Over the years, I've made several quilts. It started out with what I like to call anarchy quilting, because I didn't measure a darn thing. I just cut fabric into reasonably square-shaped pieces and sewed them together. I didn't care if it looked uneven - I thought it just added to the charm. One year when we decided to make a quilt for my mom for Mother's Day, my younger sister bought a rotary cutter so the squares would be even. After that, I always rotary cut my fabric. But I still was pretty sloppy when it came to putting quilts together. Then a couple years ago, my youngest sister was getting married and I decided I wanted to make a quilt for her. I wanted it to be extra special. An heirloom quilt, if you will. So I bought a pattern (my first one ever!) and set to work. It took me a long time, and I tried to do things by the book. I couldn't believe how much more work it was to make a quilt the right way! I also learned the hidden, ugly secret to good quilting: buttloads of ironing. IRONING! Like, more ironing than I've ever done in my life! But I have to say, I was mighty proud of the results.

My favorite part is the border. It took forever to sew all those little squares together, but it looked so great in the end. I was so proud of that thing. And thus began my semi-obsession with quilting.

Since then, I've made quilts for several other people. Including one Christmas when I went absolutely insane and made quilts for my mom, my two sisters, my sister-in-law, and two of my best friends. All within about a 3 or 4 month period! At least with most of those, I'd bought quilt kits so I didn't have to cut my own fabric. Still, it was a whole lotta work.

Lately, I've been wanting to start quilting again. I bought a couple new patterns, and I have another pattern book on my wish list. Here are some of the quilts I want to make. First, the snail trail quilt pattern. I love this pattern, especially done with all the bright batiks like in this photo. The swirly pattern is so pretty.

Next, the "crazy quilt" or string quilt. They're made of lots of different scraps sewn together, and it's a great way to use up extra fabric - especially those awkward left over bits you don't know what to do with, but don't want to throw away. I just love these type of quilts.I've made many of these quilts before (almost all of the Christmas quilts I made that one year were string quilts, since I love them so). But never with this particular configuration. I really like that inner border. I'd like to make one like this to go in my living room. All in blues and browns to tie the color scheme together.

I also want to learn to make these puzzle quilts. I think they might require a foundation piece, though, which doesn't thrill me. But it might be worth the hassle to make something so cute.

Here's a photo from a quilt kit I recently bought on eBay. I decided that I wanted a Christmas quilt of my own, and I thought this one looked pretty. I like the little triangle border. (I'm a big fan of flashy border pieces!)I like that it's a scrappy quilt. I like the look of a lot of different fabrics together. I also love quilt kits because all the pieces are pre-cut and measured for you. It's just a matter of putting it all together! In theory that should make it quick and easy...but it still takes forever. (Because of the ironing involved!)

The problem now, of course, is finding the time to complete all these projects. I can barely find time to hang picture frames on my blank walls, much less spend hours hunched over at the sewing machine. I have a huge plastic tub in my garage that's full of quilt tops and fabric from the many ambitious sewing projects I've tried to undertake over the last couple years. But it's not like you see a bunch of pretty, completed quilts around my house! So...yeah. I get big ideas, and generally don't have the time/motivation to complete them. Kind of reminds me of my dieting efforts, come to think of it.

One of my all-time favorite restaurants is Buca di Beppo. We stumbled on this restaurant while on vacation with my family. We were at Universal Studios, and my sister who is a very picky eater wanted Italian food. So we tried Buca, not having ever heard of it before (even though it's a national chain). We loved their family style dining and fun atmosphere. But what we especially loved was the Chicken with Lemon. It has this buttery lemon sauce that's simply to die for. And I'd looked around for a recipe for quite some time, never finding one that quite duplicated the original. I even tried writing to Buca's corporate office to see if I could weasel the recipe out of them. No luck.

But, the internet is a wild and wonderful place. You can find almost anything if you're willing to look hard enough. Fortunately, I didn't really have to look very hard this last time. Apparently others out there were looking for the same recipe, found it, and then wanted to share. And now I'm paying it forward. Because this recipe? Awwwwwesome.

I made this with fresh lemons from my tree. I didn't have capers on hand, and my family usually doesn't like them anyway. Since the recipe is for 2 servings, I doubled everything. Actually, I cooked 6 chicken breasts. It worked well. Plenty of sauce. A word to the wise: if you're like me and love lemons, you might be tempted to put some extra lemon in there. Don't go overboard. The recipe is good as-is. If you add too much extra lemon, it gets really tart. I still liked it, but the wee ones in my family did not.

Happy cooking!

Buca's Chicken with Lemon

2 x boneless skinless chicken breasts (6 oz ea) pounded to 1/2 inch
Salt to taste
1 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
4 large lemons
1/2 stk unsalted butter softened
A small handful drained capers

Cut three lemons in half and use for fresh lemon juice. Cut the last lemon into wedges for garnish.

