28 November, 2012

In the Mall

You may not know this about me, but I am from Edmonton. Home to the largest mall in the world. Yes, I think that still gets debated with those folks in Minnesota, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I don't like the mall much, but where else can you eat, shoot guns, ice skate, ride a roller coaster and a waterslide, and still shop? At one point you could drive go-carts and go on a submarine too. But the animals are gone.

This is totally not quilt, family, or food related. There are no gratuitous reno shots or platitudes about creativity in today's post.

Just go here.

26 November, 2012

Giant Hexies

In looking at my inventory a few weeks ago I realized there are projects there I haven't shared. And some I never shared progress for. I must rectify that, starting today.

These are my bee blocks from the Unscripted Bee. It is a group of Canadian ladies with a love for all things improv and modern.

I asked for giant, giant hexagon blocks. Each friend was sent a a stack of fabrics and a template for the hexagon. It was up to them how they would actually put the block together. They all finish at 16.5'' across, on the flat sides. And, as you can see, they got very creative in how they did it. So much fun!

There are two outstanding blocks, plus my own to make. I do want to make it with straight edges so then I need to finish off with all the outside pieces. Now that I have these out I want to play!

25 November, 2012

Machine Quilting Options (Weekend Reads)


I made that massive list of WIPs and UFOs a few weeks ago. Then I set to cleaning and purging. My mom was in town and she is so good for the push to get stuff organized and done. At least when it comes to my cupboards and the corners of my house. The day she left my MIL arrived, with intentions to help us get set up in the finished basement. Not surprisingly, we weren't ready for that. And with all the cleaning done we needed a change of plans for her visit.  So she took care of the kids, including preschool volunteering, while I sewed and caught up with a bit of work.

Let the record state that both my Mom and my Mother-in-Law are awesome.

Let the record also state that I uncovered 2 more WIPs.

Needless to say that it felt good to get a quilt top finished and 3 tops basted the other day. So, so good. I'm hoping to get at least two of those quilted this coming week, even though there is no extra help in the house. Late nights ahead!

This morning I pulled out my machine quilting books to browse for ideas.

Free Motion Quilting by Angela Walters is a most excellent resource. Prep work, design considerations for the modern quilt, and line drawings with very clear instructions. I've turned to this book, and Angela, more than once for guidance, inspiration, and quilting.

Modern Quilting Designs by Bethany Pease, Mindful Meandering byLaura Lee Fritz, and One Line At a Time by Charlotte Warr Anderson are all in regular flip through rotation for me as well. Sometimes it can feel like there is only one way to stipple an all over free motion quilt design. Pulling out these books gives me a chance to explore some other options, ones I may not have thought of before. It can be repetitive, at times, between all these books, but they do offer unique options as well. All of them are for the quilter who has done at least a little free motion quilting before, and therefore knows the basic technique. Generally, they consist of line drawings. Literally, hundreds of options.

I'm not entirely sure where I've landed when it comes to quilting these quilts yet, but I sure and enjoying the hunt for a good idea!

23 November, 2012

Return of the Duvet

Here, where I live, it is winter. A few storms already have left our world silver and crunchy. The furnace kicks on a million times a day when the temperature drops below -5 degrees, and nights get a whole lot cosier.

After putting the third quilt on the bed the other night my Hubby pointed out that it might be time to bring out the down duvet. Sigh. After airing and washing and fluffing and stuffing I put the duvet on our bed and folded the quilts for cuddles on the couch instead.

And for some inexplicable reason I found myself singing this song and doing a dancing while no one is watching jig.

20 November, 2012

Old Cravings New Friends (Recipe: Coconut Cream)

After the birth of my second daughter I went through months of intense cravings. More so than even when I was pregnant. I wanted all things bitter and anything coconut I could find. I'm sure it all meant I was deficient in something, in addition to sleep. It lasted months. Then it drifted away. I didn't think about coconut much again until this past summer.

I've got a few friends who can't or won't eat dairy. Frankly, I hope this is something that never happens to me because I love a cold glass of milk. But one of them told me about this awesome alternative to whipping cream. I sat on it, letting it fester in the back of my head where food ideas grow like weeds until they crowd out the real thoughts.

