House of Sand and Fog

Have you read the House of Sand and Fog? My mom recommended it, and I am now recommending it to you.

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I had vaguely heard about the book; knew it had been published a few years ago, that they made a movie out of it, but never had interest in reading it. She told me she couldn’t put it down. That made me pick it up.

The novel tells the parallel lives of a disposed Iranian soldier and a California dreamer, whose paths cross in the most conflicting way. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that you can love and hate both of them equally. The characters are so well written, and the book flips between each of their situations, which spiral out of their control quite quickly.

This book kept me awake at night as I thought about the ethical dilemmas each faced, who was right, who was wrong, and how the system got the best of them. It was really a powerful read. I can’t wait to see the movie.

Creating a quilted wall hanging of home

A while back my husband convinced me to create a quilted wall hanging of our home. This was no easy feat. It took months to create, but here it is.

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Our homestead quilted wall hanging

It all started when I quilted this simple folk art wall hanging for my sewing room. It was basic shapes sewn together from scraps. He said, hey, that looks like our house (not). Why not make one that really is our house.

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After much searching on the internet for a way to create my house quilt, I went to my local fabric store where I was surprised to see one of the salespeople had created one. It was beautiful. The secret, she told me, was applique. She created the house in layers, building each layer with more details as she went along. Fine, thought. I’ll give it a try.

To say this was a big endeavor is an understatement. I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s help. As an artist, he has an eye for perspective that I simply don’t have. I took a photograph of the house and taped it to the wall. He pulled out his light box, and we traced the house onto fusible material, which I painstaking cut out and ironed onto fabric. I wish I had given the fabrics I chose more thought. I just didn’t expect my house quilt to come out very good.

Over the months, I put the quilted wall hanging together, and Peter would stop by my sewing room, take a look and tell me lines weren’t straight, or my 3D perspective was off. Then he would fix it. He’s great that way.

When┬áit came time to quilt the wall hanging, I signed up for Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting class on Craftsy. I can’t say enough good things about that class. It gave me the confidence to start free motion quilting this piece on which I had worked so hard. I used a lot of her designs on my quilt. You can see them here.

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I know it’s not perfect, but it was my first real attempt at free motion quilting.

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Six months later, here’s the final result.

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What do you think? Have I inspired you to make one? If you do, let me know.

Chorizo and black bean enchiladas

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Enjoy chorizo, black bean and cheese enchiladas at home.

I’ve been wanting enchiladas for weeks now, and came up with the perfect way to satisfy my craving. These chorizo, black bean and cheese enchiladas were a hit in my house last night. It’s the perfect way to get some veggie and beans into my meat-loving family’s bodies while still delivering the savory spiciness of chorizo sausage.

The recipe is simple. I sauteed the chorizo (drain the oil if you see a lot in your pan; I didn’t have enough to drain), chop the onions and peppers and add to pan after the chorizo is cooked. Then add the beans. I used a can of black beans. Any beans will do the trick.

20140505-075349.jpgOnce your mixture is cooked (about 10 minutes or even less), set it aside. I used flour tortillas, but you can use corn. After putting together the enchiladas, bake for 20 minutes. I topped them with sliced olives, and mexican crema. Have you tried that? It is absolutely delicioso! It’s like a very creamy sour cream with a slightly sweet flavor.

If your family is more adventurous than mine, you could top the enchiladas with chopped cilantro, or chopped green scallions. If I had jalapenos, I would have topped my dish off with them. We’re a medium spicy family.

Here’s the recipe. Let me know how you do!

Chorizo and black bean enchiladas

  • 3 chorizo sausage links (casings removed)
  • 1/4 large vidalia or sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper (I used yellow, any color will do)
  • 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 16 oz. can enchilada sauce
  • 8oz (or more) shredded mexican cheese blend
  • Flour tortillas (I bought the soft taco size and used 6 – smaller corn tortillas would work well too but you will definitely need more than 10)
  • Mexican crema
  • 8 oz. can of sliced black olives

Optional: jalapeno slices, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions. Take the chorizo out of the casing and saute the ground meat. Drain the oil. Add the chopped peppers and onions. Saute until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the can of drained black beans. Cook until heated through. Remove from heat. Add about a tablespoon of the enchilada sauce to the meat and bean mixture.

Use spray oil to coat the bottom of your oven-safe pan. (I used a rectangle glas oven pan). Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Pour 2 tablespoons into a fry pan (large enough to fit your tortillas) and heat on low. Add more sauce as needed. Sip tortillas so that each side is covered by the warm sauce. Add about 3 tablespoons of meat mixture to tortilla. Cover meat mixture with cheese. Roll up and place in pan. Repeat until all mixture is used. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.

Cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. After it comes out of the oven, drizzle with the crema, top with olives and anything else you decide to add.

Enjoy!

4 generous servings.

 

Baby quilts and personalized pillows

At my age, most of my friends are done having kids. But two of my very best friends recently announced that babies were joining their families. One is pregnant, and the other adopted a baby girl when she was just under one year of age. I don’t live near my friends anymore, and wasn’t invited to their showers, or first birthdays. But I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate their joy. I chose a free jelly roll pattern from the Fat Quarter shop, and was thrilled when they put up a new post on how to make the pattern bigger. I had been under the impression that one jelly roll could give me two baby quilts, but didn’t realize a baby quilt is, in fact, suitable for a baby and not ┬áreally a growing child. So I bought another jelly roll. I’m using V and Co.’s Color Me Happy line, which has a gorgeous collection of pinks, blues, greens, grays and whites, that are easily separate to make a boy and girl quilt. In fact, that’s how I originally came up with this idea. I saw her post on creating two baby quilts from her Simply Colors line, which I could not buy anywhere anymore.

appliqued letters for baby

When I started cutting, I quickly discovered a lot of leftover fabrics from my sewed up jelly roll strips. I used them to create letters that I will applique to create personalized pillows. I can’t wait to get home to sew each night. It’s great to have a fun project to work on that I know will bring joy to my friends.

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Pork Banh Mi

I have wanted to eat a pork sandwich that combines French and Vietnamese influences ever since I saw it on the Great American Food Truck Race.But every recipe looks way too complicated. I have no fear of brining, which many recipes call for, but I just didn’t have the time. Then I found this recipe on Food52. It’ offered a simple and fast way to marinate and grill the pork. The recipe for the pickled radishes and onions scared me a little since it looked like way too much liquid. Instead, I cooked down 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let me tell you, the sweet and savory crunch of the radishes, combined with the salty, sweet pork, was absolutely divine. Slather some good mayonaise on your French bread, pile on the pork, radishes, fresh jalapenos, sliced cucumbers and cilantro leaves.

We took these sandwiches to the beach to celebrate Father’s Day and they were a hit! Let me know if you try it.