31 October, 2009

Taste Adventure - Coconut Jam and Pandan

Every book in our house is read a minimum of 4 times an hour.  Each day it might be a different rotation of books, if I am fortunate enough to sneak in a repertoire, but each book will be read ad infinitum.  Generally this causes intense boredom on the part of us parents, sometimes to the point of irritation.  There is one book, however, that doesn't drive me completely insane to read: Munch by Emma McCann.

In this story of a toast and jam loving monster named Munch fighting off an enormous monster with an enormous appetite the strangest jams are highlighted as favourites of Munch: coconut, broccoli, and banana jam. While I had no interest in broccoli or banana jam, I was always intensely curious about the thought of coconut jam. So my Monster and I googled it one day only to discover what apparently most of South East Asia has already known.  Coconut jam, more generally known as Kaya is a little bit of tropical heaven in a jar.

This morning I managed a quick escape from our self-imposed quarantine (still not sure if the flu is really here or not) for a trip to the Loriz Bakery, a Phillipino bakery and convenience store not to far from our house to pick up pandan.  Also known by the horribly bad name of screw pine leaves, pandan is common on Thai, Malaysian, and Phillipino cuisine.  Honestly, to me it smelled like a type of grass.  Tasted bland too.  But combined with coconut it tasted And smelled like our house was transported into somewhere far more tropical than Calgary for an hour. Remind me to get Thai of dinner tomorrow.

I blitzed my screw pine leaves with a bit of water and strained the mess.  Then I set to carmelizing sugar, beating eggs, and cooking it all together with some thick coconut milk.  It turns out coconut jam is more like a custard.  But damn, it is good.

Sadly, The Monster refused to try it and Smilosaurus did not like it at all.  I am blaming it all on the sickness and not on the odd colour that this ends up.  Putting green goop on your toast is not appetizing to the eyes, but to the nose and tongue it was fantastic!  Seriously, it was so good. And one of the best things is that I have A LOT more pandan leaves in the freezer and you can always get coconut milk. Even though the recipe only makes about 3 jars of jam you can make it at any time of the year.

In my research I discovered recipes with or without the pandan  I decided to go for the pandan to make it a bit more authentic.  A lot of the recipes had up to 10 eggs too.  It seemed like it would be a bit too eggy so I found another recipe and adapted it because my can of coconut milk was bigger than the one in the original. It worked for me, it definitely worked for me.

Coconut Jam
Adapted from Almost Bourdain
(makes 3 250 ml jars)

5 pandan leaves
250 grams sugar
1 can coconut milk (not light) or cream
5 eggs, beaten well

1. Blitz the pandan leaves with 1/4 cup of water.  Push the liquid through a sieve and measure 50 ml.
2. Melt sugar and pandan juice in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat until carmelized.  it will be green, so don't let it go much more than a couple of minutes once the sugar is melted.
3. Remove from heat, stir in the coconut milk and eggs.
4. Return to heat and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened and cooked, approximately 20-25 minutes.
5. Place in sterilized jars and seal.  Alternatively, let cool and serve that day. (I did not process my jars, but they did seal.)

Make sure to visit Under the High Chair for her virtual jam swap, there are going to be some fantastic submissions!

29 October, 2009

The Most Fantastic Raisin Bread Ever

The little one is sick.  It garnered a trip to the ER last night, on what one nurse described as the craziest night she's ever had at the Children's Hospital. But with some steroids and lots of rest she and I are both feeling better.

Today, however, was a day for snuggles and gratitude.  So I sifted through some photos and pulled together this little photo essay.  We spent a chilly Saturday in the kitchen and with some old magazines.  Thanks to Julie and this interview I had a strong desire for raisin bread.  A very strong desire. 

Thank-you Gourmet for the most fantastic raisin bread ever.  Seriously, all raisin bread should include cardamom, whether it is Finnish or not. Anyone know what makes it Finnish?  It just seemed like a challah with raisins and cardamom. And who cares?  Just get in the kitchen, get messy, and bake some.

