My priorities, they have been rearranging! I am purposefully minimizing time spent blogging because I’d rather be living this new married life. But I do want to report a few bits of sewing (I have more going, but that’s for Christmas).

This weekend, I’d had enough of sending my husband to work with his lunch in a plastic grocery bag. I scanned the interwebs and decided to modify this Purl Bee pattern.

IMG_1563.JPG

IMG_1562.JPG

IMG_1564.JPG

IMG_1565.JPG

Husband was happily surprised and delighted. He loves what I make in general and encourages me to sew as much as I can, recognizing how important it is for me to create.

I also worked on something just for me this weekend:

IMG_1571.JPG

IMG_1568.JPG

I had two charm packs of “Quilt Blocks”, the line of fabric Ellen Luckett Baker designed for Moda. I added a little black corner to each and pieced them together, then put them away for a long time. I held onto them through my pre-international-moving fabric purge, and as I was looking for my sewing mojo after the wedding, I pulled them back out. Today I finished the hand stitching on the binding. This is my soaking quilt, something to drape over me when I lie down to spend time with God, usually right after work, letting the day slide off me into a restful peace.

There are a lot of challenges to this marriage – emotional, physical, financial, spiritual – but the best constant is Father God. He who created me made me to be creative like Him, so when I sew (or paint or cook or knit or craft), I am most like Him. If I’m not very frequently blogging, that’s where I am – with my new husband and with my Forever-Loving Father. Joy and peace to you until I write again!

My last female housemate before marriage had a birthday this summer, and I neglected to blog her gift. I also decided to make a “thank you for being an awesome roomie” gift. It was meant to be finished as my September Lovely Year of Finishes goal, but I was late. So I’ll share both now!

IMG_1824.PNG

IMG_1826.PNG

IMG_1825.PNG

IMG_1827.PNG

IMG_1828.PNG

My friend is a fantastic hostess and often bakes elaborate treats (honey mead spice cake was her latest – yum), but she had no apron! She also tended a raised bed this summer, and I thought her apron could be useful for gathering her harvest. So I made it a cheery rose print and backed it in sturdy denim. I named it “Happy Gathering”, and she loved it so much!

This she requested:

IMG_1830.PNG

IMG_1831.PNG

IMG_1832.PNG

IMG_1835.PNG

IMG_1833.PNG

IMG_1834.PNG

She asked for a Bible cover and chose the prints. A grey exterior with a unicorn inside was also a must. It took me a bit of time to get around to, but the result is a snug fit to protect her precious book. I’m so thankful for my sweet friend! Making one-of-a-kind, personally-designed gifts is one of my life’s great pleasures! Beauty, function, and relationship – it can’t get much better than that!

IMG_1785.PNG

IMG_1783.PNG

IMG_1782.PNG

IMG_1788.PNG

IMG_1786.PNG

IMG_1780.PNG

IMG_1787.PNG

It’s the kind of gown that comes alive in the wearing. Over four yards of tissue-thin silk taffeta tucked and pleated up into the 27-inch waistband. I loved twirling in it, and one of my favorite moments was when a few of my favorite five-year-olds began chasing me around the field. The way that fabric flowed was like the gleeful whispers of the first autumn wind in the trees. Choosing plain cotton muslin as the lining kept me cool and comfortable so I was free to enjoy the day. My only regret is not being able to wear it longer!

Photography by the incomparable Teale Gunter of Teale Photography.

I am behind in blogging my bakes! This one comes from almost a month ago when my husband and I spontaneously had friends over for dinner and games. I chose sugar cookies because I had all the ingredients on hand, and I knew they would make enough to satisfy our sweet teeth!

