Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Simple Ceci Salad

Our occasional vegetarian eating habits have us always on the lookout for ways to add protein to our meals.  That often includes beans, which I've grown to love.  I recently came up with a simple salad idea that is super yummy.  In fact, we've had it several times in one week!

In my usual style...there's no measuring.  But, here's what's needed to make it...

1 - 15 ounce can of ceci/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 - medium sized tomato, chopped
onion - white, purple, green....whatever you have, finely chopped - a couple tablespoons + -
olive oil
vinegar - I used red wine vinegar but use what you creative!
garlic powder or fresh, finely chopped (optional)
fresh herbs - basil or parsley would work great, finely chopped (optional),

Simply mix the ingredients in a bowl... the beans, tomato, onions (add according to your taste), herbs (optional), a drizzle of olive oil, a few splashes of vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and garlic to taste (optional).  We usually eat it right away but it can be stored in the refrigerator and eaten later.

Don't be afraid to experiment.  Be creative!  I've tried it with and without herbs.  I think I liked it better without herbs but both ways were good.  I've even tried it with finely chopped spinach to add color.   I've also tried it with finely chopped brown onion and with green onion.  I think I liked it best with the brown onion.  I plan on trying it with different flavors of vinegar.  Even a mustard vinaigrette might be yummy on it.  But, no matter how I've made it, it's always been soooo good!

If you decide to give it a try, let me know how you made it and how much you like it.  :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tea Time

We're becoming big fans of tea.  It started slow.  Years ago, we just had a cup or two a year.  Then, we started making and drinking sun tea.  A few years ago, we started making our own version Starbucks' green tea lemonade.  Since then, we've been trying more and more kinds of tea.  Even Yerbe Mate.  I've been hearing more and more about the health benefits of tea.  It's especially enjoyable to drink at this time of year when the weather starts to get a bit chilly.  A hot cup of tea, a cozy couch, and a yarn project are a wonderful way to spend some time.

Our collection of tea grew so big a couple of years ago that I decided to create a tea drawer.  There have been a few times that the amount of tea we had out grew the space of the drawer.  It's quite handy to have it all together in one, easy to view and choose space.

This past year, we've become big fans of Yogi brand tea.  It started with their "Breathe Deep" tea.  The taste is surprising and delicious.  Even more surprising is how well it works to help clear a stuffy head from a cold or allergies.  Since it worked so well, we've tried several of their other medicinal type teas and been equally surprised and happy at how well they have worked.  Just be careful if you use the "Get Regular" tea.  One member of my family tried it and found out that a half a cup would have worked just fine!

I'm trying "Relaxed Mind" this week.  I thought it might be worth a try since life has been so stressful lately.  The box says it helps to balance your mood and nurture creativity.  That sounds good.  I had some yesterday and I felt great.  I'm not sure if the tea had anything to do with it or not but I'm giving it another try today.  I'm not crazy about the flavor of this one but the smell is awesome.  It has sage in it and the scent reminds me of a hike and the smell of sagebrush.  Mmmm.

I like Ruby Red Chai tea from Trader Joe's.  It's super yummy mixed with rice milk (coconut, soy, almond or regular would be fine too) and a teaspoon of raw sugar or honey.  Sooo good and not too sweet.

It's fun to find and try different flavors.  Do you drink tea?  What's your favorite?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Project Bags

One of the ladies in our Thursday night stitch group has been making project bags.  They're really cute!  She uses two coordinating fabrics on each one and the fabrics are unique and so cool!  She made a bunch recently to sell at a fiber festival.  The next week, she brought what was left over to our knit night and I just had to have one!  Here's the one I bought...

It's about 14" tall.  A nice size for medium sized projects.

I love the birds and flowers on the fabric.

And, the colors are so pretty.  It's fully lined and nice and sturdy.

When the top is folded down, it stands up on it's own.  That makes it very nice to pull yarn from while working on a project.  Her small bags are like fabric yarn bowls when they're folded down.
They're super cute!  She's working on some new ideas.  I can't wait to see what she comes up with.