28 October, 2009

Quilt Along Week 2 - Attack of the Rotary Cutter

This week is all about cutting your fabrics. It seems straight forward, it's just cutting fabric, right? This design is not dependent on evenly cut strips, but they do need to be cut straight. Check out my handy videos for my tips and technique on doing this. As always, email or comment if you have any questions.

Cut all of your fabric in lengthwise strips (from selvage to selvage).  Ensure that all your ends are straight. There is no prescribed width to the strips, they are all random widths. Mine ranged from about 1.5 inches to 3 inches, but I didn't measure at all. From each 1/2 meter (yard) of fabric I would aim for 8-10 strips.

Once your fabric is cut you will get a better idea of how the fabrics work together. If any are jumping out at you as not playing nice with the others now is the time to replace them.  For example, I'm not so sure about the one for mine that is second from the left in the top photo. It might be too light.  But I haven't decided yet. It isn't a light, light one. In the photo below you can see the one third from the right that is lighter.  I doubted that one and kept it in to great effect.
Next week will be sewing the strips and pressing.  Yes, pressing. In the meantime, put a fresh blade in your rotary cutter and cut away.

If you are quilting along with me please let me know.  I would love to be able to share your work with everyone else. I'm going to add a blogroll of participants on the site.  If you don't have a blog then you can also link to a Flickr photostream.  And speaking of Flickr, is there an interest setting up a group for the Quilt Along?  

We are fighting the flu in this house.  That means I will get lots of quilting done or none at all!

25 October, 2009

Uncles are Evil

I'm not sure that the guy who invented caramel apples had kids.  I bet he was an uncle, not a dad. He took evil pleasure in feeding his nieces and nephews sugar on a stick - under the guise of a healthy apple - then sending them home to Mommy and Daddy all jacked up. Mr. Dan Walker, a sales rep from Kraft is the man credited with introducing the caramel apple to the mass market. Someone out there do a geneology search on him and see if he had kids, will ya?

Personally, my first caramel apple was only enjoyed recently because my mom refused to let us have them as kids.  At least this is what I remember, she may argue differently.  It may have been the profusion of sweetness or the gooey mess, but I can tell you that I felt deprived.  I'm over it now, only because I now know how to make my own caramel apples.

There are two ways to go about it.  You can use the brand name kits or buy a bag of premade caramels and melt them.  Or you can make the caramel yourself.  Really, it isn't hard, only 4 ingredients, plus the apples. You do need a candy thermometer, but a basic one can be picked up at the grocery store. Your homemade caramel will also have a much richer flavour and a darker colour.

The alternative to making caramel apples is to make a caramel dipping sauce for apples, brownies, bananas, ice cream, and pretty much anything else that is only better with melted sugar on it.  So, that means pretty much everything. Making a caramel sauce is even easier, taking only three ingredients and not requiring anything but a good pot.

While I generally welcome the girls, ages 1 and 3, into the kitchen regardless of what I'm cooking, this was a task I saved for naptime.  Caramel is liquid sugar.  It is ridiculously hot and can burn.  And my youngest has an innate ability to stand right behind you without you knowing. With me making caramel she really would be living up to her nickname of Death Wish. So I boiled my caramel, cleaned and dried my apples, prepared some yummy toppings, then got to dipping.  By the time naptime was over the girls had a treat to take them through an extra long trip to the park.

Caramel Apples
(6-8 apples)

6-8 apples
2 cups brown sugar
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c corn syrup

Special Equipment:
  • candy thermometer
  • bamboo skewers, popsicle sticks, or chopsticks
  • parchment paper or Silpat

1. Wash and clean apples.  If they are supermarket apples wash in hot water and wipe well to ensure that all wax is removed.  Dry thoroughly, very thoroughly.  Insert a stick into the core of each apple.  Set aside.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment rubbed with butter or a Silpat mat.  Set aside.

