30 July, 2010

All Organic

Well, I caved and bought more fabric. Not a good idea with some major changes facing our family. I just felt, however, that this project needed something specific. That is, I needed to use more organics to combine with my Daisy Janie fabrics.

I've got the design sketched out and I will test the technique this weekend. First, though, I need to source some organic or sustainably made thread. Any sources out there that you know of?

Season by Season

It's been a rough, rough couple of weeks in the Arkison household. Give us a few more weeks and we should be back on track.

This week, however, as been for snuggles, rest, and comfort. But a family can't live on ice cream alone. Is there any other summer comfort food? The other day I was desperate for a peach, I wanted the juice to drip off my chin and the scent to tickle my nose with summer pleasure. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that we were driving through Peachland on our way home from a funeral.

In sharing with a friend she mentioned that the only way to get through times like this is day by day, then season by season. As a food obsessed kind of gal, seasons are a strong marker in our lives. We eat by the seasons, therefore we live by the seasons. And I'm someone who is hard pressed to actually pick a favourite season (although I usually answer winter, when asked.) So as we recover from the latest round of flurries to the solar plexus I sought comfort in summer.

This is my Baba's raspberries and cream. Smilosaurus called it ice cream and The Monster declared she didn't like it. To me it was my Baba's old people smelling hug in a stifling house, arms covered in scratches from the raspberry canes. It was the weeks in the summer we were sent to Saskatchewan, which we hated at the time, but now I cherish. It was family, it was generations, it was summer treats.

Oddly, I used frozen raspberries for this. It was what I had. And, to be honest, it was what we usually used if it wasn't that exact berry season.  Strawberries work equally well. If you are using frozen berries, thaw first and drain off excess juice. Baba usually used regular white sugar, but I like mine with brown for that punch of extra flavour.

Berries and Cream

Equal parts mashed berries and sour cream or farm cream
Sugar to taste.

1. Stir together. Eat. Be comforted.

26 July, 2010

City Quilts Winners

I'm back with the City Quilts and Robert Kaufman winners!

Thank-you so much for joining me and the other hosts for a great blog tour for Cherri House's new book, City Quilts.

The City Quilts book winner is:


Sandi at A Legacy of Stitches come on down! 

The Robert Kaufman fabric bundle winner is:


Stephanie from SeaSteph's Creations.

Congratulations to the winners here and in all the blog tour spots. And congratulations to Cherri for sharing a fantastic first book with us!

20 July, 2010

First Delivery

The first set of doll quilts were delivered last week. There is always some anxiety, especially when people have given me free reign on design. But this was part of the email I received:

Truly wonderful beyond words. I cannot take my eyes off them, even as I type with them on my lap and not wanting to put them away! So worth the wait!

And suddenly the stress goes away.

18 July, 2010

Summer Sunday Dinner

After a weekend of landscaping - well, a weekend of mostly providing snacks, lemonade, and advice while Hubby did some landscaping - I thought I should treat the man with a good dinner. Steak was too obvious. Then I remembered that our old summer ritual has been neglected since the girls arrived. Time to bring out the lobster.

Back story:

Hubby and I met 15 years ago. We started dating once I finished undergrad a year later. He came to visit me in Halifax. See, I was going to keep working at my organic vegetarian bakery cafe job and save money to go to Europe. Then he decided to visit. After spending a week driving around Nova Scotia, eating lobster along the way, I knew there was no way I would get to Europe. 

So, a few days after he left and more than a few boxes of Kleenex later I booked myself a plane ticket West, packed up all my University belongings, and called him. We chatted for a bit, then I asked him what he was doing the next night. When he replied that he had nothing going on I suggested me might want to pick me up at the airport. Like a good man he asked why I was coming to Edmonton. And like a brave, slightly stupid 21 year old I simply answered, "You."

One plane ride, a short soap opera, 14 years, and 2 kids later I still say it was the dumbest and best thing I ever did.

And every summer since we've treated ourselves to a lobster dinner. Indeed, this is more of an anniversary than our actual wedding anniversary. Tonight we brought the girls into our tradition.