She's been selling project bags in her daughter's etsy store but is planning to open her own shop.
I'll be sure to post the name of it as soon as I find out.

Shortly after I bought the one above, I visited one of the blogs I follow and comment on regularly,
"Curlerchik Knits", and found out that I'd won two more project bags!  
Wow!  I love bags!  I love project bags!  And, I love these bags...

Aren't they adorable?!  This blogger is not only a talented knitter, but a very talented seamstress as well.  She whips up clothing so quickly and makes it look so easy.  Her birthday is this month and she decided that it would be fun to give instead of receive.  She's having give-aways all month long.

The sheepy one is so cute!  It's a small bag and perfect for small projects like socks.  It's about 9" tall.

This one with the cute, puffy clouds is about 8" tall but it's bigger around than the sheep bag.
It'll be great for small projects like the lacey knitted scarf I'm working on.

I've been reading and commenting on her blog for years now and to win these bags made by her is special!  Thank you, again, Curlerchik!  I love my bags!  Happy Birthday!  :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dresser to Buffet Transformation...Sneak Peek

The transformation of the dresser I found recently into a buffet is almost complete.  I'm so excited that I want to post a little sneak peek...

I still need to paint the mirror that goes above it.  I have no idea why I didn't paint it when I painted the dresser.  It was even leaning on a wall nearby.  But, this will just keep the anticipation going a little longer.  The furniture sliders are still under it so I can easily slide it out when it's time to install the mirror.

I did some online research about what kind paint to use.  I got excited about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  It supposedly needs no prep.  I like that idea.  It's finished with a coat of special wax.  I decided to go for it but when I went to the only local store I could find that carries it, they were so busy chatting with someone that they never helped me.  I searched through all of the cans and didn't see any in the graphite color I wanted.  I wandered around the shop a while longer, looking at samples of furniture painted with chalk paint and decided not to use it.  The cost of the paint and wax alone would have been about $60 and I would have needed some special brushes too.  Plus, from everything I'd seen, it was more suited for a distressed look and that's not really what I wanted.

I headed to the nearby Home Depot to look around.  The lady working that day suggested a latex paint that had primer in it.  It sounded like a good idea.  I grabbed some more paint chips and headed home to decide on a color.  I decided on a Martha Stewart color called, "Silhouette MSL260".  But, instead of driving 20 minutes to the closest Home Depot, I went to Lowes which is less than a mile away.  I asked about the paint with primer and how much odor it would have.  They said it was one of the stronger smelling paints.  I don't like that because it gives me a headache.  They suggested using indoor latex without primer because the odor was very minimal and they thought it would work fine.  They were right about the odor.  It had almost no smell at all.  I liked that.  But, I'm not sure about the durability.  I think the primer might have grabbed on better and would be more durable.  But, we'll see  how it wears with time.  I used Olympic Indoor Latex in semi gloss.  I spent about $20 for the paint and all of my supplies for painting and prepping.

I was so excited about my "new" buffet that I quickly started pulling things out to put on the top to play around with decorating ideas.  I found the cocktail sign recently at Home Goods.  The red color is perfect to go with other red things in my home.  I started shopping for a tray for a little bar but didn't have any luck.  I decided to try using this old, decorative cake pan that I picked up at an estate sale years ago.  I think I like it!  The silver candle stick is destined to become a buffet lamp.  And, the red candle is something I won in a blog giveaway at My Sweet Savannah.  The color is perfect and the scent is bourbon.  It's from Goose Creek Candle Company.

I love the color of the paint.  It changes with the light throughout the day.  Sometimes it's black, sometimes it's more dark gray and very much like the Annie Sloan Graphite.  I was aiming for black but I think the gray will show dust less than jet black would.  And, I love how the rope trim catches the light.

In between the three coats of paint on the buffet, I painted the dining room walls in Benjamin Moore's "Stone House 1039".  I love that color!  Our master bedroom is also painted in that color.  It's warm and makes a wonderful neutral for the colors and things I have and love.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bowl Full'a Crazy

This week has been crazy!  Actually, the past few months have been crazy...but this one has been a bit a little crazier.  So, I've been working hard today to find a little bit of normal...uh...or less crazy!  One of the things I did was to stop at the ceramics studio to see if any of my bowls were out of the kiln.  I found three and a saucer.  Yay!

