14 March, 2011

A Break

We interrupt the feature Little Feet, Pins and Needles.

There are more posts to come in this series, but I'm afraid I need to take a break from the computer for a while. My family needs me and I need them. While being here, writing and sharing is quite comforting to me, I need to step away for a bit.

Take care all.

11 March, 2011

Upcoming Classes Spring 2011

Interested in some modern quilt classes in the Calgary area? I've got two coming up at, of all places, Traditional Pastimes. It only sounds ironic in name, Bernadette is a great supporter of modern quilting and brings in some of the best new fabrics to hold court next to civil war reproductions.

Want to learn about Values Quilts and perfect your half-square triangle technique? This will be a one night class to get you set. We'll discuss ways to see and use value, make-up a set of blocks, then play with settings.

Thursday, April 14
6:30-9:30 pm

How about Improv? I've made a few adjustments to my Improv class. Not only will we be practicing different techniques for improv blocks, like a wonky log cabin and free piecing, we also tackle the challenges of breaking free from precision cutting and patterns.

Monday, May 2 and May 9
6:30-9:30 pm

To register for either class contact Traditional Pastimes.

10 March, 2011

True Needs

At the risk of becoming a freelance martyr, working when I shouldn't because I think I should, I'm taking a break. This blog has been a source of comfort, as have many of you readers, during some very stressful times. Right now, however, my family needs me and I need them.

Take care.

09 March, 2011

Workshop in Progress - March 9

You would think after a week with Amanda Jean I would have something to share here. I do, but not yet. Sadly, I did not get any photos before it got dark today. I fear the end of the nap is about to come up and bite me on the butt. I guess it is time for me to regroup and listen to some of my own advice from the Little Feet, Pins and Needles discussions.

If you are new to the Workshop in Progress I encourage you to read the introductory post. Our goal is to not just post what you've got going on in your own studio, but to post your challenges, inspirations, and questions. Then invite readers and WIP participants to comment and help you out with your query. It's like being in a workshop room together and feeding off the energy and creativity of others.

07 March, 2011

Little Feet, Pins, and Needles (Part 1)

Welcome to Week 1 of the series on quilting with little ones around. Every Monday in March I will be highlighting tips and tricks to making the most of your quilting time when you've got little ones underfoot. Whether you are a new mom trying to find time for your hobby or a new quilter trying to figure out just how to make it work, there will be loads of info here to get you sewing in mad fits. Along the way please share your own tips and tricks.

Today we're tackling space planning and coordination.

Whether you are lucky enough to have a room where you can start, leave a mess, and close the door or you are stuck in the corner of your bedroom, you can make it work well for you. Here are 5 ways to make your time sew successful.

1. Acceptance
No matter what space you are in, shared or not, kids will want to be where you are. It seems fantastic to be able to shut the door and shut out the rest of the house. I certainly dream of it. Even if you have that the kids will be coming in, guaranteed.

My sister-in-law has a great space in their fantastic basement. It's right off the family room and her oldest son's bedroom. But the last time I was there I saw the sewing machine sitting on the family room table, about 10 feet from that valued door. Moms and kids want to be together.

Accept the interest and interruptions. That seam can wait until the next game of Candyland is over. Yes, it can get frustrating, I know that. See it from your kid's point of view - they always want your attention and frequently need your help. You are a mom first and a quilter second (or third or fourth), so let the kids be there and everyone will be happier.

2. Safety
Regardless of where your sewing space is located, if there are kids in the house you need to keep it safe. I don't just mean keeping them safe from wrecking your quilts or tools. They need to be kept safe too.

Keep your iron, scissors, rotary cutter, and pins in a high or child proof location. You may also want to examine where you store your machine, ironing board, and any bins. Minimize any risk of those objects falling on you or the kids. Finally, watch your power cords and outlets.

I sew in my dining room. No matter where I put the machine there is a cable running from the table to the wall. My kids are high energy and think nothing of racing around the house after each other or the dogs. If the machine is out they have strict rules to stay out of the dining room because they've been caught on the cord before. To be perfectly honest, I have too. Remember to keep it safe for you.

3. Creative Space
Making a space to create often requires another brand of creativity. Whether it is storage, a space to spread out, a way to keep projects in order, or simply somewhere quiet to foster your creative energy, you need to think creatively.

We've got a small house, have I mentioned that before? In addition to sewing on the dining room table I store my fabric in my daughters' bedroom (at one point under the bed, and now in an underused closet), frequently use my kitchen counter as a cutting table, store current projects in plastic bins tucked in the dining room or in our small bedroom, and use the bed or a floor for a design wall.

In the dining room itself I've got my ironing board, cutting mats, and some projects tucked between the sideboard, toys, and our paper shredder (have I mentioned this is also the home office space?) On top of the filing cabinet I keep my thread in a vase, a pin cushion the girls are allowed to touch, and various bits of fabric and supplies. Some of my scraps fill some glorious canisters on top of the hutch that store both my cookbooks and art supplies for the girls.

When I really want to sketch or be creative I usually end up colouring right alongside my girls. If I really need the quiet though, my favourite time to do this is in the car. Not while I'm driving! When Hubby is driving and the girls are asleep I love to pull out my sketchbook and draw.

