December 2010 - Posts

Weird presents?

Presents are wonderful at any time of the year, but sometimes at Christmas, the sheer mental overload of having to come up with lots of presents causes some gift-givers to fry a few brain circuits. (Okay, we're being charitable here...)

But now that we've brought it up, what is the strangest gift you've ever received at Christmas?

Quilter's Home editor Melissa Thompson Maher can't come up with a single weird Christmas gift from her past. (Early on, she coached hubby Pat to avoid any gifts that had electrical plugs. Jewelry, of course, is conveniently free of electrical plugs.)

 Quilter's Home editor Jake Finch, however, has this to offer: "My stepmother, every year, even as an adult, would give me underwear. I never knew what to do with that, especially as an adult."

We tossed this question out to our Facebook buds and got some great answers. (What? You're not a "friend?" Go to and "like" us now!)  Here's what some of our FB friends had to say:

"My husband gave me a roadside emergency kit our first Christmas. How romantic!"-Jami M.L.

"My girlfriend gave me a Calgary Stampeders cheerleaders calendar. Hmmmm...what to do with that one?!"-Kim H.





"PJs four sizes too big!!! And no, I wasn't a child anymore, so no chance of 'growing into them'! LOL."-Elisabeth F.

"A top and a ring that were both way, way too small (and I was thin at that time) from a relative who obviously bought them for somebody else."-Mickey K.W.

"My stepmother (Hmmm, starting a theme here? Evil stepmothers?) once gave me a "jewel" encrusted computer mouse. It was uncomfortable to use and I did TRY to use it. It didn't work well either...and it was not a gag gift."-Sue L.

"A Tickle-Me Elmo sewn into a hollowed-out koala bear doll. Imagine my surprise when it started laughing and shaking unexpectedly. My mom is a little nutty about Xmas surprises."-Sasha A.

"Pantyhose. Yes, pantyhose. From my father-in-law, no less. Ick."-Donna S. B.

"I got a garbage disposal from my hubby. Now isn't that better than underwear or pantyhose??"-Patty W.

"My father-in-law gave me a broom and told me I could ride it home. Very funny - NOT!"-Helen A.

"OMG, clap on, clap off. Yep, that's right, The Clapper. Thank goodness it was a Secret Santa gift and I never found out who it was from. How ever do you act surprised?"-Beverly M.








Well, q-bies....guess this is how "re-gifting" got started. Have a happy one!


A novel quilt retreat

Hey, everyone! Quilter's Home columnist Meg Cox, who writes the skinny in each issue, is our guest blogger today. Here's her insider item on quilty novelist Marie Bostwick:

Marie Bostwick has quilted for a lot more years than she's been writing novels, which is one of the reasons her book series set in a cozy quilt shop has been such a hit with quilters. We know she's one of us because of the way she writes.

            Her fourth Cobbled Court Novel, Threading the Needle, is due out May 31, and still follows the adventures of Evelyn Dixon, a survivor of breast cancer (and a cheating husband) whose successful quilt shop provides enormous solace.

            Like many popular authors today, Marie connects with her readers via Facebook, Twitter, a blog and her website. But a much deeper connection was forged after some fans proposed a block swap on her website's reader forum. About 17 of her readers completed their Christmas block swap in 2009. They had so much fun that forum posters proposed a second swap using a heart block pattern Marie offers free on the site.

            When the second swap was also a smash, forum fans started clamoring for a quilt retreat. Marie, busy with deadlines, said she didn't have time to organize and run a get-together, but would attend if others did that part.

            So last November the author spent an entire weekend with 16 fervent fans at a Connecticut retreat center called Wisdom House. They came from as far away as Texas, Oklahoma and Canada, and made pillowcases for charity, learned new hand appliqué skills and worked on projects they brought along. "Mostly we were just wonderfully normal," says Marie, "Just quilters getting together, talking about our families and our quilts."

            There were some bonus expeditions most quilting retreats don't include, says Dorothy Hayes, one of the event's organizers. "We got a magical tour of Litchfield, Connecticut, which is the small town on which New Bern in the books is based. We walked down the actual Cobbled Court (which does not include a quilt shop) and ate lunch in the Grill that was the model for Grill on the Green in the book. The owner is just like Charlie! This was like fans of J.K. Rowling making a trip to Harry Potter World."

            Not only that, Marie whispered some secrets about future plot developments, and shared details of her writing process. (FYI, I predict my own future will include additional outings with my readers--if they have anything to say about it!)

            "We will definitely want to do it again next year," says Dorothy. "At the end of the retreat, all of us realized it was the beginning of a really beautiful thing."

For more on Marie and her worlds, both fictional and real, go to Cox of the skinny    




Cookie time!

Is that the sweet smell of cookies coming from your kitchen? If so, invite us over already!

If not, well, do forgive us...we've got cookies on the brain, after interviewing designer Elizabeth Hartman, whose new book, The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker (October 2010, Stash for C & T), debuted recently. In addition to being a Modern designer par excellence, she's also a cookie queen this time of year, and makes at least 100 dozen for the cookie party she and husband Chris give every year for friends and family. It's hard to pin her down on one favorite flavor of cookies, but chewy definitely wins over crispy.

  You can read all about Elizabeth on her blog, and in the upcoming February-March 2011 issue of Quilter's Home, but meanwhile, check out the innovative shortbread versions we've got in our     December-January issue, just for your tasting pleasure. 






And here's a favorite cookie shared by reader Darci Linkey Bodin of Diamond Bar, California.  She works for the Orange County Fire Authority and occasionally drops off cookies for the guys at Station 34 in nearby Placentia. And she says all three shifts swear these cookies are their favorites.     Thanks, Darci!

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Bars with Shortbread Crust


  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts


For Crust:  Preheat oven to 350o F.  Blend flour and sugar in food processor.  Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Transfer mixture to 8" square glass baking dish.  Press mixture onto bottom and ¾ inch up the sides of dish.  Bake until crust is golden brown on edges, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare filling by whisking sugar, flour, eggs, butter and vanilla extract to blend in large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Pour filling into warm crust, smoothing surface.  Bake until filling is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes.  Transfer dish to rack; cool completely.  Cut into squares. Doubles nicely to fill a 9 x 13 pan. Enjoy! (Thanks, Darci!)

So, we given you cookies today, but we can't let you go without one more delish treat--and this one is calorie-free! Check out this sweet babe and his custom-made iPhone app, er, "nap" quilt. (You're curious, hmm?)

Check back in later for more quilty fun, and enjoy the holidays, q-bies!