Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hope you had a happy!

Holiday, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, New Year!  (and any other celebrations I missed.)

Hello again!

I unintentionally disappeared for  a bit.  I had intended to post the last of the gifts I'd made on Christmas Eve and then fell asleep between supper and church.  I won't lie; I slept through church.  It wasn't even at midnight.  It was 7:30.  Since then, I haven't been online. At ALL.  It's been nice but I'm feeling out of the loop.  The only news I've seen is sports-related.  It's been hockey, hockey, hockey...

ANYHOO...  This is the Borrowed Creativity Collection of gifts from this year.
I made this quilt for my mother for Christmas.  It's Allison Harris' Seville pattern.  I even bought the fat quarter bundle to make it.

Completely unoriginal on my part but I liked it so much I didn't want to change a thing.  I named it Figaro.  (Fee-ga-ro, Fee-ga-ro! You know, the Barber of Seville?  Anyone? No?)

Also, a Honey Cowl, knit in a Manos del Uruguay mulberry silk.  Also for my mother.
Seester got a shower cap (tute here), and a number of makeup bags using laminated cotton, which is much  easier to sew with that the interwebs would have be believe.  I used fantastic patterns and tutorials for all of them.

Boxbags:  Amber of One Shabby Chick has a great tutorial.  I lined the largest one with some interfaced Kona.  It added a much-needed sturdiness.
Dumplings:  Keyka Lou.  These are awesome and fun to make.
Slouchy makeup bag:  This one kicked my ass.  You can tell it went haywire because the lining is on the outside...
Makeup Roll:
She also got one of the ubiquitous Anna Maria Horner scarves... I made this one in voile about 12"wide by 70"long.  I made a couple in green for friends.

And finally, in the "saw-it-need-to-make-it" department, some pillow fight weapons for my brother-in-law.  I saw them on ManMadeDIY.

I thought they were so clever. As far as I can tell the artist doesn't have a pattern or store so I hope he doesn't mind that I made a set.

So I was a sewing maniac.  How I found time for three quilts during my internship, I don't know, but I suspect that I tend to sew as an unwind.  It doesn't require speaking or socializing, or analyzing whether someone's got the whole answer or missed the boat.  In sewing moments, my time is utterly my own.  Which is why I was so very excited about my Christmas present from Santa.

But I'll show you that next time.  :-)

Happy New Year!  I'll be catching up with you soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank you!

Dear Dustin Milligan,

Thank you for the other night.  You were fantastic!



I've done improv comedy for about 14 years now.  Our troupe, The Saskatoon Soaps, has been an institution here since 1984.  We perform monthly at the Broadway Theatre in town.  Every Christmas, we join forces with the Tree of Plenty campaign to raise food and funds for the food bank.

This year, we had celebrity guests.  Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy)and Michael Eklund (Intelligence) grew up here.  They're homegrown and were back in town filming Ferocious.  Kim knows the original cast of the Soaps from back in the day (some of whom still do our show) and a few of the "new" ones.  They'd been back and forth for a couple years trying to find a way to get him onstage with us.  Since he was in town, he happily lent his talents to our show.  AND he brought with him Michael.  Then they roped in most of Ferocious, too.  So we had Amanda Crew (Charlie St. Cloud), Katie Boland (Terminal City), and Dustin Milligan, who made me laugh so hard in Extract, my sides hurt. Apparently, he did 90210, too, but to me he'll always be Dead Corbett.  These folks have appeared in so many things I've enjoyed, it was a treat to work with them.
Backstage, getting ready for the show.
Michael came straight from set and used the fake blood as a character trait.

I cannot thank them enough for lending their time and talents to a sold-out show and helping us raise a ton of money for the food bank.  Not only were they great to goof off with onstage, they were also genuinely great human beings backstage and after the show.  Kim was literally the last person out of the theatre that night staying to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the audience.

Good luck with the film, gang!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


My father is notoriously hard to buy for.  He always says he doesn't need anything.  This makes Christmas challenging.  Even more so, his birthday is the 8th of December. ( My sister's is the 6th.  Mother's -  the 10th of January.  Nephew - the 5th of January.  Crazy family and their winter birthdays....)  I have a hard time coming up with ideas for things he'd actually like and use. I have to admit, though, the potato pellet gun was a hoot.  The victims rest of the family still haven't forgiven me for that one.

