olive oil polenta cake

Over Memorial Day weekend I had a huge bagful of cherries, the assignment to make dessert for a friend’s barbecue, and no clear idea of what to do. Mom was visiting and we’d already made her signature chocolate cupcakes, but we wanted to do something with the cherries. She found a cherry olive oil polenta cake recipe online that we chose over other cherry-oriented recipes because we had all the ingredients for it in the house and it seemed like a cinch to make—no waiting for butter to soften, no melting ingredients and dirtying a pot!

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It was delicious! A bit more like a breakfast/coffee cake than a true dessert cake, but moist and tender and with a nice crumb. We brainstormed what other fruits would be good, given how fleeting the cherry season is. A week or so later, I tried it with a pint of blueberries (but didn’t take a picture). Tasty, very breakfasty, but needed more blueberries (and for my timer to work; that one got a bit overcooked). Jason said that what he liked about the cherries was that the sweetness isn’t so one-dimensional; there’s a bit of a tang. So when Fresh Direct had a sale on pluots (plum-apricot hybrids), I grabbed some and figured I’d give them a shot.

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The pluots are moister, and definitely tarter, but I cooked the cake exactly the right amount of time and the result is sublime. I also added a generous sprinkling of raw sugar to the top, which was  the right choice.

I’ll try it with straight up apricots, maybe mango, and someday if I can spare pieces for baking instead of eating them immediately, pineapple. At first I wasn’t sure how versatile this recipe would be, and now I am eager to stick all the fruits in there! Try it with whatever you have on hand, and let me know how it comes out!

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(Cherry) Olive Oil Polenta Cake
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup extra-virgin extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 1/2 cups fresh fruit (1 lb cherries, pitted / 1.5-2 pints blueberries / 4 pluots, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces)
Sugar in the raw, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10″ round cake pan with nonstick vegetable spray. I found that cutting a round of parchment and placing that in the pan, then lightly spraying it, was a big help in getting the cake out of the pan cleanly.

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and polenta. Add to egg mixture and mix until combined.

Spread two-thirds of batter into the prepared pan. If you put a round of parchment in, it’ll slide all over the place, but soldier on and you can get the batter spread and the parchment centered. Cover completely with the fruit, pressing in lightly. Spoon and spread the remaining batter over the fruit as best you can. Sprinkle generously with sugar in the raw to make a sweet crust. Bake until top and edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack. Enjoy!

olive oil polenta cake

 

reuning

It’s hard to believe I just attended my 15th college reunion. Fifteen years?! How can I possibly have been out of college for so long. In so many ways it feels like just yesterday—but going back I realized just how long ago it was.

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

Campus is gorgeous year-round, but particularly in the spring, and boy did it put on a good show for those of us reuning. It was magical to be back. I felt so lucky to have been able to live there for four years and to be part of the legacy that it maintains. But I’ll admit it: it was incredibly weird to be there. I discovered that I had but a few close friends in undergrad (and all but one did not attend). Everyone tells you that one of the best things about going to a reunion is interacting with people you never knew as an undergrad, and that is absolutely true. But it was still weird, you know?

I dragged the friends I attended with (who have become close since graduation!) over campus to visit each of the four dorms I lived in. Back when I was there, it wasn’t very common to change dorms every year—you’d find your “home” and work to stay there (the circumstances of Room Draw playing a factor, of course). But I jumped around. It’s amazing how these 100 year-old buildings smell exactly the same—a decades of mustiness sort of thing, with each dorm having its own distinct smell. The bottom picture above is the entrance to my freshman dorm. We wandered in and found my freshman room. We went into that room you can see on the ground floor on the right: the architecture studio, which I essentially lived in my junior year. And later in the weekend we hung out with some friends whose room assignment that weekend was in this dorm, in the exact room that I saw on my tour while in high school. That room was such a huge factor in my choice to go to Bryn Mawr, and I’d never once stepped foot in it after seeing it that first time. And that was weird too.

The structure of reunion is loose: attend some sessions or don’t, as you please. We mostly did not attend things. We went on a horticulture tour of campus, which was a highlight, and we joined in the singing in Greek. We skinny dipped in the fountain, and we of course made sure to be up in time for the Parade of Classes Sunday morning. I opted to watch it from the sidelines rather than walk in it. I’m glad I did. What I love about being an alumna of this place is the amazing women who came before me (and those who have followed). One woman from the class of 1944 came; I hope to show up for my 70th too!

And just look at this place. I want to go back immediately.

