Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Never Say Never...

I'm still working on 'Escapees'.

I know!  I know I said that I was done with it, that I had machine-stitched the binding and:

"It's still not perfect, but it's better, and something I'm going to just live with, since there's no way in heck that I'm going to hand-stitch that sucker down."
I lied.

Well, not really.

I just kept looking at the back of 'Escapees', and my fingers kept twitching for the seam ripper.  So, August 19, I ripped all the stitches out - for the third time.  Yeah, that's two days after I posted that I was done, for those us keeping track.  It wasn't good enough for me, because I know I can do better than the half-assed job that I had done.

Tonight, I bit the bullet, and began hand-stitching(!!!) the binding down.  Thank goodness for Netflix, and the arrival of the first disc of Castle: Season One.  (I highly recommend this show, btw!!  I LURV me some Nathan Fillion!)  I worked through the first four episodes for a second time, first getting dinner ready, then hand-stitching while Zeb slept on the sofa.

I've got a lot more to go.  I don't even want to think about it, but I have to say, I'm much, much happier with the way it looks now.  I might have to convert to hand-stitching all of my binding down in the future.

Now, I'm off to break out the thimbles, since I'd forgotten how tough hand-stitching could be on naked fingers, and get back to hand-stitching.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eggplant Ziti - Or Not So Much

The plan for dinner tonight was supposed to be an attempt at this recipe.  Unfortunately, my sole remaining eggplant decided to go spectacularly bad.

Considering that it was already after nine (I worked the closing shift today), and I had a mess of fresh and canned vegetables waiting to be turned into something yummy, I winged it again, and came up with a chunky, meatless pasta 'sauce'.

2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 large onion, chopped (I would have happily increased this to a full onion, but I only had half a lonely onion left)
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (13.75 oz) artichoke hearts, (not marinated), rough chopped
1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, rough chopped
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 cup carrot slices
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil

First, I took the onion, garlic, and carrot slices and dumped them in the bottom of my pot, along with the olive oil.  I cooked these until the onion started to soften.  Then I dumped the rest of the ingredients in, and let the whole works simmer for about twenty minutes.  Then I realized that I'd forgotten to start the water boiling for the whole wheat penne, and had to add about 1/2 cup of water to the sauce to keep it moist, while the noodles cooked.

For an off-the-cuff, nearly one pot meal, this was actually pretty good!  I keep looking at my now empty plate, thinking, 'I could really eat more of that'.  But really, I'm full.  It was just damned tasty!  I'm going to be a good, not-overstuffed eater, and save the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.  The rest of the sauce will just have to get frozen, because this recipe makes a lot for one person!

In retrospect, I would probably use fresh basil as part of my seasoning, and maybe increase the amount of cooking sherry.  Oh, and I would dearly love to switch in portabella mushrooms for the white mushrooms used tonight.

Anyway, I topped the meal tonight with ordinary grated Parmesan cheese, but I think this would do better with freshly grated Parmesan.  Oh, and despite the dieting world's hatred for carbs, I would totally throw in a loaf of crusty French bread, for cleaning all of the sauce off my plate. Mmm!!  Still, for a meal that left absolutely edible leftovers, I'm pretty happy.

Think Modern Thursday #4 - Proposal Moon by Jacquie

I have to apologize for the lateness of this post... I ended up working a different shift than usual, and it threw off my whole day!  I actually almost forgot that it was Thursday today.

This week I'm pleased to bring you a quilt by Jacquie from Tallgrass Prairie Studio.  Check out her flickr for more views of her quilty goodness!

Now, before I get into her the actual top that I've selected for this week, I just wanted to share with you all my love for Jacquie's quilts.  In my humble opinion, Jacquie's work achieves the aesthetic that I picture in my head when I think 'modern'.
First of all, I love the inspiration for this quilt.  It's such a sweet story.  

I'll be honest... I don't have a lot to say about this particular quilt top.  There isn't much to be said, that the picture doesn't say for me.  Yeah, I really do love this top to bits!  Anyway... 

