Collaborative Baby Shower Quilt

Clearly, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Clearly.    While I don’t have the excuse of an adorable addition, like Ms. Marie and her little one, Mattie, I can draw on her experience to post:  The threecleversisters host a baby shower!  Last winter, we descended upon Marie’s Brooklyn, NY apartment for a baby shower without the standard baby games but with a little craft time – quilt making!

A few years ago, I attended a baby shower in which the guests all decorated scraps of fabric that included quotes, images, or messages for the little one and his family.  The host then used those fabric scraps to create a flag decoration for the nursery.  It was such a charming idea, that I promised myself that I would do that for someone.  When Marie and I hosted Sara’s baby shower, I was in law school and there wasn’t any creative energy.  Marie, then, was the likely recipient.  I offered to do a flag or a quilt. She did the quilt.

The activity required a bit of coordination and fortunately I flew JetBlue to NYC so I could check my bags, with all the supplies, for free.  I bought some stencils from Lotta Jansdotter and Martha Stewart along with Martha Stewart’s paints.  We did some test squares – using my mom, aunt, cousin, and grandma as guinea pigs over Christmas.  It was a great way to get some of them involved since Gami, Kate, and Aunt B weren’t able to attend the actual shower.

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kclever & GG

kclever & GG

GG's contribution to the quilt.

GG’s contribution to the quilt.

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I also contacted several of Marie’s college friends and some of her husband’s extended family about decorating squares.  So many people were invited to the shower and so many people wanted to participate, the quilt was larger than the typical lap quilt.

The shower was held in January in Brooklyn.  That means there wasn’t a lot of space for 15+ people who were invited.  Fortunately, the weather was on our side, and though it was a bit chilly, we expanded the craft portion of the shower to patio.  No baby games on this one — what mom really wants to do the circumference of her belly anyway?  We CRAFTED!

Supplies 8404379025_8c12f8a399_o 8404377917_0204d83792_o8405471582_75f663659c_o


By the time I had collected all the pieces, I had 32 squares.  I planned to make a piece with the baby’s initials or name once she was announced, but 33 square does not make a normal looking quilt — 11×3?  Nope.

Instead, I chose to make a square for each of her initials.  I printed out MASSIVE font each letter from my handy Microsoft Word program and used that as an applique.  I was thrilled by how nice it turned out.

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The number was 35, 7 x 5, and with the borders and 62 x 96 in (approximately)!

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The Baby Quilt!

The Baby Quilt!


Pretzels: Gifted Inspiration

This post was inspired by gifts.  Coming off the holidays – that’s no surprise.

First, my gift.  Let me say, “BAKERS, I have ARRIVED!”  I am now the proud, delighted, and still-surprised owner of  a Kitchenaid Professional Plus Stand Mixer.  For so long, I assumed this would never grace my counter.  For one, it’s quite expensive — and nearly as heavy, and it’s hard to justify a large purchase on a mixer when there are quite a few other home items that are closer to the top of the list (a table?  lamps?).  So many recipes say “place in a sturdy mixer” or blog posts reference their “trusty kitchenaid” and I’ve just sighed in resignation and pulled out the hand-mixer.  It has served my well, but in making this latest recipe, how pleasant it was to just walk away and return to watch all the magic happen, more or less unaided.  To let the dough hook do the work without the dough squirting into the beater holsters.  Oh yes.  Bakers, I made it to the party.

And really – who needs an inspiration to use a kitchenaid?  You can do so many things — and I haven’t even explored the attachment options (ice cream maker – YAY!, sausage maker – NAY!).  But, Paul received some fancy spicy mustard as a gift.  Yes, indeed.  Mustard.

I rarely use mustard.  I’ve never liked it much and it’s a common condiment for cold cuts, so – you get it.  But, it has often been used a balsamic vinaigrette.  I do, however, associate it with soft pretzels – though I prefer the fake cheese option myself (“cheese food” or is it “cheese spread” — maybe “pub cheese” sounds better) or just the straight kosher salt.

And so, when Paul showed me the mustard I exclaimed, “Oh!  I should bake  pretzels to go with the mustard!”  Right – natural thought progression!

