Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Painting to Music

Today, I painted a picture to music. Now I am no artist when it comes to things like drawing or painting. But that's not what this was about.

The Harmony Project Choir

I sing with a 200-voice all-volunteer, community choir called The Harmony Project whose motto is "Sing, Serve, Share." We're a nonprofit that puts on raucously inspiring concerts to raise money for area charities. In addition, during our season we do various service projects to give back to our community. 

One of those service projects is The Unison Project, a choir consisting of adults who are transitioning from living on the streets of Columbus, Ohio to permanent housing. This project brings people from the big choir together with members of our community who have been marginalized by factors like mental illness, addiction, disability, and lack of work to work together toward unity and harmony in our community.

This year, our director engaged an artist whose medium is painting to music. For her, certain music evokes certain sensory reactions and influences what she paints.

According to Wikipedia, synesthesia is a neurological characteristic where the five senses in some people's brains get a little jumbled up. For instance, some people, when they hear music, see colors and patterns. The colors and patterns they see depends on the type of music they're listening to.

So, backed up by members of our band--some of the best jazz musicians in town, btw--playing a bluesy version of "This Land Is Your Land" that our director arranged, our charge was to listen to the music and paint, letting the music run through our brains and down through our fingers.

I am usually intimidated, as I'm sure many are, by a blank page and a paint brush. But for some reason, once we had listened to the song a few times, sang through it, and let it wash over us, many who are not artists just leapt right into the blank canvas, spreading color all over, creating designs that evoked everything from land and sea to community and harmony. It was a fabulous ride! Here's a sampling of our work:

My meager offering. Some said it was a sunflower.
This one says it all:

What a wonderful afternoon it was, singing, serving and sharing. I am truly thankful.

This post is linked to the following killer blogs:
Shabby Creek Cottage Transformation Thursday
Savvy Southern Style Wow Us Wednesday
Made in a Day Made U Look Linky
Skip to My Lou Made by You Monday
All Things Fee Calling All Crafters

Boogie Board Cottage Masterpiece Monday
Creating My Way to Success A Round Tuit
Nifty Thrifty Things Nifty Thrifty Sunday

Sunday, March 25, 2012

You're IT!

Okay, I don't know who started this, but I was always really bad at games as a kid. I don't run fast, so I can never get away quick enough, which mean I always end up getting tagged.
Some things don't change. Like a bad nightmare from my childhood that haunts my waking life, I have been sucked into a game of tag only to find out that the minute I am in it, I am also "IT." Holy smoke, no wonder I started smoking cigarettes in fifth grade.
Anyway, maybe I'm a little older and a little wiser and ready to get in the game. After all, it's nice to find out a little bit more about my fellow bloggers and discover there are other crazy, cheap, crafty people in the world like me who seem driven to make something out of nothing. And maybe along the way we can discover something about some other kinds of writers too.
On the other hand, my answers to the tag questions posed to me by the generous and gifted Patty at Patty's Pretty Things might just reveal that nothing has changed and I am still the scared little awkward slow-poke on the playground.
So here are the rules to this game of tag.
1. You must post the rules!
2. Answer the 11 questions the tagger posted for you and then create 11 new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
3. Tag 11 bloggers and link them to your post.
4. Let them know you've tagged them.
Here are the questions posed to me by the lovely and talented--have I mentioned she's talented!--Patty at Patty's Pretty Things.
1. Why did you start blogging? I'm a writer and editor by education and for the last 20 years I've been writing other people's stuff. It was finally time to start writing for myself again.

2. How did you come up with a name for your blog? Well, I have two blogs actually. The first blog is a memoir blog called Fifty in my Fiftieth, which I started in order to commemorate my fiftieth year on the planet. The name evoked the tag line: fifty posts in fifty weeks in my fiftieth year. Crazy Thrifty Crafts was something my older sister Sally and I brainstormed about. My family loves to make fun of how cheap, frugal, thrifty I am. Plus I love to make stuff. So we put those two things together and came up with Crazy Thrifty Crafts.

3. How did you learn how to blog? Self-taught mostly. My sister Sally has helped a lot cuz she's much more up to speed on social media than I am. So I'm still learning. Sally's also my editor and advisor, and I'm trying to talk her into being my literary agent. Of course, I don't think she'll be able to quit her day job on my dime, but who knows what the future holds, right?