I like this little bowl.  It's so cute!  The small size and the frilly edge make me smile.

I've got to try some other way to glaze my pieces though.  I've been using some special tongs to hold them and dip into the glaze.  But, they leave little spots where they grab onto the bowl that I have to touch up with little finger dabs of glaze.  Sometimes it doesn't show.  But, other on this does.  See those dots on the inside bottom of the picture...

I know, it's not horrible.  But, it would look a lot better without those spots.
I made a little saucer too.  I glazed it in Winnokur Yellow to match so many of the things I've made and use in my kitchen.  I think it was a failed bowl that I tried to save and turned into a saucer. worked!  It even looks cute with this little bowl.

This bowl was an attempt to make a wide, shallow bowl.  It's 7 1/2" wide x 2 1/4" tall.
I had a wider, bigger one in mind but didn't use a big enough ball of clay.  I like it though.

I used Tea Dust glaze on this one.  I like how the green dots look like lichen.
It's a pretty reliable glaze.  I like that too.

Woo hoo!  Another success at a larger bowl.  It seems like if you can throw a small bowl,
a bigger bowl would be no big deal.  That's so not true.  They're very challenging.

This one is just over 8" wide and 3 1/2" tall.  I'm still aiming for bigger.
I have some more bowls waiting to go into the kiln that are deeper.

This one is glazed with Stoneware Blue.  It's one of my favorites.  Although, it's a bit unreliable
in that  I usually get a fairly solid blue but this one came out with lots of brown spots.
I think that means the clay has more iron in it...I think.  It's pretty though.

The semester has gone by fast and I only have one more week to make things.  Then, we only have time to glaze and fire.  I've missed some days due to all the things that have come up the past few months.  And, the stress has been a bit tough on my creativity and ability.  It feels good though to see these few successes.

I struggle with whether or not to mention any of what's been going on.  It might be pretty boring.  But, I realize that I may be  leaving readers wondering.  So, if you're interested... my daughter's first year away at college has been intense. The school part of it would have been ok.  But, the living situation turned out to be horrible.  I knew that roommate situations aren't always fabulous.  But, now, I know they can be awful.  And, now, I know this, sadly, is very common as I've been hearing soooo many similar stories.  I hate that my daughter was on the hurtful end of it.  But, I'm so proud that she's not a bully and mean like the other girls she lived with.  She called me on Wednesday morning and things had gotten so bad that we quickly had to make arrangements to move her out that day.  We did it!  Whew!  She has a couple of months to try to find a much better place to live before the new semester starts at the end of January.   Luckily, she has a wonderful friend that offered to let her stay at her place for the last couple weeks of this semester.  That's so sweet and we are so grateful!

The other stuff?  My dad has been going through some health stuff and I had to take him to emergency a few weeks ago.  It turned out to be a reaction to his flu shot but he has a bad heart so they wanted to check him out to be sure he was ok.  It was a long night and I didn't get home until 3:30 in the morning...25 minutes drive to their house, an hour drive to the hospital, hours at the hospital and the long drives back.  So glad it was nothing serious.  But, he had surgery last week for something else.  So, it was another day spent at the hospital and taking him to the doctor a few days later.  He's at home and doing very well.  I talked with him today and he shared with me his worry and need of support with my mom as she is having memory problems and has started to break down and cry over her frustration.  I'm hoping to talk with my brother about it later and try to figure out how to handle it.  It's a delicate situation to figure out how to approach someone about seeing a doctor for such a thing.  I can only begin to imagine how scary and frustrating it would be to be told that others are noticing you're having problems like that.

And, last but not least, I finally got around to going to a dermatologist to have a spot checked out on my cheek.  The good news is that it's not cancer but it's pre-cancer and had to be treated.  So, the teenie, tiny spot that I went in with became a big spot I walked out with.  I try to not think about it when I talk with people and imagine that they don't see it.  Ugh!  It's supposed to clear up in a couple of weeks.  Oh...and two more months of hormones and I'll be done with that treatment.  Then, it'll be time for another uterine biopsy.  Fun!  NOT!

