Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gazing Balls

Several years ago, my late husband purchased me some beautiful glass gazing balls for my garden. They were shades or blue and green with glow-in-the-dark swirls. Were being the focus word here.

When the last beautiful orb broke, I decided I would not purchase any more so easily broken glass gazing balls.

My research into suitable replacements led me to gazing balls made from bowling balls. They seemed like a simple and easy replacement for the fragile glass gazing balls. The more I looked, they more types or styles of gazing balls I found, from solids to mosaics.


The one above is not my first, but my fifth. In another post, I place pictures of all my other garden balls along with some of my other garden art.

This ball is only partially complete as I ran out of the smaller frosted stones, even when I found the blue ones and frosted them my self. So I have to find the right size blue or green stone to complete the ball.

I also have this pink one in progress ...


The bowling ball was a beautiful pink marble color. The hearts are plastic table decor from Dollar Tree. Unfortunately for me, I only purchased 4 bags and will have to wait to either find some at a garage sale or buy more at Valentines to complete this ball.

Neither ball is grouted. My next post will show those I've already grouted, along with a few of my other favorite garden decorating items.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So, I've Started College

It is very different to be a college student while I have one currently in college and one starting in the fall.


I've also been doing a lot of cleaning and sewing. I am about three weeks from having my third house completely cleaned out. I'm rather excited about this.

On the other hand, there's nothing like moving from a very large house to a fairly small house to help one understand how much stuff one owns. It also gives you an idea that you might have to divest yourself of quite a bit of items, not only to make your life easier, but because you don't have the space for the items.

I've been sorting my fabrics, laces, ribbons, trims, elastics and other sewing related items in my basement on to shelves. There is nothing like finding out exactly how much fabric and assorted related items that one owns. Sew, I'm finding that I have much more than I realized. Thus, the uptake in the amount of sewing that I'm trying to do. I made dresses for a friend's granddaughters and just completed a shirt for her. I cannot wait to give it to her.


I think the colors in this shirt will look very good with Sue's coloring. I am thinking of seeing what I've got to make the girls some Easter dresses. I just need to make some more time to sew.


I also just completed a commission for my MIL. She's a very special to me. Not only is she my hub's Mom, but she has survived cancer. I hope that the new bride she gave the table runner and placemats to really loved them.

I'm going to be doing more embroidery for sale, I've just got to put my etsy listing in place. I plan to also do custom sewing, like formals or wedding dresses. I also am teaching myself to do custom corsets. I've got 5 shelves of fabric currently, but I'm assembling 2 more. I've still got over 12 boxes of fabrics to sort out. I am amazed at what I truly have and it helps to be able to see the fabrics, not just the boxes.

You never really know what you have when you have everything packed into boxes. I'm finding fabrics and trims that I didn't remember that I had and others that I remember and have been looking for. When I touch certain fabrics, I remember why and for what outfit I bought them for. I am going to have my children (esp. my girls) come set up bins of fabrics I've purchased for them. I'm going to attach labels stating the pattern the fabric is intended for, and will pre-wash/dry them so that they are laundry friendly.

Laura

Friday, January 17, 2014

Welcome 2014

Last November, during an illness, I lost my phone. We don't really know how we are attached to our phones until we lose them. I think that mine went out with the trash.

I'm thankful, in this new year, that my husband had a phone that I could pickup and use with my old phone number and move forward. I miss my old phone's ability to take good pictures, automatically upload them to google+ for me and make my life so much easier in so many ways.

In the meanwhile, holidays, my cold and my house have cause me issues that set off one of my major negatives, one of those things we don't talk about because to do so means being shunned even in today's society. I have bipolar/depression issues. These keep me from functioning in ways I would like to. 

I was diagnosed with depression in my mid-teens (apx. 16). I have been on medication and off, and I cannot say that many of them were helpful.

All of that aside, this is a new year. I want to move in a new direction. I am going to figure out how to get pictures from the phone I have until I can get a new phone and I will write more recipes!! I'm having a great time cooking things from my new husband and a great time sharing foods with my kids.