I am addicted to gray in quilts.  It's probably my favorite neutral.  Gray has such a wonderful way of reflecting the hues in the surrounding fabrics, rather than absorbing them, like black, or diminishing them, like white.

I am also, still, very addicted to graphic black and white prints, which Jacquie makes such wonderful use of here.  And, I really dig that persimmon orange solid.  It's such a rich contrast to the gray solid.

I really enjoy the fact that this quilt isn't perfectly symmetrical, yet has a beautiful balance to it.  It just shows us all that we don't have to ensure that each quadrant of a quilt is the mirror image of its opposite.

When I asked Jacquie for permission to post about Proposal Moon here, she was kind enough to tell me that she was working on the back of the quilt and was hoping to start quilting it soon.  I'm so excited to see what the final product looks like!  

Thank you very much, Jacquie, for allowing me to show off Proposal Moon for this edition of "Think Modern Thursday!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More GO! Give-aways

These things are all over blog-land!  I come to you today with another three GO! give-aways.

First, Karrie over at Freckled Whimsy.  She's giving you five chances to win.  1.) Leave a comment on her give-away post.  Anything you want.  2.) Follow Karrie's blog.  I highly recommend that you do so.  3.)  Tweet about the give-away and leave a comment with a link to the tweet.  4.) Blog about the give-away, and link to it in a comment.  5.) Leave a comment with your three favorite GO! dies.  Karrie's give-away closes Friday, August 27th.

Next, Cindy at Sew Cindy.  Her give-away is today ONLY.  Run, run and leave the single comment Cindy is requiring for your entry.

Finally, Heather at a la mode fabric is hosting our third give-away of the day.  Enter by: 1.) Leaving a comment about what your favorite cartoon is.  2.) Blogging about her give-away, and leaving a link to it.  3.) Follow Heather's blog, and leave a comment to that effect.  Heather's give-away also runs until Friday, August 27.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scraps? Sign Me Up!

It should be sad that I get giddy about blog give-aways in which the prize is scraps...

Shouldn't it?

Okay, you're right.  It isn't!

I love to get my hands on other people's scrap baskets, and to play with them, particularly since I have two string quilts going at the moment.  So, when I saw Melissa Stramel's give-away on her blog, I had to sign up!  Melissa's blog is also definitely worth going through for inspiration, and it's liberally sprinkled with photos of her adorable children.

Experimenting With Eggplant - Roasted Eggplant with Tomato

Did you all know that eggplant is a berry?  I didn't, until I started surfing the web for things to do with the eggplant I picked up at the farmer's market on Saturday.

I wanted the eggplant as a side dish, and most of the recipes were for main dishes or appetizers and involved a lot more prep than I was willing to put in with a two year old demanding mommy time.  However, I wasn't willing to give up, so I decided to wing it.  The challenge was to prepare something with the ingredients I had on hand.
Roasted Eggplant with Tomato

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 eggplant
2 tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese.

1.) Slice eggplant into 1/4" thick rounds and place onto a cookie sheet in a single layer.  I sprayed the cookie sheet with no stick spray, or you can brush olive oil onto the sheet to prepare it.  Brush each eggplant round with olive oil.

2.) Sprinkle the rounds with sea salt and black pepper and place into a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees.  Bake for 5 minutes.

3.) Slice the tomatoes into thin rounds and coarse chop the 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese.  You can also choose to grate it... I couldn't find my grater.

4.) After taking the eggplant out of the oven, lay one tomato slice on each eggplant, then sprinkle the Italian seasoning and dried basil on top of the tomato.  Follow this with Parmesan cheese on top of the tomato.

5.)  Set the oven to broil, and slid the prepared eggplant rounds back into the oven on the top rack.  Broil for five minutes, until cheese is browned on top.

6.)  Serve warm.

Okay, I just have to say that before trying the eggplant this way, I had not been eggplant-friendly.  However, in the name of better eating I figured I'd pick some up and give it a try.  I am so glad that I did.  It tasted great, and was very filling.  I'll be taking the leftovers to work tomorrow for a light lunch.

