Sunday, October 30, 2011

canned broth personally offends me

Since our condo complex neighbors wouldn't appreciate a heaping pile of compost in my backyard, I'm still trying to find ways to reuse food scraps.  By far, my most successful endeavor since learning how to regenerate scallions, was figuring out how to make my own chicken broth.  It starts with a giant tupperware container that I keep in the freezer and periodically fill with dinner scraps.  Things you'll find in my freezer stock pot:

     -  Carrot peels and ends
     -  Celery scraps and leaves (especially the leaves)
     -  Onion ends and skins
     -  Garlic ends and skins
     -  Parsley shoots
     -  Leftover chicken parts (bones, skin, fatty pieces that are trimmed off)

Once the tupperware container is full, fill a dutch oven with water and dump the block in - I don't even defrost it first.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and a few bay leaves.  

Bring it to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Leave it there for a 2-3 hours.  Strain the solids out and retain the liquid.  You'll be left with beautifully golden chicken stock that blows away the flavorless stuff they sell in a can.   

After trying homemade broth, we're ruined for the canned stuff.  There's no going back.  It has revolutionized my risotto and changed the face of every soup in my repertoire.  It's that tasty.  Best of all, it's made entirely of things that would have been thrown out.  Keeping in mind that it's made of scraps that could have been garbage, how do the processed brands get away with charging so much for it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

a school of fish

One of my favorite ex-coworkers has a baby coming in mid-November.  She decided to do things the old fashioned way and be surprised by the gender on the little one's birthday.  That means I needed a baby-gender-neutral craft project to mark the occasion.  After trolling her registry, I found that her nursery theme is animals, specifically fish and turtles. Conveniently enough, I didn't see a mobile on the list.  Bingo!

School of Fish Baby Mobile Tutorial

Fabric scraps
Felt scraps
Cardboard or paper
2 embroidery hoops of different sizes
Embroidery floss
Sewing machine (or infinite patience)
Scissors/rotary fabric cutter

1) Nest the embroidery hoops together and lash them together with embroidery floss.  Knot tightly and tidy loose ends by securing with hot glue.
2) For the plushie fish, make pattern pieces for your fabric.  I wish I could give you a template but I'm not gifted enough with computer sketching programs to make one.  You can see the pieces that I used throughout the tutorial.  I used fabric for the body of the fish and felt for all of the fins.  In general, you'll need to: 
     - Cut two each per fish: top half of the fish, bottom half of the fish and side fin 
     - Cut one each per fish: top fin and tail fin.  
3) Start by matching up the top and bottom halves of the fish and laying out the side fins like so.

4) Make little fish sandwiches by matching the the curved sides up like the photo below with the side fins still in between the two pieces of fabric.  Sew along the flat bottom side of each sandwich about 1/4" from the edge.

5)  After sewing that edge, open them up.  They should look like this.

6) Take one sewed side and lay it flat with the fin side up (that's the outside of the fish).  Place the top fin upside down at the top of the fish.  Fold the tail fin in thirds, pin, and place at the back of the fish.

7) Take the other side of the fish and lay it on top of the laid-out fish half.  Make sure that the side fins are both pointing towards the back fin.  Unpin the back fin.  The weight of the top piece of fabric should be enough to hold it in place.  

8) Starting at the base of the tail area, sew 1/4" from the edge going counterclockwise around the fish.  Stop when you get to where the pin is in the previous photo. 

9) Trim excess edges and flip inside out.  I used a bodkin to do so because the fish are pretty small.  If I've explained things right, then you should have this once you've turned it right side out.  

10) Stuff the fish and sew up the opening.  I folded the raw edges in and closed it up with an overcast stitch because a) my attempts at an invisible stitch on something so tiny failed and b) I don't mind the homemade look.

11) Thread a piece of embroidery floss through the top of each fish right under the top fin.  Double-knot one end of the floss and tie the other end to varying points of the embroidery hoops.  

Then just repeat about eight more times.  That's all.  You'll be so sick of fish, you'll be avoiding the seafood counter at the market for weeks.  But aren't cute things for babies always worth it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yes, I'm Already Thinking About Christmas

This time last year, I started following the Crafty Christmas Cluba group blog dedicated to homemade holiday presents.  It's a place for crafters to share their work without spoiling the surprise for their friends and family by posting the gifts on their own blog.  And I'll let you in on a little secret: not being able to talk about something I'm working on EATS ME ALIVE.  There's only so many times I can drag my husband to the sewing machine and show off french seams while he scratches his head.  

This year, I'm tinkled pink to say I've joined as an official member and author of the Crafty Christmas Club!  I'll be posting the gifts I'm making between now and the end of December.  In the new year, I'll list the links to my entries over there in case any of my loved ones are wondering how their present came to be.  In the meantime, I'm trusting all of you NOT to sneak peaks (I'm looking at you, Laura).  Or if you do want to follow/join the blog, I'm asking that you please skim past my entries so I can see genuine surprise on your face on Christmas morning.

Is it time to put on Bing Crosby yet?  

Monday, October 10, 2011

happy belated fall!

I'm back from a spectacular weekend in New Hampshire and Maine with a mountain (har har) of laundry and a dozen errands to run.  While I get my act together, picture-wise, here's a super quick project I slapped together to usher in the fall.

Original tutorial here at Two Butterflies

It's so rare that my projects take under five hours!  This one couldn't have taken more than 20 minutes.  I printed leaf clip art to trace for the felt pieces and then ran them through my sewing machine to make the center vein before sewing them to the wreath.  The hoop is one half of an embroidery hoop that was leftover from another project and the fabric was leftover scraps from my last skirt.  Now if the weather would just cooperate because 80° is not my idea of autumn.