My Christmas Lady (2016)

I had the fabulous idea of creating a Christmas mannequin instead of a traditional tree this year. Well, as usual, it turned out to be much more hassle and expense than I expected.

At the end of Thanksgiving weekend, after I had it almost complete only to have the stand refuse to hold all the weight and topple over, I hauled it upstairs and threw it in the corner of the storage room. But eventually, cooler heads prevailed and I hauled it back out, gave her a brush-up and shortened the stand to a steadier table-top height.

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Here’s how I did it:

  1. I ordered a cheap ($27.00) wire manniquin from Amazon. I knew fairly quickly that the stand was going to give me problems, but I perservered.
  2. I wrapped the bottom of the form with chicken wire. The following week, I had to wear long sleeves to work; my forearms were so scratched by the stupid chicken wire, I looked like I’d been attacked (which, I guess I sort of was, actually)!
  3. I found the top section of an old Christmas tree and cut the branches off with a pair of pliers. I bent the wire at the bottom of each branch to form a hook and strung them through the wire around the manniquin’s waist to form her skirt. I stuffed one cord of lights in her bodice, and wrapped two more cords around her skirt.
  4. I found a scrap of burgandy colored velvet fabric in my stockpile, and made her bodice by wrapping and pinning it around her “shoulders” and waist. Long hat-pins left over from the wedding supplies worked great. I fastened a vintage Christmas holly pin at her cleavage.
  5. I wrapped a wide piece of white-on-white Christmas ribbon around her waist to give it some definition, then wired a bow made of several different pieces of Christmas ribbon to one side of her waist.
  6. I’ve had this deep purple hat for at least 20 years; I just love it.  I hauled it out, dusted it off,  and wrapped it with white netting.  I then fastened a length of the same white-on-white ribbon that I’d used on her waistband to the crown of the hat . Again, hat-pins! Lots of hat-pins! I attached another vintage Christmas pin, a white snowflake, to the center of the crown and draped a string of pearls around the crown. I whipped up another bow from the Christmas ribbons and attached it to the back of the hat.
  7. I removed the cardboard tube from the center of a pant-hanger, and bent/wired it to the neck of my manniquin as a support for the hat. Then I took the end of the light string at her bodice and wrapped it through the ribbon bow at the back of the hat.
  8. This is where I stopped, put it up in frustration, cooled off, and dragged her back out again. I finished her off by draping green tulle ribbon around her skirt and hanging a few monogrammed ornaments. I did away with the middle section of the stand, making her table-top height instead, and set her up on my grandmother’s drop-leaf dining table in my foyer. Ta-Da!!

 

 

christmas-lady3   I had a seperate brainstorm to create a man to keep her company, but eventually gave that up except for the super-cool top hat. I may attempt that next year.

I added a couple of beribboned lantern-holders and decided to call it quits before someone got hurt.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Steel Magnolias

So, my good friend Paula McCain convinced me to audition for ACTS production of Steel Magnolias, and darned if I didn’t cast as Truvy, the lovable beauty-shop owner. The play is set in Truvy’s Beauty Shop where the neighborhood ladies meet to dish and commiserate.

SteelMagnoliasCome check it out Sept. 23-25 and Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at ACTS Theater, 1 Reid St. Lake Charles.

Shawnee bound 

You know how sometimes you meet someone and you’re just immediately intrigued? Well first day of classes for Spring 16, in walked this beautiful young girl and I just knew that we would become friends. She just had a certain style  about her, and I was intrigued. As the semester rocked along, it became evident that this girl was the total package-brains, beauty and panache galore!!  We quickly struck up a friendship, limited to the teacher/student level; her commenting on my leather cuff bracelets and me complimenting her groovy wardrobe choices (vintage denim, long ropes of pearls, and nerdy/cool glasses) but when she handed me her final essay in May I handed her my card with my personal contact info. She handed me her card (of course, she’s a designer) and asked if I’d like to add a few of my cuffs to her inventory. 


#daddyshirtllc  #savanahgoodner

Check her out; she’s absolutely adorable!!

Here are some pics of the cuffs I did for her. She will be in Shawnee, OK this week if you’re in the area.  

This is a triple-wrap, and it’s long enough to use as a hatband, too.

