24 August 2008

Holiday recovery

Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I haven't forgotten about blogging, but several things have contributed to a slow-down. I was in Vancouver for 8 days (where I caught a nasty flu from which I'm still recovering) and there's mountains of luggage and laundry as there always is upon one's return from a holiday. To top it off, tomorrow I start a new fulltime job as a user interface designer.

07 August 2008

A cookbook for Taylor

microwave surprise cake
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

One of my amazing girlfriends is moving back to Portland and we are all very sad. I'm going to miss the songs she sings about everything as we're doing it. She definitely lends a wacky sense of fun to every activity. Though there's no way I could match the awesomeness of this going-away present, I wanted to give her something to remind her of us (and why she should come back!).

It all started at our nostalgic sleepover when I had her mix some ingredients in a mug and microwave it. It took less than 5 minutes total and everyone was surprised when I announced that she'd just made a cake! (First tasting cleverly captured on film by lainevierge). She liked the recipe (despite the faces she made) and I thought I'd write up a little cookbook in this pretty blank book that she had brought me from her bookbinding class.

Taylor is a new cook and so I tried to include recipes that are easy, yet delicious. So many beginner-oriented cookbooks have really boring recipes in them and you don't learn anything. I aimed to include breakfast, lunch, supper, and dessert recipes that were all approachable, yet maybe would get you to try a new technique or ingredient or add some new spices to your pantry. Either they have very few ingredients or very simple processes. And almost all of them are happy to be modified with substitutions or additions. A couple of them are family recipes, some are ones I made up at the time I was cooking, and a couple are my versions of recipes that I've used from books or blogs.

My kitchen philosophy is Exactitude only matters in baking and even then not always. If I don't have an ingredient, I just use the most similar thing I do have. If I think something else might taste good, I try it and see. It's hard to make something truly inedible and when you do, it pretty much guarantees you'll never make that particular mistake again. (I once had to throw out a cake-that-wouldn't-bake because I mixed up baking powder with baking soda. And I once had pancakes that weren't working because I was accidentally using icing sugar instead of flour. But I've never made either of those mistakes again. Now if only I could remember that I really don't like cauliflower. When it's all purple and cheap at the market, it looks like fun. But I still have frozen soup in my freezer more than a year later.)

I left the second half of the cookbook blank. In a homemade cookbook, I think it's always nice to have some space to write in new recipes from friends or things you make up yourself. I can't wait to see the pictures of things she tries. If you're looking for some easy recipe ideas, you can see pictures of all the pages in my Cookbooks set. (apologies for the dim lighting but it's been nothing but GLOOMY weather for the past few days)

04 August 2008

The irresistable pull of the fabric

picnic napkin fat quarters
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

This past weekend I was visiting some friends in Ottawa. One of them is equally keen on fabric and we went on a little adventure. My husband came along to keep us company, figuring that there would be other shops to amuse him wherever we ended up. The truth turned out to be much funnier as you will see. The first place we looked for had 2 addresses according to google, but neither appeared to be correct. This was of course only discovered after much driving around along a torn up one-way street with detours. We found the 3 Tarts bakery instead and consoled ourselves with delicious cookies and brownies.

Downtown, we discovered a fancy fabric boutique where prices like $150/metre were commonplace. Beautiful things, but a bit out of our price range. They did have something for me though. I found some bias-tape makers at last! I've previously only seen these nifty little gadgets online, so I bought two: a 1/2-inch one and a 1-inch one. I may end making my own quilt binding as a result. We also popped into a sari shop around the corner and petted the pretty silks, but couldn't think of any real excuse to buy anything.

We then headed out to Orléans to find Quilty Pleasures, a quilting shop we'd learned of in the fancy-schmancy boutique. It turned out to be well worth the journey as it was filled with a lovely and extensive collection of cotton prints. But the two fabric nuts of the group didn't really find anything that suggested a project. And here's the funny part. My husband found a red-gingham-with-ants print and thought it was perfect for a picnic, so I said I'd make him a picnic napkin/basket liner with it if he found another fabric he liked for the reverse. He picked a fun and cheery golden-yellow-with-orange-flower. He bought the two fat quarters and thusly was he inducted into the impulse-fabric-purchase club. So of the three of us, the only one NOT interested in fabrics and sewing was the only one who ended up buying any fabric.

The sewing begins...

quilt blocks
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I decided to go with the artistically random pattern and I've started sewing my quilt top. I've sketched some lines into my photo of the random layout in order to delineate the blocks and I've done 4 so far (out of 30 total). The poll was pretty evenly split, but I had secretly made my choice already (though I might have reconsidered if it had been strongly weighted in the other direction).

Since I have so many different fabrics, the theme blocks pattern still looked quite random. You could really only see the themes if you already knew to look for them. The overall effect in person was that it was a less well done job of random. It had pools of colour/pattern and yet no overall discernible pattern. I think it would have been more successful if I'd had fewer fabrics or more distinct colours.

I'm really pleased with how the squares are looking. I've been only doing a couple at a time so that I don't get careless. You can bet I'll be posting photos of my progress. I read just today that the actual quilting usually takes as long as sewing the quilt top together, so it looks like it's a good thing that I wasn't planning on having this picnic blanket for use until next year.