Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Somewhat Wordless on Barely-Still Wednesday: TAST Stitching Samples weeks 5-8 {Gail}

Due to some technical issues and the fact that Sam and I had a big day away planned for today, I'm barely sneaking this in on Wednesday!

I got behind stitching due to some travel and some procrastination, so I spent the last couple of days catching up -- you'll notice I switched from icy cold January blues to cheerful pinks, purples, and reds for February warm hearts!

I've been a chain stitch doodler since I was a teen!
This was a no brainer for me, and another way to practice my
papercrafting embellishment doodling.
I skipped the French Knot dots since we haven't been officially introduced.

My doodle cloth for February's 4 weeks of stitches.
I really liked the way that the two-color Herringbone Stitch ended up
looking very very PLAID!
Spacing is a skill to work on.

Happy Stitching!

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday {Sam}

It’s impossible for me to write nothing, but I’ll try to limit my wordiness on this fine Wednesday.  I am a photographer, full time now too.  That is where the bulk of my creative energy goes.  Usually though, that energy goes into clients.  While this is awesome and I love what I do, I thought I’d post on some creative energy I spent on myself.  The first is a series of self portraits, every single one of which I experimented with in post-production.  Then there are a couple goofs, my happy family, and things that inspire me both subject wise and photographically…. 
(Click on photos to view larger versions)

What is your favorite photo?  I’d appreciate any feedback on my experimenting in the comments below!

For more of my daily photos you can check out my photo challenge here.
And you can view my “work” here.  J

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dice it, Broth it, Soup it! {Sam}

Ok… yeah… the title is a little lame, but I’ve got 2get creative because we still have so many more to go!  It does make sense though, I’ve got two soups for you: ‘Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Soup’ which I made last week, and ‘Albondigas Soup’ which I made yesterday.  Both of which are quite broth-y soups with lots of diced vegetable action!  (Remember, if you want to make some of these soup recipes, the cookbook is 300 Sensational Soups).

The ‘Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Soup’ – quite a mouthful of a title, and to eat, come to think of it ;) – is a great basic soup!  Broth, fortified with onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, spices and turkey bones for a while.  Plus, lots of leftover chopped turkey and frozen peas!  Garnish with some fresh parsley and voila!  A good-for-you, easy, hearty basic soup!  I would definitely make this again – a good substitute for chicken noodle in my opinion!

This recipe made a lot of soup!!  Both hubby and I had it for dinner, he had seconds.  We both ate it for lunch the next day, and dinner the day after that and then I froze the rest into 4 additional meals for both of us!

Onto Albondigas!  In parentheses the cookbook says ‘Mexican Meatball Soup.’  It features mini meatballs that have fresh chopped mint in them.  They are delicious!  I would highly recommend them.  However, I do have some qualms with this recipe overall.  It’s a little bland.  I liked that it was light and broth-y, but it didn’t have much flavor.  I probably could have made it better with better broth (I bought what was on sale – oops, lesson learned for next time).  But I thought the jalapenos, carrots, onion, tomatoes and oregano would have added more flavor.  It does have cabbage in it too, by the way, which was yummy, but I didn’t expect it to add much to the flavor.  Cilantro and a little vinegar at the end made it a little better, but I still ended up adding more salt, pepper, and some Tabasco to get it up to more of an enjoyable level.  If I had time for more research on other recipes on this soup I might have been able to make it even better, but I didn’t… so it was what it was.

And I hope I’m not making it sound terrible… because it wasn’t, both hubby and I were satisfied with dinner, especially the meatballs (which btw, were half venison half beef), but if I were to make it again I might look for a recipe outside this cookbook and make modifications from there.

While the soup wasn’t all I had hoped it would be, the wine certainly made my night a little better!  ;)

Still looking forward to more soups, but I’m thinking I might do a stock recipe next after my experience with the chicken stock I used for Albondigas!

Happy Soup-ing!


