Kelly’s Chicken Pumpkin Chili

I love fall. I love cold crispy weather. And, I love pumpkin. But I’m not too crazy about sweet pumpkin dishes or even about sweet “sweet” potato dishes either. So I decided to make a savory pumpkin recipe. A couple of nights ago, my family pitched in together to make chili on a cold frosty Nebraska night. Tonight it is a cold chilly Texas night and chili seemed to be on order too. But we had no beef… What to do? Invent! Hubby had two servings (unusual for him) and said, “you have to remember how to make this, it’s good.” So, here it is.


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 good-sized leeks including the green tops (leeks are not scallions, and are not green onions) or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced including the leaves
  • 2 carrots, diced (or 1 snack pack )
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 (32 oz.) carton reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin purée (NOT pumpkin pie filling, needs to be 100% pure pumpkin without any flavorings)
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  • ½ cup frozen or sm can of corn kernels (mexicorn works great too)
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage Greek Yogurt)
  • 2 teaspoons – 2 tablespoon ground cumin* (I LOVE comino and use a lot)
  • 1 tablespoon pinto bean seasoning (Fiesta)
  • 1-2 tbsp chili powder (Gebhardt’s)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon Cider Vinegar
  • 3 cups cooked shredded chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon or more of red cayenne pepper (start with less and add to taste)

Optional garnish finely chopped fresh cilantro, greek yogurt, diced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips


Heat olive oil in deep soup pan, add leeks, celery , garlic. Sweat out the leeks and celery until they are just starting to caramelize, then add the carrots. Sauté till carrots are tender, add the black beans, corn, pumpkin, mix up. Add the spices, and cider vinegar mix up. Add some broth until it is like runny pudding in consistency ( it will not use all the broth). Add the yogurt. Now add the corn and chicken. heat and stir. If it gets to thick, add more broth. Keep stirring every once in a while until the chicken is hot. Add more broth if you need to. You will probably not use all the broth.


I prefer to make this very thick so it is like a chili. You can easily turn it into a tortilla type soup and stretch the recipe for more people if you add more broth. if you do that, you will need to adjust the seasoning by probably adding more.

My family loves comino and chili and spicy foods, so after the flavor was good, I added MORE. Use the smaller amounts first, until you know what your personal taste is like. And, you can tone down the spiciness by adding more yogurt if you need to.

I served the Chicken Pumpkin Chili with a dob of greek yogurt, grated cheese, and sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

*I ground my own comino seed in a small mortar and pestle. I also used leeks. I find leeks sweeter and smoother tasting than regular onions, and prefer to use them whenever I can find them.

Mom Made a Quilt for Me

Mom loves traditional block patterns, especially log cabin blocks. I am not and never have been a traditionalist at anything. So we decided to quilt but quilt different things. Mom has gotten into the quilts of valor big time and has also made a quilt for almost everyone in family. The quilt she made for me is purples, lavenders and pinks. And it IS on a bed! In fact, I decided to decorate a whole guest room around it. It’s going to be an 1880’s bordello fluffy vision of linen and lace and crystal chandeliers (while the rest of my house is distinctly southwest eclectic tomboy.) I hope it gives Mom and Dad a thrill to spend the night in it. Maybe it will kindle romance. (cover my eyes, can’t imagine the parents romancing).

The Day Mom Tried to Steal My Quilt (aka the day we started quilting).

I have to start this story with some background first:

My mom made a lot of my clothes when I was a toddler and she made some fantastic formal dresses and things for herself. So awesome in fact, that when she was throwing one out, I kept it. It is in my closet today. She and I have never been the same size or shape. I am taller and had less bust. She is finer boned. But that dress in a beautiful 70’s avocado green is runway quality. I couldn’t just let her throw it away. I remember her wearing that with her hair teased up and sparkly earrings and jewelry looking like a movie queen when Dad took her to a big formal Dining Out Military Ball. She was beautiful. So the dress is mine! HA! Mom loved sewing and she did it really well.

