Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too Much Basil? NEVER!

Last August, Food Network Magazine had a little blurb about making basil salt.  WHAT?  REALLY?  How cool is that!!  So I harvested my herbs & set to making flavored salt.  We've been out of basil salt for a while now, and my son has had to resort to using rosemary salt on his salad greens.  Yeah.  You read that right.

The basil was getting big (and wilty because I forgot to water in this dumb heat), and as we'll be gone next week, I thought it was as good a time as any to chop it off and make salt.

How to:
Big handful of basil, rough chopped, into the food processor.  I probably had about a cup & a half.  Pulse a few times.
Dump in kosher salt (I used generic brand,  which I accidentally bought thinking I could use it daily, but the grains aren't as big).  Probably a cup's worth.  Pulse.  Add more salt until it looks like the right mix.

Heat your oven to 225 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil or parchment (I even sprayed it lightly).  Spread the salt mixture out.  The idea  is to dry out the basil- I'm not sure of the 'exact', but I set the timer for about 5 minutes, stirred it around, gave it another five minutes.  Maybe a few more minutes.  You want it dried out.
And there you go.  Put into cute jars & give to your friends.  Like I said, it's really good as a salad topper.  and of course on pasta, or fresh mozzarella....  or anything!

So, you see the possibilities, right?  ANY HERB.  ANY MIX OF HERBS.  My favorite is roasted garlic.  This is fun.  Go.  Do.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Family Heirloom = Summer Project

 I want a new kitchen table.  What I really want is my husband to build me a table.  He has been actively ignoring this conversation for over a year.  I was even starting to figure out how to build it myself (or, find a  family member brother to help me).  

Imagine HOW EXCITED WE BOTH WERE when my cousin asked if I'd want that table that Grandpa had built.  Let me repeat that:  That Grandpa had built.  Probably, like, 25 years ago.  We all have things Grandpa built for us, I have a lovely glass book case, and of course my baby doll furniture that will be dug out of my parent's attic if  when I have a granddaughter.   I bribed my In-laws with dinner in exchange for them bringing it over for me.  Well worth it. 

Farmhouse table, with two benches.  I may just use one bench and look for some wooden chairs, 
but this is very close to what I've been looking for.  
Sure, after a little while in a storage unit it needs a little work, but that's ok.  

I'm thinking I'm going to strip the top & refinish it, but paint the legs black.  Kind of distressed.
Like this one:
From Hudson Goods 
Yes?  Yes.  I'm excited.  Now if the weather would dry out enough to get out & work on it!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two to Try for Memorial Day!

1.  I love to make salads.  
2.  I love goat cheese.
3.  I love salads with goat cheese.

So when I ran across THIS recipe for a corn & goat cheese salad, of course I had to give it a whirl.  Grilled corn, tomatoes, peppers, a jalapeno, parsley  toasted walnuts and goat cheese with only a little lime juice for dressing. Kind of a lot going on all in one salad, but at first taste it's pretty good.  Crunchy & sweet, hot & tangy.  We'll see how it goes over at tonight's cookout.

 And, of course, my go-to-for-a-crowd potato salad - from Alton Brown.  This is a basic potato salad that doesn't taste basic.  I think the key is letting the potatoes sit in cider vinegar overnight.  This does not have eggs or mustard in it, but if you really felt you had to do it, I guess you could.  I, of course, would choose just a little Dijon to add flavor, because it's well known that yellow mustard is revolting.
 So I'm ready for  a holiday cookout, but I don't think the weather is in agreement.  More rain.  Ugh.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Alligator Handbag

 I finally finished my first attempt at a purse.  I fell in love with this idea over at Sew4Home last month.  I've never done anything like this, and had no idea how it would turn out.  I'm a bit of a purse... snob, so I knew it wouldn't become my new go-to-favorite-bag, but I thought it was cute, and I have nothing like this.  And it looked kind of fun. I had trouble getting handles for it, they finally showed up this week & I could finish putting it together. 

