Friday, November 20, 2015

Lemon Chicken Soup

 For cool fall days not much beats a pot of homemade soup to warm you to your core. This week is one that called out for something hot, soothing and delicious, so Lemon Chicken Soup is what I cooked up for the family.

Lemon Chicken Soup
8 cups of homemade chicken broth is best or substitute with store bought
2 cup Orzo
3 cups shredded chicken
2 - 3 lemons for juice and jest
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
Parboil one whole chicken and shred or pick up a precooked rotisserie chicken at the grocery. You will use approximately three cups of shredded chicken.
Pour eight cups of chicken broth into a large pot and let come to a boil.  Add two cups of  Orzo and allow to cook for about five minutes.  Reduce heat to simmer and add the shredded chicken to your pot.  In a separate bowl break open three large eggs and whisk.  Juice 2 - 3 lemons (remove any seeds) and add to the eggs and whisk mixture together.  Reserve some of the lemon zest from the lemons to add to the soup.  Temper your whisked eggs by taking one cup of the hot chicken broth and add it slowly to your egg and lemon mixture a little bit at a time whisking as you add the hot liquid.  Now you can slowly add your eggs to the pot of soup.  Allow to simmer for about 25 - 30 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

 Enjoy your hearty bowl of lemon chicken soup!

What is your favorite soup?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Chicken Mull - A Southern Favorite Comfort Food

Graphic Courtesy of FPTFY
When I was a child we lived in the city and most of my father's birth family lived in the country.  They lived a couple of hours away but we visited often.  I loved going to my uncle Ed's and aunt Ethel's house around meal time because my aunt Ethel was a wonderful southern country cook and you were bound to be fed delightful, made from scratch, home cooked meals.

I giggle when I recall how she would busily, but happily, be running all around in the kitchen and would bring out about every pot, pan and dish she owned in preparation for her feasts.  There would be multiple runs to the root cellar and to the pantry, which was filled with her home grown and home canned fruits and vegetables. She was delightful!

Cast iron or stainless steel pots and pans and skillets filled her kitchen.  And her kitchen cabinets held mostly common ironstone dinnerware.  She had no fine china or silverware.  But every inch of her home was filled with love and her kitchen was filled with the best home cooked food you would ever want to put in your mouth.  And when you were there you knew you would not leave hungry!  

Most of the rest of my father's family lived near to my aunt and uncle and sometimes they would all just gather there when we came to visit. Come mealtime all of the women folk would gather in her huge country kitchen to help prepare the meal. It was a wonderful time in the kitchen and some of my fondest memories of my father's family were made right there in my aunt Ethel's kitchen. 

One of my favorite dishes that my aunt Ethel made was a dish called Chicken Mull.  I know that this is a southern dish and many of you may have never heard of it.  I also know the name of this dish is not a very appetizing sounding kind of name!  But it is a really good and satisfying and is a simple dish with not a lot of ingredients.  It's a family favorite comfort food for a cool weather, snuggle up kind of day. 

my version of my aunt Ethel's chicken mull
Ingredient list:
1 whole chicken (cooked and shredded) and the liquid that you cooked your chicken in
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
12 - 16 ounces of whole milk
if more liquid is needed add an additional quart of homemade or store brand chicken broth
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
1 - 2 stacks or sleeves of saltine crackers
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large pot cover one whole chicken with cold water and add some salt and pepper and cook until tender.  Once the chicken is done and fall off the bone tender, remove it from the pot and place it  on a plate.  Save the liquids left from cooking the chicken.  Allow the chicken to cool enough to handle so that you can remove the chicken and shred it.   Once shredded, place the chicken back in the pot
and add 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, and if needed add a quart of homemade or store bought chicken broth, a 12 ounce can of evaporated milk and 12 to 16 ounces of whole milk.  Allow to come to a rolling boil.  Once a rolling boil has happened, take your stack (or two) of saltine crackers and break them up and add them to your pot.  Allow to boil for just a few minutes and then turn down to low heat allowing the crackers to cook a bit and absorb some liquid into them.  Season to your taste with salt and pepper. 
This recipe is very forgiving.  If you want it thicker add more saltines or less liquid.  Want it not so thick?  Just add more liquid.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Vintage Vera Neumann Linens and Tablecloths

I love vintage linens and have a few pieces that I have collected. Not only do I love all of the handiwork of hand crocheted or hand embroidered pieces, but I also love the colorful and beautiful prints of vintage linens from Wilendur, Vera Neumann, and others. Today I thought I would share some of my vintage Vera Neumann collection with you.

