Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whimsical and Wise

A little embroidery here, a little stuffing and stitching there, and I had a parliament of owls! It all began with our Christmas decorating. Every year, we devote a small Christmas tree on our greenhouse to a theme. My daughter is enraptured with all things Harry Potter, so the Harry Pottah! Christmas tree was born. Now we had to be creative to make it look like an HP Christmas--and NOT a Halloween tree (so no spiders or witch hats).

It's pretty easy to draw your own owl pattern, and I love embroidering on felt, so each owl has its own distinctive markings! After stitching on the owl face in lighter colors, white and ecru and even light pink for example to a brown body, I chose a palette of DMC flosses to create the eyes, nose and a bouquet of flowers on each owl--all whimsical and unique. 


Each owl also has a little tail embroidered on the back side too.


The owl body is then simply blanket-stitched together, stuffed, and finished.

Now, on to the task of planning the rest of the HP Tree! My daughter is knitting a long Harry Potter-style scarf to wrap around it, and we have made little quidditch brooms and Harry Potter wire-frame glasses to hang around, along with Molly Weasley's magical knitting needles, glittering ball ornaments in silver and plum, and an actual Hallmark Harry Potter ornament. We'll have a big owl topper for the whole tree--and hopefully I'll be posting a picture soon! Now, what did I do with those chocolate frogs!

Happy stitching!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spooning Up Comfort Food

Spoon cornbread has become one of our holiday faves. Nothing could be easier to make and bake. It's also a great bake-and-take for holiday potlucks! And, it heats up well later for a breakfast treat or a midnight snack. Yum!

Mix together:
2 eggs
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 can of sweet corn, drained
1 can of cream corn
8 ounces of light sour cream
1 stick of butter, melted
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Bake at 350 degrees--this could take anywhere from 30 to 55 minutes depending on how shallow a baking/casserole dish you are using. If it's starts to brown, cover for the rest of the baking time until the center is done and firm. Enjoy!

Christmas preparations are in full bloom at our house! Hope you are enjoying the holidays with good food, good times to write about, Christmas dreams, and plenty of happy stitching!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Wing and a Prayer

A little bird told me that embroidering on felt can be very habit forming! I have had a lot of fun crossing over into the world of embroidery, from my safe nest in cross-stitch land. Felt squares at my Hobby Lobby (we affectionately call "Hobb Lobb") went on sale, and I loaded up. Like cross-stitch, embroidery lets you paint with threads--DMC floss being my choice. The difference is, embroidery seems more free, and goes a lot faster. Learning some of the classic embroidery stitches takes no time at all, and you will love the results. Recently I heard a lady DJ on a local poprock station talking about how people should get over their failed love lives, even if they have to do something as boring as go to the Library and attend a lecture on needlepoint. I thought that sounded rather exciting, I wish we had more workshops on needle arts around here, so I guess I've officially become totally boring! (Woo hoo! I'm doing the "boring" dance) Actually though, what we do is not your grandmother's needlepoint--it is an art, and if we do something "grandmotherish" we call it "vintage." So there, lady DJ. I challenge you to an embroidery session with boring me! Ha! Anyway,  I I did send off to the DMC people to become a DMC mentor. When I get my free kits in the mail, I'm thinking about holding a cross-stitch/embroidery workshop at my church. I think that sounds like a great way to connect to other embroidery artists and create new ones!

Needless to say, I couldn't wait to gather some branches and hang my little birdies, as soon as I had stitched up several. They were so easy to make--I just cut a pattern in the shape I wanted for the bird body and the wings, cutting a total of four bodies and four wings for each bird, two in ecru and two in a color. I embroider some of them on one side, and then stitch it all together with a ribbon hanger. So fun! And a great way to help me recover from my yucky cold that plagued me for over a week. I'm still stitching birdies, but I've also moved onto owls--ornaments for our themed Harry Potter Christmas tree! My craft corner is quite the Santa's workshop lately.

