28 February, 2011

So Girly

Remember my round robin? I did my rather traditional blocks for my three fellow robins. (Sorry, missing a photo from one.) I started with black and white. This is what came back to me.

It is so ridiculously girly and pretty and fun. So, totally not me. You know what, though? I love it! I never would have put pink with it, or flowers. This is gorgeous and I'm glad I trusted others to do something fun. This entire round robin has been a great experiment in letting go and experimenting. Compassion too, as you have to think about what the recipient might want out of the quilt.

It's up to me now to add another border or two then finish it up for our June meeting. I'm thinking of another round consisting of smaller chopsticks blocks like the center. Maybe.

The series on quilting with kidlets underfoot will run every Monday in March. I'll be back next week with the first post on managing your space.

27 February, 2011

Kind of Numb

For the first time in 7 years we watched the Oscars.

When we last watched this gratuitous display of celebrity, film, and fashion it was shortly after my Father-in-Law died. A few days after our frantic drives through winter streets to rescue, to say goodbye some of the family gathered for dinner. We went for Indian food and came home to the TV staring at us in its temporary living room home of my in-law's home. Without thinking we sat and stared, numb at the pompous and posh party in front of us.

It kind of felt that way tonight too. If you can subtract the chaos of little girls who literally demand you watch them jump on the couch and pretend you need to be rescued.

After a weekend in Edmonton, learning the secrets of my Dad's famous salsa and coming together with family, we arrived home exhausted. Frankly, I'm so drained right now that the emotions boiling through me seem to cancel each other out and that numbness wins.

That means leftovers and the Oscars are what won tonight.

A steak never eaten because we were too tired turns into beef stroganoff. Comfort food in this family. Carrots steamed and glazed with honey and balsamic vinegar. Salad made from anything green in the fridge. A perfectly ripe winter pear next to some okay 1. 2. 3. bite brownies from Wild Earth.

Now, a beer, laundry, and packing. There is no time to process, to celebrate, to cry. I'm off again tomorrow. Leaving the girls and my man for the first time in forever when all I want to do is gather them all around me for snuggles and debates about whether there ever was such a thing as a carnitore. So tonight we gathered at the table and tried to selvage a moment that gave us all comfort, albeit brief, the ritual of dinner together.

25 February, 2011

Mable Murple

We're taking a bit of a diversion from the usual book reviews this week. That's because I, and my girls, cannot resist this book. And when it's about colour, then we quilters are automatically drawn to it.

Mable Murple is the latest offering from a fantastic Canadian author, Sheree Fitch. The illustrations are by Sydney Smith (who also illustrated The Dread Crew, another deleriously fun kids book.)

An energetic rhythm to the book and an all purple colour scheme. That pretty much defines heaven for many a preschool girl! Mable is an adventurous girl with some crazy schemes. No wonder my children love this book.

Check out the way these letters are put together. Now that's a quilt in the making. I might be tempted to make a purple quilt, just with the influence of this book. I do hope she adds more to the rainbow of books because this family is hooked.

23 February, 2011

Workshop in Progress - February 23

Been quilting a lot lately, in a lot of different colours. This has me thinking about thread storage.

I used to have a box, just a paper box, filled with thread. Actually, I still have it, but I don't use any of that thread anymore because my Pfaff really doesn't like to sew with Sulky. Since switching to Presencia thread I've only bought colours as needed. Until this rainbow showed up it was all content to sit in a vase in my dining room.

Now, however, the vase is overflowing and I've got bobbins a plenty filled with pretty colours. Before I jump in the car and drive to the store I wanted to ask you, my readers, for your thread storage ideas.

Do you store the bobbins with the corresponding thread?
If yes, how?
If no, how?
Is it better to have it in a box?

I welcome any tips you've got.

21 February, 2011

Playing with Scissors

It was Sunday morning and I didn't quite clue in to what she said. I was settling in to the comfy chair with my morning tea. The girls were all set with their new favourite show (Wild Kratts). Then the little one sometimes known here as Smilosaurus but more commonly known in this house Evil Genius says to me, with load of pride in her voice, "Mama, I cut that thing you use."

Sure, Babe, I thought, as I sipped my tea. Whatever you say. Mama needs her caffeine this morning.

