31 July, 2009

Garnet Gals Birthday Quilt

Here's another one that may not seemingly seem like me, but one that I treasure. This is my Garnet Gals Birthday Quilt. And the Garnet Gals are?

When I first made my way online in quilty explorations I landed on the World Wide Quilting Page and their chat pages. For a couple of years I participated as one of the only young (under 30 then) ones. I met women who are still good friends and inspirations. I participated in block showers for sick friends and family. And I learned.

About four or five years ago the chat board started to get ugly and a few of us decided to start our own little Yahoo group.  It was done under the banner of the Red Hat Ladies. I know, I'm not exactly Red Hat material, but they gave me a pink one and let me in. We've been chatting and sharing ever since.  

In our first year we did birthday blocks for each other. On everyone's birthday they were surprised with blocks. 19 blocks plus one we made for ourselves.  The blocks were to be in Red Hat colours, or Pink Hat, in my case. This is what I did with mine. There was that one odd yellow and purple block, so that led to the choice of that starburst fabric. The setting isn't particularly unique, but it isn't exactly common.

The back was pieced from some sale fabric I found and that gorgeous dahlia fabric.  Did I mention that my Red Hat name is Lady Dahlia? And that dahlia's are my all time favourite flower?

The entire quilt is about 84 inches square. At the time I pieced the top I had never quilted anything so large so I sent it to the long armer, Berny Sproule.  She found a dahlia pantogram that finished the whole thing off perfectly.

I remember my mom or Hubby dropping this quilt off at Berny's when I was on bed rest when pregnant with The Monster. I think she was about 6 months old, at least, before I even picked it up.  And I only got the binding on this past winter. 

And I finished the label, and all that needle turn applique, on Inauguration Day this January. The label is my favourite part of the quilt.  Not only for the fabric, but because it shows the history and the makers of all the blocks.  This quilt may not scream Cheryl, but it shouts friendship. 

30 July, 2009

Taste Adventure - Mallow

We've been heading down the the Southland Natural Area for our weekly CSA pick-ups for a few weeks now (but not this one because Jonathan's truck broke down).  Last week was all about green.  With Hubby out of town and a family trip to Edmonton for a baby shower it was a challenge to actually eat all those greens.  So I was a bit thankful, honestly, that we got a break this week.  It gave me more time to take advantage of all that food. It gave me a chance try something new with this herb called mallow.

The mallow was the first thing the girls grabbed out of our basket, right in the parking lot of the off leash park.  While we chatted with an old friend they kept dipping into the bag and pulling out those broad and slightly jagged leaves.  For a toddler who only recently decided salads were acceptable eating and a baby who spits out anything too flat I was rather surprised.

Following their lead I dug my hand in the basket to try it out. Hmm, if I hadn't actually felt it, I wouldn't have been I was eating anything at all.  It has such a mild, fresh flavour. Kind of like dumbed-down parsley.
Considering the flavour, the most appropriate use of the mallow seemed to me to either include it as salad greens or make tabbouleh. Botanical sites suggested that I make a tea to ease my tummy troubles.  Yeah, that's not me. So I tried the salad, but I had enough salad greens and one can only eat so many salads in a week.  Tabbouleh it was.  

And damn, what a fine idea that was.  It was the freshest, cleanest tasting tabbouleh I've ever made.  The girls devoured it at dinner and I had way more interesting leftovers to take to the office.

It wasn't exactly a traditional tabbouleh.  I prefer my tabbouleh with quinoa instead of bulger. This time I tried a red quinoa. And I added a touch of mint to boost the freshness flavour. I was tempted to throw some feta in as well.  Feta makes everything taste better in this house.  Next time I might at least use it for garnish.

No CSA or backyard stash of mallow?  Substitute another cup of parsley and you will still have a great salad. And you could use regular quinoa if you prefer.

Mallow and Red Quinoa Tabbouleh
(serves 4 as a side or 2 for lunch)

1 cup red quinoa
2 cups loosely packed mallow
1 cup loosely packed parsley
1 cup loosely packed mint
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 salad cucumbers or a third of an english cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 lemons
Olive oil

1. Simmer the quinoa with 2 cups water over medium heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa splits and parts of it look like teeny tiny calamari.
2. While the quinoa is cooking finely chop all the herbs. Zest one lemon and juice both lemons.
3. When the quinoa is cooked toss together all the ingredients with a generous splash of olive oil.  Season and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

29 July, 2009


Welcome to my niece's room. B is a cute, cute, cute 5 year old. She is a girlie as they come, loving tea parties, dresses, and jewelry.  She has a wonderfully pink room, filled with animals, frills, shells, and a mural of country life surrounding her, complete with Charlotte's Web. 