Begin to heat the olive oil in a 12-inch saute pan on medium-high heat. While oil is getting hot, lightly season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt. Lightly dust the chicken breasts in the flour. Shake off excess flour. Place chicken in the saute pan.

When the chicken is golden brown, turn over and brown the other side as well. It is important to brown both sides to insure the chicken is completely cooked through. When both sides are nice and brown, add white wine and lemon juice. Continue to cook for approximately two to three minutes. The liquid should reduce approximately half.
Once the liquid is reduced, remove the chicken breasts from the pan and turn off heat.

Finish the sauce by placing the softened butter in the pan. Using rubber spatula, work the butter into the sauce as it melts. Pour sauce directly on top of chicken breasts. Garnish with capers and lemon wedges.

This recipe yields 2 servings.

A while ago, I posted about how I thought I'd killed my rose bush when I moved it from its previous location into a large plastic container. We're planning to overhaul the area where the rose was previously growing, and I wanted to move it before we reached the true dog days of summer. Of course, when I did that all the leaves and rose buds withered and eventually died. I was sure there was no hope for the rose. But I kept dutifully watering it, and my sister-in-law (who is no slouch in the gardening department) gave me a few tips. She suggested I actually strip all the dead and dying leaves off the plant. I thought this was a bad idea, but I knew that I was a novice when it came to growing roses. So I trusted her advice. The bare rose looked pretty sad. Here's a photo I took today:I took the photo to show how sad it was without leaves. But, much to my surprise - there's new growth! It's coming back!! I'm so excited! I didn't kill it after all!
And, even more exciting - there are actual tomatoes on my tomato plants! They're very small, and very green. But they're real tomatoes! I've grown something! Success!! Here's s photo of my one, single cherry tomato:Here is a photo of my unlabeled tomato plant. I have no idea what kind it is - just that it's the tallest one of the bunch. And there are a ton of wee tomatoes on it. So exciting!!I've been thinking a lot lately about how I put off planting anything this season because I wanted to spend some more time getting the garden ready. I think I missed an opportunity. I could have easily grown a single zucchini plant in a container. One zucchini plant would grow plenty for our family (since I'm the only one who's really crazy about them...everyone else just sort of tolerates them when I add them to dishes). I could have tried cucumbers, onions, beans, herbs...I really should have done more with containers! So, this winter - whether I have a proper gardening area or not, I'm planting some stuff. This is my resolve!

When I was a little girl, both my parents worked full time so I went to a home daycare. Of course, back then they weren't called day cares. She was Grandma Effie, and as far as I was concerned, I was part of her family. I was closer to her than I ever was with my actual grandmothers, who both lived in Minnesota. So most of my happy, grandma-related memories were of Effie. Who, technically speaking, was simply a lady who made her living by babysitting me all day. But she was very, very dear to me. Actually, saying that feels like a gross understatement. She died when I was 16. The grief of that loss will never leave me. Anyway, at her house, I remember she had this tree. I always thought it was so lovely. The branches were thin and willowy, and the tree had these beautiful purple flowers with yellow centers. When we bought our house last year, I was pleased to see the same type of tree growing on the East side of the front yard. They're pretty, and they make me think of Effie. So I adore them.

I did a rather extensive Internet search today trying to figure out what they're called. Do you know how hard it is to identify a plant when all you can type in the search bar is "purple flowering tree?" I looked at a bunch of pictures, figuring that would be the best way to zero in on what I needed. I love the Internet so much, you guys - because of course I found it. Apparently, it goes by several names: Blue Potato Bush, Paraguay Nightshade, Blue Lycianthes, Royal Robe, or Lycianthes rantonnetii. I think the ones that I see around here in San Diego are probably Blue Potato Bush. But I prefer Paraguay Nightshade. It sounds sexy, doesn't it? Nightshade makes me think of a character from Something Wicked This Way Comes. I loved that book! Um...where was I?

Oh, yes. My Paraguay Nightshade. Right now, it is situated at the southwest corner of my house. It's kind of tucked into the corner where our fence begins. Sort of on the back side of where our chimney is located. Sure, you can see it from the front of the house, but it's kind of part of the backdrop. I want it to be more of a feature in the yard. So, I have this idea of moving it into the front yard. Maybe building a little raised bed for it. Like with a circle of these type of blocks:I think it would look nice, don't you? The tree right now leans over because it was planted close to the house, and was never staked or anything to grow straight. If I move it and put a raised bed around it, maybe I can reposition it so that it's straight? Or straighter, at least? The thing is...I have no idea how to move a tree. How far down would I have to dig? What kind of roots does it have? A big rot ball? Or lots of spindly things going all over the place? I need to do some research, and maybe contact the Master Gardeners for advice. Here's hoping it will all work out. I love that tree!