Pickled

About a year ago my husband and I discovered shrubs- a.k.a. drinking vinegar. Shrubs are often used in mixed alcoholic drinks, but we like to mix them with seltzer water. Jeff makes his way to the kitchen every evening about an hour before bed and concocts our evening soft drink.

There’s been a lot of chatter about the benefits of having a dose or so of vinegar every day. There’s discussions on what kind of vinegar, how much is a dose, and just what exactly are the benefits of swigging something that tastes that bad?

I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that we like it. We’ve found a way to drink it that is actually enjoyable. And we have seen benefits, the most pronounced being a lot less acid reflux in the night, and that alone is enough of a reason to keep going.

We first learned of shrubs when I found McClary Bros Old Timey Drinking Vinegars at Your Dekalb Farmers Market. They were pricey, but considering that the only other beverage we normally drink besides water is ginger ale, our budget had room to give it a try. We tried every flavor, and really loved the Michigan Apple Pie flavor the best. We even took it with us when we traveled.

This went on for several months, then suddenly I noticed that the quantity on the shelf at the market was getting smaller and smaller until it went out of stock. I checked into ordering it online, but the price doubled, and that was unacceptable. About this same time, I saw someone post about making their own shrubs, and I was intrigued. I tried to replicate the apple pie flavor, but it just wasn’t working. Then I read about making berry shrubs, and that opened a new window.

As many already know, Braggs has been considered the top dog in the healthy vinegar world, and I started out using it as my base for the shrubs. But, as many also already know, it’s also very expensive. So, I was pretty excited to find that White House has jumped on the organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar bandwagon, and it’s considerably cheaper than its Braggs counterpart.

The berry shrubs recipes I found online had a huge amount of sugar in them, which is a part of what it means to make shrubs, but I was deterred by the volume of it. I have not cut sugar completely out of my life, (hello, donuts), but I do look for ways to cut back on it.

So, here’s my recipe, and even the hubs who doesn’t believe in cutting back on sugar ever, likes it!

Berry Shrubs (makes about 1 1/2 gallons)

  • 16 cups cut/whole berries
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 16 cups raw organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar

Clean, cut and prepare fresh fruit. The fresher, the better!

Sugar the berries in a large bowl. This quantity requires a really big bowl! Leave in the fridge for about 24 hours to allow the berries to sweat.

Add the vinegar to the sugared berries. Put back into the fridge for another 24 hours.

Remove the fruit from the mixture. I freeze this fruit and use it in my morning protein shake. Definitely adds some spark to my morning as those berries hold onto the vinegar!

Pour vinegar into containers (I literally reused the gallon bottles the apple cider vinegar came in). Leave in the fridge for several more days- about a week- to allow the sugar to completely dissolve.

When ready to serve, just pour about 1/2″ of vinegar into a juice glass, then fill the rest of the way with seltzer water. Obviously one can play around with the combo to get the taste you like, but this is how we do it. Or at least I think so, since Jeffrey is the mixologist at our house!

Enjoy!

Pay for it now, or pay for it later.

It seems we live in a world of borrowing on the future. We borrow money from our future selves in the form of financial debt. We borrow time from our future selves in the form of procrastination. We even borrow health from our future selves in the form of instant gratification.

I should know. I’m guilty of all three.

While I’ll never be ultra responsible in any of those areas, I can work on being a little better. I’m okay with who I am, but I also believe in self-discipline and development. Progress is the name of the game.

So recently I decided to get on the Whole 30 bandwagon for a few weeks. Here’s what I found out. You have to be rich to eat healthy.

This jar of almond butter was almost $8. Are you kidding me?!? And do you know how much almond butter is involved in eating healthy? Apparently tons of it. Like a small fortune’s worth.

I was so floored by the cost of this stuff that I started looking more seriously at recipes and wondering if I really could do it myself. I was skeptical as it seemed too easy, but maybe Pinterest and Google wouldn’t let me down?

And what about cost effectiveness? It turns out that a 3 lb bag of almonds at my local Sam’s club runs about $13, which would make a whole lot more almond butter than what was in that 12 oz jar.

I wasn’t ready to invest. I wasn’t sold. So, I looked in my pantry and low and behold I had a bag of raw cashews. Cashew butter is a thing, isn’t it? Not sure if it’s very healthy, but that wasn’t really the goal here. More like an experiment of sorts.

Sure enough, it is. Lots of recipes available, and really very simple.

Phase 1- toast the cashews! 375 degrees for five minutes. I was curious what they’d be like roasted a little longer, so I turned off the oven and left them in for a little longer.

