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1  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Spring Asparagus Medley with Pasta on: April 12, 2010 05:45:29 PM
Spring has arrived with its sudden rain showers, blooming daffodils, and tasty asparagus! Here's my asparagus-inspired adaptation of a recipe from the book "The Little Guides: Pasta" copyright 1999. The crisp, green of the fresh asparagus in my version makes for a grand splash of color next to the vibrant red tomatoes and pimento. The original recipe uses scallops and Penne, but Gemelli pasta and asparagus gives this dish a nice twist. Enjoy!

1 lb. fresh Asparagus
8 oz. Gemelli or other dried pasta
4 tsp. minced Garlic (We love Christopher Ranch!)
2 T Olive Oil
c. Red Cooking Wine
2 tsp. Cornstarch
2 lb. Roma Tomatoes, finely chopped
4 oz. diced Pimento (Check your grocers condiment aisle!)
3 T dried Italian Seasoning
tsp Salt
tsp crushed Red Pepper flakes
Topping: grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Cook to al dente. Drain.

Prepare asparagus. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Meanwhile, snap off woody base of asparagus and discard. Slice into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Add asparagus to boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and drain.

In a large frying pan or stove top wok, mix together red cooking wine and cornstarch. Add in asparagus, minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, diced pimento, Italian seasoning, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook on medium heat until bubbles start to form and mixture has thickened in texture. Reduce heat to low for 5 minutes. Toss in cooked pasta until well mixed. Serve immediately and top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Serves 4.
2  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: General / 99 Spools of Ribbon on the Wall... on: September 22, 2009 11:58:29 AM

After a gracious gift of spools 'n spools of ribbon from my aunt, I needed a functional technique to store my cherished craft embellishment. Why not make it stylish storage as well?!?

With the clever help of my handy boyfriend, we designed this 2 foot x 3 foot freestanding storage rack for my collection of ribbon spools. Removable dowels hold the spools in place, allowing me to add more ribbon as I acquire it - much to my roommate's chagrin! My boyfriend lovingly constructed this piece for me on our apartment's tiny balcony. What a talented guy!

By using Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain in Island Water, the natural grain of the wood shines through, unhindered by the opaqueness of paint, and the dazzling blue hue makes it a welcome addition to any room in our home. Currently, it rests on a low bookshelf in our hallway, but we specifically designed it to be wall-mounted if space ever became a limited resource for us.

Let me know what you think!
3  HOME SWEET HOME / Interior Decorating: Completed Projects / Kid-Friendly Project: Colorwashing w/ Tutorial & Photos on: April 25, 2009 11:09:08 PM

Recommended for Ages 8 & Up with Adult Supervision

Last week along with the help of four young & talented cousins and one handy boyfriend, we updated this once washed out kitchen into a cozy, welcoming space. In under two days, we turned white, uninspired cabinets into masterpieces of antique charm.  The kids and I painted two coats of Macadamia Nut paint over all of the doors and cabinet facing. After allowing that to dry overnight, we then applied an easy colorwashing technique to give the cabinets depth, contrast, and added color. This technique also hides any imperfections in old cabinets.

I also found that kids (with proper supervision) are the perfect applicators for this technique, especially when you have more than one child to help! Randomness in strokes enhances the effect and what better way to achieve random than by enlisting a couple of unique individuals with unique styles to help?

In this image, you can see the drastic difference colorwashing made to the cabinets. The left hand door was only painted with the Macadamia Nut while the right-sided doors were given our glamorous colorwash treatment.

Tutorial: Kid-friendly Colorwashing

1 Gallon of Basecoat (More or less may be needed depending on the size of your kitchen)
1 Quart of Glaze (Found in the painting aisle of most fine hardware stores)
2 3 oz. Paint Samples (One a shade slightly darker than your basecoat and the other slightly lighter than your basecoat)
Paintbrushes (at least 3 - one for each paint color)
1 Softening Brush (like one available at Lowe's or any inexpensive alternative with relatively firm bristles)

Day One

Step 1: Remove all doors, drawers, and hardware (hinges and handles)

Step 2: Apply basecoat(s) (and primer first if necessary) to all cabinet doors, drawers, and facing. A light shade like Macadamia Nut here works well, but a pastel blue, green, or yellow could also be used. Allow about 4 hours dry time between coats (more time if humid). Allow basecoat(s) to dry overnight before moving onto colorwashing.

Day Two
Step 3: In small containers, mix 4 parts glaze to 1 part paint for each of your sample colors. These samples are now available at almost any paint retailer and only costs about $4 each. You save money and you don't get stuck with lots of leftover paint. I recommend using plastic spoons for the 4 to 1 measuring and mixing only small quantities at a time. It's easier for the kids to handle smaller amounts and it easier to prevent heavy application on any one area of your cabinetry by overly eager Picassos.