Wish I could get my hands on some more of this turquoise leather; guess I’ll have to make another run to Cheyenne!!

This one is my favorite. I’m making a new purse from the cream-colored leather, and it’s looking kinda great!  

This shows the back-side with what I call a strap an snap closure.        

One more triple-wrap.

Oh, and I sent this little hair-on

 fringed 

 
cross-body bag with her, too. I was trying my hand at Mexican flat braid. Not bad!

  It comes with two detachable straps; one, a flat double-stitched leather, the other a dressier silver chain. It has one zippered pocket, and two pockets under the flap. 
 Thanks so much Savanah. Hope to do lots more together. 

My newest creations

Since it’s been raining every weekend around here, I’ve had plenty of time to work on my crafts.imageHere are three of my shoulder-sling style bags I just finished.Two of them have 100% hand-loomed wool fabric fronts and backs. The backsides have a pocket with magnetic closures; great for keeping keys, sunglasses, and other small items handy. The sides and straps are full-grained biker/chap leather. One side features a cell phone pocket with Velcro closure, and the loop at the top is great for hanging (on restroom door hooks, for example).

image  The one in the middle is 100% leather; its front and its back pocket are gator embossed biker/chap leather and its back and sides are pebble grained chap leather.  The leather is super supple, yet sturdy. They are all fully lined with cotton fabric and have two inner pockets. image I love this shoulder-sling style; it hugs your body, so it’s out of the way and doesn’t flop forward every time you lean forward. And it can be worn on either shoulder.  I especially love the cell phone pocket; it keeps a phone handy but secure. You won’t have to worry about it slipping out or dropping to the floor. The outside pocket is also fabric lined, so sunglasses don’t scratch, and the magnetic closures keep keys inside but easy to grab.

These would make great Christmas gifts, so if you are interested please message me for pricing and details. I’d appreciate it. I’m working on some new designs, so stay tuned. 

Spring Break Project 2015

I picked up this pair of bedside tables at an estate sale a few weeks ago. I never can remember to take “before” pictures, but they were just plain brown. Here’s the finished project. 

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After sanding with 120 grade sandpaper, I painted the drawer faces and bottoms dressers with 2 coats of Benjamin Moore “Flora” flat finish. Then, for my faux-marble top, I painted the top with 2 coats of Zinzer primer tinted dark grey; then, using small round craft sponges, I sponged the tops with 6 different colors acrylic paints starting with black and working up to lighter shades. I used toffee, burnt umber, and moved up to buttermilk. Again with the 120 sandpaper, I sanded the painted drawers and bottoms to look like wear spots. Since the sanded areas needed an aged look, I dabbed some dark brown shoe polish and scrubbed it in. I finished everything with 2 coats of Polycrylic sealer, sanding lightly with 220 grade sandpaper between coats. It gives the paint a nice shine without turning yellow.

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Adventures in Winemaking

So, we made a bumper crop of grapes in July, and naturally our thoughts turned to winemaking. Because, really, just how much jelly CAN one make? From the three varieties we have now, we picked, cleaned, then juiced until we wound up with NINE gallons of juice!

IMG_0837-0We’re not sure what variety this grape is, but they are tiny little grapes that made the most luscious, blush-pink juice; I’m calling them my Champagne grapes. They made gorgeous jelly, (see Cookbook, Condiments for my jelly recipe); can’t wait to make some wine with them.

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These are Concord; and below are Thompson Seedless

IMG_0838    It took the better part of two days to get all these grapes picked, cleaned, de-stemmed, and another couple of days to get them all steamed. We stored 9 gallons of juice in the freezer until February of 2015, when we decided to start our “Adventures in Wine-Making.”

grapevine2Arrowhead Vineyards Inaugural Wine Rungrapevine1

For our first attempt, we are trying to produce five gallons of red wine from our Concord juice and five gallons of white wine from our Thompson Seedless juice.
First we assembled all our supplies. Here’s what we found we needed:
2 gallons frozen Concord grape juice, thawed                                        From the Brew Hut:
2 gallons frozen Thompson seedless grape juice, thawed                    2 5-gallon glass carboys
2 5-gallon orange plastic (Igloo) water canisters                                2 fermentation locks
with lids and spigots at the bottom                                                        2 rubber stoppers
5 gallons bottled spring water (don’t use distilled)                             a hydrometer
20 lbs. granulated sugar                                                                          4 oz. BTF Iodophor Sanitizer
4-cup glass measuring cup                                                                      1 oz. Pectin Enzyme Powder
2 metal shish-ka-bob skewers                                                                2 oz. Campden tablets
White kitchen string                                                                                 4 oz. Fermax Yeast Nutrient
2 4-foot lengths plastic tubing (siphon hose)                                     3 oz. Acid Blend
1.5 oz. Tannin Powder
2 (5 g.) packets RC212 wine yeast
2 (5 g.) packets D47 wine yeast