That may have been a very, very bad idea. The Monster was all excited to buy the lobsters with me, happily carrying them and showing them off to Daddy. The girls are quite fascinated with the lobsters at the market and are wickedly curious about them. This fact alone could not prepare me for the abject terror Smilosaurus had when actually face to face with a lobster.

I should have been sympathetic to her tears, but I was only reminded of her Dad, on that first trip to Nova Scotia. The last night of his visit we decided to buy lobsters and cook them at home. I pulled them out of the box and held them out for Hubby to inspect. The guy seriously jumped and ran away, screaming, "Get it away! Get it away!" I, being the little snot that I am, then chased him with the lobsters while he threw anything available in my direction. And that was the week I discovered about the only thing Hubby is afraid of - live lobsters (he blames his mother). All I could do was giggle with memory as my baby girl cried and cowered in fear.

Yes, I'm still a little snot.

We thought everything would be fine once the lobsters were cooked. I steamed them (do not ever boil your lobsters) for about 12 minutes. The same amount of time the corn was on the grill. I made a salad of green and baby beets from our CSA delivery, with some peaches, basil, and toasted pecans. We sat down to eat and the terror re-emerged. She couldn't stop screaming. Even when we told her she didn't have to have any and that the lobsters were dead. Terrified was the word of dinner. 

Rather than have her tears destroy what should have been a fantastic dinner we put her in her bed and let her read books while the rest of us ate a very lovely, yummy meal. She joined us for a bit of corn and salad. Lucky girl, because then it meant she was allowed dessert. And that was worth setting the fear aside. Ice cream sandwiches made with this lime ice cream and Digestive biscuits. 

Oh, I guess I should clarify that Hubby is no longer afraid of live lobsters, but he would still prefer I don't hold them anywhere near him.

16 July, 2010

No line-ups

It's Stampede Week in Calgary. That means the locals and tourists alike are dressed in their ugliest Western wear and worn once a year cowboy boots. If you are under the drinking age you've eaten too much sugar. If you are close to or over the drinking age you've likely drank far too much. Maybe you actually went to the Rodeo or the Chuckwagon Races. Maybe. But most definitely you've eaten pancakes at some point this week.

A long standing Stampede tradition  is the pancake breakfast. Nearly every church, business, mall, and charity seems to have a pancake breakfast during the 10 days of Stampede. You could literally eat your way across the city in carbs. You might be lucky and get a strip of bacon embedded in your pancake, but no syrup. Or you might get fantastic Indian food on the side. But 99% of the time you are going to get a flat, insipid pancake. And only after standing in line being jostled by the impatient and hungover.

It is my personal mission to keep the girls from knowing Stampede even exists for as long as possible. This means I can avoid early mornings to beat the crowds at the Parade, the expense and crowds of the midway, the crowds of people dressed badly, and the inevitable questions about why that girl has no shirt on and can I take mine off too?

Call me a spoil sport. Tell me I have bad civic pride (I wasn't raised here, I'm allowed to judge - I'm from Edmonton after all). Heck, you can even call me a mean mom. I'll take it. And then I will turn around and make my girls pancakes at home - with real maple syrup and no crowds.

There is a mystique around pancakes. It is quite easy to make them well, yet there is a proliferation of bad pancakes in the world. This is the basic recipe, the one you make for dinner when you have no energy, the one you make for a weekday breakfast, the one you dress up with blueberries and rainbow sprinkles for Sunday brunch. You can easily swap out half the flour with whole wheat, change the sugar to brown, and use whatever kind of milk you have on hand. They will be golden and fluffy every time.

Easiest Pancakes Ever

Makes 1 dozen medium sized pancakes

1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 heaping tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
1 cup milk

1. Mix together dry ingredients.
2. Mix together melted butter with milk and egg. Add to dry ingredients and whisk well. Let it sit while you heat up your frying pan.
3. Heat frying pan on medium-low heat. You should be able to hold your hand over the pan for at least 5 seconds without it being too hot. Spray the pan with oil, non-stick spray, or melt some butter. 
4. Spoon batter into hot pan into desired pancake size. Then leave them alone until the bubbles that form on the surface start to pop. Flip them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
5. Serve with soft butter and maple syrup. Or jam, or fruit, or any syrup of choice.