I'm happy with it- I think it turned out cute.  Maybe I'll carry it to brunch on Sunday!  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Turquoise Spray Paint... My Latest Addiction

Spring, finally, may have sprung here in central Illinois...   

and I decided it was time to update some of our stuff.  First up, the wicker plant stand:

for the record,  turquoise spray paint isn't just everywhere.  Valspar makes two pretty shades of it though, Tropical Oasis & Exotic Sea.  I like the Tropical Oasis a little better- its the color I used on this plant stand.  

While standing in the paint aisle at Lowe's, I started talking to another paint shopper.  She convinced me to go ahead & try to paint some planters.  She also apparently buys spray paint because she likes the colors, not because she has a project in mind for it.  I can get on board with that- collecting spray paint like I collect...  yarn, paper, fabric, any thing with color...

So I started with this old urn...  it's a little beat up.  I washed & used a little steel wool over it.  This was painted with the exotic sea color of paint.  It's a little brighter than the other color.

and here you go!

I love it!!  
Now to go through my stash of planters & see what else I can transform...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Outdoor Cushion Project

I've been dying to show you my brand-new-made-by-me patio cushions but it seems Mother Nature doesn't think you need to see them in action.  Our poor patio set--  ten years old, not ready to be tossed but not quite worthy of hundreds of dollars of new cushions - won't know how to feel when the weather finally does turn warm and gets to be all pretty again!  I also made new cushions for our three piece wicker set.  It didn't really need them, but they wouldn't have matched, and I knew that would bug me.

Outdoor fabric from $8/yd  and two spools of thread- all for less than $70.  I was very, very fortunate in that we were able to re-use the foam from the old cushions.  Buying new foam would have been the deal breaker.  Outdoor foam is really expensive.  I didn't price it out all the way, but would have cost an easy $150.  Our original cushions had a bottom and a back.  I wasn't really feeling like making a full back piece, so I used the batting from the old backs, folded it in half, and made small pillows for the chairs.

So, all in all...  6 chair bottoms, 6 chair pillows, and 3 pads  for the wicker set.  I used these instructions from Sew4Home as my guide. I did NOT make the piping.  That seemed... exhausting.  It was not a hard project, at all, but took some time.

Hopefully, SOON, we can take our cushions outside and enjoy them!  I think they'll go nicely with a bottle of chardonnay, don't you?

Saturday, April 20, 2013


You may have heard me say things lately like "I'm going to make a pencil skirt", and 'I can put a zipper in, no problem'.  If I'm going to be truthful, I figured I would TRY to make a skirt and throw it away because it would never fit and would look terrible.

my invented kick pleat pattern

It never, ever should have worked.  I started out like I knew what I was doing (let me say here that I have known, in the past, how to do this - my mother taught me to sew - and sew well - when I was younger, but I haven't made actual clothes for years.  And not usually without some help).  I bought a pattern, only to realize it didn't have a kick pleat in the back.  And thinking I actually had a clue, I just put one in anyway (HERE is the website I used for the kick pleat.)   This lead to me basically re-vamping the entire pattern - I had to change the seams from 2 side seams to add a back seam to accommodate the pleat, and then put the zipper in the back seam instead of the side.  That meant the whole facing had to be re-worked.  
the pleat, all done!!

And it was just a tad to small, so I had to tear out all the seams & make smaller seam allowances.

My zipper isn't great.  I need to practice some zipper work....  and then I even had to hem it.  By hand. I knew the fabric wasn't the best choice - it's a little light weight & could use a lining, but it'll be fine for wearing around the house this summer. 

is it perfect?  no.  do I like it?  YES!  I will absolutely be making another one!  

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Made a Tiny Book, You Can Too!

Recently I fell in love with all the little book charms on ETSY.  Just search it, there's lots of choices.  I wasn't entirely sure on how to go about making one, and then I found this tutorial.  I thought "hey- I've got all the stuff to try that!"  and set out to try it. 

I knew it wasn't going to end up being exactly what I wanted on the first try, but you have to start somewhere, right?  I think I would like mine to have real covers on them - like Gone With the Wind or something...  which means scanning a cover I have & making it tiny, or finding an image online.  I also think I'd like it just a little bit smaller, and with the cover wrapped around so you don't get edges.  Or I could just Mod Podge onto a scrabble tile, I guess.  Either way, I'm glad I tried this and it's given me some ideas of where to start to get the effect I want.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Did It, and I Didn't Make a Mess

Yes, that title accurately depicts this project.

