Friday, May 30, 2008

That doily I mentioned...

So I have been having some scary heart symptoms that pretty much dictated time every day with my feet up. There aren't too many things I can do with my feet up and I confess that I took shameless advantage of the situation and read lots of books *grin* but I have been making something, too.

When I found our beauty at the thrift store, they were having a craft sale. I was pretty shameless about that, too, lol... and I am VERY happy to say that I have a crochet thread stash again! Not only that, but I found a copy of one of my fav crochet magazines!

Well, they're right--the mats are mighty pretty! I paged through and found several that interested me. I love lace, just love it, and before I got the carpal tunnel syndrome I made very nice crocheted doilies for everyone---well, everyone but me. Now I don't have the same control I used to have (or the same eyesight, sheesh!), but I still love lace so yanno... I had to choose one and start it right away!

I chose one called Romantic Oval which is lacier than I usually do, and I chose a thread that intrigued me no end when I bought it. Whoever had originally owned this thread had taken the time and trouble to take it off the cardboard core it had been on, had tea-died it, and had wrapped it back into balls... I sooo wanted to see how the tea-dying would play out in a pattern!

Well, the laciness of this pattern kept the doily looking like "a buncha nuthin" for quite a while, and I knew I would not be able to get a pic that looked like anything... cuz yanno... even looking at it in my lap, I couldn't see anything more than a buncha nuthin! I almost gave up. I even more almost gave up when I saw the blotchiness of the tea-dye job, and the weird way it worked itself through the lace. But I had to have my feet up, and the alternative was to go back to that size 80 thread and finish the star wheel mat, and my wrists needed to NOT do anything that fussy, so I persevered.

Last night, as I started the pineapples that make up the border, the whole thing suddenly came together and turned from a buncha nuthin into a doily! I was so excited that I took a pic!

The trouble with furniture that has a nice finish on it is that it is reflective..... ooooooopsie, what's that huge white blotch in the middle of the pic? Why, the camera flash, which I cannot seem to turn off no matter what I do!

*gnashing teeth*

Wait! I know!! My favorite paper to the rescue!

I love Strathmore papers! Matte black to the rescue!
I do have to say, the pic makes the doily look more solid and also more finished than it actually is. I haven't starched it yet and when I do, I expect it will gain some size. This is gonna be a big one! I could stop now and it would be pretty enough, but I'm going to finish it because I love pineapples.

Do you see my problem with the tea-dye, though? The doily doesn't look dyed; it just looks like someone spilled something on it. If I bleach it, I'll risk weakening the fibers... I may have to boil it in coffee and just hope it takes the color evenly.

It's a shame, because the thread was shiny before the tea-dying.

I think when I do the cover doily (I do love pineapples!), I'll do it in thread that hasn't been altered.

Hey, I found a treasure at the Friends of the Library store last week! I paid the same price it originally sold for, too... just one thin dime.

Hmmmm. Makes me want to go get some hankies! Except for one thing.... these are delicate, delicate, delicate... the BIGGEST thread they call for is size 50! Most of the edgings call for size 70... but the clincher? One uses my Starwheel motif, like I blogged about early on, the one I am working up in size 80 thread... only guess what size they call for... one I have never even SEEN---size 100 thread!!!

I have to say, the Starwheel is pretty doggoned challenging in size 80. I cannot IMAGINE doing it in size 100! Seriously... wouldn't that be *thinner* than sewing thread?! I am blown away by the determination and dedication of the women who sat patiently with their thinnest threads and finest hankies, making such beautiful things...

Kitchen Magic: Milk Chocolate

I'm a chocolate lover.... sometimes a chocolate craver. Last month I discovered something about chocolate that surprised me!

You see, I was in that space where I was desperate for something chocolate and had nothing easy to fix... no quick choccy snacks available, no chocolate chips to be stolen from the baking cupboard, nothing but unsweetened baking chocolate in those squares that are impossible to break apart.