I love the beautiful bold designs of Vera Neumann!


Notice that the ladybug is not present on this set of napkins.
There are still Vera Neumann linens, scarfs, fabric and dinnerware available on the market today, so if you love her designs you may find something that you like on the internet at places like Ebay and Etsy. 
I am including some links for those who may be interested in learning a bit about vintage Vera Neumann linens.
Do you collect vintage linens?  What are your favorites?


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dehydrating Oranges

My new found kitchen appliance love is my Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster dehydrator! Talk about a space saver for food storage! I had been researching and trying to decide which dehydrator to purchase and my decision was narrowed down to an Excalibur and a Nesco American Harvest dehydrator.  When I found a brand new unused Nesco on craigslist for $40, that became my decision breaker and so I purchased it and brought it home.

One of the first fruits that I dehydrated was some organic, seedless navel oranges.  Preparation was easy. I simply soaked the oranges in a water / vinegar / salt solution for about 15 minutes, rinsed them well and sliced them with my mandoline slicer approximately 1/4 inch thick.

I arranged the orange slices on the shelves of the dehydrator in a single layer and dried them for about 12 hours. Drying time can vary according to the size of the load, the thickness of the fruit and the moisture content of the fruit as well as the moisture in the air.  It's helpful to keep a written journal or record of your dehydrating times for future use.

Lemons and Limes can be dehydrated using this same method.

Do you dehydrate any foods?  What is your favorite?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Seed Saving: Harvesting Heirloom Yellow Crookneck Squash Seeds


Fall is here and our garden is coming to it's end.  If you are a gardener you are probably like me and are already thinking about next year's garden!

One thing that I do is to observe varieties that did well for me so that I can replant successful varieties next year!  At the end of the season I allow some of my best producing heirloom vegetable plants to grow their vegetable well beyond their maturity in order to harvest some mature seeds to save for next year's planting. 

So here I will show you how I harvested some heirloom yellow crookneck squash seeds. It's a simple process and saving heirloom seeds allows you to grow free food next year.  Isn't that a great thing?  Free food! I love that!
Heirloom Seed Saving:  How to Harvest Heirloom Yellow Crookneck Squash Seeds

Choose a mature squash that is well beyond it's picking peak for consumption. It will be large and bumpy and will therefore contain lots of seeds.

Slice the squash into sections and remove the seeds.  I try to go thru and choose the most mature, plump seeds for harvesting.
Heirloom Yellow Crookneck Squash Seeds

Work thru the gooey membrane and pull out the seeds.
Seed Saving Heirloom Yellow Crookneck Squash
Lay the seeds in a thin layer on a paper towel and allow them to dry out completely. It will take several days for this to be accomplished.  You want to make sure they are dried out completely because you do not want any moisture left remaining so that the seeds will not mold.

Once you are sure that the seeds are completely dried out, place the seeds into an envelope.  Clearly mark the seed variety and the date that they were harvested on the outside of the envelope. Store in a cool, dry place until time to plant next year!

Do you harvest your heirloom seeds too?

Monday, September 7, 2015

On the Spindle - Polwarth and Silk Blend

Spinning Polwarth / Silk Fiber

I recently purchased some 85 percent Polwarth /  15% Silk blend of fiber.  Polwarth is a breed of sheep that is a cross between merino and lincoln sheep.  Polwarth fiber is next to skin soft and has a nice staple length  that makes it easy to spin even using a hand spindle.  It has been a joy to spin!  I am hoping to get around five hundred yards of two ply yarn off of this four ounces of top roving. 

