31 January, 2011

Snowy Walk in the Forest

We have a rule in this house, totally self-inflicted, that our kids are only allowed one class/activity at a time. It stems, primarily, from our own inherent laziness. It does, however, also make sense that little kids don't need a million activities to grow and learn. We got the play thing down, school is a great for social interaction, and all their good and bad lessons are rooted in time with family and friends.

Now that I've said that, I'm going to contradict myself. The Monster is in skiing lessons right now (which she adores - her word) and an art class. She had the choice of dance, gymnastics, singing, karate, or anything else. She asked for art. That's my girl!

Because I am notoriously late at registering her for things and am often left with little choice I wasn't optimistic when faced with our art class choices. Luck/karma was on my side though. She got into everyone's first choice - Anatomy. Have a mentioned her obsession with human anatomy before? She spends a lot of time with the med school anatomy text book my brother loaned her.

Needless to say, I was quite keen to see what came out of her when she started her class. Last week was all about skeletons and they got to play with actual molding clay. This picture is from her first class. I'm not sure what the goal was, but she tells us it is a picture of her walking through a snowy forest. Uh, okay, if you say so.

I'm not sharing this here to brag about my gifted child (you should see her sad excuse for a t-rex skeleton), rather, to share this awesome design. It reminds me of the one I did here, but just enough different. There is definitely a quilt in this...

30 January, 2011

Friction and Brisket

As I've told you before our dinner conversation is quite often nothing by Daddy and I constantly reminded the girls to stop singing/talking/playing with the forks and start eating. Tonight, however, was different.

The Monster started skiing lessons this morning. We were a bit worried because she has a tendency to be uber frustrated when she can't do something perfectly the first time she tries. Skiing is apparently another story. She loves it so much it wore out her entire body, as she told us.

Dinner conversation tonight was minimal until she'd scarfed down her brisket, broccoli, and last minute request of beets and blood oranges. (Yes, dinner was brought to us by the Letter B.) While we waited for her sister to finish the conversation turned to friction. Some days it's fart jokes, some days it is University level physics.

Hubby and The Monster are discussing friction and how it allows for movement. He launches into a lesson on the difference between static and dynamic friction. And she totally gets it. Scary. At the end of dinner she starts pulling on his arm and this conversation happens:

Hubby: You can't pull me because I have a higher coefficient of static friction.
The Monster: Oh yeah? Well I have superhero friction.
Hubby: What's that?
The Monster: Superhero friction lets me push off and fly.

That's when I served the brownies.

Slow Cooked Maple Cider Brisket
This recipe is adapted from the Edible cookbook. The meat itself was a gorgeous cut from Hoven Farms, but not quite as big as the recipe called for, so I played with it a bit. To be honest, I've never cooked a brisket before. I will be adding it to the regular repertoire from now on. Fantastic! Fork tender, with this almost sweet and sour sauce, this brisket was perfect for this cold, snowy day and a table full of hungry bellies. It served all of us and there is enough left for another family dinner.

1 large red onion
1 tbsp bacon drippings
5 cloves garlic
2 1/2 pound beef brisket
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 cup strong brewed tea (original recipe called for coffee, but I had none)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 water or chicken broth
1 tbsp dijon mustard

1. Slice the onion in half then cut into crosswise strips. Heat the bacon drippings in an oven proof pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook the onion for 5-6 minutes until soft and lightly golden.
2. While the onions are cooking, finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and thinly slice the remaining two cloves. With a sharp knife cut slits all over the brisket. Poke the garlic slices into the slits. Set the brisket aside for the time being.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. When the onions are soft and golden stir in the garlic, salt, oregano, pepper, and chili powder. Cook for 1 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tea/coffee, vinegar, maple syrup, water/stock, and mustard. Bring to a boil.
5. Place the brisket in the sauce, cover with the lid of the pan and place in the oven. Braise for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and continue for braise for 3-4 hours.
6. Let the meat rest 15-30 minutes before slicing. Serve with sauce.

28 January, 2011

Ornamental Organic

You've seen snippets of this quilt before. It was my all organic quilt challenge based on Daisy Janie's Geo Grand fabrics.

Well, Fat Quarterly picked it up and the pattern is in the latest issue. Go here to buy your own copy. The pattern includes a discussion on my challenge in making this all organic. Here's a hint - I almost made it. This is a easy pattern - no curved piecing. The colour possibilities are endless!

