August 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Cowgirl!

Cowgirl with rope






Just a quick Hi, Howdy and Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister.

Have a beautiful day. Love you bunches!

Also, mom found and sent a photo of one of my cute Chicken Scratch embroidered dresses from when I was little. See my post from Sunday, August 30th: "The Flow of Creativity - Teach Someone Something Today!"

Thanks, Mom! Love you, too!
As a young cutie pie in my Chicken Scratch embroidered outfit
As a young cutie pie in my Chicken Scratch embroidered outfit

August 30, 2009

The Flow of Creativity - Teach Someone Something Today!

As so many families do, we have a wonderful history of creative people in our family -- quilters, crocheters, knitters, painters, photographers, woodworkers, writers, singers, musicians, cooks, cake decorators and crafters. As each new generation grows, it's fun to see what talents will emerge.

However, we all had to start somewhere. I remember being around 4 or 5 years old, sitting on the screened in front porch of my great-grandmother's house in Iowa as she taught me to cross- stitch. I was lucky as a child to have many beautiful hand-made dresses in gingham checked fabric that had designs cross-stitched into the skirts and bodices. This is called Chicken Scratch and it's a wonderful art.

Chicken Scratch Apron Chicken Scratch Apron

It is summertime and I can vividly see myself sitting in my little shorts and crop top, head bent down over my beginning cross-stitch stretched tight in a small embroidery hoop. I'm pretty sure I had my tongue out, because we all know that helps you concentrate, and a frown creasing my forehead. Boy, has that crease gotten deeper over the years -- great reason to wear bangs!

I had the embroidery hoop balanced on my lap and I completed several stitches. And, with great excitement, when I lifted the hoop to show great-grandma my work, we realized I had stitched the fabric to my shorts. I stood up and it just hung there off my leg. I know she had a huge laugh over that. I'm sure this began my long history of making something and having to tear it out and start over again. You know, some things you can fudge on and little mistakes are acceptable. Walking around with an embroidery hoop sewn to your shorts just doesn't cut it.

Close up of cross stitch Close up of cross stitch

I am fortunate enough to have a few things made by my great-grandmother (who passed away in the 1970s), including the Chicken Scratch Apron shown above. When you look at the stitches up close, they appear to have 8 points, like a snowflake. I wish I had learned to crochet from her -- she was a master crocheter -- but I am left-handed and she tried and I simply couldn't grasp the concept at a young age.

This is a thank you to all of the people who have taught me crafting and cooking over the years from great-grandma to mom to my home economics teachers in school. We need to get all the young'uns with their elders, learning these things to keep them alive through the generations. My granddaughter had an amazing teacher last year that held a weekly knitting class after school. That room was always full of both girls and boys, happily making hats and scarves for the homeless. They learned a craft as well as how good it felt to do something nice for someone in need.

My granddaughter and I have done a lot together -- knitting, cooking, decorating cakes and cookies, painting, making Christmas ornaments, latch hook and, most recently, tie-dye. When I picture myself sitting on the porch with my great-grandma and realize how loving those memories feel, it makes me cherish these moments so much more!

Keep the flow of creativity going ... teach someone today!

Drives Me Nuts - August 2009

Drives Me Nuts

Okay, I admit I’m a reality show junkie – I love Survivor, The Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen … and the list goes on.

But every time a contestant does not do well in a challenge and gets booted, they always say, “I never got a chance to show them what I could do!” Well, bullshit, you showed them exactly what you could do and they voted your ass off!

 

People (and you know who you are) should not drive in a double turn lane if they cannot stay in their own lane. Note: You are not allowed to change lanes in a double turn lane!

 

People (and you know who you are, lady) should not go to the wonderful, local farmers’ market and whine and complain about the price of anything. We are there to support the locals. Why don't you just go to the grocery store chain and take your crabby attitude with you? I am very happy for the opportunity to fill my eco bags with fruits, vegetables, jams and breads made locally!