In the name of full disclosure, I will say that I'll probably be switching out cheeses next time I prepare this.  The Parmesan tasted great toasted, but Provolone or feta cheese would probably work just as well.  I'd even be tempted to try something with a smokey flavor.  One could probably eliminate the sea salt entirely.  I'm not even sure I could tell that it was there, and I will probably use fresh ground pepper next time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Accuquilt GO! Give-Aways

I will unabashedly say that I am intrigued by the new gidgets and gadgets that are developed for quilters.  Plainly said, I'm a techno-geek, and I love new toys to play with, particularly if they offer easier methods of cutting.

Thus, the Accuquilt GO! has caught my attention.  Apparently it's caught the attention of quilter's everywhere!  I know of two give-aways for this interesting, and portable(!) machine.

First, check out Sweet P Quilting and Creations for her give-away, which ends on August 31.  You get two chances to enter.  One, become a follower of her blog, or if you are already one, leave a comment to that effect.  Two, blog about her give-away and leave another comment.

For your second attempt at winning a GO! Cutter, pop over to visit Karen of Sew Many Ways...  Not only is she doing a give-away, but she's doing a series of tutorials utilizing the GO! Cutter's hexagon die.  Enter by: 1.) Visiting the Accuquilt website and finding the die that you would to have, and leave a comment about it.  My choice was the new Double Wedding Ring die.  2.)  Become a follower of her blog, or if you are already one, leave a comment to that effect.  3.)  Blogging about the give-away, and leaving a comment about your own post.  Karen's give-away closes September 1.  

There's two other GO! give-aways coming up, that I'm aware of.  I'll try to remember to keep everyone posted, as those go live.  Until then, GO (hehe) try and win one, and good luck!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Think Modern Thursday #3 - A Mini-Quilt by flossybossy

DQS9 (or check out the flickr) is going to provide plenty of inspirational fodder for me!  Today's modern example also hails from a participant of this round, Brioni, also known as flossybossy.  And, yes, it's another example of a solely solids quilt.  I just can't get away from them!!

It's done!

Once again, I'm totally jealous of whomever is going to receive this little gem, which is really odd, because it's in a softer color palette than I would normally go in.  

So, what's so modern about this one?  

Check out those flying geese!  Traditional flying geese blocks are comprised of three triangles, where the length is twice the height.  Very simple.  These flying geese come in a variety of acute angles, defying the standard.

That pop of chocolate/burgundy in the center is genius.  The contrast of that rich, saturated hue against the (in comparison) effervescent pastels is wonderful.  

The back Speaking of effervescence, the pebble quilting is perfection against the otherwise harsh angles.  I love the way the dense quilting pops out the shape of the un-quilted portions of the quilt.  
Even  better?  This isn't a square quilt!  It's a hexadecagon!  (Yeah, I totally had to look that up, lol.) That's 16-sided!  I'm envious of how neat the binding looks on this quilt, but that's more a commentary on my total lack of binding skillz.  *glares at WIP*

Anyway, to see more of flossybossy's awesomeness, check out her blog.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Progress Report: Escapees

Last night saw the binding (finally!!) successfully attached. I attempted to sew it down twice before, and ended up ripping the stitches both times, displeased with the way it looked.  It's still not perfect, but it's better, and something I'm going to just live with, since there's no way in heck that I'm going to hand-stitch that sucker down.

The hang-tabs are also attached, which leaves a some thread tails to bury.  Once that step is done, I can move on to quilting the last two rows of triangles.  I'm so looking forward to having this one done.  Other projects have been calling out to me, luring me with their siren song..

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Think Modern Thursday #2 - A Top by The Sewbot

One of my first experiences with online swaps was Doll Quilt Swap 7.  It was a wonderful learning process, and I think I am about ready to participate in another DQS.  I'll have to wait until DQS 10, though, as 9 is well underway.  Still, I love to poke through the DQS flickr group for inspiration on a regular basis.