I can be a bit of a disaster when it comes to doing stuff.  It often takes me as long to clean up after a project as it did to DO the project.  So when I decided to tackle this one, I was prepared for the worst.

(say it with me)  'On Pinterest'...I saw all these cute ombre dyed shirts.  I haven't bought dye for anything for a very, very long time.  I didn't even know you could get dye other than Rit!

I picked up 2 colors (Ocean Blue and Goldfish) of Dylon dye at Joann's, and 2 tees at walmart (so, end price about $7/shirt).  I washed the shirts with no fabric softener - I don't know if it matters, but thought it safer - and left it all sit.  for about two months.

I finally got up the courage to do it, and here is the tutorial I used.  I followed her instructions and it all seemed to go as planned.  My only other advice--  keep the cold water running in the other sink. I ran the lighter end throughthe water to rinse and blend several times.  and get a few big old towels out- I used one on the sink edge so I didn't lean into the dyed water.

HUGE COMPLAINT TO HANES!!  Do we really, really need giant read tags printed into the shirt???   This is visible from the back of the shirt.  These are fine for everyday, wear around things, but if I wanted something more professional looking, I would spend more money on a really good shirt.

I think I'll be watching for other shirts to try this on- maybe a button down.  and more time in the dye.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Car Storage, CHECK!


I drove the same minivan for 12 years, and it had this great little basket in the middle of the front seats to hold EVERYTHING.  When we replaced the (excuse the tears) van last fall with a newer-but-not-new model, I really, really missed my storage space.  I mean, really- where was I supposed to keep my kleenex, sunglasses, coupons, pens, paper, ATM receipts, snacks, and countless phone chargers?

Then I remembered my fabulous storage baskets I made a few months ago, and went about adapting them for the car.  Yes, I used my favorite Nancy Drew fabric for one of them.  and yes, I realize it doesn't really match the interior, and some of you would be much, much happier if both baskets matched.  I understand, really I do, but I'm not sure you completely understand my love for this fabric. 

I used a fabric stabilizer in the back side of the baskets- the back side being the side with the velcro.  I could have also used a piece of cardboard (by cardboard, I mean a cut-up cereal box) here, but I had the stabilizer, so that's what I used.  I did put pockets on the blue one, one on the inside & one on the outside.  Chances are very good I will completely forget what I put in the pockets, because that's how I roll.  I considered lining these with vinyl, but it seemed like a hassle.  If you have little kids, you might think about it. Or making it so you could line it with a shopping bag, maybe with big buttons on the side to hold the handles?  

Sew-on velcro on the bag, heavy duty industrial sticky velcro on the plastic part of my car.  This may slip in the heat, but I'll deal with that when the time comes.

You can find a million tutorials online about making fabric boxes or baskets.  Just figure out what works for your situation...  
I love my baskets!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Another Use for My Burlap - a Table Runner!

You know I am having a little spring time crush on burlap...   and I love the table runner I put together.   I'd love it more if I'd made it about 5 inches longer, but that's what happens when I'm being just a tiny bit, um... lazy.  I did think, before sewing the lining onto the back of it- "Hey, Karen - you really should run downstairs and make sure it fits right."  

I didn't, and it's just a little too short.  Which is ok for a few reasons - we plan on replacing this table with a longer, farmhouse style table this summer.  Er, at least, as soon as I can convince my husband to build me one.   And I do have enough fabric left to do another one.  I think I will make a second runner, without lining it, and fray the edges.  

If you are wanting to make a table runner of your own, this link will give you a quick tutorial on making a lined runner.  You could also just press up a hem and glue it down- it won't last forever but it may last as long as you'd like it to!  I did prewash my fabric (burlap & backing) to avoid shrinkage later.  and to get some of the burlap smell off the burlap.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Great Ham & Bean Soup Experiment

I grew up with ham & beans.  and cornbread, but that goes without saying.  I have only ever made it one way  until this fall, when I decided to kick it up a notch.  And then I found that the youngest kid loves this, so there you go- he's been  begging me to make ham & beans!