 

Ahhhh, I feel so much lighter ... venting is good for the soul. Have a nice day, everyone! And a great September!!!

August 28, 2009

All "Groomed" Up and No Place to Go

All groomed up and no place to go


A trip to the groomer's gets Miles an updated "do" and a stylish kerchief! A cute little female Yorkie was casting a flirty eye his way as he strutted out of the place. What a great day to be a handsome dog!!!

August 27, 2009

What's Cookin' - Zucchini Bread

The zucchini in gardens and on farms is abundant and beautiful right now and just begging to be baked into something wonderful. Another one of my favorite recipes from mom is Zucchini Bread, which I have updated to be lower in calories. It's still moist and dense and tastes fantastic!


Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
2 cups raw grated zucchini
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (5x9x4"). Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

Or you can get about 24 muffins out of this recipe. Bake at 350 for approximately 18-20 minutes.

Notes: If you have a food processor, grating the zucchini with the shredding disc is really fast, although a hand grater works just as well. While I haven't tried this on my mandoline, this would be another good option.

The original version of this recipe called for 1 cup of vegetable oil. Although it is very delicious, in order to lower the calories I substituted 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce. You can also use both, i.e., 1/2 cup oil plus 1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup oil plus 3/4 cup applesauce. But here's a shocking fact ... the calories in 1 cup of vegetable oil is 1,879 -- the calories in 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce is only 100!

We normally use chopped walnuts, although pecans or another type of nut you like would be just as good. I've also made it without nuts and it's great, too.

Personal note to mom: My original recipe card is from you, in your handwriting, yellowed and covered in grease spots. It's perfect! Thanks for all the great recipes!!!

August 26, 2009

What's Cookin' - Stuffed Bell Peppers

The gorgeous red bell peppers from the farmers' market made delicious Stuffed Bell Peppers. I've taken several different versions and tweaked them into this recipe that everyone seems to enjoy.



Stuffed Bell Peppers

1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups water
cooking oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground hamburger (ground turkey or chicken would also be good)
salt and pepper
1 - 26 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce
4 large or 6 medium bell peppers (red and yellow are our favorites - mild and sweet)
1 cup shredded cheese (we use colby jack)

Directions:

Place rice and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes. When the rice is done, remove from heat and leave the lid on until time to add to the hamburger mixture.

In a large skillet, heat oil (I use extra virgin olive oil). Add onion and garlic, saute. Add hamburger, season with salt and pepper, cook until browned.

While onion, garlic and hamburger is cooking, wash and prepare peppers for stuffing. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, cut out stems and scrape out white membranes and seeds. (I have found the easiest way to do this is with a melon baller. They're small, round and sharp and it goes much faster.) Place pepper shells, cut side up, in a large baking dish.

Once the hamburger is done, drain any grease. Stir in the cooked rice and the spaghetti sauce. Add a little hot water to the spaghetti sauce jar and shake it to get every last bit - put this in the hamburger mixture as well.

Spoon the hamburger mixture into the pepper shells. (I use a Pampered Chef Large Scoop for this.) Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle grated cheese over the peppers and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

I have found that you can sneak other vegetables in, too. I like to chop mushrooms and saute them with the onion and garlic. This dish serves 4 to 8, depending on size of appetite. Hubby eats 2 pepper halves, I eat one at a sitting. They taste really good reheated, too, which is a bonus.

Wordless Wednesday - Spooning with Horsie

Louie nappking with his horsie squeak toy
Louie napping with his horsie squeak toy
Wordless Wednesday

August 25, 2009

Fair Isle Purse

Fair Isle purse completed

Finished the Fair Isle purse for the granddaughter this morning. She is so cute and so excited to use her purse. There isn't a lot of Fair Isle stranding in this purse, but having done it on the knitting machine makes me happy.