A New Project!

It seems like forever since I started a new project. I'm almost finished with the doll quilts. And the Blog Tour this week is making me desperate to try some new, graphic designs. Alas, I have one more commission quilt to get done. It's okay though, I am really excited for this one.

A few months back one of my old book club friends contacted me. She's moved away and is now expecting her first baby. I was lucky, she said she loved my style and asked if I would make her a quilt. She gave me free reign after asking for something bold, bright, modern, and just a bit girly. I knew immediately what I wanted to do. This is my initial fabric pull, and more to join in soon.

Tomorrow I have the WHOLE day to myself. Hubby is taking the girls out, then the Calgary Modern Quilt Guild is meeting. Nothing but sewing, and maybe a little nap. Now, if only would come clean my house for me today so I don't feel obligated to do that too.

12 July, 2010

City Quilts - Welcome to the Blog Tour

Welcome to the first stop on the City Quilts Blog Tour! And welcome to Naptime Quilter for all you new visitors. I am extremely pleased to be joining the rest of the blog tour crew. And I am very excited to share this book with you.

If you haven't had a chance to pick up City Quilts yet, make sure you enter here and everywhere else on the tour for your chance to win a copy. One copy at every stop, courtesy of C&T Publishing! And fabric too, courtesy of Robert Kauffman!

City Quilts is a really interesting book. Cherri House takes her hometown, Houston, as the main inspiration for the projects in the book. But with her work being exclusively in solid fabrics, there is a distinct Amish/Gees Bend influence. City Quilts is a fantastic example of modern quilting with a very strong grounding in tradition.

To be honest, I expected it to be a book of patterns only, but I was more than pleasantly surpised to read so much more. Incredible discussions on inspiration, colour, process, and the melding of traditional and modern/contemporary. I found these discussions detailed and informative. And when it came to the patterns, I loved reading about Cherri's original inspiration and how she translated it into the pattern. Finally, Cherri encourages her readers to play, to try new things and adapt her patterns into their own ideas. As someone who doesn't follow patterns (much) I appreciated this encouragement. And now I have more than a few ideas percolating based on Cherri and her inspiration.

Cherri and I had the opportunity for a little interview. I'd love to share that with you.

What marked the transition for you from a hobby quilter to a professional quilter?
It wasn't a particular accomplishment, it was my work, City News to be exact. It was hanging in Robert Kaufman's booth at Portland Spring Market 2008, and I knew I had done it, I knew the quality of my work surpassed anything I had done before, and that I was in new territory. It was a game changer for me.

Do you think you would be the quilter you are without the internet and blogging?
Yes, absolutely. I had been quilting since the early 80's, always trying to push myself, and improve my skills. What the internet and blogging has brought to me is the quilting community. I'm a pretty solitary person in terms of my quilt work, the term social butterfly would never apply to me. So, having the internet and blogging has given me a group globally that I haven't cultivated locally.
My LQS carries my patterns, and my book. Plus, I have taught locally for years, mostly privately, but I have started teaching at my LQS, which has been really exciting! Yes, having an online pattern business has been wonderful... the other night I filled orders for customers in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Canada (!), everywhere... Through the internet having a worldwide audience is possible, and attainable for my book and patterns.

City Quilts is great at documenting your inspiration. Once you have your inspiration, what is your process for translating that into a quilt?
After I have the inspiration, it is a matter of finding or creating a quilt pattern that will translate and mesh with the inspiration. the quilt City Circles was inspired by city traffic, but in a quilt book based on squares and rectangles, an actual circular quilt pattern wouldn't do. The Shoo-fly quilt block is made with squares and rectangles but appears circular, so it was the perfect fit. The actual block patterns are the vehicle to translate inspiration into a quilt.

