Category Archives: creative women

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


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


On Saturday I went to the Victoria Tea Festival, and what a fun and inspiring afternoon it was! In addition to the many different teas to taste and tasty treats to sample, there were some creative vendors displaying tea-related jewellery, mosaics, Christmas tree ornaments, cards and more.

One lovely exhibitor was Maxine Munson, who had a table full of teacup candles that I wanted to show you.

Maxine started making the candles last summer. “I had three weddings to attend,” she says, “and I saw the idea on a blog and thought the candles would make a great wedding gift. The packaging and decorating was so much fun and really well received.”

Maxine’s candles are well made, and I love that she sprinkles petals and lavender into the wax… they look like tea leaves!

A dedicated thrift shopper, she goes straight to the china and usually can’t leave a store without a few cute teacups. “Eventually I had so many I decided to sell them at some Christmas craft fairs. I then met some people who told me about the tea festival and the rest was history. I had a lot of fun this past weekend and met a lot of interesting people who share my love for vintage teacups.”

So many different teacups… it would be hard to choose, don’t you think?

Maxine’s main focus is makeup and hairstyling, but her candles are currently available at the Hive Salon on Cormorant Street in Victoria, BC and will soon also be available on her Facebook page.


Software tester by day, in her off hours Jo-Anne is a creative baking ninja! (talk about multi-talented: she also has a black belt in kickboxing and Shotokan karate and a brown belt in Yoshukai karate) She recently opened her own catering business, Yummy Yume (yummy – English for delicious, and yume, pronounced “you may” – Japanese for dream).

Jo-Anne is one of my co-workers, and when she experiments with new recipes or techniques, like the two-tone waves of blue and silver frosting on the cupcake shown below, she sometimes brings them to the office for us to sample.

How would you describe what you do?
I take seemingly boring ingredients, add some creative magic and transform them into dreamy confections.

How long have you been interested in baking and cooking?
Since I was 7 and I realized that you didn’t have to follow the exact package directions on KD and Mr. Noodles.

Toasted marshmallow on Belgian chocolate with malt icing

Was there anything in particular that got you interested in the first place?
Wok with Yan Can – I used to watch that show all the time.

What has been the most challenging part of starting your own catering business?
Finding enough counter space – I am limited by my own kitchen right now, so I will have to do renos or find another kitchen.

These lemon cupcakes topped with guitar cookies were a hit at Mike's birthday party last year!

What is your favourite utensil or tool to work with?
I just got a bamix for Christmas – this is awesome! I can make homogenized sauces and velvety soups in seconds. I also love my double sided silicon spatula – it’s great on my non-stick pans.

What are your favourite flavours?
I love the spicy, earthy medicinal flavours of cinnamon and cardamom. Something about those flavours is very comforting. I also love the tangy taste and smells of citrus.

Peanut butter bacon cupcake with maple buttercream

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the foods and flavours of other cultures. When I travel, I only eat food from that culture.

What’s one of your creations that you are particularly proud of?
That’s a tough one. I’d say it’s a toss up between the Black Swan cupcake (a cupcake complete with a pair of black swan’s wings) and the Thomas the Train goes to Candy Land cake (a cake I made for my nephew with limited equipment).

Cupcake inspired by the film "Black Swan" for an Oscars-viewing party last year

What is something you haven’t tried yet, but would like to?
I would really like to try making French macaroons and different flavoured cream puffs.

When are you going to bring more cupcakes to the office?
You know you are my QA department!

All non-watermarked mouth-watering photos courtesy of Jo-Anne Redublo

Embellished jute bags

I want to show you a cute project made by my niece, Robin Jones.  This girl has talent, she’s always making things and comes up with some great ideas. For this project, she took some inexpensive jute bags and added her own embellishments to personalize them. The woven grid of the bags works perfectly for counted cross stitch.

She did up several different bags as Christmas gifts. This one is mine, I love it!

I like the pretty, traditional image on the rustic background… it’s in my favourite colour, too!

Here’s a sweet little owl on another bag.

If cross-stitch isn’t your thing, you can apply other embellishments that you make or buy. Robin crocheted some pansies…

…and sewed them to a large tote. A lovely gift for her grandma.

Adding stitching or embellishments to a jute bag…  a clever and inexpensive way to make a personalized gift!