Friday, February 17, 2012

What makes a Chowder a Chowder? {Gail}

Sweet potatoes are best friends with
onions and poblano peppers in
this soup's flavor!
Another soup! Spicy Sweet Potato Chowder lives up to the Spicy part of its name for those of you who like a little kick to your food. It would be easy to cut it back the spiciness, but the creamy starchiness of the sweet potatoes and the actual cream in the soup temper it well, after the initial hit of heat. Even though I’m a bit of a sissy about super-spicy things I enjoyed the play of hot/not in each biteful. 

Poblano and Pasilla peppers have
such a lovely glossy (green!) look
We are able to purchase bacon
end cuts; packaged small for the
freezer, they are so handy! This will
be trimmed up and diced for
a nice crunchy salty topping!

...lay them down and dice! Safely!
Isn't that a terrific orange?
That means it's good for you!
Be safe dicing hard sweet potatoes.
Cut into manageable segments,
then cut in half to get flat bottoms.
Slice the halves if needed,
while they are standing up, then...

It's time for another picture of cooking onions!
These are mixed with the pasilla peppers
I had to substitute for the poblanos.
After this you add broth and sweet potatoes,
then simmer for 15 minutes.
Chowders are cream-based, and
this is no exception. Sometimes you
trade YUM for health standards.
NEVER let liquids bubble after
adding milk products!


I’d have to give this soup just an “OK” since it didn’t really live up to its chowder name. Even on reheating, it hadn’t thickened up from the potato starch; it was – is – still just potato and stuff in cream broth. Which is good, (and currently making my nose run since it got spicier as reheated spicy things will do), but I’m not sure I’d make it again. So sad, because I really like sweet potato foods, and the bacon sprinkle is fun to bite into.
***EDIT*** This soup was REALLY good a couple days later, after taking the immersion blender to it and adding some necessary salt. YUM YUM! Thick, creamy, spicy; just what I wanted on a cold dreary day! Really good. really.

Spicy Sweet Potato Chowder with bacon on top.
More about the rest of the dinner coming right up...

I served this soup alongside some baked salt/pepper pork chops topped with my own mango salsa and some steamed green beans. It was a good combo, and the meal deserves it’s own color scheme!

Baked pork chops (I'd have preferred grilled chicken, I think)
and steamed green beans on the platter
PLUS my mango salsa (right below)

Mango salsa: diced mango, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro
seasoned with salt and lime juice
(that's a lime juice ice cube melting in the red bowl)
 A little mango magic for you: Slice two slabs off the flatter sides (the seed inside is like a giant lima bean). Get as much mango as you can from what's left around the seed, then... follow the pictures!   

Slice a grid without cutting
through the skin.

Turn the skin inside out and use a small knife
to slice off row after row of diced mango!

If you’re looking for a Spicy Sweet Potato SOUP, or want to change up the recipe a bit and mash the potatoes or thicken it, this would be a really great starting point. Find the recipe in our cooking project book: 300 Sensational Soups. But its not chowder to me as it stands. I even looked up the word chowder just to make sure.

I might take my stick blender to the leftovers. Hmmm...


Fabric Heart Tags: Written Instructions {Gail}


Supplies I used:
Fabric for front and back of tags in various pinks and reds
Fabric for the “banner” where you write the sentiment in very light pink
Thin batting (Warm and White)
Disappearing fabric marking pen, chalk pencil
Pinking shears, scissors
Freezer paper
Bottles of acrylic craft paint (white, light/med pink, dark pink)
Stiff flat edged paint brush
Permanent markers to write sentiments
          I liked Micron Brush marker and Zig Memory Writer narrow end best.
Embellishments, such as buttons, ribbon or trim. etc.
Hanging loop: narrow ribbon, cording, floss, elastic cord, etc.
Straight pins
Sewing machine with pink all purpose thread (I used a darker color of pink in the bobbin) and a size 80/12 or 90/14 Universal or Sharp needle

Fabric Prep:
1.     With heart template and disappearing marker or chalk, trace heart shape onto fabrics and batting. It is easier to mark batting by using dots around the template instead of drawing a line. If your template is asymmetrical, turn it over when tracing onto backing fabric. Don’t forget to take a look at the reverse side of your fabric – you can use it, too.
2.     Cut out fabric using pinking shears. I like to cut the fabric just to the outside of the marked line and the batting on or just inside the line so it doesn’t stick out very far. You can trim things later if needed.
3.     Tear one crosswise edge of banner fabric starting at least 1/2” up from cut edge; try again at least ½” up if you didn’t get a good tear all the way across. Clip selvage about 1” up from torn edge and tear a 1” strip to use. Cut off selvages, then pull the loosest threads away. Press flat, then press onto the shiny side of freezer paper taking care to cover freezer paper with another sheet of something so shiny stuff doesn’t melt onto iron.

