30 April, 2010

Quilt Canada in Full Swing

Oh wow, I am so tired. And, to be honest, a little overwhelmed with the thoughts and designs swirling around in my head. There are still a few days left at Quilt Canada. I have two more events and a few lectures to attend. I'm not sure I can take all the stimulation!

I know many people come to quilt shows and take away some neat ideas, a little confidence, and probably a lot of merchandise. I'm coming away from this week with new colleagues, tonnes of design ideas, a new business venture, and some confusion. It's going to take me a bit of time to digest it all.

In the meantime, here is a little report so far. See that guy there? That's Mark Lipinski, with his arm around me (and my co-chair). He is seriously one of the nicest men I've ever met, or maybe his husband is. Either way, we had a great time being entertaining by Mark on two occasions. His trunk show is part stand-up routine and he had nearly everyone in tears. You need to hear the girdle story yourself  to fully understand. And Mark is already asking when he can come back, but he wants to teach next time.

In addition to the trunk show Mark also spoke at our Professional Development Conference. He was a great start to the day and got us all thinking, a lot. For the next day and a half we discussed branding, marketing, finding balance, taxes, and inspiration. The group was honest with each other and I think we had some great discussions. I only hope that many others got as much out of it as we put in. 
Aside from our evening events, my attempts to direct a fashion show, and that whole merchant mall and quilt show, I had a few other tasks to keep me busy. I sent Mark's quilts back home for him. So, for two days my living room was filled with his quilts. When I was refolding and packing his quilts I saw this label. I hope you don't mind me sharing, Mark!

I'll report back with more next week. And stay tuned for more details on an upcoming adventure.

28 April, 2010

Workshop in Progress - April 28

Don't forget to visit Lesly over at Pickle Dish for this week's Workshop in Progress.

26 April, 2010

Torture


As you read this I am busy inspiring (hopefully) and being inspired by Mark Lipinski, Cathy Tomm, Sharole Lawrence, Fran Lauzon, and so many more during the Professional Development Conference at Quilt Canada. That is not the torturous part. The torturous part is that I know that this quilt is sitting at home, waiting to be quilted. I've never wanted to quilt a quilt more.

But Quilt Canada should be an invigorating and exhausting week.  I predict a million more ideas in my sketchbook!

Have a great week everyone!

(And how appropriate that my brother picked out a bunch of Mark Lipinski fabric for the back of my dad's quilt, without even knowing the Quilt Canada connection!)

25 April, 2010

Interweb Adventures


Today I'm taking you on a little tour of self-promotion. Busy little me has been flying around the interwebs visiting, writing, sharing. This week I am off at a major quilt event, so I thought I would share my internet adventures with you.

Not too long ago I discovered a website that appeals to my heart, especially. Michelle at What's Cooking is working hard to spread a love for cooking to kids, and families. This week she featured my post on making Babka with the girls in a What's Cooking feature on Cooking With Kids.

For Earth Day this week I discussed the joys of visiting farms with your kids. I shared this over at Simple Bites. Making that connection with food starts with knowing where it comes from and who it comes from. As Wade always says, eating local is about eating food you know from people you know.

I also started a new venture guest blogging with Food Network Canada. It's spring, despite the snow storm that hit Calgary last weekend, so I am over there talking asparagus.

Speaking of asparagus, that Simple Bites piece includes a recipe for Asparagus and Feta pizza. Don't forget to check that out!

Now, if only I was actually home to cook this week.

23 April, 2010

Backseat Adventure - Cowboy Trail


A few weeks back, with Hubby out of town and the weather not quite warm enough for picnics, the girls and I headed out on an adventure. We left the house unsure of where to go. We followed the sunshine to the Cowboy Trail. 

Taking in the towns of Millarville, Turney Valley, Black Diamond and Longview the Cowboy Trail snakes South of Calgary through the foothills alongside Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. To the West you have the Rocky Mountains. To the East you have Prairies and ranchland. In front of you there is entertainment, small town love, and plenty to make you smile.

