Friday, October 5, 2012

Robyn's Bag

I made this for My Favorite Girlfriend, Robyn O'Neill. Robyn is a most extraordinary friend. I treasure the shorthand we have together. Our friendship is nourishing. When I get to see Robyn, I am assured of getting 100% of that day's requirement of good friendship.

This bag has a nice long strap on it, which can be slung across your torso diagonally so you can be free to engage in debauchery without fear of your purse falling by the wayside! And, per Robyn's input, it is plenty big enough to hold an iPad.

The stripy trim was applied with a needle felting tool that Andy's mum and sister gave me for my birthday. It's really fun! You lay some wool on the surface and then just poke it into the felt. Eventually, after the repeated stabbing is complete, the fibers all glom onto each other and they become one. I might get carpal tunnel syndrome from it, but it is therapeutic too. Sort of like a (insert the name of the politician you dislike) voodoo doll.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Triskele Bag

My friend Kelly has done so many nice things for me over the years...She introduced me to Andy Cleveland, she and her husband Paul have fed us dinner too many times to count, and they even were gracious enough to host our wedding at their house. Kelly was definitely high up on my list of people I want to make something pretty for. With its celtic motif, I think this bag suits her to a T. I lined it with a cheery polka dot fabric so she'll feel happy when she looks inside it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

L is for Scrumptious!

I made this cutie-pie bag ages ago--I think it may have been one of the first ones I felted.  It's finally going to a proper home. My co-worker is going to give it to his niece for her birthday. She's just a little girl of four or so, and she may very well color all over it with magic marker and drag it through puke. I just hope she enjoys it and learns to make a pretty cursive "L."

And no, I did not make this bag with the "L" thinking that someday I would meet a really sweet guy with a niece whose name begins with "L." The green accents were an add-on!

The Thinque Bag!

This bag is a collaborative effort between my friend Bridget Gethins and myself. I call it the Thinque bag because that is the name of the Etsy shop we started together--THIN for the last part of her name and QUE for the last part of mine. I have since moved on from Etsy, but Bridget is still going strong with it, adding new and wonderful creations to the shop all the time!

Bridget did all the beadwork on this bag and I did the knitting, felting and finishing. I love the delicate tree design, and how the pearls remind me of when the buds on the trees are nice and fat in the spring. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I had this stored in an unfinished state for well over a year. I was so happy to finish it today and I can't wait to give it to Bridget!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Peru Bag

This little number is called The Peru Bag because that's where the yarn is from. The yarn luckily made its way to Bay City, Michigan, where I bought it in a very nice little shop called A Piece of Ewe

When the yarn was not yet felted, it was a clownish mix of really bright colors, but once felted, it turned into this beautifully muted piece that reminds me of a landscape. The "sky" bit across the top is an alpaca and merino wool blend. It's lined in a similar azure blue fabric I trimmed it with some cute wooden buttons that I found in a drawer at my mom's house. To give credit where credit is due, I must mention that using the buttons was Andy's idea. 

My friend Jenny is having a birthday in a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to giving this to her. Don't you dare tell! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sunshine Day Bag!

Finished this yummy little bag this morning! Doesn't it just make you want to sing "Sunshine Day" by the Brady Bunch? This purse is all happy inside, as is illustrated in the picture below.

The craft use-up challenge is still going strong, and my yarn pile is getting smaller! I am having fun with these projects, and not planning them out too carefully. The bag tells me when it's done. It says, "Don't sew any more stuff onto me--I've had enough." I sound like the Psycho Craft Lady.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Miss Priss Clutch

This is another bag I began so long ago that I literally don't recall knitting it at all! Ah, the joys of menopause brain. Everything looks new again if you ignore it for a few months!

Before my dear co-worker Emily Cole moved away, she gave me some pretty yarns in rosy and purple hues. I knitted the small leftover bits into rectangles and felted them so I could cut them up and make little flowers out of them.

This little clutch bag is just big enough for the essentials when you're out for an evening. Credit card, lipstick, iPhone, Virginia Rep Theatre tickets.

