Saturday, April 26, 2014

Eats: Slow Cooker Fake Rotisserie Chicken

Hello! Somewhere on the Internet recently I came across a recipe called "Slow Cooker Fake Rotisserie Chicken". I have to admit, I've never purchased a rotisserie chicken, nor had I cooked a whole chicken in the slow cooker before. It sounded like an easy way to cook a chicken, though, so I decided to give it a try. 

First, I'll give you the recipe, then tell you how it worked out.

Slow Cooker Fake Rotisserie Chicken

One whole chicken
Lawry's seasoned salt
Aluminum foil

Make five balls of aluminum foil and place in bottom of slow cooker. Remove giblets and neck from chicken; rinse chicken with water. Place chicken on top of foil balls (this keeps chicken out of its own grease). Sprinkle liberally with seasoned salt. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 6 hours. 

I forgot to take pictures of the before-and-after process, but I can report on how it cooked up. In a word, very well - the meat was so tender, it was falling off of the bones. 

Before this, the only time I cooked whole  poultry was at Thanksgiving. Although I liked the leftover meat and carcass for the makings of future meals, I never liked the messy tedium of taking the rest of the meat off the bones. 

But as I said, this slow cooker method resulted in such tenderness, it only took a few minutes to separate the meat from everything else. 

There was a cup or so of juice at the bottom of the slow cooker after I'd removed the chicken, so I poured that into a refrigerator storage container to solidify the fat. The next day, I removed the fat from the juice, then cooked the juice, the chicken bones and some water to make a very nice chicken broth. It, plus some of the meat, became the basis of a soothing chicken soup. I'd picked up either a bit of a cold or an allergy, and under those circumstances what could be better than homemade chicken soup? 

I liked the technique well enough that I picked up another whole chicken a couple of days ago to cook the same way. This time I took pictures, not that they're very interesting though:

The before shot. This time, I remembered that I have a vegetable steamer rack, so I used that in the bottom of the slow cooker instead of the aluminum foil balls. You can see the seasoned salt sprinkled on top. I suspect it's specified in the recipe more for a fake "browned" appearance (in order to mimic an actual rotisserie chicken) than to add a lot of flavor. I say this because I used the skin along with the bones when making the broth, and I didn't detect a salty taste when the broth was done. That was fine with me. I'm sure you could use other seasonings if you'd prefer, of course. 

After six hours of cooking on high:

Basically looks the same, although you can see that it'd shrunk a little. Came out just as tender as before. I separated the bones, skin, etc from the meat as before. If I don't feel like making broth right now, I can freeze that stuff along with the juices and cook them later. 

The cooked chicken I hadn't used in my soup was packaged up and put in the freezer. The second batch of chicken meat will end up there too. I have a number of recipes that call for adding a cup or two of cooked chicken, and it'll be handy to have some all ready to go! 

To sum up, this recipe is as easy as can be and the results are very good. Now, if only I could fit a turkey in my slow cooker...


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Spring Fling 1968

Hello! Well, in spite of it being cooler than average most days, spring really has arrived. My daffodils are blooming and some of my tulips won't be far behind. The snow peas, lettuces and greens that I'd sown outside have emerged from the soil as well. 

So, what better time than the present to review the Spring-Summer 1968 edition of McCall's Needlework & Crafts? (an estate sale find). Just be forewarned, there's going to be the bizarre along with the okay stuff! 

Let's start things off with a hand-knit "groovy dress":

How do I know that it's groovy? Well, because of the accompanying copy, that's how:

But for a more formal look, there's this duo:

Matching knit dresses, "Pretty enough for a day in town, causal enough for a trip to the zoo" we are told. Really? I was about the age of the girl in the photo when this magazine came out, but I don't remember hand-knit dresses and white tights being a typical outfit for a trip to the zoo! 

Another knitwit duo:

The plaid garments have been knit and then paired with a skirt or sleeveless shift dress. Not a bad look, which is more than what I can say about the following:

Yikes! I don't know what's worse, the light pink number , the model's stiff hairdo or the weird look on her face. Somehow, she ends up looking like a Barbie doll wearing some knit thingie meant for a larger doll. But if you want to be like the magazine, just say Barbie's wearing a "peppermint-stick cape collar". Sounds a lot better than saying she's wearing oversized doll clothes! 