4. What do you like to blog about? Since I have two blogs currently I get to write about a variety of things. The memoir blog has blossomed into what I like to call "A Practice in Gratitude." It's about looking back on my life and giving credit to those who have mentored me, taught me stuff, or just stood by me. And on Crazy Thrifty Crafts, I get to reveal my crazy side, which I love.

5. How do you come up with ideas to blog about? Are you kidding? I am floundering around constantly trying to figure out what to write about. I have tons of crafts that I want to do but don't have time to do. I could do endless posts on the unfinished projects at my house. I'm trying really hard to keep a sense of humor and give my readers (all two of them) a break from the usual fare.

6. How did you decide which blog hosting service to use? (Blogger or Word Press or...)  I have one blog on Blogger and one on Wordpress. Which, of course, makes it harder for me to really learn how to do any of the tech stuff. Not too savvy with that stuff yet. WordPress was the first one and I only chose it by default. I think it's the only one I really knew much about, but it seemed that most bloggers had a literary bent to them and since that's my memoir blog, that seemed fitting. Then when I started the crafting blog, it seemed like Blogger was the more popular ne oso I thought I'd give it a try.

7. What kind of camera do you use for your photos in your blog? I'm too embarrassed to tell you. My editor and literary agent has informed me that I have the worst photos this side of the blogosphere. She is going to help me upgrade so I can at least attempt to compete with the pros.

8. Does your family mind if they are included in your blog posts? Oops, you mean I'm supposed to ask them first? You know the old saying, if they can't take a joke, f#*! 'em.

9. How do you feel about having ads on your blog? I'd love to have ads. But I probably need more than 2 readers before anybody will want to buy ads from me. I'm thinking about adsense but would really love some feedback from other bloggers about it.

10. How often do you blog? I'm trying to stick with twice a week on Crazy Thrifty Crafts but it is not always possible. The memoir blog doesn't get that much attention. Writing really personal stuff like what's on my memoir blog seems to take longer and takes more soul searching, etc. I really want it to be honest and respectful. But I still want it to be readable. So, I don't know. Maybe some of you will go check it out so I can get some feedback about it: Fifty In My Fiftieth.

11. What advice would you give to new bloggers? I'm sooooo new at this myself, I wouldn't have a clue what to tell other newbies. I can't even take a photo worth a crap. I need to figure out how to make my own banner for cryin' out loud. It was all I could do to figure out how to put somebody's button on my page when I got featured. I have so much to learn! The only advice I would have is the same advice I give my voice students, "Don't be afraid to take up some space in the universe!"

My list of bloggers I'm tagging will take some of you crafters outside of the crafting world, perhaps even outside your comfort zones. So hang on tight! It's gonna be a bumpy ride!
The Traveling Spoon
The Stirring Place
tete-a-tete with Subhakar Das
Ladybug Creek
Twigg Studios
Imperfect Patina
Decorate with a Little Bit
Post-It Scribbles
Stories About My Life, 92% True
Nobody Knows What a Red-Headed Mommy Can Do

And here are the 11 questions I'm posing to my fellow bloggers:

1. What is it about blogging that you enjoy?
2. How much time do you spend blogging and all the other activities associated with blogging each week?
3. How old were you when you first fell in love and how did it happen?
4. Who was your favorite teacher in high school and why?
5. What kind of geek are you?
6. What is your favorite instrument to listen to?
7. What is your favorite food?
8. What profession or vocation, besides the one you are in now, would you most like to try and why?
9. What profession would you never want to try and why?
10. If you could choose to live at some other time and place in the past, when and where would it be?
And finally . . .
11. Boxers or briefs?

Thanks for TAGGING ME, Patty. It's been a lot of fun!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Learning from the masters

For the last few Saturdays, I have been learning from the masters.

I've always been a thrift store diva. I get a lot of clothes at thrift stores. I also get household items at thrift stores. For awhile, I was picking up mid-century items for pennies on the dollar and re-selling them at an antique store where I had space.

I've been wanting to branch out into auctions, estate sales, tag sales and garage sales for some time. But I decided I would need a mentor. Someone who could teach me the ropes, keep me from paying too much, help me to navigate through the crap to find the gems. Basically, someone who knows all about going through dead people's houses (the quote "going through dead people's houses" comes from Cheryl Wheeler's song "Estate Sale"; check out the YouTube video above; it says it all!]