3. Fill a large bowl with ice water.  It should be big enough to safely hold the pot with the caramel mixture .  Set aside.

4. Combine all ingredients (save for apples) in a saucepan at least 3 times the size of the mixture.  Set on medium to high heat with the thermometer in the mixture.  Cook until the temperature reaches 235-240 degrees F, approximately 10-15 minutes.  As soon as it reaches temperature remove the pot from the heat and immerse the bottom of the pot in the bowl of ice water to cool.  Stir and cool until the temperature measure 200 degrees F.  DO NOT GET ANY WATER IN THE CARAMEL.

5. Dip your apples, one at a time, in the caramel.  Twirl the apples to coat, then lift and twirl for 10-15 seconds letting the excess caramel drip off.  Hold upright and repeat 10-15 seconds of twirling. Place on prepared cookie sheet to cool.

6. If desired, once the caramel has cooled for a minute or two dip in topping of choice.

Topping suggestions:
  • Chopped nuts
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Crushed pretzels
  • Dried fruit
  • Toffee bits
  • Crumbled, cooked bacon
  • Candy sprinkles
  • Crushed Gingersnaps

Caramel Dipping Sauce
(makes approximately 2 cups)

1 cup sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. In a medium saucepan melt sugar, swirling pan frequently, until amber in colour.  There is no need to whisk or stir, just lift the pan and swirl the sugar until it is all melted and amber.

2. Cut butter into small chunks.  Lift pot off burner and add in butter.  Whisk to combine and return to heat until butter is melted and caramel is smooth.

3.  Slowly add cream.  Mixture will bubble and thicken.  Continue to whisk until soft and smooth.  Remove from heat.

4.  Once cool, store in a glass jar until ready to use.  Keeps for 1-2 weeks in the fridge or 3-4 months in the freezer.  Serve as a dip for fruit, an ice cream topping, or on cake.

For those of you joining me from Breakfast Television, if you are also looking for the salted caramel ice cream recipe you can find it here. Print it now, before they shut down the site.

And for those of you interested in seeing my appearance on BT, you can find it here. Yes, I did indeed use bacon as a topping and it was delicious!

Progress, lots of it

The end of a crazy week is coming.  A few more things to do, like find some time to kiss a brand new baby, make some caramel apples for a TV appearance tomorrow morning on Breakfast Television, and visit with an old friend from Toronto.  Somewhere in there I've also got to make Halloween costumes.

I have, however, been surprisingly productive this past week. I finally got my scraps cut for the Values Quilt Along.  I launched my own Quilt Along.  I made my way through about half the ovals I need for this baby quilt.  Oh, and I went out of town for the drive-through visits with family.  So, all in all, a pretty normal week.

21 October, 2009

Quilt Along Week 1 - Launch Party

This is it, week 1 of the Gratitude Quilt Along. Thanks for joining me, it's going to be a lot of fun. Let's jump right in.

This quilt is made, quite simply, by cutting fabric into strips, sewing the strips into sets, cutting out blocks, and sewing those block together. It's pretty straightforward. The bold design is realized through good fabric selection and cutting the blocks on random angles. This week is all about fabric selection.

How do I pick my fabric?

Your fabric selection on this quilt will really make the design pop, so take some time this week to play with your fabrics. The final design of the quilt is based on a high contrast between your accent strips and your background strips. This contrast can come purely from colour, but value matters more.

Value - this is the distinction between light, medium, and dark in a colour.
Colour - this is the visual perception of where you see your fabric compared to the spectrum of red, yellow, and blue. (But did you really need a definition?)

This quilt design works best with a light or medium background and a dark accent. I would also recommend that your dark accent be a different colour, but with good fabric choices you could do this in a single colour way, as long as your values are high contrast. My recommendation is that your background fabrics be in only one or two colours and that they relate to each other well by having a few fabrics with both colours in them.