4.     With lightest and dark shade of paint, dip wet brush into both colors, one color on each corner, picking up about twice as much light color as dark if your fabric is light. In an empty area of your palette work the brush back and forth to spread the colors into the brush. Add water if needed. Leaving as much paint behind as possible, touch brush to scrap cloth to dry for an instant.  Brush fabric very lightly in parallel strokes with paintbrush already in motion before it touches fabric. Keep brush just whispering across the surface as much as possible. Don’t go for full coverage, just get a textured look. I then went back with full-strength light pink paint and a dry brush to add Hardly Any extra highlights. For added visual texture, go back and “kiss” the fabric here and there using watered down medium tone paint (blend your paints) and a dry brush. Let dry. Cover with scrap paper and press to heat set. 
5.     Using light shade of paint (I used the med pink), very watered down, and a damp brush, highlight front heart fabric. Try not to saturate fabric. You can go back in and do more, but you can’t do less ;)  Use a clean wet brush to dampen disappearing ink lines. When dry, cover and heat set.

Very watered down acrylic craft paint, for highlighting fabric heart pieces.
      Banner writing
6.     Select any embellishments you might want to use, such as buttons.
7.     Experiment with pens on the end of banner fabric strip – ink will bleed on unpainted parts, use a light touch. Mark out a length to use for each heart (clip it out of the strip if you want but leave it on freezer paper backing). Write sentiments. I like to practice writing just before I do this to get the right sizing: outline a space on scrap paper the same size as your fabric area, place any embellishments you need to work around, and practice writing your words a few times, remembering to use a light touch and leave space for the ink to spread.

Stack up the layers. Batting can be cut with pinking shears and peek out the edges of the finished tag,
or it can be trimmed smaller so you rarely see it, as on the left.
Don't get too precise; these are a simple, quick project and casual look.

Stitching it all together
8.     Set machine to narrow zigzag and 20 st/in (1.2mm). Zigzag top and bottom edges of banner strip to front heart piece, leaving ends unsecured. Clip threads at both ends after evening up the tension if bobbin thread shows on top, to 1/8-1/4”. Stack three layers, pin parallel to the edges ½” tin all the way around. Shorter pins work best for these small areas. Place pins with the points pointing counter-clockwise!
9.     Set machine to straight stitch, 12-15 st/in (2-2.5mm). Starting at bottom corner, stitch about 1/8” to 1/4” away from edge. Every so often, backstitch about 1/4 inch: stitch forward and backstitch to “sketch” the border of the heart in stitching. This makes going around curves really easy! Also place fingertip in center of heart lobe and anchor it to help your machine stitch the curve. 
10.                        At the inside corner, stitch past point several stitches, then reverse one stitch at a time, testing for the correct pivot point. When you find the right point, stitch backwards one or two stitches, then continue forward around second lobe. This gives the inner point a sketched look, too. If you want to skip the sketchy look, mark your pivot point with marking pen.
11.                        To end, stitch to the corner, meeting up with starting stitches; pivot and stitch over starting stitches ¼” then reverse to corner. Clip all 4 threads to ¼” long and leave loose.

See previous post for a quick and easy way to use your machine to stitch down buttons!

12.                        Touch all ends of stitching lines with fray blocking product if desired. Stitch by hand or machine to add embellishiments. Stitch on elastic or ribbon hanging loop just below point of heart on back.
13.                        TA DAAAA! Fabric heart tags to use for whatever you think of!

© Gail Colvin 2012 Please credit if using directions for mention or project.