I took home-ec in high school because I loved to cook. What I didn’t think about was that home-ec had a half semester of sewing which, being a tomboy, I didn’t have much time for. The result I created was the most horrendous rendition of a hippy shirt that even the most down and out hippy wouldn’t have worn it. We had to wear our creations to school and mine fell apart. My best friend, Nicole, saved me from total nudity by grabbing the shoulder seam and keeping it from falling on the floor. I do think I flashed my size AAA bra at some senior cutie though. I was sooooo embarrassed. That was pretty much my sewing experience until I was in my 40’s.

My mom was looking in my linen cupboard and fondling the quilt my great-grandmother had made for me. It was the last quilt Grannie ever made. Completely hand sewn from piecing to quilting with her very arthritic fingers. Of course I didn’t appreciate it as a fourth grader. I was into ‘pink’, pink carpet, pink walls, pink sheets, pink teddy bears. But I didn’t wear pink and I hated dolls. Also, I was a confirmed complete tomboy who liked helping my dad work on his cars. I was a tomboy who just happened to like pink to look at. Anyway Grannie’s quilt was green, as green as green could be, and covered in the most carefully stitched Sunbonnet Sue appliquéd dolls. So I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down when I got it in fourth grade. Mom told me I had to use it since Grannie worked so hard on it. I put it on my bed UNDER the pink coverlet.

Roll forward 40 plus years, to the day I caught my Mom trying to steal my quilt from Grannie. Mom told me she was taking it home since I didn’t appreciate it. HUH!?! What are you talking about!?! I said. She informed me.. I had it in the closet; and, not on a bed; and, since it was made with love; and, that I didn’t appreciate it because it wasn’t out on a bed. I kinda got mad.. okay, I got really mad.. what Mom didn’t know or remember was.. that quilt saw me through pneumonia in the hospital, that quilt went on all our US crazy nation crossing camping trips, that quilt went with me all over the United States of America after I grew up and left home, that quilt was the one I chose to curl up in watching late night movies (and still do), that quilt covered me and my dog when I was crying to myself over cancer trials and tribulations, that quilt was the first thing I took and packed when leaving my exes… all of them… all the boyfriends and jerks and all. That quilt lived my life with me and was the only thing I had from a great-grandmother I heard great stories about but never got to really know because my family lived all over the world, away from the relatives. That quilt was part of my life and gifted to me. Not to her. That quilt didn’t mean as much to her and it did to me. No way it possibly could. I lived some very emotional parts of my life and left gallons of tears on that quilt. But Mom didn’t know all that. All Mom knew was that I didn’t like it as a fourth grader and I hid it under the pink coverlet to hide it.

But I did realize something. She had her own story about Grannie. And that got Mom and I talking. We talked about other relatives and how she didn’t have very much in the way of material things to remind her of Grannie.

Mom is getting older and her children have not reproduced. I think sometimes that really gets to her. What legacy is left, what will be left behind? She wants to leave something that people will appreciate, care about and remember her by. She has done and incredible job and is still finding facts about our family history. It is fascinating. But what about the future. We talked around that subject, but I think that the future is what really was bothering her that day.

We talked about what Grannie’s quilt meant for each of us. Mom mentioned she always wanted to quilt. I asked her why she didn’t. Mom often just doesn’t do a thing because she thinks they will be too hard to do or she will be unsuccessful. I doubted Mom could make a bad quilt if she tried because I have seen her sewing skills and have the dress for proof. I told her that and I suggested that the only thing that can happen is that we make an awful quilt and we would really hide in our closet. not cause we are adults and don’t want a twin size sun bonnet sue on our king size bed.. but because we really should hide it. And we would see it and laugh, and it would be a legacy of her.

So, that was the day, Mom and I made a pact to start quilting.