Stitch up a little joy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Welcome to Sniffles Island

It was a cold weekend, and I had a yucky cold. I felt so achy and tired on Saturday, that my bed became my island. It was complete with two cats, books, magazines, and of course, things to stitch in-between naps. When I had a little surge of energy I would sit up and drink hot tea and work on my birds. Sometimes I just cross-stitched. I am trying to finish up a gorgeous, glittering angel I started last year--she would make a great decoration this Christmas. I didn't get any writing done, and certainly didn't feel like cooking, but I did do a little dreaming. I have a basket of tags that have been piling into a collection for several months--the dream is to do some fabulous scrapbooking/tag book kind of mixed-media thing with them. My daughter's junior-size clothes tend to have the cutest brand tags on them! So we've been saving tags off of everything--isn't that a green kind of project? I love it. But, all I could do was sit and look at them for now. On Sunday I tried to get around a little more, and of course made it to my daughter's high school musical, South Pacific--and she was wonderful. I'm still fighting the sniffles and sore throat today--but that's not stopping me from dreaming and planning in the midst of my new fascination with embroidering on felt. Fat cats and owls are next on my list. My daughter wants one of our Christmas trees to have a Harry Potter theme! 

 So here's hoping that some eating, writing, dreaming and stitching therapy will have me back to 100% by Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moving Day for the Garden

There are days when the winter winds are arriving too soon! So in come the plants onto my long greenhouse sunporch. My hard-working husband has cleared the outdoor herb, veggie and cutting gardens and from now until May, I'll water my garden indoors!

But wouldn't you know it, we are having a string of beautiful 70-degree days now. It's a tough call, but I'm not lugging heavy rosemary plants and buckets of impatients back and forth! They've arrived in their winter home.
I really miss the fresh garden basil and tomatoes. But I've got an herb nursery going on--the baby basils are coming along, there's fresh dill, and robust Italian parsley making a comeback.

Next month, I'll plan an evening with my gardening catalogs and a mug of hot tea--dreaming of next spring's garden. There will be more cabbage and squashes and maybe a pumpkin. But oodles of tomato varieties--I've been inspired by a country lady to go beyond my canned tomatoes and salsa and do a pasta and a pizza sauce!

"The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on."
--Emily Dickinson

 I think all my eating, writing, dreaming and stitching somehow starts in the garden 
whether it's indoors or out.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WOYWW #3--On my birthday!!!

I'm celebrating What's-On-Your-Workdesk-Wednesday AND my birthday today! Woo hoo! I started making these little birds a few days ago after I decided I wanted about 20 to hang on long branches--decorating for Christmas on my sunporch! I'm so happy with them, they may hang around for a long time. I'm about halfway there. Stacks of felt, beautiful DMC flosses and ribbon for hangers is what's on my workdesk today. Enjoy your WOYWW!
Eat, write, dream, and stitch happy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Slow-Cooked Beef and Fresh Veggie Stew

A slow-cooked stew packed with fresh veggies is a great reason to get out the crockpot!

On Saturday we let this yummy stew slowcook all day, and simply added some wholegrain dinner rolls for a great family meal. I decided to keep the ingredients as fresh as possible and simple. Here's my recipe. You'll need your large (at least 6-quart) crockpot.

3 cups fresh stew meat, cubed and browned
fresh baby carrots, about 2 to 4 cups (your taste)
7 or 8 fresh potatoes, peeled and rough chopped
about 2 cups freshly washed and cut greenbeans
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)
2 pint jars of canned tomatoes, chopped up (or 2 14-oz. cans stewed tomatoes if you can't get your hands on tomatoes canned in glass jars)
32 ounces beef broth
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the stew meat, drain any fat, and add to the crockpot along with the other vegetables, canned tomatoes and thyme. Pour the beef broth in, stir, and salt and pepper to taste. Let it cook on low for 5 to 7 hours and it will be bubbly and delicious. I have to say, this is one of the dishes that really makes it worthwhile to can your own garden or farmers' market tomatoes (when you're ready, check my blog for my canned tomato recipe). There is something about the sweet, fresh flavor of the tomatoes in a jar that makes the broth of this stew taste amazing. Using fresh vegetables makes it worthy of company!

I think next time I might have to break out my "Baking with Julia" cookbook and make some fabulous homemade bread to go with this wonderful stew. But, I was all about making life easy this weekend and had purchased some nice, fresh wholegrain dinner rolls when I did my shopping. Stew has quite a food history to go along with it (I love food history). People have survived on it for hundreds of years in many different ways--in the cold winters, stew helped make the most of the cellar's root vegetable supply. And of course, the Irish are famous for their stew. I felt a little food fame when I made this!

Really, there's nothing better than putting a meal together in the crockpot, and enjoying your day, knowing that dinner will be ready when you are! Eat happy!