Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gorgeous weather in Cuenca, Ice Cream and a new quilt project

The weather in Cuenca, EC today was as perfect as I could hope for.  Clear skies,  a few afternoon puffy clouds some of the day, just warm enough (around 75 F) followed by a long, mild evening. Beautiful bird song floated through my studio window all day long, underscoring what a wonderful place I have to work on my craft, whether I'm writing or quilting.  What a joy!
                         A handsome couple in Tarqui

Early this morning, a plain sooty gray bird perched in the tree near my studio.  I picked up the binoculars.  This bird was singing all of his joy in the day in tones that reminded me of mockingbird song in the US.  I strained my eyes to memorize the slight markings I could see. About the size of a robin. Mostly his gold legs/feet and beak stood out.  He chortled, he trilled, he tipped his head back and showed off most gloriously. Are there birds like this in New Zealand?

I picked up my enormous new book,"The Birds of Ecuador Field Guide" Vol II, and searched  the photos for a bird that resembled my morning companion. I now have an idea of what type of bird he is but wish I knew someone who could tell me for sure if I'm close in identifying him.  Maybe a male great thrush? I can hear a lot of finches in the trees behind our building but I can only see a little bit of a tree where they sometimes land briefly.

Here is my newest quilt project, the melon block quilt.  I am just beginning to sew the 20 completed blocks together. I love this stage where it seems magical that it pulls together to look like a quilt and not just a bunch of pieces.  Here is a photo of it before any blocks are sewn to rows or columns.

After spending a couple of hours arranging the blocks just as I thought looked best, I numbered the blocks in the order in which they are to be sewn.  That helps me keep the arrangement straight as I sew the quilt top together.  Here is a shot of that process.

Mamas, teach your children to sew.  I'm surely glad my mother insisted!  I had no patience for sewing at age 12 ... but I'm so glad now that I had the basic skills to pick up sewing again 3 years ago after I read a book about the history of quilting in the US and got interested.

For a lark, I'm also using up left-over fabric and fat quarters (quarter yard pieces) I have on hand in a side project - I signed up for a free online "block of the month" class. This is, in this case, where people get directions for 2 blocks per month, without ever seeing a photo of the finished quilt ahead of time (which drives some people nuts!) until the end of the year when one has a completed quilt.

Here are the fabrics I'm using:

 Soon I'll post a picture of January and February's blocks:

Here is where anyone can sign up for this free online class:    The largest block of the month class in the world

In the afternoon, I made ice cream using an attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.  I'm experimenting with recipes for vanilla ice cream. The product today was yummy but not quite right yet.  I used no eggs, cut way down on whipping cream and used whole milk.  I also added 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.  I reduced the sugar but it was a bit too sweet. More experimentation is called for.

I said I'd post some recent thoughts about life in Cuenca so next that is what I will do.
Have a terrific new week, wherever this finds you!


  1. Hi Sharon--

    I made the best ice cream. The secret was a little bit of cream cheese and corn syrup. Not traditional, but definitely the closest think to an old fashioned ice cream (notice, no eggs at all and a lot less cream!). This ice cream base is from Saveur, but the book is Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home.

    2 cups milk
    4 tsp. cornstarch
    1 1/4 cups heavy cream
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 tbsp. light corn syrup
    1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened

    In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside. In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture. Pour mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.

    Did you get your grain mill? Does it work well for you?

  2. Hey Aunt Sharon! Thank you for the comments on my blog. I also like experimenting with different ice cream recipes. I think the ones I've tried are usually heavy on whipping cream though. And this lent season I gave up ice cream so I won't have any for a while.

    How is your Spanish going? There are conversation groups here in Sitka. Tuesday nights I attend the French group and Thursday nights are Spanish but now I work Thursdays so I've been going to the French class. I'm researching apps on the iphone to find some helpful flash cards with audio. Anyway, I enjoy the conversation groups, they're like a relaxing way of keeping you motivated.

    Talk to you later!