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1  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / Witch's Bookshelf Placemats on: October 14, 2015 07:04:07 AM
Ludi requested two placemats in the Mini 13 Days of Halloween swap, and I was inspired to make them to represent a section of a Witch's bookshelf.  I used my embroidery machine for the book lettering "Advanced Potions" and "Herbology".  I included a sparkly crystal ball on a skull stand, a container of cobweb powder and a jar of red licorice.  Even witches like red licorice!

This witch apparently has the same taste in literature as Ludi.  She's reading "Titus Groan", one of Ludi's favorite books.  She currently has a spooky textbook open on an eyeball bookstand. 

These were tons of fun to make.  I've been toying with the idea of a witch's bookshelf quilt for a while.  This was a great starter project!
2  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / Witchy Workroom on: October 14, 2015 06:52:53 AM
I made this altoid tin for Ludi in the Mini 13 Days of Halloween swap.  She likes miniature things and I figure this might look good in her cabinet of curiosities.  The giant worm lurking under the work table glows in the dark.

There's a portrait of her favorite needlework artist Ernest Thesiger on the wall. 
3  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Super Simple Pickled Peppers on: October 01, 2015 12:45:22 PM
I spent about an hour this morning pickling jalapenos from our garden.  It was so easy, I thought I'd share the process with you guys.  We use pickled jalapenos in a lot of stuff around here like chili, breakfast burritos and all sorts of Mexican dishes. 

We grew a bounty of peppers and garlic in our garden this year in raised beds.  Most of the peppers we grow are too dang hot to consider pickling but our jalapenos are outstanding and need to be preserved.  This is my second batch so far.

The ingredients are just too simple.  Peppers, vinegar, water and garlic.  I also added a habanero to each jar but that's totally optional. 

The ratio is 3 parts vinegar to one part water and I always eyeball the total amount of liquid needed for the peppers we have on hand.  I ended up with 5 and a half pints of pickled peppers for this batch and I used 4.5 cups of vinegar to 1.5 cup of water.  Before we figured out this gardening stuff, I would pickle a single jar at a time (I'm retired, I have the time) so I know this is totally scaleable. 

I sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 10 minutes and while that is happening, I brought the water and vinegar mixture to a boil.

After fishing the hot jars out of the water bath, I put a garlic clove, a whole habanero in each jar and filled the rest with sliced jalapenos. 

Then I poured the hot vinegar/water mixture on top until it filled the jar to about 1/3 inch from the top.  Screw the sterilized lids on top and put them back in the water bath.

They gently boil with the lid on for 10 minutes.  Take the lid off, take the pot off the heat and remove them after 5 minutes.  Store in your pantry just like you would the store bought kind. 
4  SEWING IN GENERAL / Machine Embroidery: Completed Projects / Halloween Coasters on: September 30, 2015 11:34:11 AM
I made these haunted house coasters for Abbeeroad in the One Tiny Halloween Thing swap.  She mentioned that she would appreciate something practical and likes haunted houses so this is what I came up with.   

I found the design at embroidery library, it was the perfect size and stitched up pretty quick. 

The back sides were harvested from some fun fabric I had in my stash.  I just love the images!
5  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Homemade Cocktail Bitters on: July 20, 2015 04:34:49 PM
For the past few years we've been collecting and experimenting with adding a dash of bitters to cocktails.  They are kind of like the spice rack of the cocktail world and are made by making a liquid extraction from various flavorings.  I am all about DIY in the kitchen.  I find a lot of things you can purchase are much better when made at home and took that philosophy to trying this fun cocktail ingredient.  