Please be patient with my absence and look forward to more recipes and more sewing information!

Right now I'm working up ideas for Prom for my youngest daughter. I'm really excited about designing a dress for her.

Laura

Friday, October 18, 2013

Haluski

Haluski is this incredible combination of potato dumplings added to pan-fried cabbage and onion. I found this dish whilst investigating another recipe and stumbling across a homemade noodle similar to spaetzl. My children all love spaetzl.

You start with finely sliced cabbage and onions sauteed in butter until golden and tender. 

Meanwhile, you grate 4 modest sized potatoes and combine it with some eggs, flour and seasoning and then drop this in small bits into boiling water. And, by small, I mean no more than a teaspoon as they will swell.

Were I to make changes to the recipe I think I'd want to have boiling chicken stock instead of water and then use the leftovers from the meal with the twice flavored stock and make a soup. I'm writing the recipe the way that I cooked it. I'll try to get a picture of the finished dish and add that later.

Haluski with Smoked Sausage
1 small green cabbage, washed and very thinly sliced (about softball size)
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and sliced very thin (about golf ball size ... my original called for 1 large onion)
1 stick of butter (I used a splash of olive oil before adding butter and didn't use the whole stick)
salt
4 medium potatoes, washed, grated (not HUGE baking potatoes)
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
salt & pepper
2 12-oz. pkg. Smoked Sausage, sliced thin

First, wash and thinly slice the cabbage, placing layers in a colander and sprinkling with a little salt. As you slice more cabbage keep layering in the colander with a little salt. Peel, halve and thinly slice the shallots (you could use sweet yellow or red onion for this). Slice sausages and set aside.

I let these sit for a bit to remove a little of cabbage's water. Start a dutch oven on high with lightly salted water (I actually used about 1/4 cup of soy sauce). While waiting, grate the potatoes and combine with eggs, flour, salt and any seasonings. A little garlic powder, onion powder and maybe some nutmeg might be good here, but I just used the salt and pepper. Mix all together until combined well (just get right in there with your hands... trust me, works much better).

Heat a large skillet and add a small splash of oil and 2 to 3 pats of the butter. Let butter melt and begin to brown (adjust heat as needed so butter doesn't burn). Slowly add cabbage and onions/shallots, stirring and adjusting temperature as needed. Add butter if pan shows signs of drying out.

Once water is boiling, drop scant teaspoons of potato mixture into water, keeping them separated as you would for any dumpling. They will drop to the bottom at first, but will rise to the surface as they cook through. Resist the urge to pull them out as soon as they rise as these need a couple minutes to really cook through (my recipe said 5).

Drain thoroughly cooked dumplings and add to cabbage in skillet, stirring to combine (I used my Asian ladle strainer and took finished noodles directly from water to cabbage). Add smoked sausage and stirring to mix them in evenly. Continue cooking until sausages heated through, though be sure to watch so that the pan does not dry out.

Season to taste and serve. This dish makes a lot... like enough for 8 or more people. The potato dumplings would be good on their own sauteed in a little butter before serving as a side dish or in soup. 

I am definitely going to be playing with this dish as I can imagine just making the potato dumplings and giving them a toss in a little butter and cream with just a little cabbage and grated carrot and serving them with pork chops.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Project Wedding Present

My husband's niece is getting married next month, so we need a wedding gift. I was looking through her list at Target and saw she had chosen some Suzani decorated items and had a thought.

Instead of purchasing something everyone else has, I would get some Suzani embroidery and make a table runner, placemats and napkins. They would be unique to her.


The first step was to decide which embroidery to purchase. I chose a classic Suzani design pack due to it's similarity to the design from Target. I also used the Target ones to help with color choices, keeping to what she had chosen (plus if someone else purchases the Target ones, they will coordinate!). Above is my test stitch-out of two of the designs I decided to use. The long one had to be enlarged a bit and moved. The corner piece I only flipped and moved until it lined up in a way I liked. I've used this piece to guide my colors consistently through.

