28 November, 2011

Modern Blocks Giveaway

* Contest closed*

There's a new, not-so-little book out these days. Modern Blocks: 99 Blocks from Your Favorite Designers is full of incredible block designs. Some seem simple and even a bit more traditional, others are so phenomenally unique and representative of modern quilt design. All are pretty cool.

This book is going to be a well used resource in my library. Yes, even for me, a girl who doesn't like to follow patterns. There is just so much inspiration in here.

Oh, and I'm one of those favorite/favourite designers. See, that's my name on the back of the book there. And that orange and turquoise T block there is one of two of mine in the book.

Later this week I'm going to share a quilt top I made using that block, but for now I want to offer the chance to win one of these books.

All I ask is that you leave a comment below telling me how long you've been quilting and how you learned to quilt. That's it. If you are hoping to win the book for someone else, then tell me about them or a fun fact about you. Just make sure you have an email attached to the comment so I can get a hold of the winner. International entries welcome.

Entries open until December 1, 9:30 am MST.

23 November, 2011


Egg meets up with a gaggle of sperm in the dark hallway of my fallopian tube and one brave sperm steps forward with a, "Hey, how you doin'?" And about three seconds late my uterus doubles in size.

This belly of mine is round and full of flutters and kicks these days. The Monster says it looks like I ate 39 hotdogs and 50 apples. It's okay, my ass balances it out.

But those 39 hotdogs and 50 apples make it extraordinarily hard to baste a quilt on my living room floor. Alone, just me and my belly. It took me an hour longer than usual for this lap size quilt. And Hubby isn't even home to help.

22 November, 2011


Why, hello there.

(If only I could have Jian Ghomeshi say that in his dreamy voice for you.)

You may have been wondering where I am of late. I have some good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

Okay, bad news (let's get it out of the way). This is my last post on Backseat Gourmet. I know, but it needs to be done. That's where the good news comes in.

#1 I'm pregnant! Yeah! Or mostly yeah. I don't enjoy being pregnant and with the demands on me physically of this pregnancy and mothering two crazy wild girls something had to give. But at the end I get a little creature that is so, so wanted and already loved by all.

#2 My first book is coming out in March! I managed to post through the writing of the book, but the promo and planning is also a lot of work. Combined with the freelance work I've got it means more demands on what little time I have, with what little energy I've got (see above).

#3 I'm still posting recipes and food related posts on a consolidated blog: Dining Room Empire. I will try to have a regular schedule of 1 food related post, whether that is a recipe or adventure or rant per week. While you are checking out new sites, you could also review my portfolio site. It includes links to my writing and a gallery of quilts.

This was not an easy decision. I've really enjoyed this blog, my readers, and the opportunities that have come out of it. But I'm not superwoman, despite my best efforts. So, thank-you dear friends and readers. Please join me at Dining Room Empire and we'll continue the journey together.

PS I've got a yummy recipe for Cranberry Vanilla Muffins with Orange up there...

21 November, 2011

Thievery (Recipe: Cranberry Vanilla Muffins with Orange)

Lest you think I am the perfect sort of person I must confess: I'm a thief.

As a kid I stole something, a toy or a book or who knows what, from my neighbour. My parents found out, despite my denials. So my Dad drove me to the police station to turn me in. I confessed as we were pulling into the parking lot. Returns and apologies later I should have been cured.

Should have.

In University I worked part-time for a caterer. She had a spot in a fancy mall food court and mostly catered to hospital events. She was a very nice woman, good cook, horrible boss, and a bad business woman. She would literally do her grocery shopping from the kitchen where we worked. No inventory, no record of what she was taking. We staff initially felt bad that we were even taking home the food that was supposed to be trashed at the end of the day, but as her grocery shopping increased and her presence decreased we got cranky. Despite the fact that I was a poor student (woe is me) I never actually got my daily groceries there, but I ate well from leftovers. And I had a serious addiction to making hot chocolate with the couverture chocolate she bought by 10 kilo packs.

Then one day I crossed the line. It was a slow day and the two of us working started flipping through the cookbooks at the back of the kitchen. I can't remember the recipe that made me want to borrow the book, but that night I took one book home. And never brought it back. I worked there for many months more. At home I cooked from that book a few times, as much as my budget would allow.

That was over 15 years ago and I still cook from that book. Only now I don't feel guilty anymore. I'm a thief and I know it.

