Friday, August 18, 2017

Eats: My Favorite Salad Dressing

Hello! I eat salads throughout the year, either as a main course lunch or as a side to other meal components. But of course they taste the best during our local growing season. The produce looks as pretty as a picture then:

Above, my side salad includes leaf lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, radish and clover sprouts. I grew the tomatoes, cucumbers and the sprouts, while the other veggies came from the Farmer's Market. I'd started the tomatoes from seed; it's the Sweet 100 variety, very prolific. The cucumber came from a plant I bought at the Farmer's Market earlier this spring. The clover sprout seeds are from High Mowing, an organic seed company.

(Those nice slices of radish, cucumber and red onion are courtesy of this purchase, which I still love using as much as I did when I first got it). 

And lastly, my favorite salad dressing, visible as the pale yellow, thick topping. The recipe came from an Internet source, but I don't recall where now. 

Tahini-Ginger Salad Dressing (adapted from an Internet source)

2 tablespoons tahini 
Juice of one lemon (see note below)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (see note below)
2 teaspoons honey (see note below)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

The directions are merely one line: "mix all together in small bowl". However, I find the dressing mixes best when I blend the tahini, lemon juice and honey together first, then stir in the olive oil and seasonings. Store in refrigerator until needed (I use a glass jar). If using after being stored, stir a little first.

Notes: I don't always have fresh lemons on hand, even though I know they make a better-tasting juice than the bottled stuff. But it's the bottled stuff I typically use. My bottle of Real Lemon says that three tablespoons of their product equals the juice of one medium lemon, so that's what I put in the dressing. 

Could you use dried ginger powder instead of fresh ginger? I'm guessing you could, but here's a case where I've always used the fresh product when called for instead of subbing in its more processed version. I use a couple of tips to make handling fresh ginger easier: 

1. I cut it into chunks that'll work in my recipes
(smaller chunks for this dressing recipe, larger pieces for stir fry dishes). I cut it as is, no peeling done. I put the pieces in a quart freezer bag, then stash it in the freezer. 

2. When I need fresh ginger in a recipe, I just take out a chunk I  from that freezer bag. The peel cuts off very easily while frozen. For this recipe and ones that call for minced ginger, I use a grater (my Microplane grater does a great job), while the peeled chunk is still frozen. If the frozen ginger needs to cut into pieces instead, I set it aside for a few minutes to thaw a bit (or if in a hurry, I'll put it in the microwave for a few seconds). It's easier to cut if still a bit hard, rather than if thawed out completely. 

I suppose that fresh ginger loses a bit of its flavor if frozen first, then thawed out for use, but it beats the alternative: I'd buy a knob of fresh ginger and keep it in the produce crisper, only to have it go bad before I could use it up. 

Honey is messy to measure out, so I always just eyeball the 2 teaspoons needed for this recipe while squeezing or pouring it out of the bottle.

The recipe doesn't give the yield, but I think it makes around a cup. It can be scaled down, but I like this dressing so much I've occasionally doubled it. And why do I like it so much? It's a nice consistency: some dressings are so thin, they fall to the bottom of the salad bowl, while others can be thick and gloppy. This dressing seems to be just right. (note: it's a bit thick just out of the refrigerator, so I take it out to warm up a bit while I'm making my salad). And I don't know if this dressing is particularly healthy, but it tastes like it is. And besides tasting healthy, it tastes good!

.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Vivid Vacation #2

Hello! My husband and I had visited Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory (as discussed in this post) earlier this year, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to visit again so soon. However, our daughter was along for our recent summer vacation, so my husband thought she should see the conservatory for herself. Somewhat reluctantly, I agree, and as it turned out I was very happy we had gone. The special exhibit my husband and I had seen in March was very nice, but now in its place is "Super.Natural" by Seattle-based glass artist Jason Gamrath.

As you'll see from my photos, Gamrath's glass is stupendous, both in scale and in design.

Real orchids are beautiful, but Gamrath's orchids are just as breathtaking in their own right. 

A cluster of pitcher plants, one of many such groupings in the exhibit.

More out-sized flowers.

Giant water lily!

Another rendering of a carnivorous plant, this time the Venus Fly Trap. Thankfully, Gamrath didn't include giant bugs!

Daffodils aren't in season anymore outside, but in Gamrath's world they always will be.

A close-up of those gigantic daffs. 


Boisterous blue flowers. 

A darker shade of blue here.


More orchids. 

And more daffodils.

As you can tell, I thought "Super.Natural" was a great exhibit, and if you're going to be in the Pittsburgh area before November 6th, I suggest checking it out. If you like flowers, glass art, and oversized objects, you'll surely like Gamrath's masterpieces!

If you'd like to know more about this exhibit, go here.








 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Vivid Vacation #1

Hello! We were on vacation last week, a trip that took us to central Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, southern Ohio and Indiana. The photos I took are heavy on vivid art works and gardens, so that's what I'll be showing off here. 

First up, an art quilt show at the Berea (KY) Arts Council. The show was sponsored in part by the Lexington-based Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society. The theme of the show was food. 


One of the quilt show exhibitors was on hand, I suppose to answer questions people may have had about the quilts, so she graciously posed with her masterpiece. It's made from silks she had hand-dyed, and she had added a plethora of beads and quilted detailing. The face in her quilt is a self-portrait. Alas, she didn't win a ribbon (the one shown in the photo is for the quilt displayed next to hers), but I thought she deserved one. She said she typically spends a few hours per night working on her quilts. That's patience, though she referred to it as a passion. 

Being a squirrel lover, I was taken with the lower right-hand corner of her quilt:

There's delicate shading on the squirrel's body, and each acorn cap is adorned with several hand-sewn beads. Beautiful work! Unfortunately, I didn't get the artist's name, but I certainly respected her talent, and the talents behind the other quilts in the show as well.  

Berea seems to be quite into sustainability, so I saw a number of raised bed gardens affiliated with area businesses, like in front of a dentist's office:


and the public library:


A few of the several raised beds sponsored by the library are shown.

The next day we visited the Arboretum/State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Free admission, other than the children's garden, so that was a bonus. We enjoyed our visit, and wouldn't have minded paying to view the plantings. 

I should have taken more photos, but I was so busy taking in the plantings that I didn't do so. There were a number of display gardens, plus the arboretum. I was also impressed by the Walk Across Kentucky: 
 
The Walk Across Kentucky
The Walk Across Kentucky was first planted in 1991 after extensive plant collection efforts in the 1980’s, which sought to secure the botanical diversity from across the commonwealth, and cultivate it in a common location for research and conservation efforts.  The collection currently exists as a two-mile paved pathway that meanders through over 80 acres of native plantings representing the 7 physiographic regions of the state.  The collection is constantly expanding, and as of 2015 includes over 520 native species from 99 plant families.   There are 2500 trees and shrubs on the Walk Across Kentucky, showing the great diversity of woody plants found in the state.  More recently, efforts have been made to further develop the interesting ecosystems found across Kentucky, including tallgrass prairies, wetlands, savannahs, and glades. 

(the above info is from the Arboretum/State Botanical Garden of Kentucky website, which can be found here.)

For dinner that evening in Lexington, we visited Smithtown Seafood and West Sixth Brewing. The two businesses are in the same building: if you want something to eat along with your brews, you head over to the Smithtown side of things to order up your meal. When it's ready, it'll be brought over to your table at the brewery side. 

And you sidle up to the bar to order beer:

Wall of souvenir t-shirts:

My husband liked his beers, and we all liked our seafood dinners. I had the Cape Codder (a fish sandwich). But despite our orders and the name of the restaurant, vegetarian, burger and salad options are also available. 

We thought West Sixth Brewery had a fun, funky vibe, and we appreciated the brewery's mission as a home to several community events, like running and cycling clubs, science talks and game nights. 

All in all it was a fun and busy two days in Kentucky. Next post: I'll show off a combination of art works and gardens together.


 

 

 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thrifty Acres: Have Arts And Crafts Supplies, Will Travel

Hello! In preparation for our recent vacation, I began to plan what arts and crafts supplies to take along on the trip. Lately I've been using a scrappy journal (as seen here) to record vacation memories, plus I was going to be finishing up the two-month ICAD (index-card-a-day) activity while on the road as well. 

The number of supplies I like to use for both projects adds up, so I wanted a handy way of carting them around. In the past, I've tossed things like scissors, glue stick, ephemera, rubber stamps, markers and the like in plastic bags, but this method didn't organize things very well. I figured there had to be a better way, and one that didn't involve going to a big-box arts and craft store to buy some pricey organizational system. 

And there was a better way, and for $1.25 at a local thrift store:

A Mary Kay cosmetics bag. Closed, it measures 12"w by 11"l; depth is about 3 1/2". 

Doesn't look like much, I know, but opened, it's a different story:


The left side of the bag has two large pockets, one of which has a zipper. I stashed a bag of ephemera in this zippered pocket, and my scrappy journal in the other pocket. On the front of the top-most pocket is an assortment of small mesh pockets and an elastic band that had been sewn down in sections to create looped holders. I suppose those loops were meant to stash makeup brushes, but I placed a pen and a small pair of scissors in some of those loops. I put a glue stick, a small bag of text pieces and a small bag of patterned art paper scraps in a few of the mesh pockets. I could have arranged even more small bags of supplies if I'd felt like it. 

The other side of the cosmetics bag:


More elastic loops on this side, which are holding a roll of double stick tape, two craft scissors (each cuts paper with a patterned edging), a rubber stamp pad, the ICAD index cards, a set of glitter markers and an alphabet rubber stamp set. On the upper right side is a small, clear zippered bag, which I used to corral a roll of washi tape.

I was pleased with this bag while on our vacation. I had enough supplies to add variety to my scrappy journal and my index cards, and it was easy to find what I'd brought. Sure beats that old method of tossing things in plastic bags! 

For good measure, here's a scrappy journal page from one of our vacation days:


A portion of the takeout menu from Thai Essence, located in West Lafayette, Indiana. I featured Pad Kee Mow, the noodle stir-fry dish I'd ordered. It was delicious, although the three-chili symbol meant to show that the dish had some heat seemed a bit of a mistake. It wasn't spicy at all. 

I also included part of the weekly sales flier from Jungle Jim's, a HUGE grocery store in Fairfield, Ohio (near Cincinnati). It's a must-see in that area!

Of course, you might not be interested in doing collage-type work while traveling, but a bag like the one I got could easily be filled with supplies a quilter, a knitter, a painter or other hobbyist use.

(And if you're not an artsy-crafty type, or at least not while on the road, such a bag could be filled with first aid supplies).

Incidentally, we stopped at a big-box arts and crafts store, Michael's, while on vacation (our daughter wanted to look for a particular decorative item). While there, I wandered over to one of the paper crafting aisles to see what crafting organizational systems were available. I didn't see anything that looked exactly like a cosmetics bag, of course, but one particular bag looked like it would hold roughly the same amount of supplies. Its cost? $29.99. 

Of course, this crafts storage bag featured a pretty design on its exterior, while my bag is just a boring solid black. Just the same, I'm happy with my former Mary Kay product, and its much lower price tag!


 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Made It: Seashell Mobile

Hello! Spied this project awhile back The Spirit Of Christmas 20th Anniversary Edition (thrift store find):

In the chapter entitled "Beach House Christmas", a seashell-laden wind chime is shown. But the thought of seashell crafts in the dead of winter didn't make sense to me. I thought this item would look better in the summer, when the local beaches where I live can actually be used. 

I had plenty of seashells on hand (another thrift store find), but didn't have the starfish and sea glass that are on the supply list. So instead I went to one of the local beaches to pick up some driftwood, and used beads for the sparkle the sea glass would have given. I also omitted the jingle bells, so I'm calling my finished project a mobile rather than a wind chime. 

Here's how it turned out: 



This mobile didn't photograph very well, no matter where I hung it, so I'm showing off two pics: hanging up on an interior door and laying on the carpeting. It's actually hanging up on the front porch, but it's even harder to get a good shot there. 

Some close-ups:


Overall, this was an easy project, although there were a few tricky parts along the way. For one thing, I learned that some seashells don't take well to having holes drilled in them. Fortunately, some of my thrift store seashells had holes in them already, and I was able to make holes in some of the remaining shells without too much effort. 

The other problem was finding the right-size needle: one that was thin enough to go through my chosen beads, but also with a thick enough eye to accommodate the thin twine I was using for the strings. 

But once the shell-drilling and the needle-threading were accomplished, the project went together fairly quickly. I started by drilling five holes in my driftwood piece: one on each end, one in the center, and one between the center hole and each end hole. 

Next, I strung thick twine through the two end holes, tying the top center of the twine into a hanging loop. Each end was knotted underneath the driftwood. 

Then all that remained was the arrangement of the three strands. Using thin twine, the end of each strand was threaded through the top of the driftwood. I added two beads to each end and then knotted the twine. 

Each strand was then strung with alternating beads and shells. I didn't measure where to place these; I just tied them on. The middle strand is the longest, so it has one extra bead and shell. 

For extra measure, I dabbed each knot with a bit of waterproof glue. Hopefully this will keep the knots from unraveling. 

As far as dimensions, my driftwood piece is 15" long (horizontal length). The mobile measures about 40" long. I didn't plan a particular length, it's just what I ended up with. This is the kind of project that's pretty adaptable; you can make it as big or as small as you'd like.  

And if you want, you can always use your mobile to decorate for a "Beach House Christmas", as the Spirit Of Christmas folks had intended. I'm fine with my beach-look mobile in the summertime!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Get Carded: Happy Graduation!

Hello! Family and friends gathered this past weekend to attend the high school open house for one of my nephews. A good time was had by all, and I also had a good time crafting his greeting card:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • gold art paper scrap
  • blue art paper scrap (has a bit of gold on it too)
  • graduate silhouette image cut from vintage wrapping paper
  • diploma shape stamped on white card stock scrap, ribbon colored in with blue marker; cut out and affixed to card
  • stars cut from blue serendipity paper and gold art paper scraps
  • "Congrats" stamped in blue ink
It's a rather simple card design, but I figured a young man wouldn't care for a fancier design. His high school has blue and yellow for its colors, so the blue and gold of this card was a close match.

But as for college school colors, this nephew is going to our alma mater, Michigan State University. So I used green and white ribbons to wrap a gift I'd made him (a fleece blanket made from a MSU-licensed pattern).

My nephew did very well in high school, so I have no doubt he'll do equally well at MSU. Good luck, and Go Green! Go White!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thrifty Acres: The Way They Were

Hello! In my previous post, I showed off vintage ads of products which have disappeared from store shelves. In today's post, I'll show off ads from products that are still around, but with different packaging - and different ad campaigns, of course. These ads are also from the September 1948 issue of Woman's Day magazine.

Above, the mom looks absolutely ecstatic - and so does her son - over the pouring of V-8 juice into his drinking glass. They may be thrilled, but when I was a kid, I was thrilled my mom never served the stuff! Don't care for it, but I'm sure it's still considered a "wholesome easy-to-serve drink". 

In fact, the "easy-to-serve" aspect was highlighted in a current V-8 ad campaign, in which the V-8 imbibers were competing against opponents who favor trendier healthy beverages. In one commercial, a man downs his V-8 while a muscle-bound fellow is still shaking his drink to mix it. In the other commercial, a woman empties her glass of V-8 while her competitor is calling in an order to some juice bar or smoothie place. 

I thought both commercials were hilarious, even if I still don't like V-8!

The "Derby" name is no more, but Peter Pan peanut butter is still around. (at the time of this ad, Derby Foods was a subsidiary of Swift & Company. This peanut butter is now made by ConAgra Foods.) The ad also mentions "New...Crunchy...Tasty, crunchy peanut bits mixed all through the smooth goodness of Peter Pan Peanut Butter."

"mixed all through" - guess they pointed that out so folks wouldn't think the "peanut bits" were only on top!

I think the vegetables on the label resting in front of the tomatoes are supposed to be peppers, but what's the green stuff behind the tomatoes supposed to be? The ad mentions that Hunt's Tomato Sauce is made with "fine spices and seasonings", so perhaps it's something along those lines. 

The ad copy ends with this: "Get six cans right away!" But why that particular number? The ad doesn't say. 

This time of year, grocery store end-caps are loaded with s'more fixings: graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars. But in this ad, the product is used in a pie crust for Peach Meringue Pie.  "Make this 'new' company pie!" the ad copy exclaims. I have to admit, I'd never heard of peach meringue pie, but a google search came up with several recipes for it.  

The Nabisco graham cracker boxes certainly don't look like this anymore. I think the the graphics on this box appear quite old-fashioned. 

Also old-fashioned in appearance are the graphics for these Ocean Spray cranberry products:

Yeah, I know the ad is from a magazine that's almost 70 years old, but by comparison, the graphics on the Hunt's can seem more modern in style.


Rit's still around, but I don't know if "Lots of girls" are still "dunking dresses" in it. I've used Rit a handful of times myself, most notably to change the color of some compression socks my dad was supposed to wear. I couldn't find this type of sock in green, his favorite color, so I dyed several pairs in green Rit dye. Worked pretty well.

 Good ol' French's mustard, which was first introduced at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. From that auspicious beginning, the R. T. French company (the founder's name was Robert Timothy French), has endured. I read that it's currently the #1 mustard brand in the US. 

Well, that's it for my blast from the past. I wonder how many of these products will still be around 69 years from now? And if still around, who knows what their packaging - or their ads - will look like!