My dear friend Eileen has been doing estate sales, auctions, tag sales, and garage sales for years, very successfully. I covet so many of the wonderful things she has found over the years. In particular, I covet two vintage folding card table sets that she found at a tag sale or auction. They are mid-century, real wood, blond and beautiful. They look like they belong in a Florida room in Hollywood, Florida. She only gets them out when we have euchre night at her house, but I adore these sets and desperately want one of my own.

Even though it's March in Ohio, because the weather has been so fabulous the sales have already begun. But how do I go about deciding which sales to go to? How far will I drive? What day should I go to a tag sale or estate sale? Here's a list of helpful hints I have learned from the masters, Eileen and her husband Brian.

Target Your Search--On Friday nights, Eileen and Brian are already hard at work going through the ads on Craigslist and in local papers to see what is happening on Saturday morning. They comb through pictures on Craigslist and, where pictures are absent, lists of items being sold to determine if the sale is worth going to. We all have certain things we're looking for: trains for Brian, china and small furniture pieces for me, jewelry or beading supplies for Eileen and me, etc. In full sale season, there are way too many sales to go to. Targeting your search helps you narrow the field of which sales to attend.
Know Your Neighborhoods--This is something that you only gain from experience. Eileen and Brian know what neighborhoods produce good sales from years of doing this. They also know which estate sale brokers have good sales. Hopefully, this wisdom will eventually come to me, but for now, I just follow their lead. What I've noticed is this: wealthy neighborhoods don't necessarily produce good sales. They might over-price their stuff, or they might have million dollar houses and cheap dime-store taste in furnishings. Yikes! Also, real moving sales can be a great place for really good deals. If they are serious about "everything must go," they are ready to negotiate prices big time.

Map Out Your Route--Once they have determined which sales we're going to, they print out detailed maps and an itinerary so we know which sales we're going to first and exactly what our route will be.

Be Flexible--Once the real garage sale season hits, you'll see signs along the way to other garage sales that were not listed or advertised. Don't be afraid to deviate from your plan. Eileen and Brian say some of their best finds have come from detours from their itinerary.

Negotiating Is Expected--These days, most people expect you to bargain with them on the prices they have marked at garage sales, moving sales etc. That may not always be the case on tag sales or estate sales. But with those, they usually slash prices on the last day of the sale, so if you are looking for a real bargain, go to estate sales or tag sales on the last day they are held. There isn't as much booty, but they are wheelin' and dealin' to get rid of the stuff that's left.
Eileen found this beautiful perfume bottle
at a garage sale.
I'm planning on going out again this Saturday as long as this crazy Spring weather in March holds.

Check out some of our finds from the last three weeks.
Shelves for my dining room deep enough to hold teapots.
$5 each at a moving sale! I'll definitely be
giving these a makeover.

Beautiful Bavarian and German antique china waiting
to be upcycled into a cake stand or jewelry stand.
$6 for all three.

Contemporary poinsettia plate from Portugal. $1 on the last
day of an estate sale.

Happy sales everyone!

This post has been shared with the following really cool sites:
Ladybird Ln Weekend Show Off
Shabby Creek Cottage Transformation Thursday
Savvy Southern Style Wow Us Wednesday
Simply Designing Simply Linky
Funky Junk Interiors Saturday Nite Special
Simple Home Life Simply Creations
Made in a Day Made U Look
Nifty Thrifty Things Nifty Thrifty Sunday
Twigg Studios Sunday Show Off Linky Party
DIY Home Sweet Home More the Merrier Monday
Boogie Board Cottage Masterpiece Monday
C.R.A.F.T. Making Monday Marvelous
Flour Me with Love Mix it up Monday
All Things Fee Calling All Crafters
Creating my Way to Success A Round Tuit
Skip to My Lou Made by You Monday
Our Delightful Home Show Me What You Got
Type A Decorating Anything Goes

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I love making soup!

I'm actually quite known for my soups. I've written a piece about it on my memoir blog called Soup's On because, to me, the act of making soup is an act of compassion and generosity, regardless of whether I'm making soup for myself or for someone else.

And soups are such a seasonal thing. That might be another reason I love them. I get in the mood for certain soups depending on what vegetables are in season. In the fall I want the comfort of root vegetables, whether creamed or made into hearty stews. Winters are for 15 bean soup, chili, or ham and bean. In the summer I want light soups like cold soups made from cucumbers or watermelon or gazpacho.

