Friday, September 18, 2009

Goals and Pains

I have given myself the crafting goal to finish all my works-in-progress by the end of the year. There are quite a few of them, so I think this is a rather lofty goal. However, I need the space in my apartment, and all these bags of half-finished items are bothering me...

Things working against me achieving this goal are: The fact that I am going away for all of October on vacation (personally, I don't see this as much of a problem...), and the neck problems I have been having lately. Sore shoulders make it difficult to hunch over needles or a sewing machine. Or even a book or computer, for that matter.

Hence the lack of recent updates...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reinventing Chicken Pot Pie

I had the hugest craving for chicken pot pie, but I had no idea how to make it, and felt way too lazy to look up recipes on the internet - so I just made it up.
First, I made a stew out of the following:
-two chicken thighs
-one chopped carrot
-one stick chopped celery
-one clove crushed garlic
-1/2 a yellow onion
-1 1/2 cups chicken stock
-spices (in this case, mostly pre-packaged poultry spice since I was so lazy)

I let that simmer while I mixed up the biscuit dough. Biscuits are very simple:

-2 cups white flour
-4 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp baking soda
-about 3 tbsp cold butter (you can use more or less as you see fit)
-about 7/8 cup milk

First, I mixed together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter using a pastry cutter until none of the butter bits were larger than a pea. I added the milk and just mixed it in - if you overmix, your biscuits will be chewy.

After the milk is mixed in, ordinarily you would take it and knead it about 10 times on a floured surface - again, if you overknead, it will be chewy. This time, however, I just sort of spread it out until it made a top "crust" for the stew in my casserole dish. This recipe usually makes about 10 biscuits, and I still had enough left over to make 3, so I used 3/4 of the dough.

I stuck this in the oven at 400 deg F for 10 minutes and presto! Chicken Pot Pie!

-The chicken part was a little watery. In the future, I would add something to make it thicker - some kind of starch. Potatoes or flour or cornstarch or something along those lines.

-I think the biscuit dough on the top was a little thick. I would probably use about half the entire biscuit recipe next time - it tasted a little too much of baking powder for a chicken pot pie.

-Also, it occurred to me how easy it would be to make biscuit dough ahead of time. Just do everything except add the milk, then freeze it until you're ready for biscuits. When you want to bake them, you add milk and mix until you get the proper consistency. Mmmm... biscuits.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to Make and Can Applesauce

Making and canning applesauce is super easy, and home made applesauce is REALLY tasty. I learned how to can in a high school cooking class, and I love that I did. Interestingly, I did this last night, and today I noticed this post on how to can peaches. Now I really want some peaches...

What you will need:
- apples (any kind you like, but this is a good way to use baking apples)
- sugar. How much will depend on how sweet your apples are and your tastes. Usually 1 tbsp per apple is about right.
- lemon juice
- salt
- canning jars
- a big pot
- tongs or silicone gloves

***Update*** Some fabulous person had their applesauce recipe on Craftster and they used BROWN sugar. Now why didn't I think of that??

First, you make the applesauce:

Peel, core, and slice the apples. As you cut them, put them in a bowl of cold, salted water to keep them from turning brown.

Put the apples in a big pot with about 1 tbsp of water per apple. Cook at a low temperature with the lid on, stirring occasionally to see if they are tender. It will take around 15 minutes, but could be more or less depending on the kind of apples.

Once they are tender, remove them from the heat. Taste the applesauce for sweetness and add as much sugar as you want. It's really nice to just make applesauce with sweeter apples and not have to add any sugar!

Now it's time to sterilize your canning jars, or you could do this while the apples are cooking. Place the jars, lids, and rings in a pot of warm, but not hot water. Just a word of warning - putting cold glass jars in hot water will make them crack!
Bring the water to a boil and start timing. Boil the jars for 15 minutes, then remove them with your tongs or heat-proof gloves and put them on a tea-towel to dry.

Fill the jars with warm applesauce to about 1/2" from the top - no more no less. If there is too much or too little air, they will not seal properly. Run a knife around the edge of the jar to get rid of any air bubbles, then top each jar of applesauce with about 1 tsp lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
Next, wipe the rim of the jar to get rid of any applesauce. Place the flat part of the lid on top of the jar, then screw on the ring just finger tight. Don't tighten them too much!

Place the jars in a pot of warm (not hot) water. There should be enough water to cover the jars by about an inch. Bring the water to a boil and boil for about 15 minutes, then remove the jars with tongs or silicone gloves.
I seriously can't stress how awesome these gloves are. There's no fumbling around in the hot water - you just stick your hands in and get the job done! You can't leave your hands in there forever, as they will get warm after about 10 seconds, but for quick jobs they are perfect!