Well, when desperate, read the box, right? Soooo, I opened the box and read the recipes on the inside. The quickest one was for hot fudge sauce, and amazingly enough, I happened to have all the ingredients! What I didn't have? The camera. It was still in Arizona, where it had fallen out of my purse and into my brother's car.

Soooo, in the interests of science, I made it again this week and *ta daaa!!* remembered the camera, which having safely braved the perils of the US postal service once again lives on the computer desk.

It was only too happy to make a field trip--in the interests of science!--into the kitchen, so that you could share this miracle with me.

It starts with butter and chocolate. You put them in a bowl and melt them in the microwave. Choclate is funny in the micro; it holds its shape. You have to stir it to melt it completely, and it seems stupid at first--well, it was stupid at first lol, and I had to put it back in the micro for twenty more seconds--but after two minutes in the micro, it stirs down into this.

Such rich, velvety chocolate goodne.... well, yes, in the interests of science, I did remind myself that good cooks always know what each step of a recipe tastes like, and I did taste just a very little bit.

Thanks be to all that's good and holy it was ONLY a very little bit. *ewww* Unsweetened choclate is not MY idea of a gourmet delight, no matter how beautifully delicious it might look.

*sheepish look*

The recipe calls for sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla. I don't have any vanilla so, in the interests of science, I experimented and left it out. It worked fine.

I measured the milk and cream together and poured them into the chocolate. Then I started stirring. Keenly observing the process in the interests of science, I noticed that cold milk plus warm melty chocolate equals... well... a coagulated mess.

That can't be right, can it? *doubtful look*

In the interests of science, though, I kept stirring.

I am very happy to say, in the interests of science, that one can eventually stir even the coldest extra-creamy milk into the melty chocolate, coagulated or not. It does take perseverance and one does need to tell the inner panic to shut up, but once you see the process happen it seems like the stuff of magic itself----they blend perfectly, and voila! You have turned dark chocolate into milk chocolate!!!

I did know that milk chocolate is chocolate with milk in it, but yanno, it was like knowing any other piece of trivia... just a fact that had no real meaning for me. Until, that is, I actually made milk chocolate and watched the miracle happen in my very own mixing bowl! Now it is real to me in a VERY experiential way, because yes...

.... in the interests of science *and with no little trepidation* I reminded myself that a good cook always knows what each step of her recipe should taste like.... and surely that cream had mellowed it out, right? in the interests of science....

*ewww* Dump in the sugar, quick....!!

The sugar stirred in much more easily than the milk had, since it was room temperature. It left me with this.

In the interests of sci.... MMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........

What? Oh, sorry, zoned out there for a moment. *sheepish look* The next step is to microwave the hot fudge sauce so that the sugar cooks into the chocolate and melds it into a creamy whole. I zapped it for a minute at a time and stirred well each time. When it was done, I had fudge sauce tha.... MMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.........................


What to do with leftover strawberries n whipped cream?

Chop the strawberries, mix in the whipped cream, and freeze those babies! MMMMMmmmmmMMMMMM!!!!! I had enough left for four luscious strawberry creamsicles. Store-bought ice cream never tasted so good!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Need to get this down before I forget...

No pics for this post, just a quickie so I don't forget what I did for this recipe...

Spinach pies

1 lb frozen spinach
1 cup raw long-grain rice
couple tablespoons each olive oil, lemon juice
1 small onion (chopped)
seasonings: pepper, basil (lots), allspice

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
seasonings: pepper, basil, parsley, onion powder, thyme, cumin (not so much)
2 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup water
flour for rolling

Make the dough while the spinach thaws in the microwave. Let the dough rest, covered. Cook the rice until almost done, just a little chewy. Chop the onion. Drain the spinach really well, squeezing out the extra juice. Combine all the filling ingredients and set aside.