Fair Isle on the knitting machine

I have a Bond America Ultimate Sweater Machine (although I have yet to make any sweaters with it) and have been really pleased with the finished objects produced on it. Another thing I learned on this purse was how to knit in a hem on the machine. Very cool! This hem is the inside front of the purse above the button and, per the directions, I bought a sheet of plastic canvas at the craft store, cut a piece to fit and slid it into the hem to provide stiffness.

Fair Isle off the knitting machine - check out the knitted in hem at the bottom

I did, as usual, make some of my own adjustments to the pattern. I felt the purse flap was too floppy and curly, even after crocheting an edge and blocking, so I knitted another flap in just the brown yarn and stitched it to the inside of the flap. I like this a lot for two reasons -- it adds weight and stability to the flap and it covers the floats so she won't accidentally catch them.

The original pattern also calls for a strap and stitched on trim of braided yarn. Aaaaaannnhhh! I decided to hand-knit a strap in one of my favorites, moss stitch. It creates a dense, textured, heavier fabric and looks very nice for the strap. Something I hadn't done before but had read about many times is slipping the first stitch of each row for a prettier edge. It really works! Chose a pretty ivory colored 1' button and chain stitched a loop for the closure.

 Close up of Fair Isle purse and button closure

Your Comments


To all of you who have so kindly read my blog posts and taken the time to leave comments:

My Reply to Comments button is BROKEN!!! Have not been able to reply to any of your comments at all. Have sent in numerous requests for help to WordPress Support and tried all of their suggestions, but no luck so far!

Am still hoping for resolution. Until then, please know that I would love to be talking back at you but simply cannot.

Love,
This would be me if I had red hair!
jayaycee

August 24, 2009

Cook Yourself Thin

Cook Yourself Thin Cookbook

The day of birthday feasting was great. The herb-roasted chicken and roasted veggies that we had for dinner are from my favorite new cookbook, "Cook Yourself Thin."

MyLifetime.com aired a television show of the same title a few months back and I just loved it. The guest of the week would tell the hostesses/cooks about their favorite dishes. Total calories would be calculated and were ALWAYS way over the number of calories the guest should eat in a day to get to their goal weight. So the hostesses would re-make those recipes, slimming them down to usually around half of the normal calories.

While you can get the recipes online -- here is the link for the Easy Herb-Roasted Chicken and Roasted Veggies -- I love the feel of a book in my hands. Had a Barnes and Noble gift card from Mother's Day to spend, so I ordered one. I have repeatedly made several of the dishes from this cookbook and they are absolutely delicious and do not taste de-calorized (is that a word?).

In addition to the roasted chicken, I can recommend the Turkey Mini-Meatloaves, Green Chile and Chicken Enchiladas and Turkey Chili Crunch (this one might be my very favorite so far). Instead of the chipotle pepper called for, I just use a small can of mild diced chiles and we scoop the soup with Baked Tostitos Scoops. OMG, I can't even begin to tell you how good this is!

A little cupcake heaven
A little cupcake heaven
The cupcakes hubby requested for his birthday cake, we saw on an episode of Food Networks's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate: With My Hands." It is a devil's food cupcake (I like the Duncan Hines boxed mix), iced with cream cheese frosting and rolled in sweetened flaked coconut. They are so good! But hubby's favorite part of the show was when the chef (sorry, can't remember her name) made a Cupcake Sandwich ... tear off the bottom of the cupcake, put it on top of the frosting and you have a sandwich with the frosting in the middle. It really is great and fun to do. Little kids, as well as big Old kids love it!!!

This wonderful cream cheese frosting is one of my Mom's recipes:

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 T. butter, softened

1 3-oz. package cream cheese (I used Fat Free and it was just fine)

2 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Blend until creamy.

Yum!

August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, My Love!

Happy Birthday, My Love!
Happy Birthday, My Love!

August 22, 2009

Saturday Chat

A booth at the farmers' market

We had a big thunderstorm Friday evening with lots of lightning. The rain smells wonderful and cooled things off a bit. The high temperature today is only supposed to be 98 degrees, which is an 11 degree drop from yesterday. Went to one of our favorite farmers' markets this morning. Have to support the local farmers and get great fresh produce!

