Sunday, July 30, 2017

Alfresco Dinner Party

Mr. Romance and I have always enjoyed entertaining Alfresco style. My favorite thing is to come up with a menu, pare it with good wine and good friends and sit outside enjoying a lovely summer night.
I came up with the menu and then started building the guest list, which included dear friends and family.

I bought a simple bouquet from the grocery store, added the green hydrangeas from the garden and some basil flowers, put it all in a basket and it became the perfect centerpiece. Not much more was needed since the backyard was used as the main focal point.

It was a coincidence that the water glasses matched the flowers.

Large dinner plates and mismatched salad bowls created a casual look to a long, dining area.

We started with appetizers and aperitifs inside, because it was still too warm to be outside in the hot sun. These cheese plates are some of my favorite specialty plates that I own. 

Our "signature cocktail" for the evening was a Negroni. This delicious, Italian inspired cocktail, couldn't be easier to make and it is so good.

for each serving use:
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Vermouth Rosso
Mix and pour over an ice ball. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
I made a small pitcher of these drinks ahead of time and then poured them as needed when the guests arrived.

It was nice to be able to serve some of our garden tomatoes and basil in the Caprese salad. Our garden has not been the best this year but it has still produced more tomatoes than we can eat. 

These are some of the wines we enjoyed with dinner and dessert.

Luckily my sister made a few photos because once everyone arrived I forgot to make any photographic memories.

Great conversation was enjoyed throughout the evening.

My re-creation of a dessert we had fifteen years ago in Northern California turned out just like the original. It consisted of Humbolt Fog goat cheese, Sage honey with honeycomb, pistachios, candied pecans and Raincoat crisps with cranberry and hazelnuts. The cheese combined with figs was the last course, after the Molten Lava cakes, ice cream and whipped cream. 
Molten Lava cakes are so easy to make and everyone likes them.

Molten Lava Cake
makes 4 servings
4-4 ounce ramekins
4 oz. good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
4 oz. butter, plus more for buttering the ramekins
2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting the ramekins

Melt butter. Add chopped chocolate and stir until melted.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until light and thick, about 1 minute. Add egg mixture and the 2 teaspoons flour to the melted butter and chocolate mixture. Beat until combined.
Butter and lightly flour the ramekins, taking care not to miss any spots. Tap out the extra flour.
Divide the batter evenly into the ramekins. (At this point you can refrigerate them for up to three hours; bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
When ready to bake preheat the oven to 450'F. Put the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the cakes have puffed up slightly and can still jiggle when shaken, about 7-9 minutes (better to under bake than over bake). Let sit for 1 minute.
To serve, carefully put a plate on top of each ramekin and invert the cake onto the plate. Let sit for a few seconds before removing the mold. Serve immediately, sprinkled with powdered sugar, accompanied by a scoop of ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream.

Thanks to my sister for snapping this photo, so Paul and I could both be in it. 

I'm not going to lie, entertaining is a lot of work. Paul worked for three days getting the yard in tip top shape and I shopped in no fewer than 6 grocery stores and specialty markets, cooked and prepped for three days, and did dishes for 2 hours the day after the party (hand washing 35 glasses!). This was all in addition to our granddaughter and her friend helping us the night of the party with last minute cooking, serving, clearing of dishes and washing dishes...all while keeping Martha Stewart Labradoodle happily entertained.

It's all worth it to spend time with great people on a warm summer night.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


My blog posts have gotten fewer and farther between in the last year, but recently I was reminded of why I started a blog in the first place. I began my blog as a way to document my creative life and family life,  to keep a permanent record of everything in one place. I began sharing my blog with you fantastic readers in September of 2010. 
The Instagram takeover has reduced my blog posts significantly, but I really want to get back to this form of record keeping. I cannot tell you how many times I refer to my blog for a recipe or a photo.

So here I go again. I'm going to attempt to do a little catch up post today.

Over the July 4th holiday we were able to have all our kids and grand kids together for a few days. When your family totals nineteen members, it is not an easy task to get them all together. As the grandchildren get older, they have more and more activities that keep them occupied elsewhere. 
We had a big beach get together on July 3rd. This photo was taken after one grandson took ill and he and his mom left to go rest at our house. 

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our beach party.

We celebrated two June and three July birthdays. 

Believe it or not, this was the first time we have had all nine of our grandchildren together, since Valko was born in January. There was always an illness or conflicting schedule that kept someone missing from our last few gatherings. How is it possible that our two eldest grandchildren are nearly adults? With our tenth (a girl) expected mid-October, we will round out the count at girls 5/boys 5!