So here's the basic recipe I've been working on this winter.  I'm not great at recipes- I hate to measure.  And it's soup. Which pretty much means Do What You Want.

Ham &  Bean Soup/ Slow Cooker Style

1 package dried beans

Cover dry beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let stand for about half an hour.  I usually start this before I start preparing everything else, and then they will be ready.  Sometimes your beans will come with a ‘flavor packet’.  You can add it to the water & beans if you’d like. It's not usually the most flavorful flavor packet, but it certainly won't hurt anything either way.

In the meantime…  Add to the crockpot:

* 8+ cups ham broth (see below)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Chopped ham -  about 2 cups  (you can use leftover ham or buy a chunk of ham or ham steak.  I’ve done all three)
1 t. Liquid Smoke
2 T. ham broth/soup base  (this is a dry product, sold in the aisle with chicken & beef broth)
¼ t. or more black pepper
1 t. Cajun seasoning - We use Tony Chacheres in everything.  You may have another favorite all purpose seasoning you like.  This one has just a little kick to it.  Nothing like that in your cabinet?  How about some Frank’s or Tabasco?  This is your dinner.  Do what you want.

 --  adjust seasoning as you like, of course

Prepare bacon:
4-5 slices bacon, roughly chopped
Put chopped, raw bacon in large glass bowl.  Cover with a few paper towels wadded up.  Microwave 1 minute.  Stir with a fork, cook about 1 more minute.  Drain partially cooked bacon on paper towels, then add to crock pot.  You want to render some of the fat from the bacon, but still want it to impart that yummy bacon flavor to your soup.  This is a great technique for any time you want to add bacon to a dish- like baked beans or if you are wrapping jalapenos for the grill.  I learned this technique years ago at a grocery store held cooking class.  It's one of my go-to kitchen tips.  

Add beans to crock pot.  Drain & rinse them.    You should be able to turn this on low and let it cook all day. 

*Ham  Broth
Ok. Every once and a while I cook ham for dinner, and I always buy a ham with a bone.  Put your ham bone in a big stock pot, along with a onion cut into wedges and a few cloves of garlic.  Maybe a celery stalk if you have some around (the leafy, center part, of course). Leave all that fat that you didn't eat off the ham on the bone, or throw it back in with it to cook. Cover with water, boil, then let simmer for a while.  An hour or so, on low.  Watch as you may want to add more water to it.  You can freeze the broth until you are ready to make soup!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crockpot Chicken! WooHoo!

ok, ok...  I'm always a little leery of chicken in the crockpot, and when I saw this recipe for Simple Crock Pot Chicken, I figured it was too good to be true.  I was wrong!  This was good.  Really, really good.  no pics, sorry- as it was gone before I could even think about a photo.

I prepared this for the three of us, which gave us 4 servings (1 each for Darin & I, 2 for the kid)  with a long grain & wild rice.  Apparently they were disappointed I didn't make mashed potatoes...  I make mashed potatoes often enough, and they love rice, so I wasn't sure why the complaining.  but I digress...

Into the Crockpot for the day, on low:
3 large, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, seasoned (I used a little salt & Cajun seasoning, you could use Italian)
1 can chicken broth
1 onion, wedged
2 or so cloves of garlic - peeled and whole

to serve:
1 package chicken gravy mix

Prepare gravy mix as directed on package- I used some of the liquid from the crockpot   Shred chicken off the bone, stir into finished gravy, and serve over rice, potatoes or noodles.

Adjust for family size.

This one is going into regular menu rotation!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Frosting Fail and Other Sunday Mishaps

Snowy Sunday morning, nothing going on.  so what do I do?  Decide to cook.  Cupcakes, Cinnamon Bread, and a one-pot supper in the oven .  Easy Peasy.

