Pennello Lane is undergoing a bit of housekeeping at the moment… but I’ll be back in a few days with some new features that I’m looking forward to sharing with you!

In the meantime, have you noticed that little blue icon under the lower right corner of the header? Why don’t you give it a click (or just click here) and visit Pennello Lane on Facebook. And if you should feel so inclined, I’d be honoured if you click the “like” button while you’re there!

Pictorial Quilts

Time to introduce another talented member of my family! This is my sister Carol Swinden, who creates amazing pictorial quilts. Like fibre paintings, these are quilts that hang on the wall. Her style is realism, and some of them indeed look almost like photographs. The quilts are made up of many different types of fabric, thread, and other materials from cheesecloth to dryer lint.

With a background encompassing all manner of visual arts, needlework and more, Carol’s interest in quilting was sparked in 2005. Since then she has been earning recognition and awards for her quilts. Her inspiration for images comes from magazines, books, photos, or from simply looking out her windows. She shares her latest creations, as well as snippets of her life in a 100-year-old farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, on her blog, A Pictorial Quilter’s Journey.

Carol’s quilts portray a wide variety of subjects from cars to tropical scenes… “whatever catches my eye and causes me to think ‘that might make a great quilt!’ If the excitement isn’t there, the quilt usually doesn’t work out.”

A neighbouring Prince Edward Island farm

What is your favourite part of the process?

The creation of the image in fabric. I have often got to this point and then the quilt sits for a long time before I decide to get to the mundane task of putting a backing on and blocking and sewing the binding, sleeve, and label. Even the stitching can take a while to get to – sometimes because I am afraid to ruin what looks like a wonderful quilt top. One of my best, “Reflections” (the front of a 1959 Cadillac) took a year to get to the stitching and binding.


Do you have a favourite tool or gadget?

I would be nowhere without my free-motion sewing machine foot. I also like my Supreme Slider; a vinyl sheet that goes over the bed of my machine so that fabrics slide easily. As far as fabrics, I use a LOT of tulle and organza. They make wonderful shadows because you can see through them to the fabric underneath.

What is your working space like?

Right now I am using a spare room. There is no bed in it so I have some space, but not nearly enough. I work on quilts during the day if the sun is not beating in… I don’t like drawing the curtains, so it gets beastly hot in the summer! I have a table in front of my windows and my sewing machine sits there, and a cabinet that my dad made, which I covered with ironing board material, that’s my ironing table. I have an antique dresser full of quilts and a design wall. There is a shelving unit with baskets full of fabrics for landscapes: one basket for sky fabric, one for water, trees, leaves, wood, etc. The closet holds shelves of books and magazines as well as more fabric: plain, batik, tulle, organza, etc.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I was invited to teach at the 2010 Out of Heart and Hand a four-day quilt retreat in 2010 in Cambria, California, along with Velda Newman and Katie Pasquini Mausopast who are both well-known pictorial quilters. Also in 2010 my quilt ‘Reflections’ won a Judge’s Choice award at the Canadian National Juried Show and a Grand Prize in a show in Michigan, and was featured in the International Quilter magazine in 2011. It may be on the cover of another quilt magazine coming up!

Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island

What’s coming up next?

I have lots of ideas for quilts and hope to keep them coming. I have one that has just been completed…’Celise’ (a picture of one of my granddaughters)…that has been accepted into the Canadian National Juried show this year (2012) in Halifax. I will be at the show and look forward to seeing it there.


Carol is available for teaching and trunk shows. You can see more of her quilts in her online gallery, including some that have patterns available for purchase.

All images courtesy of Carol Swinden

Still breathing…

I have to tell you how fantastic the Breathe Now conference was on the weekend! It was refreshing, inspiring, fun, educational… I’m still basking in the glow of it and feeling the lingering effects. 

I was a little unsure about going to the conference by myself… I felt a bit nervous about spending two days with a large crowd of people I didn’t know. It’s quite something, then, that the highlight for me is the connections I made. I talked to so many interesting and talented people, including some very creative women who will hopefully be featured soon on Pennello Lane! I scribbled many notes during the weekend; there was a lot to learn from each and every presenter. Meeting the amazing and inspiring Bif Naked was a definite standout moment, and her keynote speech provided many of the nuggets of gold jotted down in my notebook.

One small example of the lasting success of Breathe Now was my thoughts on first waking this morning. Rather than moaning about it being Monday morning I caught myself, and remembered Bif Naked saying “Mondays are new beginnings.” Followed by my new friend Rita Chand (of the “10,000 Hugs in 100 Different Cities” project) saying “Mondays represent blank canvases for me!”  That’s it… I am changing the way I look at Mondays!

The four co-founders did a fantastic job of conceptualizing and creating, this event, which raised money for the Bridges for Women Society. I am already imagining how great it will be next year.  If you can make it to Breathe Now 2013 I encourage you to mark it on your calendar.  And I’ll see you there!

Sneak peeks

I have quite a few projects on the go these days.

These are some sneak peeks at a few of them.

Sometimes it’s fun to hop from one project to another…

the variety of media and techniques can be refreshing….