Make the dough into twelve small balls and roll out one at a time. Place onto lightly greased or aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Place one serving-spoon size dollop of filling on each round; pull edges up into triangle shape and press together, leaving opening in center for steam to escape. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned on edges.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


The Memorial Day sale at the local grocery store included strawberries... by midnight I could NOT resist any more. Gryph has now been introduced to my version of Southern Strawberry Shortcake! Mmmmm, it was perfect as a midnight snack! And yanno, once again it was perfect as breakfast. *grin*

Lemon Cardamom Biscuits

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup milk

3 drops lemon extract

Pour into large measuring cup or small bowl; do not stir. Allow to sit ten minutes or so, to sour the milk.

1/2 cup sugar

3 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon baking powder

Mix well in large mixing bowl while milk is souring.

2 1/2 Tablespoons butter

Cut into flour mixture until no lumps remain. Stir in the milk just until all flour is incorporated. Drop by serving spoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) for ten to fifteen minutes until biscuits have risen and set, and peaks are golden brown.

Strawberry Shortcake

2 pounds large strawberries, dead ripe

1/2 cup sugar

Wash strawberries and slice into rounds; slice shoulders vertically to get all the goodness from the berries. Sprinkle with sugar and stir; let sit to make the glaze.

Sweetened Whipped Cream

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream

Shake sugar and cream together in a shaker cup. It takes a while! Your goal is to double the volume from one cup to two cups... although it's perfectly good even if it doesn't double!

Ready? Pull the biscuits out of the oven, slice them in half, pile on the strawberries, spoon a little glaze over them, pour on some cream.

Top with the biscuit halves, strawberries, and cream. Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Good morning! I haven't been doing too much in the way of Making, lately, although I do have a doily at the "nothin' much here... what is it?" stage *lol* but I have been reading my inspirational blogs... Last night I simply could not wait any longer... I had to make an apron, I simply had to. This is not because I read Apronista--tis actually the other way round: I read Apronista because I need aprons, and hey! I may as well make as buy them, right? So yesterday I went again to Craftster and read the Vintage Pillowcase Apron entry.

I remembered the camera, kinda in time, lol. It takes a lot to get started because we're in such tight quarters.

My lil ShaveDog looks sooo different now! It amazes me still that she can be two such colors, punkin pie for the top coat, brindled champagne for the undercoat--and striped! She has that dark stripe down her back! Who knew?

Well, anyhow, I covered the chair using the simple expedient of "what came to hand" and it was a lil red blanket . It'll keep the fur off the chair and preserve the upholstery until I get a slipcover made.

Considering it took me two months to get brave enough to try making an apron, that blanket might be there a while!

And yes, Lady is smiling. That happy grin of hers makes me smile, too.

Well, alrighty, let's go aproning, shall we?? When she's closed, Our Beauty is a great place to get started on cutting pattern pieces... not that a pillowcase apron has anything complicated! I chose a pillowcase that I didn't mind not making into a tote bag. My goal here is to make an apron for everyday use, one that I don't mind getting dirty or even stained.

Here it is with the pocket mostly sewn on. I chose to make a long strip pocket without flaps. I sewed it with the bottom six inches above the seam line on the hem, because I had no earthly idea where to put it, lol... I sewed it into three pockets to keep it from hanging open and pulling toward the floor.

Remember I said I would blog about my mistakes and setbacks as well as my successes? Well, a pocket six inches above the hem seam is WAY too high! Remember that on a pillowcase, the hem seam is already three inches from the bottom (because it's the casing at the opening of the pillowcase). Next apron, I will put the bottom of the pocket at most three inches from the seam.

Here's another mistake... you can see I pinned the ties on in the above photo. I didn't bother to iron them first. It proved almost impossible for me to get them on evenly, because I had to fold them one more time to get the raw edges covered. I finally gave up, gave in, and got out the iron. Once I had the ties pressed in half and then pressed with raw edges to the inside, it was MUCH easier to get them properly pinned in place and sewn on!

Aproning! There you have it, my first apron, utilitarian and meant for cooking, dishwashing, and just everyday general use! All told it took a little over an hour to actually sew... and let me tell you, Our Beauty is THE BEST SEWING MACHINE I have ever used in my life! I am so *sold* on old Singers!! She hums along with a gentle whir and her knee lever works ever so much better than a foot pedal. Her stitches are smooth and even and it is just an absolute JOY to sew now! I'm still being really careful with her and I think that as I get used to her, I will probably get faster but no less careful.