I'm starting a quest to find the perfect frosting- the whippy kind you get from the grocery store.  Sure, I can make buttercream, and that's needed to decorate cakes & cookies, but sometimes I want something different.  Something even worse for you than buttercream.  I think what I probably need to find is a recipe using marshmallow cream, but yesterday I went with a stabilized whipped cream version with unflavored gelatin.  It took two tries to get the gelatin dissolved (the first attempt smelled like a dog walker's shoe, and I was not putting that into my frosting).  and then, because I was making a sprinkle-y cupcakes, I added sprinkles to my whipped cream.

and then I put the frosting it my improvised decorating tip.

 and then I realized that sprinkles do NOT come out of a decorating tip.  

if you want to know, it comes out looking like this:

Lesson learned.

 In the mean time I'd thrown together Ree Drummond's cinnamon bread recipe, which I've made probably 20 times in the last 2 years.  It's simple to put together and turns out well.  Every time.  Except yesterday.  When I took it out of the oven before it was done (WHAT?  I KNOW better!).  It was completely NOT cooked inside and went into the garbage.  Yay.

It LOOKS good, doesn't it?  HA.

Supper was a recipe I'd seen on Pinterest about a year ago and finally got around to making - a casserole with veggies & sausages.  I bought some nice country and Italian links from the butcher.  Except for the fact I came within 5 minutes of overcooking the potatoes into mush, it was pretty tasty.  I will definitely  make this again.  The recipe calls for fennel bulbs- I couldn't get any, and used some ground up fennel seeds instead.  and more sausages, because life is better with more sausage, right?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Scrapbook Stash... Busted

Family Weekend in Indiana
Yikes!  It's been almost a week since my last post.  This not-a-spring weather is just not inspiring, is it?   Anyway - I've been cleaning out my scrapbook stash.  again.  Let me re-wind here...  over the last 2 years, including a giant yard sale & a move, I've been tossing scrapbook paper left & right.  And using it.  All with the plan of buying new stuff to re-stock.

and here is what really, really should be the last of the old ....

Some of that is - um- seven or eight years old.  

I'm also pretty much out of any embellishments....   guess it is about time to go shopping!   With the move, though, I've lost my Archivers store.  yes, there are other stores around here- I haven't been to any of the yet.  and I noticed one was closing.  of course.  We'll have to see  what's out there...

But I did get 3 sets of pages done.  YAY for me :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I LOVE this Fabric!!

As soon as I saw this Nancy Drew themed fabric (by Moda, found here), I knew I had to own it.  Of course, I had no idea what I would do it it.  It would make a great tote bag  or a cover for your Kindle, or lots of things like that...  but I decided to make a cover for my sewing machine.

Yes, I realize there is nothing that screams 'sewing room' about this fabric, but it's my sewing room & craft room, and I can do what ever I want to.

Yes, my sewing machine is old.  As old as I am.  But it works pretty well, and until I can actually justify getting a new one, I may as well treat this one nicely.

I used a tutorial by the Crafty Gemini (here).  Except for the fact I hate using iron-on fleece, it turned out cute. I really wanted to add a row of yellow pompom fringe to the bottom, but the only fringe I found was being sold on clearance by the bolt.  I really, really didn't need $9 and 10 yards of yellow pompom fringe.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ironing Board Diva Part 2

Inspired by a Sew4Home project, I set out to make a little caddy to hang from my ironing board to hold stuff.  Since I didn't really want to follow directions, I just started by cutting & laying it out.  If you want real instructions, you can start here.  

I used an iron-on fleece for the batting.  If you think it looks crooked, it is.  On purpose.  I'm completely nuts and use my ironing board backward.  I like to use the big square end for stuff, and leave the pointy end alone.  so- I needed this to hang at the pointy end.  Which meant in order for my pocket to hang straight, I had to make it crooked.  Get it?  

I made a little pincushion for the top- if I'd been thinking ahead, I'd have sewn velcro to it before I put it together, but I never work like that.  So instead it got this cute rickrack to hold it down.  It also leaves the pincushion removable, so that's not so bad.

Finally, I needed a little thread catcher.  I'm sure there are all kinds of ways to do this.  I ended up cutting 2 squares, 9x9 and sewing right sides together.  Then I cut a little 3" square of cardboard, laying it in the middle,  and pressing creases all around.  I sort of just ad-libbed it, folding all the ends together & stitching across.  It turned out cute, was very simple, and I think I'll make a few more.  

All in all- a quick project.  Especially considering I was making it up as I went!