Creatively, I have been extremely busy, mostly keeping up with my two bees and finishing quilts that were started a while ago. The quilts I will share soon. But here are the bee blocks I have made recently.
These blocks are for Rebecca in the Stitch Tease bee. She is making a cutting garden quilt and asked us to make the "sprout" portion of the blocks. You can find the full pattern for sale by Krista of  Poppyprint blog. 

Also for Stitch Tease bee are these blocks for Jennifer. The tutorial for these Dutch Treat blocks can be found on the Aurifil website.



It was my month to be queen bee in the Stash Sewciety bee for June. I asked for a twelve inch star block and four six inch blocks,  all of the maker's choice. My colors are lemon, watermelon, cantaloupe, light and medium blues. I'm hoping to make a happy picnic quilt. The blocks have been arriving and they are fantastic. These are the blocks I made to get the ball rolling.


Also for Stash Sewciety are these blocks for our July queen, Lisa. She gave us free reign to make what we wanted for her following these hints: beach, sunsets, sewing, cake and coffee,  vintage Pyrex, her black lab, and pineapples. I really had fun making my contributions.

I finished a dottie pouch for a friend. I made several of these a few years ago from a wonderful tutorial by Lee of  May Chappell.

One last "family" note; I lost a part of my extended family and life long friend, in June. I asked Pat to be my second dad when my dad died in 2000. He filled all the voids in my life when I needed a shoulder to cry on or some advise. I will miss him dearly. He lived a long, good 96 years. He will be forever in my heart. Here he is with the quilt I made him in 2015.

Pat Askay 1921-2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

So Faded...making my first hand knit sweater

When I saw Andrea Mowry's pattern for a SO Faded sweater I knew it needed to be my first adult sized sweater knitting project. I quickly ordered a curated collection of yarn from @Nicole_Huelco (Instagram name) yarn shop. 

The reason I was drawn to this sweater is because it was made with fingering weight wool, making this a perfect sweater for cool California evenings. Our weather is so mild here that making a heavy wool sweater would be a lot of work for not getting many wearings out of it. 
I started this sweater on May 20. It was a scary start. My stitches were very loose and I was worried that I would not get a nice, even stitch. I kept on going and my stitches evened out.

I surprised myself when I finished the sweater on June 30, still needing to weave in the thread ends. I thought it would take me months to complete. What was a really scary start turned out to be an easy sweater to complete. The pattern is well written and easy to follow. 

I knit the majority of the sweater with the continental knitting method and even mastered the purl continental stitch. The only time I reverted to throwing the yarn was when I was knitting the ribbing at the neckline and bottom of the body of the sweater and sleeves.

I like that the neckline sits a little lower on my neck. It is more flattering, in my opinion, on me than a crew neck sweater would be. This was because my stitches started out a little too loose, but I'm glad it worked out.

The pattern offers two options of sleeve lengths, either an elbow length sleeve or a long sleeve. I chose to finish somewhere in the middle with a three-quarter length sleeve.

My only regret is that I did not make the sweater one size bigger. I would have liked it to fit a bit more loose.

Now if the temperatures can drop about 30 degrees I can take this sweater out of the drawer and get some wear out of it. It has been in the 90's and 100's here in Southern California and we still have 2 months of summer!

Sweater Stats:
Pattern: So Faded by Andrea Mowry  Size 38
Yarn: Andrea's pick from Hue Loco online yarn shop 80% Merino Wool, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon
Colors: Girl Talk
             Pink Peppercorn
             Cutie Pie
Needles: Addi Turbo 24" and 32" Circular US 3 - 3.25 mm and US 5 - 3.75 mm 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Second Quarter Finish Along 2017

I set my goal for three finishes and only finished two! I am really falling short on so many levels. I spent the majority of May making clothes and June cleaning out closets and looking through 8 huge boxes of my mom's old photos. If you have ever looked through decades of photos you will know how long this takes. My mom saved everything, including the photos where her finger was over the lens! Ha! Ha!

Now my finishes:
You can see my hopeful list of three planned projects here. 
The first finish was this pair of socks. You can read all about them in this blog post

My other finish is a large Alternative Pickle Dish quilt. I love this quilt and the way is all came together. It's super scrappy thanks to my Stash Sewciety bee, who helped me make all the starry looking blocks. For all the details see the blog post I wrote about it in April. 

I didn't get to the quilting and binding of this other bee quilt, but plan on finishing it for the next quarter. All the blocks are made and sewn into a quilt top, so if it cools off I should be able to baste it and quilt it real soon.

Thank you to all the lovely ladies who help to keep the Finish Along going and also to the many sponsors.

Capitola Quilter