Step 4: Create an assembly line of three people. Person A brushes on darker glaze. Person B brushes on light glaze. Person C uses softening brush to blend and give texture. I've found it helpful to demonstrate the process to each individual involved, so they know what important part their role is.

Step 5: Person A brushes on the darker glaze in random areas, using criss-crossing "X" motions. Only a small amount of glaze mixture is needed for each door/drawer. Only allow the person to use what paint is on the brush after one dip in the glaze. This too prevents overly eager Picassos. There's no need to cover every square inch of the cabinetry, as Person B will come in to help fill in spaces. Have Person A move down the assembly line, adding their glaze to each door/drawer.

Step 6: As soon as Person A finishes their first door/drawer, have Person B follow suit and use the exact same procedure only using the lighter glaze mixture instead. Fill in spaces Person A left free, but feel free to leave some of your basecoat color shine through too. Allow Person A to also glaze directly over some of the areas covered my Person A's fabulous criss-cross glaze work. Have Person B move down the assembly line like Person A.

Step 7: Person C will now come along and use a dry softening brush to blend the glazes and add texture and depth to the treatment. Like Persons A & B, Person C will use criss-crossing "X" motions all over the cabinetry, varying between long and short strokes. Random is key! Have Person C follow Persons A & B down the assembly line.

Step 8: Allow glazes to dry at least 4 hours. Assess your handiwork. Feel free to repeat Steps 5-7 if you desire a darker or more enhanced effect. Tip: Have kids trade rolls this time so that Person C gets the opportunity to apply glaze.

Step 9: After glazes have dried, reattach hardware and reinstall drawers and doors.

Step 10: Step back and admire your new space!

4  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Ries the Raccoon (Attn: Wine Lovers!) on: April 08, 2009 12:01:53 PM
This little guy has been my most ambitious softie to date!

Inspired by my vino-loving uncle, this raccoon was hand-stitched using brown corduroy and a wine barrel printed calico. The abstract look of the wine barrels is subtle yet still discernable. It conveys the wine theme in a masculine manner yet does not overwhelm the imagination and detract from the whimsy of this playful raccoon. Safety-lock animal eyes and nose were used for that curious expression he seems to be making! I'm thrilled with the way the rings on the tail turned out. He's holding a cork from one of the random bottles of wine I've been known to enjoy on occasion.

Anyone who knows me will recognize the similarities between his name "Ries" and the name of my favorite variety of wine, Riesling. I simply fell in love with its lush flavor while studying abroad in Germany. I was fortunate enough to participate in an internship at Pieper Vineyard while there in the spring of 2005.

"It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one's present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason." - Latin Proverb


5  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Owl Obsession Continued... Meet Ollie on: March 04, 2009 07:29:20 PM
Any proper student of Classical Studies would of course have a little obsession with owls. As a symbol of the goddess Athena, owls appreared on ancient Greek coins and were a popular representation of wisdom in the Classical world. Those ancients really knew their stuff. These timeless little creatures are once again a huge trend in crafts, fabrics, and home decor.

Becoming more adventurous in my softie making, I set out to design my own full-sized softie and gave him the name "Ollie", named after the owl that visits the backyard of my parents' house and softly hoots me to sleep sometimes. A fabulous 70s-inspired floral fabric in black, cream, grey, and maroon is anchored by black & cream felt, and a cool grey corduroy. Once again, this piece is handsewn (no machine!) but this time uses Fairfield 100% Bamboo Nature-Fil Stuffing. I highly reccommend this low cost earth-friendly alternative to traditional polyester stuffing. It's soft, lush, user-friendly, and naturally antibacterial.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the results of this little fella. I included the wings as a last minute addition and they turn out to be my favorite element of Ollie. If I ever use this pattern again, I'd like to sew the wings "in to" the owl body instead of "on to" the owl body. I would get much cleaner results...but that's just the perfectionist in me! Smiley

Thanks for taking a peak!
6  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / My Very First Softie! on: February 24, 2009 09:16:30 PM
Owl in My Pocket

Nicknamed "Owl in My Pocket" due to it's miniature size (only 4 inches tall!), this creation is hand sewn with love and epitomizes my novice-ness at softie making. He's stuffed with cotton balls! (I've since upgraded to bamboo stuffing, rest assured you other craft-a-holics!) Brown felt was used for the body and goldenrod felt for the beak and feet. Embroidery floss was used to attach the beak and feet, to add embroidery eyes and wings, and to sew "Owl in My Pocket" together.
I designed my own pattern for this softie and kept things pretty basic. A lot of guess and check work went into the details, as I am a perfectionist!

I made him back in October and have since improved and experimented in softie making. Thanks to animusmessor for his encouragement and support! xoxox

I look forward to posting more of my creations here soon!

Your comments and tips on softie making would be much appreciated!
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