Rich Iced Biscuits
13 September 2014, p. 14 in Be-Ro Home Baked Recipes, 41st Edition
Listening to ‘A Study in Pink,’ BBC’s Sherlock

Equipment
2 cookie sheets
Mixing bowls and spoons
Floured board
Rolling pin
Cookie cutter
Parchment paper
Sifter
Wire rack
Whisk for icing

Ingredients
2 c. + 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. + 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
8 Tbsp butter (1 stick)
1 egg at room temperature
1/8 tsp vanilla extract (few drops)
2 Tbsp milk

“Glacé Icing”, p. 84
1 Tbsp hot water
1 1/4 c. sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Rub together flour and butter. Stir in granulated sugar. Add milk, vanilla, and beaten egg. Roll out thin (about 3/8 inches) on floured board. Cut with cutters or into rounds. Place on parchment-lined baking trays. Bake about 16 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Whisk water into powdered sugar, then smooth onto cooled cookies immediately. Allow to dry completely before stacking in a tin.

Reviews
Baker: 7 of 10, “Plain, but addictive!”
Husband: 8 of 10, fought for the last one
Tester: “8 of 10 for texture, 9 of 10 as a sugar cookie”

IMG_1239.PNG

IMG_1240.PNG

IMG_1242.PNG

IMG_1241.PNG

IMG_1243.PNG

These were perfect with after dinner tea and coffee and really made the evening. Everyone kept saying, “This is my last one!” When there was one remaining, we determined that the winner of the current game would get it. Husband, gamer that he is, tends not to win. But this time he did! Never had victory been so sweet!

Recent developments with work have led me to some gorgeous views of the Nashville sky(line). I deeply love my city.

IMG_1771.PNG

IMG_1773.PNG

IMG_1774.PNG

IMG_1776.PNG

IMG_1772.PNG

Wednesday’s sunrise was unreal, so lavish and extravagant the fire in it.

IMG_1777.PNG

IMG_1775.PNG

I wish we would do away with daylight savings time so we all could see such beauty more often. October commutes on a teacher’s schedule are unparalleled for their sunrises, especially if one is favored enough to be driving East. They certainly help redeem the sacrificed sleep!

That title is a bit misleading: I did not sew for anyone else’s wedding. But Husband’s brother recently married, and as his patient bride permitted him to enter on the Zelda theme song, I had to make something fantastic. We stayed with Husband’s sister so we could spend time with nieces and nephew! Being me, I had to bring gifts. We gave Nephew all the packets of Legos left from our wedding, but the girls needed something sewn!

IMG_1234.PNG

IMG_1235.PNG

IMG_1236.PNG

A few days after our wedding, Niece #2 was born! I made a pair of quilted newborn bibs for her.

IMG_1231.PNG

IMG_1233.PNG

IMG_1232.PNG

Niece #1 is almost 3 years old and loves her play kitchen. I thought she might enjoy a cheery play apron! The closures are Velcro, an idea I got from this tutorial. The rest of the pattern I came up with myself. She was too shy to try it on, but next time her mother bakes, I bet she will!

Now for that wedding gift.

IMG_1257.PNG

IMG_1256.PNG

IMG_1255.PNG

IMG_1258.PNG

Oh, the research I did for this one! I made the apron from denim, tracing one I had on hand. Then I sketched each piece off images from the Nintendo game, ironed interfacing to my solid cotton, and cut out each piece. Finally, I satin stitched each piece down, doing my best to maintain those shapes. Husband suggested I make more for sale, but I am not sure the labor is worth it – except this once! For those (like myself) unfamiliar with Zelda, the design is the shield belonging to Link, the main character. The Sierpinski triangle in the middle, called the Triforce, is Zelda’s most memorable icon. I was tempted to stop there, but since this is Husband’s brother, I wanted to go over the top. He was thrilled to receive it and looked heroic trying it on. Hoping he will make his new bride very happy with romantic home-cooked dinners!

Our visit was short, but we made so many memories! I am so happy to be an aunt and to have more sisters- and brothers-in-love!

Edited to add: sure enough, I received photo proof that my niece likes her apron! Her mother sent me a snap just as I finished writing it up!

IMG_1676.PNG

Husband and I were invited to join a community group with other young couples. It’s perfect! I’ll have a consistent excuse to bake and lots of willing tasters. Rather than start fancy, I started simply with Madeira Cake, a British classic that only calls for a few pantry staples.