Alternatively, I think it might work if you used a dark background with a light accent. That could make a really interesting quilt.

If you are having a hard time picking your fabrics and determining value, pull out a digital camera, if you have one, and take a picture of your fabrics together on the black and white setting. Even viewing it on the camera's tiny monitor should allow you to see differences in value, without colour being a part of the equation.

One last note about fabric selection, go for a variety of textures in your fabric. I strongly encourage you to make your fabrics a selection of large, medium, and small prints. In other words, don't pick a whole bunch of small dots for your background pieces, try some dots, weaves, florals, hand dyes, stripes, or even large scale prints in a single colour. Having texture in your quilt will provide a lot of movement without it being too busy.

Let's go through my fabric selections to help you see how I work through this process.

This was my initial fabric pull. When I start a project I simply grab everything that looks interesting. About half of these were in my stash and then I spent some cash in the LQS to augment the selection. The inspiration for the colour scheme actually came on the street one day. Out for a lunchtime walk I spotted a girl wearing a grey pinstriped suit with with a navy polka dot blouse and yellow shoes. That was months ago and the colour scheme stuck with me.

I love all these fabrics together, but for this design I'm pretty sure the lights won't work.

In this grouping I pulled out all the lights. I also pulled out the Amy Butler with the pink dots. Hmm, but then that Kaffe looked too peachy instead of golden, so out it came.

But I kept returning to that Denyse Schmidt Katie Jumpr Rope Yellow Dot and the Amy Butler Midwest Modern Floating Buds. I love those fabrics. I so wanted them to work. This will happen sometimes, but my choices were lose those fabrics or change all my background fabrics to work with these lighter values. I went with losing the lighter ones (and hanging on to them for the back of the quilt).

This is my final selection. I'm prepared to be flexible and change some these after I cut. For now, though, I really like the way this is looking.

How much fabric do you need?

That really depends on how large you want to make your quilt. I've put together a small table to help you determine fabric requirements. These are only estimates based on what I used to make Gratitude. You may want to have some extra fabric on hand if you are really stuck on a certain sized quilt.

                                (inches unfinished)

(42 by 48)         6.5        42
(45 by 54)          9.5        30

(63 by 63)         9.5        49
(60 by 60)       12.5        25
(72 by 72)        12.5        36

(81 by 90)        9.5         90
(84 by 96)       12.5        56

To make Gratitude I used 8 different fabrics in 1/2 metre pieces This gave me a finished quilt of 63 inches square. I think it is a good idea to pick at least 6-8 different fabrics for teh design to pop. If you want a bigger quilt than you can either use more of each fabric or use more fabrics.

I realize that I haven't given you specific fabric yardage. This is because this is about process, not pattern. I want you to play with your fabrics - new or from stash - to come up witha combination that works for you. Just take some fabric and start cutting and sewing. Because this quilt is about process you may start with one size on mind and change it partway through to make a larger or smaller block size, or a larger quilt. If you are looking to other sized quilts let me know and we'll work our fabric requirements together.

I prefer to use yardage as opposed to fat quarters for this. You will be sewing your fabrics into full length strips and then cutting them into blocks, so having a selvage to selvage strip will make your life easier. It is possible to use fat quarters for this too, but it will require some piecing into longer strips, or sewing more strip sets.

Did that all make sense? I hope so. But if it didn't, email me or post a comment and I will answer it as best I can. If you are going to post your progress on your blog, please let me know so I can create a blog roll. I've had some people express interest in following along with all the participants.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's efforts and creations! Thanks for joining me.

19 October, 2009

Are You Ready?

Quilt Festival is over and I'm sad I didn't win any prizes.  But I did get around to a number of sites and saw some fantastic quilts.  I also found some wonderful new-to-me blogs.  Thank-you to all my visitors and welcome to my new followers and subscribers.