Anyhow, when you remove the jars, put them back on the tea-towel and let them cool overnight - check the seal in the morning. You shouldn't be able to easily remove the flat lid, and it should be slightly concave (bending in). Screw the lids on tightly at this point.
Label your jars with the date and whatever else you want, and you're done! They should stay in the cupboard for a long time, and you have a tasty apple treat any time of the year! You will probably have to pierce the lid to break the seal and remove it, but you can buy whole boxes of replacement lids and just re-use the rings and jars. I usually have trouble keeping enough of mine to actually can...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Made Chandelier Earrings!

I made my very first pair of chandelier earrings! Well, my first pair of earrings ever, in fact. My friend Anna recently took a course at Country Beads in Vancouver and has been making tons of earrings ever since. This week, she was kind enough to teach me what she learned.

My inspiration for these earrings was a necklace of fresh water pearls and silver beads that my mother bought me in the middle east. I was looking for earrings to match it, but it's pretty unique. Here is a photo of the finished earrings and the inspirational necklace:

All the beads are glass - the "pearl" like beads are fake.

For anyone interested in learning the technique, there are tons of resources online, including the following:
I find it amazing the variety of earrings that can be made. The technique is fairly simple, but one place I saw it very accurately described as "fiddly and repetitive". It is very repetitive, but in one night you can have yourself a complete pair of earrings. From buying the beads, to learning how it's done, to finished earrings, I spent about $7 (my earrings were big with lots of beads), and 4 hours. This included bus travel to and from the bead store, and stopping for dinner, so roughly 2-3 hours of work for a beginner to make a large pair. Anna can apparently make a pair in about an hour.

Above is Anna working on her pair of earrings, and below is a close-up of me working on mine. I have discovered that I have all the tools necessary to make these beautiful earrings in my home already, but this is mostly due to the fact that my boyfriend is an electrical engineer, and has lots of tools to work with wire. I will likely be making more sometime in the future. I believe Anna said she spent about $15 on the tools at the bead shop.

This is a picture of the earrings Anna made. I love the mix of colours! Oh, and it was total coincidence that we wound up using the same findings. There are tons of different kinds out there.
And, because I want to show it off, this is the jewelry screen I made recently to hang it all on. There is a great Threadbanger video that shows how to do this, but I added an extra step. I stapled the mesh forward near the front of the frame, and then attached some fabric to the back so that my screen has a lovely background instead of just showing the wall behind it, and there is a space between the two so that I can still hang everything. I added drapery hooks to hang the necklaces. See the video here:
And, finally, an action shot of the earrings!

Friday, September 4, 2009

T-Shirt Underwear and Amy Karol

Relating to this previous post, today I learned that one of my inspirations Amy Karol also makes her own underwear from old T-shirts. Amy has a new book out for anyone interested in altering the surface of patterns withe stencils, stamps, or printable designs:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Um, Free LOL Cat embroidery pattern?

Seriously, this is so silly. And yet, I'm drawn to it...

Get the free embroidery pattern here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The making of fuzzy D-20's

So, I am having a few issues uploading photos from the wedding from my camera, and my living room is so full of furniture I haven't been able to do much in the way of sewing (since there's a futon in the way of my sewing machine...). However, I do have some awesome images of a pair of fuzzy D-20's I made for my brother's birthday! Unfortunately, his car is not working right now...

The first thing I did was make an equilateral triangle (all 3 sides are the same length) out of paper. It was 2" to a side. I then started tracing and cutting out pink fleece triangles all the same size - 40 of them.
Then I used a plastic stencil and dabbed on black acrylic paint. Numbers that had more than one digit, I let the first digit dry before adding the second so that the paint didn't smudge.
Here are some of the finished triangles:
I then started sewing the numbers together. I didn't have an actual 20-sided die to use as a model, so I just mixed up the numbers and their orientations, making sure not to duplicate any numbers since there are two dice. I sewed 5 of them together in a circle using a 1/4" seam allowance, then did the same with another five. The last 10 I sewed into a loop by alternating the orientation of the triangles.
Then each pentagon (5 sides) is sewed onto the loop, matching the corners.
Before attaching the second pentagon, I inserted a bit of cord and sewed across it on one edge. I also left one edge open for the string to come out, and to be able to turn it right-side out.
I stuffed it with leftover fleece and slip-stiched the opening shut, then did the same with the other die.

Voila! Fuzzy D-20's! Always makes me think of the Cake line: "Where large fuzzy dice still hang proudly like testicles from rear-view mirrors"