There was a late summer party planned and a guest with a strong dairy allergy. I had a strawberry shortcake bar planned and thought it would be awful if he couldn't participate. And I didn't want him to feel singled out either. So I grabbed this idea and whipped up a batch of coconut cream. Then another, during the party.

It wasn't the little guy who can't eat dairy who ate it all and then some. It was the rest of us.

Creamy beyond belief, rich but not sweet. It keeps in the fridge without separated or deflating. Perfect just about anywhere you would want whipped cream. Like pumpkin pie, shortcakes, hot chocolate, on a bowl of raspberries, over a banana sundae, topping grilled pineapple, on a slice of pecan pie...

Coconut Cream
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 can coconut milk (do not use the low-fat kind)
1 tbsp icing sugar

Chill the can of coconut milk, unopened, in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. Keep it upright and don't shake it.

When fully chilled open the can and scoop out the hardened cream on the top. It will be about 2/3 to 3/4 of the can. Set aside the milk at the bottom of the can, perhaps using it as a substitute for water when cooking rice.

Place the hardened cream in the bowl of a mixer. Whip for 1-2 minutes. Add in the icing sugar (a bit more if you prefer it sweeter) and whip until incorporated.

Serve immediately or place in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to eat.

18 November, 2012

The Apple Lover's Cookbook (Weekend Reads)

When my oldest daughter decides she likes something she develops obsessions. Not fads, but all-out her world revolves around them fixations on the topic. Like stripes, learning about the human anatomy (the insides, folks), tigers (see stripes obsession), and now, Bigfoot and apples.

Oh, the apples. I've endured tears when I wouldn't buy them over the summer in favour of peaches and sweet melons. She nearly lost her mind when her first teeth started losing their grip in her mouth and she thought she would never bite into an apple again. When she sees the apple stand at the market she pretty much acts like a lunatic, or ravenous dog, literally drooling over the apples.

Weird kid.

So when I saw The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso a while back I knew I had to get it for her. We've pored over the text, learning about the amazing variety of apples out there. We dream about apples our Canadian Prairies will never see. And she picks out recipes for me to try. So far we've tried Apple Brownies, this Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar Sage Crust, and the Classic Applesauce for the baby. And there are dozens more on the list for getting us through an apple obsessed winter.

I do like this book for a few reasons. One, for all the descriptions of the apples. So many varieties I've never even heard of, and not a Red Delicious in the bunch! Two, the recipes run the gamut from apple pie to apple gingersnap ice cream, from Welsh Rarebit to cocktails. I feel like I could cook a recipe from this book at least once a week and live in an apple scented heaven all winter.

Finally, the writing in this book is engaging, entertaining, and informative.  Yes, I read cookbooks. And bad writing, or none at all, does not grab me. The tone of the writer's voice is crisp, sweet, and refreshing, not unlike an apple.

Now, to find me a tree, a quilt, and a cup of hot apple cider to warm the rest of my weekend.

16 November, 2012

Friday Favourites: Hang-It-All and New Boots

Our little old house does not have a front (or back) closet. Oh yeah, we don't really have an entrance either. You just walk into our living room. That means shoes and coats and all the detritus of living in a cold climate are often scattered throughout the room.

In an effort to get the front entrance a bit more organized I bought this long lusted after Eames Hang-It-All. It really is a fun piece and oh so practical. Actually, too practical. It is generally covered in coats. So much so that you can't actually see it. I can't complain though, it is getting used and that certainly helps. I did clean it up for this photo and removed 5 jackets belonging to the girls and one belonging to Hubby. And this was before the snowpants returned.

I also wanted to share my sexy new boots. Vanessa was doing a giveaway the other day and sent so many folks here (Welcome new friends!). In jest she told people to tell me I had great calves. Well thank-you Vanessa and those of you who did just that. I'm pretty happy with my calves these days.

Despite no exercise other than the walks to and from school these days (That leash in the photo doesn't get used because the dog is too old.) I've managed to get back to pre-pregnancy weight plus a little bit. Just with careful eating. That gets me halfway to my goal weight loss. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to treat myself to some new clothes and shoes. And these sexy boots came home with me. Hells yeah!