Well, it's Spring in Ohio which means there is an abundance of asparagus at the grocery stores. So when it finally goes on sale for $1.99/lb., I snatch a couple bunches up to make my famous cream of asparagus soup.

This soup is sooooo simple to make and leaves a lot of flexibility for making it your own, whether you are vegetarian or vegan, whether you want the soup to be a simple first course or a light meal accompanied with salad and a thick piece of crusty bread.

2 bunches of asparagus (I don't know exactly how much asparagus is in each bunch; you can see in this pic that one bunch is a handful of asparagus)
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 Cups sliced fresh mushrooms, lightly sauteed (optional)
6 Cups stock (if you're vegetarian, then all vegetable stock, if not, I combine chicken and veggie stock)
good curry seasoning
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup of evaporated milk (if you're vegan, replace vanilla and milk with 1/2 Cup vanilla soy milk; it makes it oh so yummy!)
salt and pepper

There really isn't much to this soup . . . that is, besides prepping the asparagus. But don't be daunted by this task, it will make the soup so much smoother if you do it.

I use the thicker asparagus for this dish because I want some meaty stalks in order to make this soup thick and rich. But thick asparagus has stringy skin, so I need to peel it. I know it's a pain, but it is totally worth it so take the time to do it. You'll be happy you did. Then I chop the asparagus into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces, reserving the tips and setting them aside. The asparagus tips will be added much later so that there are pieces of asparagus to bite into.

I saute the onions in some olive oil; olive oil just cuz it adds another layer of flavor.

Then I add all the stock at once and the chopped asparagus. Bring it up to a boil and lower it to simmer and cover it until the asparagus is cooked within an inch of its life. How long this takes depends on how fresh the asparagus is, how thick it is, etc. Keep an eye on it. When the asparagus pieces are literally falling apart on their own when you barely touch them with a wooden spoon, then it's done.

About halfway through that cooking time, whatever it is, I add the curry. I can't tell you how much curry to add. Dried curry seasonings vary so much depending on where they come from. Some are hotter; some are spicier. I start with a heaping teaspoon full and then start tasting it and adding more til i get it where I want it. Some people don't like a lot of curry. But since it is the primary (almost exclusive) spice in the soup, I like to be generous with the curry.

Once the asparagus is cooked til its mush, it's time to use the hand blender on it to smooth out all the asparagus chunks.

This is the point at which you want to TASTE YOUR SOUP! Tasting soups is essential to making good soup. If the soup doesn't taste good at this point, it never will, so make sure you're where you want to be with curry, salt and pepper right now before going forward.

Then it's time to add the asparagus and sauteed mushrooms. I add mushrooms to this soup when I want to make this soup a little heartier. This time I used baby portabella mushrooms. I have used shitake mushrooms or chopped portabella mushrooms. If I decide I'm adding mushrooms, I usually put in a good boatload of them so the soup is hearty. But the soup DOES NOT NEED MUSHROOMS! It is so rich and delicious, it can stand on its own with just the tops of the asparagus.

As the asparagus and mushrooms are cooking, I grate fresh nutmeg over the soup. Why? Because anything with mushrooms deserves a little nutmeg.

It only takes 5 minutes of simmering or cooking for the asparagus tips to become tender. As soon as that happens, I add the evaporated milk and vanilla. I know it's not much milk, but the asparagus makes this soup so rich to begin with, you don't need much. The vanilla just adds another layer of richness to this soup. The vegan option of vanilla soy milk works really well too. The first time I made this soup, I used vanilla soy milk cuz it's all I had in the frig at the time, and it turned out delicious.

This soup is a favorite of my mom. So I ladled some into a container with a lid and drove over to her house so she'd have some for her dinner.

This post has been shared with the follow incredible sites:
Skip to My Lou Made by You Mondays
DIY Home Sweet Home More the Merrier Monday
Flour Me with Love Mix it up Monday
Creating My Way to Success A Round Tuit
Boogieboard Cottage Masterpiece Monday
Nifty Thrifty Things Nifty Thrifty Sunday
Cooking with Karyn Things That Make You Go Mmmmm!
C.R.A.F.T. Making Monday Marvelous
Coastal Charm Nifty Thrifty Tuesday
Domestically Speaking Spring Linky Party

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One down, one to go . . .

I'm supposed to be making jewelry. I have a jewelry show coming up and if I don't make some more jewelry by the end of ths month, my jewelry-makin' buddy is gonna be real pissed at me.