I came across this:

DQS9 - In progress - Waiting for pins

Jessica, also known as The Sewbot, is a woman after my own heart!  She's a self-described "supernerd", which just makes me giggle, as I'd totally slap that label on my own person.  Check out her blog or her flickr. She's incredibly talented, and I love her color sense!

Which brings me to the top above...  Need I say that I'm totally jealous of her swap partner?

I love the asymmetry in this top, and the medley of bright oranges is just superb.  (I went through an orange fabric buying phase, and this top makes me want to play with them!)  It's even better that there are so many polka dots!  The big black polka dots help to tie in the center panel without making it obvious that they're bringing a little balance.

I love, love, love the tone on tone, layered circles in the center.  They make me think of a jumble of planets against the dark vastness of space.  I'm really digging how the aqua just leaps out at me.  The contrast between the hard lines of the triangles and the curves of the circles create an amazing unity.

Thank you, Jessica, for allowing me to showcase this top!

A Wonderful Summer Salad!

Last summer, I would never have thought to eat zucchini raw.  It just never occurred to me.

I know.  Weird, right?  I think it is anyway ;)

This summer, thanks to my determination to find healthful recipes that actually have flavor, I'm rediscovering my love of raw vegetables, which includes zucchini, now.

smitten kitchen put up a recipe for Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad, and it induced yet another taste party in my mouth!  I love that it's a cold salad.  It's even better that it's a pasta salad without mayo!  Check out smitten kitchen for the original recipe.  Below is what I did to make it more my own.

Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad
1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and then very thinly sliced (think carpaccio)
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds
2 cups small cauliflower florets (I mean small, like micro, tip of the finger sized florets)
1/2 pound of whole wheat rotini, cooked, drained and cooled
10 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of 4 lemons
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of garlic powder
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

First, take the zucchini slices and toss them with the salt in a large colander.  Allow the zucchini slices to drain over a bowl or in the sink for approximately 20 minutes.  I rinsed and then allowed them to drain again, to get rid of excess salt taste.

Mix zucchini slices, almonds, Parmesan cheese, noodles, cauliflower together.  Whisk olive oil and lemon juice together, seasoning with black pepper and garlic powder to taste.  Toss dressing with salad.  Voila!  Nummers.

I'd share a photo, but kiddo has absconded with the camera.  Maybe if I find it...

But for the next time I make this, I think I'll include broccoli florets.  I bet they'd taste amazing with the dressing.  And I might consider switching out the Parmesan cheese for feta, but that's a tough call.  Maybe I'll just buy both and do a side-by-side tasting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Think Modern Thursday #1: Vintage Jacob's Ladder

Okay, so you all know that I'm on a solids kick.  I'm seriously tempted to start buying fabrics to make a quilt completely out of solids, especially since Joann's has a decent selection of Kona cottons that just make my heart sing.

Anyway, on another trip through blog-land, I came across this photo of a lovely, lovely vintage Jacob's Ladder top:
Yeah, that doesn't look very vintage does it?  Ann Champion is the lucky owner of this top.  It's thanks to her kind permission that I'm able to share this beauty with you.  Check out her post for the details on this stunner.

Now, the reason that this top caught my eye is because I've been thinking so much about the whole 'modern' quilting thing.  And that led me to considering that I should maybe show off the tops and quilts that capture the heart of 'modern' to me.  That brings me to this: the very first Think Modern Thursday.  I'm hoping to do this on a weekly basis, but I can't promise that the muse will cooperate.  (Not to mention, there's the whole self-discipline thing...)

Anyway, why does this particular top make me think 'modern'?

Jacob's Ladder is normally seen set within sashing.  In this example, the blocks are all set side by side, creating an interesting secondary pattern.

Next, the use of color in this top is extraordinary!  The 'background' is not comprised of white (or cream).  Instead, the maker elected to use a lavender instead.  And really, how many of us would think to use lavender with two shades of orange?  Not many of us, I'd guess.  I'd have thought about using a deep purple as a foil to those luscious oranges, but never something as light as that lavender.

