29 June, 2010

Focus Girl, Focus

Have you been paying attention lately? There hasn't been much quilty goodness shared here of late. It isn't for a lack of quilting, just a lack of anything to actually share. Despite my commitment to no obligation, I feel a tad bit guilty. 

The reason for little to share is that I've been buried under commission quilts. Namely, 13 doll quilts and 1 baby quilt. I haven't nearly made the progress I've wanted. Here are 8 of the doll quilts in various states. 2 finished, 2 with binding ready to hand stitch (yes, I still handstitch on commission quilts), 2 waiting for binding, and 2 waiting for quilting. I have the remaining 5 designed and waiting to be sewn.

As for the baby quilt, the special order fabric has arrived, the sketch is made, and the plan is set for a spree starting in a week. It must arrive before the baby!

And after all this, I can get back to the outstanding projects I just want to finish. Like this one, this one, and even this one.

27 June, 2010

Sunny Sundays

Today was a luxuriously glorious day. The kind of day you are afraid will never return. It was sunny, hot, but not too hot, and the kids slept in. That meant there was nothing to do but make pancakes for breakfast and head out for the day. Well, after I ate a whole bunch of the first crop of BC strawberries too.

So we loaded up the Chariot, got on the bike, packed some cherries, and went on a little adventure with the girls. It was perfectly suburban, finding a hidden playground in a chi chi neighbourhood, enjoying sandwiches at Heritage Park, and taking a ride along the Glenmore Reservoir.

That left a picnic as really the only dinner option. A picnic at the Splash park no less. Of course, that meant the girls ate very little in the midst of playing. That just means pancakes for breakfast again tomorrow morning.

On the menu tonight was some souvklaki I made during naptime. Garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, along with with some fresh oregano, mint, and rosemary took their own nap with with chicken and pork. We grilled it just before we left for the park. Wrapped in foil it was still warm when we arrived.

We also ate some Gull Valley tomatoes and cucumbers, pita bread, tzatsiki, and a side salad of watermelon and feta. I haven't had that salad since last summer, boy have I missed it.

Cut your watermelon in chunks. Toss with about a third as much feta. Top with some chopped fresh mint, freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. To be honest, I think the original recipe comes from a Nigella Lawson book, but she may have included olives as well. We aren't olive fans in this house.

So we unloaded at the park, set the girls to running around, and chowed down. I even had an interesting conversation with a man at the next table over, but I could have done without stories about war in Lebanon in the 70s. That's the risk you take for taking Sunday dinner away from the dining room table. A small price to pay to cap off this beautiful day.

25 June, 2010

Friday Morning Mess

Well, I guess it is time to organize the scrap bin...

21 June, 2010


While you are enjoying the mediocre quality of the photo above, let me start my rant about iPhone photography. Just because you have an iPhone and you can get all the apps, like Camera Bag, to apply filters to your photos does not make you a creative photographer. Nor does it necessarily make you a good photographer.

I feel totally justified in my rant today because I broke my camera on Friday. An hour before The Monster's birthday party I dropped it. Sigh. So today I confirmed that the camera isn't worth fixing, the replacement one I wanted is currently sold out, and the SLR I really want is currently out of the budget. As I am completely incapable of living without a camera we picked up a little point and shoot.

Can I admit that I feel like kind of a loser with my little camera? Yes, I am that snobby. It feels like the camera a teenage girl usually has. Oh wait, that's not true. She has an iPhone and thinks she is some kind of photographer.

Now, I don't claim to be a great, or even good photographer. But I do love to try and learn with every time I turn on the camera. So, if you notice a change in the photos here, you know why.

In the meantime, the photo above was taken with my Blackberry. I had to snap the picture because I was in love with the colour combo of my outfit (royal blue and turquoise) and the necklace I picked up at Market Collective that day. Thank-you to White Owl Porcelain for this gorgeous sea urchin necklace. So delicate and pretty. It might make up for the broken camera.

