Monday, January 31, 2011

Clay Creations

Here are the effects of the happy combination of a boy, some clay, and lots and lots of time...

Boy is very fond of clay.  And he gets quite creative.  A sporty winter snowman...

complete with baby snowman...

I really look up to you, dad.

A funky snowman from the 70's.  (Also with matching baby.)

Caterpillars and ice cream cones.

And a bunch of other stuff.  Notice how each of his creations has a miniature that looks just like it.  The miniatures were given as a gift to his little sister, Sweetpea.  He was horrified when he found her actually playing with them!!!  They are masterpieces after all.  And you don't play with masterpieces.

The following is not for the faint of heart.  Please note that semi graphic images follow.  (giggle giggle)

He wouldn't be Boy if he didn't make something like this dinosaur eating another dinosaur.  Notice the clay footprints that will someday (in millions of years) become fossils.

I can't help but feel bad for the little dino who is laying partly laying on the ground and partly in the jaws of our T-rex friend.  I suppose that is the way it happened though.

On that note...  I hope you all have a wonderful Monday.  We are supposed to get lots and lots of snow over the next few days.  We'll see how it all turns out. 

Friday, January 28, 2011


I love buttons!  They have some really super duper cool buttons available.  Munch and I went to the store to pick out buttons for one of her projects a while back, and I came home with these:

In the corner of this pic, you can see the front of one of the small pillows I am still working on.  I cut squares to make a 3x4 grid for the front of the pillows.  But, I somehow (read impatient laziness) sewed it in such a way that all of the corners did not line up evenly.  My fix for this?  Nooo, not ripping seams and starting over (although I did consider this for a mere 30 seconds before moving on).  Yes, buttons.  Buttons will be my fix.

I know, I know.  Buttons on a pillow is not necessarily something you want.  But, how cute and fun are these buttons?!?!  I want to look at them everyday.  And if they are on a pillow sitting on my couch, I can!

Now all I have to do is get my act together and finish one this pillow.   Then I can move on to the next pillow.  I have finally broken down and ordered (and received) a rotary cutter and self healing mat.  I'm so looking forward to using them.  I totally splurged and got the Gingher cutter and mat.  Perhaps the next pillow will come together in all straight corners.  Or perhaps I'll just scrap all the little squares I've already cut and do something completely different.  Not sure yet. 

Decisions.  Decisions.  How I loath decisions.

(See that itty bitty piece of yarn?  It's from my lovely and completed shawl!!!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nick's Scarf - Finally Completed!!!!

I have finally finished the scarf I had intended to make for Nick's Christmas gift.  Although it is over a month late, I am super pleased with the way it turned out.  The yarn is Simply Cotton organic cotton worsted weight yarn from Knit Picks in Basalt Heather.  The yarn is lovely and warm.  I used a new to me stitch - the basket weave stitch.  Originally, I was going to follow a pattern, but realized that it would be too wide of a scarf for my Nick's preference.  So, I sort of winged it. 

I followed a basic basket weave stitch using double crochets and blocks of 4.  The scarf measures about 6" wide by about 50" long.  The basket weave makes for an especially warm textured scarf.

I'm glad he'll be able to get some use out of it before winter is finally over!

That takes care of the last of my neglected holiday projects.  So, I'll leave you with this for today:

a pic of our new mini LED lights strung up on our bed posts.  Yes, they are still up.  I love them.  I love the way the lights reflect off the walls in a 70s psychedelic sort of way.  (This pic is fun, but they are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better in person!!!!!!!)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Owl Calendar

I did this today!!!  How cool is this calendar?  I created my own today, and I can't wait to print it out.  Just check out all the lovely artwork.  The only difficult part about the whole thing was choosing which pictures to use, there are so many wonderful ones.  I put the button on the sidebar so you can find it lickety-split!

Check out the My Owl Barn blog while you're at it.

So excited to have found this.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seitan Stew

Here's one of my favorite winter time stews.

Seitan Stew 
18 oz. package chicken style seitan with liquid, chopped
4 c. water or veggie broth (including the seitan liquid)
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 potato, chopped with skin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. dried parsley
1 tsp. each dried savory and marjoram and sage

1/2 c. water
3 T. whole wheat flour
1 T. tamari sauce

Put the seitan, 4 cups of water, vegetables, and herbs in a large pot.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and let simmer until the veggies are soft.