These muffins have been in my repertoire since the first winter with this book. I've made a few changes to the recipe over the years, but the spirit of Sarah Leah Chase's Cold Weather Cooking is still there. Definitely best the day they are made, better yet, still warm. They are closer to a cake than a muffin, a real treat.

Cranberry Vanilla Muffins (with orange)
(Adapted from Cold Weather Cooking)
Makes 12 muffins

1/2 vanilla bean
1 orange, zested
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 muffin tins with papers or spray with non-stick spray.

2. Chop the vanilla piece into smaller pieces. Combine with the sugar and orange zest in a blender or food processor. If you don't have a food processor you can substitute 1 cup sugar with vanilla sugar or sugar plus 2 tsp vanilla extract. Process until the vanilla bean is broken up and the sugar is fully flecked with those black seeds of the vanilla and the gold of the zest.

3. Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well each time.

4. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the the creamed butter and sugar alternating with the milk. When the batter is smooth fold in the cranberries.

5. Pour into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and sugar topping. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

18 November, 2011

Happy Faces

Other than fabric stashing, I don't collect much. These mugs are one exception.

My Baba (grandmother) had a few of these hanging on little cup hooks in her only kitchen cabinet. They were pulled out and filled with hot raspberry tea when we arrived at her house in the winter. I looked forward to that tea every time we visited. It was a small pleasure in what was likely to be a crowded, somewhat boring, and filled with starchy fried food visit to a tiny house on the side of the highway in Saskatchewan.

That tea never seemed the same at home. Even though we had Baba's homemade raspberry juice and used the same sweet tea to make it. I concluded long ago that it was the mugs. So when we were packing up Baba and Dido's house as age forced them into care the mugs were the only thing I adamantly claimed. Over the years I broke one, but I've added two.

These happy face mugs are a little bit silly and that's why I love them. On particularly dreary days I can pull it out for my morning tea and I can't help but smile.

They are also very hard to find. So, I'm asking you, my readers, that if you are out on thrifting adventures to keep an eye out for these mugs for me. They are made by Anchor Hocking and the brand is Fire King. There are many gorgeous patterns under the Fire King brand, but I'm only interested in the happy face mugs. If you ever see one, let me know and I'll probably ask you to buy it for me.

15 November, 2011


It's November, the snow is on the ground, and it is time to think about warmth.

Warm colours, that is. I've noticed a trend in all the quilts I've been working on lately. All cool colours. Blues, greys, greens, and a little bit of beige. That includes Network, Kinda Herringbone, Camouflage, and a handful of projects on the go, like this 36 patch.

It's time to bring out the orange, the pinks, the reds and add the warmth back to my dining room table. Chilis, stews, and hot chocolate are all on deck, why not spice things up with fabric too?

10 November, 2011

Pretty Things Too

Yes, Market is all about work, but there are pretty things too. You didn't think I'd not post some of my favourites, did you?

The Rise of Organics

Daisy Janie, Cloud 9, Birch, and some of the major manufacturers, including a line by Betz White with Robert Kaufman are all producing organics. The lines are varied, the colours have a great range and with the solids from Kaufman and the stripes and dots from Birch it is pretty much impossible not to build a solid stash now of just organics. And after seeing the video from Jan during her schoolhouse it makes me want to seek these out even more.

Favourite Fabrics

In two totally different corners I've got my four favourite lines that I saw there. Marcia Derse and Malka Dubrowsky have these intense, rich commercial prints based off of their own hand-dye and batiks. On their own or playing together these are exciting. Very exciting.

In the other corner is Echo by Lotta Jansdotter and Summersville by Lucie Summers. Graphic but soft, quietly bold. I'm in love with both of them (designers and fabric). And Lucie is very lucky I didn't steal one of her mugs. Thankfully I made it out of Market with a bundle of Echo to keep me going.

Somewhere in the middle is Ty Pennington's new line. To be honest, it seems like his fabric doesn't get a lot of attention. He does. But I do like his fabric. I've used a few prints from the first line and I can definitely see myself using some from this one too. And when I stopped in his booth he seemed quite thrilled that I wanted to talk about the fabric and not snap a picture with him. He's quite enthusiastic.

