Sunday, June 23, 2013

Feeling accomplished

This weekend I finished my Moroccan tile quilt top and it turned out pretty well. Now I just have to keep up the momentum to get it all done. I think/hope there should be enough bits leftover to piece together a backing.

I was lured to Lens Mill yesterday by the siren song of a sale on cotton batting. I came out with that, along with four metres of flannel. They have so much great flannel! I was so excited by what I picked up - sock monkeys and bananas! - that I started that evening cutting it up for a rag quilt. I'm always amazed and in admiration when my mom jumps into a project right away, so I was happy with myself for doing the same.

And this weekend I joined my first chip-timed cycling event. I didn't do too badly on my clunky hybrid next to all the super sleek road bikes - about middle of the pack for the 40K. I did set a personal best for average time, so I'm pretty happy with that. The fun part about these events is people stand along the side of the road and cheer you on. That should happen more in life - people shouting out encouragement as you go through your day. Yay! You refilled the printer! Yay! You made a great dinner!

There's nothing like finishing 40K by 10:30 a.m. to give you a sense of accomplishment for the day. Now back to the sewing room and those darn cute monkeys!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dad's day

My poor little herb garden had a tough weekend. So many snip, snip, snips for all the dishes I made for Father's Day. But it sure was nice just to pop out to my front porch every time I needed a sprig of basil and thyme.

A lot of herbs found their way into these dips that got us started - black and green olive tapenade and white pizza dip. I knew I had to make the pizza dip when the blog posted started with: "This is the story of how four adults ate 28 ounces of cheese." Oh boy do I know now how that happened. This is heaven in a dish. The tapenade was definitely a winner, too. I served them with an assortment of crackers.

The main course was roasted tomato caprese panzanella (I noticed now another tasty dish) and Italian chicken soup from the Pioneer Woman.

I really liked the salad the last time I made it, but cheated a bit this time by buying balsamic glaze rather than standing over a hot steamy pot of vinegar. The soup is wonderful creamy chickeny goodness. Thankfully because it made a lot. A LOT. For a person who lives on her own, far too often I seem to make recipes that require pots and bowls larger than what I have. I spread around the left-over soup love and still have plenty left.

And now I'm realizing I forgot to take a photo of the desserts - rice pudding and an embarrassingly simple Kraft black forest mousse dessert. I always feel lame for making one of these recipes, but they have lasting power for a reason. Sometimes all you want is a messy bowl of chocolate pudding, whipped cream, crushed cookies and ridiculously sugary cherries. Less cuisine, more comfort.

I hosted Mother's Day and we took a trip to Morocco. We started with tomato soup and carrot and chick pea salad and the main course was chicken tagine with olives and lemons from my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking cookbook. I'd recommend them all.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Silly girl

This is probably one of the more complicated dishes I've attempted just in terms of different components, so I probably shouldn't have started in at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night - and after an emergency trip to get a mortar and pestle. Sometimes I shake my head at my own silliness. Long story short, I had to find something else to eat for dinner because this homestyle chicken curry took way longer to make than I thought. Partly that may have been due to my tedious grinding of fennel seed in the newly purchased mortar ($7.99, if you're wondering like I was how much such an item might cost).

The fennel did smell amazing as I was grinding away. The dish was good (when I finally got to eat it the next day), but tasted more smokey than curry to me. I wonder if that's because I had ho-hum chili powder and that's a big part of the spice concoction. I also had to substitute the fennel seed for aniseed powder.

Verdict: A tasty dish - with hard-boiled eggs as a neat addition - but I'm not sure it's worth all the work. Both the potato and rice pots overflowed making two sticky messes. The house did smell wonderful. To say this dish is fragrant is an understatement. Although I think now I'm gonna have to check my spice supplies after using so much.

(Apologies for the terrible photo since I ran out of natural light as my cooking dragged long into the evening.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spicy Sunday

My one great weakness is a good sale and after a recent buy one, get one free offer on chicken breasts, I found myself with a bit of a surplus. So perfect timing for this Seasaltwithfood recipe for spicy ketchup chicken. The dish was pretty quick to throw together and tasted really good. I've got a pretty high threshold for spice, so it didn't taste super hot to me. But the tingling of my lips and fine layer of sweat on my face while I was eating tells me it had some heat.

It didn't have quite the red colour like in the picture, I think because I dumped the chicken and all the cornstarchy sauce into the pan. I should have just scooped in the chicken pieces. I also got a bit carried away with the ginger, but I really like fresh ginger.

Verdict: Definitely a recipe to make again.

Forging ahead

All 10 pieces of my Moroccan tile quilt are now done. I just can't believe how quickly I'm moving ahead on this.

Cheery and cosy

Last night my plan was a True Blood season 5 marathon to ready for the new season starting soon while snipping away on my rag quilt seams. When I spread the blanket out to see where I needed to pick up with the scissors, I found a very nasty surprise - a spider so big it should have been paying rent. Girly scream done, I took the quilt outside to get rid of the unwelcome guest. But that sucker did not want to let go. The more violently I shook the quilt, the more I worried the spider would fly up and hit me in the face. I finally got it off, but then the relaxing evening vibe was ruined for some time. Especially since I had to keep checking that it wasn't crawling on my hair or in my shirt.

I finished the cutting today, then tossed the blanket into the washing machine. Two go-arounds in the washer and then the dryer, it seems adequately fluffy and not shedding too much anymore. It's super soft and I love the cheery colours.

Now I'm thinking about that spider again. How dare it sully the sanctity of my craft room!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scissor time

My first rag quilt is sewn together. Now for the part that seems so wrong - going at it with the scissors. And boy are there a lot of edges to clip when you've got 80 squares.

Judging by the fuzzy mess the flannel blanket left around my sewing machine, I'm gonna need to get out the vacuum soon into the snipping.

If you're looking for low-pressure sewing, try a rag quilt. Precision isn't need since the end product is supposed to be a big fuzzy mess. But an oh so cosy fuzzy mess.


This weekend my personal sewing guru, a.k.a. my mom, came over for an afternoon to get me started on a neat quilt kit she bought me when I first started quilting. Generally I'm a bit skittish around this type of project and stick to small sewing endeavours that I can soon pat myself on the back for finishing. But I have a few very lovely kits gathering dust that I really need to suck it up.

After the day with my mom pushing me along, I was really surprised to see how far I can get if I just focus. Which made me realize that focus is really where my crafting falls flat on its face. I'd like to blame many things for my short attention span - the internet, hectic job driven by tight deadlines, cats that always want to sit on what I'm sewing - but it's really just a lack of discipline.

But yesterday I buckled down under the watch of the most crazy productive crafty person. I cut out all the fabric needed for the Moroccan Tile quilt, so now I can just sew. I stitched together stacks, then cut them into triangles. I learned a nifty trick for making pentagons so you don't have a bump in the middle. This was like freaking magic watching the fabric fan around the centre!

I made a few pentagons to make sure I could do it on my own later. (We'll still see about that.) And then I sewed on the other fabric bits needed to make one of the 10 pie pieces that will become the finished quilt.

I like the fabric - Northcott Stonehenge - because it's not something I likely would have picked myself. But it has an amazing texture. Such a complicated project is also something I'd normally shy away from. But I jumped in and now I'm so glad to have a good start on it.