And, if you are so inspired, make sure you share any projects you make with the pattern with me and on the Fat Quarterly Flickr page. I'd love to see what you can make.

Thank-you to Amy for sharing the prize draw for me, Jan for her gorgeous fabric, and everyone at Fat Quarterly, especially Tacha.

26 January, 2011

Nutella is Evil

Don't let that fake mom on the commercial fool you - Nutella is evil.

I don't care if you tell me there is a cup of skim milk in an entire jar. Turns out I'm not spreading an entire jar on toast. In reality I'm eating it by the spoonful and keeping the children from even knowing Nutella exists.

Let me make it clear that I've got nothing against treats for my kids. We bake at least once a week, they love their honey sticks, and sugar is not a bad word in this house. But Nutella is like crack. Highly addictive and good for giving you a rush. That rush does not belong on toast - that sounds disgusting - because no kid needs to get used to the idea of a chocolate filling for breakfast.

We are considered strict parents among our family and friends. I've got no problem saying no when my kids ask for something repeatedly. But if they knew Nutella existed a whole new world of begging would emerge. Seeing as I don't have the will power to keep a teaspoon out of the jar then I expect a distinct challenge in the same for my children. They also know how to climb on the counters. Keeping Nutella in the house is simply too dangerous.
Then again, I might ask my husband to hide a jar just so I can make these brownies periodically. Rich and fudgy and the recipe makes the perfect amount to satisfy the craving without leaving you with a pound of baking laying around.

That Abby Dodge is a genius when it comes to the easy dessert. She gave me the permission to share this recipe to you. You may have seen it a million times over already since Desserts 4 Today came out. Maybe not. Either way, you should dig out your own jar of Nutella and scrape out what you've managed to leave behind after your midnight snack.

Nutella Brownies
Makes 12 mini brownies

1/2 cup Nutella
1 egg
5 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a mini muffin tin with 12 papers or liners. (Or spray with non-stick spray.)
2. Whisk the Nutella and egg together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the flour until smooth.
3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Top with chopped nuts.
4. Bake for 11-12 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool completely.

Workshop in Progress - January 26

It's another week in the Workshop.

Thank-you so much for your tips on marking tools. I'm really keen to get one of those Hera tools. For now, I'm still eyeballing things, but I do like the idea of it.

This week I'd actually love it if you could help me out by pointing me to some favourite quilts. I'm in a photography class right now and I'm working on translating the concept of negative space from quilts to my photos. I'd love it if you could share links/photos to quilts you think demonstrate this concept. I know it's a bit different than expected for the Workshop, but sharing ideas is sharing ideas.

Don't forget to share your links here, I'm excited to see what you've got.

24 January, 2011

Blue Birds and Red

I know, so not me, right? But that's the joy of a round robin in a mostly traditional guild. As a result, I'm using up some fabrics in my stash that I never thought would see the light of day, and I'm pushed beyond my comfort zone.

The blue birds were my first round. We were assigned applique for this one. I did think cherries, as per the suggestion of another participant, but went with the birds. I hope she doesn't mind the blue.

This second one was pretty simple as the instructions were for a plain border. Nothing more. There was a touch of red in the plaid background for the snowman, so it was an easy choice out of my stash.

Just a little fun.

23 January, 2011

Rhythm and Apple Pie

It felt good to be back in the kitchen today. An afternoon of crust making, apple peeling, chicken roasting, orange peeling, and even doing the dishes. I honestly can't remember the last time I did that - prepared a proper Sunday dinner.

Today Smilosaurus was very helpful. I'm going to milk that. Her sister was the same way, until she turned 3. Now she isn't as interested in the kitchen. Like all moms, I'm clinging to the adoration of my children while I have it. She helped me rub the freshly roasted hazelnuts in a clean towel, she worked the food processor, tossed the fennel and apples, and stood transfixed as I peeled a blood orange.

Even on the days when I just-want-to-get dinner-on-the-table I'm always happy for her help. Well, except when she decides she needs to salt things. We're used to each other and have already developed our own rhythm. And she's two and a half!

Then today I tried a new recipe - Apple Pie with Chinese Five Spice Powder and Hazelnut Crumb Topping. It was just apple pie, but it wasn't the way I normally make apple pie. It seemed to take forever! A different crust, precooking the filling, and orange juice in the crumble topping?! My rhythm was off, way off. The only part that felt right, felt normal was peeling the apples.

