31 May, 2010


This quilt could have been called Rainbow Sherbet. Or perhaps a light lemon sorbet. You know that fancy dining convention of serving sorbet in the middle of the multi-course meal to cleanse the palate? Well, this is that quilt for me.

After finishing Roots I needed a little break.  Something light, something easy, something fun. With a baby shower to attend this past weekend, for the new baby of a dear cousin, I whipped up this little quilt. 

You see, I am 5 days older than this particular cousin. Growing up I also loved to point out that I was 5 days smarter, better looking, funnier, taller, and stronger than him.  I stopped teasing him when he grew to well over 6 feet tall and could kick my butt when we wrestled. Damn dancer's legs on him!

This little gem was easy to make, but a lot of fun.  You could easily swap out the appliqued #5 with a letter of choice. I fused the number on and satin stitched around it. Otherwise the rest of it is simple piecing. The back was a little polka dot number, as was the binding.

Free pattern coming out on Friday.

30 May, 2010

Maintaining the Idea of Spring

Biba Caggiano taught me how to make risotto when I was 19. It was summer break during university. In between multiple jobs to save for tuition I found the time to watch PBS on Saturday afternoon. "Biba's Italian Kitchen" was always on. So I would sit in my Dad's office, taking notes, and watching Biba on a 12 inch screen.

When I went back to school and suddenly found myself alone in a basement suite, craving something more than a hearty salad I always turned to risotto. It was the comfort food that got me through my last year of university, in between thesis writing, working, and running a muffin business.

People are always so scared of risotto.  I blame the recipes for this.  Read a recipe for risotto and it is enough to scare off anyone - they are always so wordy and make it sound complex.  But risotto is not complex. Nor does it require endless stirring.

Tonight we returned home from a weekend away, visiting family.  We stopped at Edgar Farms on the way home for Asparagus Fest.  There was a break in the rain and snow, so it worked out perfectly. We caught up with Doug, Elna, Keri, and Randy of Edgar Farms. We chatted with Wade and John. We ate, we pet animals, we jumped in puddles, and we definitely grabbed some asparagus. First from the field and then my mother-in-law treated us to a few bundles to take home (awfully generous of her since she also babysat for us last night!)

When we walked in the door at 6, everyone was exhausted from a busy weekend and an afternoon outside.  To be honest, I was real tempted to give in to Hubby's request for the pizza man delivery. Then I decided we needed to eat more asparagus, but we also needed something warming. Something to fill our bellies but still feel light enough to remind us that it is indeed still spring. Risotto! Lemon Asparagus Risotto to be specific.

I'm not going to give you a recipe. Risotto, I think, is more of a basic technique than a recipe. Now, I've never served to an Italian grandmother, so mine could totally suck.  But we all love it. In fact, risotto is the only way The Monster will eat rice. So, don't be scared, here is my technique for risotto.

1. Finely dice a small/medium onion. Toss in a tall sided frying pan with a generous swig of olive oil or knob of butter. or both. Sweat them out on medium heat.
2. While the onion is cooking mince a couple of cloves of garlic. Add to onions and stir.
3. Immediately add your Arborio rice (available in most grocery stores and definitely in an Italian market). I use about a handful a person. Stir in and get the rice coated with the oil/butter.
4. If you happen to have wine in the house, pour a generous slosh of it in the pan and let it reduce. No wine? So what.
5. Once your wine has reduced, if you've used it, start adding in hot chicken stock, veggie stock, or water.  Yes, I think it is okay to use water, you will just have to season really well at the end. Add in the liquid about a ladle at a time.  Stir well before and after each addition.
6. Add a ladle of liquid every few minutes or so. The goal is to have the liquid be absorbed slowly. So when it looks like you have little liquid, add more. After about 15 minutes, start tasting. Risotto should have a bit of "tooth" to it. In other words, you don't want it mushy, but it should be creamier than regular rice.
7. When it reaches the right consistency, turn off the heat. Stir in some more olive oil or butter - whichever one you used with the onions - another good swig or knob. Also stir in some cheese - parmesan, manchego, asiago - a grated hard cheese is my preference. Serve immediately.