And yet instead . . . . I am drawn . . . to the irresistible allure . . . .

of decoupage!!!!!!

You remember how this piece looked when I brought it home, right--my sister's IKEA-purchased stereo cabinet cast-off? She put it on her front porch and then it mysteriously ended up in the back of my jeep. It had two shelves, a cardboard back with holes in it, and a cabinet door with a cheap wooden knob and big marks where tape had ripped off the veneer.

I decided it was the perfect size to fit in the corner beside my piano and hold a bunch of piano books.

But clearly it would need a total makeover that would have to include . . . wait for it . . .


So I decided to paint it black first. I removed the cardboard back and used it as a tempalte to cut out a new back out of a good sturdy melamine-type material.

God knows the whole thing just had to be a cheap friggin' laminate material over particle board, which meant I had to at least rough it up with some sandpaper before I could prime it with my deep base primer, all the while being careful not to rough it up too much, cuz this cheap-ass laminate was so thin I could take it off with sandpaper alone.

But here it is after two coats of dark primer and two coats of black paint. You can't even tell it was laminate, huh.

Then, I could finally get to the decoupaging. I picked out some old classical piano music that was seriously yellowing and fraying on the edges. I couldn't really play it any more and most of it I had newer, fresher copies of anyway. But I worried that because it was so old the paper would fall apart or wrinkle once saturated with Mod Podge.

So I hopped on over to Mod Podge Rocks for some good advice on how to manage wrinkles. With Amy's help I decided to lightly spray the pages with polyurethane before decoupaging them onto the backboard. It totally worked! I didn't have any wrinkles at all and very few bubbles to contend with. Thanks Amy! [Another note: when I am layering paper in a decoupage collage like this, I usually wait a little while between each layer so the base Mod Podge dries a little before I put the next layer on top of the first.] You can see in the picture on the right that only two of the pages have wet glue underneath. These were the last pages to go on.

Once all the glue was dry, and before globbing layers of Mod Podge on top, I trimmed the edges of the sheet music off.

Then it was time to start the layering and layering of Mod Podge to smooth over the edges, frayed and yellowed though they are. My last couple coats of Mod Podge I tend to water down the Mod Podge a WHOLE LOT, at least when I'm doing a flat horizontal surface like this. That way, the Mod Podge pools, covering up any ridges on the layers underneath and leaving a nice smooth final surface with NO SANDING BETWEEN COATS REQUIRED.

Ahhhhhh, I heart decoupage!

All that was left to do was get a nice new glass knob for the door, tack the back onto the shelf and put the shelves back in place.

Don't forget, I have another similar shelf unit I picked up at a garage sale that has to go through its makeover yet. Then I will decide which one I am keeping and which one I am selling. So far, I really like the black one.

But as they say, it ain't over til the fat lady sings! [Actually, I sing all the time, so maybe that idiom doesn't really work here.]

I'm linking up to the following fabulous sites:
Ladybird Ln Weekend Show Off
Blue Cricket Design Show and Tell
Savvy Southern Style Wow Us Wednesdays
The Shabby Creek Cottage Transformation Thursday
Uncommon Designs Uncommonly Yours
Simply Designing Friday Link Party
The Girl Creative
Skip to My Lou Made by You Mondays
All Things Fee Calling All Crafters
Flour Me with Love Mix it up Monday
DIY Home Sweet Home More the Merrier Monday
Creating My Way to Success A Round Tuit
Boogieboard Cottage Masterpiece Monday
Nifty Thrifty Things Nifty Thrifty Sunday
C.R.A.F.T. Making Monday Marvelous
Type A Decorating

Sunday, March 11, 2012

First seeds are in the ground!

Here's the other thing I find unbelievably satisfying . . .
Getting my hands in the dirt. Turning, digging, hoeing, planting, pruning . . . something about this type of physical labor quiets my crazy mind.

A few years back, my friends started joining CSAs--Community Supported Agriculture projects wherein you buy a "share" of a local farm and they provide you with weekly deliveries of produce throughout the season. These CSAs are great options for us city-dwellers. You get to know your farmer and their practices and you usually get a good variety of vegetables throughout the season.

But when I sat down and crunched the numbers--remember the "cheap" part of the tagline--and took into consideration that I love gardening anyway, I figured out that I could take the cost of one year of a CSA share, invest it into my inner-city backyard, and end up with years and years of vegetables at a fraction of the cost that my friends were spending on CSAs every year.

