Category Archives: Tutorial

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.

Peaches

 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.

Peaches

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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Dying Fabric: How Not to Guide

I was determined to dye  turquoise the unbleached-muslin-colored cotton curtains I had made many years ago for the Cottage since I was painting the interior pale aqua.

These are all the curtains tossed together.

(They were slightly stained but would certainly do for now.)

This window needs curtains that are easy to open and close.

In addition, there were sheer cotton voile panels at the front door window .

Four panels of cotton voile for privacy and light filtering.

  I had been given 2 linen panels that could be used for the two additional windows in the main room. Why not dye them all?!!

I bought a packet of turquoise iDye for natural materials.

iDye for natural fibers in turquoise.

 I read the directions on the back which instructed to either dye in a washing machine or in a pot on the stove using 2 pounds of fabric per pack of dye.

Here are the problems I had with those instructions:

1.  I wasn’t about to use my washing machine to dye fabric.

2.  I had way too much fabric to put in a pot on the stove.

3.  How do you figure what 2 pounds of fabric is?

I decided to use the bathtub in the cottage to dye the curtains.  I ran some hot water into the tub.

I tossed the dye packet in the tub of hot water. The package directions said the covering would dissolve.

 And it did dissolve and the water started to turn blue. 

I stirred and stirred and stirred.

 But even when the water was deep blue clumps of dry dye kept coming to the surface.

I added more water because I didn't think there was enough for all the curtains at one time.

 Add non-iodized salt to the water and thoroughly dissolve.  (I had to run over to the house to get my neti pot salt.)

Here's the entire load in the dye at one time.

I had rubber gloves on so I could swish all the fabric around with my hands until everything was well-saturated. I held each clump of fabric under cool running water to rinse much of the dye from it.

Rinsing the linen.

 Then I took each panel out and wrung it lightly so I could put it in the clothes basket and carry it over to the house.

Please notice there are deep turquoise curtains and pale mint green panels.

 Once in the house I washed the fabric in the washing machine with mild detergent and cold water, then partially dryed the curtains in the dryer and ironed them.

Everthing linen - deep turquoise; everything cotton - pale mint green.

Mistakes and how to fix them:

1. The clumps of dry dye could have been avoided by putting the dye packet in a pot of boiling water and dissolving it completely before adding it to the tub.

2. Dying a huge amount of fabric at one time could have been avoided by doing each different type of fabric separately and one at a time. (What a thought! Genius!  Wished I’d have thought of it then.)

3. Running to the house for salt could have been avoided by amassing all the ingredients for the project BEFORE starting. Mise en place as my chef friend says.

4. I forgot to wet the fabric while it was in the tub before I started so I had to try and wet these huge pieces of fabric in the bathroom sink.  Wet them FIRST next time.

5.  Different colors of finished product could be managed by using all the same fabric.  I did not know this would happen and it’s not necessarily a bad thing except I don’t really care for the pale green.

Well, friends, that’s my how-not-to- tutorial.

Oh, yeah, I have a few spots that are overly saturated with dye. 

The spots are not large and might hang in the folds. Oops.

 To minimize this while in the dye bath I rubbed the fabric against itself.  I could have totally avoided it by practicing #1 in the how to fix mistakes section.

Here’s a little before and after.

Four panels of cotton voile for privacy and light filtering.
Lovely mint green. Hmm?!

Cotton voile dyed turquoise became mint green.

 I’m glad to have had this practice for the time when I’ll be using more expensive fabric and absolutely need a perfect result. What’s your tale of a learning experience?  Did it go horribly awry? What could you salvage?

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Window Putty, I Mean Glazing Compound

When we started scraping the trim on the cottage so it could be repainted, to our horror we discovered all the putty holding in the window panes was dry, cracked and dislodged. No problem, we’ll just reputty the windows, all 24 of them.  Yikes!

Window scraped clean of old putty

First problem, getting the putty.  We went to Home Depot and started in the “Window and Door” area.  No putty there.  Then we asked a fellow and he said, “Try paint”.  OK, so in the paint area there are all kinds of caulk, spackle, putty, etc. but no window putty.  Oh, yes there is.  In its own special area within the paint department they have (da-da-da-daah) Glazing Compound. (Don’t bother asking the paint mixing guy because he won’t know.)

A tub of Glazing Compound (Window Putty)

 Before we could actually begin to putty, Charlie had to scrape and chip away as much of the old putty as possible with his 14-in-1 tool. I’m pretty sure a 5-in-1 will work just as well.

14 in 1 Tool

Then (after a few failed attempts and reading “How to Replace a Window Pane” on “This Old House” website) we learned to make a long snake of the glazing compound and push it securely around the glass pane.

Apply a rough rope of putty and press it into the wood.

Dip the end of your impeccably clean narrow putty knife in mineral spirits and cut a 45 degree angle between the window frame and the glass. Scrape away excess putty and return to tub because it can be reused.

Remove excess by scraping along wood.

 Clean your putty knife after each pass.

Draw the putty knife at a 45 degree angle and press hard to make a clean beveled finish.

Go over it again if you need to. Remember to dip the putty knife in the mineral spirits.