So, after the delight of wearing my apron last night, I hung it up and went to bed. When I got up this morning, I discovered the Self-Installing Cat Accessory Program had self-initiated again. Here is a rare shot of Module Four, who has proven to be rather camera shy. She is running the Foldy Feets Application, and her paw is ever-so-neatly tucked under.

Here is her sweet face... and then she was done, lol...

Thursday, May 22, 2008 that why they call them pinks??

We had a bag to mail, so we went out on Tuesday (Gryph's day off this week) and wonder of wonders... guess who remembered the camera! Then, of course, I forgot all about having it in my purse until we were on the way back to the bus station. This inspired me to remember!

We passed these and all of a sudden I realized... so THAT'S why they call them pinks! I never could figure it out before! Aren't they gorgeous? Just a lil teensy corner bed at the edge of a parking lot...

Nearby is a lil bed of Mexican evening primrose, which blends just beautifully with the pinks, because... well, because. *grin*

I put the camera away for most of our trip back home, but just had to pull it back out when we got to the canal.

They call this "the canal route" because the freeway parallels this canal for quite a way. I love to stop here and see what birds may be seen; usually tis only starlings, but quite often we are surprised by herons wading in the water--both white herons and blue-gray herons wade here. They're gray herons are small enough that I am not sure whether they are young, or a different species from Great Blue Herons. We also see ducks sometimes; mallards, last time. And during this lovely spring, we have even been lucky enough to hear frogs croaking in the evening.

Of course, on Tuesday it was not evening but the middle of the afternoon, and something else soon caught my eye.

I love the contrasty colors of these shrubs! The weeds surrounding the street sign are a grass that grows wild here, all over this neighborhood. I believe it is a wheat relative, but not foxtails--these have a much softer seed head. Other weeds also caught my eye along the way.

There is just SOMETHING about dandelions that has always captivated me! They are so cheerful, and sooo yellow!

Field bindweed is another of my favorites. Ironically, this is as close as I got to morning glories when I was growing up in Phoenix. I always treasured them for their similarities, but it was those very similarities that made morning glories illegal there! Farmers struggled with field bindweed so badly that the legislature mistakenly outlawed morning glories in an attempt to control the spread of bindweed seed. The two are actually not related plants.

Ahhh... the statue in her "quilt star" lol.... this reminds me of the quilt pattern called Star of Texas.

When I was very small, I think four years old, my grandmother convinced my mother to let me spend a weekend at her house in Phoenix. It was a huge and anxiety-filled adventure for me, but I went and it turned out to be better than I expected. Two things stand out for me. One is trying catfish for the first time and discovering that I liked it--my grandfather and uncle had gone fishing early that morning and my grandmother fried the catfish up for breakfast--and the other is seeing my grandparents' garden all wilty in the heat of the day. My instant reaction was to water the marigolds, but Gramma said that if I did, the plants' roots would cook to death in the ground because it was so very hot. We had to wait until evening, when it cooled down.

When it was time for me to go back home, Gramma gave me a marigold planted in a dixie cup for my mom. *smiling*

This is the fountain at the high school. We like to sit on the benches in front of the fountain and rest for a while, listen to the frogs if it's evening, watch the birds if it's afternoon. The entire front of the high school/middle school grounds is landscaped like a park, with lovely mature trees/shrubs and expanses of green, green grass. It's a lovely peaceful place to sit and enjoy the day...or to rest, if one has walked all the way from downtown!

Sometimes, individual shrubs or trees will catch my attention. This one is SOO round it reminded me of a "lollipop tree" that's been pruned practically into a circle.

Wait! What's that?? Look closer....

NOW my day is complete, oh yes!! A BUNNY.... awwww... ahhhhh... *grin* I love bunnies so very much!