I embellished it with teensy glass iridescent beads. This was a very fussy and fiddly process that I must say I enjoyed. It's lined in a pink and silver micro-animal print.

Don't know who I will give or sell it to yet. I'm waiting for the right prissy person to come along and claim it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hot Fun in the Summertime Bag

The craft challenge marches on...

It is 105 degrees outside today. Great day to stay indoors and finish this bag that I don't even remember starting! I unearthed it, in its unfelted state, from my knitting box a couple of days ago and just put the finishing touches on it today! I'm going to send it to Emma for her birthday--she loves orange. I like the splashy lining fabric. It makes me think of when you take a bite of sun ripened summer fruit.

Now I'm hungry.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Great Craft Use-Up Challenge of 2012

I am a chronic starter of craft projects. I am not a chronic finisher, unfortunately.

I was poking through my ever-growing box of yarn--well, now it's two boxes of yarn--well, I have a third box upstairs in the attic but we don't talk about that box--and I was overwhelmed by the number of projects I have in various stages of incompletion.

I hereby challenge myself to come up with a creative solution. The object of the game is to use up all this yarn by making all sorts of pretty things. I will spend zero to little money on these projects, as to assuage my guilt about accumulating and procrastinating.

I will then use these pretty things, sell them or give them away as gifts. Everything must get used! I am not allowed to buy any more yarn until I use all of what I have on hand.

This is the first fruit of my challenge. It is beautiful, if I do say so myself. When I knitted it, it was probably a third again this size. It looked like a baggy sweater, but it felted down to a perfectly sized purse. I lined it in a recycled tablecloth. The swirly designs on each side are made of scraps that were cut off the shoulder strap, which was too long at first. No scraps of wool were harmed or wasted in the making of this bag.

I am almost finished with another bag as well--I will post pics of everything to generate excitement and draw undue attention to myself. Just want to see if you are reading!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I'm always looking for new vegan recipes, even though Andy and I are no longer doing the vegan thing. I really miss being vegan, and I try to sneak in as many vegan dinners as I can! Between all the bacon sandwiches.

I found this recipe for sweet potato veggie burgers on a sexy vegan blog called Healthy Happy Life. I was completely sucked in by Kathy Patalsky's beautiful photographs. She also has a lot of pictures of her cat, and that makes me feel less geeky for doing the same thing on my blog.

I made some burgers out of a baked sweet potato, a can of cannellini beans, a dollop of tahini, a tablespoon of fine cornmeal, a few chopped scallions, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. I put the mixture in the fridge to firm it up, then formed it into patties and coated the patties in panko. If you don't have panko in your pantry, go get some right now. Coat something with it, fry it and eat it. You will thank me profusely.

I made a tasty vinaigrette of olive oil, lime juice, honey, cilantro and a splash of vinegar.

Fried the patties in some canola oil until they were golden brown, and then served them on a bed of butter lettuce, topped with avocado slices, and drizzled with the vinaigrette.

They were really delicious! But not perfect. I needed to have a firmer texture, as they were very floppy when forming them into patties and cooking them. Any suggestions? Bulghur? Rice? Anybody? Anybody?

I will definitely try these again with some tweaks to improve the sturdiness, but I give them an A+ for flavor and presentation. They are so pretty when you dig into a patty and it's all orange and yammy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lemon and Parmesan Penne with Stolen Asparagus!

It is Thursday, the day before I get paid, so you know I am skint. "Skint" means "broke" in Andy vernacular. I just like the sound of it, don't you?

You need a good go-to dish after a long day's work. Something cheap, delicious, fast, and reasonably healthy. Something you can substitute ingredients with when you are out of stuff. I think this fits the bill quite nicely! It's made entirely of things we pretty much always have on hand--lemons, pasta, parmesan cheese, olive oil.

The variables are fresh veggies and herbs. Tonight we had some asparagus on hand, and I nipped across the street and stole some gorgeous fresh mint from my neighbors. And you better swear not to tell them.