They were indeed delicious but really quite a bit of work, probably because it was short amounts of “rest” so it by the time you finished one task you only had few moments to get distracted by some other house chore before you’re back at it — manipulated the dough for a couple minutes and then letting it “rest.”  I used the “Joy of Cooking” recipe for pretzels.  Actually – my dear friends Maren and Lis bought me that book for my birthday a few years ago — another lovely, thoughtful gift!

Here are the pretzel, preformation and at the 2nd rising, I think.

And shaping the pretzels.  The first is never as good as the last one is.

And, like bagels, these are blanched in boiling water.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the tummy!

Sweet Potato Arugula Salad

I have moved.

Most of the boxes are unpacked.  I’ve found a dry cleaner, cobbler, and a gym (CrossFit Salem!).  I have a library card.   I joined a book club.  On a walk in my hood, I can hit up the “natural foods” store up the street with kambucha on tap!  Local Willamette Valley wines have been sampled and yes, purchased.  I even established my “donor” status for A+ blood at the Red Cross of the Salem Area.

And, I’ve tried a restaurant or two.  Actually, I’ve tried two (three?) of the same restaurants.  What can I say?  I like consistency!

Venti’s has one location downtown with an upstairs cafe and a downstairs “cafe-bar.”  I visited the bar with Paul on Halloween – wearing my “flapper” costume complete with the sequined hair piece.  It was cozy.  Lots of rooster decor, by the way.  I visited the cafe the next week for lunch with a new friend/co-worker.  We ended up 30 minutes late to work… oops.  Last week, I visited the newest location – the taphouse, which is actually  just up the street from the natural foods store!  Yes, that means walking distance.

Paul likes the place because they have rotating beers on tap — something like 20 types?  They are on huge screens around the restaurant.  I like the place because the food is tasty – even if the portions are a little on the small side.

One of their salads was an arugula sweet potato salad.  Despite Marie’s voice of reservation in my head, I ordered it confidently.  I was pleased with everything but the size.  Paul and I actually ordered another entree to share (he had already ordered the Salmon Sandwich).

I took some inspiration from the meal and my half-full belly and made some of my own.  I took it to book club last night and served myself a “Karen” proportion.  Now, we know what to have on hand when the President is in town!

Sweet Potato Arugula Salad

Recipe Type: salad
Cuisine: NW Fresh
Author: Karen Clevering
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 4-5
heart sweet potatoes married with fresh green arugula
  • Dressing:
  • 3/4 cup of oil
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 TB of honey
  • 2-3 TB of minced garlic
  • sea salt and pepper to taste.
  • Salad:
  • large red onion, cut into thin rings
  • large sweet potato, peeled and cut to bite size pieces
  • 5oz or so of arugula
  • 1/3 cup of feta or parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of sage or other savory spice
  1. For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.
  2. For the salad:
  3. Caramelize the red onion but heating at a low heat in a skillet with 2-3 tsp of olive oil for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Heat oven to 425 and toss the sweet potatoes in spices and spread on baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The potatoes should be sweet and just slightly crispy. I also like to spread the baking sheet with foil because it makes clean up a lot easier.
  5. Toss the onions, sweet potatoes, arugula and cheese together.
  6. Dress it up as you desire![url href=””%5D%5Bimg src=”×300.jpg” alt=”” title=”Arugula” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-8147″][/url]


Walnut Giveaway!

We have a LOT of walnuts.  As you’ve seen from earlier posts, the single walnut tree in Paul’s yard, old as it may be is quite productive.  I’m trying to imagine how many walnuts would be produced from the entire orchard back in the day.

I know there are a lot of wonderful things you can do with walnuts:  as I’ve already share, there are brownies, but there’s also fudge, banana walnut oatmeal, apple walnut sweet bread, baklava, etc.

But, perhaps because I’m in the generous  mood (and as it’s football season, and it’s a great activity when it’s pouring down rain inside and Paul is watching the games), I want to share!  And so, the GIVEAWAY:  I’ll draw a random lucky “commenter” to receive a bag of freshly shelled walnuts (depending on how my hands fare in the process, either a sandwich bag or quart size, but at least a cup!).