I did 4 designs on each placemat ... two on each side and the rotated and repeated on the opposite side.


Here is the first finished placemat. I think I've ironed this 10 times! There are four napkins all hemmed and pressed. I'm still deciding if I want to separate out a small piece of the embroidery to do on one corner of each napkin.


I've also begun the embroidery work for the table runner. Since it is so much larger I have more area to work with. I used another border design from the package and have a medallion and some other bits to chose from. I sketched a couple different layouts before choosing what I thought would look best. At present, it's time to re-hoop for the next set of designs. I may work up one side to the middle and then the other side, maybe putting a medallion in the very center. So far, I've only decided upon these two pieces for the ends.


Here's my workspace set-up. I'm using my Project Runway to do the hems and seams while the embroidery machine works. Some of these designs take 15 thread changes. So far the biggest has been 16K stitches and 30 minutes of stitch time. When I was working on Sunday, Steve often kept peeking over my shoulder as the machine worked. 

I've arranged these machines, shelves and tables three times now. I'm still not completely happy with the set up. Putting up the temporary table makes it hard to get to one side of the dining table. The big machine blocks the view of the TV for Steve when you don't want to miss the action of a game at supper time. Plus the latest move put my little dresser (lace/elastic storage) in front of the heat vent for the room, thus might have to be moved. I may reconsider the entire layout.

I currently have the table with the big embroidery machine, a commercial machine with it's own table, my dresser storage, two white shelves which hold my serger, my Project Runway machine and my straight stitch HD quilting machine. It also holds my iron, cutting tool box, embroidery supplies and ironing aides. Then there is my 10-drawer cabinet for thread, notions, and tools. Not to forget having a good size dining table, hutch, chairs, smaller cabinet for linens, and three more shelves along another wall. I definitely need to declutter this room again.


Probably, though, not until after this project is complete. Since I'm already working on the table runner and am ready to assemble the second placemat, I'm almost halfway! Then, maybe I will take another look at the room and sketch a few ideas.

Laura

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce

What would summer be without glorious fresh tomatoes? About mid-January I start really wishing for the fresh taste of home-grown tomatoes, making spring seem just too far away.

Garden fresh tomatoes, to me, defines what the word Summer means.


Summer morning glories
When I was a teenager, my Mother used to can or freeze any and everything she could to feed us over the winter. Tomato juice, diced tomatoes, green beans, sauerkraut, kosher pickles (whole, sliced and spears), bread and butter pickles, jellies and jams, and apple juice (which went into the freezer).

In my new home, I do not yet have a garden. But, still wanting to enjoy fresh tomatoes, I planted six large patio pots with various tomatoes, although I cannot say they were totally successful. Next year, I will have three raised planting beds for garden space along with the pots from this year. Lucky for me, my neighbor is having a bumper tomato crop this year.

So, while making batches of salsa, tomato jam and diced tomatoes, I decided that some summer-fresh pasta sauce was definitely needed. Once I added the pasta in I should just have stood back! Not only do I not have pictures, I don't even have leftovers! That is how I know a recipe is a keeper.

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce
makes about 3 quarts
3 lbs. Roma tomatoes (cherry or plum work ok too), washed, halved
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. ground beef (85/15)
1 medium carrot, grated
1 small summer squash, grated
1/2 each, fist sized green, red and yellow pepper, diced on the small side
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, washed, chiffonade
To taste: garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce, salt, black pepper.
1 lb. cooked Pasta of your choice, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water

Halved tomatoes should half fill a dutch oven or 6 qt. stock pot. Start tomatoes on med. heat until they begin to boil. Stir as needed to prevent sticking. Once tomatoes begin to boil reduce heat. Each time tomatoes return to a boil, reduce heat. Cook tomatoes until they resemble coarse applesauce in texture.

Chiffonade fresh basil leaves and add to tomatoes and stir. Season tomato sauce with salt and black pepper, garlic and onion powders, to taste.

Grate carrot and summer squash and add to tomatoes and allow to cook about 15 min. Add diced peppers and cook another 5, stirring as needed. 