Tonight I also stirred in some asparagus that I blanched for a bit and some lemon zest. Another night I might stir in roasted butternut squash, or sauteed mushrooms, or maybe peppers and zucchinis. Cook's choice. I just recommend that you cook the veggies separately so they don't get overdone or mushy in the cooking rice.

Okay, now that I've written that out it does seem wordy and complex. Trust me, it's not.

After a quiet evening of movie watching we then had a pre-bed snack with the girls.  I also picked up some rhubarb at Edgar Farms so I made this lovely Rhubarb Upside Down Cake.

28 May, 2010

Chicken and the Egg

So, which came first? The chicken or the egg? In my case, was it the quilt or the bike?

Talk about life imitating art! Hubby bought me a bike for my birthday last week. I'm not allowed to ride my mountain bike because of my still bad knees, but a cruiser was given the OK by my physiotherapist. We walked into the bike shop and I knew immediately which one I wanted.  Thankfully it actually felt pretty comfortable to ride.

But if I didn't know any better, I would have guessed I made the quilt after I got the bike!

The only problem is that I don't think my yellow helmet with bongo playing skeletons is much of a match for the bike.

I am ridiculously happy to be moving on the bike.  I rode in the evening sun, drinking in the colours and smells of our neighbourhood - a riot of spring. Movement has never made me so happy.

27 May, 2010

An Abundance of Limes

On a gorgeous weekend not too long ago, Hubby and I indulged in quite a few gin and tonics. We've discovered a new-to-us gin and are rather obsessed with it. The first time I saw it in our local wine store I asked the purveyor what it was good for, meaning martinis or G&T? His response, "Making Babies!"

Well, I can't attest to that at all - she says as she raises another gin and tonic - but I can say that it makes about the finest drink I've had. Aside from those Negronis. If we ever get some heat again the Old Raj is coming back out.

I will, however, need to buy more limes. You see, we got a little gung ho that one warm weekend and bought about a dozen limes. No, we aren't that big of drinkers. We merely forgot we already had them. Yes, we were sober when we were at the store.

With an abundance of limes and a convenient container filled with egg yolks it really did seem that the only option was to make ice cream. Gin and tonic ice cream? Hmm, not too bad of a concept, but my brain could not figure out how to capture the necessary balance of taste with the custard base. Browsing through the books, I came across a recipe for Margarita Ice Cream in Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer.

Um yeah, sign me up. 

This recipe did not disappoint. I was worried it would be too eggy, but all that lime juice really cuts the richness. Overall it is refreshing without being cloying. Smooth but somehow a bit light. It isn't a Margarita - which would have also been a most excellent use for our extra limes - but the hint of tequila is amazing. I did cut back on the amount of alcohol because I knew the girls would be having some ice cream If you swapped out the tequila for a generous splash of vodka you would simply get something akin to Key Lime Pie ice cream.  Hmmm, there might be a frozen pie idea there...

This is the second ice cream recipe I've made with sweetened condensed milk. I must admit, I'm rather fond of it.  I wonder what David Lebovitz would say? It creates a silkiness to the ice cream without overly sweetening it. I'm always afraid it will be too sweet, but it really works well.

Now, I wonder how good this ice cream will taste with the snow we're expecting? Yes, snow. Don't talk to me about it.

Margarita Ice Cream
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer)

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
6 large egg yolks
300 mL tin of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup tequila
splash of Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier
Juice of 6 limes and zest of 1

1. Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan. Slowly whisk it into egg yolks, off the heat.  Once combined, pour back into the saucepan and cook it, stirring, until thickened.  It should coat the back of the spoon.
2. Pour the custard into a clean bowl and let it cool slightly.  Stir in the condensed milk, alcohol, lime juice, and zest. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours at a minimum.
3. Churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Enjoy.

26 May, 2010

Workshop in Progress - May 26

In the Workshop this week, for me, is nothing but doll quilts.  I accepted an order from Bamboletta a while back.  Now that my Dad's quilt is finished I can tackle those. I must admit, it is nice to work on a small scale for the moment. Odd, I know, considering I love big quilts.

Also on the design board is a new Flickr group for the Workshop. I had a few requests, particularly from folks who use Flickr more than anything to share their work, to open this up to Flickr.  Feel free to post in the group as well. Like all workshop posts, the Flickr group is for sharing process and seeking the input of others.