Now, however, is it time to move on to the Gratitude Quilt Along for that quilt design. This Wednesday I will be launching the Quilt Along. This will be a 6 week event, from fabric choice to finishing. Of course there is no obligation to finish it in that time frame, but I'll be sewing right along with you and working my hardest to finish in those six weeks as well. If all goes well I am going to incorporate some video along the way, in addition to detailed pictures and instructions.

This quilt is a modern design, but it is based on a very traditional quilt - the Rail Fence.  Unlike a traditional Rail Fence this quilt uses more fabrics, the strips are uneven sizes, and the blocks are cut on an angle. It is a very easy quilt to put together but, as you can see, gives you a very bold design. Fabric choice is really important so our first on-line class will focus on the fabric selection.

We'll see you on Wednesday!

16 October, 2009


With more than a little impatience I've been watching the mailbox the last two weeks.  Well, watching isn't quite the right term since I'm at work when our mailman comes.  But the second my feet hit the ground out of the car I have a single vision.  Sadly, it is not to kiss my girls hello or pet the pooches.  Nope, I'm looking out for my last issue of Gourmet. Sigh. The last issue.

My Gourmet love started 15 years ago as an undergrad.  I started buying the magazine from The Daily Grind in Halifax on my way home from the farmers' market. It was perfect for my busy life - I could read it in snippets and it transported me from the real daily grind of life as a working student.

Since those days I've been a faithful subscriber - even when we were stone cold broke it was my one luxury.  I do indeed cook regularly from it.  Last year in a fit of purging I only now regret I shared my magazines with a worthy recipient, dear Julie. I kept some memorable issues and I will be hanging on to the two years worth that I still have. And now it is gone. At least Julie is promising to open a lending library out of her basement.  (Let me know if you need her address.) I still haven't stopped sighing.

I've also found myself defending the magazine to many. To the people who criticized the magazine as snobby, elitist, and catering to people with big gobs of time and money to cook and travel I say BAH!  Don't get me wrong, it did have some pretty fantastical stuff.  But it also had everyday recipes that included things like canned beans and frozen pizza dough.  In The Kitchen Notebook section it broke down ingredients and techniques, making them quite manageable for the home cook.  In the past few years Jane and Michael Stern's pieces were getting more and more play.  And finally, I loved, absolutely loved the Politics of the Plate pieces.  

Reading a magazine for me isn't about giving me 20 new ideas for a fast dinner. If I want that I can browse on-line or go to my mom's old Canadian Livings.  But sitting down with a beer or a cup of tea, or flipping through the pages on a road trip were part escape and part inspiration. I may not make my own demi glace (I know people who do) but maybe I'll tackle beef stock again. Reading a magazine was my own little vacation.

I would be hard pressed to find a single recipe that I could say is a favourite from the magazine, but there are certainly some memorable ones - the chicken cashew chili is a favourite of Hubby's. And I've been making braised swiss chard with feta and currants a lot.  On the list for the next dinner party is the apple pie with cheddar crust.  

One of the most formative recipes from the magazine is one I've only made once.  And that was a long, long time ago.  I'm picking this one to share because the first time I had it was at the house of the only person I know personally to have ever been published in the magazine. Friends of mine from journalism school lived in the same city as we did for a few years.  They had two adorable little boys that Hubby and I would frequently babysit.  They were writers and I adored them.  Valerie wrote a little piece about a fantastic bakery in Edmonton and Ruth Reichl published it.  I don't think we celebrated with this cake, but in my memory I am toasting both Valerie and Gourmet with it.

(PS  A Mingling of Tastes is gathering Gourmet obituaries and musings.  Check them out!)

15 October, 2009

A New Project!

Okay, back to the usual process of sharing thing with you all along.  I've got another project on the go and these are the fabrics.  This is for a soon-to-be-needed baby quilt.  I haven't heard from my girlfriend this week so I'm assuming that baby is still incubating, despite his Mama's desires.  Phew, I've still got time.