And now, my dears, tis time to scamper away for dinner. Blessings to us all!

Monday, May 19, 2008


Well, hello there! Glad you stopped by today! I am so happy to tell you that I have been to the thrift store again. *inadvertent eyebrow waggle*

*beaming grin*

So I know I haven't been writing much. I've been making things even less, although I do have the beginnings of a new doily; found an issue of Decorative Crochet magazine at the thrift store and scarfed it up immediately--they don't publish that one anymore, and it was one of my two favorites! I'll blog about doilies later, though, after I decide if I can finish this one.

You see, not only have I been sick for lo, these many weeks, I have also flared up my carpal tunnel syndrome. It makes doing things rather uncomfortable and so I have been reading a lot.

A lot. It takes up a day and/or evening without causing me extra pain, yanno? But I am missing my "makings" more and more, and as the CTS relaxes some I find that I am thinking more and more about what I want to do next. Curly was loads of fun and now I need to try again for that Red Paisley Chicken with That Thing on the Top of a Chicken Head. Gryph's amulet bag needs finished, and then the strap and fringe need to be started. I just finished a leather bag and am thinking about the next hide we need to get. Drawing is starting to pull at me again... haven't done any in sooo long... and of course, there is still crocheting; I never did finish the starwheel mat in size 80 thread. One needs happy wrists for a thing like that!

And then, of course, there's sewing. *beamingly happy sigh* I haven't done any lately... but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy...

Meet the newest member of the household! I could not BELIEVE it when I saw this beauty at the thrift store! Including the table and bench, it was $40! Was I ever thrilled!

And then, yanno, was I ever curious! I thought at first it was a Featherweight that had been mounted to a table, but I was wrong. It has a serial number right behind the bobbin-winding set-up, so we went online and found it!

It seems our beauty is a cabinet model which was made in Elizabeth, NJ, in 1952. The model number seems to be 201-2, a "Family Sewing Machine," from the references in the manual... can you imagine!! 56 years old and it STILL has the original manual?!!!

The bench is in amazing shape, just amazing. I would not be surprised at all if this were the original cover. I'm thinking about getting one of those vinyl repair kits they sell for car upholstery to fix that rip. If I do decide to recover the bench, I think I will leave the vinyl alone and just wrap the new fabric over it.

The inside of the bench is what blew me away, though.

Can you BELIEVE the good luck? All those attachments! And yanno what? They ALL came with manuals! Truly, I was just blown away!

We had great fun yesterday cleaning the machine and setting it up, but we discovered pretty quickly that the leaf cannot take much weight. Gryph closed the machine up for the night, and we came out this morning to this sight:

Oh yes, indeedy, Self-Installing Cat Accessory, Module One, has completed successful self-initiation; the program is completely (and comfortably!) installed. Note optional Camera Flash Eye Enhancement Feature... I quickly turned the flash off but he wouldn't look at me again, temperamental Module... sheesh! Someone else did, though.

Self-Installing Cat Accessory, Module 4, initiating her most sincere "I am an angel" program unit. How I managed to get a picture that was not totally blurred is beyond me; she was talking and moving the whole time. "Whatcha doin, huh huh huh? Tell me whatcha doin huh huh huh? What's that clicking sound, whatcha doin? Aren't I pretty, aren't I your good girl? I love you Mama, whatcha doin, huh huh huh?"

It would be ever so much easier to accept her as an angel if she weren't the biggest bully in the household. She's worse than the doglet! *wry smile*

I leave you with a picture that makes me smile and smile, and nothing wry about it, just pure happiness. I anticipate lots of good sewing in the weeks to come... oh, and the manual said the DARNEDEST thing, something I had never heard before! I was taught to pull my threads to the back of the machine, straight out to the back between the feed dogs... but the manual says to pull them off to one side, so the feed dogs and presser foot catch them. I was so surprised! But yanno what, when you pull them straight back, you also have to hold them down because if you don't, they snarl terribly... AND you have to leave pretty long threads when you start anything... really wasteful, and kinda difficult to hold the threads and fabric and turn the balance wheel all at once without letting the fabric immediately go off-kilter. BUT if you put the threads sideways across the feed dogs, you shouldn't have to hold them.... I cannot wait to try it out! First though, another thing the manual said... practice without thread! I never would have thought of getting used to the machine that way!