So many folks out there are taking the notion of sharing Process to heart. We could call this Workshop in Progress/Process.  Same thing, really. I am very happy to see more and more folks participating, and sharing openly and honestly. This post from Andrea is a perfect example. In it she opens up her sketchbook and shares a number of concepts. This requires a certain amount of bravery, but I adore her for for doing it. And she has some wicked ideas!

Tonya at Maggie and Josephine has also taken the Process Pledge to heart.  This week she shares a new baby quilt she has on the go.  Very sweet.

And a finished quilt to share today as well. Lesly has been using the Workshop for opinions on her neutral quilt.  Well, she has finally revealed it. Oh my, what a finish!  I'm glad she listened to the Workshop (gee, when I say it that way it sounds like I'm referring to it like it's the Borg) and went with that cross hatch sashing.

To view more process related posts, don't forget to check out all the pledge participants here.

23 May, 2010


May 2010
Approximately Twin Sized
100% cotton, original design

Here it is, aptly named, my Dad's quilt: Roots.  Roots for the garden growth that sustained my Baba and Dido as well as our family.  Roots for the foundation of where we come from. Roots to acknowledge such an important part of our family legacy.  Roots to impart growth the the family as the next generations arrive and thrive.

This was a true family project. My sister and sister-in-law and I pieced together the top, with a few helpful hands from my daughters and husband. Hubby and my brother watched the 6 kids so we could get that done, while my Mom kept the secret and took care of my sister's dog when she was away to get the top done. Then my brother and sister-in-law found the fabric for the back (so much Mark Lipinksi Krakow - how appropriate). They, with their kids, basted the quilt. I quilted it, again with input from Hubby and help from the girls. Here are my brother and I putting the finishing touches on the quilt. Me, the binding, and he, the label. (This picture entertains me so, the surgeon doing hand stitching.)

Here is a broader view of the quilt, off the back deck of my brother's house.  A house my Dad built for them. My Dad is a builder, always has been. He is one of those guys that doesn't know how not to work, so he is always happy to be putting something together. Of late, he's been spending some time with crochet hooks instead of hammer and nail. 

Now, some details. This is part of the flower patch. A 2 inch checkerboard, with free motion quilting. See those little flowers interspersed here and there?

This is the house. Baba and Dido's house was this tiny house that my Dad himself help build, probably back in high school. It was probably less than 500 square feet. It consisted of a sitting room, an eat-in kitchen, one bedroom plus another sleeping area, and an entry/pantry. At some point my Dad added on another room, creating two bedrooms in total. And I still remember, back in the 80s, when the bathroom, and running water, was added.

It was quite a shock to the system to visit the house - we were suburban kids. I hated using the outhouse, and our arrival meant sleeping in stuffy beds, listening to the drinking and yelling of Ukrainian visits. Even to this day, it shows me what one can do in a small house.

On two sides of the house was a boardwalk made of wood. A small forest was on the back side, and a small lawn on the front.  Otherwise the house was surrounded by garden.

No Ukrainian garden would be complete without dill and onions! Each of the veggies in the garden was quilted individually, with some brown, tight stipple in between.  In fact, looking at these close-ups, you will see that each section was quilted individually.  I would say I used at least 20 different threads throughout the quilt. Time-consuming and frustrating at times, but worth it.
The white picket fence that led up to the house was a perfect spot to really personalize the quilt. I practiced my cursive writing and put the family's names on the fence. This frames the yard with the picnic table, complete with a box of drying onions on it.

This Toe-Catcher photo shows the slough/dug out at the front of the property, complete with the little dock where we stood to gather water for the garden. Or where we caught frogs to freak out my Mom.

This is the label for the quilt. My brother is a label star. He found the grain elevator image. It was perfect because both my parents grew up across the street from the grain elevator. He played with the image, adding the town name and the necessary details about the quilt.

And here we are sharing the quilt with Dad, at a family brunch. It was presented with little fuss, but we all spent a lot time pouring over the details. I didn't see any tears from my Dad, but that isn't surprising. He's a gruff, tough man. But he knew what it was right away and definitely appreciated it. I only hope that it keeps him warm for all his upcoming naps on the couch.
(This quilt shared as part of the Spring 2010 Blogger's Quilt Festival.)