When does the colour scheme/picking fabric come into the process?
There isn't just one answer for me - it's kind of a 'chicken or the egg thing'. Sometimes I want to make a green quilt, so the color/fabric will come first, everything else will follow. Other times I will design what I think is a great quilt, and with EQ6 I'll try different colorways to determine what looks best. If I'm working with a manufacturer or magazine, I may have very little say in the matter, and I create something within the parameters someone else has set.

Have you ever considered sharing that process or profiling it on the blog, a la the Process Pledge?
I've read about the pledge process and I've thought about participating, but then I think, "would someone care, would someone be interested in why I chose orange over red?" I'm happy to share whatever is going on with my work, mistakes and all. Holy crap - as embarrasing as it was, I freely admitted to falling in the lake trying to take a freakin' photo of a quilt. A core belief I've always had, is that I'm not competing with anyone but myself. I'll never be able to knock out as many quilts as ________, my machine quilting with never match ______. All I can do is better than the quilt before, the pattern before, the book before - it is a journey and through blogging I am able to share that journey.

There is a lot of discussion these days online and in print about the modern quilt movement. You are a member of the Modern Quilt Guild and City Quilts is undoubtedly considered a modern book.  Do you make this distinction yourself, between modern and traditional?
This is a touchy subject for me, which seems kind of silly. Yes, I am a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, I started the Houston chapter. Yes, City Quilts is considered a modern book - which is great! But where I get a little iffy is the "modern" thing - what is modern? If I'm asked to identify my quilting self, I say that I create 'contemporary' quilts. I don't say 'modern', and I don't say 'art', I state that I make contemporary quilts based on traditional patterns. Everything about what I do is traditional in the terms of piecing, and technique. Maybe I'm an orphan quilter, I don't belong with the traditional group, and I'm not sure if I belong with the modern group. Seems silly to be at such a loss for a definition but there it is.

As I mention in the book, my first appreciation of solids was through an exhibit of Amish quilts at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. That a solid colored fabric could produce quilts that glowed was mind blowing to me. I also had a huge appreciation for the timelessness of Amish quilts. There are quilts from the 1800 and 1900's that look like contemporary works of art.

In regards to the simple block construction in the book, I have a passion for helping quilters to understand that simple doesn't mean boring. There are many books and patterns for beginning quilters that are a complete snoozefest! There is no need for that - we need to elevate quilting, and elevate our work. 

Thanks Cherri, for a very interesting and inspiring book, and a great interview.

To enter the draw for the prizes - a copy of City Quilts courtesy of C&T Publishing and a Fat Quarter Stack of Kona Solids from Robert Kaufman - please leave a comment on this post. Only comment once please, and make sure you have an email attached to your comment so I have a way to contact you. I'll keep the draw open until the end of the blog tour, that's on July 24, midnight MST.

Don't forget to visit the rest of the hosts for more from Cherri and more chances to win.

July 15  Pat Sloan
July 16  Spool 
July 17  Robert Kaufman
July 18  Fat Quarterly
July 20  Sewer/Sewist
July 21   Jaybird Quilts
July 22   Spun Sugar Quilt
July 23  Juicy Bits
July 24  Kim Kight

Enjoy the tour, and City Quilts!

11 July, 2010


Well, this was no leisurely Sunday dinner. When Hubby got out of bed this morning he suggested a little day trip to Banff. His aching bones and sore neck were calling for a soak in the Hot Springs. And his tummy was calling for his favourite eggs benny at Bison. So I put my massive Sunday to do list aside and we loaded up.

Just one quick stop at the market for my special order Tonka Beans from Silk Road Spice Merchants! Oh, and mango lassi for the girls and coffee for him.

We had a great time! Brunch on the upstairs patio, a walk along the Bow River (and partially in it), and a not very leisurely soak in the pool. Hmm, the girls don't quite get the soak concept yet. It was a great day and certainly worth the frantic evening upon our return.