Meanwhile, whisk together the 1/2 cup water, flour, and tamari until very smooth.  Stir into the simmering stew until well combined.  Let simmer until the stew is slightly thickened and the veggies are very soft.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Nice Long Weekend (and another recipe)

I've had a very nice, long, and relaxing weekend.  I got to hang and have a sleepover with 2 of my sisters!!  How fun that was!!  Visited my parents.  Visited the in-laws.  Got some cleaning done.  Watched Star Wars III.  But, mainly, I caught up on my sleep.  So lovely.  It really is amazing how good you can feel when you are well rested.  I highly recommend it.

Course, that was all interrupted by The Squirrel Incident last night.  Some day I may be able to talk about it.  Today is not that day.

On that mysterious note...  Ready for another recipe?  Here's one for greens and beans. 

Greens and Beans 
2 – 3 bunches mixed greens (such as kale, collard, chard, spinach), washed and chopped
1 T. olive oil

1 can veggie broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste

2 1/2 c. cooked white beans (about 1 cup raw, soaked and then cooked)
dash cayenne pepper
Heat the oil in a very large pot.  Throw in the chopped greens and cook until slightly wilted.  Add the veggie broth, garlic, and some salt.  Cook until the greens are darkening in color.  Stir in the cooked beans and cayenne pepper.  Simmer for about 1 hour or until the greens are very soft.  Adjust the seasonings.

Does anyone have any special recipe requests?  Have a particular type of food you are wanting to use?  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

With What I Have

My goal this year is to work with what I have.  I have plenty of yarn, fabric, and food stored up here to last through a long while of inspired projects.  (Yes, I lump my love of cooking with my love of sewing and crochet.  After all, cooking is an art too!)  So, we'll see how far this gets me. 

Today, I'm making black bean chili.  A Big Huge Pot of black bean chili.  I really don't have a recipe for this.  I soaked 3 cups of dried black beans last night.  I'll put them on the stove to cook as soon as I'm done finishing this post.  After a couple hours, I'll toss in some...

diced onions (stored for the winter from our garden)
garlic (also stored for the winter from our garden)
a couple quarts of tomato puree (yep, canned from our garden)
some frozen diced peppers (also from our garden)
about 1/2 cup brown rice (not from anywhere near our garden)
some spices including cumin, chili powder, salt
dried parsley (from our garden)

and I'll let this cook all afternoon until dinner.  To go with it, I'll whip up a batch of corn bread in my cast iron skillet.  I usually use the Betty Crocker recipe for this, using soy milk instead of cow's milk.

I'm fighting through a cold right now.  Not sure how productive I'll be on any other fronts.  If I am up for it, I may work on the rest of my pillows for the living room.  You can see the beginnings of my efforts here and here.  When I don't feel like moving, I'll break out the scarf I'm working on for Nick.  It was supposed to be a Christmas present, but it's just a wee bit late.  I'm nearing the halfway point though!  I'll post about that when it's done.

Hope you all have a lovely day today.  It's snowing big, huge, beautiful flakes here in NE Ohio right now.  It's a perfect day for warm things.  I'm off to start my chili.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Pasta

I haven't made this for a while, but it is so tasty.  It's a great winter dish since it uses butternut squash, apples, and onions.  All of these items are perfect winter storage items.  Serve it with a salad or some cooked greens.

Butternut Squash Pasta

1 medium butternut squash

Bake the squash in the oven on 375 degrees for about an hour, or however long it takes to get soft on the inside.  Slice it open, scoop out the seeds, and scoop out the flesh.  Mash the flesh with a potato masher.  Set aside.

1 pound short and stubby pasta like rigatoni or rotini or shells...

Boil the pasta.

While the pasta is boiling...

4 medium apples, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
4 T vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance), or your favorite buttery thing
salt to taste

Saute the apples and onions in the butter until both are soft.  The apples and onions will start juicing to create an unconventional, but lovely, broth.  When they are soft, mix in the cooked and mashed butternut squash.  Heat thoroughly.  Adjust seasoning.  This sauce is supposed to be fairly thick - like a puree, but sometimes if one of your ingredients is too dry (usually your squash), the sauce can be come out extra thick.  If your sauce is a bit on the too thick side, stir in a bit of water.  Mix the sauce into the pasta and serve hot.

