Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Sewing Day

I've started working on an adorable quilt designed by Lori Holt. It's all about housekeeping. To be honest, I'd rather sew than vacuum and wash dishes or do laundry. 
This is an applique that will be place in one of the quilt corners...

I love how it's turning out. So cute! And so much more fun that actual cleaning. :)

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Pin Cushion

I finally finished stitching this lovely pear pin cushion...

I used some scraps of an old quilt that I had stashed away. It's a great use for those little pieces, don't you agree?
Vintage millinery flowers and pearl beads...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blackboard Covers for Messy Storage Units

I'm pretty sure that every household in America has these modular storage units in some room of the home...

I have two units placed next to each other to form one large storage area. They seemed like a great idea at the time because our house has very little closet space and I needed someplace to stash my fabric. I liked the price of these and I thought they would fit the bill. And they do. But...

Problem #1: I have a cat that sheds baby fine white fur like no body's business. I actually have to keep plastic covers on my a granny!! No more indoor pets for me, but that's another topic of conversation. Anyway, those little cube areas are covered in fur all of the time. The fur also sticks to the canvas bins that hold my fabrics. They need to be dusted every day, but I don't have the time. It's not pretty.

Problem #2: They just look messy and kind of sloppy.

I've seen a couple of great ideas for changing these types of units into apothecary cabinets and the transformations are amazing. I'm not a great woodworker though, and I wanted to do something fairly inexpensive and easy. I came up with these chalkboard canvases that attach to the front of the units with Velcro! That's major carpentry skills needed. Here's how I did it:

I wanted to add some height because it makes cleaning around these things easier. Now I can Swiffer under them to gather up the cat hair and dust. So, I added inexpensive wooden legs that I picked up at Lowes for around $2.00 apiece. They screwed right into the bottom. I used my drill to drill a hole in each corner, added some wood glue and then screwed the legs into place. MARK WHERE YOU WILL DRILL FIRST. Hold the leg where you think want it when you're done, mark where to drill, then drill:

I forgot to take a picture of the legs I used, but here's what they look like after I spray painted them and attached them:

After the legs are attached you can prepare the canvases. I measured and was able to determine that four canvases that were 25"x25" would to nicely. I purchased them on line from The shipping was slow, but I liked their prices. 
I picked up a can of chalk paint at Lowes and painted each canvas with three coats of paint. Let each coat dry before applying the next. I like to use those little sponge brushes sometimes because I can simply toss them out after the job is done..

After the canvases are painted and dry, you'll need to "condition" the chalkboard surface. You do this by covering the entire surface with chalk and then wiping it off with an eraser (I used a cotton rag as my eraser). See how I'm using the side of the chalk to cover more area faster?
Below is a canvas that is conditioned and ready to use:
I decided to add small knobs to the sides of the canvases so that they would look more like a cupboard door. I found the center of one side of each canvas and used my drill to drill through the WOODEN FRAME portion of that side:
This is the front of the canvas with a hole:

Here's the back of that same side. The hole is actually through the wood frame:

I used the screws that came with the knobs to attach the knobs to the canvas. I did all four in this  manor. Here's how they looked when I was finished attaching them:
Almost done! At this point it was time to attach the canvases to the front of the storage units. I decided that the easiest way would be to simply use Velcro. I used my staple gun to staple strips of Velcro to the edges of the storage unit and onto the canvas. Looking back, I think it would be easier to only do the top edge of the storage unit and the top edge of each canvas (one with the "male" side of the Velcro and the other with the "female" side). This way you wouldn't have to worry about having to match up the pieces of Velcro when sticking the canvases on. I also think doing the full tops of the unit and the canvas would keep the canvases in place solidly enough. Also, I did use self-sticking Velcro. The staples were an extra step to make sure that it all stuck:
You get the idea though, right?
See the Velcro on the back of the canvas?
Then, it was simply a matter of "sticking" the canvases onto the face of the storage units. When I want to get my fabrics that are stashed inside, I simply take the canvas off and then stick them back on when I'm done.
Here it is finished!..
I looked on Pinterest for some spring themed chalkboard art and did my best with it. I'm not a very good artist. :(    I'll switch it out for various seasons and holidays.
I love how it turned out! And now all of that mess is hidden away. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Got Hens? We do...

And just look at the beautiful eggs from my two Buff Orpingtons. I love them so! Spring has sprung... 

Just look at those yolks...

Got hens??

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hidden Dish Drainer DIY

I don't own a dishwasher. I've lived in my house for over 20 years and I've survived without a dishwasher just fine. I don't mind washing dished by hand. It's just two of us here, so unless we have company it's totally manageable. The one upside I do see to having a dishwasher is that you have a place to hide the dishes while they are being "processed" so to speak. They aren't staring at you all of the time from the dish drainer or the sink. I've always hated walking into the kitchen and seeing them sitting there. The drainer is usually piled high with dished because I'm to lazy to dry them and then put them away. And, even if I did, I'd still be stuck with that ugly drainer taking up space on the counter. It's just unsightly.
Here's the visual...Yeah, that's right! Dirty dishes in the sink and some clean ones sitting on the counter. And to be honest, this picture looks pretty clean. It's usually worse. Oh hey! There's the dish rack!