Thankfully, I did think ahead and took out some fish to defrost before we left the house. We picked up a box of fish from Dor-Bel Fine Foods when we went to the inaugural Kingsland Farmers Market. They sell all Ocean Wise fish from the West Coast. I didn't have a clue what Hubby actually took out this morning, so it was all a surprise. As we drove into town I took a mental inventory of the remaining groceries in the house to come up with something.

Hubby told me that it didn't have to be fancy. In my world this doesn't qualify because it took about 10 minutes, but it sure sounds fancy.  

Roasted Sablefish with Cherry Tomatoes.

Chop a clove of garlic, pick some oregano from the garden. Turn on oven to broil. Take a hot pan. Add a bit of olive oil. When the oil is hot add your fish, flesh side down. Leave it for a minute or two until it is sealed and you can easily flip it without sticking. Toss in the garlic, add the dregs of a bottle of white wine. Once that has reduced a bit toss in a pint of cherry tomatoes, the oregano, and season. Place it in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Serve with linguini.

Oh, and the rest of the family had some fresh peas with feta and mint, but I did not touch those. We know how I feel about peas.

09 July, 2010


You've heard me speak of my particular thread love before. Today I am sharing, with the inspiration from Sew Mama Sew, a bit more about thread.

How do you select colours for your personal thread collection?
Unlike fabric, I don't have a thread stash. Rather, I have thread that I've purchased for specific projects and maybe there are some leftovers.

Do you always match the thread perfectly to your project?
Well, that depends on the project. For piecing I use a cream or grey 99% of the time. For quilting it depends on the project at hand and my goals with the quilting.

Do you ever use contrasting thread?
Indeed, I have. I've outlined by hand with black. I've used colour on white, more than once. Or, when you've got a project with strong contrast in fabric choices, you can go one way or the other and you get contrast.

Do you use the same colour in the bobbin as on the top?
Usually, I do. You have to be very good with your tension if you use different threads, and even now I still struggle with this. For example, I constantly fought with tension on my Roots quilt, and it really mattered because I used grey on the back and constantly changed the top thread.

What if a fabric has big areas of very different colours?
Over time I've discovered that I stress way too much about the quilting pattern and thread choice. Especially when it comes to very colourful pieces. The truth is, in many, many quilts the thread and quilting pattern will get lost in a busy design. So, on a multicoloured or busy piece pick one colour and go with it.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on picking thread?
Experiment! Until you know what your machine likes and you've quilted a few times with it, it is hard to narrow down a specific choice of thread based on someone else's recommendation. So, try a few brands, a few needle sizes, and just play. The right thread will make itself known.

Do you ever buy thread because you fall in love with a colour? As an investment?

What types of thread do you have?
I stick entirely to cotton.  My latest obsession is Precensia Mercerized Egyptian Cotton. I love the colours, it works well in my machine, and it doesn't produce a lot of lint. And it doesn't break! I do have some embroidery floss that the girls and I use to play around with embroidery. Thanks to Jen for that!

What about you? What are your thread favourites?

06 July, 2010


This week marks the return to reality. Hubby and I ventured East for a wedding and a bit of a holiday. A much needed holiday. I took no laptop, no sketch book, no crackberry, no little hand project. We didn't even take the girls!

This Mama needed a break from it all. 

Imagine my surprise when in the tiny, tiny village we were staying in I come across a fabric store just a few doors down from the cottage we were in. And get this, I managed to stay away from it for 2 whole days!

I am so glad I finally broke free from all that napping, reading, and cuddling to visit. I ogled the yarn (I still can't manage to knit), browsed the small but varied selection of Lecien, reproductions, 30s, French General, and visited with Jocelyn, the owner. And yes, I bought a few things.

Isn't this the sweetest looking quilt/yarn store ever? This is Stitch.

PS Don't forget to be here on Monday. I'm the first stop in a blog tour for Cherri House's City Quilts. I will share with you a special interview with Cherri, and there will be an opportunity to win both a copy of City Quilts and a special fabric treat from Robert Kauffman. And after me comes a great line-up of hosts. Stay tuned!