Farmers' market buys

Got some nice vegetables. Planning to make stuffed bell peppers next week and found some beautiful red ones. Going to do an herb roasted chicken with roasted veggies for hubby's birthday dinner tomorrow. It's one of his favorites. Got russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, baby bell peppers, onions and mushrooms to roast. We'll also be doing one of the cholesterol laden southwestern breakfasts he loves in the morning with maple bacon, eggs, a pot of pinto beans, tortillas and, yes, more potatoes.

Went off on a tangent yesterday and decided to start knitting a Christmas gift. All I will say is this is the softest boucle yarn -- absolutely yummy!

Also decided I want to learn Fair Isle knitting on the knitting machine. Working on a purse that was one of the learning projects in the book that came with it. I think it went well, although I had a few tense cuss word moments. Will put on a photo of it once completed, but here it is on the machine -- the back of the knitting shows where you can see the floats of yarn.

Fair Isle on the knitting machine

Have a great weekend, everyone!

August 21, 2009

Knitted Gift Pouch

Knitted gift pouch

My middle sister is having a birthday soon and I know she loves turquoise. We had spent the 4th of July in Prescott, Arizona, enjoying every minute of their wonderful celebration in Courthouse Square. There were hundreds of craft booths and -- as hubby mentioned a few times -- I looked at EVERYTHING in EVERY booth! There was a great booth selling turquoise jewelry and I found some beautiful silver dangle earrings with turquoise stones. Okay, done.

Birthday Earrings in Knitted Gift Pouch

Now, what to send them in to make it more exciting. I decided to knit a little gift pouch. Played with it some and ripped it out and started over a few times. Settled on a moss stitch pattern and a button closure. Used size 6 needles and worsted weight acrylic yarn. Finished size, closed and buttoned, is 3-3/4 x 5-1/2".

Cast on 3 stitches.

First row (right side): Increase in 1st stitch, knit 1, increase in last stitch - 5 stitches total.

2nd row and all wrong side rows of flap only: Purl across.

Row 3: Increase in 1st stitch, knit 3, increase in last stitch - 7 stitches total.

Row 5: Increase 1 stitch in each of first 2 stitches, knit to last 2 stitches, then increase 1 stitch in each - 11 stitches total.

Continue increasing 4 stitches on right side rows until you have 23 -- this forms the pointed flap.

Body of pouch is in moss stitch: knit 1, purl 1 across every row until body portion is 7" long.

Bind off.

Knitted gift pouch before seaming sides

Single crochet around entire edge. Crochet a small chain for loop -- length of chain depends on the size of your button. I used a 1" button. Determine where button needs to sit and sew on. Seam sides of pouch together.

Crocheting around the edge of the knitted gift pouch

You could make this any size by increasing more stitches for width and adding more length. You could use different size needles and/or yarn or change the pattern stitch. You could make it without crocheting around the edge, but would probably have to block it to keep the flap from curling.

You could make a strap for it and carry it as a little "going out" bag. I remember shopping in the handbag section of a department store with my youngest daughter who was in her late 20s at the time. I picked up a tiny, tiny handbag and said, "What could you carry in this?" Daughter replied, "A driver's license and a clean pair of panties." I looked at her, shocked, and we both burst out laughing. Just then, a snooty old lady walked around a display and glared at us. We stopped laughing just until she had walked on by, then laughed even harder. Good times ...

I am posting this because my sister already received her gift in the mail yesterday so I can't spoil the surprise. Happy Birthday, sis!!! Love you!!!

August 20, 2009

Seeing Spots ... er, Flecks

So I have started on the shrug my baby sister requested for her birthday. It's still a few months away, meaning I won't have to pull any all-nighters, knitting 'til my eyeballs fall out -- I just hate when that happens. The first sleeve is underway.

