Whimsical and Homespun Art Creations with a Little Rural Living Thrown In

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Irony of Nature

How is that for an inquisitive face?  Almost want to give him a little rub on the head, huh?  I would have loved to but didn't dare.  I love having my fingers much more!  This photo op  is of a slinky little fellow that stopped by the house today on his way to being released back into the wild.  By looks and length, he appeared to be a mink.  My son trapped him and brought him by so I could get pics for future artwork. 

Nature is just awesome.  I sat watching him completely enthralled by his every move, fascinated by his vast intelligence to survive in the wild, and respectful of his ferocity to defend himself.  Maybe being a little surprised at myself for being so captivated by this beautiful sleek animal.  Why the surprise you ask?  Well, this darling little guy killed 15 of my son's chickens before being caught.  Just another little guy trying to survive... I guess...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Working on Stamped Cross Stitch Baby Quilt Kits

The big discussion at work this week was about stamped cross stitch quilt kits.  Shocking as it may be to hear, I decided to get rid of some of my excess kits. LOL  I had some doubles that I parted with.  Really, what are the odds my son will have twins, if in fact he has any offspring?  And I am a big believer in individuality, so I wouldn't want to gift identical quilts anyways.  Right?   At least that is what I convinced myself of in order to make myself part with a few kits! ;)    

Of course if these are all suppose to be for the grandchildren, he'd better get busy! LOL  There are only a few that I have purchased retail.  Most were found by my parents or myself at garage sales.  There are some real treasures in these crates.  I located a Berenstain Bear quilt for $9.00,  a Disney kit that is older than me, Hummels, Peter Rabbit, a few ABC quilts from the early 70's, and etc. etc..  Old or new, I love them all!  And even today, I am still on the hunt for more.  So many kits...so little time!  :)

Let me just say that there is nothing like the sound of floss running through taught fabric in a hoop.  That swoosh is forever embedded in my mind.  I can remember that sound from when my Mother used to embroider and still find it calming as I work on projects today.  And when I complete an item... Well, it is the best feeling of accomplishment. 

This is the one that started the mania.  I found it at a garage sale in a neighboring town new in the package for $5.  It was love at first site... the deal of the day!  It has the honor of being the first found, and the first quilt completed.  Of course, this one still needs a binding and a backing, but I haven't decided yet what colors to pull from it.  No hurry.. at least there better not be! ;) 

Project #2 courtesy of my Mom and Dad.  This one was  already started.  I had to pull the stitches out of one partially completed dinosaur.  (The previous owner's stitches were a lot more taught than mine.)  I wasn't sure if I would like the rainbow theme of colors, hearts, and dinosaurs, but it really does translate well.  It came bordered in yellow, but that might get changed or at least widened when a backing goes on.

Believe it or not, I misplaced the quilt that I was working on, so I started this one yesterday.  Isn't Winnie the Pooh just one of the cutest bears that you've ever seen?  I use to sing "I'm just a little black rain cloud" song to my son, when he was little. That poor tortured little kid! LOL  The Disney characters do not have many floss changes.  So if by chance someone is looking for a good beginner quilt, any one of the big character quilts from Disney would be wonderful to begin with.

This one was started by a previous owner on the bottom but abandoned.   Many quilts are sold this way.  I do not mind this in the least.  There are a few in my collection that have the boarders all ready done.  Hey, less work for me! :)

I went on a hunt tonight.  Turned the house upside down and found the quilt that I should be working on.  (Isn't that always the way it goes?)  Here is the picture on the cover.  Can you make out the garage sale tag?  Five dollars.  If you look real close,  you can see my hand writing of $2.00.  That is what my parents offered and bought it at.  Can you believe it?  Yep, the original pickers that taught me everything that I know.  *sigh* ;)

Here is why I showed you the cover art to this quilt.  I have changed the floss colors to the outfits and blocks.  Is it just me or does it get boring sometimes looking at soft pastels?   So, I decided to change the colors and made them a little more vibrant.  This is where my extra floss in the bins have come in handy. (Photos of bins can be seen in Thrifty Finds posts.)  I just have to pick colors now for my butterflies and border.  I think that I will alternate working on the two quilts.  It will make for a nice change of pace.