18 June, 2010

Last Day of Preschool

(Inspired by Soule Mama's {this moment} series. "A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.")

16 June, 2010

The Sacrifices Made

My house has smelled like a chai latte for the last two nights. I go to sleep with ginger and cardamom wafting through our tiny, crowded house. Not a bad smell to fall asleep to when your bed has been empty for two weeks.

Hubby is arriving home just in time for the Food Blogger Bake Sale as part of the Market Collective this Saturday. A huge line-up of Calgary and area based food bloggers are uniting to sell their donated treats all in support of Calgary Meals on Wheels.

To be perfectly honest, I had no idea there were this many local bloggers! And this isn't even a complete list. There will be a range of delicious treats. Vegan treats, gluten free treats, delicious treats, and plain old decadent treats. A giant thank-you to Vincci at Ceci N'est pas un Food Blog for wrangling us.

This bake sale is why my house smells so yummy. My contribution is my Chai Spiced Granola (With Pistachios and Almonds). If you have the Blog Aid:Haiti book you've seen it. Vincci has made it, as has Aimee. So, if you want to try it, you could make it yourself. Or, you could come down to the Market Collective (148-10th Street NW - the old Ant Hill Fabrics building) and pick up a bag. And if you come first thing on Saturday morning I'll be there too.

Chai Spiced Granola (With Pistachios and Almonds)
Makes 10 cups

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
5 cups rolled oat flakes
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup sesame seeds, flax seeds, or quinoa

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or non-stick spray.
2. Mix together the honey, sugar, water, oil, and spices in a small saucepan. Heat  until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. It's okay if it comes to a boil, but don't leave it there.
3. Stir together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry.  Mix together well. Split between the two cookiesheets.
4. Bake at 300 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 degrees F and rotate pans. Bake another 15 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave to cool completely.
5. Store in an airtight container.

Workshop Updates

Well folks, I'm putting the Workshop in Progress on Hiatus for the summer. Production is low for me, and for many others, as the weather warms up and kids/grandkids emerge from hiding.

In the meantime, make sure you keep up on the Process Pledge participants. Many include Workshop type posts when they are sharing process. I will also keep the Flickr group open and we can share photos and projects there.

As for me, I'm going to try and enjoy the near constant rain we seem to be having. At least colour looks fantastic in this light!

14 June, 2010


The Monster turns 4 today.  Holy crap, 4! She is a wild and crazy girl. She has two positions - awake and asleep. If her body isn't moving her mouth is. That makes her about a perfect combination of her parents.

Although she did actually ask me for a quilt last week - for the first time no less - and she has added quilter to her career aspirations (along with doctor, paleontologist, rockstar, vet, jogger, and sometimes Spiderman) this was the last quilt I made specifically for her.

A quilter carries around a lot of guilt when she doesn't get to make her own first baby a quilt. I spent 9 weeks on bed rest before she arrived in a flurry of doctors. Yes, she was gifted quilts, but it wasn't the same. So, for her first birthday I made this Monster Eye Spy.

It actually started as a challenge among some quilty friends. We exchanged charms and FQs for the eye spy fabrics. And we set ourselves the additional challenge to add the alphabet. After months, literally, of trying to make it work by using one letter to one fabric I came up with this design. The colour changes work, I think, but I did pick the wrong fabric for the letters. They get lost when viewing the quilt as a whole. Ah, lessons in value... But they are totally visible to The Monster and I up close. We play with it frequently still.

Happy Birthday Monster!

13 June, 2010

Cookies, Cookies, and More Cookies

You might not consider it a downfall, but one of the downfalls of freelance food writing is developing stories totally out of season. Today I made a spider cake for Halloween, sugar cookies, meringue cookies, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. On at +25C day. Good times.

In truth, dinner was a plain old cheese quesadilla and a handful for cherry tomatoes to soak up the sugar. Despite all those cookies though, I reserved a few of these for a post-the-girls-finally-fell-asleep-and-I'm-exhausted-after-two-weeks-of-single-parenting chocolate chip cookie snack.

These are the first things I ever learned how to make. I may have been about 9. My mom worked fulltime and we three kids were competitive swimmers. Food was about fuel - how much could we get in at any one point, how much could mom buy and cook to hopefully get us through the week. Fed up with purchased cookies I asked if I could make cookies myself. No clue who found the recipe or where it came from. But I was left alone in the kitchen.

I found the entire experience both comforting and empowering. Woohoo, I was in the kitchen and left to my devices! There was butter and chocolate involved. It was the start of something great.

From that point on these were my go-to cookies. My go-to sleepover cookies. My go-to watch TV in the rumpus room cookies. My go-to console a friend whose boyfriend dumped her cookies. My go-to chick-flick cookies. My go-to rainy day and single parenting cookies.

At 35 I have to find people to share these with - I do not need a cup of butter to myself. Thank goodness my kids are happy to help me with that. Now they've become my go-to get in the kitchen and bake with the girls cookies.

Chocolate Chip Slab Cookies
Makes 1 9 x 13 pan

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Stir in flour and chocolate chips. Press dough in pan.
3. Bake 2-25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool slightly, but cut when still a bit warm. Cool some more before you dig in.

(This post is also a part of Gluten Free Girl's round-up on the first foods we learned how to make.)

11 June, 2010

More on Process

It is wonderful to me to see the momentum around the Process Pledge. As of this morning almost 150 people have taken the pledge. Now, I have no clue what percentage that is of quilters online - small, I'm guessing - but it is quite heartening to see more and more embrace the notion of sharing our process to the advantage of us all.

Make sure you check out the post with all the links. And if you see someone sharing process but they haven't made the pledge, pass on the link. I took a little time this morning to browse the links. I want to share with you some good posts that really demonstrate the spirit of the Process Pledge.

Lulubloom shows us not only the challenge of sharing process, but an honest account of the questions we often ask as we work out a project. She hasn't shown us an update of where this project is heading, but I'm looking forward to it.

Over at Kate Conklin Designs she has shared a few projects now that outline the process. Her most recent post is in the spirit of the Workshop where she is seeking feedback. I want to give her credit for this post in particular because Kate is a pattern designer, but she is still sharing sketches and the development of the design.

I love, love, love this post. It is always a treat to see the questions asked as we stare and play at our design walls (or floors, or beds). A Prairie Home Quilts really captures this well with her Liberated Amish project.

"Taking the process pledge has made me realize that I would like to become more aware of the things around me that inspire," says Penny at Sew Take a Hike. Right on! Process isn't just about sharing how we cut our fabric or even how we picked it.  It starts right from the inspiration.

While most of us have been to Elizabeth's site, Oh Fransson, I adore that she has really taken the Process Pledge to heart. I'll be honest, hers is a site where I get frustrated at her ability to post so many finished projects. But since taking the pledge she has been sharing the details and process of almost all her quilts. And its been fascinating!

Make sure you check out all the links. I've discovered some fantastic, new-to-me blogs.

09 June, 2010

Workshop in Progress - June 9

The Calgary Modern Quilt Guild finally got it's act together and met last week! It was a small group of us, but we had loads of fun.  Show and tell, treats to eat, and already a comfort level in our conversations like we were old gossipy friends. We are already looking forward to the next meeting in July.

One of the best things is that Bernadette, the owner of Traditional Pastimes has volunteered her store for our meetings. How awesome is that? So we are going to have the chance for sew days of sorts as well. I, of course, suggested that our sew days take the form of workshop where we use each other for advice, input, and creative mind think. This will be great to do in person. And with a good group so far, including Val, Jen, and our host that night, Jessy, I am really looking forward to that creativity in one room!

For me the workshop is a head down, don't look up kind of place. I am now making my way through a few orders for commission quilts. With school coming to an end soon it also looks like many others are pretty busy.

Okay, I cannot not comment, however, on Elle's quilt.  She is planning circles.  Yeah, I know my circles!

07 June, 2010


The last month has been nothing more than a giant game of Catch-up.  Is that a game? Probably not. In truth, though, it feels like I am Sisyphus - achieving loads, only to have my deadlines roll down the hill and force me to start over.

When ever I get like this - sadly, not an uncommon occurrence for me - I have my little freak out, make a list, then just start moving. One foot in front of another.  One obligation or deadline met and on to the other. At some point it eases up. At some point...

So, I've been tackling the quilting side of things by catching up on my Pieced Together 2 Bee. Three months behind I was - yikes. (And apparently I am so tired I am now speaking like Yoda.)

This is Colleen's block from Not Quite Vintage. Some Kona Ash paired with actual menswear shirts. I couldn't get over the blues, so in love was I.

Sandy's Cathedral Window. Good for her! I love the way this looks, but I never want to make one again.

Finally, these are Michelle's blocks.  Some beloved to her fabrics that came together really well - Denyse Schmidt and Heather Ross. And my beloved half square triangle.

And, because I am indeed a little crazy, I started a new bee with Rossie. A random comment, a quick idea, a bunch of emails, and we have a new bee.  I am rather excited about it - it feeds my design love for all things mid-century modern.  Sigh. Busy, but happy am I.

06 June, 2010

Lollipops, Wine, and Mexico

Taking advantage of the sale at our favourite liquor store led to Sunday dinner this week. One could also argue that the near constant desire for a lollipop by The Monster and her knowledge that they have them at the same liquor store also led to Sunday dinner. Regardless.  We shopped, we cooked, we ate.

Tasting a lovely wine yesterday (Walter Hansel Cahill lane Vineyard Chardonnay 2007) I was instantly brought back to our trip to Mexico. It wasn't that the wine reminded me of the cheap imports we got at the supermercado, rather, it was the instant pairing that popped in my head. I immediately though fish, peppers, and a bit of spice. 

Sadly it was too late to get some fish for dinner last night, so we picked some up at the market today. And peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and some lime.  Sadly I forgot the cilantro.  Oh well, it still worked. I finely chopped sweet peppers, tomatoes, garlic and tossed them with a splash of olive oil, tequila, and a half a lime, juiced.

We served it with a quickly seared Opah. A bit of chili powder and cumin to season, and a few minutes per side. It would have been better grilled, as we did in Mexico (although it wasn't Sierra Mackerel), but my grill is currently inaccessible. On the side some sliced cukes, basmati, and sweet potatoes roasted with cumin and lime.

And in case you were wondering, I did not enjoy it with the wine.  One, it is an expensive wine, and two, I'm home alone with the girls so the last thing I need is a full bottle of wine to myself. Or maybe that's exactly what I need!

03 June, 2010

Five - The Pattern

Here is a fun, quick, and free pattern for you. This the Five quilt. It finishes at 36" square.

Materials Required

Two 1/2 yard/meters of high contrast fabric for top and bottom band
Two 1/3 yard/meters of high contrast fabric for middle band and accent
1/4 yard/meter binding fabric
1 1/8 yard/meter backing fabric
1 1/8 yard/meter batting
10 inch square of lightweight fusible
Coordinating Thread

- You will have a few leftovers, but we all love our scraps, right?
- Ensure that the fabric you use for the applique and the accent really stands out from the other three fabrics, both in value and colour.

Cutting Your Fabric 

Top Band and Bottom Band
One 24.5" x 8.5" strip each
Two 10.5" x 4.5" strip each
One 36.5" x 4.5" strip each

Middle Band
One 24.5" x 8.5" strip
Two 8.5" x 4.5" strip

One 10" square
Two 24.5" x 2.5" strip
Two 28.5" x 2.5" strip

-Cut the 10" square first, then cut your strips.


1. Center portion - sew together the three 24.5" x 8.5" strips in your desired order. Press.

2. Outside pieced border - sew together two sets of the 4.5" inch strips. Keep the following order: top (10.5") - middle (8.5") - bottom (10.5"). Press.

3. Sew the 24.5" inch accent piece to the sides of the center portion. Press. Sew the 28.5" accent pieces to the top and bottom of the center portion. Press.

4. Sew the pieced border to the center/accent portion. Ensure that you line up the seam lines from the center portion to those of the border as best you can. Press.

5. Sew the top and bottom border pieces on. Press.

6. Iron your fusible to the 10 inch square piece of accent fabric. Remembering that your image will be reversed if you draw the desired shape on the fusible, trace and cut out the number or letter you desire.  Try a favourite number or a special initial. 

7. Float the number/letter a few inches from the accent border in the bottom right or left of the center portion. Be conscious of the seam between the bottom and middle background. You don't want to have a definite line right against the seam. Fuse the number/letter in place. Secure with a satin stitch around the number/letter or wait and secure with your quilting.

8. Baste your quilt and finish it as desired. I chose the loopy quilting in coordinating thread to contrast the sharp linear design.

10. Cut and attach your binding strips with your preferred method. Here's mine.

Et voila!

02 June, 2010

If It Wasn't For Her

Today it is all about my Nanny. And in two weeks it will still be all about my Nanny.

It may come as a big surprise to you, but I am not so independently wealthy that I get to do nothing but make ice cream and write blog posts. I only wish. Alas, I am in the office 4 days a week, freelancing and teaching on the side, and oh yeah, raising my two little ones. I could not do any of this without my Hubby, of course. And none of it would be possible without our Nanny.

Emily watches the girls while I'm at the office.  She is outside with them everyday, regardless of the weather, she brings them treats like ice cream bubbles, she cleans the house (even taking out the garbage), and most importantly to me, she bakes. Not only am I happy that my girls get even more time in the kitchen, but it is glorious to come home at the end of the day and have fresh cookies waiting for you.

The two most used cookbooks for cookie recipes are good ol' Martha and, more frequently, Julie's One Smart Cookie. The girls are never afraid to try a new recipe, despite The Monster's usual request to bake chocolate chip anything. When I came home the other day though, these raisin cookies greeted me at the door. My first question was which book they came from?

No book, it was Grandma's recipe.  And Emily has made it so many times she has it memorized. She graciously allowed me to share it here.

To be honest, I'd never thought I would obsess over raisin cookies. But these are moist, sweet, and chewy, with a hint of spice. A chocolate chip fan myself, I can safely say these are one of the best cookies I've ever had. Thank-you Emily, and thank-you Emily's Grandma.

Ridiculously Good Raisin Cookies
makes 4-5 dozen

2 cups raisins
1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a small sauce pan boil water and raisins together for 5 minutes. Cool slightly and stir in baking soda.  Set aside.
3. Cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla.  Combine well. Stir in raisins then add in dry ingredients.
4. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Workshop in Progress - June 2

So, tell me your pattern pet peeves.

Working in the improv style as I tend to do, I read very little patterns. (I also hardly ever cook with a recipe.) But, I promised a pattern for the Five quilt. I'm working on it and I wonder what folks love and hate about the patterns they use.

Sashing or no sashing? It is a common question in the workshop. What do you think about Lee's blocks?

Check out Tonya's blue and brown strip quilt! She was showcased in the Workshop last week for her process post. Now that quilt is done. And she's worried about the quality? Looks fantastic to me.

In teh interest of play time, I can't tell you how excited I am that Lesly found a wonderful tool on line. The Patchwork Pattern Maker takes your photos and turns them into a simple pattern.I realize we could all pixelate our own photos to do this, but this tool itself is so, so awesome.

And finally, somehow I missed this post from Katie a few weeks back. But it is perfect for our goals of sharing process. Man, I am so excited at how many of you are sharing doodles and sketches now. It is wonderful to see how we all think.

Lest I leave you photo-less this week, I am including this pic from our visit to Asparagus Festival this weekend. A small break in the rain/snow to run around in a field and eat asparagus!