Inspired by Tiffany’s

When chatting with one of my favourite barristas, Jessica, one day we discovered a mutual affection for the colour Tiffany Blue. This led to sharing photos of my Tiffany Blue living room wall, and her Tiffany/Audrey Hepburn pillows, made by her mom, Susan. Hold on a sec…. “your mom made those?” I sensed a blog entry in the making…

Audrey pillow, complete with pearl necklace, and Tiffany box pillow

Jess sent me some more photos of her pretty apartment. The beautiful Tiffany Blue colour which, in my home, is used in a midcentury-modern vibe, is featured here in a vintage theme combined with white, cream and touches of black. Pillows, upholstered chairs and other handmade touches add personality.

a trio of lovely chairs

I think this is a lovely example of how a rental apartment can become something other than ordinary, and display your personal style.    

It looks like it must have been a fun project…. I wish I’d had a place as cute as this for my first apartment!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Are you wearing green today? Here’s something I’m wearing…

… this sweet little shamrock pin made by Cheryl at Creative Miscellany. I was intrigued by the giveaway on her blog last week, and I was one of the lucky readers to receive one of her handmade pins. Cheryl’s blog, Flotsam and Jetsam, is intelligent and funny. And you’ll find more of her handmade pins, toys, jewelry, haiku books and more at her shop, check it out!

Now that I’m Irish (as I like to say, having discovered two years ago that my great-great-grandparents were from Limerick) I am definitely wearing green today… although I seem to have a shocking lack of green in my wardrobe so am making up for it with jewelry and this little pin.

Erin go bragh!

Cartolina giveaway!

I want to show you my lovely new print from Cartolina, with an image of the Eiffel Tower reproduced from a Victorian postcard. Here it is after I framed it…

People who know me probably know how much I love Paris, so how could I resist this… c’est tres jolie, non?

If you aren’t already familiar with Cartolina, allow me to introduce you! Based in Nelson, BC, Fiona Richards designs lovely, environmentally-friendly stationery featuring vintage images. As described on Cartolina’s web site, it’s a “curiously unique collection of stationery with a fresh modern twist.”  iPhone users – Cartolina also has an app that you can can use it to text or email short, but very sweet messages. I love it! Download it from the iTunes App Store and you can send pretty messages too…

I also have a second print…. and decided it would be fun to share, so I’m happy to announce a Cartolina giveaway!

Here’s the print you could win:
(photo courtesy of Cartolina)

I love the colours in this one. The background is from an 18th century engraving, and the carved wood cartouche was painted by Fiona’s partner, illustrator Doug Jones (who happens to be my cousin).  The image is printed on 10″ x 13 1/4″, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper, and it will be rolled and mailed in a sturdy box. As an extra surprise, Fiona is generously providing some cards as well. That’s a lovely package that will be going out to somebody…. will it be you?

To enter: just visit Cartolina – the web site, the blog or the Etsy shop, then come back here and leave a comment, telling me about something you saw there that you liked.  One lucky winner will be chosen by draw and announced on Tuesday, March 22nd!

Interview with a Quilter

I thought it would be fun to start doing little features from time to time on some of the talented, creative people I know. Quilters, painters, photographers, knitters, writers… some are professionals, and some create simply for the love of it. I’m curious about what got them hooked on their particular art or craft and what inspires them. Hope you’ll enjoy meeting them!

Shirley Jones, Quilter

My first subject happens to be my mum. She has made quilts for each of her four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as for herself or friends. Gifts for new babies, graduations, weddings…  55 quilts to date. (“Not that many,” she says.)  She’s very knowledgeable about her craft, has taught classes, and puts a lot of attention into the details.  When you look at her hand stitching up close, you’d think it was done by a sewing machine.

So, mum… how did you get started in quilting? Eons ago, probably  around 1976.  Aunt Jane and I attended a “craft night” at our church.  People took anything they had been working on.  We saw a Grandmother’s Fan quilt top made by a lady called Mo and we were both hooked.  Just like that!  We spent lots of time buying up pieces of fabric and began cutting and piecing.  I look at that first quilt now and “what was I thinking” comes to mind, but I guess the fabrics are typical of what was popular then.

What do you love most about quilting? Fondling my fabric stash and perusing quilting books and magazines. Working with the wonderful array of fabrics available. Hand applique and hand quilting.

Who or what inspires you? Other quilter’s accomplishments, especially Jinny Beyer, Nancy Zieman and Joan Colvin, to name a few.

Do you have a favourite project you’ve completed, or one you are most proud of? The Block of the Month Quilt through “The Quilt Show” – Alex Anderson and Ricky Timm’s online show.  I am proud of this one because I actually finished piecing the gazillion little pieces, and it turned out quite nicely!

What is your favourite tool you like to use? My Olfa cutter and mat, also my silver thimble – a gift from you know who!

What’s on your wish list? Oh, this is a hard one.  On the high end a larger studio but otherwise a really good design wall.