23 December, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011

Christmas at Heritage Park. My husband telling the girls that reindeer fly by eating the kids on the naughty list. Our first, and probably last, trip to the ballet. Making Pyrohy with Baba. More and more baking. Tree chopping in the mountains, complete with trees way too tall for the house and the indulgence of a tree in the girls' room. Santa and other pretty things.

Bringing the holidays to our home and family little bits at a time.

Happy Holidays everyone! We'll see you in the New Year.

19 December, 2011

Cherish the Snowflakes

Like a snowflake in her hair.

Fleeting, fragile, yet for the moment it is with us, breathtaking.

We gathered the girls around us this weekend, spoiling them with fun and affection. It was all we could do as we coped with the news of death. It was a death that we knew was coming, one that provides relief with the grief. The death of a little girl, however, is heartbreaking regardless. There was nothing we could do for our friend as her family moves through this new challenge and sorrow in their lives. So we held ours close and remembered to cherish even the tantrums.

There was sledding and hot chocolate and cookies and reindeer and candy and snowy drives and saws to chop trees after stomps in mountain forests. There was the indulgence of a little, fresh tree of their own, lit up and decorated in their room. There was family. There was love.

And there was a little hand stitching too.

16 December, 2011

Spicy Sweet (Recipe: Chai Spiced Pistachio Bark)

Truth be told, I had my sister-in-law in mind when I made this for the first time. She loves milk chocolate and can appreciate the heady spices of the Chai Spice mix. Of course, with her living in another city I wasn't able to share any with her. I'm pretty sure she wasn't thrilled with me for that.

The Chai Spice mix is intoxicating blend is warm, spicy, and just a little bit different from the typical winter spice dominated by cinnamon. The addition of pepper, cardamom, and ginger bring a little heat and change the taste. Use this spice mix in hot cocoa, chocolate cake, muffins, banana bread, or granola. Substitute it for the spices in pumpkin or apple pie. Or use it in the chocolate bark below.

Chai Spice Mix

2 tbsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground pepper
2 tbsp ground ginger

Mix all spices together in a small bowl.

I adore the mix of chai spices and pistachios, using it to great effect in my favourite granola. You could use any other nut in this bark, or leave it out entirely if you need to. Add some crystallized ginger or dried fruit if you are making it nut free. I also adore making this with my kids because I put them to work shelling the pistachios. Of course, it takes twice as long because they gobble up pistachios like candy.

A little bit of heat and spice combined with the richness of the chocolate is perfect in a season blinded by sweetness. You can make this with dark, bittersweet, or milk chocolate. Buy the best quality chocolate you can afford.

Chai Spiced Chocolate Bark

16 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 tsp Chai Spice Mix (recipe above)
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

Line a rimmed cookie sheet or baking pan with parchment paper.

Set the chocolate in a medium bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add the Chai Spices and stir frequently as the chocolate melts. As soon as the chocolate in fully melted remove the bowl from the heat and continue stirring for 2 minutes as it cools. This isn't a perfect way to temper the chocolate, but it will help set it up to be somewhat firm when at room temperature.

After 2 minutes of stirring off the heat pour into your prepared pan and spread. Do not spread too thin, aim for roughly 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch. It will not reach the edges of the pan. Sprinkle on the pistachios. Place in the fridge to cool completely for an hour or more.

Once cool and hardened break into large chunks. Store in the fridge or a cool place.

PS The other cookie in that picture is this Peppermint Shortbread.

13 December, 2011


72'' by 72''

The 36 patch that I started as stress relief is now finished. Thank-you to Amanda Jean for the inspiration and instructions. It stayed a project that caused me no stress. I worked on it when I felt like it, I played around with the quilting, and the colours always brought me calm. Aside from the, ahem... challenge of basting it.

I had a lot of fun playing with fabrics for this one. All blues, greens, greys, and beiges. Half were from a pile I'd just finished with and the other half I pulled from stash as I needed it. Only one was used twice, and that was by accident. It was with intention that I pushed the boundaries of value work in some blocks. As you can see, some blocks are high contrast, and others barely register a contrast. In one block the colour is used as a light, in the next as a dark. This will always be a quilt with a lot of dance, regardless of what you choose, but this one really jumps around, even with the calm colours.

The back also came from stash. Actually, most of the fabrics in the back were ones I'd held aside for the Water quilt I was working on forever (and have since put aside permanently). I love that big dot!

Can you see the quilting pattern here? It's all wavy and I did it with my walking foot. It was an experiment to see how tight I could make curves with the walking foot. Each "wave" takes two of the 2'' squares in a block. That's pretty tight. You could do it free-motion too.

This is one of my favourite blocks in the quilt. I matched fabrics as I went, with no overall plan. Without trying I put two gorgeous organic fabrics together. One from Birch and one from Daisy Janie.

Once I get a label on this it will be popped in the mail. In the end I've decided to give it as a wedding gift. We went to the wedding over a year ago! And yes, I am always that bad at giving gifts.

The colours match their living room perfectly. It's the living room in a stunning old house in an old community on the East Coast. The couple is stunning and their eyes are bluer than the ocean. I think it will be hard to live up to all that beauty with this quilt, but hopefully it can blend in.

And hopefully they have less snow on the quilt when they cuddle.