Birthday Dinner

It's my birthday and I'll cook if I want to.

After last week's miss of a good Sunday dinner, I cooked dinner tonight, even though it was my birthday. Oh, and I also was the one who got out of bed with the girls in the morning too. And cleaned up after dinner.  Let the record state that I only wanted to cook dinner.

Dinner tonight was a simple roast chicken. I adore roast chicken. It is about one of the easiest things you can make. I mean that, it is so damn easy.

1. Take chicken out of plastic.
2. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry.
3. Fill chicken cavity with garlic, fresh herbs of any variety, and fruit (lemon, apple, grapefruit - cut in quarters).
4. Drizzle chicken with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, or a spice blend.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes per pound in a 350 degree F (preheated oven).
6. When the leg moves freely and the juices run clear when the skin is pierced near the wing the chicken is done. Let rest for 20 minutes. Eat.

Tonight I roasted my chicken with garlic, rosemary, and a grapefruit. (We're out of lemons.) And I rubbed the skin with an Ethiopian Berbere spice blend that Aimee gave me. Oh, yum. Served with a pile of Gull Valley tomatoes tossed with Fairwinds Farm Goat Feta and the first of the Edgar Farms asparagus it was an easy, tasty, and ridiculously local dinner.

Good food aside, it is my birthday, so cake was necessary.  Hubby was willing to bake a simple chocolate cake, but I convinced him to pick up something at the market today. A Caramel Chocolate Tart from The Bakery at the Calgary Farmer's Market. Love the Wacky Cake, Hubby, but that tart was definitely better.

So the drama of split milk and singing Happy Birthday later, we finished the night with the first backyard fire of the season. 

Now that's a Sunday dinner!

19 May, 2010

Workshop in Progress - May 19

Okay, I'm a little perplexed.  Or maybe not. I got my quilt back from the Invitational Show at Quilt Canada. And this label was pinned on.  Is it normal protocol to attach the label from a show to a quilt? Or do people merely hang on to these in a special spot/lose them in the mess of their sewing space?

Now, all around the web this week people have been talking process.  I love it! Thank-you all for taking on the challenge and the pledge.

Elle is busy, as always, on a sunny couple of quilts. In her post this week she is playing around with fabric choices.  It is really fun to see what's in and what's out.  Do you share her conclusions?

The inspiration for Elle's piece came from Sue. Now Sue is asking for input on the placement of design on her fantastic stripes and circles. This is a quilt after my own heart.

How cute is this? Katie completed her super family in cross stitch.  Any thoughts on whether she should add to the final design or not?

Our other Katie in the workshop is debating sashing choices this week. She's come up with some very different looks.  Which one is your favourite?

There are two other posts I wanted to share here. They really fall in line with the emphasis on process that Rossie and I are trying to encourage.

Elizabeth at Oh Fransson had a wonderful post on her thinking and process with her latest project - getting her bee blocks together.  Even for her, she admits, it was a change to step back and document her thinking.  But to see an artist and designer like her share with readers all these little steps and thought is fantastic!  Thanks Elizabeth!

And finally, I wanted to share Jacquie's experiment here. This is a wonderful example of crowd sourcing in the Quilting 2.0 universe. Jacquie asked her readers to pick a fabric and name an inspiration for her next project.  If that isn't a perfect example of modern quilting then I don't know what is.

17 May, 2010

New Inspiration

For Smilosarus' birthday the other day we got her some Crayon Rocks. Hubby was very skeptical about my on-line purchase from Stubby Pencil Studio.  You see, we have a ridiculous amount of markers, coloured pencils, and crayons all over the house. 

Markers and crayons, however, cannot be used without supervision because a certain small, smiley girl will either write on the walls, eat them, or break them. And there just doesn't seem to be enough satisfaction for her with the pencils. I figured it couldn't hurt to try these Crayon Rocks.

What a huge success!  They are perfect for little hands, easy to clean up, and not one has made their way into a mouth yet. And the colours! True and lovely. She handed me a pile of them yesterday and I was struck by the random combination in my hand.  A new project?

16 May, 2010

Best intentions

Woohoo! We had some hot, sunny weather this weekend. That called for doing almost nothing. Okay, I did little while Hubby worked hard to get the swing set completed.