And Tanya, I know you're reading so I hope you like the fabrics!

13 October, 2009

Slightly Regrouped

It wasn't just the pie, but that definitely had something to do with it.  It might have been the four day weekend.  Or maybe staying home with our modern family (our friends) did it for me. Quite possibly it was simply sleeping for more than 5 hours a night.  Whatever it was, I can feel some of my mojo coming back. And yes, this pie had a lot to do with it.

Maple makes me happy.  In a delirious sort of way.  I fully admit to taking swigs of maple syrup from the bottle.  I will find any excuse to include it in a recipe from baked beans to oatmeal cookies to lamb stew with dumplings. The sight of a real sugar maple is enough to make me start salivating. So this Rustic Maple Pecan Pie indeed made me happy.

It made me happy to read about it in the first place.  It made me happy to make it yesterday afternoon while the rest of the house napped.  It made me happy to share it with our close-knit friends after a raucous Thanksgiving dinner.  And it is making me happy to share it with you.  

Thank-you to Aimée at Under the High Chair for letting me share this with you. Use your favourite pie crust, I went with my standard Pate Brisée.

Rustic Maple Pecan Pie
(courtesy of  Aimée's Auntie Lynn)

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 chopped pecans (I used a bit more than that)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Beat eggs in a medium sized bowl.  Stir flour into brown sugar and add to eggs. Mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Pour into pie shell and bake for 40 minutes.
4. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  And more maple syrup drizzled on top.

12 October, 2009

Fall Quilt Festival

This is the first time I've shared a finished quilt with you that you didn't see anything of the process. I hope you aren't angry with me. I know, more than a little contradictory with the Workshop in Progress ideals. But I was testing the idea for a quilt along and wanted to be able to unveil it during the Blogger's Quilt Festival.

This is Gratitude (63 inches square).

Gratitude is for our neighbours. The neighbours who have saved our damn black dog during more than one thunderstorm - indeed, this is how we met them. The neighbours who always stop to say hi when they are out for an evening stroll. The neighbours who drew the plans for our basement and then refused payment for their work. And so we are giving them Gratitude.

Said neighbours, B and M, live in a renovated house in our 50 year old neighbourhood. They've added on and opened up and it really is an homage to late 70s design. Parts of it may be dated, but I love their house. So the colours in this quilt are inspired by their house. They have rich red carpet, beige walls, and terra cotta and brick. It is a warm house that inspires creativity and friendship. They are lovely neighbours after all, and an architect and designer to boot.

Victoria once asked her readers if there was any fabric that you wanted to buy on the bolt. I tend to get bored of a fabric, no matter how much I love it, after I've used it a few times. This red Kaffe, however, could change that. I did still see some at a LQS the other day and was tempted the buy the remaining yardage. I used it on the front as the red (along with another Kaffe in purple) and showcased it on the back.

You can also see the quilting on this photo. I did an all over swirl design, done free-motion. It was actually doodled from the scrollwork when I was in Banff. More hotel inspiration. I used my favourite thread, Presencia, in a cream colour. I actually wanted the quilting to be relatively subtle here, so as not to take away from the bold design of the top. I tried, but I couldn't just stipple it. I know there isn't anything wrong with stippling, but I wanted more. And more I got. As usual, it is heavily quilted. I swear, I don't mean to, but it seems I am unable to lightly quilt anything!

The binding was a lovely purple and red combo that matched so, so perfectly. I debated using a light brown so the red and purple on the top design popped a bit more, but when I found this fabric I knew it was meant to be. Funny, the LQS had it sitting right next to the Kaffe fabrics!

And finally, over a year after we received the plans from our neighbours and started the work to get the basement finished, here we are. Piles of concrete and wood. We've got the permits (renewed once already), picked the plumbing fixtures, and daydreamed about the master bath and quilt studio. But still it sits. (I took this photo today.) We're like the cobbler's kids with no shoes. Hubby works hard, the last thing he wants to do at the end of the day is put on the tools again. Sigh. At least I know that however overdue, Gratitude will be well-received.

