Stock...the backbone for many a magnificent dish. The silent foundation from which springs a plethora of culinary delights. And homemade stock...comforting and oh-so-classic, and much better than anything else you can get in a can or a cube (of course, when the luxury of time allows). Now that I have my very own kitchen, like a tempting blank page that beckons me to wreak havoc on it, I am finding myself drawn to making homey, "hearth"-y, things like, well...stock.

As fate would have it, all the elements conveniently presented themselves to me as leftovers from other dishes. Chicken backs cut from the thighs I used for Parmesan Chicken. Carrots, celery, and fresh thyme left over from a batch of Osso Buco. Extra parsley from a gremolata. Onions...well, onions are always hiding away in the cupboard. I happily consulted a couple of recipes, and decided on the one from the Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook (a wonderful present from the sweetest girl in-charge of the cookbooks at my favorite bookstore). When I reviewed the recipe versus the amount of chicken I had though, I realized I was sadly lacking. I had about 1/4th the amount of chicken called for! Ok, so I wasn't going to be making a momma batch of stock (just take a look at the picture above, definitely Baby Bear's portion)...well, that wasn't about to stop my domestic efforts!

Instead of the original 2.5 kilos of chicken backs (and necks, although I didn't have any) called for, I only had about 700 grams, so I had to reduce everything else. After that, everything was just a free-for-all of estimation. I dumped in chunks of carrots, onion, celery, some fresh parsley and thyme, and a bay leaf (and, I cannot tell a lie, some salt!). I reduced the water to something like 4 cups or so...and ended up with a further reduced, just-over-two cups of magically concentrated golden elixir. Talk about serious flavor! No wonder they say chicken soup cures everything. It tasted like warm liquid comfort.

That's it above, after it's been strained. I let it cool, skimmed of the fat (sorely tempted to use it to fry some eggs), and poured it into a zip lock bag to be frozen...patiently awaiting another batch before I can get on with my plans for it. Hmmm, risotto I think...

The gift that helped me get there:

This is where I have decided to highlight a wedding present that I have used in the making of the post's particular dish. After all, we have been blessed with fantastic family and friends who have generously given us wonderful gifts that we intend to actually use and not keep under a bushel basket somewhere in the far-off land of "wedding gifts we got". So here is where they are going to shine. Literally for this brilliantly shiny stock pot that coddled my stock until it reached its peak. I love it! See how it's brilliance tempted me to take a picture of me taking a picture of it? And can you see another gift in the reflection that I am just beside myself with excitement to use? It's on the left...

I'm home!

Finally! After 2 months of no blogging, here I am. Two months and a lifetime of change. A new home, a new kitchen, and a wonderful team mate with whom to play this game of life. These past two months have been filled to the brim with all the big events, and little experiences, that have gotten me from where I once was Married!

So starts a new and exciting chapter for me, and for 80 Breakfasts as well. We'll be cooking for more than just my zany whims now. And we have got a new place in which to stage our culinary efforts. Yes, that picture above is my new kitchen! Although we had to work around what was already in the flat we are renting, and it is not exactly the most spacious, working-island-in-the middle type kitchen, and counter space is a rare commodity...I love it! I love it to the point of repeatedly wiping the counter tops (not that there is a superfluity of that) and entering it for no apparent reason. And since the wedding, there is a whole new posse of toys to play with...which will defnitely be making their appearance here bit by bit.

Ah, and what of the blessed event that got me here? Even now, a month or so after the fact, I still can't put it as eloquently as I'd like. What's it like to experience something that feels so right at such a fundamental level? Something so wonderfully important that even a vicious typhoon (yes, that indeed happened, typhoon Caloy, 100+ kph winds of destructive force, stranded guests and suppliers, having to move the actual wedding!) could not dampen my spirits nor resolve. How do I describe that? Maybe a better writer, a more expressive poet, would be fit for the task. Perhaps someday I will reach the heights of literary greatness that will allow me to put this experience into the words it deserves. For now, all I can say is this: I am exactly where I should be...home.

APQ Creative Circle of Excellence - Part deux

Yes, I a terribly sorry it has taken me forever to finish this post. I do have a great excuse though [at least I think so!]. I am very proud to announce the launch of my new web site I designed it and put it up myself for the most part. Hubby provided some technical assistance! More news ... I am excited to launch "Cool Girls Quilt" and "Cool Girls Knit". Stay tuned for new info in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I need to wrap up a knitting book for Leisure Arts. Enjoy the rest of the APQ Creative Circle of Excellence post.

Here are some more pics from the great time that we had in Iowa with Better Homes and Gardens' American Patchwork and Quilting.

Jo Morton is standing beside the "buffet table". What a treat. Many companies generously donated their products for us to play with. Heavenly.

One of the women I enjoyed talking to at the conference was Nancy Smith of The Great American Quilt Factory. Both she and her business partner, Lynda Milligan, were there. They are both an inspiration to me. I met them in Atlantic City when I did my first wholesale show so I only knew them as "shop owners" who bought my product. To spend time with them in Iowa was a treat. Both are funny and smart and I was inspired by their stories about how they started their business when their kids were still young.

Robyn Pandolph [below, left]and Lila Scott [below, right, technical woman extraordinaire for American Patchwork & Quilting] are two super ladies. It was fun getting to know them.

APQ Creative Circle of Excellence

I was invited to the APQ Creative Circle of Excellence 2006. What an amazing time. Better Homes & Gardens' American Patchwork & Quilting magazine hosted this awesome event to inspire 24 designers to cultivate their creative spirit. Heidi Kaisand, Quilt Group Editor, Jennifer Keltner, Senior Editor and Elizabeth Tsinger, Editor and the rest of their staff did a fantastic job of hosting the event. Thank you.

Here's a list of all of the amazing women who were invited and who inspired:
Barb Adams, Alma Allen, Laura Boehnke, Amy Bradley, Janet Brandt, Amy Butler, Kaye England, M'Liss Rae Hawley, Lynette Jensen, Roseann Kermes, Gayle Kessler, Jill Mead, Lynda Milligan, Jo Morton, Carrie Nelson, Robyn Pandolph, Renee Plains, Jackie Robinson, Lila Scott, Nancy Smith, Mary Sorenson, Cynthia Tomaszewski, and Mary Lou Wiedman.

We were treated to manicures and massages but most important of all, we were challenged with creativity exercises which challenged our individual and group skills. The entire event brought
us together as a group and brought out our individual strengths as well.

Here I am with Lynette Jensen of Thimbleberries in the workroom where we each had our own stations to work on our projects. She's super nice and really down to earth. I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat with her because her table was right behind mine. She's got a wealth of experience in the industr and I was grateful that she was willing to share.

Here I am with Roseann Kermes. Great gal and we hit it off right away. She owns an adorable shop called Rosebud's Cottage [] in North St. Paul, MN

The ladies from Blackbird Designs, Alma Allen and Barb Adams, were such fun. I admire how well they work together. I always wonder how two people can form a company together and still stand each other. Maybe it's just me! It is evident that Alma and Barb get along so well and that's what makes them successful.

Amy Butler is one talented gal. I love her fabric [who doesn't?] and her sense of style. It was nice chatting with her.

I've got more pics and I'm going to stop here for a breather because I am starting to look like a celebrity stalker! "Here I am with..." I promise those who are looking for more pics from the Creative Circle of Excellence that they'll be posted soon!