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Before I moved to the bay area, I wasn’t really aware of orange seasons. Oranges were always available at the grocery store when I wanted them, and I didn’t think too much more about it. Now that I have an orange tree in my yard (along with two tangerines, a teeny grapefruit, two lemons and several little limes) I think about the season a lot. I watch with anticipation as the blossoms give way to little green nubs, which eventually grow and turn orange. I sample numerous super sour and not-quite-ripe oranges to see if they’re ready, and finally, after what seems like an eternity, they turn sweet. Our oranges have been in season for about 6 weeks now, and I’ve made a little ritual of going out and picking them off the tree for dessert. There’s nothing quite like a cold, sweet orange picked fresh by moonlight.

 

Anyway, as is the case with all of the ridiculously productive little fruit trees in our yard, our orange tree has given us way more fruit than we, our neighbors, and all of the teachers at Anabelle’s school can eat. I’ve put them in salads, I’ve squeezed them for juice, and I’ve made 2 batches of some of the best marmalade I’ve had in recent memory. We’re going to harvest the rest of the tree this weekend and do a run to the local food bank, but I think I’m going to have to make one more batch of marmalade, just to get me through til next year. Since even if you live in snow-laden MN (sorry, I heard about the storm this week, and don’t mean to rub it in…) you can always find oranges at the grocery store, I though I’d share the recipe here.

 

Sweet Citrus Marmalade

8 small-medium oranges

3-4 tangerines if desired

3 lemons

11 cups sugar

2 packages sure jell pectin

1/8 tsp baking soda

3 cups water or orange juice

3-4 Tbsp. whiskey (optional)

12 1/2 pint jam jars

Jar tongs and funnel, optional

 

1. Make sure jars are clean and sterile. An easy way to do this is to wash jars and lids in your dishwasher. Wash the fruit.

2. Using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, remove the outer rind (orange part only) from the fruit. Chop the rinds into chunks or strips and set aside

3. Remove the remaining white rind from the fruit and discard. Chop the fruit into chunks, removing any seeds or tough parts. Put fruit and any liquid into a bowl.

4. Measure out the sugar and put into a bowl. Take 1/4 cup of the sugar, mix this together with the pectin powder, and combine this mixture with the chopped fruit.

5. Place the chopped peels in a large saucepan with 2 cups water or juice and 1/8 tsp. baking soda. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 20 minutes. If you want a marmalade that is less bitter, you can use less of the peel, or omit it completely.

6. Meanwhile, fill a large, high-sided pot 1/2 way with water and place on the stove to boil. This will be used to process the jars once filled.

7. Once the peels have softened, add the chopped fruit and the additional cup of water or juice and simmer for 10 minutes.

8. Add the sugar, stir, and bring the mixture to a full boil. Boil hard for 1 minute

9. Remove marmalade from heat and add the whiskey, if desired.

10. Carefully fill the jars within 1/4″ of top, wipe off any drips and secure lids. I use a jam funnel and a ladle for this step.

10. Once all the jars are filled, you will want to process them in boiling water for 20 minutes. To do this, place as many jars as will fit in the pot described in step 6. The jars should be covered by 1″ of water. Return water to boil and boil jars for 20 minutes, in batches if necessary. Jar tongs are really helpful for this step.

11. You’re done! Once the jars cool, they can be stored for about a year. It may take up to 2 weeks for marmalade to set completely.

 

It’s been over a week since I got back from Quilt Con in Austin, and I don’t want to miss the chance to wax poetic about what a great, inspiring show it was! I knew that the quilts would be amazing, and I was excited about many of the lectures I had planned to see. Well, I was just blown away by how informative and entertaining the lectures were, and how inspired I felt by the work and the great community of modern quilters I met (or re-met) there. I heard about the history of “modern” from Thomas Knauer, Learned about photography from David Butler, learned about color from Amy Butler, heard about the paths to design taken by Heather Ross, Anna Maria Horner and the amazing Denyse Schmidt, plus got lots of information on publishing for books and magazines and the role of the quilt guilds. And to top it off, I got to see AUSTIN for the first time, and had a total blast. What a great city! Here is a small and random selection of quilts in the show, as well as a few shots of Austin. Enjoy!