Thanks for visiting, old and new friends. I am indeed going to launch this design as a quilt along. It is very easy, trust me. Stay tuned, I will launch the quilt along with a discussion about sizing and fabric choices on October 21.

09 October, 2009

Quilt Festival

Did you know that the Fall Quilt Festival is here? Take the time to visit Amy and all her guests. This is the most comprehensive on-line tour of quilts and blogs I know about. My own contribution will be up in a few days. (I'm still getting the binding on.)

Just Friday

If you've seen my mojo can you please give it back?

Maybe it was the turn in weather from our snippet of fall to pretty much winter.  Generally I would enjoy that, but this has just been a week to get me down.  The one thing keeping me going is the thought of Thanksgiving this weekend. Hands down, it is my favourite holiday. And I had grand plans for sharing recipes all week for some lovely dishes. Instead, I'm going to send you off to this site for breakfast. One day I will get the chance to really enjoy that first cup of hot tea and some hand pies in quiet contemplation of the last issue of Gourmet.  For now I'll scarf the pies, burn my tongue on the tea, and read a paragraph or two in the midst of screaming, Super Why, and dirty bums.

07 October, 2009

In the Workshop Today

Have you been following along with the Workshop in Progress participants?  There are some really interesting projects out there. I'll admit that I've been behind on my blog reading so I missed the initial posts, but I encourage you to still visit the blogs and gain some insight into the personal creative process of these artists.
Yes, I said artists.  Those who create are artists, even if you sew on the dining room table after the kids got to bed. Even if you never share a piece of your work.  I truly believe that process is integral to the notion of art.  I was never able to answer the debate in my History of Art class as an undergrad on whether art is about the artist and their process, the finished piece, or the audience. All I know is that there is no art without some combination of the three.  With an on-line presence you are choosing to share both yourself and your process, in addition to the finished work.  Would you still create without the blog audience?  Most likely, right?  But you must get something out of sharing the work and bits of yourself, hence the third aspect of art, the audience.
I hope you take the time to participate in the Workshop as a poster and as an commenter.  We aren't trying to replace the energy of a whole bunch of people standing in front of a design board, but we can foster the community of creativity and a supportive environment for trying out new ideas.  So please, take a look at what our fellow artists are doing.
Over at Katie's Korner she is showcasing the finished Frenchy bag.  She is ever so thankful for your tips and opinions on choosing fabric. And I love the end results. I'm not generally one for fabric bags (please don't hate me for that) but this is such a fabulous pattern.  I might be tempted to try one myself.

Cristin at Sew This is My Life is playing around with half square triangles. A few posts back she'stried out a few layouts and your comments helped her decide where she wanted to take the quilt.  Personally, I think she may have had a specific one in mind, but the feedback to confirm can be just as important as the feedback to challenge.  She's now squared up her blocks and is on to sewing.  Keep checking back with her to see the finished project.  I hope she knows how to quilt it. 

Have you seen the wonderful quilt Sue has been sharing with us at Share the Love? The lovely progress on her Snippets quilt, now finished, was insightful and showed how we quilters often fiddle over the smallest decisions. And then you do something and it just works.  And then you applique ateeny bird and the whole thing is perfect.  I can't wait to see what she does next. 

What KT Made Next has been very honest with every step along the way of designing and completing her Roses for Rosa quilt. I've really enjoyed helping her work through fabric shortages and layout options.  And because she's been teasing us by posting without pictures I can't wait to see what the finished product looks like!