Not a knitter? Well, there's plenty of non-knitting projects - some good and some not-so-good. I'll show off the good first, like:

The abstract designs on these drinking straw and napkin holders still look pretty cool, I think. 

A pretty clever design, with one half of the butterfly on each of two pillows. We are told that only two embroidery stitches (chain and outline, in case you were wondering) are used, so this would be easy to work up.

Yes, there's some good projects, now for the bad and the ugly!

Do you want to see an "amusing accent for a family room or den"? Then how about this "lady lion"?

That's a mirror where the lady lion's body should be. But I don't think her face would have encouraged me to look at my face in the mirror! 

Am I being too harsh in my assessment of that lioness? You tell me:

Looks pretty creepy to me! 

Ready for more creepy animal faces? Sure you are!

Not sure which one is uglier, the bunny or the cat. Let's just call it a tie! Both are "lively decor to cut from corrugated paper, paint...with vibrant color". 

It gets weirder, at least to my modern mind: the above description of that "lively decor" is preceded by the heading "FUN ART FOR TEENS". It's hard to imagine today's teens being happy with images of ugly animals! 

I know that upcycled crafts are currently very popular, so making something decorative from corrugated paper (ie corrugated cardboard) would fit right in with that trend. But let's hope that those animal faces don't EVER come back! 

The spring and summer of 1968 won't ever come back either, of course, but I enjoyed the flashback and I hope you did too. 



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Eats: Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Hello! I'm the sort of person who likes my restaurant sandwiches and burgers with "the works", and I always like it when caramelized onions are included.  They add a nice gourmet flavor, so I wanted to make some at home to have on hand for my own sandwiches and burgers (pizzas too). 

The traditional way of making caramelized onions involves long, slow cooking and occasional stirring over a stove. I tried this once and it was fine, but I wanted to see if there was an easier way. 

And so I came across a couple of recipes for a slow cooker version of caramelized onions. 

Recipe #1:

3 pounds sliced onions
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all in slow cooker; cook on low 8-10 hours. Can try cooking on low 7 hours, then remove lid and cook on high 1 hour to evaporate liquid. 

Recipe #2:

3-4 pounds sliced onions
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Cook on high 10-12 hours. 

The cooking "speeds" are different - low versus high - and the second recipe calls for less than half the fat. So I used the olive oil and the cooking time/temperature of the second recipe, but added the salt from  the first recipe. Also from the first recipe was the removal of the lid the last hour of cooking to evaporate liquid. 

I started out with close to four pounds of sliced onions:

After eight hours on high, they were looking pretty browned and there were even a few burned bits around the edges. I figured this meant the cooking time was nearing the end, so I removed the lid for one last hour of caramelizing. 

Here's what I ended up with:

A lot of cooking down occurred: my four pounds of onions were reduced to around 3 1/2 cups. They taste just fine.

They're currently draining in a small colander and once that step is completed, I'll set some aside for sandwiches - they'll keep for about a week in the refrigerator. The rest will be frozen in small packages for future adornment of sandwiches and pizzas. 

And just like that, I have my gourmet topping with very little effort!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Hello! And a Happy Easter to all! Like Christmas, Easter has its own gift-giving traditions, so here are a couple I've made for the occasion:

Above, I've photographed three chocolate bunnies for my husband and a greeting card for my dad. 

Close-up of the card:

Materials used:
- white card stock
- page torn out of an architecture history book
- egg shape I'd painted 
- "The Lord" cut out of a vintage children's book 
- "HAPPY EASTER" stamped in black ink
- vintage button

One of my sisters had already bought our dad various white chocolate Easter treats for his basket, so instead I made him a batch of Italian-style anise toast cookies. 

For my husband:

A close-up of two of the three chocolate bunnies I made for him (total of two dark chocolate and one white). I used a Wilton cookie mold, purchased at a thrift store. I don't know if Wilton still makes these; the packaging has a 1997 date. This mold is made of stoneware, and can be used for shaping chocolates and certain craft materials  (wax, clay and paper mixtures, according to the packaging). The mold was easy to use and as you can see, the details came out nicely. The bunnies almost look like they came from a candy store, I think. Each is six ounces, so my chocolate-loving husband should be happy for a little while!