Mix turkey and beef together, season with 3 to 4 Tbsp. soy sauce. Add to tomato sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is broken up and completely cooked through. Allow to cook 5 to 10 before tasting to adjust seasonings.

Add cooked pasta to tomato sauce in pot and allow to cook about 10 to 15 minutes, so pasta takes in flavor from sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.

NOTES: This is a simple sauce, but it does take a little time to cook down to the desired consistency. You may be able to let this cook in a crock pot, adding noodles just before serving. All the measurements are my best guess. Who thinks to measure when they are making something on the fly?

Grating vegetables the family won't eat is a great way to add body to the sauce. Trust me, they won't know unless you tell them. The vegetables can be anything you happen to love or have in the fridge and need to be used. 

You can use any kind of pasta you like. If the sauce is too thick after adding the pasta, use reserved cooking water to thin. Just remember to taste after adding cooking water to adjust seasonings to your tastes.

To chiffonade fresh basil leaves, gather 6 to 8 leaves, wash and stack one on top of the other. Roll length wise or side-to-side and slice in 1/8 inch strips with a sharp knife. You want to cut them not crush them. Once chiffonaded, I let mine unroll and then chopped the strips into smaller pieces. If you don't have fresh basil available, you can use dried basil (apx. 1 tsp.).

Praying Mantis on my dining room window.

It's a good thing for me that I had tasted this because I sat down on the couch after cooking and fell asleep! My guys ate almost all of this before I woke up! I was lucky they left me about a cup's worth!
Laura


Friday, September 6, 2013

Noisy Mornings

I usually like to write my blog posts in the morning, but with school having started, it messes my schedule up. Mostly because I have a night owl who doesn't want to go to sleep at bedtime and doesn't want to get up in the morning. Ah, teenagers.

So, this messes up my morning because I get stressed when he comes downstairs 2 minutes before the bus with socks in hand instead of on his feet. We wake him with time to dress and eat (although I would have thought by 16 you'd figure out how the alarm clock works). He lags so long I made muffins that he can grab and dash out the door with.

We live on a pretty good size highway and the bus stops directly in front of the house. I know it used to drive me crazy waiting for kids to cross the road and take a seat, no care in the world that they were holding anyone up. So, once stressed I need a while to become calm enough to put words together in decent sentences.

Thank God for coffee.


Along another line, my babies opened their eyes and began running around the yard. They are like little pinballs. I already had to save one from a window well. They get panicked and just jump right in and then are terrified when you pull them out. These guys are so tiny. One could sit in my hand cupped. Though, when pulling bunnies out of window wells, I've learned to just lift the bunny and let'em run. They seem to calm down sooner.

Yesterday, I scared one of them because my honeydew melon fell out of my hands and rolled into some long grass where he was hiding. He ran in front of me and under my car and looked to be headed for the garage. Hopefully he didn't go in the garage, but around to the other side. Steve did check, but didn't see any babies in there. It would be awful for one to be stuck inside when it's hot.

more Bunnie cuteness
Later today I am going to be working with tomatoes. My neighbor's tomatoes went into overdrive and she gave me an entire bucket of plum tomatoes. I hope it's enough, otherwise I might have to get some more. I gave her a chocolate banana bread with chocolate chips. I will try to remember to take pictures.

The recipe I want to use involves roasting the halved tomatoes to loosen the skin and then canning as chopped or crushed tomatoes. Since I use piles of these, I decided that would be the simplest. I may want to get more to make salsa. I also have some prune plums to make plum chutney. Yep, busy, busy.

Add in laundry and sewing and it sounds like a fun day to me. Then cheeseburger casserole for dinner. So in and out of the kitchen, plus out to water my poor plants. The tomatoes are considering conking out. The patty pan is going into overdrive with leaves. My peppers are still shooting out lots of fruit. I also took all my houseplants outside and repotted them. They are very contented on our back patio out of direct line of the sun.


Morning glories to brighten everyone's day. Time to start the tomatoes.
Laura