Shattered by Leanne Chahley

Paper Shredder by Pamela Johnson

Glass House Shelves by Denyse Schmidt

Off the B.O.W. by the Anchorage Modern Quilt Guild

Watt Wonder by Alison Robins

A section of Thomas Knauer’s In Defense of Handmade

Radioactive by Kelly Wood

Our new Modern Home collection arrived last week, and we’re now shipping! The studio is stocked full of graphic geometrics and mid-century inspired prints, just waiting to be turned into cool projects. I have plans to make some lounge pants from Living Room, and I’m going to try out a new pattern I’m working on to make a tunic from Pebbles and Little Leaves. What would you make with these prints?

Window To My Heart print used with the Goodship dress pattern by Karen LePage of One Girl Circus

Scrap Quilts

02/17

Hello, blogosphere! I’ve taken a long blog break, and these past few months have been a flurry of designing and growing here at Monaluna. Things are finally calming down a bit, and I’m excited to get back to projects and blogging.

 

I started last week with what turned out to be a pretty ambitious organizing project. I had been carefully ignoring the towering, disorganized scrap pile in my closet for months, and had finally had enough of it. At the same time, Anabelle’s school put out a call for extra blankets and quilts, and I decided it was time to make something from those extra odd pieces. The piecing for three little quilts only took Saturday afternoon, and I hardly had to cut – I just arranged the pieces I had in blocks, and trimmed them to fit where necessary. The backing, binding and quilting took a bit more time, but it felt really good to see them coming together, and I even hand quilted (very quickly and sloppily) 2 of the 3, the first time I’ve done that in years! It was so easy and fun that I decided to organize and bundle all the remaining scraps and make them available on the website. It turned out to be a bit of an undertaking, but in the 5 days since I put them up there they’ve been VERY popular, and the first batch are almost gone! Now that I have the hang of it I’ll be able to add them more frequently, though, and keep my scrap piles at more manageable levels.

Good things come in priority mail packages! I’ve been working with the talented Melissa Lunden, of Lunden Designs, to develop a chevron quilt pattern for Havana, and I just received the sample quilt in the mail. So pretty! She worked two prints into each chevron stripe, and the back is a really nice patchwork using four different prints. I love it, and I hope you do too! The pattern will be available soon.

Every couple of months, my husband and I get together with a group of friends for an “iron-chef” style dinner party. Mostly, it’s just a pot-luck dinner party, but to make things interesting, a key, seasonal ingredient is chosen, and we all make a dish incorporating it. Last week, the ingredient was pears, and Dave and I were supposed to bring dessert. I’ve been on a bit of a goat cheese kick lately, and I decided to make a tart pairing the two. We didn’t win – that honor went to the ridiculously delicious pear and prosciutto pizza – but it was pretty good, if I do say so myself! Here’s the recipe:

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a pie or tart pan. Make sure goat cheese is at room temp.

 

Shortbread Crust

1/2 c + 2 Tbsp butter

1/4 c powdered sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1 1/4 c. flour

 

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together using a hand mixer until fluffy. Then add in the salt and flour and mix until it just holds together. Press into the bottom and sides of a greased pie or tart pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. While the crust is cooling, warm the honey glaze, prepare the filling and then slice the pears.

goat cheese filling

1 1/2 packages (12 oz) mild goat cheese at room temp (I used the 365 goat cheese from Whole Foods)

21/2 Tbsp sugar

Mix the cheese and sugar together until soft and pliable

 

honey glaze

1/4 c. honey

dash of vanilla

few shakes of cinnamon

couple of drops water if necessary

Warm ingredients together in a saucepan.

 

3-4 ripe pears, sliced thin

 

With a spatula, press the goat cheese filling into the cooled crust. Cut the pears in half and slice very thin, then arrange the pears on the filling.

When pears are arranged, brush liberally with the honey glaze.

Bake the tart at 375 for about 30 minutes or until pears are soft and crust is slightly browned. Check regularly. Remove from the oven, and brush again with the honey glaze. Enjoy!

It was a gorgeous Northern California fall day here yesterday, and we took advantage of the golden light to do a little photoshoot of our new Modern Home collection. We got two of our favorite models and headed down to the open space near our house for some beautiful backdrops. Here are a few of the photos, plus a sneak peek of the full collection. I hope you like them! I will be introducing the collection at Quilt Market this month, and it’s expected to arrive in December. Anabelle’s dress is made from the Charlie Dress Pattern by Made by Rae.