 Do you have any experience spinning polwarth? I would love for you to share your handspun so you are welcome to link in the comments!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Recycling Fabric: Make a Fabric Basket

Make a Rag Fabric Basket / Bowl

Recycling is a good thing in my book! So, with leftover fabrics from the rag rug that I recently made, (tutorial here) I decided that I would make a small rag basket.  Little baskets like these are great for holding all kinds of small things.  This rag basket / bowl was crocheted using only two types of stitches..... a chain stitch and a single crochet stitch.  Simple and very easy to do.  I found several free patterns over on Ravelry.  For those of you who do not know, Ravelry is a free to join knit and crochet community and has thousands and thousands of patterns with many of which are absolutely free!  I hope you will give this simple little basket a try!


Monday, May 25, 2015

How to Make A Rag Rug

I love recycling when I can.  I especially love to be able to upcycle discarded or unused items into something that is pretty or useful in my home.  So enter into the world of rag rug making with me!

I love thrift shopping and often find pretty fabrics, sheets, clothing  and such.  Sometimes the fabrics are still in very good condition or even new condition.   The cost of fabric at the fabric store for new fabric is getting out of sight, especially when the purpose is for rug making.  So why not take advantage of re-using and repurposing fabrics, sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, curtains or old clothing into something practical and useful?

How to Make a Rag Rug

I thought I would welcome you into the world of rag rug making with something very simple.  This rag rug is crocheted using a large hook (I used a size M hook) and strips of fabric that are upcycled from found fabrics.

First, look thru what you have at home in your linen closet.  Look for unused sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, curtains, or whatever kind of fabrics you can find that you no longer have need of.  If you need more fabrics  go shopping! Yay! I especially l-o-v-e bargain shopping!!!! It's all about the thrill of the hunt, right folks?

So, keep your eyes open for fabrics that you can incorporate into your rugs.  Ashamedly, I have to admit that I have a more than ample supply of fabrics that I can recycle into rugs.  But if you are a rug maker it is nice to find fabrics that coordinate with one another, right?  Yes! But, if you can not find coordinating fabrics I have seen many beautiful rugs that are just all different colors of fabric.  Strip by strip they all incorporate into a nice rug! It all works!

Now you have some fabric.  So start tearing your fabric into strips.  First snip down about two inches long across the  width of the fabric about every two or three inches.  I usually tear the strips about a couple of inches wide. The wider the strips, the larger the hook you will use.  Yes, I tear my fabric strips.  I then pull off  as many of the strings that I can.  I don't stress over what I can not pull off.  As the rug is being made, washed and used everything just works out.  Ok?  So.....don't stress! It will be beautiful!

You can also cut your fabric strips with scissors or a rotary cutter.  Not my way of doing things but if you are that kind of a gal then go that route.  All of that tearing up of the fabric is actually kind of fun and very stress relieving! Do this job outside!  Lots of fiber dust comes off when you are tearing those fabric strips.  For that reason  I recommend that you wear a dust mask.  And especially make sure to wear a dust mask if you have any respiratory issues.  Protect those lungs!

Fabric strips for rag rug making

After I tear my fabric into strips I fold my fabric strips and put them into neat little piles and store them in see thru  zip lock bags.  That way when I am ready to begin my rug making I have already accomplished that part of the process and can go to my stash and grab out the fabrics that I want to use. 

There are several ways to join your fabric strips.  You can hand or machine sew them together.  Or you can use the "fold, snip, and attach" method, as I refer to it!  Do not make this harder than it is.  It is really very, very simple.  Ok?  When you are ready to add a new strip of fabric follow these steps:  Take your time..... and just follow these directions step by step! Don't make it harder than it is!  I apologize that I can't add a photo for this step, but I only have two hands!

First, as you are crocheting along and near the end of your WORKING fabric strip, fold the end of the fabric down about an inch and with a pair of sharp, pointed scissors just take a little snip into that fold (only big enough that when unfolded back out that your next strip of fabric will fit into the hole that you just cut).

Next, choose a fabric strip that you want to connect to your working fabric strip.  We will call this the NEW strip.  Do the same thing.  Fold the end of the fabric strip down about an inch and cut a little snip into the fold of the NEW fabric strip about the same size as the cut that you made into your working strip.  Easy enough, right?

Place your NEW strip that you are adding ON TOP of your WORKING strip aligning the little hole snips in the fabric. 

OK..... now pick up the tail end of your NEW strip and from the bottom or underneath the two strips being held together just insert the tail end  of the NEW strip into the holes cut in the two strips that you are holding together on top of one another.