What we found that day...

A phenomenal breakfast, just incredible, at the Chuckwagon Cafe in Turner Valley. Also discovered there was meat off sales. Not booze, but meat, sold over the counter. And it was damn good meat.

Something else discovered in Turner Valley - sumo wrestling.

Found in Longview - quite possibly the world's best beef jerky. I haven't tried all the world's beef jerky, but this place may indeed live up to their advertised claims.

Also realized on the Cowboy Trail is the proliferation of these lame cowboy cutouts.  We get it folks.

While we did pass a number of working ranches along the way, the only horse we rode was this one.

I particularly enjoy matching garbage and scenery.

Limited access to the Sheep River in Black Diamond, at least as far as crutches go. But we did get a little walk and the girls weren't too disappointed that they couldn't throw rocks.

An old fashioned soda shop in Black Diamond, Marv's. A bit disappointing that the ice cream was Nestle or some general brand and their carbonated ice cream machine was being cleaned, but my saskatoon berry sundae was still good. And as far as kids are concerned, all ice cream is good.

That despite the apparent challenges of parenting with limited mobility and a travelling Hubby, it isn't that hard to get out of the house and have an adventure with your kids.

Calgary Meet-up?


The internet is an interesting place. It allows us to be more open and honest with, perhaps ourselves, and others. We make friendships we might never have started or maintained in the 'real world'. And it allows us a chance to create a community without ever needing to borrow a cup of sugar.

One of the reasons I volunteered for the Local Organizing Committee of Quilt Canada was to meet more local quilters and become engaged in the real world community here in Calgary. And for that it has been fantastic.

As time moves on, however, I find that there are more and more quilters in Calgary that aren't a part of the real world community, rather they are engaged in the on-line world. And that is awesome too.

So, I've decided to host a little get together/meet-up for my readers that are local. I'm also inviting the newly formed Calgary Modern Quilt Guild.

These are my two suggested times.  Sorry, but I do have to work around my Quilt Canada obligations.

Thursday April 29 6:30 pm Drinks
Friday April 30 1:00 Desserts

Once I have an idea of who is interested I will confirm location, but it will be somewhere really close to the Telus Convention Centre, site of the Merchant Mall and shows.

So, grab your horse and come down to meet up. Who's in?

20 April, 2010

Workshop in Progress - April 21

So, in the Workshop this week I wanted to talk scraps. This is the bag of brand new scraps left over from piecing my Dad's quilt. I'll be honest, it makes me kind of giddy to look at it. I almost wish there were more!

My question for you is about selvages. I never used to keep them, but I do now. For those of you that collect, do you like partials, or does the entire row of text and dots need to be there? And how much of the actual fabric is necessary to cut off with the selvage?

Now, on to the rest of you.

Elle is back at her original WIP project. Her Wind and Water piece seems softer to me now. I love watching it evolve.

Somehow I missed the naming of this quilt, but remember we helped Felicity on the name game. Check out this post to see what she went with.

Next week I will be well and truly insane with all the goings on for Quilt Canada. If you are around next week, find me - I'm the one on the crutches with the long black hair. I am chairing the Professional Development Conference and helping out at all evening events. I hope to see you!

Because I will be away, I've asked Lesly at Pickle Dish to host the workshop. Make sure to check in with her next Wednesday. And if you have any posts get them up there in the blogosphere and let her know. 

19 April, 2010

Mmm, Pizza


One of the first things I got off my butt to make after my knee injury was pizza dough. I was facing a deadline and needed to work my hands a little. Mostly I needed to work my hands. It is amazing what forced exile from the kitchen can do to a cook. I might have gone through a bit of withdrawal, shakes and all.

Yes, I know you can make pizza dough in a food processor, or easily in that 5 minutes a day way. But sometimes you need to pile up flour, make a well for your liquids, then scream for your husband to clean it up when the walls break and floury liquid is running down the front of the counter. With the next batch I used a bowl.