While we blanched about 20 stalks of asparagus and boiled enough pasta for two, I used a little food processor to make a pesto of:

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (not shredded, but grated)
1/4 cup olive oil
a generous handful of freshly stolen mint leaves (!)
zest and juice of half a lemon
fresh cracked pepper

Drain the blanched veg and pasta and toss it with the pesto.

And that's all there is to it! This is really a 15 minute dish, including prep time.

I have made this with peas instead of asparagus and basil instead of mint. Use your imagination! I like to use enough veggies to bulk up the dish so it's not too pasta-heavy. The lemon, cheese and olive oil complement one another really well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ooh La la, it's a Galette!

I have never made anything with rhubarb before this weekend. I saw this great looking recipe for Indian spiced lentils with rhubarb in an email from Vegetarian Times, so I went on a hunt for some rhubarb on Saturday. Literally five stores later, I finally found it at Kroger. I couldn't believe how hard it was to find, considering it is in season right now. When we were kids in Michigan, it grew wild all over the place and we would yank the tart and juicy stalks out of the yard and chew on them. The lentil dish was really tasty, but I still had a few stalks of rhubarb left. After what I went through to procure them, I did not want them to go to waste. There was gonna be pie, dammit.

I have pie anxiety. Especially when it comes to rolling out the crust. This is a perfect way to have all the deliciousness and praise that comes with a freshly baked pie, and none of the stress. The shape should be  imperfect and it should look homey and rustic. And then you give it a slightly snooty sounding name and you have a success on your hands.

I just used half a recipe for the lovely rustic crust. That was about a cup of flour, 3/4 of a stick of very cold butter, zest of half a lemon, pinch of salt and sugar, and just enough ice cold water to bring it together.  The filling was 2 big stalks of rhubarb and a whole lotta sugar (maybe 2/3 cup), a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of cornstarch. I baked it at 400 for about 35 minutes.

I recommend this for anybody who's afraid of making pie! It is a very pretty and forgiving dessert. You don't have to shape it perfectly at all--in fact it looks even better if it's irregular.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pulled Pork. Oh Mah Gawwd, Y'all.

Until I moved to the south, I had never heard of pulled pork before. I think you can actually get it up north these days, but 20 years ago it was definitely a southern specialty.

The other morning on the Today Show, one of my fave bloggers, The Pioneer Woman, was demonstrating this recipe for pork roast. It looked really trailer-trashy at first glance. Any recipe that just requires you take a slab of inexpensive meat, then open cans and bottles of stuff and dump it on top, then shove the whole dang thing in an oven, arouses my suspicion. 

But when she unveiled the finished pork roast, Andy Cleveland and I sat transfixed and salivating in front of the TV and vowed to try it. 

Of course, I had to complicate matters by spilling a whole container of black peppercorns on the floor. Do you know what a pain in the ass this is? Those little black spheres do not stay put when you try to sweep them, and they are like walking on tiny marbles. 

I have never cooked such a massive slab of pork before, and I was befuddled as to what to do with the thing. Which way do I put it in the pan? What is this thick slab of fatty stuff? Do I cut it off? Does it go on the bottom or the top? Andy Cleveland sagely suggested, "I think you're over-thinking this, Sweetie."

So I cut up some onions and layered them in the bottom of the trusty dutch oven, salt and peppered the roast and stuck it in the pan.

Next, I opened a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and dumped it on the slab.

Then I poured a bottle of Dr. Pepper on top of the whole mess. I did not have quite enough Dr. Pepper--the recipe called for 2 cans and I used a 20 oz. bottle. To make up the rest of the liquid, I added some cider vinegar with brown sugar dissolved in it.

Then I covered the pot and stuck it in a 300 degree oven. 
And then there's the waiting. Like 6 hours of it. This was a 5 pound roast and we cooked it low and slow. We turned the beast over at about 2 hours into the cooking, and didn't touch until we returned home. To pass the time, we went down to Legend Brewery and swilled beer and listened to bluegrass music. Four hours and three beers later, the house smelled Ah-May-Zing when we stumbled drunkenly through the door!