The process takes a few weeks but is pretty basic.  Here are the steps:
1. Add flavorings to 2 cups of a neutral alcohol.  Set aside in a jar for two weeks in a dark place.  Shake the jar daily.
2. After 2 weeks, filter out the solids from the flavorings you used.  Put the flavored alcohol in a separate jar and set aside.
3.  Place the solids in a small saucepan and cover them with water.  Heat on your stovetop for 10 minutes.  Place the water and solids in a separate jar after they cool and set aside in a dark place for another week.  Shake daily.
4. Strain the solids and discard them.  Add the remaining liquid to the separate jar of flavored alcohol.  Set this mixture aside for another week.
5. Add a Tbsp. of simple syrup to this mixture.  That's a 50/50 mixture of sugar and water heated until you get a syrup consistency.  
6. Enjoy!

I decided to start with orange bitters as that one's a favorite in our house.  It involved adding the peel of three oranges, 4 cloves, 4 cardamom pods, 6 allspice berries, and 1/4 tsp. coriander seeds to 2 cups of everclear grain alcohol and followed the procedure listed above. My husband likes these better than the commercial orange bitters in a bourbon over ice.  

Here's an in-process shot.  Isn't the color gorgeous?  

I've already started a pear and vanilla version.  I decided to try using vodka this time.  It's got 3 chopped up pears, the zest of a lemon, a cinnamon stick, 6 allspice berries, 4 cloves, some chopped ginger and a split vanilla bean.  It smells like heaven!  This is what that recipe looked like right after the first two weeks.  The jar on the left shows the strained vodka.  The one on the right shows the solids after they were cooked down in water.  

The jar on the left shows the pear and vanilla ones ready to undergo the final process step.  The jar on the right shows the finished orange bittters.

Our homemade orange bitters look right at home with the rest of our collection!
6  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Creamy Pasta with Peas on: June 26, 2015 01:40:08 PM
We picked the last of the peas from our garden last week and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them, make a creamy parmesan pasta from a very versatile recipe.  You could use substitute almost any vegetable, or even use frozen peas.  I modified a recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook about 20 years ago and find it's a great last minute what's for dinner dish!

Additional ingredients include a cup of heavy cream, a half stick of butter, any kind of pasta you have on hand and parmesan cheese.  From the spice cupboard grab salt, cayenne pepper, dill weed, garlic powder and nutmeg (I grate mine).

The cream and butter go into a skillet on medium low, along with the cayenne, nutmeg and salt.  Start with a pinch of each then taste for balance.

Stir frequently for 15 minutes, scraping the sides of the skillet as it thickens.  At this point, reduce heat to simmer and stir often as you change your focus to the pasta.

At this point I add pasta and the peas to boiling salted water.  These fettuccini nests only take 5 minutes and so do the peas.  If I was using frozen peas, I'd add them now, too.  If you use something like broccoli, I'd add it to the water 3 minutes before the pasta is done.  Want to use zucchini or red pepper instead?  I'd saute those in a little olive oil and add it at the end.  You get the idea!

While the pasta is cooking, stir in a half cup of grated parmesan, a good shake of garlic powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed.

See how the sauce thickens?

Once the pasta is done, drain it and dump it in the sauce.  Serve with extra parmesan to sprinkle on top.

If you're watching carbs, this sauce works very well over spiralized zucchini noodles instead of the pasta.  If you're a pescatarian, you can add some baked salmon at the end.  Enjoy!
7   / MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / 1H2015 Featured Projects for Miscellaneous on: June 26, 2015 09:48:29 AM
Congratulations to the latest round of category featured projects from our Miscellaneous Board. Thanks for contributing such inspiring work!

The Geeks Bedroom by Arachnea

Kitty Mugs by teaandcraft

Miniature Witch House by steiconi

Cheap Metal Etching by Magpirate

Tentacle Critters Can Be Shy Too by sheepBlue

Dottie At The Circus Mini Tin by rackycoo

8  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad on: May 16, 2015 10:59:07 AM
This is, without a doubt, my favorite summer salad recipe.  It's absolutely delicious.  I've improved on the recipe over the years, here's my current version.

Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 ears of corn (boiled or grilled)
Orange sections (grapefruit is also delicious as an alternative)
You can also include other crunchy vegetables like red bell pepper and celery if you like.