Cross Country Preserving

It was supposed to be a vacation. Hubby and I travelled, sans kids, to Ontario this past weekend. We attended the wedding of a very special friend in a ridiculously gorgeous location. The weekend also afforded us the time to take leisurely drives, naps, and meals.

I promised myself that I wouldn't worry about capturing every little food related tidbit along the way. A difficult thing when you spend 3 days in the Niagara Greenbelt. So, my camera hardly came out of the bag, I didn't take a single note, and I even left both my laptop and crackberry at home. This girl needed a vacation from it all - kids, the full time job, the part time job, cooking, cleaning, and simply doing for everyone else but me.

So I read a novel, I ate more than I should have, I slept at many points in the day, I cuddled with my Hubby, and even took a spontaneous helicopter ride over Niagara Falls. It is, however, impossible for me to resist a farm stand. Especially a farm stand that declares the sale of sour cherries.

Remember, it was only last year that I discovered the truth about sour cherries. And I only found them that one time. I promised myself that if I ever discovered them again I would buy in bulk and preserve the bounty.

So I made Hubby reverse the rental car in someone's driveway and pull out his cash. After our day trip the cherries were carefully stored in the hotel mini bar. Then packed in a plastic bin, surrounded by gifted books and craft paper. The bin was taped up and made the journey back West in the cargo hold of the Airbus 320.

When we finally arrived home last night I pulled them out and despite my desire to sleep I spent an hour and a half pitting cherries. But when I make that first cherry pie the effort will be worth it. Sadly, the journey resulted in more than a few casualties. But I still got 11 cups of cherries, enough for 2 quart jars and 2 250 mL jars. I figure that is at least 3 whole pies or more than a small army's supply of cherry hand pies.

Cherry Pie Filling
Makes 1 quart

4-5 cups pitted sour cherries
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsps cornstarch

1. Clean and sterilize jar and lid - if you intend to can and not use right away. Keep hot
2. Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Add cherries all at once and let cook for 5 minutes.
3. Combine cornstarch and a few tablespoons of the liquid from cooking cherries. Stir until smooth. Add to cherries and return to the boil. Let boil 30 seconds.
4. Immediately pour into the hot jar. Seal with clean and sterilized lid. 
5. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water canner.

* Scale up this recipe depending on your total amount of sour pitted cherries.  

02 July, 2010


There are people who cannot start their day without a fresh cup of coffee. In my Hubby's case, it is a Venti Americano from Starbucks. (Oddly, he is too lazy to make a pot of coffee at home, but not too lazy to get in the car and drive to Starbucks or go for a walk with the girls.)

Me, I can't stand coffee. Hate it, hate anything that tastes like it. No mocha, no tiramisu, no chocolate covered coffee beans. And no amount of convincing or tastes of supposedly the best-cup-of-coffee-ever will make me change my mind.

But pour me a boiling hot cup of strong black tea, maybe with a touch of honey, and I am a happy girl. Generally, I have a pot in the morning, and maybe one in the afternoon.  Of late, however, my stomach hasn't been so happy with all that tea. So I have a cup, maybe two, and that's it. I can't break the habit of making an entire pot though.

So I do what any sane Ukrainian girl/miser would do. I pour the leftover tea in a jar and place it in the fridge. With a splash of lemonade or a bit of simple syrup I now have iced tea for an afternoon treat or with dinner.

You could cold brew your iced tea, sure, but frankly, I find that takes too long and uses more tea bags than necessary. And I already have the tea made and it would otherwise go to waste. It is perfect for a picnic or a hot afternoon.
Prepare yourself, I'm contemplating making a quilt from a single fabric line.

Shocked, aren't you?

You see, I won this gorgeous Daisy Jane organic fabric from the Blogger's Quilt Festival. And when it arrived I got to thinking about making a solely organic piece. I know I could mix in some other lines, or at least some solids. It would be a bit of a statement, and somehow it seems wrong to mix it with the conventional stuff.

Kind of like getting organic, local strawberries and making shortcake with Bisquick mix.