Of course, I still know "the reason for the season" as Christians everywhere celebrate Jesus' triumph over death today. But just as that brings joy to worshipers, I hope that my gifts bring joy of a different sort to their recipients. 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Made It: Quickie Crafts

Hello! With tasks like yard work, spring cleaning, decluttering and holiday baking going on this week, it's nice to have a couple of quickie craft projects as a change of pace.

I had done a recent post (April 6th) entitled "Fast Fabric Flowers". Right around that time, my husband brought back a nicely-made journal from a conference he'd attended. Now, the organization that put on the conference is a fine one, but I didn't care for their raised-letter logo on the journal's front cover. 

So instead, I glued one of my fabric flowers over the logo, and voila - from boring business-office look to this:

Total time spent: no more than five minutes. 

In a much earlier post (seen here), I showed off some pillowcases I'd made. Came across a pretty, springlike fabric piece at a thrift store recently. It was the exact amount I needed to make another pillowcase, and was only a dollar, so I bought it. Try buying a yard of fabric for a dollar at a fabric store - uh uh, it's not going to happen. (Sure, fabric stores will occasionally offer $1.00/yard fabric sales, but I've found the fabrics thus offered to be of lesser quality than the one I just purchased at the thrift store). 

Here's how the pillowcase looks:

The colors look a little more washed out than they really are - the green, for instance, isn't quite as muted as shown above. Trust me, it's a pretty print.

Total time spent: around ten minutes at the most. There's no cutting involved - just the pinning together of the sides, the sewing up of two edges, and then the hemming of the open edge. (complete instructions are available in the link above). 

It'd be nice if all my craft projects were as quick as the two I've shown off here, but can't win 'em all, I suppose. But I do think these two quickie crafts are winners!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thrifty Acres: 1970's Style Easter Decorations

Hello! While browsing through the Easter display at a local thrift store, I spotted this:

Even from a distance, the mushrooms and the Day-Glo colors screamed the 1970's to me. I picked it up for a closer inspection and saw an inscription on the side of the yellow/orange mushroom: "1977 THE BEISTLE CO. MADE IN U.S.A.". Well, there's the proof that my guess was correct. 

I know that these cardboard cut-outs are really meant for young kids to enjoy, and I no longer have a youngster at home. But I liked the goofy design anyway, and for a quarter, it was mine. 

Once home, I decided to veer away from the blue bunnies I'd been sewing and instead sew one to match this decoration. Looked through my stash of yellow and orange fabrics, but unfortunately, didn't have any that was yellow with orange polka dots - it would have been fun to match that groovy mushroom. (Orange is probably the color I have the least of, but I don't have a lot of yellow either). 

Instead, I came up with this little guy:

This is another altered pattern from a recent thrifted book, See-Me-Learn Toys. The critter is supposed to be a kitten, but I lengthened the ears to make a bunny. As I often like to do, I made it less than the specified full size; it's 5" high. 

Everything used to make the bunny was thrifted or free. The calico used for the body might very well be from the 70's. I've seen quite a few magazines, craft books and craft magazines from that decade.
It seems that calicoes were widely used at that time for various sewing and crafting projects, especially for patchwork. Perhaps the Bicentennial celebration was the reason for these old-style fabrics and their use in patchwork designs at that time.

The orange-checked fabric used for the bunny head is newer, but the buttons, thread used to sew them on, and the rickrack are all vintage. I stuck on a piece of costume jewelry (the yellow and white dangling bit; perhaps from the 1960's) for a little extra dash.

Perhaps I'm easily amused, but this little bunny was fun to make. And I think it looks pretty good next to the decoration that inspired it:

My bunny may not look as cool as those mushrooms, but I like it just the same.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Art Work From Paris

Hello! To celebrate the very last bit of snow melted away from our property today (front yard faces north, so that section took awhile), I decided to frame an artwork I'd gotten awhile back:

The piece is a watercolor with pencil and is a stylized rendering, I believe, of a vase of tulips. Not visible are the words "Paris 2003" on the lower left-hand corner of the painting. On the opposite lower corner are the initials "YB".

A close-up of the painting:

Nice colors and shading, I thought. 

The painting came with a white mat, and on the back of the mat are the words "Montmatre Paris 2003 Yolande Burie" - (that name is obviously what the "YB" on the front stands for).

So, okay, the painting didn't come from Paris recently, and I can't prove that it was actually purchased in Paris, but it seems likely. An online search revealed a write-up of a Spanish tourist's visit to Paris, in which a mention was made of buying Yolande Burie's art at a gallery in the Montmatre neighborhood. Alas, a check of that gallery's website revealed no information on Ms. Burie. The Spanish tourist's post was from 2007, so perhaps Ms. Burie is no longer painting - or at least is no longer having her works sold at that particular gallery. 

I added two additional mats in coordinating colors and then popped everything in a wooden frame painted a pale white. 

So, how much would a 8x10 triple-matted, framed watercolor normally cost? The artwork alone must have cost a little something when purchased in Paris. I admit, the frame is not of super-high quality, and I don't know if the mats had been been cut to order or just purchased off the shelf from a store that sells framing supplies. Still, if everything had been purchased brand new, the price likely would have added up.

I can tell you my cost, though:

Yolanda Burie painting: 50c
8x10 wooden frame: 69c
Double mat set: $1.00

These low prices were courtesy of local thrift stores, of course. 

Thus, for under two bucks, I have a nice framed work of art. And that's worth celebrating along with the melting of our snow!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Made It: A Bevy Of Blue Bunnies

Hello! Due to the mess around here (aftermath of water damage in part of our house), very few Easter decorations went up. But I did feel like doing a little decorating, so I sewed up a few little bunnies. I decided to make them all in blue prints. They don't exactly coordinate with each other, but it was easier to grab just one bag of fabric scraps (to make them quicker to find, I keep my scraps in their own baggies, separate from the larger fabric pieces. But just like the larger pieces, they're sorted by color). 

Here's my little grouping:

They range in height from 2 1/4" to 4 1/4". See what I mean by little? Fabrics range from vintage to more recent, but all were thrifted. Eyes are either beads or vintage buttons, and all have "scarves" of ribbon, cord or hand-dyed string. 

A few close-ups:

I had actually made the bunny on the left last year, which is the reason why I made the ones this week in blue prints as well. I used a thrifted pattern called "Baskets and Bunnies". 

The pattern for the bunny on the right came from a thrifted book I just picked up earlier this week, See-Me-Learn Toys by Jennifer Geiger. 

This little guy's pattern is from American Country Folk Crafts by Carol Endler Sterbenz (purchased during the fill-the-bag portion of the annual AAUW used book sale). The ears are supposed to be close together and sticking straight up, but I neglected to baste them to one body piece before sewing the two body pieces together. I thought pinning them in place instead would keep them aligned correctly, but I was obviously wrong. But I like the helter-skelter look better! 

Also from See-Me-Learn Toys:

If they look a little odd, well, it's because they were actually designed to be mice. I just lengthened the ears when I traced the patterns out of the book. 

I will also say here all three bunnies from See-Me-Learn Toys are half the size they're supposed to be, for I used their patterns as is (it's common for patterns to be smaller than full size in craft books so that they'll fit better on the pages).  I could have easily enlarged them to the specified size with our printer, but I like the smaller sizes. I'll do this quite often with book patterns just to work on a smaller scale. It's not necessarily easier to sew a small pattern - it can be tricky to stitch curves, for one thing - but of course small patterns use less stuffing and smaller pieces of fabric as well. 

Well, I'd better get hopping - from paging through American Country Folk Crafts again, I noticed another baby bunny pattern; this one makes a 2 1/2" high bunny. Think I'll try that one too.