Wine1

Getting Started:

Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015

  • Clean and sterilize all canisters, tools, and supplies you’ll be using with a solution of one gallon tap water to 2 tbsp. BTF Iodophor Sanitizer. Swish the solution around the canisters and lids, submerse all tools and supplies in the solution and allow to air-dry. Do not towel-dry.                                                                                                                   Wine2
  • We used two 5-gallon orange water containers as our primary containers. In each sterilized water container, pour 2 gallons of grape juice.
  • In a four-cup glass measuring cup combine the chemicals; crush the tablets before adding. Add enough water to form slurry; pour into the grape juice and stir with a large long-handled spoon.

For Red(Concord grape juice)             For White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

2 ½ tsp. pectin enzyme                      8 tsp. acid blend

5 tsp. acid blend                                   1¼ tsp. tannin

5 tsp. Fermax Yeast Nutrient             5 tsp. Fermax Yeast Nutrien

5 Campden tablets, crushed              5 Campden tables, crushed

  • In a large pitcher, mix half the sugar and enough water to dissolve it. Add to the grape juice; stir with large long-handled spoon. Repeat with the other half.

For Red (Concord grape juice)                       For White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

16 cups granulated sugar (about 8 lbs.)        12 cups granulated sugar (about 6 lbs.)

  • Add enough water to fill each of the canisters to about 6 inches from the top.
  • Test with the hydrometer, adding sugar to achieve a Specific Gravity (SG) reading of 1.090.
  • Cover canisters loosely (we just set the plastic lids on top of the canisters, but didn’t screw them on) and place in a warm, dry area for about 24 hours. We didn’t want them to leak, so we set them inside our foyer closet. We put a beach blanket on the floor and two metal baking sheets on top of that. Then we carefully placed each canister on top of one of the baking dishes. This worked well to capture drips and overflow when we added the yeast and it began fermenting.

Monday, Feb. 9, 2015

  • Dissolve 2 (5gram) packets of yeast in ½ cup water and stir into the grape juice concoction. The yeast will float to the top, but that’s okay, the fermentation process will begin.

For Red (Concord grape juice)    For White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

RC 212 red wine yeast                       D47 white wine yeast

Cover very loosely (VERY loosely, since fermentation will cause the solution to foam up, possibly over the top) and allow to ferment for 5-7 days or until fermentation has slowed almost to a stop. Do not stir, but check daily. Foaming and fizzing should be happening along with a strong rotting fruit smell, so be prepared (all my coats in the foyer closet smelled like rotten fruit).

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Sunday, February 15, 2015  First Racking

  • Sterilize the glass carboys, stoppers, fermentation locks, funnel, measuring cups, siphon hoses, and shish-ka-bob skewers in iodine solution and allow to air-dry.
  • Place carboys on low chairs, stools, or on the floor, and place the primary containers on counter-top or table above them.
  • Float the hydrometer in each of the wine-filled containers and make sure the SG reads 1.040 or less. If not, it’s not ready for racking. Gotta be patient, so wait a few more days.
  • Crush 5 Campden tablets in a small amount of water and pour into the carboy; repeat with the other carboy.
  • Using two short lengths of kitchen string, tie one of the shish-ka-bob skewers to one end of one of the siphon hoses, extending the point of the skewer about an inch or so longer that the end of the hose. This will weigh the hose down, but keep it off the bottom and out of the bottom sediment. This is why you can’t use the spigot at the bottom of the canister; it will allow too much air and bottom sediment into the carboy. It’s much better to siphon.
  • Blow on the other end of the hose, gently blowing air bubbles in the wine, then suck until a siphon starts. Carefully place the end of the hose into the glass carboy (you may want to use the funnel in the carboy, but we didn’t) and let it siphon into the carboy. Make sure to stop before it drains completely, and don’t let any of the bottom sediment transfer to the carboy.