Phase 2- blend the cashews! I got no photos of this in action as I was too enamored with the process to stop for pics. At first I thought it wasn’t working because it looked like coarse flour. Then, following the recipe (loosely), I added 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil and a bit of salt- neither of which are very healthy or needful, but I care not. Suddenly cashew butter started forming in the bottom of the blender, and sure enough in just a couple of minutes I had a blender full of nut butter.

Phase 3- eat the cashew butter! I wasn’t sure about all of this in the beginning, but it really did turn out delightful. I then immediately used some to make this chocolate banana fudgy kind of stuff that was also delightful. But I’ll save that one for another post.

As for having to be rich to eat healthy, it may be more true in this day and age that you have to be rich to survive being sick. And to avoid being sick, you have to invest in eating healthy. But that investment doesn’t have to be made with a lot of cash. Maybe just a little, mixed with time. As I always say, it just depends on your resources. If you are going to spend it, spend what you have more of.

Something old. Something new.

I love this little quilt. I love the colors. I love the fabric. I love the maker. And I love what I got to learn from it.

Several years ago- more than I can remember- I participated in a quilt guild’s brown bag challenge. If I remember correctly, each member of the guild put 5 fat quarters in a brown bag and turned them in to a coordinator. The coordinator then redistributed the brown bags, and each maker had a few mo this to make a quilt top from the contents of the bag.

My brown bag ended up in the hands of a sweet friend and meticulous quilter, and I was thrilled with what she did with my fabric selections. Her curved piecing was impeccable, and I thought it was great use of the prints.

Like so many of my own projects, it got packed away and added to a long list of UFOs. A few months ago I actually went through all of my “stuff” and took an inventory of all of my UnFinished Objects and was horrified and embarrassed, so I’ve been pretty committed to finishing things off. The added benefit is that one of my major motivations is a sense of accomplishment, and as I finish each project my spirits are lifted and creativity is free to flow.

Another benefit is that I find that I’ve learned a lot since the project before me was first made, and I love applying new skills to those older projects. This time it just so happened that I had just learned a new-to-me binding technique, and this quilt was small enough that I was willing to try it without it being a huge commitment.

For years I thought that continuous double-fold binding was the only way to bind a quilt without folding the backing to the front. I’ve learned that is not at all true, and there are several more options. It really just depends on the end goal on which one works best, although most people pick one way of doing it and just stick to it. Me? Not so much. I like variety, and understand that I may not want the same finish on every quilt.

I recently attended the Southern Belle retreat for owners of Statler machines and hosted by Joan Knight and Anita Shackelford. We learned tons about our machine software, but there were also demos and discussions on other aspects of quilting. One of those was a lecture and demonstration of binding presented by Anita. During this, I learned about continuous single-fold binding, which I’ve never seen done before.

Two of the major differences from the continuous double- fold binding in familiar with are that continuous single-fold is cut at just 1 1/4″, and the length of the binding is not pressed in half. The binding is machine seamed on the diagonal, and machine attached (right sides together) to the front of the quilt.

The binding is then flipped to the back, and the raw edge is folded halfway down with a hard finger press as it is hand stitched to the back of the quilt. I found that it worked best to work about 2-3″ out from my needle and press towards where I was working. Otherwise the binding can start to warp.

Stitching is standard 1/4″ blind stitch with a single thread. Corners are also standard 90 degree with flaps sewn down both on front and back.

What I loved about it is that the binding, and especially the corners, are remarkably flat and tight. It was a relaxing process to me, but I happen to LOVE binding quilts. The negative was that quite honestly, it took me twice as long to do because of having to stop to finger press every couple of inches. I may see if I can tweak that process next time.

And so, there it is. Something old- a marinated UFO, and something new- a fabulous technique!

Sugar Sand?

Recently the hubs and I had the chance to get away for our own version of spring break and went on a jaunt down to Clearwater Beach, FL. We stayed at the Wyndham Grand right down on the beach- perfect view, accommodations, and weather.

We arrived on a Monday, right after the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival ended. While it would have been fun to see the sand sculptures, to be honest we were glad that the crowds were light.

It was a quick trip, but a much needed break for Jeff. We really just relaxed, ate too much, and got a bit of vitamin D. It was just right.

During our travels he keeps his eye out for auto repair shops, and I check GPS for quilt stores and donut shops. On this trip we stopped in at Rainbow’s End Quilt Shop for a quick look around, and on the last day we went to a donut shop I had spotted earlier in the week.

Admittedly, I had my doubts about this place. I mean, how good does a donut shop at the beach actually have to be to be successful? There’s an ice cream shop on every corner in Clearwater Beach, and every restaurant has the best grouper sandwich in town, but as far as I could see, there was only one donut shop.