(Incidentally, we did an addition off of the back of our house which is why you see that cement board above the sink. That used to be a window. Now it opens into the new living room. I know it's funky. This kitchen needs to be remodeled too, but that's not in the cards right now.)
Anyway, I started thinking about what I might be able to do to hide the dish drainer. I wanted a place to leave some dishes while they dry, but I don't want to see a mess on the kitchen counter. I saw some pictures on Pinterest of Italian dish racks that are built into the cabinets. How nice is this?? Hello Beautiful! Those Italians have such style!!
But sadly, I don't have that kitchen and I'm going to be stuck with mine for a long time. It seemed to me that I might be able to come up with something similar (and cheaper!). First, I measured my cupboard. Then I headed off to Walmart. I bought a cookie sheet and a metal dish drainer that would fit inside of the cupboard. When I got home, I moved the bottom shelf up a couple of notches in the cupboard (see the smaller shelf space there?). This made more room for me to be able to reach in and add or remove dishes from the drainer as needed. See the dish drainer in the cupboard with dishes in it? Those are just washed. The drainer is sitting on the cookie sheet, which catches the water drops:

If I wash a pot or a large pan that doesn't fit in the cupboard drainer, then it gets dried and put away right then and there. This change has forced me to be neater in that regard, which is a good thing.

And now my kitchen counter looks like this:

It's SO much nicer waking into the kitchen now. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter Beauty

I've never been a fan of the winter. Bundling up like the Michelin Man to go outside isn't my idea of fun. I need to be able to throw on shorts and a tee shirt and go. I'm a native Californian, so you know that as far as I'm concerned... if it's colder than 70 degrees then it's freezing!
Well, it has indeed been freezing around here. :-  January 2nd turned out to be frosty cold. Despite the chill I felt in my bones I couldn't help but notice the beauty that can be found in the stillness of winter. I snapped the photo below along the driveway of a client that I went to see this morning:

This is somewhere out in the country in Healdsburg, CA.

Stay warm!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Secret to Fried Rice..

Living in the Napa Valley means that I'm only about an hour or so away from San Francisco. We do day trips there fairly often. China Town is one of my favorite areas of the city. I love the hustle and bustle there. People shoving their way along the sidewalks...A little push, a little shove. 

There are tons of storefronts with goods spilling out onto the sidewalks. You'll see China doll shoes, silk purses, bamboo fans, teapots, housewares and fireworks. If you stop to take a closer look at that special something that caught your eye, a vendor will appear at your side within 5 seconds. Apparently people like to snatch fireworks or China doll shoes from the shops and then run. I never seen it happen, but this is the only reason I can come up with for why they stand there and eye you like a hoot owl. Maybe they are just being helpful. I'm not sure.

Anyway...I'll buy a little something if I have to have it (and I usually do) and then move along. I like to look at the strange herbs in the Chinese medicine shops. There are dried seahorses and scorpion tails. I wonder to myself what they are for. I'm sure they are made into a medicinal tea. A tea that I know I'll never taste! Speaking of tea, there's a man standing in front of a tea shop in the next doorway. He tries to lure me inside. He tells me that he's 85 years old. I'm pretty sure he's around 50 and he's lying to me. He's a little hard to understand, but I think he's telling me that tea is why he looks so young. It's the fountain of youth. I like tea and all, but there's no way he's 85. I'm not buying it. I move on...

Then I'm distracted. Suddenly I get a whiff of that greasy, fried foods aroma. I look around for the source. There it is! The corner Chinese food restaurant!! Red, smoked ducks are hanging in the window. This is the place! That smell pulls me in and I enjoy wor wonton soup, shrimp chow mein and orange chicken with sticky white rice. Another wonderful day in China Town! :)

Every time I eat Chinese food I think to myself that I need to learn how to make some of these tasty dishes at home. They look so complicated, but recently I've discovered that I can produce a few simple dishes in my own kitchen at home. Fried rice is one of them.

A couple of weeks ago I while I was in a local bookstore I came across Steamy Kitchen's Healthy Asian Favorites, by Jaden Hair. You can find a lot of free recipes here at her website I decided to go ahead and give the Seafood Fried Rice (from the book) a try. It was SO good and really easy to make!

The secret to good fried rice is to cook the rice the day before. Let the rice sit in the refrigerator overnight to dry out a bit. This makes a huge difference. For the recipe below, I just used shrimp because I'm not a huge fan of scallops.

Seafood Fried Rice (Steamy Kitchen's Healthy Asian Favorites by Jaden Hair)

2 Tablespoons oil (I used canola)
2 egg whites (this is for a healthier fried rice. I used one whole egg in mine)
1 green onion, minced
6 oz raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and chopped
6 oz bay scallops
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 cups cooked rice (separate the grains with a fork)
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce. (The recipe says you can substitute fish sauce if you want - I like soy sauce)

Heat one tablespoon on oil in a pan (or wok) and scramble the egg. Remove the cooked egg from the pan and set aside. I used a separate, small frying pan to cook the egg and then removed it from the heat and let it cool. You can transfer the egg to a small dish and use the same pan to finish the remainder of the recipe if you wish.

Mix the sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl or cup so it's ready to add at the end.

Heat the remaining tablespoon on oil in the pan. Cook the green onion for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, scallops (if using) and ginger. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds.

Add the eggs back in. Add the rice and peas/carrots. Toss everything together and then spread the rice out around the surface of pan. Turn heat to high and let it cook (don't stir) for two minutes. Then toss the rice. Spread it out in the pan again and cook for another 2 minutes (again, don't stir).

Pour the sesame oil/soy sauce mixture over the rice and toss.