This dough is totally inspired by David Rocco. I watched a lot of Food Network when I was laid up. But I couldn't remember the recipe exactly, but I loved that he made pizzas and calzones with it. So I made it up in my head when I did get to the kitchen. Turns out it is pretty damn close to his recipe. So, thanks David. Now go kiss those adorable twins of yours. (Seriously, could you make the Italian countryside more beautiful?)

An easy dinner in our house is now calzones made with this dough. All that means is you fold over the dough, roll the edges, and bake at high heat. Homemade pizza pocket. And when you do make it as a pizza, it is a lovely, thin crust. But calzones now rule because, according to The Monster, the Pizza Man makes the pizza, not Mama. I need to rectify that situation ASAP.

Pizza Dough
Makes 8 hearty calzones or 8 individual pizzas*

2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

1. Stir together water and yeast. Let sit for a few minutes until it is foamy, or the yeast has bloomed.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a well in the center of the flour. Pour the water, yeast, and olive oil into the well. Start incorporating the liquids, using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula. You will likely have to switch to mixing with your hands. Once it has come together as a dough, dump it out on a floured countertop. Knead for just a few minutes until the dough is smooth.
3. Divide into four equal portions. Cover lightly with a lightly damp tea towel and let rest for an hour.
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

For calzones:
5. One portion at a time roll into a rectangle about 8 by 6 inches. Cut in half at the 4 inch mark.
6. Top each half with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, leaving an inch without sauce all around the edges. Add a half cup of shredded cheese and toppings of choice.
7. Fold each calzone in half, pinching and rolling over the edges to seal. Brush the tops with a beaten egg.
8. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely before eating as fillings will be very hot.

For pizzas:
5. Roll each portion into a rough circle about 8 inches around.
6. Thinly cover with toppings of choice.
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden.

*I usually freeze half the dough for another day. After the dough has rested, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a  freezer bag. Let thaw completely and use according to recipe.

18 April, 2010

Baba and Dido's Garden


It was a whirlwind quilting weekend, a retreat of sorts at my house. My sister and sister-in-law came down to work on a quilt for my Dad. After what seemed like 48 straight hours of quilting, interrupted only by babies needing Mama and not Daddy/Uncle, we finished this quilt top.

Inspired entirely by the garden/yard at my Baba and Dido's house in Hafford, Saskatchewan, this quilt is a tribute to that memorable part of our lives spent there. Even if we hated it as kids it is such a strong part of our identity. It seemed only fitting to make sure our Dad knew that since this was also his place.

My sister came to the table not having sewn in decades, but my sister-in-law is also a quilter (my evil influence). When we started talking about what design direction we wanted to go in it was a very short discussion. Independently of each other we came up with the exact same concept. So we quickly started pulling fabric, books, and sketching.

Before long we were sewing and my house was taken over by strips and scraps, rulers, machines, coffee, cheese, and loads of cookies. There was only one moment where we had to stop sewing, my sister and I sharing tears of laughter over a silly childhood story. We were three tired Mamas getting a break to sew - when all we really wanted to do was sleep. It is the natural instinct when someone else is watching the kids.
The entire project took every corner of my small house. My stash was spread around the living room for easy access. We used both The Monster's and our bed for layout, in addition to the living room floor when all babies where sleeping. My dining room became a literal sweatshop. In the midst of all these we had three kids - mine and my nephew.  Hubby was AWESOME, taking them all to the park and zoo to keep them out of our hair. It didn't stop the girls from sitting on our laps to help us sew and snip threads. Nor did it stop my nephew from being so damn cute.

Probably the most important part of this quilt is the garden. My Baba had an enormous garden. Seriously, a home garden to make anyone jealous. It was meticulously tended by hand. Every day in the summer you would see her stooped over weeding, watering, and picking. When we came to visit we had the watering duties, and when she wasn't looking we snuck strawberries. Then, every fall, the family loaded up to help with harvest. This entailed two vehicles so we could bring home the bounty.  And every year my mom would exclaim, "What am I going to do with a dozen heads of cabbage?!