12 December, 2011

Marimekko Memory Game

Full confession: I bought this Marimekko Memory Game long before the girls were in any shape to play Memory. Now they are almost beyond it. But we pull it out for the beauty and the colour. And, of course, the infinite sorting possibilities for my anal nature.

It is a regular memory game. Everything looking the same on one side and pairs of gorgeous on the other side. But it is the gorgeous that makes it all worthwhile.

Can anyone say polka dot Marimekko quilt?

I bought this game at Kit, a few years back. But it is available on line here, here, and here.

09 December, 2011

Carolling (Recipe: Peppermint Shortbread)

Two little girls, parents trailing behind, arms full of holiday baking, and lots of noise. Sorry, lots of singing. My girls took it upon themselves to go carolling to our neighbours last year. And while The Monster at one point this month suggested getting an iPod and just playing that as we walked instead, we are already planning this year's carolling.

Carolling means baking. Christmas usually means baking, but in our house it is the carolling that brings it on. If Christmas was my only reason to bake this Mama would eat nothing but cookies for a month. I wouldn't complain, but I think the doctor might have something to say about that. So, we plan the carolling and the baking hand in hand.

This year I've added two treats to the repertoire that have me wishing I could eat them all month long. This week I want to share with you this Peppermint Shortbread.

For most folks it doesn't feel like Christmas without shortbread. I am one of those people. In any form shortbread is a very good thing. While I do like the traditional Scottish Shortbread or my mom's light as air whipped shortbread, this is a great update. Just a subtle peppermint flavour to refresh the cookie and add to the Christmas spirit.

Peppermint Shortbread
Makes 16 bars or 32 cookies

1 cup butter
1 tsp pure peppermint extract
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp water or milk
1 candy cane, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9’’ by 13’’ baking pan with non-stick spray.

2. Whip the butter with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Add the peppermint extract. Then gradually add the sugar and whip for 2 minutes more.

3. While the butter is whipping put the flour and salt in a separate, large bowl. Whisk gently a few times to incorporate the salt. Gradually add the flour until well incorporated. Pat all the dough into an even layer in the prepared pan. Pat down firmly.

4. Bake for 22-25 minutes until the edges are lightly golden. Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into 16 rectangles or 32 squares. If you don’t cut them while warm you won’t be able to cut them at all.

5. Once the cookies are cooled completely mix together the icing sugar and water/milk for the glaze. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies then sprinkle the crushed candy cane on top.

(recipe for Chai-Spice Pistachio Bark next week)

08 December, 2011

Small Kids, Big Color contest

Okay, I'm not normally one to beg for votes in a contest (I find that aspect of the on-line world quite annoying). But... I did enter the girls' room in a contest on Odeedoh for the Small Kids, Big Color Contest.

If you are so inclined, you can vote here.

07 December, 2011

Coming Along...

I will not complain about the noise. I will not complain about the mess. I will not complain about all the people in my house.

That was my mantra during a very loud, messy, and hectic month.

And I will not complain because it means that the electrical is so, so close to being done, the framing finished, and insulation has been sprayed in. Progress is being made.

Of course, it has been silent for 3 weeks now because Hubby is working out of town. And I will not complain about that.

05 December, 2011


Easy sewing, right? A great project for beginners, right? Apparently Lotta Jansdotter doesn't know my kids.

At Market, Lotta Jansdotter gave out these cute little charm packs, pre-printed with a pattern for a little bunny stuffy. Even she commented that they would be a great first-time sewing project, or at least a fast one for the experienced sewer.

So I thought I would bring my little packets out one cold afternoon. The Monster has been begging me to teach her to sew after all. We reviewed our lessons from playing with sewing cards and embroidery hoops. We redrew the pattern, marking dots for where the needle would go in and out. We picked a giant needle to make it easier for little fingers.

I'm happy to report that there were no tears. This, in an of itself, should make it a successful venture. When The Monster is learning something new and can't do it perfectly from the very first effort there are almost always tears. No tears and only minor frustration, but frankly, they were bored. They kept asking if I could just do it or could they try on the machine. At that point I should have put the project aside, to be picked up later. Did I do that? No, of course not. I made them finish, by helping a lot. We had the distractions of pins, scissors, and the red pen we used for marking. Oh, and tiger costumes. When it got to stuffing their interest was renewed. And after I closed them up they went to town with a pen to draw on a face.

And they haven't asked me to sew again.

01 December, 2011

T Quilt

See what you can do with just one little block?

This is the To a T block from Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favourite Designers. Flip flopping the blocks gives you some secondary designs and a whole lot of movement in the finished top.

I think this is a great block to showcase some favourite fabrics, without resorting to simple squares. Play around with the scale of the fabrics for maximum impact - some large prints with some small ones too. Change up the colours to great effect, like rainbows or checkerboards. Stick with a single background to make the T pattern pop. Flip the values around - make the T pattern a light fabric and the background a dark.

This, I believe, is the best part about a block book. It's a starting point. And it's up to you to individualize the quilt. There is no walking into a quilt store, pointing at a picture, and saying, "I want to make THAT quilt." For those of you only venturing into their own quilt designs a block book is a great place to begin. You still have a pattern for instructional purposes, but you get to decide how to put it all together.

Find the book at a local quilt store near you or online.

And remember my need for warmth? Just in time for a dump of snow I finished this top in the oranges and beiges. It actually is perfect for my living room, but I think it will be a while before it gets basted and quilted. That Christmas thing is going to get in the way.