Saturday, March 13, 2010

Feeling nostalgic and crafty

A few weeks ago, I found this gorgeous book in Acme Gift in Aggieville. After spending a great afternoon catching up with a friend from Nebraska at Bluestem Bistro, I ran through Acme on my way to meeting Jeremy for an evening work activity.

The Pattern Sourcebook just jumped off the shelf at me. Not too long before I had been working on a scrapbooking project and began to muse about the paper patterns and how combinations of solids and patterns began to help a project take shape. This book is essentially a collection of mostly fabric patterns, but also some patterns from china and dinnerware. The examples span the decades and the book even includes items from my favorite decades - the 30's and 40's.

This beautiful sourcebook made me think about an old family photo album we have at the house. It was a gift from my third cousin who has identified a few of the family members, but most are anonymous and most stare seriously at the camera. There are a few gems in this album - like the photo of two grandmotherly looking women with a little boy standing between with his tongue sticking out! There is also a family picture that looks as if the photographer took the photo too early and everyone seems to not be ready, except the baby. I am trying to find the best way to reproduce the photos - any ideas?

My favorite things about the album is the inside cover. The fabric pattern is pretty amazing and I have no idea if it is original. The best part is that the fabric has folds that are pockets - very ingenious!

I also love the detail on the pages that hold the photos. There is a whole exhibit at The Beach Museum of Art on the K-State campus that features Gail Gregg's work. The exhibit is cast off scrapbooks and photo albums the artist has collected from flea markets, estate sales, etc. artfully arranged.

The exhibit and my own review of my family scrapbook this morning sparked some feelings of nostalgia. My grandparent's estate sale is quickly approaching and will take three weekends in April. Avid collectors and my grandpa a frequent auction goer, there promises to be so many interesting finds and plenty of junk. I am on the look out for two main things that belonged to my grandma - one a gift from me to her when I was in college and purchased a framed photograph called "Grandma's Quilt" from a local artist. The other is a glassware chicken on a nest. I always loved those chickens and loved that the nests had candy at Easter! I will also be on the look out for boxes of photographs. It is always a heartbreaker to see old family photos go for pennies at auctions.

The outside of the family album is worth mentioning, too. The cover has a nature scene with a bugling moose. The back is a green velvet fabric. The clasp is an intricate gold fastener. What a unique package! I am thinking very hard about how to use scanned images of the photos for a project and how to display this treasure more prominently in our home. Your ideas for incorporating the family photos and album pages into a project and your good wishes for happy bidding at our family's auction are welcomed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Something else I love

Where Women Create highlights "inspiring work spaces of creative women." I am just a little bit in love with their regular bits of beautiful artwork by women with a motivational theme delivered weekly via e-mail. The most recent by Lisa Kaus has me a little deeper in love.

Check out her website with beautiful pieces of art - some incorporating found objects, all elegant and inspirational. I think her work speaks to my love of items that have been loved and repurposed...a little nod to junky and a whole lot of elegance. How can that juxtaposition work? She makes it work beautifully.

If you are wondering about the bread worked out very well. The knock-off pot held up to the heat and a beautiful rustic loaf of bread emerged. It was just as tasty and easy as promised. The crust is crunchy and flaky and the inside is soft and chewy.
My husband was skeptical of the whole process - even more so when he found the laptop open to the blog showing the four year old making the bread.
Next weekend, we make homemade whole wheat spaghetti.

Catching up

Schedules have prevented me from trying new recipes, new kitchen gadgets, and just having time to make something that varies from the usual menu of meals. This weekend was a flurry of kitchen experiments.

Experiment 1: KitchenAid pasta press
Over the winter break, Jeremy and I caught up on DVR and watched an episode of Martha Stewart Living where she demonstrated (and gave away!) this little wonder. It is the latest KitchenAid attachment and makes spaghetti, large and small macaroni, bucatini, rigatoni, and fusilli. We found it on Williams Sonoma and Jer ordered it for our anniversary gift. It was back ordered for three months and arrived during my busiest travel time. This weekend, my dad and oldest niece visited and we tried out the fusilli with a homemade tomato sauce - delicious fresh pasta.

Experiment 2: Oatmeal cookies
Ok, so this is nothing new for me, but apparently, my husband has never eaten an oatmeal cookie. He said that they always sounded gross and they did not have oatmeal in Western Kansas. I think we converted him with this recipe that is chewy (even after sitting on a plate for some time) and crunchy on the outside.

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
raisins or nuts (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, cream together white sugar, butter, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda,and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. If you are using nuts or raisins, mix into dough, combining well. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough into balls, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.Makes approx. 36-60 cookies, depending on how large or small you make them.


Experiment #3: Ham and egg cups
Our chickens are producing so well that we have a lot of eggs on hand. While looking for a new breakfast idea, I found the ham and egg cup recipe on a blog

Ham & Egg Cups

12 slices of deli ham
12 eggs
grated cheese
chopped basil

1. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Line each cup with a slice of deli ham (I asked that they not be sliced too thin...and had rather hefty slices this time).
3. Break an egg gently into each ham cup. Season with salt and pepper...sprinkle with chopped basil (or chives or your herb of choice).
4. Bake at 350' F for about 15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven...and top each egg with grated cheese (cheddar or Parmesan)...and bake for 5 minutes longer.
6. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

I used ramekins instead of muffin cups. The ramekins worked great! I also increased cooking time by 5 minutes and the yolks were much more firm than they seemed in the picture, but still good. The ham we used was also much more thinly sliced and the edges were a little crispy (ok, burnt black), but easily removed.


Experiment #4: No knead bread
The website promises that it is so easy a four year old can make it. I am feeling the pressure because the author even posted pictures of her four year old son making the bread! We are at the second proofing stage when the dough is napping in a floured towel. The recipe seems very straight forward and we will see if my knock off Le Creuset pot holds up to the 450 degree oven.

Fresh baked bread in approximately two hours!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homemade valentines

Just wanted to show off my Valentine's Day card designs. I was inspired by Impress, a rubber stamping and paper company in Washington. Check out their website for some great card ideas and pay special attention to how they use punches.
The paper is all Creative Memories, including the cute floral paper ribbon - my new scrapbooking, gift wrapping and card making obsession.

Catching up and feeling overwhelmed

Overwhelmed might be the word of the season. Too much to do and too little time. However, the lengthening days are a welcomed reprieve from the cold and darkness. It begins to seem like we have more time to work through the growing to do list.

Our local produce market, Eastside and Westside Markets in Manhattan, had these beautiful leather bracelets on their counter during a recent trip to pick up our favorite locally produced honey. Masie and my mom picked the bracelets with the four small flowers and Masie selected the bracelet with the purple flower for McKenzy. These were my belated Valentine's Day gifts. (Catching get the idea.)
One of Jeremy's co-workers knit this beautiful scarf out of alpaca fiber from Scout, Blue and Manny. It is really lovely and so very soft. She did a beautiful job with the stitches and I am so happy to have something complete.