A Long Holiday

Knitting And Gift Bag | Whims And Fancies

Various reasons called for a long holiday this year and I obliged.  For me that typically means going into hibernation, at home or sometimes elsewhere on a trip.  These getaway trips would be completely impossible for us without our fabulous pet sitter, Nanci.  She not only takes care of the basic necessities of our kitties, she also spends time with them and reads aloud to them.  She even warmed her way into the hearts of my shy kitties enough that they are completely relaxed around her.

During our Sweden vacation, we got this mug for her as a thank you.  That was in September, but with one thing and another we didn’t get to see each other again until after the holidays.
 
Knitting And Sewing Gift Bag | Whims And Fancies

Pattern at One Lucky Day

As soon as I finished the first bag using the pattern on One Lucky Duck, I had to make another one for Nanci.  It made a great gift bag, the mug fits in it perfectly.  Nanci is a quilter herself.  She also runs a craft workshop for her occupational therapy patients.  She was very excited about the bag and I shared the pattern link with her for her workshop.

 

Yellow Knitted Mittens | Whims And Fancies

Harvest Date Mitts

She spends a lot of time outside, so I made these yellow mitts for her to keep her hands warm while she is out and about.  As soon as she pulled them out of the mug, she put them on right away.  She was very happy with her handmade gifts and that in turn made me smile big.

The pattern links for both the bag and the mitts are under each photo if you want to make them.  They are very quick to make and they make great gifts!

 

Pattern Writing Blog Series

 
Speaking of patterns, Cheryl from Meadow Mist Design is starting a series on Quilt Pattern Writing.  If you are interested in writing patterns or ever wondered what goes into writing them, you won’t want to miss this.  She is also doing round table discussions and I am one of the designers participating.  It will be great to see both the similarities and the differences the various designers will bring to the table.  I had a great fun writing my answers before I started my holiday.
 
Lego Harry Potter | Whims And Fancies

This year’s holidays were all about indulging my inner child.  My husband and I love the Lego Harry Potter video games.  We spent large chunks of time playing and laughing at the silliness in the game.  The settings and the music in the game are very comforting for us and we love to get lost in that world.
 

Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe | Whims And Fancies

This is sticky toffee pudding, the most delectable dessert I have ever had.  I only make it for the holidays using Nigella Lawson’s easy recipe with reduced sugar for the sauce.  I had it for breakfast one morning with vanilla ice cream!  I really don’t care about the calorie consumption, having it for breakfast once a year won’t kill me!

 

Mary's Bread | Whims And Fancies

My friend Mary shared her bread recipe which I made during the holidays.  The bread came out perfect the very first time and was incredibly delicious!

 

Yosemite Tunnel View | Whims And Fancies

The holidays ended with a trip to Yosemite National Park.  There was an unexpected road closure due to a major rockfall.  That resulted in three separate three-hours-a-piece detours in and out of the park on icy and snowy roads instead of our usual 15-minute jaunt from the hotel.  On the second evening, on our way back, we were very happy to learn that they were about to reopen the quick route back to the hotel.

While we were waiting for the road to reopen that evening, we drove to the Tunnel View vista point.  The drifting cloud from the cold and overcast day was starting to settle into an even colder Yosemite Valley night.

Happy Creating, everyone!
-Soma
 

It’s All In The Clouds

Scones

It was really overcast a couple of days ago.  For some strange reason, the cloudy, cool weather gave me a huge urge to bake.  I gave in and became a mad baking lady.   I kicked off the baking session with these easy scones.  We treated ourselves to a couple of warm ones that afternoon with butter and jam.   I sometimes like to eat them with just butter and sprinkled sugar.

Peach Crumble

Once the scones came out of the oven, I prepped a peach crumble.  Since I am allergic to all fruits with pits and cores, I can only eat canned peaches.  First I drained the syrup from the peaches and added shredded coconut and sugar.  Then I prepared the crumble, added some coconut to that as well and then into the oven it went at 375F for 30 minutes.   If I could, I would add coconut to everything!  I almost wanted to skip dinner and go straight to dessert that night!

Whole Wheat Bread

Last but certainly not least, I baked three loaves of bread.  I really love homemade bread, but I haven’t been able to bake for a while because I had been a bit under the weather.   Since I am feeling a lot better now, I just had to bake bread.  Once I had made up my mind, there was no going back.  This bread is really not that hard to make, just a lot of waiting around.  Since I was puttering around the kitchen anyway, the timing was perfect.  I love the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the house.