We briefly debated paper piecing the garden, a la Ruth McDowell. But of the three of us I am the only one who knows how to paper piece. So Tash recommended we improvise things - she did learn from me after all! So we grabbed fabric and scissors and started sewing our garden.

The only thing we had to go on was our memories and the start of the house. You see, I've had this idea in my head for at least 5 years now, if not longer. I started one day then never got anywhere. I guess it just took the right motivation, many hands, and loads of work. The quilt is gone to Edmonton for backing and basting. I will get it back for quilting in a week or two. Can't wait!
(PS Mom, if you read this, DON'T TELL DAD!)

14 April, 2010

Workshop in Progress - April 14

My Monster is demonstrating just how I feel right now. So busy playing, but needing the time to take a rest in the middle of it all.

I am in so deep with Quilt Canada stuff these coming weeks, so very little to report from my end. But I can share that there are still tickets left for the evening events during the week, lectures, and even some of the classes. But if you can't do classes, we are still taking volunteers, particularly for white glovers.

In the meantime, this week's Workshop question comes from What KT Made Next. Remember her modern Dear Jane? She has another fabric question for you.  All those lovely pinks! But is this one the right one?

12 April, 2010

Another One

I need another new project like I need a hole in the head. But I just couldn't resist. Of course, that's what I thought months ago when I actually started this project. This week I think I've gone insane.

Oh well, what else is new?

I finished almost two weeks of single parenting and the only good thing about it is the quiet at the end of the night. It means I can write or quilt without listening to whatever crap on TV Hubby is likely watching. And I can do it without guilt because I'm not not spending time with Hubby. 

Most of the projects I have on the go are ready for basting and quilting. But that single parenting thing combined with the knee thing means no basting is getting done. Oh darn, more piecing. So pulled out this project and got myself sorted. All my squares are pressed, cut, and paired up. Another quiet evening and my half square triangles are done!

Hmm, where can I find another quiet evening?

09 April, 2010

Cardamom Ice Cream

Save for a few days over Easter and our wedding anniversary I've been single parenting the last two weeks. What I wouldn't do for beer and chocolate every single night. And intravenous caffeine first thing in the morning. But it's just another week in an absolutely crazy month. And all you can do is put one foot in front of another, type another key, cook another meal, and eat another bowl of ice cream.

Yes, another bowl of ice cream. For every day that I remember to buy cream when I steal a moment to buy groceries I dream about ice cream. Okay, that's a slight overstatement, but only slightly.

Once I called my neighbour over to save me by digging through the mess in the basement (I can still can't make my way to the basement yet) to find the base of the ice cream maker I could make my dreams come true. Cardamom ice cream here I come!

And oh, did that ice cream do it for me. It's quite rich. Ridiculously rich. And while I doubted the cardamom taste when making the custard it came through perfectly in the finished product. Adding rhubarb was a way to tease myself into spring (despite the snow storm we got this week) and soften the richness of the ice cream.

Cardamom Ice Cream with Lightly Stewed Rhubarb
(Adapted from delicious March 2010)
Serves 6 (or 1 tired mom over a few days)

Ice Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
300 ml can of sweetened condensed milk

Rhubarb
6 stalks rhubarb
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons water

1. Steep the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods in the cream and milk. Bring to medium heat in a saucepan. Just before it boils turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour. Strain and discard the spices.
2. Whisk the eggs and the sugar until pale. Add the infused milk/cream, whisking constantly. Pour into a clean saucepan and cook over low/medium heat, stirring, for 5-8 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, add the condensed milk, and pour into a clean bowl or jug. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
3. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Pour into a freezable container and freeze until firm.
4. Half hour before serving chop the rhubarb and combine with the other ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but is still holding it's shape.  Set aside to cool.
5. Serve ice cream on top of cooled rhubarb.

Friday Favourite - Lint Tool


Okay, hands up. How many of you clean your sewing machine on a regular basis? And just what do you define as cleaning?