Anyhow, here's that pic that makes me smile. Take care and hope things come along to make you smile all day, too!


Thursday, May 15, 2008


My favorite muffin recipe! Lately we've been enjoying dried fruit in a lovely cinnamon-and-orange-flavored muffin. This recipe makes 12 muffins. (It fills one 8" cake pan, if you prefer coffee cake to muffins; be sure you grease and flour the pan.)

Dried-fruit Muffins

3/4 cup sugar
1 to 1 1/8 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup (or more) mixed dried fruit, heavy on the cranberries

1/2 cup milk
3 drops orange extract (tis powerful stuff; be cautious at first)
2 large eggs

cinnamon sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (medium). Line a cupcake tin with twelve cupcake papers.

Thoroughly mix together the first four ingredients. Make sure you get all the flour on the bottom of the bowl mixed in; this is easiest if you measure the sugar into the bowl first. Stir in the dried fruit and make sure it is well coated with the flour mixture--this will help the fruit to stay separated, rather than all sinking to the bottom and clumping together. Make a well in this mixture.

Mix the wet ingredients in the measuring cup (beat the eggs into the milk and extract with a fork) and pour into the well.

Stir together thoroughly but do not beat--remember that muffins need quick mixing with a gentle hand. Pour or spoon batter into the cupcake wrappers, distributing fruit as evenly as possible and scraping the bowl to get the last of the batter.

Sprinkle the top of each muffin with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the pan, and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Muffins will rise and crack when they are done; test by inserting a toothpick (or knife) into the center of the largest muffin. If the toothpick comes out clean with no batter or large crumbs clinging to it, the muffins are done. Let cool a minute in the pan, then transfer to wire cooling rack. Eat warm or cool.

Fruit combinations: So far, we have tried 3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries with 1/4 cup chopped dried apricot. This is sweet and tangy and VERY good. We've also tried 1/2 cup cranberries with 1/2 cup mixed diced dried pineapple and papaya--again, sweet, tangy, and very good.

Substitutions: If you don't have orange extract, you can substitute 3 drops lemon or almond extract, or 1 teaspoon vanilla. Alternatively, you can add a teaspoon of orange zest and a tablespoon of orange juice to the batter and leave out the extracts altogether. make sure you use a little extra flour if you try this.

One of these times, I will try substituting 1 cup plain yogurt for the milk and eggs. Eggs are pretty expensive right now and that might be a way to save a little. Also, if one used non-fat yogurt, it would make the muffins (which are already low-fat) completely fat-free, which is a consideration for anyone with gallbladder troubles (an unfortunate and rather common side effect of hormone replacement therapy and/or birth control pills).

I don't believe in using sugar substitutes, so if I needed to make these muffins low-sugar, I would substitute 3/4 cup applesauce for the 1/2 cup milk and leave the sugar out completely. I don't know how that would affect the taste, texture, and baking time, so it would call for some experimenting at first, I think.

Happy muffining!

Signs of Spring

Roses in a gentle rain, and Spring is here to stay
Wichita is lovelier with every passing day
My heart sings out with happiness for every bloom that blows
My soul is soothed with peacefulness
And raindrops on the rose

Pink against Gray, soft ephemeral floral loveliness against stolid enduring gray brick...

"A white sportcoat, and a pink carnation..." I cannot help hearing that song every time I see these little beauties. Carnations are one of my favorites and it's lovely to see them growing so well here!

A baby oak; this one is Crimson Spire. When they planted it last month, it still held all its browned Autumn leaves tightly to it. The new leaves pushed them off as they budded out. I call the tree a "baby" oak, but it's already eight feet tall. *smile*

I leave you with the red, red rose. May your heart sing with loveliness this day!