My hubby always jokes that I have too many projects going on.  Although I do not watch a whole lot of TV, it is nice to have something to work on at the same time.  So, my quilts are my TV time projects or take alongs when camping or on vacation.  My wool projects are beginning to fight for the same time slot, but I will happily find time for them all!  :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Having Fun Thursday Making Homemade Egg Noodles & Recipe

Sorry for the late post, but I wanted to make sure my little endeavor turned out successful before posting.  

So the story began a long long time ago ;), I had told my Mom that I was looking for a pasta machine.  Originally, my thoughts were to use it to work with fimo clay to make carrot noses for my gourds.  That idea changed as I found out that paper clay suited my needs better.  Over a year later, I received a call from my Mother.  She and her sister Barb were talking, and my Aunt had a pasta machine that she wanted to get rid of.  My Mom, who forgets nothing, told her that I was in search of one.  She called me to tell me the news.  Pasta machine?  Hmmmm.  I had just been complaining to my hubby, aka noodle fanatic, that the prices of egg noodles were ridiculous, and the fact that he eats them with almost every meal would put us in the poor house. LOL  Was this a sign?  Should I try to tackle making my own egg noodles?  The church ladies in town quit selling them in the fall.  Maybe, I thought, it was because they were too much of a pain to make.  And lets face it,  I was coming in as a complete newbie, but I now was the proud owner of my own pasta machine.  Heck, my Aunt even threw in the lasagna attachment!  I was determined to give it a try... anything to save some money and have it made from scratch. :)  

The most shocking thing that I have learned in this process is that there is not many ingredients in the making of egg noodles.  Eggs, flour, salt, olive oil, and water.  There are other recipes that involve milk and butter, but I decided to go with the earlier ingredients for my first try.

Recipe for Egg Noodles:

2          beaten eggs
1t         salt
2c         all purpose flour
1T        olive oil
4T        water
Mix dry ingredients.  Add beaten eggs and mix well.  Add olive oil and enough of the water to make the dough take shape.  (I used all 4T, but my eggs were straight from the coop and might have been of a smaller size.)  Knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes. ( I used my Kitchenaid on the 2 setting with dough hook for this step.)  Let the dough rest covered in its bowl  for at least 15 minutes to make it easier to handle.  Now it is ready for hand rolling and cutting or the pasta machine.

I can honestly say this was the most exciting adventure that I have had in a while.  I cut my pasta dough into fourths, set my roller on 1 and began to run my dough through.  It was so fun.  Then, I changed the setting to number 3 for the next pass for the dough and the final at 5.  I was ready to change my handle to the noodle cutter.  You can see by the picture how that step went.  This was way COOLER than play dough!!  As my noodles gathered at the bottom, they wanted to stick together a little.  So my next batches were lightly dusted with flour before running through the cutter.

Some wooden spoons balanced between 2 qt. Mason jars were perfect for hanging the noodles to dry.  This is probably my favorite picture.  I could have kept making them all day!  It was an absolute blast!  I have an ornament hanging tree downstairs that my hubby made for me.  It is a thick dowel rod with alternating smaller rods for branches.  I could get a lot of noodles on that baby!  Hmmmmm....

Today was the big test day.  I imagined throwing my noodles in the boiling water and watching them disintegrate.  But guess what?  It didn't happen.  Yay!!  Can you believe that?  SUCCESS.  Even better, my husband came in, tried them, and said they tasted just like his Grandma's.  Now,  I will not make you crazy with my calculations of the money that I can save weekly by making my own noodles.  (I am a soup fanatic, hubby likes them as a side dish, and we both love beef and noodles.)   But, it will definitely be far less than the Amish ones that I am currently buying.   