A Blunt Question to Ponder

Melanie of Catbird Quilt Studio wrote a post that made me think profoundly about what happens to all our quilt stuff and stash when we die:

Last month a family member died. He had no will, and aspects of his assets have created a mess for his widow. Jim and I have long had wills and recently reviewed them with our attorney. But I still…

Source: A Blunt Question to Ponder

Fabulous Flat Quilt Hanging Hardware

Using inexpensive metal straps and plates from the hardware store with neodymium magnets makes a quilt safe hanging method.

Deciding to change the art quilt on my wall pretty often, I realized that a traditional nail wasn’t going to cut it. My quilts have variable sizes and weights. I got the idea for this setup from my magnetic name badge. Surfing my favorite magnet website, I found that there are magnets strong enough to even hang a regular quilt.

Hardware for flat hanging art quilts
Hardware for flat hanging art quilts. Tie plates, tie straps, command strips, neodymium magnets.

Neodymium magnets are very strong, and have a polished clean finish. Magnets strong enough to hang a bed quilt should be used with caution. Their strength could damage your fingers if your fingers or skin got slammed in between them.

For my test, I am hanging a 24×24 art quilt. I wanted temporary but strong and reliable setup so chose 3M command strips of the strongest I could find. My local home depot had 16 lb velcro sets for hanging framed pictures.

Tie plate adhered to wall
Tie plate adhered to wall with command strips

I used 1 13/16 in x 5 in tie plates (found in the lumber department in the structural straps section), and I also bought a variety of 20 guage strap ties in various lengths. 18 Guage would work too. But keep mind that there is a tradeoff in how strong a magnet sticks (thicker metal or more iron in the metal) versus weight of the metal. These bars will not sag because they will be oriented flat to the wall.

Use tape to overlap the straps and secure them to each other. Use enough straps to fit behind the quilt back.
Use tape to overlap the straps and secure them to each other. Use enough straps to fit behind the quilt back.

I overlapped two flat metal bars so they were long enough to fill the entire quilt sleeve but not stick out beyond the quilt. I put the command strips on the small tie plates. This size, five inches long, give enough surface room for the long command strips. The tie plates are then fixed to the wall and I allowed them to adhere for an hour to allow the command strip adhesive to develop full strength. I checked the width of the quilt back and made sure the tie plates were hidden behind the quilt. Put a magnet on the top of the tie plate.

Testing the setup
Testing the setup. Velcro command strips can support quite a lot of weight. I chose strips that will support 16 lbs. The horizontal bar will go inside the quilt sleeve.
Metal tie straps used to hang quilt
Metal tie straps used to hang quilt

I slid my assembled strap into the quilt sleeve and set it against the magnets. it was super easy to adjust the level. And it will be super easy to add length and tie plates with magnets.

The result is a super flat against the wall hanging arrangement that fully supports the quilt without pinching, compressing, or putting holes (pins or tacks) in your quilt.

I believe this is my hanging method of choice from now on!

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Quilt by Suzan Engler
“Turning Over a New Leaf” art quilt by Suzan Engler. Suzan made this quilt for the Ovarian Cancer Awareness Quilt Project. Auctioned in 2014, the quilt raised money for Ovarian Cancer Research at MD Anderson.

MQG is Loving the Improv Charity Quilt We Made

The Balancing Change quilt my guild made for Quiltcon 2016 was truly improvisational from beginning to end.
At each step, we improvised and modified. Even the quilting wasn’t decided until the quilt was on the frame. But at each step we kept basic design theory in mind.

Balancing Changes - San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild 2016 Challenge Charity Quilt , view of quilt front.
Balancing Changes – San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild 2016 Challenge Charity Quilt , view of quilt front.

The Balancing Change quilt my guild made for Quiltcon 2016 was truly improvisational from beginning to end.

We knew we wanted to make a quilt for the Quiltcon Charity Challenge that embodies how random things become organized, how chaos ends up organizing and balancing out in the end. In the greater San Antonio Texas area 2015 saw an overwhelming amount of destruction, Wimberly flooding probably being the worst. I think we did succeeded.