…but with only so much time in the day, it does take longer to complete any one project!

How about you?

Do you work on multiple projects at once,
or do you focus on one until it’s finished and then move to the next?


Breathe Now is a conference for women, coming up in Victoria, BC, April 14-15, 2012. As described on the conference web site:

“We all put pressure on ourselves …to be great moms … to be organized … to be great wives … to be great in our careers … to look great … and more, but we often lose sight of ourselves in the midst of keeping up with life.  Sometimes, we forget to stop and reflect that the woman we are today is more than enough! Breathe Now is about getting together with like-minded women, slowing down for a day and a half, and reminding ourselves to Breathe!”

I’m so impressed that four women decided to create this conference, and have done so off the side of their desks while leading busy lives. I can only imagine how busy they are preparing for the weekend!  It looks like it will be an inspiring event, with a great array of presenters lined up.

I am truly excited to be able to attend Breathe Now. I’m looking forward to meeting some creative women, and anticipate coming away from the weekend refreshed and inspired!

A passionate foodie

Allow me to introduce Jackie McLean, a creative “foodie” who loves to experiment in the kitchen. Jackie recently came up with a waffle recipe that earned her an invitation to appear on the Rachel Ray show! She wasn’t able to travel from her home near Pittsburgh on short notice to be there in person, but she made a video of herself cooking the recipe and part of it was shown on TV.

On my blog I usually focus on creative Canadians, so “where’s the Canadian content?” you might be asking. It just so happens that the inspiration for Jackie’s waffle recipe came from Montreal, a city she loves, so I’m giving her honourary Canadian status! And I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about her passion for cooking and creating recipes.

Jackie, what’s the story behind your waffle recipe?

Mike (my husband) and I went to Montreal for his 50th birthday, and we took along a “must-go-to” list from one of Rachael Ray’s shows. On one particular day we went to Creperie Chez Suzette in old Montreal. I had this amazing lunch – a crepe with chicken supreme inside and on top of it. It was out of this world. The crepe was delicate and the chicken supreme was flavorful, with the peas that popped in my mouth… my taste buds leapt for joy.

It sounds like a very memorable meal!

It was a very special day, I was meeting a pen pal of mine, Audrey and her boyfriend Roger for the first time later that evening. There were many mushrooms in the dish and I love the flavour of mushrooms but cannot handle the texture of biting into one… maybe it was the excitement of what was to come later that I could tolerate the mushrooms for one day!

The inspiration - crepes for lunch in Montreal

When we returned home I tried recreating the dish a few times. At first I made the recipe as a crepe, like the dish I had in Montreal, but I had no patience for the crepes! Then, after seeing a Rachael Ray show about waffles I got the idea for a savory waffle, and I tried a few times until I found one that was a hit in my book.

Do you often experiment with recipes?

I have always loved to cook. At times I have something in my head and I just create and make a dish, and other times I use a recipe, but I never use a recipe 100%. I look at it and read it over for an idea then look around at what ingredients I have or what I think I have may make it even better. I am famous for taking one recipe and combing it with another and creating a whole new idea. I always say a recipe is like a science experiment. A little of this, a little of that, and hey, wonder if I add this what would happen? Ya never know until you try, right? I ask questions, and at times I even guess, and many of my guesses have turned out very succesfully. There have been a few not-so-successful guesses, but I have been able to cover them up! And the biggest experiment is sharing ideas with friends. It’s amazing what dishes have been created by having a conversation with a friend or co-worker.

Jackie often texts me photos of what she's cooking or baking. This one came with a tip to try adding bourbon to apple pie!

Do you have a favourite utensil or gadget that you couldn’t live without?

It would have to be my kitchen knives. They are my pride and joy, especially my 8 inch Santoku. I am lost if I do not have them to use. My favourite appliance is my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. When remodeling our kitchen last year one thought that was key in our plans was that there would be room so that my mixer could sit out on the counter all the time for easy access. As for gadgets, my most used is my hand held Chef’n Fresh Force Citrus Juicer. I constantly seem to need fresh lime or lemon juice in a lot of dishes and beverages, and this gadget is the best quality and is incredibly easy to use and clean. Everyone should own one. And one last item I cannot live with out in my kitchen is a box of vinyl gloves. These are the best for handling hot peppers, or handling messy items, or items you may cook for loved ones that you happen to be allergic to yourself. It’s an inexpensive investment that goes along way and saves your eyes if you cook with hot peppers.

I asked Jackie about her favourite flavours, and I love how her answers were as much about memories and loved ones as they were about food.