When I walked into her room the other day this was the view that greeted me. Not perfection, not the sign of a mom-made bed. But the sign of a played in, jumped on, and snuggled in bed. And right there was the quilt I made when she was born.

That is a paper pieced quilt.  Yes, me, paper piecing.  This wasn't a one time experience, either. I actually really enjoy paper piecing. Have you lifted your jaw off the ground yet?  

The butterflies were a mish mash of pink scraps. And though you can't see it (I neglected to get a close-up) I embroidered the antennae in black, with a little eye too.  The butterflies also have some detailed quilting.  The rest of it is quilted in a grid pattern and free motion heart motif.

I love that the quilts I've given to my nieces and nephews are loved and used.  They aren't hiding away on a high shelf or in a box of baby stuff.  Okay, maybe two are, but those kids are older. I forgive them.  But it gave me great pleasure to see this quilt a little bit dirty and just piled on the bed.  That meant it was loved.  No matter the design, the technique, or the recipient that's all I can ask for.

27 July, 2009

A Business Idea

My brother and his wife, and numerous friends of mine are fantastic with their kids' birthday cakes.  I default to cupcakes, but these folks are producing cars, trains, pirate ships, teapots, and yes, a box of crayons. Yes, I am jealous.

So my new business idea - feel free to steal it as long as you promise to give me royalties for life - is a bakery that specializes in kids' cakes.  This isn't Ace of Cakes perfection.  This is stayed-up-til-midnight-dotting-buttercream-on-cake-mix love. Someone should be baking and selling cakes that look like mom and dad made them the night before, so mom and dad can pass them off as homemade - to their kids and their friends.

Again, all I ask for is royalties.

The above cake was another homemade masterpiece by my brother and sister-in-law, in celebration of this little blue eyed wonder.

New York Beautiful

Not much is happening on the quilting front lately.  Hubby is out of town, the house is bearing down on me, and I'm simply exhausted by the time the girls stop jumping on the bed and chattering to each other, finally collapsing in the heat.  Rather than leave you with another picture of a chubby baby in a bathing suit I thought I would open the vaults and share some of my older quilts.

This New York Beauty was a pivotal piece of work for me. It was my first truly scrappy-style piece, although not truly a scrappy quilt. At last count I think there were 23 different fabrics in this quilt. Before this quilt I was quite set on simple patterns on a white or single coloured background.  Since this quilt I've barely made a quilt that way.  Looking at this quilt again, I've also barely made a quilt with borders since.  One step forward, one step back.

I made this quilt as a wedding present for my brother and sister-in-law.  Actually, Hubby and I made this quilt. When I first started giving quilts as presents Hubby insisted that his name also be on the label.  My insistence was that he actually help with the process if he wanted his name on the label. Usually that meant expressing an opinion on the fabric choices or the layout, or helping me baste the quilt.  In this case he helped pick the pattern and even took the class with me to learn how to make the block.

For the record, if you have any single male friends sign them up for a quilt class.  If there are no young, hot chicks in it, there are lots of moms and grandmoms with single daughters who will be happy to set him up. I was in the room with him and they were still trying to set him up with other women! 
The colours for this quilt were chosen to remind my brother and sister-in-law of the beach. They met and started dating in California. And my sister-in-law is from New Orleans. It seemed appropriate to do what we could to remind them of warmer weather since they were moving back to Edmonton after they got married.  And we chose the New York Beauty block because my brother proposed on the top of the Empire State Building.  Such meaning, it might be a bit too much.

It is probably safe to say that this is one of the most-used quilts I've ever made. My sister-in-law uses this, with a duvet and a heating pad to sleep. I mentioned that my sister-in-law is from New Orleans and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, right?  

22 July, 2009

Brought to You by the Colour Green

That big ol' mess of greens is sitting on our pretty, suburban lawn.  Yay for grass.  Yeah, I know, so not environmental to have a miniature golf course surrounding our house.  But it is fantastic to have the girls run around in bare feet and simply roll around in the lushness of fresh sod. And it isn't dirt.  Thank frikken' gawd, it isn't dirt

Tonight was another hot one on the string of summer we're finally getting.  After grilled pork tenderloin, ice cream cones, and kite flying at friends', we headed out to pick up our veggies from the farmer.  That's how The Monster now refers to our weekly CSA pick-up.