Speaking of Men

It would have been obvious to take photos of the men at Market, but let me tell you, they are there. A lot of the booths are staffed by men and there are definitely a lot of buyers on the floor. This was my first big surprise of Market, the men. Then there are the designers and sherpas that are there. Ty, David Butler, Mark Cesarik (all were conveniently located within steps of each other) showcased very different but equally engaging lines.

And Patterns

There are patterns all over the place at Market. With the quilt stores seeking out the interesting, the pretty, and the sellable, the pattern booths are packed and filled with pretty things. All to different tastes. I neglected to take a picture of her work or booth, but my absolute favourite was Carolyn Friedlander. A former architect turned designer. Her patterns are intense, graphic, and so beautiful. It's almost enough to make this improv girl seek them out. You definitely should.


Houston itself, while monstrous, is a pretty city. I may have been blinded by weather that made me feel like summer when it was snowing back home. Or it might have been the colour, lights, and personalities of Market. But Houston's downtown was dynamic and captivating. I got a walk or two in. I can see why Cherri House loves her town so much.

07 November, 2011


Don't let all the pretty pictures fool you, Quilt Market is work.

If you are setting up, staffing, or hosting a booth it takes a lot of work to plan, build, and staff that booth. It isn't all pretty stuff and chit chat with friends old and new. It's a lot of water, standing on your feet and sell, sell, sell.

If you are shopping for a store it is days of A LOT of walking, digging, spying, and appointments. All while keeping your customers and trends in mind.

If you are simply "walking the floor" it isn't just about looking for pretty things and scoring a conversation with a designer you adore. It is about selling yourself, your own product - whether that be your design skills, your book, your patterns, your event, you.

This isn't to say that it isn't fun and there aren't a lot of great, giggly conversations with people you've always wanted to meet. There is the excitement of meeting a designer who makes fabric you love to work with or catching up with your publisher (that you've never met in person before). Then there are the dinners and parties where you might get to talk about your kids a little, but you are still plotting and planning your next steps, literally at Market and after. Then, of course, there are all the pretty things.

It's work, and don't let the pictures fool you.

04 November, 2011


64'' by 68''

This is what a whole pile of half square triangles can turn into when you work really hard. Really hard. I'm not going to lie. That's a whole lot of HSTs in a not that large size (4.5'') that had to be trimmed down. And that layout doesn't exactly come naturally. But, oh, are the results worth it!

Network started with a pile of fabric coming from Traditional Pastimes shared with Amanda Jean. (For the record, I don't think Amanda Jean has had a chance to do anything with hers.) On my flight to Wisconsin I sketched out ideas but none of them became this. I even played with a whole bunch of layouts before naturally settling on the most difficult one.

The whole thing is quilted with an exaggerated zig zag in a light turquoise thread. It adds a good texture and was easier than outlining the network itself. A simple pieced back for fun. After the battle with getting the top to work just so I needed to make the rest of it easier.

All the effort and love were worth it. Network was given to my husband's best friend as a wedding present. This is the guy that married us, he was our agent when we bought our first house, and he was in business with Hubby for years. All the guy needs to do is deliver this baby and he's infiltrated every aspect of our lives!

When I asked Hubby what we were going to get this guy for his wedding his first answer was a quilt. Um, sure, I've got no problem with that, but how could he justify it? Was he going to sit and sew with me? For the record, he has done that before, but this time his answer was, "My name gets to go on the label because I paid for the fabric." Well, thank-you Bernadette because that excuse didn't work! So he helped with the layout of the top, basted it with me (while making watch Machete to counter effect the whole domestic thing), and graciously took pictures. An effort deserving of his name on the label.

And the recipients? They were married in a mountain meadow in July. It was gorgeousness all around. The quilt lives with them now, adding some colour and warmth to their new suburban house. And I couldn't be happier to have shared this effort and all our days with them.


01 November, 2011

November 1

It's hard to get any work done when the dining room table/desk looks like this.

It's the day after Halloween and the day after I returned from Quilt Market in Houston. I want to share a lot about Market, but I'll save that for another post. Today, it is recovery day, clean-up day, follow-up day, and try not to eat all the Reese Peanut Butter Cups day.

(My tiger and leopard. Tiger costume courtesy of some fake fur and even some sewing by my husband. That sewing which required me sitting on the Market floor walking him through threading my sewing machine from Houston. And she's a real tiger, thank-you very much, not Tigger.)