With the knees injured my machine was getting a bit of a rest. So I took it in for a little tune-up and deep clean. In the almost 4 years I've owned it there has been very little that has ever bothered me about it, other than the needle threader breaking. It may just be because it is a good machine, but I also think I take care of it rather well.

One of the things I do is clear the lint every single time I change a bobbin. Yup, every time. The bobbin case is out anyway, so I have a good clean view of all that lint! I used to use a Q-Tip with a dab of oil to do this. This was how I was taught to oil my machine. Then a swap partner sent me a handy little tool. With regular cleaning I've found that I only need to do a quick swab with oil once a month or so, depending on how often I've sewn.

Today's favourite is the handy little tool.  It can be yours for less than a dollar, or even free if you, like me, often have straws and pipe cleaners around. Ah, preschool crafts.

Take a roughly 2 inch piece of pipe cleaner and a thin straw. The little coffee straws work best for this.
Fold the pipe cleaner in half and pinch the ends together close. Insert into one end of the straw. Don't worry about glue or anything. A small straw will hold the pipe cleaner in place.

Open up your machine where the bobbin is. This is what mine looks like after a a bobbin's worth of sewing. You don't have to look too close to see the lint.

Drag the pipe cleaner/lint tool through the entire area, behind the bobbin housing, in the bobbin case, and underneath the throat plate. This is what came up for me.

Do this every time you change your bobbin and your machine will run quite smooth. Trust me, a clean machine saves you a lot of headaches and repair bills.

07 April, 2010

Workshop in Progress - April 7

It's a late day for me, my apologies for coming to the Workshop late. There hasn't been a lot of sewing for me with some deadlines approaching on other projects. But a few of you have been busy.

Lesley over at Pickle Dish is busy working out of her comfort zone. This is a perfect post for us in the Workshop. I can just imagine all of us standing in front of her fence and collaborating on this design. Take a moment to view her post and lend your thoughts.

Because she is funny and she is working on an amazing project I want you to go check our Rachel at 2nd Avenue Studios. Any maybe you've got a thought or two on her corners.

Elle is still working on wonky, but she's made some good progress. And what about the use of black and whites?! But where to go from here?

Have a good week everyone! 

05 April, 2010

Things That Make Me Tired and Happy

This blog was only meant to be a hobby. A few recipes snuck in on my quilting blog, but I wasn't really thinking of going back to the food world in any way other than as a dedicated home cook and mother. And what was I thinking, a working mom maintaining two blogs in my copious amounts of free time? Apparently, I was thinking of the future without even knowing it.

After a year or so I started to think about writing, especially food writing, as a career option. Despite working in catering kitchens, running my own muffin company, and dropping out of journalism school it wasn't something I considered before. But the more I wrote here the more I wanted to write.

Insert some amazing mentors, loads of inspiration, and a serious lack of sleep and I am now a two job lady. A tired, but happy two job lady. I am now writing as Food Editor for What's Up and doing a little freelancing and teaching on the side. The day job stays, and I'll always be a mom, but my little hobby is turning into something exciting. And I couldn't be happier.

And when I'm happy (or sad or mad or glad) I like to bake. That's why I'm sharing this cookie recipe for you. The combo of chocolate and dried cherries is better than any chocolate box cherry, and guaranteed to fix any emotion you've got. (This recipe actually appears in the Spring issue of What's Up, along with more on Litterless Lunches.) So come on, celebrate with me!

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Cherries
Makes 2 1/2 -3 dozen, depending on the size of the cookie

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat your oven 350 degrees F. Grease your cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.
2. Cream together butter and sugar for a few minutes. Add egg and vanilla, mix well.
3. Stir in the flour, cocoa, oats, baking soda, and salt. When it is all together as a dough add in the chocolate chips and cherries. 
4. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly firm around the edges. Let cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Belated Easter Treats



How very Martha of me. Not that I dyed Easter eggs using cabbage, beets, onions, and turmeric. Not that I also decided to dye some fabric. But the colours are all Martha. And if you look around this site for about five minutes you'll see that I don't generally work in softer colours. Like I always say, it's good to change things up a little.