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

blogger’s quilt festival: plus quilt

Just in under the wire! I wasn’t going to join in on the Blogger’s Quilt Festival this time around, but when I mailed the Plus Quilt to my cousin I asked if he’d be sure to take a picture of him and his now-wife with it. I expected, I don’t know, just a cell phone shot at arm’s length. Nothing crazy. But I should have known—we are related, after all—that he’d make this something awesome.

plus quilt with the recipients

plus quilt back with the recipients

plus quilt in st louis

Turns out they took it with them to the place where he proposed to her (with the tree)! It’s a park in St. Louis—he did not tell me where. How cute are they to have done that. And then they went with it on to a baseball game where the temps were nippy, and they were able to take a pic with the Arch in the background (below). How awesome is that?!

chalk-writing inspired quilt label

Info about the quilt is more detailed here, but it’s a really straightforward quilt. Blues and greens on their request, and cut so that I had a long bar of a plus and the two small squares, rather than all individual squares. My favorite part is probably the quilt label, which I made after being inspired by the latest chalkboard-writing craze. It was fun to design that and get it stitched up, and I was proud that I finally took the time to make a proper label. It’s that last detail and I tend to not give it the proper attention. Kind of like buttons on a cardigan or something—I just want it done already, why do I have to bother with these bits!?

Anyway, the quilt came together quickly, and as you can see it’s very large (Patrick is like 6’3″ or something). I’d definitely do another plus; it’s such a perfect motif for a wedding quilt and allows for so much variation and play with patterns. I’ll submit this to the Modern Quilt category!

follow your arrow

follow your arrow shawl

I’d never participated in a mystery knit along before, and with the added “choose your own adventure” element of Ysolda’s Follow Your Arrow, I quickly decided to join the masses. I opted to remain unspoiled about each clue after it was revealed, only looking at photos of Arrows-in-progress after I’d committed to a clue. A few of my coworkers also participated, and it was fun to check on their progress and debate each option at lunch. Between the three of us, we all were making completely different shawls—a two-color kite start, a one-color kite start, and a lace start!

My choices at each juncture were pretty consistent, I felt: I chose the one that would remain a surprise until I was done knitting it (if this was a choice). Bonus if it seemed like the “harder” of the two options. Why take the easy way out? So I did what turned out to be the “kite” for Clue 1, because there was no chart to show me what it would look like. For Clue 2, I of course opted for the short rows because that was definitely something you couldn’t visualize just from reading the pattern. Clues 3 and 4 each had two lace charts, so sadly I couldn’t remain in the dark on what they would be like. I chose relatively randomly (they were quite similar, after all). I’ll admit I broke with my “rule” by Clue 5—I chose the one that seemed simpler and easier to execute, because I was ready to have an FO. Also I peeked at some of the finished ones (I didn’t tackle Clue 5 until after several people had finished entirely) and I didn’t like the way the other choice looked.

follow your arrow shawl

In the end I’m not really sure I ended up with a cohesive piece. But just as I used the yarn despite its quickly-recurring patch that didn’t get hit by the dye, I told myself that when a scarf is scrunched up around my neck in the way that I always wear them, no one will notice or care. The yarn was of course lovely to work with, as all Periwinkle Sheep yarn is, but I bought a sweater’s worth of it at Rhinebeck a few years ago without realizing just how prominent that undyed patch was going to be. I don’t mind the effect so much in this shawl, but I’m not sure what to do with all the rest of it in my stash.

Anyway, I’ve thrown this shawl into my bag this spring a lot—the lightweight yarn and the more open gauge make it perfect as a little something extra around my neck during transitional weather. I really like it when it’s all wrapped up. So who cares that the kite and short rows don’t really “go” with the lace sections?

follow your arrow shawl

One really good thing about this project was it definitely got me back in the knitting groove. Will I ever join in a mystery knit along again? Unlikely. I realized that I often see finished MKAL pieces and know I would never have chosen the design if I’d know it would look like that from the start. By nature a piece that goes in chunks is not going to be as cohesive looking as one that’s designed as a single thing. But did I enjoy this experience? Immensely! How fun to all be working on the same thing at the same time. It fed into the same part of me that likes to watch TV shows when they air, so I can participate in online chatter.

Regarding the little photo shoot I had for this with Caro of Splityarn: Why are we always shooting on incredibly windy days!? For this we went out in front of the Indianapolis Convention Center before a day on the show floor at TNNA and battled a blustery change in the weather. Also the grass was full of sinking spots that I kept falling into, so it was a hilarious time, as well. I love having a professional photographer friend at my beck and call!

follow your arrow shawl

a pink and purple pillow

For Christmas last year (wow I’m late blogging this), I made my friend Beth a pillow in all her favorite colors: pink, more pink, and some purple too.

QAYG log cabin pillow

I did it as a quilt-as-you-go using narrow strips of some of my favorite fabrics. A QAYG log cabin is easy enough except if it gets slightly off kilter, there’s no squaring it up! So this spirals every so slightly. I just squared it at the end and called it a day.

QAYG log cabin pillow

I closed the backing (Kona Berry) up entirely and stuffed that sucker really full so that it would be a super comfy addition to her bedroom–perfect for propping yourself up to read a book or watch something on a tablet.

QAYG log cabin pillow

Pillows for everyone, I say!