Grandma was down for visit yesterday, so we sat in the sunshine enjoying a cocktail or two and visiting in between pushes on the swings and loads of "Watch me, ______!" I browsed cookbooks and finally made my current obsession, a Negroni.

And, as far as cooking goes, making a cocktail was about as far as I got. Grandma took us out for dinner last night. Tonight I got home from an afternoon meeting ridiculously late.  Hubby had already ordered pizza, so the planned steak and ice cream were shot down. Oh, and I should clarify that by making the cocktail I actually mean I told Hubby what to do from the comfort of my chair in the backyard.

What? I took my first walk yesterday in 4 months, I earned the rest. And the drink.


Lemon or grapefruit

1. Mix together equal parts of each alcohol. Serve with a twist of lemon or, my preference, pink grapefruit.

(PS  That David Rocco book is surprisingly pretty good to read, and inspiring.)

14 May, 2010

Birthday Treats

It was Smilosaurus' birthday yesterday. This daredevil, evil genius child of mine is now 2. I'm not at all prepared for it. I don't have a baby any more and that's kind of tough to accept. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that she is an itty bitty thing, and the thought of cakes on birthdays.

We'd initially planned a low key day.  I was at a conference for work, running into doppelgangers of ex boyfriends and nervously parking behind Ferraris. Hubby was lost in a pile of wood and hardware, putting together our new swing set. But on the way home from work I felt like we simply needed a cake for dinner. 

This cake needed to be more than a carrier for icing. Yes, icing is really the best part, but I was actually craving cake and I was hoping to make the girls like it for once. Knowing that I'd preemptively bought cream so I could make ice cream this weekend I decided I would make a simple butter cake and serve it with cream.  Nothing fancy, but just the right amount of pomp befitting a two year old.

So I turned to a classic recipe in this house, one I've made a half dozen times in the year or so since I've had the recipe. Lemon Glazed Butter Cake comes from a treasured Gourmet before they folded. And yes, the girls helped me make the cake. Is it wrong that that kid had to make her own cake? Maybe.  But in my defense, she wanted to.

In my world, one of the best flavour combos is lemon and white chocolate. So I served our cake with white chocolate cream.

The Monster loved the cake so much she ate two pieces and left most of the cream of the side. And Smilosaurus merely played with her cake, rubbing it into her dirty, bare legs as if it was lotion.  So, I think she liked it too. Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

White Chocolate Cream

4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Place chopped chocolate in a sturdy bowl.  Heat 1/2 cup cream on the stove or in the microwave until hot, but not scalding.  Pour over chocolate and stir immediately. Chocolate should melt with stirring.  If it doesn't, heat, in bowl, over a small pot of simmering water until melted. Let cool until room temperature.
2. When the chocolate mixture is cool, whip remaining cream with a sturdy whisk and bowl or an electric mixer. Whip until it starts to fluff up and the beaters/whisk leave marks in the cream. Slowly whisk/beat in the chocolate cream, beat until the cream reaches the desired whipped cream consistency.  Serve immediately. Alternatively, you can refrigerate it for a white chocolate mousse.

Shout Out

Nothing homemade today.  No more digressions on modern quilting.  Just a simple shout out to my baby girl.  Smilosaurus turned two yesterday.

I've been choked with nostalgia, yes, nostalgia, over where we were two years ago.  First, in anticipation of the birth.  On Mother's Day I remembered being in early labour. I laughed over my water breaking in the proverbial gush as I stood up during a conference call (from home, thankfully!) I fondly reminisced about the walks we took to get labour going when it seemed all contractions stopped. I cringed just a little at the memory of the nurses, shocked because we stopped at Starbucks on the way to the hospital.  Hey, it was early!

What I did not feel nostalgic about was the actual final push of labour.  Not fun.  Not fun at all. But then I had my sweet little girl.  She nestled in right away and was nursing within minutes. The second time around you are so much more relaxed and can actually appreciate so many of those little moments. Like her big sister, not even two herself, walking in the room after not seeing me for a few days and only having eyes for her little sister.

I could write a love letter to my daughter right here, but I took care of that already and tucked it into her momento box.  Instead I will share my favourite picture from yesterday and simply say, Happy Birthday Smilosaurus!