We dyed eggs with friends on Friday. I was totally enamoured with the colours, and very surprised from that orange from just a few onion skins. So I left all the eggs with our friends, but took home the rest of the dye juices. We dyed a few more eggs but that liquid colour looked too good to throw away. I already had all my scraps out so I grabbed some pieces of white on white and threw them in the bowls. The orange is from onion skins, the yellow from turmeric, and the purple measuring cup contains the liquid from boiled red cabbage.

This is the fabric as it came out of that red cabbage juice. Such a lovely purple. It clearly turned the eggs blue, so this was a bit of a shock. But a good rinse in cold water and some air time to dry and the fabric all turned the same soft blue/grey as the eggs. Perhaps a little less blue.

These are the turmeric stained fabrics right out of the dye water. So yellow! And even though I rinsed and rinsed they stained quite bright. And point of fact: turmeric dyed fabric will smell like turmeric long after it is rinsed and dried.

Look at my strips drying so nicely together!

And here are the eggs and their associated fabrics. In truth, they may be Martha colours, but they really are softer versions of the colours already in our house, namely turquoise and orange.

So I took all the scraps, trimmed them into strips, and started sewing. I went for the silly a little, in making an egg shaped placemat. This was easy to do. I simply created an egg shape out of paper so I had something to compare to as I sewed. You could also use it as a paper pieced project. Then I sewed the strips together. Once I knew I had my desired size I trimmed the top, cut out backing and batting and sewed it all together with right sides together.

Full disclosure, I screwed up twice when sewing it together. That's what I get for rushing to get it done during naptime. But I got myself sorted out and finished it off after turning it all right sides out and sewing that last seam around the edge.

There is a peak of the backing fabric. I put on something bright and fun so that if/when the top gets wrecked/runs I can use the other side for springtime. And there is my Smilosaurus checking it all out.

02 April, 2010

Self-Portaits

Yes, I know this is a quilting blog and pictures of the quilter aren't always part of the package. But today's post is about me, so a picture of me in my natural habitat seems appropriate.

This weeks marks the culmination of a lot of effort on my part to realize the life I want. I don't have that life yet and, to be honest, I wonder if I ever will. This week definitely marks my intentional movements in the right direction. Yet it isn't about milestones or defined marks of success, although many of those are there. Rather, it is about my perspective and attitude towards my life.

Long, long ago it became very clear to me that we get out of life exactly what we put into it. I was surrounded by some very irresponsible people. They whined and bitched about how their lives sucked. Any outsider could see that aside from the odd bit of bad luck their lives sucked because they let them suck. They made choices or a series of choices that put them in crappy living situations, bad relationships, or uninspiring jobs. I wanted to scream at them that they'd brought most of it on themselves, but I, more than anyone, knew that was pointless. So instead of trying to change their lives, I decided to change mine.

I'm not going to say that it's always been sunshine and roses and every single thing I decided to do worked out for me. I've made bad choices, Hubby and I have questionable timing with some decisions, and more than once I've been plain wrong. Regardless, I own those choices. They were mine to make. And in the end I've always made it work for me.  Why?

Because we are the sum of the choices we make.

And lately I believe I've had every right to whine a little about a lot of things. And I have done so. You get to the point though where even you get tired of your own whining. Instead you pull yourself up, maybe slap yourself in the face, and decide to change the way you are reacting to the things you have no control over. Because that is where your character comes in, in how you choose to respond to the world around you.

In the midst of all these platitudes I do have a point. My choices of late are leading me to live a truly creative life. From the activities I do with my kids like this and this, to the professional decisions I am making. From the projects I tackle, to the goals I set for myself. And this week I took another step in that direction. I really can't tell you how I feel about this other than to say I am beyond excited and damn proud of myself and my partner in the adventure.

And so what if my house behind me is chaotic and messy? I am happier, my kids are still full of joy, and my family is stronger.