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  • Repeat with the other canister and carboy.

We siphoned a small amount of both into shot glasses just to see what we had:

Red (Concord grape juice)               White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

Light pink, watermelon color         Cloudy white peach color

Acid tasting, but sort of sweet       Tingly acid taste, left an astringent taste on the

Yeasty, fruity smell                            tongue, not really bitter,  but almost

                                                            Very little smellWine8

We set the carboys back in the foyer closet on a beach towel and inserted the rubber stoppers. The wine continued to fizz and foam for a few more days, so we waited to put the fermentation locks until the fizzing stopped.

Second Racking: June 6, 2015

We repeated the first racking procedure; siphoning both out of their carboys into the water canisters. We checked SG readings; both batches were at 0.99 We added 3 1/2 cups sugar to each batch, 5 crushed campden tablets, and 1 1/2 tsp. potassium sorbate (to prohibit any further fermentation). We took new SG readings; red, 1.010 and white; 1.011. Our alcohol content is now at 11% for the red and 10.5% for the white.

Notes:

Concord:  plum colored                                         Thompson: yellow, looks like pineapple juice

                 bitter taste-tart with a                                 tangy, bitter taste, aftertaste is not as fizzy

                 lingering fizzy taste on the tongue             as the red

                chemical smell                                            no smell at all

So, we siphoned the wines back into the cleaned carboys and replaced the airlocks. We placed them back in the foyer closet and covered them with towels to protect from light.

And finally, we bottle!! September 6, 2015

So, here it is, Labor Day weekend, and we are finally ready to bottle our first batch of Arrowhead Winery Red and White! So excited!!

So what we did was; Friday afternoon, we filled a clean 100 qt. ice chest with water and added an 8 oz. canister of One Step No-Rinse cleaner (from the Brew Hut) and mixed it well. Then we sank our empty wine bottles in it and let it sit overnight. We were able to fit 40 bottles in the ice chest, and we boiled a huge gumbo pot of water to sterilize the other ten we were going to need. We bought a package of 50 corks and a hand corker and a plastic bottle tree. (Boy, the Brew Hut is sure going to stay in business with us around).

Saturday morning, we drained the ice chest and the bottles and refilled it with fresh water and 8 tbsp. BTF Iodophor Sanitizer and rinsed the bottles in it them placed them on the bottle tree to dry.

We used the solution in the ice chest to sterilize our siphon hose and the corks. Then we carefully transferred our carboys full of wine (trying to minimize as much movement as possible) to the kitchen table. We siphoned a small amount into a shot glass and into the hydrometer tube to check SG reading and taste.

Our notes:

Concord:  SG 1.01                                                                Thompson:  SG 1.01

               alcohol content 9%                                                                     alcohol content 8.5%

               clear rose color, very pretty                                                       cloudy, lemonade color

              just a bit of an aftertaste, but not unpleasant                            pleasant mild grape taste

              nice wine smell                                                                          pleasant neutral smell

time to enjoy the fruits of our labor
time to enjoy the fruits of our labor

We began siphoning the wine into the bottles (holding the siphon hose against the inside of the bottle to avoid splashing and oxidation) and corking them. We got 25 bottles of red and 25 of white from each 5 gallon carboy (Ha! A fifth!) We’re leaving them standing for one week, then we will store them horizontally in our newly built wine shelf in what was formerly known as the coat closet, but from henceforth will be known as the wine cellar. I ordered labels, so more picture will follow.

Wine14                   Wine15

Cure a Sore Throat

Got a scratchy throat? Nip it in the bud by fixing yourself a cup a’ this:

1 lemon slice

1 mug hot (but not boiling hot) water

1/4 tsp. agave syrup or local honey

splash of apple cider vinegar

Squeeze the lemon slice into the bottom of your mug, then dump it in and pour the hot water over it. Stir in the agave or honey and vinegar and sip slowly. Your throat will feel better immediately.

I recommend popping a bowl of popcorn (I have a microwave popper, and I NEVER use the packaged microwavable popcorn), lightly salted to go along with your tea. The rough texture of the popcorn helps a scratchy throat.