12 May, 2010

Workshop in Progress - May 12

Let's change things up a little bit, shall we? The Workshop in Progress has always been about sharing our works, asking for advice/opinions. Following on the dialogue that started and you can follow here and here, I've decided we should expand the WIP to include more on process.

By process I mean sharing our ideas from inspiration to completion.  This will include things like sketches - as seen above - picking fabric, playing with layouts, challenges with piecing, and even the finishing touches.

I feel like I've been doing this on the blog for quite a while, but I am committed to a much more conscious effort on this. That's why I've included the sketches today.  I have a few commission orders on the go and these were my sketches and notes on my ideas to fill the orders. 

As you can see, sketching is not my forte. But a couple of quick squiggles with a set of markers that are just mine and a few notes and I can capture the idea as I see it. While I do have a notebook that I carry around with me for anything and everything, it doesn't get a lot of sketches into it. Most of my sketches are either like above - on office paper, made at my day job desk - or they are quick scratches in the back of my work notebook. Yes, I do seem to get most of my ideas in the midst of my day job.  Daydreaming? So I make a two minute sketch, set it aside, and resume my work.

How do you capture your ideas?

Speaking of branching out and learning something... Okay, that was a horrible segue. But we do need to share Lesly's latest quilt top.  She's brought it to the workshop before and it is great to see the progression on this piece. This time she is looking for opinions on the appropriate back - one that compliments the front and makes her feel good about the piece.

And here's a technical question for you from Nichole.  What needles do you use? (Schmetz here, size depends on the task and thread at hand.)

So, let's see your process posts.  Don't be shy. Learning how others approach their projects is eye opening and refreshing. Sharing your process is liberating.

10 May, 2010

Spring to Finish Check-in

Hubby gave me a lovely Mother's Day present this week.  He let me go to my full guild day on the weekend, without complaining about it.  This, after I was more or less gone for a week with Quilt Canada. Such a sweetie.

That meant I could get this top done! It is my Values Quilt Along, only months and months late. My lovely models helped me photograph the quilt in the breeze we had last night. To be honest, I like this perspective of the quilt.  The design pops - meaning, I did it right! But up close? I'm still not sure.  Maybe I should have been more selective about the scraps I picked? I can say that I don't see this as the end of any focus on value.  There is a lot to be done here yet.

And the quilting on my Dad's quilt continues. I would say I am about half done now.  Not bad for a week of only random hours to work on it. If I can keep the sanity level in check with a deadline and Smilosaurus' birthday it might be ready for binding in a week.  Well, it has to be really because I plan on delivering it in less than two weeks!

Above is a detail from the garden and below is the white picket fence. I was able to quilt the names of all us kids, daughter and son-in-law, grandkids, and my mom along the fence.  It's a bit of a different touch. But man, did it ever remind me why I don't cursive right.  I actually had to look up how to do a couple of letters!

As for the rest of my Spring to Finish challenges...Well, other than the sketches for my doll quilts and the purchase of more amazing African fabrics to add to the Slaveship quilt nothing has happened. Everything is about my Dad's quilt.  But Hubby is away next week, so I'll get some quality quilting time in then.

Speaking of those sketches, tune in to the Workshop on Wednesday. I plan to expand what I include there to take in even more discussion and transparency about process. This falls out of the great dialogue happening on my post from last week and a follow-up Rossie posted. Make sure you check them out, lots to think about.

09 May, 2010

Sunday Dinners

After spending a week away from my family at a Quilt Conference all I wanted to do last week was cook dinner and sit down with my family.  I wanted to chaos of an almost 2 year old emptying her plate on her stylish Marimekko placemat. I wanted Hubby and I to try and talk about renovations, family, and playground sizes over two children screaming, "Mega, mega, mega!" I wanted to have the 'what animals can you kill to eat?' discussion again, and again. And on top of that, I wanted a little kitchen time to set-up this crazy thing called The Family Dinner.

Despite the fact that we have two overly energetic kids it is extremely important that we sit down to dinner together every night.  Yup, every night.  Our kids are too young for the near constant drain on our gas tank as we chauffeur them to a million activities, and lord help us if we become those parents anyway. When we sit down we are there to stay, until every last bite is eaten by every single person. And then you must be asked to be excused before you even think about a foot straying from the table.