So I built my own raised vegetable beds. I used simple redwood 4 ft. fencing material and redwood 2" x 2" stakes to build 6, 4' X 4' raised beds in my backyard. The beds are two pieces of fence tall. Each corner steak is 8 inches longer than the box so that pounding them into the ground would help anchor the bed and keep the top from bowing out once filled with soil. I used galvanized fence screws to screw the fence pieces into the corner stakes. Screws instead of nails so that if one broke or rotted in a few years, I could replace them where they sit without pulling the whole thing out of the ground.

The initial investment was roughly $300.00 and that includes the material to fill them. Not long after I built these, a similar snap-together plastic product was being sold at area home stores for $100 per 4' X 4' bed. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, is as satisfying to me as 1) building it myself, and 2) building it for far less money out of a natural product.

Every year I add a little something to each bed. Some years it's compost, some years a little manure, some years more rich soil, or peat. And then I rotate crops and try new things from year to year. These beds don't give me an enormous amount of space so it's a little hard to do things that crawl, like squashes, melons, pumpkins. but I can get a surprising amount of yield out of my little plots.

Then, in addition to the regular season, I bought 2 portable greenhouses online so that I can extend the growing season. This year, I probably could have put the greenhouses out a month ago. We've hardly even had anything that resembled a real winter in Ohio this year.

Today's project. Get 2 of the 6 beds prepared for the greenhouses and plant some cold weather crops.

4 kinds of lettuce
a variety of radishes

This post has been shared with the following fabulous sites:

DIY Home Sweet Home More the Merrier Monday
All Things Fee Calling All Crafters
Boogie Board Cottage Masterpiece Monday
Skip to my Lou Made by You Mondays
Today's Creative Blog Get Your Craft On
Nifty Thrifty Things Nifty Thrifty Sunday

Saturday, March 10, 2012

An embarrassment of riches . . .

At least that's what it is to this cheap girl. I got one for free and one for $3 at a garage sale.

First, the free one came from my sister. She gave me her old stereo shelf unit. It's an old IKEA laminated thing with a small cabinet door at the bottom and shelves above. It had a cardboard back with holes to punch out where your stereo cords would be threaded.

I accepted her gift graciously because I thought I could upcycle it into a sheet music shelf. It's just the right width to hold sheet music and music books and just the right height to sit beside my piano.

My plan is to paint it black and replace the cardboard backing with a more substantial back that I can then decoupage with old sheet music.

Then at last week's garage sales I found a similar shelf unit for $3, not quite as wide and a little taller. Again, the back was just a cardboard material that had been ruined. This one had a small drawer at the top and was probably originally intended to go in a bathroom. It was in excellent condition except for the back, and I believe at one time it probably had a cabinet door across the front.

Anyway, it too is the perfect width to be a music shelf.

So now I have my choice. I'm going to transform both of them. I probably won't paint the white one since it is in good condition, but both units will get new backs that I'll decoupage with old sheet music. Then whichever one I like the best I will keep. The other will probably get sold to the parent of one of my piano students.

Stay tuned for the transformation.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More fun with strawberries

New Englanders love a good muffin. And yes, that includes a good muffin top. A moist, not-too-sweet morning quickie that can be touchy to make but, when perfected, can fill your belly up with warmth and love.

I learned to appreciate a good muffin working in New England while in college and after. The typical muffins were represented there of course . . . cranberry, blueberry, since those fruits come from that region anyway. My favorite was the bran muffin.

But yesterday morning I was staring at those 8 jars of strawberry preserves (yeah, that's down from 15; I've already given some away), and thought, why couldn't I use those preserves in a muffin, not just on one.

So here's my recipe for Strawberry Preserves Oatmeal Muffins:

1 1/3 Cup unbleached flour
2/3 Cup whole wheat flour (this is optional; you can use all white flour if you want for a total of 2 Cups)
1 Cup sugar
1/3 Cup uncooked oats (I use quick oats but any rolled oats would do)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 Cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.

In another bowl mix:

1/2 pint of strawberry preserves
rind and juice from one med. orange
1/4 Cup of canola oil
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spray your muffin pan or you'll be sorry.

Now, you know the trick to perfect muffins, right? Well, here it is if you don't. It has to do with how you mix the dry and wet ingredients and for how long.

Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Take your rubber spatula and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gently. AS SOON AS IT IS ALL MOIST, STOP! No, STOP! STOP MIXING!

This batter is pretty thick, so spoon a good amount into the muffin tins filling them to 3/4 full at least. Then sprinkle them all with some more sugar to get you that crunchy sweet muffin top and bake for 15-18 minutes. Just keep looking at them. When they are a golden brown around the muffin top and spring back when you press in the middle, they are done, get them out quick.

Here's the reason for the mania about mixing the batter:

If you don't stop mixing the minute all the ingredients are moist, then you start activating the gluten in the flour and you DO NOT WANT THAT!

When you activate the gluten in the flour of a muffin, you screw with EVERYTHING that is good about a muffin: moistness, sponginess, and ever-so-gently puffy muffin tops. When you mix or stir too much, you get lopsided muffin tops that look like they are a bad 8th grade science project meant to  mimic a volcano, or cone-shaped muffin tops that look like a conical bra from a bad Madonna video.

If you really want the total New England muffin experience, slice your cooled muffin in half, slather a generous amount of butter on each side, then lay it face down onto a hot griddle for a couple minutes. What you end up with is a toasted buttery outside and a warm steamy inside. If you are a really decadent New Englander, you put even more butter on it before you eat it.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Antique China and Glass Jewelry Stands

This is how it happens.

I do one craft . . . in this case, the cake stands.

Then the idea starts to evolve.

And the next thing I know . . .

I find myself at garage sales, antique malls, and flea markets looking for odds and ends china and glass pieces to help make my vision reality. And before I know it . .

. . . what started out as a cake stand . . .

. . . has morphed into a jewelry stand . . .

A Rose Chintz demitasse cup and saucer on top of a . . .
Cut glass votive on top of a . . .
Haviland china plate on top of a . . .
Crystal vase

And all it took was my handy-dandy tube of 100% silicone glue. Lock up your china girls. It's not safe around me.

Zajecar Yugoslavian demitasse cup and saucer on top of a . . .
Cut glass votive on top of an . . .
Ironstone Shakespearean Cottage Plate on top of a . . .
Cut glass vase for the base.

Haviland Limoge demitasse cup and saucer on top of a . . .
Cut glass votive on top of a . . .
Haviland Limoge plate on top of a . . .
Crystal vase for a base.

And then just for fun I made a compote and candy dish . . .

This post has been shared on Skip to My Lou Made by You Mondays, Today's Creative Blog Get Your Craft OnAll Things Fee Calling All Crafters. Mod Vintage Life Mod Mix Mondays, and A Round Tuit,
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

For my habitat and yours

I finally checked out the Habitat for Humanity Restore they opened not far from my house. I've been meaning to go there for awhile. The community choir that I sing with helped build a Habitat House here in town so I've supported the organization in other ways. And you know how I love a bargain.

A couple weeks ago a windy day laid waste to the storm door on the side of my house. The frame of the door blew completely apart, but the storm windows were still in perfect condition. Since the new door I bought to replace it came with storm windows, I put the old storm windows in my car and drove over to the Restore to donate them and take a look around.

If you have a Habitat Restore near you, get there quickly cuz it is full of good bargains. I looked at the section with doors hoping I might find a replacement for my front door. I rummaged around where there were scads of knobs and hinges and picked out a knob to go on my new sheet music cabinet.

Then I spent considerable time in the paint aisle opening up $1 quarts of pre-mixed paints til I found 4 that I could use, including the black I'll use on the music cabinet project. Plus I bought a few cans of spray paint.

And as I headed for the cash register, I spotted them . . . stacks and stacks of commercial carpet tiles . . . literally hundreds of them. Most were 2 ft. X 2 ft. And as I started picking up tiles here and there, leafing through them to see the selection, I saw the colors in my living room staring up at me. They were saying, "Yes! You need me! You need an area rug to go over those newly re-finished hardwood floors. You need a rug your dog can happily drag her belly around on in order to give herself a good scratchin."

So I picked three different colors/patterns to mix and match and just taped them together with duct tape, the tape of a thousand uses. I put a 1/4 inch carpet pad underneath for a little extra cush. The tiles were $2 each. The carpet pad was $15.

Hello! I am loving my new area rug. And as for the dog, I think the new rug makes up for the fact that I made her wear homemade dog sweaters this winter.