Pull the tail end that you just fed thru the cut all the way thru until your strips are joined.  Tug gently on the strips and that will join the WORKING strip to the NEW STRIP.  Viola!! You have now added your two strips together without sewing!  

The above rag rug was made in a square(ish) shape.  You can make them round, oval, rectangular and more.  For simplicity we are making this one square(ish). 

This rag rug was made using only a chain stitch (which made the foundation row) and single crochet stitches.  Both of these stitches are very simple.  If you do not know how to do a chain stitch or a single crochet stitch I am going to refer you to the wonderful world of YouTube.  Simply type into the YouTube search bar "crochet chain stitch" and "single crochet stitch" and you will find many tutorials of how to do these simple stitches.



Fabric Strips
A crochet hook that is the appropriate size for your strips
( I used a size M or 9 MM hook)
(The wider your strips are the larger hook you will need)
Yarn rug needle with a big eye

Foundation: Chain 41 stitches

Row 1:  Single crochet into the first chain stitch and into each chain stitch to the end of the row. Chain 1. Turn.

Row 2:  Chain into the first single crochet and into each single crochet to the end of the row. Chain one. Turn.

Repeat Row 2 until you have made the rug as long as you want it to be. 

Bind off   (YouTube videos will show you how)  OR you can first single crochet around the entire rug for as many rounds as you would like in order to give your rug a more finished look)  To accomplish neat corners simply single crochet three stitches into your corner stitches to allow for a smooth transition in the corners.  Then bind off if you choose to crochet around the entire rug.
With a large eye yarn needle, weave in any ends.


Handmade Rag Rug

That's it!!
Crocheted Rag Rug
I hope that this tutorial on how to make a rag rug is helpful for you to be able to make your own rag rugs!

Are you excited and ready to make a rug?  I hope you will come back to tell me all about it and to  show me your creations!!

Happy rag rug making!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Paper Crafts: Make Handmade Embellished Gift Tags

I love quick little craft projects and handmade gift tags are just that!  

And I love that little bits and pieces can be turned into something useful and pretty.

Scraps of lace, trims, old buttons, photos or artwork,

stamped or vintage images, watercolors, paints, inks, and so much more 
can all be incorporated into little art projects and handmade gift tags!

The next time that you have a wee bit of time, grab your craft box, pick some pretty papers,
 baubles, bits, trims, stamps or whatever you have on hand and create something beautiful!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Can I Grow a SCOBY?

Can I Grow a SCOBY for KOMBUCHA?
I have recently been drinking kombucha purchased from my local health food store. What is kombucha?  It is a fermented black tea drink that supposedly has good gut health benefits because of the probiotics that are in the drink.  But at nearly $4.00 (current price as of this writing)  for a 16 ounce bottle of kombucha it can get a bit expensive.  So, I decided that I wanted to try to brew my own.  To do that I needed a SCOBY and kombucha starter

What is a SCOBY?  Well SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  So basically it is a culture.  And in the case of a kombucha SCOBY, it is made up of yeasts that thrive on black tea and sugar. 

If you have a friend who makes their own kombucha you may have a resource for some starter and a SCOBY, but after asking around all I got were blank or confused looks and questions like what IS kombucha and what IS a SCOBY.  Next, I  looked at my local health food store but I could not find a SCOBY there either.  I know that a SCOBY and starter can be purchased online but my thinking (right or wrong) was maybe I grow my own SCOBY?    Once upon a time  I used to make make sour dough bread and I had to use a starter culture in my bread making.  So,  I figured that maybe I could make my own starter for my kombucha.   If it can be done for sour dough bread starter, then maybe it can be done for kombucha.....of course not the same starter as used for sour dough bread, but a starter and SCOBY used for the making of kombucha.

So after doing a bit of research this is what I did to try to make my starter and to try to grow a SCOBY.

I sterilized a one half gallon Ball canning jar and the utensils that I was going to use. 

