Saturday morning we packed the car and headed up north for another well-spent weekend in Brooksville. A few months ago, Zac and I made a promise to some special girls that we would cheer them on as they entered their prize-winning chickens for display and auction at the county fair and we happily delivered.
Our nieces – Montana & Victoria – have spent the last few months raising their “peeps” in anticipation for showing at the county fair with their local 4H club. Aren’t these two just the CUTEST ever? Seriously, the only thing that could have made this photo more adorable or American is a star spangled banner or apple pie in the background.
In addition to their “meat-chickens” (which auctioned off for a combined $190!) – They also entered their Bearded d’Uccle hen and rooster for breed prizes. These beautiful belgian bantam chickens both took home ribbons.
I couldn’t help but think to myself as I spent the day watching barns full of miniature belt buckles, size 2 cowboy boots, little Levi’s and braided pigtails in ribbons, that the world could use more of this. Country charm may not be for everyone – but who can deny the priceless legacies these parents are gifting to their children?
When these little ones make their sleepy marches to the barns for early morning chores – they’re gaining an appreciation for hard and honest work. When they are charged to care for another living creature – they’re learning the ropes of responsibility and the labor of love.
Some may say this lifestyle is provincial or trite, but when looking at the final product in comparison to the many alternatives – I think they must be doin’ something right. Zac and I long to to live the farmhouse life in our future, but even if that does not come to be, we plan and hope to instill a little bit of cowgirl and cowboy in our babies.
Most who know me are aware of how much I love to cook. However, cooking is not baking and I do not bake. In fact, it has been the bane of my culinary existence. So imagine my recent surprise when sudden urges to preheat the oven and prep the cake pans have manifested.
While embarking on this diet-crushing journey to improve my baking skills – I’ve attempted to discover the root of my anathema. The strongest theory currently blames the precise nature of the craft. Baking is a science; it requires exactness, and I don’t like to be exact – at least not when it comes to cooking. In every other facet of my life I am borderline OCD, but in the kitchen, I’m a little less structured. (Fun fact: I can drive Zachary to near-insanity with my complete lack of adherence to specific recipe instructions.)
But baking is less forgiving or welcome to “creativity” than a pot of soup. A pinch too much or too less can result in one extreme disaster or another. Here lies my failure.
In fifth grade I was a rebellious delinquent and I would skip the instructions on our weekly geography assignment to complete it on my own terms… or not it all. The result was Mrs. Naples’ painful forced remediation until I did it right.
This is my self-enforced remediation.
What I’ve discovered so far:
- My favorite plan of attack is to use three 6in baking pans. They use a single batch (or box) recipe and make the loveliest little tiered cakes.
- Achieving level cakes is made easier by wrapping the perimeter of pans in “bake even” strips or simply water-soaked towel strips (I’d heard this many times before but never put it to the test.)
- Crumb coats work! And you cannot live without them!
Checkpoint evaluation: This journey is looking to be successful and possibly a bit cathartic.
So just in time for Easter – here is my most recent attempt:
I have officially finished my first quilting endeavor! It’s not perfect, but it’s mine and it’s DONE.
I decided to start small and complete a “baby quilt” for my first attempt. After repeatedly embarking on new adventures at an Olympic scale, I’ve finally learned my lesson that maybe I should begin with baby steps. It’s not a good idea to enter an Iron Man without first knowing how to swim – I’ve tried (metaphorically speaking.)
I found the pattern through the Moda Bakeshop library. You can see it here. I liked the traditional pinwheels, but I fell in love with the prairie points. They would serve as wonderful entertainment for some little one during “tummy time.”
For the colored fabrics, I scooped up a Moda charm pack in Cuzco by Kate Spain from my local quilt shop. (Charm packs are AWESOME. It saves so much cutting!) I tried to keep the colors and patterns bright and gender neutral as I have not decided to gift or keep this quilt for myself.
The quilting itself is extremely simple as I am limited by talent and equipment. I stuck to a basic grid for the center pieces and simple lines along the outside panels. I considered trying “free motion quilting” with this project to get those beautiful swirls and patterns, but as I mentioned before, I’m forcing myself to start small. Otherwise if it turned out to be a miserable failure – I would be traumatized from quilting forever.
Throughout the entire process my emotions wavered back and forth from moments of self-deprication to sustaining satisfaction. In the end, I’m relieved to say I approve and that this one’s a keeper. Quilting is by no means a “cheap” hobby and I have deepened respect for the amount of time and resources others put into their craft.
And a GIANT DISCLAIMER to all my family and friends: the literal fact that this is a “baby quilt” should not in any way be interpereted as an announcement of any kind. :)