Traveller - Wrapped in Hugs

Indian Cottons Improvised Curve Quilts


54'' x 54''

Started years ago, finished in record time. Traveller is a special quilt I made for a special person going through a rough time.

The fabric comes from India, brought home for me - the quilter in the family. I pet it, I made precisely 3 quarter circles to test out the sewing, then put it aside for years. I would show the blocks when I taught my Perfect Circles class and put them back in the bin. Then you hear the word Cancer. Cancer. And the world stops for more than a few moments. When it starts again, you, the quilter, think of making a quilt.

The quilt itself is something you want to give, to try to keep your arms wrapped around the person 24/7. It's more than that though. It is the act of making for me, the quilter, too. The act of making allows us to slow down, think about the person, and process our own emotions. It is about the quilt AND the process equally. And when the quilt leaves your hands and gets wrapped around the back of the recipient all the love gets transferred.

The top was done already, made in a fit of tangential creativity and improvisation. I'd always known I would give it to this particular recipient, but the quilt top languished in the pile of unfinished tops awaiting another round of motivation. So when I heard Cancer and surgery and a lot of time on the couch right before Christmas I pushed myself to get the quilt finished.

I made the back from a collection of sarong fabric another friend gave me. More travel inspiration! My husband helped me baste the quilt on a Saturday night. All day Sunday I quilted. Monday I bound, stitching on the winter drive with a golden thread, car light on as the sun set freakishly early on the Northern Prairies. On Tuesday it lay on the bed, waiting for recovery, waiting to lay down the hugs. 

Improv Quilts

Cardamom Ice Cream

Save for a few days over Easter and our wedding anniversary I've been single parenting the last two weeks. What I wouldn't do for beer and chocolate every single night. And intravenous caffeine first thing in the morning. But it's just another week in an absolutely crazy month. And all you can do is put one foot in front of another, type another key, cook another meal, and eat another bowl of ice cream.

Yes, another bowl of ice cream. For every day that I remember to buy cream when I steal a moment to buy groceries I dream about ice cream. Okay, that's a slight overstatement, but only slightly.

Once I called my neighbour over to save me by digging through the mess in the basement (I can still can't make my way to the basement yet) to find the base of the ice cream maker I could make my dreams come true. Cardamom ice cream here I come!

And oh, did that ice cream do it for me. It's quite rich. Ridiculously rich. And while I doubted the cardamom taste when making the custard it came through perfectly in the finished product. Adding rhubarb was a way to tease myself into spring (despite the snow storm we got this week) and soften the richness of the ice cream.

Cardamom Ice Cream with Lightly Stewed Rhubarb
(Adapted from delicious March 2010)
Serves 6 (or 1 tired mom over a few days)

Ice Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
300 ml can of sweetened condensed milk

6 stalks rhubarb
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons water

1. Steep the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods in the cream and milk. Bring to medium heat in a saucepan. Just before it boils turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour. Strain and discard the spices.
2. Whisk the eggs and the sugar until pale. Add the infused milk/cream, whisking constantly. Pour into a clean saucepan and cook over low/medium heat, stirring, for 5-8 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, add the condensed milk, and pour into a clean bowl or jug. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
3. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Pour into a freezable container and freeze until firm.
4. Half hour before serving chop the rhubarb and combine with the other ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but is still holding it's shape.  Set aside to cool.
5. Serve ice cream on top of cooled rhubarb.

Chocolate And Friendship Day

We've never been huge Valentine's Day fans in this house.  Well, that's not 100% true.  I adored Valentine's Day when I was single and wistfully dreaming of a lover to buy me flowers and spoil me with treats. But when I met my husband and the reality of a relationship and my man's opinion of V-Day hit me I realized that I would be lucky if he even remembered the day. I also realized that I am damn lucky to have him, every day of the year.

After a hellish month, however, I'm looking for any small amount of comfort and love. Today that came in the form of a quiet afternoon writing and visiting with a friend while we sipped garam masala hot cocoa and she gave me a reflexology treatment. It was simply so nice to be spoiled. And to enjoy some company with my friend.

I'd been waiting to try this hot cocoa until she came to visit. Although she is originally a farm girl with a Metis background, she has surrounded herself with East Indian friends and boyfriends. I knew she would appreciate the spice of this cocoa better than Hubby.  I was right. It was rich and warming, with hints of spice and the Indian coast. It doesn't seem like the flavours should go well together, but if you think of Mexican hot chocolate with its chili heat, this isn't far off. But there is something exotic about it and so comforting.

Sitting with her this afternoon I felt my spirits lift, old friends have the power to do that. So does chocolate and a foot rub, but not as well as friends can do it. If only I could ask her to move in, or at least to this city.

I made this with the Garam Masala mix from Silk Road Spice Merchants, ground in my brand new grinder. Keep in mind that you will want a fine grind with this.

Garam Masala Hot Cocoa
Adapted from Arvinda's recipe

1 cup milk
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ground Garam Masala

1. Heat milk.
2. Combine cocoa, brown sugar, and garam masala in a small bowl. Stir in a few tablespoons of milk until you have a runny paste. Whisk cocoa paste into milk. Serve hot.

Thanks to Mary Luz Mejia for sending this recipe my way.

It All Started With Some Vindaloo

The Monster was not quite a year old. At that point we were still eating separate meals from her. She ate, and then we ate. That night she'd eaten her dinner of finger foods and we sat down on the couch to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs and eat our dinner. Lamb vindaloo was on the menu. No, I didn't make it from scratch. It was probably a spice mix, but it filled our tummies well. We were happily eating and the Monster kept climbing over us. It was exasperating. We thought she was just seeking our attention (and rightly so). Then we noticed that she was reaching for our forks.

"Do you think she wants our food?" Hubby questioned.

"Let her try it and we'll see," I responded, fearful that the first bite would cause heartburn, nausea, and the dreaded tears of baby barf.

Famous last words. She ate half my plate that night. And she hasn't stopped.

On this blog I will document our food adventures, through her eyes, mine, and those of our new daughter as she begins to explore food beyond her Mama's boob in a few months. We'll visit local and regional producers and foodie haunts. We'll explore the ethnic grocers and bakers and festivals. And we'll eat. Boy will we eat.

On the topic of Indian food, I want to share a local source for Indian take-out and spices. I first found Shef's Fiery Kitchen at the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmers' Market here in Calgary. She's now moved to the Calgary Farmers' Market, our Sunday morning hang-out. The menu changes for fresh food, but a mango lassi can always be found. While the lassi is always a hit with the Monster, we often order some of the frozen meals. Before our second was born these were great on a weeknight with some basmati and roasted veg. Who am I kidding? It is still good a weeknight meal as I try to feed the family with a newborn demanding my attention. And she still devours the vindaloo, the butter chicken, the kuka pakka, and the palak gosht.


Shef's Fiery Kitchen

Calgary Farmers' Market