I have a few favorites that hold cherished memories and bring me happiness:

  1. Thanksgiving dinner feast with all the works ~ roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, gravy, cranberries, mashed potatoes, squash, mom’s creamy lime jello salad, her pumpkin pie, apple pie and oh, those amazing blackberry pies…
  2. Chicken Riggies, Utica Greens, Fried Dough, State Fair Chicken, State Fair Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches, Tomato Pie, Italian Rum Cake, Hemstrought’s Half Moon Cookies, Finger Lake Wines, Dinasour BBQ Sauce…. oh the foods of upstate New York, how I miss them so. Central New York food is what influenced my tastes growing up – cooking with my parents and grandparents and going out to eat, attending many festivals and state fairs and cooking at campgrounds with my folks. The world of food was opened to me in Central New York where I ended up attending college for Food Service Administration/Restaurant Management.
  3. When it comes to comfort food, my favourite that takes me back to many meals w ith my parents and grandparents is homemade perogies swimming in real butter and sauted onions and good quality kielbasa with good old fashioned yellow mustard to dip the juicy meat into. Every time I have that dish I remember many Christmas Eve dinners after midnight mass, sleepover dinners and grandma’s house. Just last year I went to my favorite spice store, Penzeys, and happened to pick up a Polish spice (Krakow Nights). The first time I used it I actually felt a presence in my kitchen, as if my grandmother was standing there with me approving that I finally found her secret spices. My kitchen smelled just like her home on Post Street in Clinton, New York. When I was growing up I had many meals there, helping her cook. When cooking can take you back to a place and time, you know what is being made is made with love.
  4. I will add the best dessert ever was while on vacation with my father. We went to Emeril’s down in Orlando and I had a slice of Banana Cream Pie. I have never had a slice of banana cream pie like this before in my life!
  5. One of my signiature items to make is a jalepeno carrot cake with margarita icing. Ever since making my first homemade carrot cake I have never eaten a boxed one since. Again, this recipe came from reading an article, then many trials and errors, and still to this day I keep trying to change it up and make it better because I always feel I need to, even though my friends say it tastes great.

Cheddar chive cornmeal waffles.
Imagine how good these would be with chili!

You always seem so interested and curious about trying new foods and flavours, what’s your most interesting recent discovery?

I would have to say it’s been the discovery this past year of using my waffle maker for other than just morning waffles. And that a pinch of baking soda makes a much smoother batch of iced tea.

Now that’s one I haven’t heard, I’m going to have to try that!

with cookbook author Katie Lee


Savory Herbed Waffles with Chicken Supreme

Chicken Supreme:

1 – 10 oz. package of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp seasoned salt
¼ tsp. black pepper (I prefer shallot pepper)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup dry vermouth (dry sherry works great too)
1 tbsp chopped fresh poultry mix herbs (thyme, rosemary & sage)
2/3 cup milk
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
chopped fresh parsley for garnish – optional

Melt butter with olive oil over medium high heat in a deep sautee pan on stove. Add onions and saute till soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic & fresh herbs sauté 1 minute. Stir in flour, seasoned salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly, Stir in dry vermouth, broth and milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in vegetables and chicken. Heat through. Serve atop savory herbed waffles and garnish.

Savory Herbed Waffles:

2 tbsp chopped fresh poultry mix herbs ( thyme, rosemary & sage)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 ¾ cup milk
1 ¾ all – purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
8 tbsp butter, melted
coarse sea salt for garnish

Place the fresh herbs, garlic and milk in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and allow the herbed mixture to steep for 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pour herbed milk mixture over dry ingredients, then whisk in eggs and butter to thoroughly combine.

Cooking your waffles will depend on your waffle machine. Ladle generous amount of batter into waffle iron using your particular iron’s cooking directions. Cook waffles till desired doneness.

When using a rotating waffle iron, use a middle setting and about 2/3 to ¾ cup of batter. Once the waffle is complete put waffles on a platter or cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and place in your oven to keep warm till all waffles are made and ready to serve.


Place hot waffle on plate, sprinkle with sea salt, top with chicken supreme, garnish with chopped parsely and enjoy!


all photos courtesy of Jackie McLean

Mail art – a lovely surprise!

Just a quick follow-up to the mail art contest I mentioned earlier this week, over at isavirtue… I won! What a lovely surprise, and thank you so much to everyone who voted!

If you haven’t checked out Kaitlyn’s blog yet, do head over for a look. Her blog design is pretty and she features a lot of great art… I’m a fan.

Blossom time!

The trees have started blooming in my city… I just can’t resist snapping a ton of photos this time of year!  

These are a few I took with my iPhone, and then played with in Photoshop.   

I believe the plum trees are the first to blossom… or is it the cherry trees? I’m not sure, but I never tire of the show of pink and white against a blue sky.


Mail art, part two – the contest!

Here’s the envelope I mentioned the other day that I created for Kaitlyn Patience’s mail art contest at isavirtue. The theme was “secret admirer,” so I thought of an envelope within an envelope… someone holding a letter behind their back, maybe hiding it, or shy about giving it to the object of their affection.

I left it to the night before the deadline (I’m not called The Procrastinatrix for nothing!) so I put it together quickly, but it was a fun project. Mike was my hand model. That’s a photo of his hand, and a scan of blue jeans. I cut a flower from a sheet of patterned paper, enhanced it with watercolour pencils, and painted a stem on the envelope. As a finishing touch, I used a rubber stamp of a French postmark.

I painted the back of the envelope, too… a wax seal with a heart, and a “confidential” stamp.

All the contest entries are posted at isavirtue.  There’s quite a variety of media and styles in the display, and a poll to vote for the winner, so head on over there and vote for mine your favourite!