As soon as we walked in the door, I knew this was not your average donut shop. There were no donuts. That’s right. Not a single one.

This place makes your donuts right in front of your face. No need to watch for the “hot donuts now” sign. And thank goodness because these are fabulous cake donuts, not the ultra sugary stuff from Krispy Kreme. And if you don’t know, I do NOT like KK. But I digress.

After a somewhat confusing order form involving a wide selection of donuts, icings and toppings, we watched as our donuts were fried and dressed to our liking. We got plain donuts, but prepared differently. Chocolate with sea salt, lemon with coconut, and lemon glaze.

One bite and that was it. Light crisp on the outside. Warm squishy cake on the inside. And hello. Lemon glaze that is actually lemon and not pretend lemon?!? Yes, please!!! How about the chocolate and sea salt? Jeff thought he only wanted a lemon glaze, but one bite of the chocolate sea salt and he ended up eating half of it. But only because that’s all I would give him.

Clearwater Beach- you have lovely palm trees, tasty grouper sandwiches, and beautiful white, sugar sand beaches, but I love you for your donuts. That’s my kind of sugar.

#520in2018

A couple of years ago I had a goal of doing 520 hours of service in a year. I didn’t make it, but it was still awesome. Then I got distracted, and even felt like people thought I was bragging with the hashtag. After reassessing a few things, I’ve decided to return to this idea. I’ll be posting my progress along the way, not as bragging, but more as accountability, but also an easier way to keep track of it myself as well as let others know that I’m available to help if I am able.

What does this mean to you? It means that I am offering up to 10 hours of free quilting each month. No strings attached, but a few rules to keep things fair.

1- Edge-to-edge/panto quilting only. I will show you some options and you can choose which you like best. Once the quilting has begun, you can’t change your mind, so make sure it’s what you want!

2- The Green Apricot/Angela Gubler are not responsible for costs of materials- backing, batting and thread. They either need to be either provided by the client or purchased from TGA.

3- Shipping costs are solely the responsibility of the client.

4- TGA is not responsible for loss or damage to the quilt top or quilted quilt.

5- To submit your quilt for this offer, simply send at least two pictures of the quilt top- one of the whole top and the other a close up, and the measurements of the quilt to thegreenapricot@gmail.com. You do not need to send any info about why you are submitting the quilt. I will respond to let you know if I will be able to schedule your quilt.

6- If I am able to fulfill your request, I will schedule your quilt for quilting, and it is your responsibility to get everything to me by that date. I am using a scheduling system for quilting and have limited time slots available, so you may lose your spot if I do not have everything in hand on time.

I’m looking forward to a wonderful new year, and I hope you are, too!

Knit Along, Baby!

Or, maybe it’s a baby knit along? Or maybe a knit along for babies? It’s so much work to come up with a catch hook. Just sayin’.

So how about we just get to the point. (If you want to skip the story, scroll down for important dates.) Do you see that super cute tiny human up there in that pic? She’s the latest addition to our family, and I’m totally using her cuteness to draw your attention to the buttery blanket she’s modeling!

I first saw this Baby Gradient Kit by Feza Yarns at the beginning of October and fell in love with the softness of the yarn and the fineness of the knit. She won’t stay small for long, so I dropped everything and got to work. I finished it in about 3 weeks, and it was both relaxing and rewarding to work on. Plus, she loves it.

I really wanted to make another to have on hand for any future babies in our family, so I got with my friends at Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn to get another kit. I ended up buying two, because, well, two.

I’m so excited!!!! The kind of excited where I want other people to be excited, too! So, why not join me in a knit along? This is a fabulous project for starting off the new year. It’s a relaxing, easy knit, and with a little encouragement, it can be a pretty quick finish.

So here’s the deal- visit Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn and/or The Green Apricot on Facebook or Instagram (@intownquilters @thegreenapricot) to see how to earn 15% off of your kit and be entered into a drawing for a $40 gift certificate at IQF&Y. (Opportunity ends 12/25/17.)

Then, cast on your first row on 1/20/18 and get to knitting! The kit includes 4 cakes of hand-dyed viscose/cotton yarn and the needed pattern, which is basically a garter stitch edging with a stockinette body. Each section is intended to gradually change color from one cake of yarn to the next. I didn’t follow the color change in the pattern for the one I made for our granddaughter, but I will for the next one.

And how about an incentive to finish? Post a pic of the first completed section on or before 2/3/18 with the hashtag #iqfykal and tag The Green Apricot/@thegreenapricot (so I can find it) and IQF&Y will have a reward for you! We’ll keep going every two weeks, and before you know it, you’ll have a completed bit of seriously soft and sweet on your hands. It might even be difficult to give it away.