The only thing I find I really miss is a dedicated design wall. I'm working on that. Check out these creative options from Katie and Elizabeth.

4. The Right Timing
As you can tell by the name of this blog, I do my quilting when my girls are asleep. My ideal time would actually be first thing in the morning. Hell, it would be all day if I could! That just isn't realistic for me with a 2 and 4 year old that are both performers and love an audience for every single thing they do. After they go to bed I could and do sew, but that doesn't make my Hubby happy as he is either working or relaxing about 10 feet away in the living room. Needless to say, it makes me very happy that my girls still nap. Very happy.

You need to consider the time you get to sew when setting up your space. Your other family members' schedules should be considered. Sewing can be noisy and messy. Homework schedules, work, homeschooling, meals, music practice, and even chill out time should be factored in to your schedule and space planning.

5. Less than Perfection
The quilt police don't really exist, and unless your mother-in-law lives with you, the cleaning police don't exist wither. You know that quilting is messy. You know that your kids are going to get in your face, er... space. Who cares if the entire family has threads on the bottom of their feet? Better that than pins.

Accept that there won't be a perfect solution to your space plans, but with careful planning, creativity, and consideration you can make a happy space that works for you and the family.

Next week in the Little Feet, Pins and Needles series we'll talk about the game playing you can do with your kids to inspire their creativity and hopefully an interest in quilting.

06 March, 2011

Hot Dish at the Table

Ever had a Hot Dish?

You might know it better by its other name, a casserole. In honour of my week in Wisconsin, via Minnesota, I made Hot Dish for dinner. Specifically, Beef with Wild Rice, Almonds, and Roasted Tomatoes.

Hot Dish is basically any one dish meal that can be prepared in advance, even frozen. Rice or pasta with a bit of veg and often a lot of meat and some sort of sauce bringing it all together. Common at the potluck table, the neighbours kitchen counter after a rough week, or for Sunday dinner.

Not exactly a fancy Sunday dinner, I realize. My flight got in at midnight last night and I needed to spend the day in precious snow play and cuddles instead of cooking. Oh, and actually reading a book during to naptime to take advantage of the quiet of broken cable. Dinner needed to come without a trip to the grocery store and contain real food for the. girls. Too many cookies and treats over the weekend.

I bought this cookbook in the airport. Totally cheesy, I know. Once you siphon out the recipes that include a can of condensed mushroom soup and past Tuna Broccoli Brie Hot Dish, there are some nice dinner ideas. Perfect for days when you want to read The Cat in the Hat again and again instead of making a roast with popovers. Also perfect for make ahead recipes for the days you want to pass on a meal for comfort. I'll be making a few more from the book this week for friends.

Dessert also came from the book. Conveniently called Busy Day Cherry Cobbler. Conveniently made with my own cherry pie filling in the pantry.

My time away from the family was very busy. My friend, my host, has a great family and they were incredibly welcoming. We did not have Hot Dish, but I learn how to make tortillas and had my fill of Wisconsin Smoked Cheddar.

In truth, I desperately missed my family. All the chaotic energy and even the spazzing, but it's all my spazzing. Dinner tonight was perfect. The Monster chatted far too much about her first trip to an amusement park to be interested in food. Smilosaurus was copying her sister but spooning in the food with sincere pleasure. Hubby and I rubbed our eyes for the tiredness, tried to talk, and could only smile. It was all mine. It was our perfect Sunday dinner.

Hot Dish with Beef, Wild Rice, Roasted Tomatoes, and Almonds
Serves 4-6

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion
4 celery stocks
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 orange
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 tbsp fresh thyme
3 cups chicken stock
1 dozen roasted tomatoes*
1 cup almonds or pine nuts

1. In an oven proof casserole or large pan brown the ground beef. While the beef is browning chop the onions, celery, and garlic. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. As soon as the beef is browned, drain off any fat and push the meat to the side of the pan. Add the olive oil, onion, and celery. Cook over medium heat until light browned and soft. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
3. Juice the orange and add the juice to the pan to deglaze.
4. Stir in the rices, thyme, and stock into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a casserole dish, if necessary. Top with tomatoes and sprinkle the almonds over.
5. Bake for 1 hour.

*If you don't have slow roasted tomatoes on hand you could use a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Cut the stock used to 2 cups and add the tomatoes, juice and all.

04 March, 2011

A Colourful Week

It's been a fun and incredibly busy week hanging out with Amanda Jean. Here are a few snapshots of our week so far. Tea, peanut M&Ms, working out, playing with fabric, collage homework with her boys, loads of quilts, and snuggles. Did I mention I'm sleeping under this quilt?

Do I have to go home?

02 March, 2011

Dido Making his Salsa (Wordless Wednesday)

Workshop in Progress - March 2

Yes, it's still winter.

I'm taking a little break this week. Not from winter, but from my real life. I'm down in the US hanging out with Amanda Jean. We're having a great time, even if a tummy bug is running through the house. I'm enjoying the winter light in her house, and all our chats as we play and work together.