This week was was definitely brought to us by the colour green.  Mesclun, head lettuce, swiss chard, stir fry greens (mustard, radish, and turnip greens), something that looks like the skinnier sister of baby bok choy , and something new to me, mallow.  I see some salads, stir fries, and perhaps some tabbouleh in our future.

By the end of this week we are going to be superheroes!

Can You Quilt the Grass?

Generally, no two quilts of mine are quilted the same.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever even stippled the same sort of way twice.  Many times I am inspired by a certain fabric in a quilt - flowers on a quilt with flowered fabric, for example.  Sometimes I am inspired by the graphic nature of a quilt and choose to reflect or accentuate it with the quilting design.  And sometimes, the original inspiration brings out the quilting design.  Such was the case with my Grass quilt.

I wanted the quilting to look like blades of grass.  There is all that white that was begging show off some cool quilting.  Really, the quilt top was even designed with this quilting idea in mind.

In order to pull off a new idea effectively you can't just throw some thread in the machine and see what happens.  As anxious as I usually am to start quilting the second I've closed my last pin I do like to do a bit more prep work before the needle hits my quilt sandwich.

The first thing I do is sketch.  More than once a quilt pattern comes from some random doodle done in a fit of boredom.  Last week I was on a conference call and my mind was wandering to exactly how I was going to quilt blades of grass without actually sewing a bunch of vertical lines down the quilt top.  I have no idea what was said about feed-in-tariffs that day, but from my first doodle on a sticky to this full sheet sketch I knew I had a good pattern. 

It was important to me to capture the randomness of growing grass and the movement you see when you get down on the ground and actually look at the grass.  I also didn't want it to look like a whole bunch of scratches stretching horizontally across the quilt.  I think the full sketch captured what I had envisioned in my head.  On to testing.

An old quilting friend of mine once gave us some really good machine quilting tips at a retreat. One of the tips she passed on was to create a binder of machine quilting samples.  Take note of thread, tension, and tips to make a pattern work.  That way there will be no second guessing when you want to do that pattern a second, third, or fourth time.  It also works well for testing a pattern and working out any kinks before you tackle a big quilt.

This was the sample I made to test my sketch.  In this case making a sample was a very good idea.  On my machine, when I do more curves I have to have my tension set quite light. That did not work on this pattern.  Problem corrected I also realized that this pattern was going to require some good speed control.  In just a few minutes I worked out my frustrations and was able to develop some rhythm for quilting.

On to the quilt.
Holy crap, I'm in love with this.  I still worry it is a bit to flame-like, but it really is exactly what I wanted. The amount of thread this is using is phenomenal - one bobbin doesn't even do two horizontal passes of the quilt.  Really, I could care less about the thread costs (I am so not doing that math at all).

Now, just to finish.  I'm only about a third done. Sometime in August...

19 July, 2009

Where I'd Rather Be

Have you ever noticed that the majority of people who work a desk job decorate their office with vacation photos, pictures of idyllic locations, artwork from their kids, or pictures of the family itself? Have you ever noticed that all those things make up for places they would probably rather be that work?
Welcome to my work week! I have a few family photos, but I've surrounded myself with quilts and colour. Can you tell where I would rather be? If I can't spend my day quilting or with the girls, I'm bring that with me.
The requisite office supplies are surrounded by artwork from the girls - the joys of finger painting and glue. That is one of my favourite photos ever of Hubby there on the right. Taken about 12 years ago after some water-skiing. Every day when I'm on the phone and I can daydream about painting around our little craft table or those carefree times of summer without kids. And I don't see those fantasties as mutually exclusive.

Right under my Project Improv quilt sits this little area. An old wooden tray holds keys and the crackberry. It also holds my water bottle (I hate drinking cold water) and the best teapot ever. You could also call this part of my office a bit of inspiration. That glass vase is filled with my sea glass collection and the shells from our most recent vacation. And the Marimekko tin holds markers. Markers which are used should my girls or someone else's kids visit the office. Markers which as used to sketch out design ideas that hit while I'm supposed to be working.