Now, back to some of the "normal" not so fun cleaning, laundry, cooking.  But, I'll be happy to take that over crazy, any day!  I guess a little crazy once in a while just helps us appreciate the "normal" that much more.

Have a wonderful...non crazy...weekend!  :-)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Care Cap

There's a wonderful group of ladies in my area that get together every Thursday night to visit, drink coffee (we meet at Starbucks) and do a little stitching.  A couple of weeks ago, one of the knitters shared with us that her sister had just been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.  She wondered if any of us would be interested in knitting chemo caps for her.  Absolutely!  There was no hesitation.  Several of us immediately volunteered.

I decided to make a "Lace-Edged Women's Hat".  It's a free pattern that I found on Ravelry.  I made one a few years ago for a friend when she was undergoing chemo.  It's a great hat.  The pattern is easy, fun, and I love the femine, lacy band around the bottom.

I used size 7, 16" circular needles and Bernat Satin yarn to make it.  I made it in the largest size, casting on 96 stitches.  I was a little worried that it might be too big but I think it turned out just right. The smaller sizes might actually be too small for an adult head.  It's very soft and I think it's also very pretty.  

I've seen a couple of other hats that have been made for her so far.  I have a feeling she's going to have quite a few to choose from, in many colors and styles.  I hope she'll be able to feel our love and support as she battles that awful "c" word.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sunday Escape

Last Sunday, hubby and I packed a picnic lunch and headed out for a Sunday Escape.  We drove up to Oak Glen.  It's a beautiful area nestled in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.  The weather was wonderful, the skies were brilliant blue and the trees were popping with color.  Finding fall color in Southern California can take some effort.  When we find it, it's an extra special treat. I was soaking it up as much as I possible could.  So gorgeous!

Oak Glen is famous for it's apple farms.  We stopped at two that day.  One was Snow-Line.  The little store that sells apples, cider, fresh made donuts and other fun stuff had a line coming out the door.  But, we were perfectly content just sitting under the beautiful trees.  It felt so peaceful up there.  Ahhhhh!

We brought Salsa with us and she seemed to be soaking up every precious moment of the day too...and every smell.  Notice the little sticks and dirt on her nose and tongue.  Such a cutie!  She managed to stay awake the entire day.  She only laid down in the back of the car for a few minutes on the way home but quickly popped back up to keep taking in the views through the windows.

Another apple farm we stopped at was Los Rios Ranch.  I've been going there since I was a kid!  I love that place.  It has wide open spaces, a cider mill with a big window to watch them pressing cider, an area to press your own cider, a great little store, and something we never realized they had until Sunday...hiking trails.  We had to check those out...

There were a lot of people there that day but it was beautiful.  I was lucky to get this shot with no one in it.  We'd like to go back on a weekday when it's not quite so crowded and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

We saw some fuzzy seeds...

There was a little pond with a floating dock.  Pretty.

Oak favorite...floating on the water.

There's a type of tree that grows teenie, tiny pine cones but it doesn't have pine has leaves! I wish I knew what it was called.  It grows where it snows and in the more deserty area like where I live.  There was one of these trees along a trail that was the biggest one I've ever seen.  It must have been pretty old because it was huge!  Check out the big clumps of baby pine cones...

Here's what they look like when they're all grown up.  So cute!

What a wonderful day we had!  It was so relaxing and I found myself letting out big breaths of stress the whole day.  I think it was just what I needed!  

We came home with three, big, one gallon jugs of fresh squeezed cider.  One for my dad for his birthday, one for us to drink, and one to make hard cider.  It's fermenting now!  Can't wait!  Yum!