It may seem old fashioned to be strict about these dinner time rules, but in the end it makes dinner less stressful and far more consistent in the long run. As an added bonus, it means our kids are quite used to and more than able to sit in a restaurant without being too crazy and disruptive to other patrons, for at least an hour. 

Reminder - our kids are about to be 2 and 4. And no, they aren't angels, far from it. But we've got dinnertime almost settled. You take your victories where you can as a parent.

So I am starting a new feature on Backseat Gourmet. Sunday Dinner. For many of us, Sunday might be the only day of the week where everyone is actually home at the same time. Or at least the only day where that might be possible. So every Sunday, or most at least, I will share some Sunday dinner inspiration.

It was awfully convenient then, that a new crop of cookbooks arrived last weekend. With a cup of tea I settled in for some browsing.  At the top of the stack was Rose Reisman's Family Favourites. I've had some of her cookbooks in the past and never got too excited by them. This one, however, immediately grabbed me because of her emphasis on the family dinner.  And then 40 pages of discussion on healthy eating, cooking with the family, and shopping tips.

Flipping through the book I can say that I wasn't overly excited by the dessert section - yes, of course I went there first - but the vegetable side dishes and soups had me very, very interested. So I picked up mint and goat cheese at the market.

The first recipe I made was mashed potatoes with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes. I wanted this to be so good, and maybe it could have been.  But I didn't have Yukon Golds and I now disagree with the recipe in adding the chopped tomatoes before you mash. So, mine were dry, but still tasty.

But the Molasses-Coated Carrots with Mint? Holy hell, these were good. Flavourful and refreshing, without the overpowering taste of any one ingredient. I used the regular old organic carrots that I can find at this time of year, but cut smaller and adjusted the cooking time. Carrots deluxe, but still fresh with that carrot taste. An instant classic in my books. And it will certainly be making regular appearances at our house, Sunday or not.

Molasses-Coated Carrots with Fresh Mint
Serves 6
Excerpted with permission from Rose Reisman's Family Favourites
Published by Whitecap Books 2010

1 lb thin carrots (about 6 inches long), peeled and trimmed
2 Tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp sherry wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

1. Place the carrots in a large saucepan or skillet. Cover with water and boil for 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain well and return to the saucepan.
2. Whisk together the molasses, vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. Add to the carrots and saute over high heat for 5 minutes or until the sauce is heated through and the carrots are coated. Place on a platter, garnish with fresh mint and serve.

06 May, 2010

Throwback - A Digression

I'm not a quilt history expert, I'm just pretending to be one right now. After a week of browsing the quilts and exhibits of Quilt Canada I am very tempted to stand up and declare that there is no such thing as modern quilting.

Hold on, so far I only said I was tempted to say it.

Let's take a few steps back. You've heard me say before that I don't like to believe that I have a style in the quilts I do. To me a style meant that you could look at one of my quilts and instinctively know it was mine, or a rip off. I'd like to think I am adventurous enough to try lots of different things and that I can't be pinned down. (Pardon the pun.)

My first observation in having a quilt hung in the Invitational Show at Quilt Canada and seeing it up there next to some 500 or 600 other quilts is that I do kind of have a style. Or at least what I did was markedly different from 99% of what was there. It isn't that this makes me unique, just unique among participants at the show. It forced me to step back and examine the bulk of my quilts and realize that while you can't pin me down on colours, layout, or techniques, you can accuse me of bold, simple designs. Repetition of shapes or construction methods (improv) is quite common in most of what I do. So, maybe after all, I do have a bit of a style.

It pains me to admit that and my rebellious nature means I am aching to do something precise and varied in design. That will have to wait until I finish this thing.

The next observation I made is that I am not likely to ever, or at least in the near to mid-term future, likely to show well in a big, conventional show. I'm not saying I won't enter, I just doubt I would show well. There was one Gees Bend inspired quilt in the National Juried show, but that's it. The rest of it demonstrated some phenomenal quality, but only about 1% of it was something I would love to try. Just like machine quilting was a big deal when it started entering in shows in the 80s, it might be a while before a quilter like me could show well.