Once the caffeine kicked in I picked up the quilt next to me. Thread, thimble, scissors, and needle threader all present and ready for some handstitching. Then I went to actually thread a needle. Hmm, those fragile, thin diamonds of wire were suddenly missing from both ends of my Clover threader. For 30 seconds I actually thought I wrecked them when I put it away the night before. Then... wait a minute, I remembered that random comment from earlier from that child of mine.

I called my kidlet over and asked her to show me exactly what she cut. Proudly she pulled out my needle threader. Somehow, I couldn't even get upset. (As I normally would, let's be honest.) When I asked her why, this is what she answered:

"Mama, I'm just like Curious George."


In honour of all of us quilters, artists, crafters, and creative folks I thought I would do a series of posts on trying to quilt with kids around. Tips and tricks for actually getting things done with kids around. I'll do a new post every Monday for a month. Please send in any tips or stories you've got, I'd love to share them too.

Stay tuned next week for my first post on setting up your space to work for you and your kids.

20 February, 2011

Chocolate Cake for Friends and Neighbours

Do you know your neighbours?

Will they shovel your walk? Will you shovel theirs? Have you had backyard happy hour together? Built a really nice fence? Even chatted with them?

We've got some really fantastic neighbours (and one not so nice one). Once they got past the fact that we indeed were a couple old enough to own a house and not siblings living with our parents we've got along great. They babysit the girls, we watch each other's pets, and generally look out for each other. It is because of our neighbours, in large part, that we are renovating instead of moving.

So when we came home with a new washer and dryer today Poppa came over to help us get it into the house. No, we didn't make him do the heavy lifting! As I was already making dinner we invited them to join us. Besides, how much ham can two adults and the girls eat?

We pigged out, literally, on Spragg Meats ham, sauteed kale, and lentils with roasted squash and caramelized onions. I was going to be all healthy and serve a citrus salad for dessert, but it seemed more special to make a cake. Our neighbours definitely deserved cake.

This recipe was created for the latest issue of What's Up Families. I wrote a feature article on gluten free cooking. It was a great challenge for me. And a great opportunity to interview Lauren over at Celiac Teen and her family for the article. Very inspiring to see her family together and her love for baking. While Lauren isn't quite close enough to be my neighbour (but luckily still close), I would happily share this cake with her. (Check out the issue for more GF recipes.)

Hazelnut Flourless Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup plus 1 tsp cocoa
4 ounces chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, finely crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8'' round cake pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom, place inside the buttered pan, and butter that too. Use the 1 tsp of cocoa to dust the parchment lines pan.
2. Chop the chocolate and melt with the butter in a bowl set atop of a pot of simmering water. Once melted remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
3. While the chocolate is cooling whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add in 1/4 cup sugar and beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.
4. Add the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla to the melted chocolate. Stir well. Add the hazelnuts. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Carefully fold in the remaining whites. Stop as soon as you don't see white. Pour into prepared pan.
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Best served warm.

18 February, 2011

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

Pulled this one out of the vault, didn't I?

My Dad handed this book to me a few months ago. I'm sure it came with the decades long Reader's Digest subscription our family had. For the last few decades it's been hiding in a table at my parent's place. Seeing as I sew, Dad gave it to me. I was taken in by the cover immediately. Isn't it fantastic?

It's gloriously retro and fantastically detailed. If I ever decide to actually sew clothes I guarantee I will pull this out as a resource. For now I can be entertained and even slightly inspired by the 70s styling. Just check out this bed cover! There is definitely a quilt in that.

Some of the sewing projects included remind me of many that I've seen on blogs and in books in the last few years. Napkins, placemats, playmats, wall organizers, bags, pillows, and even soft animals and toys. Goes to show that not everything is new.

The book also came with a little pamphlet about sewing with scraps. My favourite project, by far, is the Curler bag. Now does that ever bring back memories! My stick straight hair tied up in hard plastic curlers after the Saturday night bath. Just for the hope of curls for church in the morning. Curls that were long gone by the time church was over. I wonder if the people sitting behind me ever watched my hair fall instead of the service? I'm sure that's what I would have done with my head in front of me. Shhh, don't tell my Dad.