Now, on to my next Workshop project. I haven't shared with you yet that I am participating in an on-line course hosted by Marisa Anne from Creative Thursday. It's been a personal challenge to not only accept the creativity inside me but to find a way to express it and share it with others, all while staying true to my family and myself. Taking the In the Fish-Bowl course is one of those things that forces you to be quietly reflective while slapping yourself across the face a la Airplane.  What's the equivalent of a man-crush for women, because that's what I have for Marisa?
This week's class was about our on-line identity. To be honest, I feel a bit schizophrenic about my on-line identity because I have all my quilting, then all my food writing. In my head they mesh together well most of the time, but as an on-line brand I struggle.  As part of my own challenges I am taking another look at both blogs.  To start, with the overall look and layout.  At the same time I am going to examine some of those larger identity issues, but that requires a lot more reflection and perhaps and shot of non-existent lottery winnings.
So, I am asking you for your opinions on what works and doesn't work on blogs.  Mine, yes, but others too.  What bugs you that people do no naming names)?  What features do you love?  How do you search through a blog?  What do you want out of a quilting blog? And anything else you want to share. Updates and changes will likely be ongoing for now.
Oh, and the pictures?  Just because I have a hard time posting without a picture, that's all. Besides Marisa encouraged us to think of our on-line space as a home or office, or even a specific room.  Immediately I thought of my dining room, where so much of my creative process gets realized, in food, in writing, in family dinners, pajama painting, tea with friends, and conversation.

(PS I am fully aware of the irony of a post about on-line presence where my formatting is completely messed up.  I'm trying, but I don't know how to fix it.)

03 October, 2009

Keep Your Eyes Open

The past few days took me out of town for my desk job.  There are worse places in the world to go for work than Banff.  Especially when you get the added luxury of staying at the famous Banff Springs Hotel.  The work stuff was okay, even interesting at times, and the food was sadly only mediocre.  But the inspiration in the Rocky Mountain Setting and this fabulous historic hotel more than make up for any disappointments.

Once upon a time I travelled quite a bit for work.  I've seen a lot of hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms.  I've stared at a lot of carpet, wallpaper, and over the top ugly mouldings.  And in that time I've doodled a lot of quilt designs. While the curlicue stuff isn't generally my cup of tea, the designs and impressions can serve as wonderful inspirations for even modern designs. So, next time you are at a boring work meeting or stuck in the speech portion of a wedding, take a look down, up, and around at your space.  See what graphic images can inspire.

The entire exterior of the hotel is covered with stone.  I adore the juxtaposition of the lines in the archways over the windows and doors and decorative spots like this.  With simple fabric choices this could be very effective on a quilt.
Oops, I just noticed my toes peeking out there.  Another candidate for the Toe Catchers group. I like the radiance of this carpet.  You could use a single fabric in the center, or some applique, with strips coming out from behind. With a bolder choice of fabric this would be a very striking quilt.
I really liked the angled panes of these chandeliers in the lobby.  It could be a very interesting take on a charm quilt.  Angle one section one way and flip it around again to still ensure a square piece. I actually did another sketch from a different chandelier, but I didn't take a picture of that one.  It was in the ballroom where half our sessions where and I didn't think people would appreciate me standing up and pointing my camera to the ceiling in the middle of a session by a Microsoft exec.
Isn't this a fantastic chair? Those perfect semi-circles!  Oh the possibilities for a circle lovin' Mama like me.
And look at the colours on this carpet. It was one of the brighter carpets in the hotel.  As I look at this picture now I know I have a fabric in those exact colours in my stash. Hmm, what to do with them?  Pick one of the inspirations above or even try something different?
This grill work was part of an extensive decorative system in the Conservatory at the hotel.  I can picture copying that design in one strip down a quilt.  Just a little to the left of center and with these exact colours.  Now that's a way to take something historical and turn it into something modern.
Lest you don't believe that I was actually there, I'm including this photo. I went for a short hike after the day's activities and snapped this by the Spray River.  I also snapped a whole bunch more photos.  I think my next nature inspired quilt will be Mountains. I think I need to go shopping for some grey fabric to round out the stash before I start that project.