You can add fresh parsley to this dish if you have it.  It adds a nice flavor while providing extra color interest.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Shawl!!!

I've been working on a shawl for myself since before Christmas.  But, it got shoved to the back burner in favor of the presents I was making for others.  I finished it a couple nights ago!!!!  I used the Old Fashioned Shawl pattern found on Ravelry.

The finished triangular shawl measures about 83 inches across the top, and about 47 inches from the center of the top to the point.  Big!!!  I used Mission Falls 1824 100% cotton yarn in truffle.  This yarn has a strand wound around the whole thing (for which there is probably some technical name)  That makes it look super cool (in my opinion) using an open stitch like the one used for this shawl.

The pattern itself is fairly simple to follow.  It grows quickly in a triangular shape, so it would be easy to modify the size.  I left off the fringe, so I actually used less yarn than specified - about 925 yards.

It's very warm despite the lacy design.  I know this because I've had it wrapped around my shoulders nearly constantly since I've finished it.

We've also been playing host to a local car racing team.

Construction for our track commenced (and was completed) last night.  Racers practiced and raced and practiced and raced in 5 minute increments until bedtime.

Unfortunately, not before a tragedy struck when a car careened off the tracks and into the stands of a poor innocent fan.

The fan (seen in the picture above) has been treated for minor injuries and released.  He will be just fine.  But there is no saying when construction for new bleachers will take place. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hearty Navy Bean Stew

It is the time of year for warming soups and stews.  Eating a bowl of hot soup can really ground you during this season of cold cold temps and snow all over the place.  Although they can be quick - cooking only for about an hour - you can start a soup early in the morning, or just after lunch, and let it slow cook aaaaaaaalllllll day.  It makes the whole house smell yummy.  Just walking by that bubbly stew can instantly warm your soul.

We have been eating soups or stews nearly every night this week.  I really could eat them every day.

Here's a recipe for a bean stew that uses seitan as a protein source in addition to the beans.  Seitan is a wheat gluten protein, so if you are sensitive to wheat or gluten, steer clear!  You can find seitan at any health food stores or major grocery stores.  The kind I prefer to buy is a "chicken-style" seitan.  It's been 18 years since I've had a piece of chicken, so I can't really tell you how it really compares.  My guess is that you can't even think of it as chicken in any manner of ways - even though it's labeled with those words.  Seitan has a very chewy texture.  It usually comes in a vacuum packed container in the refrigerator section, packed in a broth.  It does contain salt, so make sure you adjust the salt that you would add accordingly.

I usually start this soup by soaking a cup of dry beans the night before, draining and rinsing them the next morning, and cooking them.  Once the beans are tender (after about 1 hour), I throw everything else into the pot, and cook it for about an hour.  Sorta changes up the directions, I know.  The recipe below calls for canned beans for quickness.  Use whichever you prefer.

Hearty Navy Bean Stew

2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped with skin

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can vegetable broth
1 15 oz. can white beans with liquid
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach

1 12 oz. package regular seitan, chopped
1 T. dried basil
1 T. dried parsley
2 bay leaves
salt to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and sweet potato over medium-high heat until the onion is soft, about 5 – 10 minutes .  Add the next four ingredients.  Cook until the spinach is thawed.  Add the chopped seitan and spices.  Simmer until all the vegetables are soft, 45 – 60 minutes.

Friday, January 7, 2011


A frittata is a Mexican omelette.  You can get way creative with frittatas!  You can fit it into any season, using seasonal ingredients.  Or, use up things in the fridge that are on the verge of being compost.  Once you make a few, you'll get the idea of how they turn out best.  They are quick and easy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Spinach and Onion Frittata

1 T. canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
6 eggs
3 T. milk
1/2 c. shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or Colby cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat the oil in a 10 inch cast-iron skillet (my favorite), or an oven-proof pan, over medium heat.  Sauté the onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Put the spinach in the pan and heat through.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the milk and cheese.