Father travels a lot.  So I made him these trays.

They hold your change, your keycard, your wallet, your phone, etc., on the hotel dresser so you don't lose anything.  And since they have snaps, they collapse to pack flat in your suitcase.

I bookmarked a tutorial on similar trays, planning to read it later when I had time, and then couldn't find it when I went to make them.  So I made it up as I went along.  I added some batting so that they were softer in the bottom so if he dumped his phone in there, it would be somewhat protected.  I also chose flannel to line them so they wouldn't scratch anything.

To position the batting so it wouldn't shift, I cut it to finished size of the bottom and drew lines in the centre of some fusible interfacing cut to the size of my finished tray plus 1/4" seam allowance.  I centred the batting in the squares I drew on the interfacing and fused it to the flannel.  Then I cut around the interfacing to get my inside pieces and cut same size pieces from my quilting cotton for the outsides.
Forgive the bad lighting.  I can only sew late at night right now...

He loves them.  He has one in Toronto right now.  He may also have gone to Leafs game last night. I'm terribly jealous.  :-)

I also have some incredible thank-yous to give out for something cool that happened at Soaps last Friday night but I'm hoping to get a copy of a picture first...  Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Doorjamb: 1, Carly: Zero & Two quilts down, One to go

Doorjamb vs nose.  Doorjamb will take the title every time.   I was putting my bag away in my bedroom without actually entering the bedroom, in that old-fashioned way:  you know, hand on the jamb, lean in with one foot firmly planted and the other slightly off the hall floor.  Motion catches my eye, lean forward to say hi to the now-awake cat, and set bag down.  Go to put my foot back down and exit. Instead, slip.  Face goes crashing towards jamb. WHACK!

Not broken!  But bruised.  Made for a great and scabby story to tell to my students the next day.  Of course, you're always going to have the full attention of teenagers when you start a class with, "Who wants to hear how I almost broke my nose yesterday?"

Despite my nasal misadventures, I have another project to cross off my Christmas gift list.

I call this lap quilt for my father Square Dance, though I was tempted, albeit briefly, to call it Lap Square Dance. (heehee) Thought he'd find it funnier...  Nothing like an inappropriate joke to get you through the tediousness that is basting a quilt!

Quilted with circles, since I've decided I really like the look, and to break up the insanity of squares within squares.  Made mostly with Moda with some Hometown by Sweetwater, some red Kona, and backed with some brown Essex linen.  Approx 56" x 74".

All that fussing with the paper and super tiny strips - the red squares are 1/2" wide - was worth the effort as I don't think my piecing has ever been so precise.  You'll have to forgive the ugly clamps holding it up. I had a limited stealth-photo window and had to make do without assistance of any kind.  Where are Santa's speedy little helpers when you need them?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another quilt top finished...

Manly, right?

One more thing to cross off the list.  Now to find the time and space to baste like a madwoman!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sewing and Sleeping

My internship is winding down but the last few weeks have been particularly intense.  Plus, the snow has arrived and the shifts in the weather have done a number on my noggin. ( I LOVE snow; I hate low barometric pressure and dramatic temperature swings.  :-)  I fell asleep so early on Friday night that it was still Friday.  Normally, I don't retire until the wee hours of morning.  Night was still well in control of the clock when I lost consciousness.   Then I had a terror-inducing nightmare involving a dragon-zombie apocalypse.  If you wanted to know what any of that meant, (and trust me, you don't) I could describe it in a staggering amount of detail.  Apparently, my dreamscape is the latest of things available in HD.  Once I got over the disturbing bits, I was strangely fascinated by it.  Always, the bright side.

Before I crashed early once again on Saturday, I managed to get some sewing done (two weekends in a row - what the heck???).  Family - if you are reading, I once again ask that you stop here.  In fact, let's just declare the blog off-limits until Dec 25th.  Please and thank you.

So far, I have sewn twelve of the squares inside of squares ( of 24) and 24 of the square in the corner blocks.  These are destined to become a lap quilt for Father.  