Pressing hard on the blade makes a nice, neat cut.

According to “This Old House” don’t clean up the windows for a couple of weeks until the glazing compound dries and sets a bit.

Puttied window. One down 23 to go.

A BIG job. Now that we know how AND have all the tools, maybe we would tackle it again (but I doubt it). This is the kind of project that makes a house a better place to live but it’s time consuming and has minimal aesthetic value.

Newly puttied and painted - Glade Cottage

Do you have an unlovely but necessary job hanging over your head? We encourage you to git ‘er done!

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Bamboozling: How to Build a Bamboo Trellis

We showed you our garden support system made wholly of bamboo trellises that we fashion from bamboo and jute twine.

Garden after the rain with trellises in place

 Perhaps a tutorial is in  order.  When I first started making these trellises I got the idea from a story many years ago in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Who else but Martha would have something like this?

Bamboo Factory

 First we get out bamboo from a neighbor who is happy to have the dead wood from his bamboo forest thinned each year. 

Cut the poles to length with a saw or secatur

 Then we cut six (or eight) poles per trellis to approximately the same length (somewhere betwen 8 and 12 feet depending on the poles we have). Accurate measuring is not necessary.

Supplies in front - Must have a ladder!

 Tie pairs or triads together by winding twine around them. 

Tying the joint with twine

 We used to be much more precise but have realized over the past few years that lots of twine and fancy lashing just aren’t necessary.  

Tying top crossbar onto frame

 Stick the untied ends of the bamboo in the dirt and lash crossbars across the top and bottoms.

Tie crossbars at the base for stability

 It’s not necessary for the bamboo poles to be uniform in diameter or even totally straight.

All these poles were utilised, even the crooked one.

 After the basic shape is erect, string the entire form with 6-8 verticle twine climbers.  Tie at the bottom and go over the top bar and tie on the oppposite side.

Stringing the trellis for maximum vine climbing

 This basic A-shape trellis is great for cucumbers, pole beans or any vining vegetable (or flower, if you’re into that sort of thing. I am, but Charlie is certainly not going to waste time or energy on trellising flowers.)

Do you think our garden is high strung?

 Hmmm .  .  .

Who are you calling high strung?

 What’s your totally frugal but extravagant secret?  C’mon, let us in on it, we won’t tell.

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Bistro Love – Before and After

I introduced you to a charming bistro set here. And it was pretty cute then.

Chippy but cute

 The problem beyond the chipping paint is that it had begun to rust.  Our favorite method of stripping paint from metal is a wire wheel on a drill and just a few days ago I purchased a whole set of wire wheels to help refinish this bell. 

Black and Decker Wire Wheels

 Get it? A whole set of wire wheels to refinish A BELL! Really I was getting someone (Hi, Charlie) prepared to strip the entire bistro set so I could repaint it.

Last night Charlie got started with his new wheel set. (He loves a new tool and a whole set is even better.)

Electric drill with wire brush attachment

 There are a lot of little curlicue places on the chairbacks so Charlie also used our Dremel tool with a little coarse wire brush to get into the tight spaces.  That worked well but is very time consuming as in “Don’t try to Dremel the entire chair or you’ll be here six months from now”.

Dremeling the curlicues

 Here’s one of the chairs after being wired.

Bistro Chair stripped of loose paint

 Once the metal is stripped fairly clean (it need not be totally devoid of paint, but everything chipping or flaking must be removed) I sprayed dark grey primer onto the chairs and table.  I started with the underside. (I stuck circles of painters’ tape on the bottom of the feet so the plastic slides would not have paint on them.)

Self-etching primer used on the undersides

 Then I flipped everything over and gave it a couple of good coats on the top. I could have stopped here because I really like the color of the primer, a medium dark grey with a slight greenish cast.

Primed Bistro Chair

  After letting the primer dry for 24 hours, I pulled out my new favorite color of spray paint:  Metallic Charcoal by Rustoleum.  It has just a hint of sparkle and more depth than traditional black. I coated everything with 3-5 light layers of the  finish color.

Metallic Charcoal Bistro Chair in the morning light

 Again I started on the underside.  Then flipped everything over making sure every nook and cranny was painted. (This took about a can and a half of paint.)

Drying

 In a couple places the paint started to drip a little bit so, while it was still wet, I touched is lightly with a rag which removed the excess paint.  Then I sprayed it lightly in those spots to restore the sheen. The photos show the lovely, restrained sheen of this paint: akin to gun-metal.

 Everything dried for at least 24 12 hours before we replaced the glass on the table and the pale green cushions. (Not sure we’re going to stick with the pale green but for now that’s what we have.) Of course, it also rained all night on the newly painted set!

Bistro Set - Before

 Ta -dah! Voila!

Bistro Set - After

 From another angle

Bistro Set - Finished

 Detail of chair .  .  .

Bistro Chair - Metallic Charcoal

 When the house renovation is complete, this set will move to the east side of the house onto a second-story porch where it will get the dappled morning sun. 

In place until the renovation

 Now it’s time to enjoy!

Morning Coffee at the Bistro

 Have you finished a satisfying project recently? Or has it been way too long?

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