When the spinach is heated, pour the egg mixture into the pan.  Stir slightly to make sure the all the veggies get coated with egg.  Cook for about 2 minutes without stirring.  Put the entire pan into the hot oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Let the frittata cool a bit before cutting.

More Frittata Ideas:

You can’t really go wrong with the veggies in a frittata.  For each frittata you’ll need about 3 cups of veggies, 6 eggs beaten with about 3 tablespoons of milk, and 1/2 cup cheese.  You can add extra cheese if you’d like, or leave it out all together.

-  Spinach and sweet potato
-  Pepper and onion (hot peppers are great too, if you like that sort of thing)
-  Swiss chard, white potatoes, and onion
-  Mushrooms, onions, and garlic

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Greens and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta and Other Random Notes

It's the month for recipes.  I've decided (realized is more accurate) that I am not consistent enough do a daily column over on the sidebar.  It's good to know our limitations...
In other news, I have not been doing a whole lot of anything except catching up on laundry, cleaning, dishes, and generally relaxing and enjoying the rush free aspect of the post holiday season.  We took down our decorations.  Homeschooling has begun again.

I have been looking for a history program/books that I am happy with.  And, I finally found them!  I finally feel much more relaxed about teaching history to my children.  Whew!

Here is a quick and healthy pasta recipes.  You could use dried beans instead of canned, but then it's not really a quick recipe.  I usually roast my own peppers and can them when they are in season, so I have them on hand whenever I want to use them.

Greens and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 

2 T. olive oil
1 lb. mixed greens, chopped (kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and collard work well)
1/2 - 1 c. vegetable broth

1 15 oz. can of great northern beans, with liquid
4 cloves garlic, minced
dash cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)

2 roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
1 lb. penne pasta (linguini is also good)

Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet on medium heat.  Sauté the greens until soft, adding 1/2 cup of the veggie broth.  Through the cooking, add enough veggie broth so that the greens don’t burn.  When the greens have significantly wilted, after about 15 – 20 minutes, add the beans with liquid, garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt.  Place the cooked, drained pasta into a bowl.  Add the greens and the roasted red peppers.  Adjust the seasonings and serve hot.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tofu Potato Cakes

Here's a recipe that I love to make and that pleases everyone.  It's a nice, subtle way of introducing tofu to your family.  You can use leftover mashed potatoes, but I never have any, so I have to start from scratch each time.
When tomatoes are in season, I serve these patties with a huge tomato and pepper salad.  In the winter months, I serve it with a big green salad or a shredded carrot and cabbage salad.

Tofu Potato Cakes                                                                                            

4 large potatoes, cubed with skins

1 c. milk (I typically use soy)
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley
1 lb. firm tofu, grated

bread crumbs, whole wheat flour, or something suitable to coat the patty

Place the potatoes in a medium pot, cover with water, and boil until tender (about 15 minutes).  Drain off the water.  Mash the potatoes with the milk and salt.  Stir in the parsley and tofu. 

Coat a heavy pan with canola oil.  Heat until hot over medium-high heat.  Form a patty using about 1/2 cup of the potato mixture.  Bread the patty and pan fry until both sides are crispy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Curried Sweet Potato and Greens Stew

Happy new year everyone!!!!  I hope that you are all getting the chance to relax and recoup from all the holiday festivities.  I'm taking today to catch up on some things that have been left undone and bothering me - like finally winterizing the back porch and handling the piles of laundry that are all over my upstairs.

After all the holiday eating (which I managed to avoid this year due to the stomach flu), I thought it would be nice to share a lighter recipe with you.  In addition to warming you up, these spices are good for your digestive system.  Use any type of greens you have on hand.  I've even used a spring lettuce mix when I've been out of greens.  In fact, that's what I'm planning to use for tonight's dinner.  I also don't have any diced tomatoes, so I'll be using our tomato puree instead.  

Serve it with a salad or some sliced fruit for dessert.

Curried Sweet Potato and Greens Stew

1 bunch greens (such as kale, chard, collard, spinach), washed and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cubed with skin
3 c. water
2 c. canned diced tomatoes with liquid
1 c. veggie broth
1/2 c. lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. oil
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. paprika
salt to taste
Throw all the ingredients into a large pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until all the veggies and lentils are soft.