Here is my lunch today.  How great is that?  Homemade turkey soup and homemade bread.  It makes me feel good to take one more prepackaged item out of my families meals.  Plus, it is actually a process that I find fun!  It is the best of both worlds.  My hubby and I were discussing trying a recipe for wheat noodles.  I am a wheat bread fanatic and have not tried wheat noodles in my life.  This opens a whole new world to explore.  I love learning new things!  A huge debt of gratitude goes to my Mom for never forgetting any of my ramblings ;)  and to my Aunt Barb for a super-fantastic pasta machine!  :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Talk about art... How beautiful is a new box of chocolates?  My hubby always buys me a box for Valentine's Day.  Unfortunately, he went to the store to make his purchase yesterday, and they did not stock the heart boxes of chocolates.  He came home completely deflated. :(  Since we both had to work today, I told him not to worry about it.  Plus, my son had to meet me at lunch time so we could go pick up his and our taxes.  He came back with me to work, and my hubby was there to see what was going on. (He works as a plumber/electrician a few businesses down from the ceramic/antique shop.)  We had a nice talk, and they left.  Before I knew it, my son was walking back in with a heart shaped box of chocolates for me.  He gave me a hug and wished me a Happy Valentine's Day.  How cool is that?  Then in comes my hubby with an identical box!  WHAT??  Major chocolate!! (Plus I had those chocolate chunk cookies from the previous post at home!!)  Do you know what the coolest part of the story is though?  My son heard my hubby's dilemma, and he went shopping after school and bought both boxes without my hubby knowing.  You know there are days when we as parents are taken back by our kids thoughtfulness.  Aren't we lucky?  *sigh*

Happy Valentine's Day!

No Egg Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Recipe

If you are a chocoholic like myself, this is the recipe for you.   I LOVE chocolate.   It drives my hubby nuts.  He says that I go overboard and have no will power.  (Okay, I did finish off the big bag of m&ms!)  These cookies are so strong with chocolate that I can only eat one!   And do you know what is even better?  I do not have to get a lecture for eating raw cookie dough from my sister, because this little gem of a recipe does NOT require eggs.  I do not know how the magic happens... I just eat the results! LOL :0)

Here is the recipe if you feel like giving them a whirl:

No Egg Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 c        flour
1/4 t      salt
1/4 t      soda
1 c        sugar
1/2 c     packed brown sugar
1 c        butter or margarine, softened
1 t         vanilla
5T         unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c     milk
1 c        coarsely chopped nuts (if desired)
1 1/2 c  semi sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  All of the batches will be cooked on the same sheet.  In a medium bowl mix flour, soda, and salt.  In a large bowl cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Using the low speed blend the milk and cocoa into the butter mixture.  Add flour mixture slowly at low speed to the butter and cocoa mixture.  Fold in nuts and chocolate chunks.  Measure mix in 1/4 cup quantities and drop onto cookie sheet.  (Only 4 cookies will fit on a cookie sheet, and I refrigerate unused dough between batches to keep firm.)  Bake 20 minutes or until the tops look dry.  Cool cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes, so they are easy to lift off and enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Handcrafted Vintage Style Potato / Onion Bin out of Barn Boards

My son has been using up some of his barn boards again.  Here is a potato/onion bin he created using vintage ~ recycled materials.  It turned out really cool.  He made it for my kitchen, but I just do not have the room for it right now. :(  That is the problem with having an old house.  It was not designed for having so many cabinets and modern appliances.  My garbage can holder (posted earlier under Kitchen) is in my only open space.  Although, I have kicked around putting that in another room but would really rather not...  Anyways, I took it into the shop that I work at.  It looks nice with the other vintage pieces around it.  I love the old paint on this piece (white, lt green, and red), and he even used some old square nails that he had scavenged to put it together!  Aaaagh!  The only new pieces on it are the two hinges that tip the bins, and I mixed some paint and faux sponged them to look rusty. 

