Category Archives: Tutorial

Indigo Vintage Pillow Slips

I have a lot of vintage linens that are “precious” and I don’t mean that in a nice way.  They’re not my style; just too cute for me.

These are heavy cotton hand-embroidered pillow cases.

These are heavy cotton hand-embroidered pillow cases.

I decided to dye some of them.  The rage now seems to be grey and indigo so I started with indigo.

I would prefer a less lively color palette.

I would prefer a less lively color palette.

The choices of dye are vast and it’s difficult to know exactly what color you’re going to end up with.

Rit dye comes in liquid and powder.

Rit dye comes in liquid and powder.

I stopped by JoAnn and picked up 2 bottles of liquid Rit dye: one in Navy and the other in Evening Blue.  Going to The Rit Studio Guide was helpful to understand the undertones of each color. Navy has a violet (red) undertone while the evening blue has an aqua (green) undertone so I mixed the two to try and tone down (ha!) the undertones.

I used one bottle of Evening blue and a half bottle of navy.

I used one bottle of Evening blue and a half bottle of navy.

My recipe for indigo dye is 1 part navy to 2 parts evening blue.  Mix the dye as recommended on the package.

The dye color, even diluted, looks black.

The dye color, even diluted, looks black.

I used my kitchen sink for dying and left the clean, pre-wetted articles in the hot dye bath for about 45 minutes stirring and swishing them around from time to time.

I found moving the items around by hand easier than swishing with a stick so I wore rubber gloves.

I found moving the items around by hand easier than swishing with a stick so I wore rubber gloves.

.After everything was well-colored I ran each item under cold water until the water ran clear.

I carefully rinsed each item.

I carefully rinsed each item.

After rinsing I wrapped the items in an old towel to absorb much of the water then threw them in the clothes dryer.

The color came ourt as a true indigo without any purplish tinge which I found difficult to photograph.

The color came ourt as a true indigo without any purplish tinge which I found difficult to photograph.

The thing I really like is that the colors of the embroidery have also been muted.

I must have learned something from the last time I tried to dye something.

I must have learned something from the last time I tried to dye something.

I can picture these sturdy embroidered cases in the décor now.

I'm not planning to use them on the sofa but I could.

I’m not planning to use them on the sofa but I could.

What old item are you repurposing?

Jo’s Soup Swap Soup

On January 28th we’re having a Soup Swap. I call my soup “Healthy Winter Warm-Up”,  It’s not fancy; it’s not from a recipe; it just plain old soup.  So here’s a tutorial. 

Ingredient list for "Healthy Winter Warm-up"

 There are some steps that can be shortcutted when there’s not enough time or energy for making a swappable version. I’ll note the steps that can be omitted with the caveat that the best soup is made from following all the directions.

Start with a chicken that has been roasted.  Even a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store which has already provided a meal or two is a great candidate for making stock. (You can skip the roasting and use a raw chicken.)

Basic chicken stock in an 8-quart stock pot.

 To make basic chicken stock, in a large pot cover a chicken with water, bring to a boil and simmer for at least 2 hours.  I also add large chunks of carrots, onion and celery. ( I generally discard the onions and celery and eat the carrots.) These vegetables should cook until all the taste has been transferred to the broth. Taste the broth for seasoning and richness at this point.  The vegetables will add flavor but the stock should be delicious in its own right.

Large hunks of boiled (previously roasted) chicken.

While the broth is cooking prepare the aromatic vegetables — onion, carrots, celery — to put into the soup.

Traditional aromatic vegetables for the soup

 When chopped these vegetables are called mirepoix (probably named in honour of C. P. G. F. de Lévis, Duke of Mirepoix, 18th-century French general) a most traditional flavor enhancer to all sorts of dishes, especially soups. (Mirepoix is pronounced meer-eh-pwah.)

Mirepoix ready for the soup pot.

 Strain the broth from the chicken and vegetables.  In the original pot cover the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil and add the mirepoix. (You may omit sauteing and add the vegetables directly to the broth.)

Mirepoix sauteing in the stock pot.

 Since I had roasted the chicken before boiling it, in addition to the stock, I also had some liquid made by deglazing the roasting pan with chicken broth.  In the following photo you can see the difference in color and richness of plain chicken stock and pan drippings.

Chicken broth on the left, deglazed liquid in the right.

