So as the milk cooked I prepared the bowl for the curds and got ready to scoop them out. I got the baskets cleaned and ready - no cheesecloth this time! I have the real cheese making equipment!

Once the milk reached 86 degrees I added the rennet, stirred and turned off the pot. I waited minutes to find perfect curds. I turned the pot back on while removing the curds from the whey. I filled the basket to the very top. I squeezed and squeezed until more whey came out. After a few hours, I removed the cheese from the basket and put it in the fridge.

By dinner time the cheese was ready and we had it as an appetizer before dinner. It was squeaky like cheese curds when biting into it. It was fantastic. Much better than the first batch. I can't wait to try another recipe - it sure is fun to make this wonderful food from scratch.


City Sampler WIP

I've decided to work on the city sampler blocks today and I completed another 12 blocks. These are coming along pretty quickly considering I've set the project aside for a few weeks. Between Easter and some other commitments, there hasn't been enough sewing time. Happily, I have every Wednesday as a dedicated sew day. My friend, Sue comes over and we sew together all day. It's great to have the extra incentive from seeing someone else's creativity. It sure inspires my own. So today was a good day to complete more of the 100 blocks. I now have 57 completed and another 10 blocks cut and ready to sew. I don't think it will be long to the finish line now.


Mini Zipper Pouches

I whipped up a few more mini zipper pouches this week. I had cut them out a few weeks ago but never did any actual sewing. So I thought this was a good time to get them out of the unfinished object (UFO) pile and into the finished pile. That always feels good.

I made a few of these a while back and my granddaughters love using them for their little Shopkins and to hold their allowance. I think they might make a nice item at craft fairs.


Raw Milk Cheese

I've been dying to make some cheese ever since I took a cheese-making class a few years ago. I've always wanted to make raw milk cheese; it's said to be the best kind of cheese to make from scratch. The problem is that raw milk is not sold in my state and I just never took the time to go somewhere else and get it. But finally I acquired some raw milk this week. Since it isn't easy to come by around here I was very happy when I got 2 gallons of this wonderful stuff.

As for recipes to make cheese, I can't remember where I put the ones I got when I took the class. And I wasn't that ambitious to look through all the files of recipes I've acquired over the years so I thought I would surf the net to find a recipe. I remembered the basic steps in the cheese-making process so I knew what I was looking for.

I found the perfect recipe here. I had all the ingredients and equipment necessary to make the cheese so I got to work on it this afternoon. I even came across a book on cheese-making in my library but the recipes in it were way more complicated than what I learned in the class so I think I will save the book for a time when I have more experience at this.

I followed the recipe I found on the internet however, it says to add whey. I didn't have any because I haven't made any cheese as of yet. Since the whey was listed as optional, I just ignored it. I heated my milk with a low flame and waited for a while to check the temperature. As long as the outside of the kettle didn't feel warm, I figured I had time before testing it.

The thermometer got to 86 degrees and I turned the stove off. I added the 13 drops of rennet and stirred it in. This is where I was unsure what to do next. The kettle has to sit for 45-60 minutes while the curds form, but it's supposed to stay between 80 and 90 degrees while it sits. I was worried that it might cool down too quickly so I turned the oven on in order to keep the stove warmer. After checking the temperature of the milk 3 times in 2o minutes I realized I was worrying for nothing. The kettle is such a nice thickness that it was holding the heat in nicely.

It took over 60 minutes to get a clean break on the milk. The recipe I used had a link to the explanation of what a clean break is, but the link was broken. So I used this YouTube video to learn what a clean break is. I cut the curds into chunks then turned the stove back on to get the temperature back up to 100 degrees. Even at a low heat, it literally took less than 5 minutes to get up to 100.

I placed the curds into a bowl and added the salt. The recipe called for 2 tablespoons of salt which made me nervous. I used one and a half tablespoons of salt. It was not enough. Follow the recipe!

I ended up with a large bowl of whey. And once I strained the curds, there was more whey only this time it was full of salt. I ended up mixing the whey that had the salt in it with the whey that was plain. I'm not sure that's how it was supposed to be done...oh well.

I stuck the whey back into the milk jug and put it in the fridge. I will use it in my next batch of cheese. I took my ball of cheese and pressed it between two plates with a heavy LeCreuset pot on top to weigh it down.  I must say, this stuff does taste good. I can't wait to serve it on Easter Sunday and see what everyone else thinks.