Ingredients that I used:

6 cups (48 ounces) of bottled purified drinking water
one tablespoon of  loose organic black tea
1/2 cup of raw organic sugar
one cup of GT's Original Raw Organic Kombucha (at room temperature)

I brought the water to a boil and added the loose black tea.  I steeped the tea for about 10 or 15 minutes.  I strained out the tea leaves and added the sugar while the tea was still hot, stirring until the sugar dissolved. I let the tea cool to room temperature.  After the tea cooled I added one cup of room temperature GT's Original Raw Organic Kombucha.  I did not put a lid on my jar,  but instead I covered my jar with an unbleached coffee filter and secured it with a rubber band and then covered it with a cotton flour sack material (I got that at Walmart years ago).  I will keep it sitting out on a shelf or counter where it does not get any direct sunlight. 

SO, this is a testAn experiment!  I am not sure how long it will take for my tea to ferment and for the SCOBY to grow.  In fact, I don't even  know if  I will be able to grow a SCOBY.  But I am giving it a try.  If you are interested and want to grow your own, check back and see if I am successful.  I will update this blog to let you know what happens! 

I am keeping my fingers crossed!  I am even whispering sweet little things to it as I pass by"hello my sweet little baby SCOBY " and "grow my little baby SCOBY, grow!"  Not sure if it will help, but I talk to my plants too...... Yes..... I do.

******UPDATED 8/23/15:  Yes, I was able to grow my own scoby using the above method! I have been happily making and drinking my own homemade kombucha ever since!  As of today, August 23, 2015 I have two very full scoby hotels full of healthy scobys!  Give it a try if you love kombucha and skip the nearly $4 per bottle cost by making it yourself!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tutorial How To: Make A Needle Felted Crown

Here is a great way to use up some of your fiber that you have left over from other fiber projects.   Make a needle felted crown!

What you will need:
A crown shaped cookie cutter
  Felting needles or a Clover Felting tool
A Clover Felting Mat or a piece of thick foam
    Embroidery floss and an embroidery needle
a tiny satin rose
optional - any other embellishments that you would like to add such as buttons, sequins, etc.


1.  Place your cookie cutter on top of your Clover felting mat or a thick piece of foam 

2.  Place some fiber into your cookie cutter. 

3.  Using your Clover Needle Felting Tool or felting needle begin to poke gently at the fiber, being careful not to hit your felting tool on your cookie cutter.  Watch out for your fingers!! Those felting needles hurt so be extra careful! Ask me how I know........

4. Continue poking your fiber with your needle felting tool or felting needle,  turning it over and poking your felting tool on both sides until the fibers have felted together nicely.

5.  Now make a second felted crown.  

6.  Enjoy the stress relief that all of that jabbing and punching is freeing you of! 

7.  Embroider, add beads, and a tiny satin rose, or other embellishments if you would like such as buttons, sequins, etc.  I only embellished one side of the crown because I wanted to add a pin back to the back side of the crown so that it could be worn as a brooch or to be able to use it as a removable embellishment to a bag, scarf or whatever.  

 8.  Place the two crowns together.  I took a single felting needle to slightly felt the two hearts together, a bit.....being careful to not jab my felting needle into my embroidered design, beads or little satin rose. 

9.  Sew the two crowns together using a blanket stitch or whatever stitch you would like to use. 

10.  Sew a pin back to the backside of the heart if you want to make it into a brooch or a removable embellishment that you can pin onto a scarf, hat, bag or whatever!

Have fun and happy needle felting! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Off the Spindle: Handspun Blue Faced Leicester

Blue Faced Leicester is a long wool breed of sheep.  It has a nice long staple length usually 3 to 6 inches long.

I recently purchased some beautiful hand dyed BFL roving in a colorway of brown, blue and grey.  I spun and plied it completely by hand using one of my tibetan style hand spindles. This particular fiber had a stable length of a little over 4 inches and a micron count of 25 - 28 microns but to me it felt softer than what the micron count would indicate.

From the 4.2 ounces of fiber I ended up with approximately 340 or so yards of two ply yarn.  So I should have enough yardage for a pair of fingerless gloves, a hat or a scarf. 