I started with a sketch.  I'd bought fabric a month or so ago and just couldn't pick a block style.  I wanted something masculine but everything I saw was just too fussy...  I came up with the design above, calculated how many of each piece I'd have to cut from how many strips and when rotary-cutter crazy.  Then I realized that *I* was crazy.  My piecing has been dodgy.  I have not been able to sew a scant 1/4" since, well.... ever.  And here I have several pieces that would end up with a 1/2" width.  Yeah, this ought to go well.

Then I thought, "Hmmm, based on my success with the Winter Woolies a couple of weeks ago, maybe I should paper-piece it..."  So I made a template and that's what I did.  Because I'd already cut the fabric, I am finding that it takes a bit of pinning to make sure that it ends up in the right place when you sew it.  I can't chain-piece and it is taking me a lot longer to sew but the results are so precise, it's entirely worth the extra effort.  Plus, this block combo is very forgiving when it comes to finished size.  If I find I'm running shy of 9.5", these can trim to 9.25" without ruining them.  Yay!
This photo turned out super-saturated for some reason.  Bad lighting + tomato red =  vintage 70s look?

Total finished this weekend:
-12 fiddly paper-pieced squares ( plus 24 easy blocks from last weekend)
-two quilt backs (one for the lap quilt, one for a top finished last weekend)
-couple of metres of double-fold bias binding in a particular shade of purple to match the fabrics I chose from Seester's gifts


Long-suffering, patient, neglected friends seen:
-none, but in my defence, I once again fell asleep at the dinner table on Friday.  Driving is never a wise decision when you've come ever-so-close to mashed potatoes up the nose.

Percentage of body and spirit restored:
-nearly 100%, ready for another week!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A long weekend means I actually finished something....

There is something lovely about having no marking or lesson planning to do over a long weekend.  I almost didn't know what to do with myself!  Luckily, I have Christmas presents to work on.  (At this time, Mum and Seester, I ask that you stop reading this post immediately.  Unless you wish to ruin Christmas.  Yep.  I said ruin.  :-)

Nothing like a well-placed guilt trip!

My nephew is only just ten months old but when I saw Riley Blake's Pirate fabrics, I knew I wanted to make him something with it.  It was my dad who suggested a twin-size quilt for when he graduates to a big boy bed.  I had a bundle of 10" squares, a bundle of 5" charms, and a yard of the black text print.  I also had no idea of the pattern I would use.  I definitely didn't want it to look babyish or fussy.  If I could help it, I wanted it to last him a while and grow up with him a bit until he was "too cool" to have anything with pirates.  I left the back pretty plain so he could flip it when the time came.

I threw the charms on the floor, raided my Kona solids (I had just scored 6.3m of charcoal with a 40%off coupon) and came up with this.  The "X" I made from the black and white 10" squares.  I used Steam-a-Seam on the black, drew my X, cut it out, ironed in on and zigzagged around it.  If the edges get a bit raggy over the years, I'll be pleased and call it "authentic pirate weathering". During a spare hour last weekend, I managed to get it basted and then went on a complete tear this weekend getting it all finished up.

I also added my new label.  gutenTAGS.  Saw them on everyone else's blog and thought it would be a good idea.  They went from idea to reality so very fast that I was shocked when they turned up in the mailbox shortly after I'd ordered them.  I love them.

The idea for the quilting came from a photo I'd seen on Poppyprint.  I thought it looked like a drop of water in a pond and it definitely was interesting than the straight-line quilting I usually do.  I'm so pleased with how it turned out - definitely masculine.
Yes, that's my squeaky, creaky sewing machine on the floor.  My sewing space is wherever I find room at the moment.  Wednesday night was floor and bad lighting night.
And once finished with Pirates, I moved onto finishing the top for this one.  Wasn't able to take photos of it yet though.... There are prying eyes and inquiring minds afoot!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hot streak, cold weather, warm heart

I've had a run of luck the last few weeks.

I won an e-book copy of Modern Mix on Amy's Creative Side.  Can't wait to have the time to try some of the patterns, though right now, I'll have to content myself with the gorgeous photographs.
Then I won a book of poetry, Today's Special Dish by Nina Lindsay, at Both Fires...  It hasn't arrived yet but I delight in knowing that I will soon have a feast of words in my hands..