 Return all the stock — both light and dark — to the sweated mirepoix.

Large stock pot with stock and mirepoix.

 Add the remaining ingredients including the coarsely chopped chicken and simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Canned tomatoes, canned corn, frozen peas and fresh green beans.

 When the other ingredients (fresh is best but in winter use what is available) have cooked transfer to individual quart containers to cool then freeze for the Soup Swap.

Six 1-quart containers filled with frozen soup.

 Are you swapping anything this year?

Good Enough for the Garden

We found this old pine bench on the side of the road a number of years ago and have had it in various rooms including the cottage just for a convenient place to sit things (basically a moveable shelf).

Pine bench found on the roadside

 You’ll notice it has a crack in the seat but other than that it’s in good shape. With a little protective coating I thought it might make a convenient place to sit in the garden.

Originally I thought I could just sand it and stain it.

The sander was great for the top but the sides were awkward.

  I took the bench apart and Charlie reattached one of the small leg supports while I sanded and stained the bottom trestle with the same exterior stain as the shed.

The legs and feet of the bench are stained grey.

 Previously I had printed out on the computer the words “The Glade” in a large outlined font.

The copy printed on 3 pieces of paper.

 I scribbled with pencil on the back to create a kind of carbon paper.

Cover all the lines with graphite on the reverse side.

 Tape the letters to the bench and trace over them with a pen which will transfer the graphite to the wood as well as give a shallow indentation in the wood.

Trace firmly over the lines.

 Remove the paper and paint in the logo.  I used Minwax Deep Ocean stain which went on very smoothly with a small brush.

I paint from right to left because I'm left handed.

 After painting on all the lettering .  .  .

"The Glade" painted onto the bench seat.

 Cover the bench seat with brown, oily stain using a rag.

Bench stained with brown over the blue.

 Finally, I outlined the letters with black Sharpie and lightly sanded the top.  Charlie prefers the letters outlined; I do not.

"The Glade" bench is ready for a spot in the garden.

 After the stain is fully dry cover the seat with a coat of protective polyurethane finish.  (The bottom of the bench has exterior stain and needs no further protection.)

Have you started thinking about Spring? Can it come fast enough? Or are you content with winter?

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Soup Swap Invitation

I told you we were planning a Soup Swap here. Because this party requires preparation from the participants, a printed invitation is in order.

In a Word file on the Landscape setting I set 2 columns.  In the left-hand column I entered the basic invitation and in the right-hand column the details of how a soup swap works. I used Executive size paper but you can use whatever you have, just be sure to make the correct setting.

The inside of the invitation.

 (Our address and telephone number go right under “Location”.) To get soup graphics Google “soup” and click on images.  You’ll have plenty of possible art for your invitation.

The cover which is printed on the reverse side of the same sheet of paper needs to be set up with the back on the left and the front on the right as below.

Invitation cover with personal logo on the back (left) and invitation information on the front (right).

 Make sure the cover side is printed so that the inside reads left to right when opened. If you’re like me you’ll make a few tries before it lines up correctly.

Soup Swap Invitation Cover

 Fold the invitations and voila!

Are you a partyer?  What’s you favorite theme?

Tin Man

I have been saving these tea tins for years (more than a dozen years) with no idea how to use them.

Teas tins stored in the shed

Then I saw these candles on good old Pinterest.


And Charlie had brought home these old candles (which should have gone into the dumpster) when he was cleaning out a house for an elderly woman’s estate.

Old candles

 Here’s where inspiration meets know-how.  Apparently when Charlie was a boy he made candles first with his father and then on his own. His candles were so nice that he sold them.

I was just going to pour melted wax around a candle and call ‘er done.  It didn’t work. But Charlie cut the tall candles to fit the tins leaving a long piece of wick extended to tie onto short pieces of wire (which he clipped from a clothes hanger).

Wick tied around wire to steady it

 We melted the bits of wax that were left over from cutting the candles to size in an old coffee can in a pot of boiling water.

Adding wax to the melting pot

 Let the pot simmer until the wax is totally melted.

Melting wax

 Once the wax is melted pour it into the tins being careful not to get burnt.

Carefully pour the melted wax into the tins

 And let the whole project cool.

Let everything cool overnight

 And the next morning you’ll have tea tin candles. Oh, no, wait a minute. What happened?  The wax shrank in the tin.