Madeira Cake
11 September 2014, p. 51 in Be-Ro Home Baked Recipes, 41st Edition
Listening to Project Runway Season 4, Episodes 3-4

Equipment
Kitchenaid mixer
Mixing bowl
Rubber spatula
Cake tester (or toothpick)
Loaf pan
Parchment paper, cut to line pan
Sifter
Wire rack

Ingredients
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 + 1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp + 3 pinches baking soda
1/2 c. + 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
10 Tbsp butter (1 1/4 stick)
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together all dry ingredients except sugar. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add beaten eggs and vanilla a little at a time, adding a bit of the dry mix between additions. Add the rest. Smooth into the parchment-lined pan. Mixture will be thick. Bake for 25-40 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Notes on Baking
Once in the oven, I made the mistake of not checking the cake throughout the bake time. I baked it for 45 minutes, which was far too long, and it tasted over-baked. I’d recommend testing it at 25 minutes and then every 5 after until it’s done!

Reviews
Baker: 6 of 10, “Nice flavor, good with coffee.”
Husband: 6 of 10, “Dry.”
Tester (age 6): 5 of 10, “Next time bring something tastier!”

IMG_1244.PNG

IMG_1245.PNG

IMG_1247.PNG

IMG_1248.PNG

IMG_1249.PNG

My taster was my flower girl! She was not impressed, hoping for a sweeter cake, or at least something with icing! But she did crumble her piece into her applesauce, so she liked it a little!

Others suggested serving it with cream or berries. They also tried to re-name it! Top two ideas were “Madea’s Cake” and “Little House on the Prairie Bread”!

I wrote to Lois about my over-baking woes. She replied,

Most Madeira cakes are made in loaf shapes over here so you are fine. It’s quite a dense cake! It’s not usually light and spongy like a Victoria. It’s very buttery and can be rich in flavour.

Not bad for my first go! Next time, though – less oven time!

IMG_1226.PNG

IMG_1223.PNG

IMG_1227.PNG

IMG_1224.PNG

IMG_1225.PNG

IMG_1228.PNG

IMG_1229.PNG

He planned to propose here. We married not far from here. He visited for the first time last week. His plan would not have worked anyway. But we shared beauty and solitude…

IMG_1230.PNG

And he found the perfect stick!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but now we are one month into marriage, it seems appropriate. This is a sewing post, I’m happy to say, though art reflects life, so there is a metaphor to explain first.

You know, I remember going to weddings as a twelve-year-old and my mother pointing out the programs, guest book, accoutrements, drawing my attention to the details so I could start getting ideas for my wedding. Seventeen years later, I didn’t have an elaborate plan for a dream wedding, but I had done plenty of work designing a dream man and a dream marriage.

First was the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. That hit Evangelical youth groups while I was a teen, newly rededicated to Christ, around the time I trashed all my faerie and renaissance festival paraphernalia, as well as my secular CDs. I took my powerful adolescent emotions and threw them head first into my religion. I wanted to be the most extreme Jesus person I knew. That meant embracing radical purity and archaic courtship practices. I was told by a crush that I was “a living testimony to the book” (though I never read it) – but that crush was not interested in courting me.

So I made a list instead! In fact, I made many “husband lists”. And I went to college, becoming involved in the most sold-out-for-Jesus campus ministry around. It was awesome! Surely I would find my mate! But then that one guy actually kissed me right after I said I only wanted to kiss my husband. I cried with the girls in my Bible study when we broke up. He really loved Jesus! I didn’t understand.

I changed my list. I heard more sermons on marriage and dating and purity. And I met someone else, someone who shared all my ideals, including the hyper-religious identity I’d adopted. Then this guy informed me that God told him I was his wife. My eager, hurting heart believed him, and I accepted his proposal, only to come to my senses three months before the wedding.

More hurt and confusion. This guy matched my criteria, but after that experience, I needed more items on my list! I could not risk repeating mistakes. I refused to gamble my heart again.