Usually, I am really good at reworking areas of my house to make things fit.  I even considered using the piece as a lamp stand in the front room.  Really...who would ever open it up??  Well... I guess they might if I put some beautiful smelling onions in it!!  I feel defeat surrounding this piece, there is just no solution to this dilemma, so my poor potatoes have to stay sitting in an old crock next to my fridge.  (Yes, I am feeling sorry for myself now! Pathetic isn't it?) ;) 

At least, I get to look at it on the days that I work.  Maybe if we ever get the chance to build that dream house, the bin will have a space...  How long do you suppose it will take for me to crack and bring it home?  Hmmm, maybe I can rearrange my little studio area off the kitchen.  You know that might work! :)    

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thrifty Friday Find ~ Wool Jackets for Upcycling

This find links back to last weeks shopping trip.  I have a few projects in the works that require some wool fabric.  For those readers that haven't tried upcycling their own fabric, a thrift shop can be a cheap way to fill that order.  The jacket aisle is a wealth of fabric.  I usually wait until they go on discount.  Part of that reason is due to the guilty feeling that... if there is someone who is less fortunate and in need of an affordable jacket, I am not going to be the person who snatches that item from them.  So I figure,  if the jacket has sat there long enough to be discounted... odds are it is not wanted.   This can be a win-win situation, since some jackets have sprayed on linings and can be a real pain to work with.  There are times when only the back is salvageable.  The cheaper the price - the better I am doing per foot of fabric.  Even if there is not much fabric to salvage, the small pieces of fabric and the buttons can be used for embellishments, and that alone is worth the price of the purchase. :)  Of course, rules are made to be broken.  If there is a jacket that is ripped or stained with plenty of salvageable fabric left over, I will purchase it on the spot if the price is right.

So ...  my Friday has been filled with cutting up my finds.   Then I  put the individual jacket pieces in their own pillowcase (purchased for 25cents a piece at the same thrift store) and closed them with a rubber band.  **helpful note** The cases help to catch most of the lint and fibers that can stay in the machine and end up all over my next load of wash. :(   I then washed the darks and burgundies in the same load.  The lighter jacket was washed by itself to keep it from being altered by the dyes.  After that,  they were taken out of their bags and dried on high heat by color.  (The lint from the dryer must be cleaned out often as it builds up fast.)  The fabric is now so thick, soft, and beautiful.  And remember to keep that dryer lint in a bag , because there is nothing better than wool lint for stuffing those primitive craft projects!  ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Butter Pecan Cookie Recipe with Heath Bits

The weather outside is very frightful.  This would have to rank up as one of the worst blizzards that I have seen.  There is not a soul out on the streets tonight.  The roads are impassable.  At dusk,  I saw a rabbit running up the street. ( I feel so sorry for the little critters out in the cold.)  But he looked as if he had a plan in mind as he dashed up the road.  Hopefully, he found his way to his fur lined burrow!

I spent my time indoors today and decided that running the oven might not be a bad thing. ;)  So, I got around to making some Butter Pecan cookies.  This recipe is based on the Pillsbury Funfetti Cookie recipe.  Another words... It can't get much simpler!

All you need to mix together is:

1          box of Betty Crocker Butter Pecan Cake Mix
1/3 c    oil
2          eggs
1          8 oz bag Heath English Toffee Bits (Minus the ones I ate!)
1/2 c     chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Combine the above ingredients in a bowl with a spoon until mixed and thoroughly moistened.    Shape into 1 inch balls.  Flatten each cookie with the bottom of a glass that has been dusted with flour to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing.  

I like the bits of pecan in this recipe.  I think it enhances the pecan cake mix flavor wonderfully, but if you desire to pass on them, I think the recipe would still be very good.

Here is the dough mixed up.  It is pretty dense and easy to mold.   

Aaah... the finished product!  The smell of pecan and toffee is amazing... I like the Funfetti Recipe, because the cookies always keep such a nice shape.  They do not spread out very much, so you can put quite a few cookies on a sheet.  The less times that I have to set my timer and remember to take out a batch of cookies the better!  

My husband likes to have these with coffee in the morning.  He claims the flavors compliment each other well.  My son is a milk and cookies kind of guy.   Me... Well, I do not drink coffee or much milk, but I could munch on cookies all day long! ;)

*Note*  My post has been invited to be a part of Sweets for Saturday 3 by Lisa from Sweet as Sugar Cookies .  If you want to enter a world of sugary bliss, click on the name of her blog and check out the wonderful people submitting recipes. :)