Summertime Shorts

image          Well it’s summertime–yay!! And temperatures are rising, baseball season is in full swing, and it’s time for lots of outdoor activities. Yep, time to put away the jeans and put on some shorts. I’ve been in a sewing mood lately, so I ordered some 100% linen from FabricStore.com (sadly, we do not have a decent fabric store in Lake Charles, so I have to either drive an hour to JoAnne’s Fabrics in Lafayette, or order on-line).

 

image

I ordered this fabulous linen in natural and a wasabi green. Here is one pair made from the natural, using Simplicity pattern 1165. They are so comfy, with a wide elastic waist and deep front pockets. There are also back patch pockets. These are perfect–dressed up for shopping trips, concerts, or even casual dining out; dressed down for the ball tournaments or other outdoor activities.

I have fallen in love with Style Arc sewing patterns (www.stylearc.com). The patterns are downloadable; I put in my order then print them out, tape them together, and cut them out. That may seem like a lot of work–and it is, I guess, BUT the patterns sew up so much nicer than the more popular commercial patterns do. The biggest advantage is that I get 3 sizes for each pattern I order; the patterns aren’t nested, like the tissue-paper patterns. They are more expensive, but the company loads me up with lots of free downloads for each full-price patten I order.

Here are two of the Style Arc patterns I ordered; the top is actually a dress pattern (Adeline) but I shortened it to blouse length. I used a linen blend (Robert Kaufman 60% linen-40% cotton) in denim that I ordered from Amazon. The shorts (Jennifer City Short) are made from black stretch denim (Telio Stretch Denim) that I ordered from Amazon.

imageWhat I like about this City Shorts pattern is the longer length, the zip fly front (which can be a challenge to get in right), and the front pockets. I can roll them up for a more casual look.

image

I’m ready for all my favorite summertime activities!!!

Almond Butter

Eating healthy ain’t cheap, y’all. Have you priced almond butter in the grocery lately? It’s much too exorbitant for me, so what do I do? Try to make it myself, that’s what!! Here’s my cheap(er) and easy recipe.

image
About 1/2 pound raw whole almonds
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
(optional; I add it for its nutritional value and to add to the
creaminess of the finished product)
2 tsp. raw local honey
about 1/2 cup water

You will also need a food processor with a good motor; I can see that this could burn up a motor on a lighter-weight one.

Process whole almonds in the food processor until roughly chopped. Add the nutritional yeast and honey; process until the contents become unyielding. It will start to clump and not move around in the bowl of the processor.

Drizzle in the water, a little at a time while the processor is running (if that’s possible). Slowly add enough water for the butter to reach a fairly smooth consistency. Continue to process until you feel that it can not get any smoother. It probably won’t be a smooth as the store-bought kind, but I prefer it kind of grainy. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.

Infused Olive Oil

After checking out the $17 bottles of infused olive oils at the local gourmet store, of course I thought, “I can do this myself!” So here’s what I came up with.

Pick a handful of fresh herbs from the herb garden.

 

image

With the real winter we had here; actual snow, a couple of freezes and an extended cool spring, my herbs are just getting started. However, my thyme did survive, so I’ll use it for this recipe.

Start by cutting a big bunch of fresh herbs, wash well, and trim as needed. Thoroughly pat dry between several sheets of paper towels, being careful not to crush.

 

image

Pack the clean, dry herbs into a clean glass quart jar then fill with a good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Cap tightly, then roll the jar around lightly to mix. Store for about 2-3 weeks in a cool, dark spot. The longer they steep, the stronger the infusion.

 

image

Here I have my thyme and I’m also doing a crushed red pepper jar. I placed about 2 cups crushed red pepper flakes in a quart jar, then filled both jars with olive oil.

After a couple weeks, I strain the oil through a small-mesh strainer lined with cheese-cloth, discarding the herbs. I sometimes will repeat this step if the oil looks cloudy. Then I fill my labeled jars; if the oil is too herby (or peppery) I will cut it with some plain oil.

I repurpose my wine and liquor bottles, using wine pouring spouts as toppers, and I found some “chalkboard” labels that I can change easily.

I store my infused oils at room temperature for many weeks on my countertop, but you could refrigerate. I’ve seen recipes that require heating the oil and herbs; they don’t require the time that this recipe does, but those require refrigeration.

 

image

Any leafy herb, like thyme, rosemary, chives, basil, to name a few, works well. I’ve even gotten creative and used, in addition to red pepper flakes, peppercorns, lemon peel, garlic cloves, and purple onion. Once I forgot a jar of peppercorn for several months, and boy, was it HOT!

The garlic and onion oils tended to get cloudy quickly, so I store those in the fridge.

Christmas Crack

This is soooo addictive and soooo good!

INGREDIENTS:

35 – 40 saltine crackers (or graham crackers)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups toppings as desired such as pecans, walnuts, crushed OREO cookies, pretzels, toffee bits, M&Ms, or drizzles of other melted chocolate
DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a 15” x 10” x 1” pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Line up crackers in a single layer in rows on foil.
Meanwhile, using a candy thermometer, melt butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 to 3 minutes (270 to 290 degrees if using a candy thermometer). Immediately pour over crackers and spread evenly with a spatula.
Bake 5 minutes or until the candy hardens (300 to 310 degrees if using a candy thermometer). Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second increments at 50% power until melted. Spread over hardened caramel.
Sprinkle nuts or other toppings and press into the chocolate using a greased spatula. Cut into squares while warm. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator.

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.

christmas-lady

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.

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.