Shrug sleeve in progress

The thing is, this is the same yarn I used for the cardi I recently finished for myself. It is black with flecks of color in it. It is gorgeous yarn, but after a while, I feel like I'm seeing spots. I mean, I am seeing flecks, but there are spots floating out there, too. It's probably just the black background.

I swear the next project I start will be a lighter color. Actually, it is, because the granddaughter has ordered a lacey poncho in a medium blue and white twisted yarn that I will begin soon. I usually have several projects on the needles at once because I get tired of working on the same thing for too long and switching back and forth keeps the boredom at bay.

The shrug pattern I've chosen for the birthday shrug is one I found on the Caron International website (see photo below). It's so cute, the model apparently lost her head!

Simple Shrug photo from the Caron website

August 18, 2009

What's Cookin' - Steak in Pesto Marinade

Beef Rib Steaks Marinated in Pesto
Beef Rib Steaks Marinated in Pesto
We recently watched a show on the Food Network called "The Best Thing I Ever Ate: for Breakfast."

Guy Fieri went to Matt's Big Breakfast in Phoenix, Arizona, where his favorite breakfast is a pork rib chop marinated in pesto, pan fried, then served with hash browns and eggs.

The pesto marinade is what intrigued me so we tried beef rib steaks marinated for about 3 hours in Buitoni Pesto with Basil.

Of course, you can make your own pesto, but the prepared pesto is delicious, comes in a 7 oz. container for around $5 to $6 and I found it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I used half the container on two steaks.

Steaming Broccoli
Steaming Broccoli
We also steamed broccoli, which is good with everything. The steaks were flavorful and tender. I think the pesto marinade would be good for just about any type of meat. We'll definitely try it on pork chops and chicken.

We were out of red wine but had a chilled bottle of Jacob's Creek Riesling, which was really good. The pesto marinade is a great thing, worth repeating and passing along.

Beef Rib Steaks grilled in Pesto Marinade and Steamed Broccoli
Beef Rib Steaks grilled in Pesto Marinade and Steamed Broccoli

August 17, 2009

What's Cookin' - Caramel Peach Crunch

Caramel Peach Crunch


This is one of my favorite desserts that Mom made when I was growing up. I've made some minor revisions to the recipe over the years, but it is still a family favorite. Hubby is especially fond of this dish so I like to make Caramel Peach Crunch for "his" special days like Father's Day and his birthday.

Caramel Peach Crunch

Ingredients:

3 – 29 oz. cans sliced peaches, drained
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13"  baking dish or cake pan with cooking spray. Arrange peach slices in the dish. Mix together all dry ingredients, then add melted butter and blend well. Sprinkle the oats mixture over the peaches and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 8-10, depending on how big you cut the pieces.

It’s great served warm with vanilla bean ice cream. Or refrigerate and eat cold for breakfast.

August 16, 2009

Top Knot

No one is safe when a little girl and a scrunchie are involved ...
Louie with a top knot
Louie with a top knot

August 15, 2009

What's Cookin' - Boeuf Bourguignon

After reading the book, "Julie & Julia," and then seeing the movie recently, I was determined to attempt at least one of Julia Child's famous recipes. So I warbled my way through a good 4 hours in the kitchen yesterday making Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (page 315 in my copy).

Assembling the Ingredients
Assembling the ingredients
It is truly delicious, although I used nearly every pot and pan in the kitchen -- and some of them twice.

Sautéing the bacon and beef
Sautéing the bacon and beef
It's not a difficult recipe, just time intensive. Everything is cooked in a different skillet or sauce pan before all coming together in one dutch kettle at the end.

Sautéing the carrot and onion
Sautéing the carrot and onion
I chopped and sautéed and braised.

Braising the pearl onions
Braising the pearl onions
I had a glass of the burgundy while I cooked. Peeling all those little pearl onions took some time.

Sautéing the mushrooms
Sautéing the mushrooms
We served it over long grain wild rice with dinner rolls and a glass of wine and, yes, it was absolutely wonderful! I loved, loved, loved the mushrooms sautéed in butter, of course. And the sauce is amazing.