14 November, 2012

Thirty Three

You know when you move or at least do a major clean you uncover a wicked amount of crap... er, stuff? Yeah that.

Yesterday two of my local quilty friends, Andrea and Lee, came over to help me get prepped and start moving my scattered quilting stuff to my new space in the basement. It isn't quite done yet, hopefully by the end of the week. But the closets are in and were ready to be loaded. So load and fold and inventory we did.

I love my fabric, but I must finally admit that I do indeed have enough. I've really got to use more before I buy more. Or find it a new home. But I've known that for a while. What was more.shocking to me was the amount of quilt tops, WIPs, and intentional quilts that I had.

O   M   G

Instead of burying it all back in bins and ignoring that I might perhaps have a problem with starting and not finishing quilts I decided to actually inventory all those piles. And because I believe in full disclosure of my faults here is a full listing of all the projects awaiting my attention. I've numbered them for full effect.

Quilt Tops - Ready for Quilting

1. Anniversary Quilt
2. Cosmos Blocks
3. Wine Gums
4. Improv Sampler
5. My version of Checkerboard from Sunday Morning Quilts
6. Slaveship Quilt Inspired by The Book of Negroes
7. Gum on Concrete, my version of Splash from Sunday Morning Quilts
8. An old Amy Butler quilt top I picked up a sample sale

Quilts - Basted and Started Quilting

9. Girlie Quilt
10. Low Volume Circles

Works in Progress

11. Mid Mod Bee - Blocks to be assembled into a top
12. Unscripted Bee - Waiting for a couple of blocks, then to be assembled
13. Hand Pieced Diamonds - always ongoing
14. More Cosmic Burst blocks - I have a whole other set of blocks for a baby quilt
15. Voiles - Still cutting and piecing every now and then
16. Name quilt for my daughter - haven't done anything since this post
17. Chandelier quilt - was so close, then discovered a big mistake and have never fixed it
18. Mountain Meadows - have made no more blocks since
19. Liberty Circles - I make a handful every now and then but I'm still not assembling the top
20. Blue and green Christmas Tree quilt - I cut the pieces last year then promptly put them away
21. The alternate pink/black/white blocks I started when working on the girlie quilt
22. Respite - a project started in a Bill Kerr design workshop
23. Pieced Stars - a BOM I started years ago when I wanted to do some precision piecing breaks when doing a lot of improv
24. Japanese Curves - Fell in love with a Japanese fabric and a curvy pattern, took a class, never finished
25. The Water Quilt
26. Maple Leaves

Class Samples (Pieces I work on while teaching, as examples)

27. A values quilt in neutrals
28. Green/Yellow/Orange Improv blocks

Intentional Quilts

29. Sympatico and Organic solid stack
30. Lucky Penny Bike Path
31. Some vintage feedsacks intended for Amanda's quilt from Fresh Fabric Treats
32. Turkey reds, blues, and whites for a striped project
33. A collection of screen printed and low-volume favourites

To cap all this off, as Andrea and Lee were leaving the mail arrived, and in it was a fat quarter collection of Architextures, my friend Carolyn's new line.

O  M  G

12 November, 2012

Maple Leaves Update

So close to getting the Maple Leaves done... I really hoped that they would be done by now and I could show them off on my new design wall. Alas, Hubby's real job is the focus of his time, not the finishing details in the basement. (We're also waiting on a ceiling product that I procrastinated on ordering, so it isn't all his fault.)

As far as I'd planned I have one more leaf to make. That will make 12 in total. And a finished quilt size of 48'' by 72''. This makes it lap size and still rectangular to mimic the flag shape.

For additional colours I've added in yellow and turquoise - in homage to the Ukrainian flag, my cultural heritage. I've also played with value, making some flags in low-volume fabrics for a different look.

In case you were wondering, I am going to set this without any sashing. I'm not keen to add any additional colours and I don't want to use white and take away from the center portion of the flag. It might also be that I have a thing against sashing.