So, it took a little longer. So what? It was damn good apple pie! The 5-spice powder was intoxicating, beyond anything cinnamon every aspires to be. While the crust was mediocre (oh, how I wish I'd stuck with my own pate brisee), the crumble topping was insane. I doubted the orange juice, but that made it sing. No taste of orange, but a heightened hazelnut brightness.

As I followed the recipe to a T, check it out here, from The Nourish Network. Kind of appropriate too, seeing as it was National Pie Day in the US. It fits in with Lauren's Go Ahead Honey series too.

We ate our roast chicken and potatoes, apple and fennel slaw with sunflower seeds, and roasted chiogga beets with oranges, blood oranges, and goat cheese. Before pie The Monster and Hubby went skating. Spazzing was kept to a minimum and she was rewarded with two slices of pie. Okay, maybe I was rewarded too...

21 January, 2011

I'll Take It

Not sure if I'm deserving of any awards, but I always love a little bit of praise and attention (who doesn't?). This week brought two blogging awards.

Technically I don't think I qualify for the Leibster Blog award. Yes, I have less than 300 followers, but my subscribers to the feed and my Twitter followers contradict those stats. (wow, does that ever sound cocky!) But I am thankful for the notice and appreciation from a fellow Calgary quilter, Elizabeth. One day we'll meet too and get our gorgeous kids together to wreak havoc!

Then Beth gave me a Stylish Blogger's Award. So kind. Although, if she saw my wardrobe these days she might take it back!

To pay it forward with this little bit of extra attention, I want to point you to some blogs that might be new to you. They aren't celebrities, yet. Or maybe there are? They are great sources of inspiration, comfort, and entertainment for me.

Have a great weekend all!

19 January, 2011

Workshop in Progress - January 19

Another week in the Workshop. We have some new participants, so make sure you take the time to check them out!

My question this week has to do with marking quilt tops for quilting. I've done this three times in about 100 quilts. The first time it worked, but I don't remember what I used. It was on this quilt. The second time the blue marks didn't come out. The third time I used tape to mark straight lines because I was afraid the marks wouldn't come up. And that's why I love free motion quilting!

I do, however, need to think about marking some upcoming projects. So, what are your favourite marking implements?

Don't forget to check out what other folks have going on. Enter your post here:

16 January, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Definitely a night I was happy we keep a well stocked freezer.

The Monster's been fighting something for a few days. When she woke up from her nap she looked like she'd been through a few rounds with GSP. Her eye was not looking good. After we spoke with a doctor Hubby took her to the Children's Hospital.

This all happens at 5:30. Did I mention I have a project due tomorrow that is the biggest of my new professional career?

So Daddy and The Monster ate hospital sandwiches, and a banana when they arrived home to soak up the antibiotics. Smilosaurus and I dug some meatballs out of the freezer. Definitely also a night where I was happy for leftover party cupcakes from Crave.

14 January, 2011

Geese Going South

Participating in bees has been a challenge. I'm notorious for not finishing things on time. But I feel a bit better knowing I'm not the only one in my group. And just yesterday I found a block that I finished months ago, but never got popped in the mail. Yikes! It will go in the mail this weekend, along with the fabric for my month.

This month I've chosen a Flying Geese block. I've sent out a generous FQ of yellow, plus some greys, whites, and a touch of turquoise. I'm not picky about the size or shape of the geese within the block or how many you put in, I only ask that they all fly in the same direction. You can also make the geese any way you are comfortable doing. Some tutorials for you here and here.

Finished block size will partly depend on how many geese you do within the block. My preference is for a block either 12.5'' square, 12.'' by 18.5", or 18.5" square.

I've had this quilt in my head ever since the bee started. The one thing I don't like about bees is feeling like someone else's sewing factory. I personally, prefer to be challenged to create something a bit more unique. I also like to get something unique to the quilter back. Then I love the challenge of making it all work together. That's why I'm excited about our Mid Mod Bee and my month here at Pieced Together.

12 January, 2011

Urban Survival - TV and Trail Mix

In the midst of a major deadline (let's just say it involves a lot of words) and a weekend away with some family, there hasn't been a lot of great cooking around the Arkison household. To be honest, I'm struggling to feed the family well and work. I'm totally relying on what's in the freezer to get dinner on the table.