The dressing consists of 1/3 cup of olive oil, juice and zest of a lemon, a tablespoon of dijon mustard, a splash of flavored vinegar, a dash of hot sauce, 4 minced cloves of garlic, chopped jalapenos, dill, salt & pepper all wisked together.

Peel and devein the shrimp.  Saute them for a few minutes on each side until opaque.

Slice the corn off the cob, mix with the sauteed shrimp, chopped tomatoes, diced avocado and the sections from 2 naval oranges.  Toss with the dressing and enjoy!  It's even better the second day.   Smiley

9  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Prince and Sheila E World Tour on: May 08, 2015 02:27:08 PM
March 24, 1985 was a huge day for me.  I saw Prince and the Revolution play Madison Square Garden during their Purple Rain tour with Sheila E as their opener!  Yep, feel free to be jealous.   Cheesy  I, of course, bought the program but couldn't bring myself to cut into it so decided to frame the awesome t-shirt I bought that day instead.  When I decided to do this project, it took me about 5 minutes to find the components across 3 different rooms of my house.  I feel quite the accomplishment for that considering it's 30 years and 8 houses later!

The tickets were just $17.50.  I think I paid over $100 to see him 20 years later in Las Vegas but it just wasn't the same without Wendy and Lisa backing him. 

Those flowers actually fell from the ceiling of the arena during his encore, which was of course Purple Rain.  This project brought back great memories for me, thanks so much Ticketmaster!

10  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Getting Started With Bees on: April 07, 2015 12:01:56 PM
We picked up two packages of bees and installed them into hives this morning.  The process can be quite mysterious and daunting so I thought I'd share how it's done.  Smiley  We ordered our bees in December and selected the first pick-up date (April 7th).  The bee supplier is about a 90 minute drive from here.  We arrived two hours into pick-up and they had already gone through almost a thousand packages(!)  Sorry for the huge number of photos, but I wish I'd had this step by step the first time we did this.

(These guys could have used some Craftster help with their signage...)

The packaging comes in three parts; the screened transport cage, a can of sugar water with three small holes punched in the bottom so they have food for their journey, and a little queen cage hanging inside.  Each package has about 12,000 bees inside it.

We (very carefully) drove home with them on the backseat floorboards of our car. 

Today was overcast and 65 degrees.  The perfect weather for this process.  The first thing we did when we got home was spray them with a good dose of homemade sugar water.  Simple syrup for those of you who enjoy the occasional fancy cocktail. Cheesy  This helps keep them docile during the process. 

There is a thin veneer of wood stapled to the opening, it just gets pried off with a hive tool. 

The sugar water can gets lifted out so you can reach inside and pull out that little queen cage.  As soon as it's out, we just lay the veneer back over the opening so the bees can't escape.

Here's a look at the queen cage.  She's in there with a few worker bees, that's her on the left.  The white stuff on the end is a sugary solid known as candy, and is blocked by a cork plug. 

The cork gets removed, exposing the candy to the hive bees.  It will take the hive 1-2 days to eat away the candy and release the queen and her attendants.  This gives them a little time to get used to each other.

The entire uncorked queen cage gets hung between two frames.  Now we're ready for bees!

Just gather your nerve and dump em in!

Use a soft hive brush to coax them down between the frames.

If you look really carefully, you can see they are congregated around the hanging queen cage.

The feeder box goes on top of the frames.  There is a pollen patty on one side, the other side gets a half gallon of homemade sugar water, plus everything left in the can they arrived with.  We go through about 5 pounds of sugar every week for 4-5 months out of the year. 

The lid goes on, with a rock to hold it down.  We'll remove the screened cages tomorrow.  There are always a few bees who stubbornly don't want to leave their transportation.  They'll find their way into the hive eventually.  I had every intention of repainting the hives this winter.  Oh well.

Our hives live in our front yard, about 25 feet from the pond's edge in full sun.  It's a great location for bees! 

If you're interested in learning about harvesting honey, check out my A Sweet Harvest post from a while back. 

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