In our first sew-in, we all talked about ideas and we decided a triangle, the symbol of change, would be important imagery. We also discussed traditional blocks that we could use as inspiration, specially the churn dash, as a symbol of change. I saw this an an opportunity for me to get a beta ‘test’ of a improvisational ruleset I am working on to publish (more on that in a future post.) We added a few more rules such as scissors only, no rulers. For at least half of our group, this was a very uncomfortable situation. We all knew this quilt would expand our horizons.

Our first go around resulted in an interesting mess that didn’t inspire us to move further. We looked at it and moved parts around and it just didn’t work. So we let it rest for about a month in order to let our creative juices get to work.

Balancing Changes, view of quilt back.

Sarah Jimenez found a sketch of a black and white triangle with a couple of bars all done in pencil. It began a conversation about the concept of balancing. We considered two bars, but felt that it could be taken as a political statement and we wanted to avoid that even though there is much chaos in politics. We wanted this to be about the abstract concept of changes affecting us and not about a specific idea. Instead of directing the thoughts of the viewer, we wanted our quilt stimulate and open those thoughts.

I had also been reading a lot of design theory and wanted to apply some ideas of depth and movement through relative sizes and layering of objects.
Sarah and I worked together to combine the ideas into the final layout.

Taking the design concept of depth one step further during the quilting process I applied comic book drawing theory. In comic books line value and thickness are often used to indicate depth of field. Thinner lines with color value closer to the background indicates farther away from the viewer while bolder thicker more color value difference indicates closer to the viewer. So I used a variety of very thin 60 wt threads, and thicker 50wt and 40wt threads when quilting. I had planned on using 30wt thread too, but it required mechanically adjusting my machine to accommodate the very thick needle. There was not enough time to get out the tools before the quilt had to be in Pasadena for Quiltcon 2016. I plan on trying the thread weight ideas on a future quilt though. The idea intrigues me.

This quilt really pushed our group to get out of our comfort zone and to really think about improv as a concept that still requires design theory application to get a great results. We are all happy with the outcome. We all learned a lot. I hope this group will do this again!


MQG talks about it on Instagram

#quiltconcharityquilt, #quiltcon, #improvquilting, #quiltcon2016, #quiltconcharitychallenge

Thread Weights Look Like What?

Lots of science boils down to this: 

Higher wt number on thread means it is skinnier and will kind of hide so the fabric is more emphasized. The lumps and bumps are more emohasized. 

Lower wt thread is thicker thread so the thread shows more. 

Choose your thread weight by the effect you want to get out of your quilting.  

Of course, if you want to break the rule of thumb, then pile on and paint with the skinny thread to show up more like Libby Lehman does it. 

And think about this, if your freemotion or longarm pattern requires a lot of traveling over previous stitches, a thinner thread won’t pile up as much as a thick one. 

On Long Arm Quilting with Monofilament

For Superior Threads Monopoly in the top and Bottom Line (or any thread in the bobbin) in the bobbin. I use the TOWA tension gauge to set my bobbin case to a value of 180. I loosen my top tension knob about 2.5 turns.

This week on my facebook longarm quilt group, a member asked about using monofilament. I mentioned monofilament in a blog post a while back. Now that I have experimented more with monofilament I need to save my observations here.

I want a monofilament that sews like regular thread but “disappears” into the background fabric so that the quilting and fabric are emphasized instead of the thread lines. After many combinations and brands of monofilament, I finally came up with a repeatable easy solution that works every single time for me. I use Superior Threads Monopoly in the top and Superior Threads So Fine in my bobbin.

Thread Chemistry affects stitching

I tested several clear monofilament threads. Mono filament thread is a single continuous strand of fiber of polyester. Polyester seems to be stronger than other monofilament thread types.