During the day it's another story. The girls have been surviving on grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of cottage cheese for lunch. At snacks they are, sadly, begging for chips and chocolate. Christmas isn't that far behind us, after all. Thank goodness for apples and pomegranates!

What they are truly surviving on right now is PBS Kids and Trail Mix. Yes, my kids are watching too much TV. I know that, leave me alone. As for the Trail Mix, this is my Mom's fault. Yes, Mom, I am totally blaming you and your Costco treat.

After buying the Trail Mix only once I got smart and made my own. I could make 4-5 times the amount for the same price, even from the warehouse. Use a combination of ingredients that works for you. Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal, and even a few treats. In our house I use whatever nuts I have in the freezer. Or, perhaps, the leftovers from Christmas. Sometimes I'll toast them, usually I don't. The girls don't care. Add in some dried cranberries and raisins for some sweetness, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and yes, some M&M's. I used to add chocolate chips, but those got messy when a certain 2 year old liked to pick them out and coddle them in her hand for an hour.

Store in a large plastic bag or air tight jar. Pack in jam jars for on-the-go snacks.

It seems like a no brainer to do this, but I find that not many people take the two minutes to toss it together in a large bowl. I, for one, am thankful I took the time between paragraphs. Now, when The Electric Company comes on I know I can get at least a page written before the jar of Trail Mix is gone.

Workshop in Progress - January 12

Welcome Back!

I am so glad to have all the returning and new folks back in the Workshop in Progress. This looks like it will be a good session.

Just a reminder to keep any of your comments constructive. It takes a lot for some people to put their process out there and ask for opinions, advice, and feedback. If you don't have anything nice to say then keep your mouth shut and your fingers down. If you genuinely see a spot for improvement, choose your words carefully and deliver the message kindly. Of course, if you love what you see or have a great answer to the question on deck then don't hesitate to share it.

If you've got a post for this week, feel free to add your link to the widget below. Every week you can add another post. I will, however, only keep the link widget open until Friday morning. And don't forget that you can add your photo and question to the Flickr group as well.

Please note that I've also updated the blogroll with participants new and old. If you are missing from this list, please let me know and I'll add you in.

07 January, 2011

Hobo Quilts

Every now and then a book completely grabs you, unexpectedly. You aren't sure why you are drawn to it, or what holds the appeal when it seems to obviously not your taste. Regardless of whether you think you should like it or not, you do. And you can't stop thinking about it. So you buy it, even when you aren't supposed to be spending any money.

Hobo Quilts is the most recent addition to my personal library. It's a book filled with over 50 block patterns and 20 quilt patterns from those blocks. It's more than that though. It is also filled with stories from people who rode the rails, fed them, entertained them, policed them, and more. Part oral history, part quilt book.

The patterns are based on a symbol glossary common to people who rode the rails. And the stories are all from archived collections and the author's family.

Each of the block patterns is accompanied by a story. The patterns themselves are quite simple. A life-size line drawing of the block with cutting instructions. That's it. It's up to the reader to put the block together. Some other reviews do caution that the cutting instructions and finished block do not correlate. For an experienced quilter, however, none of the blocks are so difficult that you couldn't adapt it for your own taste and size. There is a pretty good split between applique and pieced blocks. Here are some of my favourites - for the design or simply the name.

On first glance, these blocks may not appeal to the modern quilter. The history attached and the fabric choices in the book are not likely to appeal to someone used to working with large scale brights. But the simplicity and graphic nature of many of the blocks should not be overlooked. Combined en masse many of these blocks would make a striking, modern quilt. Your fabric choice and scale of the block could radically change from what you see in the book. It just takes some imagination.

Debra G. Henninger
Krause Publications

05 January, 2011

Workshop in Progress Relaunch

It's time to welcome back the Workshop in Progress. We've had a long break now, but with the New Year brings new projects and new commitments. Part of my ongoing push to get more quilters to share their process means it is time to bring WIP back.

Starting next week I will host Workshop in Progress Wednesdays. On this day I invite you to post and share (through one of those clever linky thing-a-ma-bobs I'll put at the bottom of the post) your fabric selection challenges, design wall dilemmas, quilting struggles, and general questions.

We can't all be in the same studio space together (but wouldn't that be fun?) so let's use the power of the internet to create a studio environment. Ask for help, input, and constructive criticism. Share your works in progress and highlight how you got answers you wanted. Introduce others to your challenges and a ha moments. Nothing to share that week? Make sure you visit all the sites linked up throughout the week and offer an opinion.