And then I won a paper-piecing pattern by Very Kerry Berry, on Live a Colorful Life.  I'd have posted about this earlier but I wanted to wait until I'd tried it. I've wanted to give this technique a whirl for ages but hadn't gotten around to it.  No excuses left this time!  For a first project, I'm thrilled with the results! The precision in the piecing amazed me, especially the teeny tiny parts. I still have a ton to learn but for now, I have a cute Winter Woolies set.
Clearly, I finished it in the nick of time because this is what I woke up to:

And now, I must depart the sewing machine and get back to marking.  The last night of the school play was Friday and, after all the rehearsals at lunch, after school and weekends  I treated myself to a lazy Saturday, thinking about what those talented kids accomplished on that stage.

For some reason, the gratitude of young people never fails to move me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I invented a pie!

No, I didn't have time to do it but I saw bonino mauro plums at the grocery store.

I also grabbed a bag of cranberries.

Used a ridiculous amount of butter.

Washed, chopped, sliced, blended, baked.

Carly's Plum-Cranberry Pie
3 cups plums, pitted and sliced (approx 1/2 lb)
1 cup cranberries, halved
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper (trust me)

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/3 cup butter (1/4 cup melted gives you a crunchier streusel, 1/3 cup cold and cut into dry ingredients is crumblier but more butter than you need considering the amount in the crust)

I use Martha's Perfect Pie Crust recipe.  It makes enough for a two-crust pie so there is currently a half-batch in the fridge in case I get pie-crazy again...  This crust is so good; it's a little heavier than those made with lard or shortening but the taste and texture make up for it.

1 egg, beaten

Make your crust and chill an hour or so.  Roll out and put in pie pan.  Fancify your edge.  I know some prefer to just fork around it, but I like to flute it.  Brush inside and edge with egg.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keeping Up

I have survived parent-teacher interviews.  Not that it wasn't a positive experience.  It was fantastic, actually.  But I am beyond wiped at this point, and finished with conversing for a day or two! I shall entrench myself in a couch nook, do some lesson planning, and try to relax with a little sewing.

Since my sewing space is always temporary, I like to do as much of one thing as possible at a crack.  Therefore, I've cut everything for this quilt and stored it in a ziploc.  The pattern said to cut the strips, sew them all in a long strip and then cut the borders off that piece.  I've already sewn the border strips and binding, though it'll be a while before I get to that part. (Months?)  Then I thought, hmmm, crap.  How'm I going to store the super long border strips?

Wind it around the 6" ruler and keep it from getting crazy!
My spiderweb triangles are finished but I haven't found enough time or space to lay them out yet...  My kingdom for a design wall!
The darker colour is the entirety of the middle.  The cream part hasn't even been added yet.  The floor space between the bed and the closet is not big enough...  Also, the lighting is one watt above kerosene lantern.

Well, I need to run!  Nephew is nine-and-a-half months of chubby, moving, curiosity chaser, and currently pinching my toes while doing his velociraptor impression....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you are a Canadian, Happy Thanksgiving to you!
If you are not, here is a random picture of a turkey.

I have a great deal to be thankful for and in the spirit of gratitude, thank you for stopping by, for reading, for commenting, for writing your blogs, for sharing and inspiring, for teaching and passing forward what you've learned, for comfort, for laughter, and for being you.  I love you!

If you were here, I'd give you pie.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


What do I say?  

His influence on me and on how I do things, how I teach, interact and work, is distinctly visible in how I live my daily life.  

It's not simply possessions - possessions only carry a person so far - it's a way of thinking, of looking at things, a elegant simplicity, and a demand of excellence.  It's a lifestyle, a philosophy, an idea.

He was a unique individual, a visionary, a pioneer, a genius and possibly a tyrant.  He didn't know me, nor I, him.  But he understood my goals and how I wanted to reach them.  

He changed the world.

Steve Jobs.  1955-2011.  

Things will not be the same without him.