Boeuf Bourguignon over Rice
Boeuf Bourguignon over Rice
After all is said and done ... and eaten ... and cleaned up, here are some thoughts:
  • This is a dish to make when you have lots and lots of time.
  • This is a dish to make for people you love more than anything or very, very special company.
  • According to Julia, "...you can prepare it completely ahead, even a day in advance, and it only gains in flavor when reheated." I would definitely make this the day before company is being served.
  • It is rich and satisfying -- I would classify it as comfort food.
  • For being a home-cooked meal, it is not inexpensive to make. I think the ingredients ran around $25.
I know this will probably sound weird, but I love going outside and coming back into the house after a meal like this -- the fragrance is fantastic and the house continues to smell like heaven for hours and hours!!!

August 14, 2009

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Another prayer shawl is completed and I will be sending it to someone who recently lost her husband in an auto accident. She was injured as well and I'm sure the physical and emotional healing will require much strength and support.

I include a card with each shawl given that is appropriate to their particular situation whether it be illness, a new baby, a birthday, bereavement, etc. Following is a sample of the card given to someone who was going through chemotherapy:

This shawl was made just for you
To bring comfort
To know you are loved
To share in your joy
This shawl is to wrap you up
When you're cold
When you're hurting
When you need to snuggle
This shawl was knitted
With Blessings
With Love
With Prayers

 Another verse I like to use:

This is a prayer shawl
but it’s also a hug
Thousands of stitches
each made with love

 So wrap it around you
and let yourself feel
the love of your friends
every day of the year!

This prayer shawl is a combination of lace rib and stockinette stitch stripes on the knitting machine and the border was crocheted by hand.

Tan Prayer Shawl

If you are interested in a prayer shawl ministry or how it came about, click here. Many churches and charitable organizations are now embracing the prayer shawl ministry. It's a beautiful thing!

August 13, 2009

Ta Daaaa - Tie-Dye

I find it amazing that I have done so many different types of crafts over the years, including macrame in the 70's, and have never attempted tie-dye. I've always thought it was cool and it seems there is a tie-dye revival every so often. There is currently an entire booth devoted to tie-dye products at the local farmers' market.

Tie-Dye 1

So I had purchased a white terry cloth swimsuit cover up for myself and a white T-shirt for the granddaughter and we prepared to tie-dye both of them. Let the fun begin!

Tie-Dye 2

We got a 3-color tie-dye kit from WalMart for $9.99, laid out trash bags to protect the counter top and put aprons on to protect our clothes. I pleated and rubber banded my cover up and she decided to freehand her T-shirt.

Tie-Dye 3

I did find out that it's pretty much impossible to take pictures without getting dye on your hands while removing your plastic gloves and putting them back on.

Tie-Dye 4
Tie-Dye 5

The instructions said to wrap the items in plastic wrap and leave them for 6 to 8 hours. It nearly killed us, but we were able to wait 6 hours. :o  Then wash them in the hottest water possible.

Tie-Dye 6

And voila!!! Or should I say, "Wow, man..."  The finished product is fun and colorful and you can actually wear it. And now I can cross tie-dye off my bucket list.

Tie-Dye 7

August 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Kitchen Bell

Kitchen Bell at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West
Kitchen Bell at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West
Wordless Wednesday

August 11, 2009

But, Louie!

Here's another one of my favorite pictures. We have a doggie door that the dogs use at least 1,000 times a day. Thank God, I would hate to have to open and close the door each time! Louie likes to sit in the doggie door with his front feet and head outside so he can scope out what's going on in the yard. So what we see on the inside is Louie's butt.

And Miles will just pace around back and forth inside behind Louie with his legs crossed, waiting for Louie to move so he can go out. Never fails to crack me up!

But, Louie -- or should I say Louie's butt!
But, Louie -- or should I say "Louie's butt!"