If you are interested in learning to spin, I think that BFL would make a nice fiber for the beginner spinner.  But it is certainly not just a beginner fiber.  It is a beautiful fiber with lovely drape and this particular fiber was quite soft too!  BFL makes for some lovely handspun yarn

Monday, March 30, 2015

Thrifty Seed Starting Tips

This time of the year, a few warm days and a bit of sunshine and the local gardening centers start calling out my name so I recently stopped in to check out all the new bedding plants that are coming in. I can not help but want to get these hands into the soil when I see all of the beautiful bedding plants! Color, color everywhere!!

One thing that I love to do when I have the time is to grow my plants from seeds or from cuttings. This means planning ahead! During the winter I order seed and bulb magazines and dream of what I will be planting the upcoming spring season.  I enjoy the process and it helps to keep my mind dreaming on what my garden will look like come spring.  There is just something about planting a seed and having a beautiful plant grow from it that makes my heart sing!

When I was looking at all of the beautiful bedding plants I realized that along with everything else the price of them has gone up.  Some money can be saved by implementing some of the thrifty gardening tips that I am going to share with you.  If you're a gardener you probably know about every tip here, but if you are new to gardening you may learn a bit!  And I will have more gardening tips in future posts, so come back and visit again sometimes if you have an interest!

1.  Plan ahead.  Order seed catalogs early.  It is much less expensive to plant seeds than to buy plants.  Many seeds do well when sown directly into the soil.  But it is always a good idea to start your seeds growing inside ahead of time. 
2.  Save those egg cartons! Although any of the egg cartons can be used to plant your seed, I prefer the biodegradeable cardboard ones. When you get ready to transfer your plants to the garden you can just put them right along with the plant into the garden.

3. Cardboard toilet tissue tubes and napkin tubes can also be used to plant your seeds. Just cut and fold in the cardboard on the bottom to hold the soil and insert your seeds. Again, biodegradeable so plant it right into the ground once your seedlings are ready to go into your garden.

4. You can even roll newspapers and fold them to make a bottom and use the newspaper seed starting pot to plant your seeds. And when you are ready to transplant the seedlings you can plant them in the ground  along with the newspaper pot because it is biodegradeable too! I don't use newpaper for food type seedlings because I am just not sure of the safety of the ink used in the newspaper print, but I do use them for flower seeds.

5. Save your film cannisters and medicine bottles. Wash and sterilize them and dry them well and you can reuse them to store seeds for next year's plantings.  Labels to identify the type of seeds and the date that you collected them. Store in a cool, dark place.

6. Eggshells can be washed out and you can break away the tops of the eggshells, insert your seed starting soil and plant your seeds in them. Again....... biodegradeable!

7. Save your popscicle sticks to use for plant markers. They can be washed and recycled. Write the name of the seeds, the variety and the date sown on the popcicle sticks.  Another recycling tip for making your own plant markers is to save plastic food containers.  You can cut the lid and the packaging into strips and write on them with a marker.

8.  Plastic food containers from yogurt, butter, non-dairy topping, etc. can also be used to plant your seeds.  Wash the containers well and then sanitize them by soaking them in a 10%  bleach solution for ten or fifteen minutes so that they are clean and free of germs.  Make sure that you put holes in the bottom of the containers so that they have adequate drainage and place them on some sort of tray to catch water.

9. Follow the directions on the seed packets.  A tip to check larger seeds for viability is to soak them in water for a few hours. Some seeds have a thick coating and may need to be nicked prior to soaking. You can accomplish this with a pair of clean, sterile nail clippers or by slighly sanding the surface of the seed with a bit of sand paper. In most instances the seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom and the ones that are not usable will float to the surface.

10.  Plant your seeds in pre-moistened seed starting mix and plant more seeds than you think you will need because all of them may not germinate or you may just loose some of the tender seedlings for whatever reason and also because you will want to be able to choose healthy seedlings when you begin to thin out the weaker or smaller ones.  Once you have sown the seeds in in your seed starting container of choice make sure that the soil does not dry out.  And once the seedlings emerge make sure they get plenty of light.
If you are anything like me when you see those little seeds pop their little heads out of the soil  you will rejoice and be glad of a job well done! makes my heart SING with glee!!

I hope that you found a tip or two to help you along in your seed starting adventures.

Til next time......

Many thanks to Stone Cottage Adventurers for featuring this post on her wonderful blog! Hop over and check out her lovely blog!