Quilts, Quilts, Quilts

Posted March 10th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Birds, Christmas, Exhibitions, Garden, Other Artists, Quilt Events, Teaching

eri Kellett’s amazing “Stars with Flair” adapted from a pattern by Christine Kennedy.  Quilted by Deborah Norris

Best of Show, “Flowers for Jacob” by Melanie Paul honors the memory of her beloved Great Pyrenes, Jacob.

“Christmas Garden” by June Alston.  June began with Valori Wells’ “Wrenly” collection in Christmas colors.  When she saw the “Paducah Pickle Dish” pattern by Kathryn Patterson, she decided fabric and pattern were a match.  I think she’s right!

Donna Hartenstine’s “Staring Contest with an Italian Grasshopper”, my favorite in the “Postcards from the Garden” guild challenge.

Below, is Danielle Barr’s “Some of My Favorite Things”

Patti Bethune’s “Flower Power” was awarded “Best Use of Color”

I spent a delightful afternoon at my guild’s annual show, Through the Garden Gate. I wasn’t chairing a committee this year nor had I entered a quilt.  It was great to be able to stroll through the show, taking it all in, visiting with friends.  The Charlotte Quilters’ Guild is loaded with talent, as you can see.  Watch for more photos tomorrow!


Posted January 5th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Christmas, Family, Holidays, Recipes

A beautiful Moravian Star is reflected in the church window.

Photo credit:  Bill Guerrant

Each time I write about baking sugar cakes, I get requests for the recipe.  Here is the one I use.  It came from DH’s grandmother:

Sugar cake ready to bake

Grandmother’s Moravian Sugar Cake

This is from my DH’s grandmother whose family has been Moravian for generations. Grandmother’s home in Old Salem (NC) stood until recently when it caught fire during renovation.

Note: Sugar cake is a sweet, light yeast dough topped with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  It is not really a cake.

1 C. hot mashed russet potatoes*

1 package yeast

1 C. sugar

1/2 C. shortening

4 T. butter

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

4 C. flour**


2 C. brown sugar

Butter, about 1/2 C. melted and cooled

Cinnamon to taste***

Mix sugar, butter, shortening, salt and potatoes. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 C. warm water and add to potato mixture. Set this aside and allow to rise until spongy. Add slightly beaten eggs. Add flour to form soft dough. Put dough in clean, greased bowl, cover bowl with saran and allow to rise overnight .  (I let it rise for 12 hours.)  Spread out evenly on flat, greased pans after stirring slightly. When dough is light, make depressions in it for butter and brown sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in 350-375 oven about 20 minutes. Makes three Baker’s Secret pie pans. Note: I use a 360 degree oven.   Do not over bake.  You do not want a dry cake.  To reheat by the slice, use a microwave for 30 seconds at 30%.  You can then heat in oven for a minute or so if desired.

I use a Kitchenaid mixer when making this, with the regular wire beaters for the first step. Switch to the dough paddle when adding the flour.

*I use an old-fashioned potato ricer rather than a masher

**I get a much softer, moister product with a soft flour such as White Lily. Gold Medal is too heavy.

***I like to mix the cinnamon in with the brown sugar before sprinkling it on the dough. Drizzle butter which has been melted and cooled somewhat over the cinnamon/sugar.

Dough during its overnight rise.

Dough sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. After depressions have been finger pressed

into the dough’s surface, melted butter will be liberally applied.

Moravian Sugar Cake.  There’s nothing like it!



Posted January 4th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Christmas, Family, Holidays, My collections, My Work

Our house.

Photo credit:  Bill Guerrant

It seems Thanksgiving was just yesterday.  Christmas came and went too quickly, and now we’re four days into 2013.  Oh my.