And I am really only referring to design here because - not to toot my own horn - I think my technique is pretty close in comparison. Except for maybe hand applique and some details, but I'm okay with that. Most people are intimidated by a big show, but I found it confidence inspiring that, barring quilting the life out of my pieces, my skills are pretty good.

So I crutched around the show - admiring quality work, intrigued by the crazy use of layering techniques, blown away by teeny tiny stippling - but I didn't get overly excited by much. There was an incredible 3D piece that resembled a diorama that was absolutely incredible, but that was it. Here I was, in the face of the current show quilt world of Canada these days and I was kind of bored. It was as if I'd met my good-on-paper- guy and realized that we had nothing in common. Pretty to look at it, but nothing to talk about. And certainly no chemistry.

Lest you think I am being disparaging of the artists, let me say that I have nothing but great things to say about the artists, teachers, and quilters I met. They were the inspiring ones, as people.

My last stop on the quilt show tour was an exhibit that was displaying antique sewing machines, furniture, and quilts. And it felt like I was kind of entering a comfortable place, even in a convention center. It should be noted that I am a mid-century modern girl, so it wasn't the antiques. Rather, it was the quilts. Simple, bold, clear colours (despite their age), repetitive designs, and almost exactly what you see being made with newer fabric all around the blogosphere of modern quilters.

Seriously, this display could have almost been a display of quilts from many a popular blogger today. And here we are on the internet flogging modern quilting like it is something we just made up. Yes, the importance of history and tradition is acknowledged, but people often come to modern quilting as either an evolution or rebellion from traditonal quilting. Well, I would now argue that modern quilting is actually just really, really traditional quilting. Before people got caught up in intricate pieced patterns with a million different templates and detailed quilting.

Oh, and just because you throw the word wonky or improv in front of it doesn't necessarily make it modern.

Did you know machine quilting is not an invention of the last 20-30 years? People were doing it over 100 years ago. You just don't see many examples of it because most of it was grid quilting and those quilts served as functional quilts, likely loved and used to death. Thank-you Sue Nickels for this tidbit and example. Okay, none of us think straight lines are new, but it may be argued that the prevalent use of straightline quilting is on the rise among self-described modern quilters (and almost non-existent at the show).

What else is on the rise? Easy, fast quilts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but I got a great kick out of Mark Lipinski commenting that if the world came to an end but the quilts made it, the next inhabitants of the planet would think our arts were limited to Turning Twenty patterns! He pushed for quilters to return to a little complexity, to take the time on our pieces, to savour the process.

I would add that blogging might make the churn worse. We all want content, right? I don't know many who quilt for the sake of blogging, but ask yourself if you pick simpler projects just to have something to post? At least every now and then? Or, ask yourself how some of your favourite bloggers manage to finish so many quilts? Lifestyle aside, look at the quilts and the detail of the quilting they post.

So, this whole modern quilting thing. I can say for sure that I have a new perspective on it. And I don't think it is as revolutionary as some think it is. It really is a throwback to the traditional, traditional quilting, as this post also mentions. Just with prettier fabrics. (Although, really, so many of the popular designer fabrics are very vintagy, but with modern colours.)

I'm not coming down on the movement. It really is a movement, fueled by the internet. That's why the Modern Quilt Guild is so fascinating to me. From the internet grew a community that is now spreading like wildfire into the traditional guild model. This is awesome because no matter how much we share online (too much, at times) real connections with real people matter. Without it would be like doing nothing but designing quilts on the computer and never playing with fabric.

Beyond that, I think one of the best things about the movement is that it, and the proliferation of such bold fabrics, is bringing younger quilters to the sewing machines. And trust me, after a week with a whole bunch of 50-60 something women who complain their daughters and granddaughters don't want to quilt, this is a very good thing. And who knows, in time, we may be the ones winning ribbons? One day there may indeed be a Throwback category.

Artists, in order of appearance:
1. Forgot to record this one, apologies.
3. Me, in front of Grass
5. Cheryl A. Bock
6. Annette Johnston
7. Forgot to record this one, but it is a Heritage Park Quilter of Distinction
8. Sharon Stoneman
9. Various Antique quilts
10. More various Antique quilts
11. Forgot to record this antique one as well.
12. Flossie Douglas