IMPORTANT DATES:

12/25/17 Deadline to earn 15% discount and enter drawing.

1/20/18 Cast on!

2/3/18 Finish first section!

2/17/18 Finish second section!

3/3/18 Finish third section!

3/17/18 Finish!!!!!!

Stay tuned for more info, and be sure to check out both Intown Quilters and The Green Apricot on social media.

Framed

 

 

 

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Recently I was super excited to get my hands on the latest installation of the Ghastlies fabric from Alexander Henry.  Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn is one of my favorite shops, and I was in a hot hurry to get up there and grab some before it was all gone!  I have managed to miss out on it in the past, but that was not going to be the case this time.

As you can see from the sampling above, the line is absolutely fabulous.  There are actually two color ways, but the difference is subtle, and I still liked to mix them.  One is kind of half the color intensity of the other, if that makes sense.  There is a perfectly chilling pastoral, a delightfully harrowing panel and a number of accomplices in the form of supporting fabrics.  I am just crazy over the moths and webs.

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But let’s be honest.  Sometimes fabric like this is hard to cut into.  What exactly to do with the panel?  The print rarely straightens up well to be able to cut an actual square, even though the panel is made of squares.  And, there’s no seam allowance between squares, so losing some of the print is bound to happen.  The pastoral print is fun and large, but where to begin?  How big to make the blocks?  What if I cut off someone’s head?

Well, no worries.  After all, these are the Ghastlies.

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I didn’t have a pattern, but Sarah at IQ and I were chatting and we came up with a bit of a scheme, and I headed home with fabric in hand to get to chopping.

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In my haste to start whacking away at the Ghastlies, I forgot to get a good plan about how to cut those panel squares.  I needed some for one size of square, and some for another, and it was getting difficult to get enough of the larger squares.  Then I realized that if I cut the panel in the middle along the print from selvage to selvage and worked out from there, I would have more to choose from for the larger blocks.

Once I had accumulated enough of the larger squares, I cut into the remnants of the panel for smaller squares- which left for lots of opportunity for selective chopping.

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Then I was ready for block assembly.  This thing was taking no time at all, and I was loving every macabre moment of it.

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The squares were all assembled, but something was awry, and it wasn’t just the lighting in my living room or lack of quality from a camera phone.  First, it was way tiny.  Second, well, the delight of drama was a bit lacking.

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So, back to IQ, and back to plotting.  I ended up using both color ways of the line, and put a little more thought into placing the darker fabrics to highlight a little more contrast.  After all, what good is a mystery without a bit of conflict?

But I still found that the pastoral blocks were blending into the background more than I wanted, so I decided to highlight just a few of them using a technique I learned several years ago and has come in handy a few times.

Sometimes I need just a thin line to define a space, or break up a design.  A very thin line.  Like a 1/4″ line.  But without adding any size to the original block.  Now, admittedly, I am not a perfect quilter, in any sense of the word, so the idea of cutting the desired area down by 1/2″ all the way around, then cutting a strip 3/4″ and attaching it with a perfect 1/4″ seam and keeping all and all straight and squared up is a bit daunting to me.  Maybe even terrifying.  Disturbing.  Unnerving.  (Better stop before I run out of adjectives.)

So, this is how I do it.  I leave the block the original size.  I cut a 1″ strip of the framing fabric.  I use a 1/2″ seam allowance to attach the framing fabric to either side of the block.  At this point I make a choice to either cut away the excess 1/4″ in the seam allowance, or leave it in for a little extra bulk in the frame.  I left it in this time, but Juan the Gammill Camel (my longarm machine) was not happy with me for doing it.  Then I attach the framing fabric to both the top and the bottom of the block, again using a 1/2″ seam allowance, and then either cutting away or leaving the excess.  It finishes nicely for me, and to me is easier than fiddling with a thin piece of fabric and a thin seam allowance.

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Having said all of that, when the gang at Intown Quilters and I got to talking about it and decided for a pattern’s sake to write it up a little differently.  So, if you pick up the kit or the pattern for A Ghastlie Parquet from IQ either in person or online, you’ll see a different way of doing it, but you’ll also know the secret of how it actually came about.

Once the top was done, and I swear it took just as long to write this blogpost as it did to make the top, it went straight into Juan’s arms.  Juan and I discussed our options a bit, but really, it was decided pretty quickly that we wanted webs.  But not just regular old standard webs.  We wanted cool webs.  And I found them at Urban Elementz.

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It quilted up quickly, and before I knew it the binding was on and voila- the Ghastlies were framed and on their way to the holding cell at Intown Quilters for your viewing pleasure.  Bwahahahahahahaha…