Finally, I have to include a photo of this piece of artwork. It may look like a piece of felt with bits or scrap ribbon, buttons, pompoms, and a jingle bell. I actually think it looks like a mini art quilt. And The Monster made it just for me, just for my office.

Yeah, I know where I'd rather be.


This was a weekend of reminders.  Reminders that we have some damn good friends in our lives, reminders that there is indeed such a thing as summer, and reminders of what a farmers market can be.

We've been in Calgary for almost 6 years now, after living in Edmonton for most of my life (university and grad school being the exception).  We've made ourselves a very nice life here, one we have no intention of leaving (are you listening, Grandma and Baba?).  But sometimes it is just necessary to connect with loves from the old life in Edmonton.  Sure, we go up there far more frequently than we would probably like, but we spend all our time driving between family that we never get to spend time with our old friends.  So even though they had to stay in a hotel because of our renovations, some old friends came down for the weekend, just to hang out. 

And hang out we did.  The four kids ran around with hoses and jumped on the beds while my girlfriend and I nursed gin and tonics.  Yes, we are that kind of a mom.  We chatted non-stop and it felt like the days when we used to sit on the porch of our old place and watch the world go by.  Except now the world was full of screaming toddlers instead of drunk university students. So really, not that different.

Yesterday we drove South to Millarville to the farmers' market.  We've been going to the Calgary Farmers' Market so long that I really had forgotten what a true farmers market can be - actual farmers selling from a table in front of an open truck.  It truly was a shock to my system after nearly 6 years at the Currie Barracks.

So much is being said about the Calgary Farmers' Market.  Honestly, I'm staying out of the fray. We do enjoy going there on Sunday mornings, and do buy most of our groceries from there. I talk to the regular vendors that I shop from, catching up on their gossip and getting the latest from the fields. And I'll be honest, we spend a lot of time at the bouncy castle - my kids are the ones hogging it and being so damn cute that all other parents stop to watch (well, that's the way it seems to me).  As I've gone from daughter to student to adult to mom and seen the evolution of my market goings the Calgary Farmers Market seemingly works just fine.

Then I went to Millarville yesterday and my comfort all got blown away.  Seeing those trucks and the dirty hands counting out my change reminded me of all that is good about the market. The direct farm to consumer relationship, the open air, and even the crowds fighting for samples of something new and interesting.  I've been treating our weekly market trips as a good family outing, but also like only a bit more than a trip to a really friendly supermarket.

I've decided that for the rest of the summer I'm going to visit more markets, more parking lots filled with trucks, tables, and farmers.  I'm going to see what we can discover and what new people we can meet.  And I'm taking you along.  

It's summer, let's eat.

16 July, 2009

Of Boardrooms and Safety Pins

When you work full-time, have two little girls, are undergoing a reno, and actually want to quilt you have to get creative.  And by creative, I mean you have to get up at 5 am to sneak into the office early in order to baste a quilt.

Yes, I am a little crazy.

15 July, 2009


Did I ever tell you about the time we were heckled at our wedding?  In the middle of our vows, when I promised to nurse Hubby's wounds, his brother not so quietly commented on the challenge that would be.  And when we were walking down the aisle, vows said, kisses made, and the juggler wrapped up the bridal party colluded and shouted out, "Finally!"

Sheesh, you'd think we'd dated forever.  It had only been six years, with two years of living together.  A mere blip of time.

Why do I tell you that?  Well, I felt like shouting out, "Finally!" when I got the email that we were going to receive our first CSA delivery.  I am way too excited about this.  Maybe it's because we've only just got our lawn and there has been no fresh green in my life for weeks and weeks and weeks? Maybe it's because I can still only fantasize about a garden on my own? Maybe because I know what a struggle it's been for our farmers, and so many others?  Or maybe I just wanted to feel inspired by some simple food and wonderful people?

Regardless of the reason I happily, yes happily loaded up the girls and both dogs to the pick-up zone this evening -by myself, after a full day of work and some single parenting.  The girls said hello to Jonathon and Andrea, their farmers.  The Monster carried the baby beets and turnips back to the car while Smilosaurus munched on a piece of turnip greens.  And I walked down the aisle of the parking lot, screaming "finally!" in my head.

For Little Girls

There are times when I question why I choose the homemade route.  Like at 11:00 pm on a Friday night when I'm exhausted.  But when I see the look on the face of the sweetest, most hilarious two year old I know and her mom it is SO worth it.