If your site isn't on the link list to the right there and you would like it to be, leave a comment on this post or send me an email. I'll be happy to add you to the list. Feel free to link to a Flickr account as well. Remember we've got a group on Flickr too.

I'm looking forward to joining you all in the studio!

03 January, 2011


It's time to put 2010 behind me.

To be perfectly frank, it was one of the worst years I've ever had. As a couple, Hubby and I both agree that not much can get worse. (There was a lot to celebrate too.) We weathered long and frequent separations, there was the fall while skiing and the recovery that still continues, there were major life changes and serious adjustments for all, there were home renos that went no where, there was Hubby's painful battle with his own injuries, there were changes all around. And there was more.

This quilt came out of the more. In the last 6 months of the year I experienced two miscarriages. One was quite shocking and ended up with me in the hospital on our way home from a funeral. The other was more typical and certainly less traumatic, but hard to deal with because it happened while Hubby was out of town. I'd had a miscarriage before, in the months before The Monster was conceived. But after everything this year I found these two particularly rough to recover from - physically and emotionally.

This quilt was started this summer, shortly after my hospital experience. The image of the crayons in my hand was always in the back of my head, percolating with options and happiness over how they came to be. At that point I also started thinking about the questions nurses and midwives ask when you become pregnant. How many children do you have? How many pregnancies? 2+2=4

Some doodling, some planning on the computer, and I just started sewing. As December progressed there was no option but to finish this quilt. I needed to put it, and everything else behind me. It was a just because quilt, but it was also more. But I don't want to put a lot of meaning to it. Finishing it, however, is symbolic of putting the past behind me.

I tend to hold on to things, even when they are pulling me under the water. Some sort of sick self pity keeps me grasping to hang on when the surface is right there. If I just let go I can get to shore and walk ahead, drying off as I go, ready for the next adventure. Hubby always said that if we let everything that happens get to us we would never get out of bed in the morning. Well, I spent a lot of time trying not to get out of bed over the last 6 months. It's time to stop doing that, it's time to let go and swim for shore.
The quilt is done. It isn't a particularly pretty quilt, nor is it one of my best efforts. I was so anxious to finish that I didn't square it up and the edges are very wavy. The quilting is uneven. My points could have matched a bit better in spots. But its done. With the last stitches of the binding, finished with my girls helping me on New Year's Eve, I actually do feel ready for the next adventure.

Bring on 2011!

02 January, 2011

Less Talking More Eating

It's been months since I ate a cold meal.

Parents often say that they miss hot meals once they start having family dinners. Too much time spent cutting, feeding, cleaning, and cajoling and not enough time enjoying their own food. In our house we have the opposite problem. Hubby and I finish our meals before our children have even started eating and it's getting damn frustrating.

We always eat together. I dish up the same food for everyone, a little of this and a little of that. Everything must be tried, but not necessarily eaten if you don't like it. A glass of milk on the side and maybe, just maybe, a treat or some fruit after dinner. The girls, like most kids, don't like hot foods. I serve them first and we cut it all up, as necessary, as Hubby and I serve ourselves. Then we all sit down and should be able to enjoy a pleasant meal.


Meals are anything but pleasant these days. Hubby and I will chit chat while we eat, with the girls coming in every now and then to tell us to only talk one at a time or "less talking more eating!" By no means are we inhaling our food, but almost every night we'll be half done before the girls have taken a single bite - if we're lucky.

That picture up there? Our lovely bison stew (a family favourite, made this way) and some olive oil bread (courtesy of Martha Stewart). I snapped that of The Monster's meal when I was already half done mine.

Dinner tonight took 45 minutes! I'm all for leisurely meals, lingering over wine and great conversation. Or even milk and knock knock jokes. I am not, however, down with reminding my children to actually take a forkful of their food and watching them chew everything 50 times, every single bite. Every single bite. Or repeat that there that there is no singing at the table and they are the ones that need "less talking, more eating." (Oh, how my parents are laughing now.)

It isn't even a battle about whether they like it or not. It's the same regardless of what we eat, but definitely worse if it is something they are iffy about.

By the time the girls finally finished tonight and I offered up some grapefruit and vanilla bean panna cotta they, and we, were done.

What would you do when faced with this?