Nylon monofilament threads stretched more and I didn’t like using them, even when I had all the tension loosened way up, they still stretched. I didn’t like how it formed stitches and I liked even less how much they could pull fabric up and warp it.

Quality of thread manufacturing also affects the stitch out. A single strand that is made to exacting thickness will give a consistent result. In a multi fiber thread, slight variations of thread thickness are compensated by the multiple fibers. In a mono filament, a thinner section of thread can cause breakage and malformed stitches.

Once I got my machine setup to form beautiful stitches Superior’s Monopoly did not break. Monopoly also comes in both a clear and a smoke color.  Monopoly is matte finishe and so you don’t see a “sparkle” when looking at the quilt from an angle. The smoke is also clear but smokey looking which is great on darker fabrics as light reflectance is minimal and this thread really disappears on dark backgrounds. Due to its matte finish and strength and consistent stitching, I greatly prefer Superior Threads Monopoly.

What is monofilament?

Keep in mind any mono (one strand) filament thread is going to be weaker than a two strand or three strand thread, to compensate that one strand is going to be a little thicker than the single strand of a multi-strand thread. It’s worth mentioning because you might observer that the thread is a little thinner than what you would normal consider for a specific needle size. In face Superior is only .1 mm thick! Needle choice will have a BIG impact on stitching with monofilament. Try first what the manufacturer of that thread suggests. It really does matter.

Needle Size

Superior recommends a #14 needle. I generally use a #14 needle but may go up to a #18 needle in certain cases. If it seems the needle flexing is causing the monopoly to break, go up to a bigger needle size. This is more of an issue when freemotion quilting with monopoly. A thicker/bigger needle is stronger and going to flex less.

Threading path changes

If I am having the monopoly break, I check my threading path. I thread through the only one hole in the top guide post instead of the normal winding around through both holes on the top guide.

Tension really matters

The key to beautiful stitches with Monopoly is your thread tension balance between the top and the bottom. You will need to loosen your top tension. On my Innova two to three full turns to loosen the top tension knob are required. Exactly how much depends on the thread I choose for the bobbin.

Bobbin Thread Affects Stitching with Monofilament

I have found that using monofilament in the top and bobbin really doesn’t work. Monofilament, because it is only one strand of fiber, is very slippery. The monofilament will not “grab” onto another monofilament thread and so the stitch doesn’t form and hold. Sometimes the stitches even skip completely. To get a good stitch formation, I have found that using a multi filament thread in the bobbin is a must. The multi-filament thread will grab the monofilament and form a better stitch.

I choose my bobbin thread based up on the effect I want to see on the back of the quilt. If I want the bobbin thread to have a disappearing effect, I will choose a bobbin thread such as #60 bottom line by Superior and very closely match the color to the quilt backing. Bonus to this combo is that Bottom Line is very thin and a LOT of yardage fits on a bobbin. Less bobbin changes is a very good thing in my mind. I often use #50 weight of many types such as cotton or trilobal polyester. I rarely go to a thicker thread, but have successfully used #40 weight polyester thread too.

Bobbin Case and Tension

The key to the bobbin thread no matter the thickness, is to have consistent tension.I keep repeating this because it is just that important.  I have a TOWA bobbin gauge and that has made all the difference in my long arm quilting. GET ONE!

Summary of What I Do to Set Up for Monopoly

For Superior Threads Monopoly in the top and Bottom Line (or any thread in the bobbin) in the bobbin. I use the TOWA tension gauge to set my bobbin case to a value of 180.  I loosen my top tension knob about 2.5 turns. Then I test on the edge of the quilt sandwich set and adjust only my top tension knob either looser or tighter to get a perfect stitch. I also test after each bobbin change or whenever I feel the stitch isn’t right.

Problem Solving Tips

  • Pokies on the top = loosen top tension and/or check bobbin tension with gauge
  • Pokies on the bottom = tighten top tension and/or check bobbin tension with gauge
  • Shredding thread.. quilt fabric and batting tension might be too tight. Bop it and see how it bounces. I have a habit of making this too taut.
  • Refer to my troubleshooting notes.