So, please do comment with suggestions of recipes and uses for these delicious nuts.  They are so good for you after all!  The giveaway will close on 2am on Sunday morning 11/4 — just to remind everyone that daylight saving’s time is also drawing to a close.

Walnut Season in Benton County! – Gameday Brownies!

Corvallis has several fall celebrations.  Along with the kick-off of Beaver football season in September, there are also Septembeerfest and then Fall Festival.  Considering much of the homes around the university are built on what was once a walnut orchard, there really should be some kind of Walnut Festival!

According to Oregon lore, much of the Willamette Valley had walnut orchards, but the Columbus Day storm of 1962 (yes, just noted the 50 year anniversary!) took it’s toll on the trees.  Portland Monthly reported that the uprooting of these trees made way for some of the wineries and the famed Pinot Noir of this region.

Paul, however, still has one of these ancient trees in his yard – I’m not sure which is older, his house (built circa 1900) or the tree.

Each fall, the walnuts fall.  While many fall in the yard, quite a few thunk thunk on his roof.  Any time of day, there’s one falling. I’m getting used to it, but maybe that isn’t a good thing.  A neighbor stopped by to return something, and I ignored the knocking on the door, presuming there were walnuts falling.

When I first saw these gifts, I had no idea they were walnuts — they are green and almost look like small granny smith apples.  But they eventually dry and split open revealing… another hard shell, the brown I have always associated with the walnut shell.  These then need to be dried before you can crack them again.  PHEW!

As one can tell, it’s a lot of work to harvest walnuts, but one Saturday afternoon, Paul suggested we do a little work “foraging.”  He handed me some work gloves (because the green outer shell will turn your hands black!), and we set out on the backyard.  It was really a task of sorting.  Sorting the walnuts that were ready to be dried from the ones that need to split for the first time.  Then there was separating the shells from the other matter.  Apparently you don’t want the shells in your compost!

I’m not sure how long the walnuts need to dry before they can be fully enjoyed.  Paul pulled out the box from last year, and with a wrench in hand I had a project.  His neighbor uses a hammer to bust them open, but honestly I don’t really trust my accuracy.

I add walnuts to lots of things

. . . banana walnut oatmeal, salad, but I wanted to showcase these and share them:  Game-day brownies.

Walnut Season in Benton County!

Recipe Type: dessert
Cuisine: dessert
Author: Kclever
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 16
Dense, chocolately brownies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of Heath toffee pieces
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9×13 baking pan
  2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs and stir well with spoon.
  3. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt separately and gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips and toffee pieces. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. If the tailgate is sooner than you thought, after the brownies cooled for about an hour you can put them in the refrigerator for an hour or so too.



Late Summer or Indian Summer Fruit Salad

I love fruit, pretty much all kinds.  Yes, if asked, “what’s your favorite food?” I’d probably just say “fruit.”  If pressed for more specifics, “a berry.”  My dad talks about his travels to east Asia and the delicious types of fruit only available there.  I can only imagine.  Being in the Pacific Northwest again provides many opportunities.  Suddenly there is a bounty of fruit.

For many people, this is where canning would come in.  That’s a great option, but I prefer immediate access when possible.  Combining these fruits is a great way to mix the flavors, crisp, tender, sweet, tart and tangy.

Often I use lemon juice as a dressing and even add some of the zest, but there wasn’t much at hand.  The next best citrus available was orange juice.  I spotted the raspberry jam as well in the fridge, and thought I’d tie it together.

Late Summer Fruit Salad
Recipe Type: dessert, side
Author: Karen
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
Serves: 4-6
  • 4 small peaches or nectarines, pitted and cut to small pieces
  • 4 small red plums, pitted and halved
  • 4 small green plums, pitted and halved
  • 1 small Asian Pear, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup of strawberries
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoons raspberry jam
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  1. Wash and prepare the fruit and combine in a large serving dish.
  2. Sprinkle sugar over fruit and mix.
  3. Stir orange juice and jam together until combined and pour over fruit.
  4. Chill in refrigerator before serving.