Also, I love that the white catches the eye without overwhelming the rest of it.  The white and lavender provide a nice counterbalance to the two oranges.  The turquoise gives the quilt a zing, bringing some cool to what would otherwise be a very warm quilt.

I love when traditional quilt blocks are given such a crisp 'make-over'.  The lines in this top are strong, uninterrupted by busy prints that confuse the eye.

I think that does it for now.. Let's see what I come up with for next Think Modern Thursday!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Awesome Hand-made Jewelry Give-Away!

I stumbled across this blog and give-away today:  Cindy from Creative Thought From Cindy is giving away some amazing hand-made jewelry!  You can win a custom made necklace with Viking Braid and a wire-wrapped stone.  Check out Cindy's post to see some examples of her work!

'Modern' Quilting

Recently, the Milwaukee-Madison Modern Quilt Guild split, due to geography, and became the Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild, while someone separate from the existing guild founded a Ning group called the Madison Modern Quilt Guild.  I've gone and joined the Madison group.

The founder of the new group started a discussion on what makes a 'modern' quilter.  I couldn't resist throwing my two (thousand) cents in, especially since this is a topic that just keeps percolating in the back of my mind.  This is what brownbuilt posted:

I have been asking myself what makes someone a "modern" quilter and I came up with this:
You Might be a Modern Quilter if...
...you consider Deniye Schmidt your own personal hero
....you wander around a quilt show, wondering where all the "cool" fabrics are. You leave a quilt store with a suspicious feeling that all those quilts are beautiful, but not quite your style
....you have no interest in making a traditional Christmas stocking or anything from most traditional quilting books.
....you love fabrics from designers such as Amy Bulter, Heather Ross, Heather Bailey, Tula Pink, Erin Micheal, and Anna Maria Horner, to name but a few.
.... you go online to search for fabric, find techniques, and read other quilting blogs
Any more you can think of?

And this is what I wrote in response:

I had to have a chuckle when I read this, because I just don't match any of these, besides the second and last ones.  Keep in mind, though, that I started quilting in the most traditional manner possible.  I checked out a book from the library, and followed its instructions for making cardboard(!) templates, traced around them, cut my fabrics with scissors, and then hand sewed(!!) everything for about six years.   (One of my first quilts was a hand-stitched Double Wedding Ring Quilt.)  Then I discovered the sewing machine...  'Nuff said.

Maybe I'm way old school, but for me, throwing the word 'wonky' or 'improv' in front of a block or quilt name doesn't make it 'modern' to me.  I'm not much for abstract art either though.  

I don't particularly go ga-ga over any designers, though I do admire the aesthetics of Joel Dewberry and Tula Pink.  And most 'modern' quilters think the following statement is blasphemy:  Kaffe Fassett's prints and quilts look like Technicolor vomit.  I think it's a crime that he re-colored some of Liberty of London's prints.

I've only ever purchased several prints within a fabric line twice in my life, and I have never made a quilt using only the prints from a single line.  I find it boring and not at all challenging.  Quilting is expressing my vision, and I feel like confining myself within a single fabric line serves to only express the fabric designer's vision.  

For me, being a 'modern' quilter is about working beyond the barriers of 'traditional' quilting, even if it's as simple a barrier as working a traditional block in a different value or color scale.  It's about embracing the things that make us unique as creative individuals and allowing those things to help us thrive as artists.  It's about being unafraid to follow my own vision, rather than copying someone else's pattern (and really, how many freaking four-patch patterns can there be out there?!?).  It's about letting the materials at hand speak to me, and letting my intuition guide the final project.  It's about being unafraid of color, and working outside of my comfort zone.

I guess, really, for me, it comes down to being true to myself and not becoming entrenched in what others think a quilt should look like.  Sure, I'll use traditional blocks and settings, but, then again, so did the Amish, and 'traditional' Amish quilts are as modern as you can get!  Such strong use of color and line, married with technical expertise - I can only hope to achieve such beauty in my quilts.