One of my dearest friends had the best birthday party for her youngest girl, Ellie, on Saturday. I've known this little one since she was born and I've enjoyed watching her through all her stages. I love to watch her sit on the kitchen counter and help her mom make pancakes, or mother her little babies, or simply move water from one spot to the next.  I see her follow my Monster and her big sister, or kiss Smilosaurus like she was her own little sister.  When you know someone like this and you love them, how can you not stay up late to spoil them?  Sleep is always there.

Details on the apron?  Fabric is a mix of an old Amy Butler (Ginger Bliss), a Michael Miller, some Anna Maria Horner, and some from this quilt, made for the birthday girl when she was born.  And I made the apron the same way I did this one and the one I made for Ellie's older sister.

Happy Birthday El!

12 July, 2009

Ice Cream for Dinner

Some days diets and nutrition are just thrown out the window. When you are young, single, and childless it is pretty damn easy to make a dinner of nachos and beer, or perhaps some chips and dip in front of wrestling on TV (been there). Having kids, though, makes nights like those so much more difficult, yet so necessary.

Gone are the days of pizza on the couch or a bowl of cereal for dinner. I would like to blame an irrational desire to promote nutrition and proper dinner etiquette, but I have to blame The Monster. We tried, more than once, to make it a big treat to have dinner at the coffee table in front of a hockey game or Le Tour de France.  No dice, that kid insists on eating dinner together at the dining room table.  We're lucky she doesn't know anything about white tablecloths and candles. Sure, it is our fault for a general insistence on table manners and enforcement of dinnertime rules. But seriously, can't we relax the rules, just a little?

I did discover a good way to do that - don't even mention it's dinner.  Just sit down on the floor at the coffee table, food in hand.  Let them come to you, begging to try your treat.  Then, don't feed them dinner.

That is how we came to have ice cream for dinner the other night.  Hubby was out of town so it was just me and the girls. I'd had a day, just a long, draining day.  And I wanted to try and get a decent picture of this ice cream before 9 pm.  Since the ice cream was all soft (too soft) and I didn't want to freeze it again, I scooped it all in one bowl, parked in front of Le Tour, and we ate ice cream for dinner.  And damn, it felt good.

Strawberry ice cream with a rhubarb swirl.  If one felt so inclined a sprinkling of granola on top would make it the ice cream interpretation of a strawberry rhubarb crisp.  But I wanted smooth, creamy, tangy, and sweet.  And this delivered.

The ice cream was made with the custard base I've developed and quite like - creamy and thick without being eggy. I macerated, then pureed strawberries. Then added a swirl of stewed rhubarb before it was placed in the freezer.  

Just a note on the rhubarb.  The picture below shows two different versions of stewed rhubarb, made exactly the same way.  One was with pretty much green stalks, one with very red stalks. There was pretty much no difference in taste. The only difference is cosmetic. I saved the brown stuff for a topping for oatmeal and yogurt, and used the pink stuff in the ice cream.

Strawberry Ice Cream with a Rhubarb Swirl
Makes about 5-6 cups

2 cups half and half cream
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup milk
1/2 a vanilla bean, split
3 egg yolks
2 cups cleaned, hulled strawberries
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup chopped rhubarb
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
Splash of vodka

1. Combine creams, milk, vanilla bean, and 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan.  Heat while stirring, but do not scald or boil.  Whip egg yolks in small bowl.  Slowly pour 1/2 cup of warm cream/milk mixture into eggs, whisking constantly.  Pour eggs/cream/milk mixture back into the remaining cream/milk mixture.  Heat, stirring constantly until custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (5-10 minutes).  Remove from heat, pour through a sieve into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
2.  While custard is cooling slice the strawberries and macerate in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.  Just before you want to make the ice cream blitz the strawberries with a food processor of mash well with a fork.
3. Make your stewed rhubarb.  Combine rhubarb, brown sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Set on medium heat to cook.  Stir occasionally while the mixture cooks down.  After a few minutes the rhubarb will be almost broken down and the sauce will be thick.  Remove from heat and cool completely.  Add a splash of vodka just before adding to the ice cream. 
4.  Stir the strawberries into the cooled custard and make ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions.
5. When your ice cream is done, place half in a container for the freezer.  Dollop half of the cooled rhubarb over the ice cream.  Scoop over the remaining ice cream, top with dollops of the remaining rhubarb.  Quickly run a knife through the ice cream to swirl the rhubarb.  Place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream and freeze until firm. 