16 February, 2011

Workshop in Progress Feb 16

First off, I am so sorry that I never got a chance to visit last week's posts. A few more weeks and I'll be back here full force. So, what did I miss?

And what's going on this week in the Workshop?

14 February, 2011

Some Hearts

This is about as close as I get to heart related items in my house. We aren't a Valentine's Day kind of house. Hubby has the typical male disdain, and I frankly don't care that much. But wait, these aren't my hearts!

This is the last of the round robin quilt tops from my guild (Hey, check out our new website!). We all got our own tops back on the weekend. I'll share mine soon. But this last one has hearts, so I'll share it with you today.

I added on the Prairie Braid border. I've actually always wanted to try one of these. It is very easy, but time consuming. And you do waste the fabric that you have to trim off. Oh well, it is all about the design. And it came together really well. I think it's a great finish to the top. (And please ignore my supremely ugly kitchen floor.)

Now that the tops are back with their original owners we have a few months to add to it, if we want, and finish the quilts. I can't wait to see how everyone finishes up with their quilts.

Happy Valentine's Day!

11 February, 2011

Guide to Machine Quilting

Don't let the cover fool you, modern quilters. Hands down, I believe this is the best resource book for machine quilting out there. You may never do trapunto or feathers, but even for your basic free motion stipple, this book will help.

Diane Gaudynski is the machine quilting guru. Award winning, she has every authority to speak on this subject. And speak she does. She teaches and blogs, so you can find more from her all over the place.

Her book is full of exercises, tips, supplies, concepts and trouble shooting. Whenever I am having a problem with something, anything, in my quilting this book is the first thing I pick up. I almost always find the information I need to solve the problem. Likewise, this is an excellent inspiration for technique and free motion ideas.
The book covers set-up and basting, important factors in actually enjoying machine quilting. Yes, enjoying. When it goes smoothly, machine quilting is actually kind of exciting. You see your movements, your efforts literally changing the weight of the quilt in your hands. For me, that is a thrilling thing in the process of creating my quilts.

It does seem odd to me that there are some actual quilt projects at the back of the book. Yes, they show off the quilting, but it seems kind of irrelevant. I would have rather seen more examples of quilting techniques.

I strongly recommend that everyone keep this book in their library. It is worth it.

Thanks to Elle for introducing me to the book in the first place.

09 February, 2011

Picky Eaters are a Parent's Responsibility

There is no such thing as a picky eater anymore. Just selective or particular eaters. It's like the word picky got sucked up by the political correctness vacuum. Which means, of course, it must be replaced by something kinder that doesn't make a kid feel bad because they don't like green vegetables or meat that isn't chicken.

This is all simply ridiculous, I say, because ALL kids are picky eaters. The degree to which they pick and choose their food varies, but all kids are selective about what they will eat.

Take my kids, for example. More than once I've been told that my kids will eat anything, or that they are such good eaters. Um, not really folks. Sure, they love sashimi and will eat game meat even when we tell them what it is. The Monster, however, will not eat rice, mashed potatoes, the tops of broccoli, the bottoms of muffins, any filled pasta but one particular shape, and an egg any way but scrambled. It is a random day when Smilosaurus happily eats all her vegetables without any comment from me and she is rather particular about how things get cut and served.

That being said, I don't consider my kids picky. I consider them kids.

Kids are inherently fickle, most love a good routine and struggle with new challenges, and they respond to our lead like sponges wiping the kitchen counter.

I've said it before, I think picky eaters are made, not born. How we, as parents, approach food and feeding our children has more to do with your kids than anything. It starts right at the beginning when we give them their first soft purees. From the flavour to the texture we are indeed molding them. It's about more than introducing them to every taste in the book before they eat a chunk of food. It's about setting up the ritual of dinner - from the making to the eating.

When we give them their first chunks of fruit and grain we cut off the crust or the peels. We get into that habit and suddenly we have a 6 year old who doesn't eat the crusts. (Or you don't and they still don't eat the crusts, suddenly, one day after eating them for years!) We give them the choice of a rainbow selection of plates then have to deal with meltdowns when the pink one isn't clean. Before long and without intending to, many of us become short order cooks.