I had a few more pictures I wanted to share, including some of a huge, wonderful, old chestnut tree.  However, Blogger keeps posting them sideways for some reason.  Hmmm?!  I guess I'll try to post those pics another day when Blogger is more cooperative.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Earthen Art

I've taken a couple of ceramics classes with my daughter over the past couple years and had so much fun that I'm taking it again this semester. This time, my husband is taking it with me. The class seems to have a different feel or vibe each time. I think it all has to do with the people in the class and how many there are. It's very crowded this time and it's been a little challenging to get into it, get creative, and have fun with so much noise and activity in the classroom. But, we're hanging in there. It's getting more fun as the semester goes on. There seems to be a few less people. I'm not sure if they've dropped  the class or if some of them just don't show up every time. And, some of our projects are coming out of their final firing. That's always so exciting!  After the initial creation, the first firing, the creativity with glazes, and then the final firing, it's fun to see how it all turns out.

The teacher comes up with different projects/assignments each time. This semester, one of the first projects she gave us was to make a pitcher, teapot or vase where we started with a flat, rolled out base and then took rolled out pieces of clay, pressed things into them to make texture, and assembled the pieces into our chosen vessel. I used an oval for my base and leaves, twigs, tree trunks and a pine cone to create texture. I wasn't very excited about the project to begin with. But, as my teapot started to take shape, I started to really enjoy it. Here's the finished teapot...

I'm not crazy about the spout.  A rounded, gracefully curved spout would have looked much better.  But, at the time, I couldn't figure out how to do that.  Here's the other side...

I created a handle that looks like a branch...

After I had all the textural pieces assembled, I embellished it with some little critters.  Here's a moth...

A ladybug...

Some of the leaves are pressed from natural leaves, like the one on the right.  I created a few others by pressing/drawing them into the clay with a needle tool, like the one on the left.

Here are a few more of the natural textures...

Here's a little worm...

And, a garter snake crawling up the spout...

There's a lizard on one side.  Unfortunately, part of his tail broke off before the first firing.
So, it's a little stubby.  But, that happens to real lizards.  This one just won't be able to grow it back.
It would have made it through if I'd attached it a little better.  It seems to have pulled away a little more when it was fired.  Lesson learned.  

The lid is a leaf with a handle that looks like a little stump of wood...

I used "Woo Blue" glaze.  I rubbed a lot of it off on the leaves and other areas that I wanted to highlight.  Those are the brown areas.  It's blue where I left the glaze thicker.
I love how it turned out.  It's like a piece of art.

My husband used some natural elements to create texture as well as some man made items.
I'm not completely sure what all he used but I love it.
He finished it off with a vine-like edge and handle.

I love how it turned out and I think he's pretty happy with it too.
We think it's very usable too.  Hmmmm?....Maybe some sangria!

One of my goals this semester is to improve my throwing skills and get better at making bowls.
In the process, I've been watching lots of videos on YouTube where I've found some fun ideas.
One of the videos I watched showed how to embellish the edge of bowls and create different shapes.  It's amazingly simple and so much fun.  Here's one of my first attempts...

I'm trying to get a little creative with my use of glazes.  I used two different blues on this one.  There's Stoneware Blue on the inside, Woo Blue on the outside, and Stoneware dribbled down the sides from the top.  I like the results.  Although, there are bubbles in it that aren't attractive and are a little sharp. The instructor thinks it's because the glaze was a bit thick and the firing might have been a little short.

Here's a little one.  It's glazed in Woo Blue.

I love the blue and brown together.  It's so pretty.

Here are a couple more practice bowls.  I used a glaze that seems to have been an accident when they mixed it.  They're calling it, "Mystery Celadon".  I decided to give it a try.

I'm not crazy about it.  It's a little pale.

Here are two more little practice bowls...

I used Tea Dust glaze on the left one and Woo Blue on the right one.

I have a few more bowls with shaped edges in the kiln right now.  I think they'll be finished next week.  I've had some good luck this week with throwing larger bowls.  That's very exciting.  It'll be a few weeks before they're glazed and finished though.  I have so much I want to do and try but the semester is flying by. I think we only have three more weeks to create.  Then, it'll be Thanksgiving and we'll only be able to do glazing and final firings.  I have a feeling I'll be taking this class again!  ;-)