No More Whining

Okay, there has been far too much whining here of late.  I could continue on - life's just beating me down these days - but it is time to move on.  Seriously, I need a kick in the butt and some perspective.  Don't let me whine anymore.

Instead I will share some good news and some quilt photos.  Other than the gates, our fence is done!  We can also now run around and play on the new grass.  And speaking of grass, I finished my grass inspired quilt.

I should clarify that this quilt is more inspired by the intended patio in our newly landscaped yard.  The patio is still a month or so away from being completed.  Maybe that's why I wanted to do this quilt - letting my imagination run wild while I stare out the back window.  Or compensate for the lack of patio?  Oops, I said no more whining.

The top is made entirely from scraps.  Okay, maybe the whites technically qualify as stash, not scraps.  But they weren't big pieces.  All the greens do come from the scrap pile.

The white squares are 12.5 inches and the pieced sashing in 4.5 inches wide.  Those are unfinished numbers.  I made the sashing pieces by trimming my green scraps - those that were big enough - to about 13.5 inch strips.  After dividing them into dark/medium and light piles I sewed two strips together.  I then trimmed them, often on an angle, to 12.5 by 4.5 strips.  The cornerstone pieces were made from smaller scraps, sewn together into a simple four patch and trimmed down.

Initially I thought this would be a great picnic quilt, but Smilosaurus is way too messy for that this year.  The quilting will be a challenge - at least to me.  This is where the grass inspiration will really come in.  Stay tuned.

And speaking of perspective, I wanted to share with you some good news.  Do you remember this quilt?  My colleague and old boss finally got his new heart on Friday.  We heard yesterday that he is already recovering quite well.  So when I'm whining about the state of my house and busyness of life, remind me that heart matters more.

PS  This last pic includes fabrics from that Inspired Improvisation quilt - and one of the many aphids hanging around these days.

07 July, 2009

Farm in the Family

Yes, that is a cemetery there. The Alvena Cemetary, to be exact. My great uncle passed away last week so we were in Saskatchewan to say goodbye. It was a gathering of your typical giant Ukrainian family - my uncle left 10 children, 24 grandchildren, and currently 28 great grandchildren.  That is nothing to say of the fact that he was one of five kids with families of their own. 

Uncle Bernard was a quiet, strong man.  Humble and hardworking, I always remember him with open arms, a quiet laugh, and the ability to observe and appreciate all that happened around him.  He loved horses, his family, and he loved his farm.  While I was sad that the girls never got to meet the man, I was deeply proud to take them and Hubby to meet his farm.  I can hardly remember him off the farm, even though I saw him at hall parties and wedding receptions.  Uncle Bernard's farm was Uncle Bernard.
By the time I was old enough to have strong memories of the place it wasn't always somewhere I wanted to go. But as long as we got to hang out with our cousins, go into the fields, or feed the kittens in the abandoned chicken coop we city kids were happy.  Uncle Bernard was usually working during our visits.  He, or our older cousins, would sometimes take us into the swather or combine if it was harvest.  One time they let me drive the pick-up.  It didn't matter that I couldn't see over the dash, the purpose of our drive was to scare the ducks out of the field.

As we wandered around the old farm, buildings old and unused but the grounds, garden, and yard perpetually neat (this is the cleanest, most organized family farm ever), my brother and I reminisced about our visits there.  And suddenly the whining we did as children - well, me mostly - all went away. Those pathetic moments were replaced with pride in knowing that this farm is part of where we came from. 

While my brother led a number of the kids - his, mine, and some other city cousins - on a tour of the buildings and machinery I followed and admired his knowledge and memories. During the tour The Monster was a non-stop question.  She wanted to know what every building housed, what each machine did, how everything worked, and just what it was all for. 

The farm is a working grain farm - wheat, rye, barley, peas. At one point it was a truly diverse family farm complete with cows, pigs, chickens, crops, and a garden to make any Baba proud. The barns, coops, and sheds are mostly empty now. Their usefulness replaced with metal quonsets and granaries, some heavy duty machinery, and the ever present farm dog, Rex.

The natural curiosity of a three-year old outweighed any potential boredom. While Smilosaurus busied herself with transporting gravel from one spot to another, The Monster followed my brother and learned everything she could about grain farming. 