Charlie kitty On Quilt

After I finished all that baking, I felt like Charlie in this picture.  By the way, this is the reason why this quilt is still not finished.  I partially hand quilted it.  Every time I got up for five minutes, he was on it, sleeping.  I finally finished the quilting last week and I am feverishly hand sewing the binding now.  It is a queen size quilt, so there’s a lot of binding to sew.  Currently this is the only quilt I am working on.  Since I am not touching anything else until it’s finished, hopefully I will be able to show it here very soon.

It’s not all his fault though, for my not finishing the quilt, I must share part of the blame.  Puffy clouds and cool weather have been inviting me to go play outside, and I must heed their call.  I have been out and about with my camera a lot lately.  This is our first year here in the Napa Valley.  Fall is like a second spring, only all the leaves turn into blooms.  I thought I’d share some of my favourite photos here.

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

 Napa Valley Vineyard

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

  Napa Valley Vineyard

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

 I had no idea that grape leaves change colour too.

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

Afternoon sunlit leaves

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

 Looks like red blooms – it’s spring in fall

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

Gorgeous reds

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

 Yellow-softened asphalt

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

 Soft leaves under my feet

Dark, overcast clouds or puffy white clouds, I am happy to be able entertain myself on all occasions!

Cheers!
-Soma

A Sweet And Savory Sunday

Madeira Cake

It’s raining outside and it finally feels like winter here in Southern California.  Cooking is one of things my husband and I love to do together and today felt like the perfect day for that.  So this morning, after having homemade toast with jam and coffee for breakfast, I put my apron on and got busy.

Couple of days ago, he requested a plain butter cake with mandarin oranges in it.  I came across this recipe for Madeira Cake.  It sounded really appetizing and I had everything I needed to make this cake.  I took out the butter and eggs last night so they would be at room temperature by this morning.  I made two changes to the recipe:  I reduced the sugar to 175g/6.2oz and replaced the lemon juice and zest with a can of good mandarin oranges.  I baked it at 350F for 50 minutes.  Right now as I am writing this, I am enjoying a little slice of this heavenly cake with a cup of cappuccino that dear hubby made for me.

eggs_bacon_bake

It had to be comfort food for lunch today, I don’t have a name for this yet.  I use Bavarian seasoning and English Prime Rib Rub from The Spice House for the seasoning.  I love their spices so much, I don’t buy spices from retail stores anymore.  I believe they were mentioned on an Alton Brown show.  It is a good idea to buy your spices in big batches from them so you save on shipping.  I usually end up placing an order twice per year.

4 small potatoes – diced
1 small onion – diced
1 jalapeno pepper – diced
4 strips of bacon – cut with scissors into 1″ pieces
Bavarian seasoning
English Prime Rib Rub
Salt to taste
A tiny bit of oil to coat everything
5 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Put potatoes, onion, jalapeno pepper and bacon on a baking dish.  Sprinkle the two spices, salt and just enough oil to coat.  Mix everything together.  Once the oven is at 400F, put the baking dish in and turn the temperature down to 375F.  After 30 minutes of cooking it at 375F, I like to take the dish out, have my husband gently tilt it and I drain the bacon grease out with a spoon.  This way it’s not cloying and it doesn’t feel too heavy either.  Then turn the temperature back up to 400F again and cook it for another 20 minutes until the potatoes are almost done.

In the meantime, beat the eggs with a little bit of salt.  After the additional 20 minutes of cooking the potatoes at 400F, take the dish out of the oven.  Turn the temperature down to 375F again.  Pour the eggs all over the potatoes and cook the whole thing again for 20 more minutes until the eggs are done.

Let it cool a tiny bit, cut and serve with gratings of your favorite cheese on top.  I like smoked cheddar.  This makes for a modest amount of lunch for the two of us over two days.

The whole reason for the temperature juggling is to keep the onions and the bacon from burning while the potatoes get perfectly done.  Total cook time is about 70 minutes but prep time is only as long as it takes you to dice the potatoes and the onion.

pork_noodle_soup

While waiting for lunch to get done in the oven, I worked on dinner:  a light Vietnamese pork noodle soup.  I don’t really follow the recipe as far as the vegetables go.  I pick out what seems appetizing at the moment while I am at the grocery store; therefore, what vegetables I put in there varies constantly.  I also didn’t have any garlic oil at home.  So I just chopped up some garlic and added that while I was frying up the spring onions and ginger.

We are going out to watch a movie tonight after dinner.  Now all I have left to do at dinner time is to make the noodles and heat up the soup.  This soup is so light and refreshing and you get a bunch of warm veggies in a pot along with pork and noodles.  Nothing can be more comforting!

Bon Appetit!
-Soma