But I was needy, and I was smart. Over the next few years, more men came into my path. I adapted to become a version of what I thought they wanted. I made it seem like they pursued me, though all the while, I called the shots. Some followed Jesus, others did not. Some adhered to the rigorous rules I trusted, and when those relationships ended, my heart felt pulverized – all the worse because these men had no excuse for their bad behavior! And my list grew. And my expectations grew. After all, if God was taking this long to bring me my husband, he must be extraordinary! He must be as close to perfect as a man can get!

It looks ridiculous in print. I mean, how could I not have known I was manipulating men to get my needs met? Of course, at the time, I thought manipulation had to be sexual. I had impenetrable walls of self-righteous rule-following that supported my beliefs. I was blind to the state of my heart, completely unaware of how I used spirituality and emotion to spin scenarios so I got what I wanted – a temporary “love fix”.

But then something began to happen. I started to meet men who were everything I was looking for. I could check item after item off the list – strong relationship with God, educated, well-mannered, fond of dancing, cat-lover, financially secure, kind, passionate, single (a surprisingly rare combination, I found!) And as I got to know these men with joy and hope and expectation – because surely God wasn’t taunting me, surely He wasn’t dangling the proverbial carrot – something inevitably went wrong. Some kind of personality disconnect became apparent, some huge flaw manifested, and my hopes shattered in disgust.

Throughout this process, I did all I could to keep my heart open to God. But it was a complicated relationship because as an omniscient Creator, He ought to know how I felt, what I desired, and how I was sacrificing to follow Him. All my disappointment in men really came back to disappointment in God. I had come to believe that if I trusted God, I would never be lonely again. I would be spared from pain and heartache. And yet this is what I knew as normal, time after time. I didn’t know who to blame – was my faith too weak? Had my husband stepped outside of “God’s perfect will” and married someone else according to “God’s permissive will”? Or was God not really interested in fulfilling my heart’s cries after all? Maybe He was not as good as people told me. Maybe He was nice to others, but I was uniquely and helplessly flawed. He could take care of the weak, but I was strong. I could earn His best because I knew better.

And other such drivel.

So I turned my energies to cultivating faith in a fairy tale instead. I lost confidence in lists, and I threw myself into creating items for a hope chest. I took up patchwork quilting, enamored with the idea of blocks named after qualities I hoped to have in my future marriage one day. I worked on blocks like “Steps to the Altar” and “Young Gentleman’s Fancy” and “Tree of Life”, intending to make a glorious quilt depicting my domestic dreams.

I found those blocks recently as Husband and I unpacked our apartment. Truth be told, they were sort of sad. Colors I initially loved turned garish and awkward. More experience with quilting revealed my ignorance in using poor-quality fabrics. And construction was frightful! Maybe I could make them up into a wall hanging? I refused to put them into a quilt. I ought not to get rid of them, right? So much work, such a depiction of who I had been before I met my husband! (Not that meeting my husband suddenly changed me, but it is an easy place to put a marker on my timeline.)

IMG_1251.JPG

I tried to get inspired to work on something else, but I kept coming back to these blocks. Finally I made a decision.

IMG_1205.PNG

Destroyed! I took a critical eye to each block, harvested good pieces of fabric for my scrap bin, and trashed the rest. And these blocks were not the only ones. Each abandoned unfinished project got the same treatment. My scrap bin revived with new bits of favorite fabrics!

And I made cushion covers for our sofa’s toss pillows.

IMG_1204.PNG

Here is the metaphor: I have put a lot of effort and study into learning what makes the best marriage, but along the way, I’ve mixed a lot of poor quality fabric in the lot. I have to say, there seems to be a lot of wasted effort. My husband does not meet the criteria on my list. He is not what I was told to “hold out for”. He has ideas and opinions and ways of doing things that are unlike mine. He went through the same ministry school as me, but to my horror, he does not agree with every idea they teach. (Lord, that upset my apple cart!) There was a moment of panic, my mind reeling with the thought, “What have I gotten myself into?!?”