Boy did she learn!  It is a little over 7 hours of driving to get from Saskatoon to Calgary.  For the portion of it that she was awake our conversation went something like this:

Monster: What's the combine Mama?
Mama: The combine takes the seed off the grass, puts them in the dump truck, and puts the stalks in a line behind.
Monster: And where does the dump truck go?
Mama: To the granary.
Monster: And then what happens?
Mama: The farmer sells the grain and it goes to make things like flour.  And then we bake with the flour.
Monster: Oh. And what about the other combine?
Mama: It's not a combine, it's a swather.  
Monster: What's a swather do?
Mama: It cuts the grass, like a giant lawnmower.  Then the combine comes and picks it up.

And repeat. And repeat.  And repeat.  Over and over again, for about 5 hours.

She finally had her lightbulb moment in the process during a bathroom break.  With Hubby rudely standing in the ditch I picked a stalk of some wild grass/weed/oats.  We now know that she is a visual learner because as soon as I showed her the grass and demonstrated what the combine and the other combine did something clicked.  Suddenly she was explaining the process to us, Grandma, the nanny the next day, her sister, and anyone else she saw, regardless of whether they wanted to hear or not.

We don't need petting zoos and picnics on our farm visits. The connection is already there for her. The connection to family, the connection to the process, and hopefully, the connection to her food. Uncle Bernard lives on in her, and so many more, because the farm - literally, and in knowledge and memories - lives on.

Guess where we'll be going come September?  

Lazy Days

Yes, I know I've shown this quilt a few times already. But this picture exemplifies our lives these days. The mess, the exhaustion, the unshowered...

I was out of town for a few days last week for work. While away I got the call that my great uncle had passed away. He really was like a second father to my mom and a grandfather (in addition to his own 24 grandchildren!) to us. While I hadn't seen him much as an adult I wanted to be there to say goodbye. So we packed up and headed to Saskatoon and area for a few days. We hung out with the almost never seen giant Ukrainian family, showed Hubby and the girls the farm where Baba grew up, and said our goodbyes.

After 20 hours (total) in the car for two road trips, a holiday, the discovery that our sweet Maple (a.k.a Damn Brown Dog) is incontinent in the poop department, and continued potty training for The Monster we were ourselves literally pooped. While everyone else in the house slept on Sunday morning I busied myself with laundry and a bit of tidying. That's all I could muster.

Somewhere in there I did get a bit of sewing done. Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating for me to actually take a picture of anything. The Grass quilt top is done. Oh, and the fence is so close to being done. I can now use a section of it to act as my design wall - once it stops raining.

01 July, 2009

Canada Day Picnic

Okay, so it isn't exactly Canadian to celebrate the nation's holiday with blue cheese. Well, maybe it is. Whether it is a Canadian, French, Italian, or Danish cheese it actually might be a perfect representation of Canada. Strong, diverse in flavour, and easy to get along with. You may like us or hate us, but you probably don't dislike the idea of us.

Personally, I am a huge blue cheese fan. The more the better, the stronger the better. In all its variations. The Monster isn't a huge fan herself, but she'll eat it in the dip form I served today. Smilosaurus was loving it.  Dispensing with the veggies altogether she simply plunged her hands directly into the dip and shoved them in her mouth.

We served this dip at The Monster's birthday party.  That definitely started a new addiction for me. If there were hot wings anywhere near me right now I would be gorging myself on wings and blue cheese dip.  And drowning a crappy evening in beer. I'll have to settle for being relatively healthy and dipping some blanched asparagus and carrots. Sigh.

The following recipe makes a thick dip.  If you prefer a thinner dip, or something that will stick a bit more to those hot wings use undrained or regular yogurt. Whatever you do, don't break up the cheese into teeny weeny pieces.  You want a few chunky pieces of cheese in every single bite. The sharpness will temper heat, provoke the taste of green, and make your tongue spicy, as The Monster describes the taste. And with four ingredients it is dead easy to make.

Blue Cheese Dip
(makes 1.5 cups)

1 cup greek style yoghurt (or drained, plain yoghurt)
1 tablespoon mayo
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon chives

(To drain yoghurt place about 1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 cup plain yoghurt into a cheesecloth of paper-towel lines sieve.  Let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.)

Mix together all ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with additional chopped chives.  Serve chilled.