Many folks have asked for a template and pattern for these. I am definitely going to put something together, but it will be at least a month from now. I need to get the house in order and I'd like to actually finish the quilt.

11 November, 2012

Avenue Magazine (Weekend Reads)

When we're home on a Sunday morning with nowhere to go the family always has a pretty lazy routine. Hubby sleeps in (made so much easier with a quiet room in the basement). Baby Boy plays on the floor and whines every time he spies his Mama. The girls colour. I flip through magazines. We all watch Bake with Anna Olson. Then I get pressured to spend the rest of my day baking. Um... okay.

This morning brought us hot cocoa made with almond milk and scones. I use many recipes for scones, but this morning I tried my friend Julie's recipe, with a swap for whole wheat flour from our grain CSA and using grated apples and cardamom instead of the chocolate and coconut. Oh so tender...

I also flipped through the latest issue of Avenue magazine, a local lifestyle magazine.

Speaking of both Julie and Avenue, I never told you about this great article she wrote about me for the last issue. That's me, in my Baba's apron, making pyrohy. And wow, you should go and congratulate Julie. Her latest cookbook, Spilling the Beans, just won the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards for best single subject cookbook! And that is a cookbook worthy of a Sunday morning.

09 November, 2012

Friday Favourites: Acapulco Bags

Storage! Funky retro storage!


Horribly tacky, tourist storage.

I picked these up off the floor of my Mom's garage. She'd had a garage sale a few weeks before and shockingly, shockingly, no one bought them. I do remember them hiding in the closet of my parents' room and I have a vague recollection of the trip to Acapulco where these originated. Obviously they were well loved because my Mom found a bottle of rum from the same trip in the bags.

And now they hold in progress quilt projects. Hubby even kind of likes them. Then again, anything is probably preferable to a plastic bin in the corner. The small one holds my Maple Leaf blocks (more to share on those next week).

06 November, 2012

Still Life With Chair

Behold the cuteness. And I don't mean the little guy's chubby legs or the Monsterz quilt from Rashida or the handknits. Behold my chair. In my sewing room. And in a week I will be able to park my behind in that gorgeous new chair and sew.

Until then I am packing and cleaning and researching permanent design walls and buying outlet covers and and and...

04 November, 2012

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities (Weekend Reads)

For years now I've been treated to pictures of butterflies by The Monster. She's happy, she draws a butterfly. She's sad, she draws a butterfly. She's apologizing, she draws a butterfly. We often find pictures hidden under pillows, stuffed in bags, and not so furtively placed on the table while working.

Lately, the butterflies are getting more detailed and they are evolving into fantastical bugs and birds that she invents, then names. It is quite awesome to see.

I pulled out this book this week, in hopes of feeding her imagination. It was purchased just before the baby was born, but it didn't take. Now it is a different story. We had a discussion about inspiration and catalogues, then I let her loose. I see a lot of apology snakes in my future.

02 November, 2012

So Close Now

The other night Hubby and I stayed up very late cleaning the floors in our basement. We had to clear out rooms, give them a good vacuum, then wash them in anticipation of carpet going on. I couldn't help but think of the many late nights we spent with mops and a Shop Vac over seven years ago when we flooded.

We are FINALLY in the home stretch of a reno that started, unintentionally, with a flood in the summer of 2005. A month of rain + a house built on clay soil - any sort of waterproofing on a 50 year old house + a cracked foundation = lots of water in the basement. Lots.

It felt wrong to be celebrating colourful floors, finished baseboards and awesome wallpaper in the wake of Sandy and so much destruction for so many, but I had to remember that this was born of our own disaster. And we've worked very hard in the years since to get to this point.

It's kind of been like the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly.

  To finish the basement we had to waterproof.
  To waterproof we had to dig a trench around our house.
  To dig the trench we had to rip out the driveway and tear down the fence.
  To tear down the fence we had to build a new one.
  To build a new fence we had to grade and landscape our front and back yards.

And all that before we could think about walls, toilets, and colourful floors.

So soon, very soon, the Dining Room Empire will change slightly. I will get my own sewing room (that room on the right there) and the baby gets his own room. I can't wait.