And then I’d look at those crazy pillows. Scraps and bits and chaos, wild and untamed, beautiful because of the mess. We sort, we piece, we pick apart, and we let go.

I let go.

I let go of my right to be defined as a hardcore God-chaser, rather than simply His daughter. I let go of my former last name. I let go of my expectation that it is Husband’s responsibility to intuit my needs. I let go of having the covers all to myself. I let go of my ideas of the roles of the wife and husband. I let go of my preference for doing things my way. I let go of control – in so many situations – and I piece trust instead.

It has been a month of sorting and choosing and saving and trashing. Moment by moment, gently or rushing all together. Not all sound teaching is universal. The best-intended rules can still hurt more than they help. And no rule – other than the Law of Love – actually draws reality and life into any relationship. (Seam ripper, scissors, scrap bin.) We have a long way to go. No marriage is without its baggage. But it is a worthwhile journey, and I am so happy to be on it. Laugh and cry and dance and learn and grow, together this time, and on down through the ages to come.

The other night, as it begins to turn cooler, Husband requested a larger blanket for the bed. (Y’all, I got a good one!) Is there anything sweeter to a quilter’s ears? Immediately I thought of my 100 City Sampler blocks. As I made calculations, however, I realized another row would be just right. Which meant:

IMG_1250.PNG

These are my favorite types of blocks. They are spontaneous and bold and free. They are the best of what I love, and they reflect what I want to bring to my marriage: life, effort, kindness, and freedom.

If this is the first month, I hardly dare imagine the rest of our lives! We have such a brilliant future ahead of us, and we are excited to launch into it – seam ripper at the ready! Here’s to the future! It is sure to be bright.

My friend Lois and I could not wait to get started on some British baking! She decided to make shortbread, called “Petticoat Tails” in the Be-Ro book, to take to her life group meeting. They were eaten so quickly she forgot photos! But she gave me feedback on mine. Following are my notes and recipe translation. I used my Taylor food scale, measured all ingredients as listed in metric, then carefully scooped into American measuring cups and spoons to come up with the quantities listed.

Petticoat Tails (Shortbread)
9 September 2014, p. 19 in Be-Ro Home Baked Recipes, 41st Edition
Listening to: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended DVD, design team commentary

Equipment

rolling pin
lightly floured board
cookie sheet
parchment paper
mixing bowl
cooling rack
wooden spoon
rubber spatula
table knife and fork

Ingredients
Generic / store brand

12 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened or cool
2 1/4 c. + 1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. + 2 Tbs. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F. Plop butter into flour and rub with fingers until well-combined. Stir in sugar until smooth. Divide in two, then roll on board. Transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheet, score with table knife and prick with fork. Bake for about 20-27 minutes.

Notes on baking
Initially I began transferring them to the cooling rack at 21 minutes, but they were too soft and split apart! So I separated the pieces where I’d scored them and baked them an additional 6 minutes. This seemed to work fine!

Reviews

Baker (me!): 8 out of 10 – “Simple, straightforward, tasty, and great with a hot drink.”
Husband: 7 out of 10 – “Do we have any jam?”
Taster: 10 out of 10 – “They’re cookies! All cookies are 10 out of 10!”

IMG_1215.PNG

IMG_1216.PNG

IMG_1218.PNG

IMG_1219.PNG

I sent photos to Lois. She replied,

They look good to me. Good size, pale in colour, but mine came out that colour too as they were fine so nothing to worry about there. Hope they tasted good. Mine all went last night before I even realised. I forgot to take photos tho! But they look yummy! Well done!

Husband thought a dollop of jam would improve their flavor. His jam of choice? Habanero chili made by our fantastic wedding caterer, Lucy Rizzo. (We think she ought to make it regularly and sell it at the Farmers Market.)

IMG_1220.PNG
To which Lois replied,

Heheh they’re meant to be sweet biscuits, but they are quite neutral in taste so if [husband] puts on chilli jam we’ll call that a [husband] quirk!

Are you a fan of shortbread? How do you like yours? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Happy baking!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers