30 June, 2011

A Triangle Quilt


Welcome to the next hole in my head. No, I'm not even close to finishing the last one. I got tired of trimming all those half square triangles. There are nearly 300! Or it might, just might be evidence of some quilter ADD.

These are the bee blocks from the Pieced Together 2 Bee. I was putting together another, similar top a few months back and The Monster expressed such excitement over the design. That quilt went to live somewhere else, however. Ever since she's been asking for a triangle quilt of her own.


Then, the other night, I walked into this scene. Beyond the damn cuteness of the two of them cuddled up like that, you can see their sweat-soaked heads. They refuse to wear anything but full PJs and fight over the heavy duvet every night. With summer finally here the nights are actually warm. What else to do but make a quilt.

Yes, here in Calgary we switch to quilts in summer, instead of winter. Winter is for duvets (or layered quilts) and summer for quilts. So it is now my mission to get the girls a triangle quilt before summer ends.

I started with 11 blocks of various sizes. I figure I need 25 blocks at 18.5'' square to get to the queen sized quilt I want, with plenty of overhang. Since Sunday afternoon I've managed to make 6 more blocks and cut out 5 more. Some of the blocks might end up being solid yellow. Maybe, maybe not?

We're looking at a long weekend, I wonder how much I can get done? You know, in between actually spending time with the family.

27 June, 2011

Kinda Herringbone



Kinda Herringbone
60'' by 80''

This is my latest finish, my Shades of Grey quilt. And guess what? I'm offering it as a pattern for sale! You can get it at my new Etsy shop.


If you've been reading here for any length of time you know that I will always encourage other quilters to do their own thing. To take an idea, inspiration, or even a pattern and make it their own. This pattern is written that way. It provides the technique and the basics to make a quilt like this, but I also provide tips on making your own size, your own colour, and even with variations in design. Of course, that's not to say you won't make it a way I haven't even thought of! Or that you don't love it as is and want to make it exactly like this quilt.

This quilt and pattern wouldn't exist with the support, inspiration, and work of Jan DeCinto, the force behind Daisy Janie. The design itself was inspired by one of the fabrics in her Shades of Grey line and she helped me tremendously in getting the pattern itself together. To pick up her fabric check out her list of retailers.


A few more details on this particular quilt:

- The top is entirely made from Shades of Grey organic fabrics.
- I used a bamboo batting to try something different.
- The back is made up of wide strips of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons. I chose those intentionally to have a lighter material on the back. With a foundation fabric in the top I wanted to lighten up the quilt overall.
- It is quilted with an organic thread.
- Pieced binding with Kona organic solids.


Thank-you, readers, for continuing to inspire and push me to be a little bit more than I was yesterday.

22 June, 2011

Summer?

The sun is FINALLY shining here in Calgary. It feels like forever ago that we had it. It's been a rainy spring, one that makes us happy we spent so much money waterproofing our basement a few years ago.

So now The Monster is out of school and out of sorts. We're trying to establish a rhythm to summer without doing too much. I'm trying to find the time to quilt and write without resorting to PBS Kids as babysitter. We're all searching out the summer. Here's where we are so far.

Last touches on that Shades of Grey quilt. I can photograph it now that it's stopped raining.

My husband's labourer, also a part-time tattoo artist put to work with sidewalk chalk and a book about pandas.

In all his fashion glory, this is my husband mowing a maze in the park across the street. The City doesn't seem to be quick to mow it this year so Hubby goes out every time it is sunny and mows paths for us to explore. The stellar fashion choices are always there.

Time spent watching an ant (singular) try to move a dead bee.

A precious visit and loads of snuggles with our latest nephew.

My reflective girl on her 5th birthday last week. Okay, so I caught her trying to look away, but let me have the mystery of her contemplative look. Here's one way we celebrated her birthday.

My youngest, having ANOTHER fit. Such an impatient, stubborn, and tempestuous little girl. And she's three.

But she is also phenomenally silly, adventurous, and obviously inherits her fashion sense from her father.

And now, a whole bunch of pressing to do. I need a break from the cutting - my wrist was killing me the other night when I was slicing my squares into these. I hope I'm not adding carpal tunnel to my summer plans.

Bring it on, summer! We can take it.

21 June, 2011

Just Icing

Icing on a spoon.

Having been to my fair share of preschool birthday parties this year I've noticed that very few kids eat the cake when served to them. Sure, they are beyond excited when you take them away from their play with a call for cake. They eagerly sing Happy Birthday and watch the star blow out the candle. Then using fingers or fork or just their tongue all the icing disappears from the cake. All that's left is a soggy, messy pile of crumbs.

It doesn't matter that you stayed up until 2 am to make them the princess or pirate cake they begged for. It doesn't matter that you baked a gorgeous vanilla cherry cake with a recipe from Martha or Dorie Greenspan. All they want is the icing, or frosting, if that's what you call it. And then it doesn't matter if it is a gorgeous buttercream or from a can.

Instead of having wasted cake, get proactive. Just give them the icing on a spoon. Trust me, everyone is happy with this solution. Well, except maybe some parents who get worked up about sugar. But they are counterbalanced by those who are eager for a spoon of their own.

You might still need a cake because I haven't solved the problem of where to put the candles. Besides, they'll always be that one kid who hates icing.

With great thanks to some of my Twitter pals for the influence and egging on my icing only idea.

And Happy Birthday to my Mom, Brother, Brother-in-Law, and Sister-in-Law's Mum this week!

17 June, 2011

More and More Asparagus

When it is in season we eat asparagus constantly. Just like we eat corn daily, strawberries, and tomatoes for their short seasons. Needless to say, I'm always on the look-out for ways to enjoy our favourite spring vegetable. Here is a round-up of recipes, both mine and others, that showcase this great green stalk.

--- Asparagus Risotto (Backseat Gourmet
--- Asparagus Soup (Use Real Butter)
--- Pickled Asparagus (Food in Jars)

Go forth, gather, and eat while the eating is good.

16 June, 2011

Asparagus with Roasted Rhubarb Sauce



They say that when in doubt, cook foods together that grow together. As we trundled along on our tractor ride at the most recent Asparagus Festival I couldn't help but become obsessed with the idea of asparagus and rhubarb together. There they were, in neighbouring fields and sharing space in my Edgar Farms bag on the way home. They begged to be joined in holy cookery.

The only problem with this idea is that rhubarb, no matter how you cut it, is a rather tart thing. And asparagus is far more mellow and sweet. It isn't always a case for opposites attract. But when it doubt, throw them in a roasting pan together. A little spice, a little sweet and sweat, and beautiful things can happen.

Roasted asparagus, however, isn't that great to eat. The texture is rather, um... pasty with a side of string. Not giving up on this relationship, however, the rhubarb transformed when it became a sauce to slink over and envelope the roasted asparagus. It also did well when covering pork tenderloin, but I'm not telling you about that. The asparagus would be upset to know the rhubarb went behind his back.


Asparagus with Roasted Rhubarb Sauce
Serves 4-6 as a side dish

1 bunch asparagus
2 large stalks of rhubarb (the pinker the better)
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange juice
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Clean asparagus. Trim rhubarb into roughly 4 inch lengths. Place on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. Combine 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1tsp Chinese 5 spice powder, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the asparagus and rhubarb with this dressing. Roast for 10 minutes.
4. When the rhubarb and asparagus are done roasting, blitz the rhubarb with the remaining 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder, and orange juice. Season to taste.
5. Pour rhubarb sauce over roasted asparagus and serve immediately. Reserve leftover sauce for a pork tenderloin, but shhh.... don't tell the asparagus.

Hole in My Head

There is that expression... I need a new ______ like I need a hole in my head.

Meet the new hole in my head.

I've got quilts piled up, I am still not 100% after the surgery, and there are other projects waking me up on the morning. But I HAD to start a new quilt. No deadline, no specific audience, no definite plan.

And here are close to 20 fabrics cut into 5'' squares. They will be turned into some sort of half square triangle creation. The fabrics are from this pile, courtesy of Traditional Pastimes, with a few more added for good measure. It's a pile that is both calming and energizing. It makes me smile.

15 June, 2011

Asparagus Pico de Gallo


My Mom used to live in Texas. That isn't useful information to anyone, really. It does, however, explain how I came to know of Pico de Gallo. Until I went and spent my last university spring break with her in South Texas I thought that what you scooped up with nacho chips was salsa. In fact, at that point in time nachos were only served in bars, drenched in cheese, olives, and green onions with a side of insipid salsa and sour cream.

Oh how South Texas showed me the way.

First off, nachos are indeed what they serve in the bar. Fried tortillas are what nachos pretend to be. The tortillas that didn't get eaten that morning get cut into triangles and fried for snacks. Pico de Gallo is a bowl of finely chopped and uncooked tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, garlic, and lime. Pico de Gallo is always served with those fried tortillas. Sit on the beach in South Texas where you can order any beer and it will come with fried tortillas and Pico de Gallo. It is about the most perfect bar food, beach or not.

I'm nowhere near a sandy beach and I'm pretty sure any Texan would shoot me for this addition, but here you go: Asparagus Pico de Gallo. I was craving the spice, I had the fried tortillas, and I was staring at a large bunch of asparagus in the fridge. All that was left was the beer. And, of course, the beach.


Asparagus Pico de Gallo
Makes 2 cups

10 stalks asparagus (choose the skinny ones)
2 plum tomatoes
1/4 medium red onion
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1/2 lime
1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Steam the asparagus for 1 minute, if you prefer not to eat it raw.
2. Finely chop the asparagus and tomatoes into 1/2 dice or smaller. Keep the tips of the asparagus intact. Finely chop the onion, garlic, and pepper. Toss them all together in a bowl.
3. Juice the lime and add the juice to the vegetables. Add cilantro if you're using. Stir once more and serve.

14 June, 2011

Asparagus, Dill, and Feta Quiche



Eggs are always a go-to meal in our house. We always have an abundance from our biweekly delivery from Elmar, the Eggman. With asparagus at its peak right now the two ingredients combine well for a great, easy family dinner. This crustless quiche is perfect for a weeknight dinner or weekend brunch

While asparagus has a unique flavour, it is a mild green taste. That means it pairs well with so many other flavours. You could turn this into nearly any other flavour combination. Try asparagus with lemon, parmesan, and pancetta, or tomatoes and provolone. Perhaps cheddar, ham, and green onions with the asparagus. Or salmon and lemon. This time around I chose feta and dill, family favourites in my house.


Asparagus, Feta, and Dill Crustless Quiche
Serves 6-8 as a main course

1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 bunch of asparagus
8 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 cup crumbled feta

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Butter a deep dish pie plate. Toss the bread crumbs into the plate and roll around to cover the sides. Pat in an errant crumbs.
3. Clean and chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Place in a small pot, season with salt, and add about 1 inch of water. Cook on high heat, covered, for 1-2 minutes. Drain immediately. Pour into a bowl and leave uncovered while you prepare the rest of the quiche.
4. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the milk and whisk well. Season with pepper, a little bit of salt (the feta is salty, so you don't have to add that much). Add the 1/2 cup feta, dill, and the asparagus. Pour into prepared pie plate. Top with remaining feta.
5. Bake for 40-45 min until the top is puffy and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before you serve.

13 June, 2011

Looking Down


Inspiration comes from the strangest spots.

There I was, insanely groggy from anaesthetic and painkillers, looking down at my hospital gown, and all I can think is, "Gee, that would be a cool quilt."

I debated snitching the gown and using it for fabric. But for one, that would be wrong. Two, the health care system doesn't need any more shortfalls. And three, it was a poly/cotton and I'm a fabric snob. I remembered that my camera was in my purse, asked the nurse for a bit of help, and snapped a photo.

Surgery is in the past now. Recovery ahead. The anaesthetic did me in more than it ever has before. My sister so kindly pointed out that I am getting older after all. But the knee is doing okay, better than I expected. I'm hoping that with more time and some therapy it will indeed be more or less 100% as the surgeon hopes. I'm anxious to go for walks with the girls, ride my bike, and test it out. Baby steps.

For now maybe I'll work on some sketches...

Asparagus Week



It's the quintessential spring time food - Asparagus.

A fern poking from the ground. Fields that look like dirt with some random spikes reaching for the sunshine. The taste of green, of peas, of spring. The marking of the season in a land where winter lasts for bloody ever.

This week I'm going to showcase one of my favourite foods. Asparagus recipes, tips, and links.

Growing Asparagus

Here on the Prairies asparagus grows. Some might even argue that it thrives, if you treat it right and treat it as a perenial. That means you treasure it in the spring then let it rest. It goes to fern, filling the fields with a froth of green, over the summer. It survives the winter, it really does.

It takes 3 years for an asparagus crown to produce edible product. That means 3 years of patience and care. Then, with annual tenderness you have a lifetime of asparagus. Or, if you were my Mom's family, a lifetime of front yard decoration.


Picking Asparagus

Pick the stalks right from the ground. Let them be at least 6-8 inches tall before you snap them.

If you have the pleasure of visiting an asparagus farm, make sure you check out their pickers. These low-riders will take you throw the fields, saving your back, as pickers gather precious bunches for us lucky consumers.


Eating Asparagus

Contrary to expectations, you can easily and enjoyably eat asparagus raw. It tastes mildly of peas when raw (which means that is my least favourite way to eat it).

Often grown in sandy soil, asparagus can carry dirt to the dinner table. Fill your sink with some cool water and swish the stalks around to loosen any sand and dirt. If your asparagus has been sitting around for a bit then cut off the bottom ends and cook away. If your asparagus is fresh then don't bother trimming off the ends and wasting that precious veg.

The most important thing with asparagus, like nearly any vegetable, is to NOT overcook it. Steam it for a few minutes, grill it, roast it, or even boil it. Just don't overdo it.

Asparagus TypesItalic

With a slight tinge of purple on the heads, green asparagus is the most common kind we see.

More frequently, however, we see white asparagus in the markets and on menus. White asparagus isn't actually any different of a plant. It it regular asparagus that grows covered by dirt. That means that the plants are denied light and do not colour.

Sometimes you can find purple asparagus, although it is rare.

The rest of this week I will share with you three new recipes from me for asparagus as well as some links for more gorgeous recipes. Grab a spear and enjoy.

08 June, 2011

Enforcement

3 hours.

My 3 year old sat at the table an hour for every year the other night. Just because she wouldn't drink her milk. And because we told her she couldn't leave the table until she did just that.


She cried, she took a bathroom break, she fussed, she tried to play, she desperately worked us for conversation and entertainment. We continued on with our evening - working, cleaning up, putting The Monster to bed (even though she couldn't sleep because she is quite used to her sister in the room), and I even made caramel corn. For 3 hours she sat there. At that point I subbed out the milk with a cold glass. She spilled that one. I cleaned it up and gave her another one. With a nonchalance that belied the battle of wills she simply picked it up and drank it.

Right now you either think we are cruel parents or are filled with admiration for our stick-to-it-ness. Or you think we're dumb. I'm going with all three myself.

A rule is a rule. We don't care if they don't eat all their dinner. As long as they've tried everything on their plate, they can eat as much or as little as they like. But they have to drink their milk. (Very lovely goat milk, I might add.)

As for us parents, our rule is that if we start down a path we don't cave. If the other says something we don't contradict. So even though we had a pile of things to do and actually needed the dining room table, we worked around her. It was exhausting, I'll admit. I'm proud of all of us for sticking to it. And the caramel corn went really nicely with a scotch once it was all over.

(I used this recipe, but subbed the syrup for maple syrup, added pecans instead of peanuts, and crumbled in some cooked bacon with the popcorn.)

And don't tell the kid, but I'm impressed with her. That stubborness will do her well as an adult, if she makes it there.

What are some of your dinnertime rules? What's the longest you've had to go to enforce a rule?

07 June, 2011

Crazy Busy


This is a post of random notes.

Thank-you so much for the support for Quilts Recover. I'm seeing posts go up around the blogosphere by friends. Emails are coming in already. If there wasn't this rotating postal strike some quilts might even be on their way already!

There've been a number of suggestions for Quilts Recover. Different chapters, financial donations, and offers of quilting tops sent from far away. I promise you that I'm sorting through all the ideas and figuring out ways to maximize quilts and quilters' generosity. You folks are just awesome.

There wasn't a lot of quilting done in the last week. I was up to my eyeballs in writing deadlines. In one day I interviewed Jennifer Paganelli (Oh, she is so awesome!) and a handful of goat farmers (also awesome). In between butt wiping and baking muffins for preschool. Now that's the life!

Lastly, I'm getting the binding on the Shades of Grey quilt. That's today's task, along with prepping for The Monster's 5th birthday party tomorrow.

Then, on Thursday, I'm having knee surgery. Finally. Just one of my knees, but they will check out the other while I'm down for the count. Needless to say, there won't be a lot of quilty action, aside from handstitching that binding, for the next week or so.

On that note, time to get prepping!

02 June, 2011

Thread Choices

It's down to the quilting on that Shades of Grey Herringbone piece. The first decision is always which thread to use.

I actually starting threading my machine with the normal grey thread I use for piecing. It seemed kind of obvious to use it. It would blend in and carry on the grey theme.

Then I thought about my binding. I'm thinking of going with a turquoise, so I wanted to see if turquoise thread would work. It surely pops! The colour would be great and it would work great with the binding and the back. But I've also got turquoise on the back (shot cottons) and I didn't want to have just one section on the back where the quilting blended in.

Going back and forth between the grey and the turquoise I was torn. The turquoise looks really good on the front, but the grey seemed more in line with the Shades of Grey fabric. Then I remembered that I have a cone of nearly white organic thread. When I put it next to the others I realized that it was the perfect choice. It pops on the back, it reads practically the same as the grey on the front, and it is an organic choice.


This quilt isn't all organic - the muslin foundation isn't organic, the back is a mix of conventional shot cottons, and I tried out a bamboo batting. But I am definitely influenced by Jan's commitment to organics and wanted to push it as much as I could. The organic thread will be a great finish.

01 June, 2011

Intentions

Hubby took me to a very fancy schmancy restaurant in the mountains for my birthday and this is the only picture my camera took.

We had a 7 course meal: the most amazing fois gras I've ever had, two things I'd never heard of before (compressed melon and dehydrated milk), wines that I'd never think to drink, a goose broth that needs to be bottled and sold as liquid gold, and a glorious sunset over the mountains. And I didn't take a single picture of it.

Don't get me wrong, it was gorgeous food. From artful but real presentations to sublime tastes to inventive techniques. It was a very memorable meal.

The memory will only live in my head, and maybe in my husband's. I did not photograph such a stellar experience because sometimes I just want my dinner to be my dinner. I have no intention of becoming a restaurant reviewer, so that documentation isn't necessary. And I have no intention of documenting everything I eat, Twitter is bad enough for that.

What I do intend to do, and this dinner practiced that intention, is to simply enjoy my food, enjoy my experience. Food writers need breaks too from thinking about writing about food. We want vacations and the only way we'll get them, since we always have to eat, is by putting down the camera and not composing sentences in our head as we chew.

Instead, I'm going to think how awesome my husband looks with the sun setting behind him and the look of joy on his face as he devours his favourite food. I'm going to pinch myself that I experienced such a luxurious treat in the midst of some stressful times. I'm going to look at my sous vide rhubarb and think it's cool, instead of wondering how they did it. I'm just going to eat.