Christmas cleanup today was swift and early.  We don’t usually take everything down until Epiphany.  But today seemed like a good day to undecorate, such as it was.    For the third year in a row, we had a tree trimmed only with lights.  I used to be the “queen” of Christmas, but other things seem more important now.  Our little Fraser fir sat on top of a a cloth-draped card table in front of the fireplace sporting two new strings of LED colored mini lights and topped with a small Moravian star.  Our only other “festoons” were window candles and a tiny artificial tree in the sunroom, seen above.  We weren’t home Christmas day, and did no entertaining, so this was fine with us.  NEXT year, I plan to have a big tree.  It will be nice to see my collection of vintage ornaments once again.

I spent lots of time baking, something I hadn’t done in quite some time.  It was such fun making and giving away my favorite cookies and treats:  Molasses Crinkle Tops, Alaskan Logs, Cheese Straws, Arkansas Hot Spiced Pecans, Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods, Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Wonderfuls, Cranberry Nut and Banana breads as well as Moravian Sugar Cakes using DH’s grandmother’s recipe.  DH’s Mother grew up in Old Salem in a Moravian family which can be traced back for generations.  It wouldn’t be Christmas withot sugar cake.

Thankfully, the house is in fairly good shape. I did some sewing for Christmas gifts, making about a dozen of my own version of  “mug rugs.”  They’re glorified coasters, large enough for a mug and a snack.  These little pieces of art were great fun and kept me creating over the holidays.

Finishing a baby quilt for Ira, our grandson born last September, tops my priority list.   Progress was interrupted when I decided the piece needed 35 blocks instead of 20.  When I put the blocks up on the design wall, I might change my mind again.  But for now, I plan to keep sewing.

Below are a couple of photos showing part of my process.  Our DIL asked me to use fabrics left over from the wedding quilt I created in making the baby quilts.  Sorting through scraps is always step one.  I like to get a general feel for how the quilt will look before design and cutting can begin.  As you can see, the fabrics are happy and bright.  I won’t disclose the design until after the quilt is delivered to Ira.

Wishing you all a creative and productive New Year!

Discovering Who We Really Are

Posted October 18th, 2007 by Ellen and filed in Canada, Christmas, Family, Personal, Travels, Uncategorized

My father was just 13 when his Mother died; still a teen when his father died four years later in 1931. Information on the family was scarce; photographs few. I don’t remember seeing pictures of his parents until I was an adult. There were no pictures of my father and his siblings growing up, and not one emerged of his grandparents.

For the last 25 years of his life, my father spoke of one day finding his Mother’s family. He spoke fondly of Aunt Rose and Aunt Gertie, remembering that one had married a Mr. Speese and the other a Mr. Brown, and that one had moved to South Dakota. The only other clues were his Mother’s maiden name – Meehan – and her birthplace: Rondeau, Ontario, Canada.

Research attempts were made over the years. I did manage to obtain my Grandmother’s birth record from Canada and with it, the name of her mother: Hester Catherine Freeman.

It wasn’t until my sister Sue and her husband moved to the country, with the pre-move sorting, that the key to everything was unearthed. In rereading the obituary for our father’s brother, she noted his birthplace of Overton NE, not Omaha as we had always thought. Such a tiny thing, and yet without it, we might still be looking. A Google search of Overton resulted in information on our great-grandfather – Charles Meehan, a white, red-haired Irishman – and the important role he played in the settling of the Great Plains.

My great-grandfather, who grew up in Detroit and Rondeau Ontario led a group of black Canadians to form a black colony in Overton in 1885, one of the first of its kind in Nebraska through the Homestead Act. My great-grandparents were very courageous, being one of the few mixed-race couples at that time.

Much information on our great-grandparents and their children was found in
the Ava Speese Day Story, Part Three of Sod House Memories, a Treasury of Soddy Stories, edited by Frances Jacobs Alberts in 1972. Family photos shown below also appear in the now out-of-print book.

First Cousins

Posted October 18th, 2007 by Ellen and filed in Canada, Christmas, Family, Holidays, Personal, Uncategorized
We are a proud and strong FAMILY!

First cousins in front of Great-grandpa Meehan’s sod house in Nebraska, 1915. My father is the baby being held by his brother – third from the left. Photo furnished by Catherine.