I grew up in a family and community that was very aware of environmental issues, and pretty active in the environmental movement. My mom started the first recycling truck in our neighborhood, we were members of the local health food co-op, and I learned how to make solar panels in my third grade class. So I knew about the benefits of organic products, and I would buy organic cotton when I could, but it always seemed hard to find, and with limited options. I was interested in supporting organic cotton, but it didn’t seem easy.

 

In 2009 I had just started licensing my designs for fabric when I heard a piece on NPR’s All Things Considered that profiled the health effects of pesticide use by cotton farmers in India. It really personalized the issue for me, and prompted me to learn more about conventional cotton farming and the alternatives that organic cotton could offer. What I learned surprised and impressed me. Here are some facts:

 

-Conventionally farmed cotton is one of the most chemically dependent crops, using up to 25 different pesticides and fertilizers, several of which are toxic to humans or are known carcinogens

 

-Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and without synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizers. Instead, organic production uses farming techniques that focus on soil and plant health, including crop rotation, companion planning, local plant varietals and beneficial insects to produce a better crop.

 

-The synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizers used in conventional cotton farming dramatically increase the carbon footprint of the cotton crop. Excess nitrogen can escape into the atmosphere, streams and groundwater, contaminating the water supply and contributing to the proliferation of greenhouse gasses.

 

-Alternately, organic cotton farming represents a significantly smaller environmental footprint. It releases less greenhouse gas, does not contaminate groundwater, uses less energy and, due to the improved quality of the soil, uses significantly less water. There is an interesting blog post on this issue here.

 

-Conventional cotton farming can pose serious health risks to the farmers and farming communities, particularly in areas where proper use guidelines may not be followed. In addition, the finishing process for conventional cottons can involve numerous toxic chemicals, exposing mill workers to health risks as well.

 

-Conventional cotton can contain residues of pesticides and finishing agents, particularly formaldehyde, that can cause skin irritations and health affects to the end user.

 

-In contrast, GOTS-certified organic cotton is produced using no toxic chemicals throughout the entire production process, ensuring a healthier working environment for the farmers and mill workers, and a healthier, higher-quality product for the end user. Additionally, the GOTS certification signifies that the product is fair-trade, ensuring that it was produced under safe, healthy and equitable conditions. Read more about the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and what it covers here.

 

After learning all this, I realized that I wanted to help promote organic cotton farming in whatever way I could, and I decided to launch my own organic cotton company, Monaluna. Although the first few collections were too small to use the GOTS-certified dyes, we – my husband Dave and I – are now producing GOTS-certified collections exclusively, and we are committed to supporting organic and sustainable farming practices.

 

These days, organic fabric is much easier to find, and the choices are wonderful and varied. They are still more expensive, but in light of the above points, the benefits are vast. Next time you’re in the market for fabric, do yourself and the environment a favor and try an organic alternative.

 

When I got back from our family vacation I had a great surprise waiting: two big boxes of the Havana sample bolts! Like Christmas in August. I’ve been happily playing around with them, sewing a few samples, planning quilts and trying to figure out how to show them best at Quilt Market. I have to say, I’m loving this collection! There is a warm red/pink/green colorway, and a teal/blue/green colorway, and they’re both vibrant and bright and fun. Here are some images to get your imaginations going. The full collection should be here in October!

Since the Fox Hollow shipment still hasn’t arrived (fingers crossed for Monday!), I’ve been keeping myself very busy here designing two new collections and making a lot of things with plums. I’ve been stuck in that part of my creative process where things are starting to come together, but not quite working yet, and I always find it frustrating and a bit nerve-wracking, so its been nice to have a completely different creative outlet to turn my attention to here and there. I find myself feeling a little guilty for not putting every bit of time into the collections (I’m actually really late at this point), but sometimes it helps to take a break, and I’ve really enjoyed celebrating the bounty of our garden. Here are some photos from the last week in plum-land:

plum clafouti
plum infused vodkas
plum pie
plum sorbet
spiced plums

Both the plum sorbet and the spiced plums were made from recipes in the absolutely beautiful book Plum Gorgeous by Romney Steele. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants some inspiration for backyard produce!