When I tried to lift the pork roast out of the pan, it was so tender that it literally fell off the bone. It pulled apart with forks like buttuh, and we ate it with some homemade apple sauce on the side. This pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Today, we ate it again with fresh coleslaw on Andy Cleveland's home made buns! 

This is a wonderful and inexpensive way to serve a bunch of people. We ended up freezing half the pork, eating it two nights in a row and taking sandwiches over to the neighbors.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's a Wrap

This is our favorite sandwich these days. I took a picture of it before rolling because it's ever so much prettier that way.

I have a difficult time getting Andy Cleveland to embrace any kind of sandwich that isn't comprised of bacon, butter and white bread, but he is positively queer for this hummus and raw veggie wrap! And it is such a nutritional home run, with all the vitamins, protein, fiber and flavor!

When you get old like Mr. Andy, these are things you must think about.

I love the smile on his face when I roll this thing up and serve it to him. He is genuinely excited, which is so endearing. And when he finishes eating it, which is about 4 bites later, he gives it a very positive review, proclaiming it as a "very satisfying" sarnie.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yes, I Know the Muffin Man.

People have actually asked Andy what English muffins are called in England. Just for the record, muffins. And they're kind of hard to find in the grocery stores in England--crumpets are much more ubiquitous.

How he has made it to 55 years of age without ever trying these before is a puzzlement, but when I shuffled into the kitchen on Sunday morning they were already rising.

He found a recipe on a blog called Pete Bakes, and it looked fun and simple. So as I lazed about in slumber with the cat, Andy was busy as a bee, measuring and kneading. And that is what I call a perfect Sunday morning.

Did you know that English muffins are first cooked on a skillet, and then finished off in the oven? Well me neither.

They turned out very well and they are a doddle to make. That means they're easy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fun with Falafel

I have been loving falafel most of my life. My uncle Shukri Zazou introduced our family to it when I was probably about 12. This was quite a revelation in the 60's, in the middle of Michigan! I have since learned to make lots of middle eastern food, and fresh falafel from scratch is one of my all time favorites. The box mixes are certainly easy and decent enough tasting, much like instant mashed potatoes are perfectly edible. But who wants that?

A food processor is a must with this recipe. I guess a blender might work okay, or a manual food grinder. But really, if you are the least bit interested in cooking, go buy a Cuisinart food processor. Don't be a pretender.

Here are the 'gredients:

16 oz.bag of dried chickpeas, soaked 24 hours and uncooked
however many cloves of garlic you can take-I use about 6 or 8
1/2 cup or so of bread crumbs or soaked bulgur
sesame seeds, about 2 tablespoons (optional)
a big fistful of roughly chopped parsley or cilantro
4 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons ground cumin
salt and pepper

Put all the above ingredients in a very big bowl and toss them to begin incorporating them. Then pulse all this in the processor until it is incorporated but still grainy. Don't get it too fine--you don't want it to be pasty. When you grab a handful and squeeze it, the mixture should stick together. If it doesn't, add a little water. I have to process the falafel in 2 batches to get it to fit in the machine.

Don't fret if you end up with too large a batch of raw mix. It freezes really well!

Form it into little ping pong sized balls. I like to flatten them a bit so they're little fat patty shapes. Kind of like my arse looks when I've been eating too much falafel!

Heat about a half inch of peanut oil in a deep frying pan. It takes a while to get hot enough. I don't really know what the temperature should be, but if you drop a little blob of falafel into the oil it should immediately swarm with sizzly bubbles. I am so very scientific.

AND NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: When you slip the falafel balls into the oil to fry, resist the urge to fuss with them and turn them about. Keep yer mitts off 'em! Just leave them alone until the submerged bits are quite cooked before you try to turn them or you'll end up with a big greasy pan of free floating falafel crumbs. Oh, the horror. The shame!

When the little darlings are crisp and brown, drain them on paper towels.

Also, you can vary the ingredients if you wish. Some people add onion, hot chiliies, fava beans--whatever your taste tells you.

I love to eat falafel with yogurt-tahini sauce and a salad of chopped tomato, cucumber, scallion, olive oil and lemon juice. I also like to jam those ingredients into a pita and have it as a sandwich.