It sounds like I'm criticizing parents here, I understand that. I also make no apologies for it. We parents care about our kids and we should always take a critical eye to what we are doing. I include myself there too. I do think that a big part of picky eating is indeed what we parents do to create the situation.

The other thing we parents do is react to the situation. We worry that they aren't eating enough, they are eating too much of one thing, that they will never like the tops of broccoli, that somehow this makes me a bad parent... We often create a problem or think we have a picky eater because we struggle to get our kids to eat cottage cheese, not flavoured yoghurt. But this is OUR issue, not the kids.

There are great articles, resources, and tips out there to help you "break" a picky eater, banish picky eating, or even help a kid recover from picky eating habits. You can search on-line for days to get through all the tips. Seldom will you see the words Relax and Step Back. That is precisely what I suggest parents do.

Easier said than done.

Here are some tips to help you with that. These aren't about getting your kids to eat more foods or different foods, these are about accepting your kids as kids, regardless of how they eat. They are about accepting our role as parents without putting labels on them.

1. Kids don't need as much food as you think they do. One good meal every day or two can be good enough, augmented by some snacking.
2. Kids eat in cycles. One week they seemingly devour any and all food you can put in front of them, the next almost nothing.
3. Kids are fickle. One week they'll eat the crusts, another week they won't. And there is no explanation why.
4. Kids can indeed survive, in the short term, on odd diets like bread and butter with fruit.
5. You are in control of what food goes on the table. They are in control of whether they eat it or not.
6. It is perfectly okay to say no to your kids' requests for cookies for breakfast, a snack 20 minutes before dinner is on the table, and juice 24 hours a day. It is perfectly okay to ignore the tantrum that ensues when you say no.
7. Kids will not starve if they don't eat dinner. If they don't like what you are offering then don't offer them alternatives.
8. Shop, cook, and eat with your kids as much as possible.
9. Keep some guaranteed favourite meals in your back pocket and in the pantry. Pull them out on days when everyone is tired or when it's been a bit since they had a good meal.
10. Offer the best food you can. Focus on the quality of the ingredients even when they are limiting their diet.

It isn't political correctness that makes me want to lose the term picky, it's this notion picky eating is something to be tackled and eradicated like a disease. Kids are kids, and we need to respond to them like adults, not short order cooks or narrow minded politicians.

Workshop in Progress Feb 9

Another week and I've got nothing to share with you, sorry. Very busy, but nothing to show for it. But I can tell you that The Monster now knows how to turn and stop when she skis.

It looks like many have you have been busy, it's great to see. I'm really enjoying reading all the posts. I hope everyone is getting some good feedback on the work they are sharing. If any concerns are coming up for you with the process, don't hesitate to email me directly.

(On that note, if you've emailed me recently and I've not got back to you, my apologies. Including the person who emailed me for a specific recipe and I accidentally deleted the email before I sent the recipe.)

07 February, 2011

Monday Morning Treat

Thanks for all the kind works, folks. I'm back with the winner of the magazine.

Mimi! You were the magic number 53. I'll be sending a note to you shortly to get your address.

Back on Wednesday for the Workshop.

04 February, 2011

Celebrating and a Giveaway

This freelance writing gig thing is a lot of fun! A lot of work, but a lot of fun.

The latest issue of Mark Lipinksi's Christmas 365 includes a few articles from me. Considering that one was on New Year's dishes for the many different New Year celebrations - recipes included! - I thought it only appropriate that I share it now. It is right around Chinese New Year after all. Gung Hei Fat Choi!

This issue also includes a piece on Holiday disasters. Some very funny stories from some quilty friends in their too. Thanks Jacquie, Katie, Rossie, and Jen for sharing.

I'd love to send a copy along to one of you, my faithful readers and supporters on this journey of mine. Leave a comment between now and Sunday night (Feb 6), midnight MST. I'll send a copy of Christmas 365 to one lucky reader. Make sure you include your email or have it set so I can reply to you.

Have a great weekend!

02 February, 2011

Workshop in Progress - February 2

February already?

We, like most of Canada and North America, are enjoying fresh snow. At least we have the gorgeous sky to go with it.

I've got nothing for the workshop this week, been busy meeting deadlines. So, what have you guys got this week?

Remember, make sure you link to a specific post and not just your blog.