Drought, Improvisation

The entire process has been interesting. I started with the intent to improvise, to use my ugliest fabric, and to enter a show. I also planned to apply color and design theory and stay rigidly within a complementary color scheme.

I succeeded in those goals. It was butt ugly. Really it was. At first.

The ugly brown fabric I chose was one I bought in bulk with a lot of other bolts. It languished on the shelve for three years. At a quilt guild meeting, I heard several others talking about their ugly fabric challenge. I thought it was a great idea, I knew exactly the fabric I would base this on. At least now I had a challenge to use it up. This fabric was so bad, no one wanted to swap for it and I couldn’t give it away. Being raised frugally, I couldn’t just toss it.

Amazingly I also had in my stash a blue which was exactly opposite that brown on the color wheel and it was also an ombre.

Now this was improv, with no pattern or plan. So I just started by layering the two fabrics and cutting big swaths in mild curves. I sewed those matching curves together, of course with big chucks I ended up with things that wouldn’t lay flat. So then I chopped up into blocks  that would lay flat and decided I would just sew them together. It looked like a muddy mess with no life to it. It was the sleepiest boringest most awful quilt I had ever made. Now what? CMYK color wheel to the rescue. I realized I needed some pop. but what? more blue.. na, more brown, na.. but what? Would I need to change my complementary rule? Well, turns out on the CMYK color wheel that orange is really brown that isn’t diluted. how wonderful! And I just happened to have a yard of the perfect orange in my stash. So I began layering and slicing orange into the most boring blocks. I ended up with something much more interesting, now the blocks had fire! I realized. Muddy browns, Sky blues and fire.. the name of the quilt came to me at that point.. Drought! We were living it for real and this quilt was being born in the middle of drought made of the colors of drought.

For me 100% improv is impossible. I compulsively have to add rules as I go, I have to build a framework or I get “stuck” and go nowhere. I have found that 4-7 rules is the right number to get pleasing results. A few rules give structure, too many rules and the improve quilt will look plain boring. Limiting the number of rules encourages experimentation and flexibility when “issues” arise in the process.

I had been in a stubborn Dr Seuss mindset regarding quilting during this period of my life. This could have been my mantra:

I’m not going to do straight lines,
I don’t like straight lines,
I will not do them, no I won’t,
I will not do them,
It’s not a joke.

My rules for this quilt were:

  1. Must use the single absolutely ugliest fabric I had in my stash.
  2. Must stay in a complementary color scheme using the CMYK color wheel.
  3. Keep the idea of a “modern” quilt in mind especially negative space, scale, contrast, and incorporate illusion depth of field ideas.
  4. Let the quilt develop. i.e. Build each stage as I go without pre-planning the next stage… Worry about the blocks first, then figure out the layout, then the quilting plan, then figure out the binding.
  5. If it gets a few wows from people, enter it in a couple of shows.
  6. My Reward if I do all the above: (not really a rule, but a goal
    If I do all this, Get a new camera. (see one has to set fun goals especially if one is using ugly stuff to create new stuff. I had a goal even if the project stayed ugly and got boring. I believe in rewarding oneself at the end of onerous tasks. And my old camera, was really old, and had white spots where pixels were burnt out, and needed replacing really badly)

(if you want to know… I got all the way through number 5, so I had to get the new camera so I could submit the quilt to the shows. YAY!)

Gravity Quilt – Top Completed

Two hours later and Gravity is pieced together. Wow! What a great learning experience. Julie at Jaybird Quilts did an excellent job writing this pattern. Each colored block quilt upon skills learned in the previous block. I learned so much that I will use in future quilts. And it was fun! It is not complete yet as I still have quilting and binding to do. Here is a photo of the pieced top. 

gravity quilt  pieced top
Gravity quilt pieced top ready to quilt and bind.