"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Snippet of Life

The following anecdote may fall into the category of TMI.  You have been warned.  :-)
Picture is unrelated but I'm trying to keep the blog rated PG  :-D

While watching a little dessert television, the subject of a certain television host's breasts came up.  Father made a comment about how lovely they were...

Me: They might look nice, but they're fake.
Father:  I don't care.
Me: The fake ones don't feel the same, Dad.
Father:  Yeah, *I know.*

At this point, I was confused and doing a little head scratch.  My parents have been married for 39 years and I was trying to figure out just what situation would make his knowledge possible without making my head explode.

Me:  *How*, exactly, do you know that?
Mother:  Seriously?

She stared at me with a look of disbelief.  At this point, I remembered.

Me:  Oh! Right.  Sorry, Mum! 

And we all burst out into giggles at the silliness of it all.  My mother is an eight-year survivor of breast cancer.  We may have a little experience with the fake ones.

Mother:  This doesn't go on your blog....
Me:  It IS Breast Cancer Awareness Month....
Mother:  Meh.  Fair enough.

Moral of the story:  Don't be a Boob. Be aware.

For all the women (and men) who have found themselves battling this particular brand of the horror that is cancer, for those that have lost the battle, for the families and friends of those who've won and lost, for the researchers, doctors and nurses that are working to eradicate cancer, for every person who runs, fundraises or shaves their head in solidarity, and for every pink ribbon...  you have my prayers, thoughts and hopes. Keep fighting.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lucky mail

I enter giveaways on the blogs of people I read, even those for whom I rarely leave comments, but only for things I would like to win and could use.  For example, I've seen some absolutely beautiful quilts in giveaways but as much as I appreciate the artistry, if I think it'll simply languish in a closet somewhere, then it belongs in better hands than mine and so I don't enter those ones.  I'd hate to waste the day I'm lucky with an item that would be special and treasured by someone else. It's just how I roll.

And THEN there are the things I DO want to win.  Like thread!
This delightful sample pack arrived in the mail today from my friend Cindy at Live a Colorful Life.  The Random Number Generator chose me and there was much rejoicing.  Thanks for the giveaway, Cindy! I'm thrilled to pieces (which I can now sew together with very pretty thread...)!

Now if anyone can find the giveaway where I can win the spare time to actually play around with my new thread, please let me know.  :-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autumn leads to Soup

I managed to find a few minutes in the last week to make the first pot of Potato, Ham and Cheese Soup for the season. 

Using a variety of potatoes (blue, yellow, red) makes it prettier.
Using a Vermont-style ham gives a maple sweetness that balances out the chill flakes.

Making focaccia to dunk means no boring store-bought crackers.

It also means I have an excuse to use the pretty pink Himalayan finishing salt I received as a gift.

Pot of soup to myself means lots of yummy leftovers.
And not having to share strawberries for dessert!

Recipe found in a piece of junk mail years ago...  It is not kosher, halal or vegetarian (my apologies to those with dietary restrictions!)

3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes (or a hand-full of new potatoes with the skin on (prettier)
2 cups of water
3Tbsp butter
1 med onion, chopped
3Tbsp flour
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chili flakes, to taste
1tsp sugar
3cups milk (not skim, it's better the higher fat content you go, but 1% will work if it's what you've got on-hand)
1 cup cooked ham, cubed (Vermont-style is nice but use your favourite, or bacon)
1 cup shredded old cheddar (spring for the best cheese you can, I use 2-year old white cheddar)

Boil potatoes in 2 cups water in a medium pot for 10-15min or until fork tender.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of potato water.  (Add water if you are short). Add potato water to sugar and milk.  Set potatoes and milk mixture aside.

Melt butter over medium heat.  Saute onions until translucent but not brown, about 5 min.  Sprinkle flour, pepper, and chili flakes over onions and stir constantly, until flour is browned and onions are thoroughly coated, 3-5 min. You may want to lower the heat to med-low for this step.

Gradually and gently add potatoes and stir until coated with flour mixture.  Slowly add milk mixture, small amounts at first, stirring well with each addition.  Add ham and cheese. Bring to a low simmer.

Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 min.  Serves 4, or more if you get a little crazy with the potatoes and ham.  I always seem to add more...  It's yummier that way.