When the wax cooled it left hollows in the center

 So we heated up a little more wax and topped off the candles.

Totally functional candles in a can

 And so that’s why I’m calling Charlie the  Tin Man. I think that’s nicer than the moniker for the third man in the rub-a-dub-dub tub.*

Are you working on a totally frugal project? Do you save things waiting for inspiration?  Are these candles nice enough to give as token gifts? I like to give candles as a gift because if it’s not the recipient’s “cup of tea” he/she can just burn it.

* Candlestick maker

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and Primp

GioGio (pronounced JoJo) Caprese Panino

The title of this post is a mouthful in itself but all I’m trying to say is I have a favorite sandwich and I like to make it my way.

Gratuitous picture of the best tomatoes ever - Sungold

First off, caprese is a dish which features freshly sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil. You can have a caprese salad, hot or cold caprese pasta, etc.  I make a caprese grilled sandwich.

The ingredients are:

The ingredients

Spread a generous helping of pesto on one slice of bread.

Spread the bread with pesto

 Cut 6-10 Sungold cherry tomatoes in half

Cut the tomatoes in half

 and secure them cut side down in the pesto.

Bread, pesto, tomatoes

 Lay a slice of cheese on top.

Swiss cheese is my favorite, use any cheese.

 Top with a second piece of bread on which a splash of olive oil is added on the outside.

Pour on a little olive oil and spread it out.

 Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot pan and lay the unoiled side of the sandwich in the pan.

Sandwich in oiled pan

 When the bottom is golden, flip the sandwich and cook until the other side is golden and crispy.

Flip the sandwich unless you have a panini maker or grill

 Cut in half and enjoy.

GioGio Caprese Panino

 If you have a sandwich grill or panini maker you don’t need to flip the sandwich which is preferable because sometimes the little tomatoes roll out.  If that happens stuff them back in because every bite is delicious.

And I said you can use any cheese in the directions: I personally would never, ever use cheese in a can (but I know those who would).

What’s your favorite cheese for a grilled sandwich?
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Peach Smoothies

Peaches are bountiful now. And we have a connection at a local produce stand that allows us (by way of Charlie) to have all the peaches they can’t sell.  They sort through their produce every morning and remove the ones that are bruised or blemished in any way. We, on the other hand, are not that picky and gladly receive these soon-to-be-thrown-away fruits.


 When the peaches come home, Charlie peels them, cuts them up and bags the pieces in zip-lock sandwich bags. This size bag allows for quick partial thawing.

Cutting and bagging peaches.

These bags of peach pieces are then frozen.

Freezer bin full of bagged peaches.

To make a peach smoothie the following utensils are helpful:

Mixing wands - left has circular blade for really whippy consistency; right has s-shape blade for a coarser texture.

  • tall container in which to mix
  • blending wand (or a blender)
  • serving glasses or cups (we’re using old-fashioned punch cups for a party but a goblet is great too)

And I use the following ingredients:

    • frozen peach pieces (or cut-up peaches and ice cubes)
    • low-fat milk or juice (I use cran-raspberry and call it Peach Melba)
    • vanilla extract
    • Splenda or sugar

Peach smoothie utensils and ingredients.

Add partially thawed peaches (you want them to be very cold or you’ll need to add ice cubes) to tall container.


Cover with milk or juice.

Add milk to peaches

Add dash of vanilla and sweetener to taste.

Add vanilla

Blend with wand to a think and creamy consistency.

Blend until creamy

Pour into cups and serve.  This is both healthy and refreshing. Appreciated by children and adults.  A great reason to party. And, because we get the peaches free, extremely frugal.

Smoothie being poured into punch cup.

We made this recipe over and over at our Peach Smoothie party

3 trays of punch cups

We have about 50 punch cups and every one was used and refilled. The only drawback to this kind of party is the smoothie making really can’t be done ahead of time but they’re oh sooooo good and refreshing on a warm night.

Smoothie ready to serve

Our son would like to trade out the peaches for strawberries. What’s your favorite summer cooler? Isn’t now a great time to whip up a batch?

Sidebar:  The above post is my recipe meaning low-cal and low-fat.  Charlie’s recipe involves vanilla ice cream in lieu of the milk and sugar in place of Splenda .

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