After all, real live bunnies are supposed to multiply easily - and it looks like my bevy of blue bunnies is doing the same!  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Made It: Fast Fabric Flowers

Hello! Recently received fabrics from a decluttering friend, some of which included a bag of 3" fabric squares left over from a quilting project. Most of these squares were pretty florals, so I wanted to find some way to use them. Wasn't in the mood for sewing just then, so I searched the Internet for a fast no-sew project. 

My search didn't let me down, as I found a tutorial for making fabric flowers by using a simple folding and cutting technique. It's similar to kirigami, the Japanese paper craft. (in fact, paper can used for this project instead of fabric.)

The tutorial calls for six fabric squares, two each of three different sizes. I decided to use six of my 3" squares to see how doing so would turn out. Cut the flowers, sewed a vintage button through all the layers, and voila, a pretty fabric flower in next to no time! 

Here's a few I made:

A couple of close-ups:

Pretty, are they not? Well, at least I think so! 

The woman who wrote up the tutorial showed her fabric flowers being used to decorate a greeting card, a headband and made into a brooch. I was thinking these might also be nice sewn onto a t-shirt or other top. Lots of possibilities with this project - and a very nice way to use up some fabric squares!

The tutorial can be found HERE.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Estate Sale Leftovers: The Sublime

Hello! Yesterday I discussed the ridiculous things I selected from the remains of my parents' estate sale, but I also brought back some nicer things too. So today I'll show off the "sublime". 

My mother was fond of vintage linens, cut glass and other household goods that symbolized the graciousness of days gone by. Others must have felt the same, for most of her nicer vintage goods had been sold. I was mostly okay with that, as 1. I don't really have room for a lot of stuff and 2. my decorating style is decidedly more informal. 

Still, when I saw that a few of her mother's teacup/saucer sets were left unsold, I grabbed one. Ever since I could remember, my mother displayed these teacups and saucers in the lovely built-in sideboard in the dining room. 

Here's what I got:

This set is bone china from Duchess, an English company. The pattern name is "Fern Rose". I think it's safe to say that my mother inherited her love of pretty things from her mother. I don't really recall my grandmother, who died when I was quite young, so I'm pleased to have this memento of hers. Not sure how old this set is.

Another teacup/saucer set, but since I don't recall seeing it out on display, I don't know where it came from:

On the bottom of the saucer are the words "Cavalier Eggshell Homer Laughlin  USA". From eBay, I learned that the pattern is called "Persian Garden" (some sellers called it "Peacock Persian Garden" or "Peacock Garden" - both close enough, I guess) and seems to date from the mid 1950's.

Before the estate sale began, I inquired about one particular item that had been in my mother's family for decades. My oldest sister learned that this particular item had been declared as "junk" by the estate sale people and they were going to throw it out! Thanks to my inquiry, it was rescued and I was happy to bring it back with me. 

Here's what was saved from the garbage can:

A vintage wax Baby Jesus doll, about 10 1/2" in length. It rests in a wooden display case with a top and one side of thick glass. 

A close-up of the head:

How on earth could the estate sale people have considered it junk? Just look at that sweet face! Grrr... 

Perhaps they weren't familiar with wax Baby Jesus dolls. I have to admit that I'm not, either. For one thing, this wasn't passed on to my mom directly after her mother's death. Instead, one of her sisters got it. Now, this aunt of mine was a dear lady, but wasn't nearly as history-minded as my mother had been. When the doll fell into disrepair she made some well-meaning but unfortunate "improvements". 

This aunt died in the late 1980's. Apparently none of her children wanted the doll themselves, so they gave it to my mom. For years it sat in the attic of my parents' house. My mom had a sewing room up there for many years, so she was bound to see it frequently.

From time to time she'd talk about getting the doll fixed up. You see, according to my my mom, it originally had real human hair, (blonde in color) and a fancy white dress. But my aunt had said by the time she got the doll, the hair had been chewed up by some critter. So she removed the hair and used some dark brown paint for a new "hairdo". 

Something must had happened to the original dress as well, for when Baby Jesus was given to my mom, it had a plain white garment on. My mom decried that and the paint job; she was clearly disappointed in the fate that had befallen one of her mother's treasures. 

I guess my mom must have noticed my developing craft skills, for she started talking about me helping her fix the doll. Nothing came of this for years, in part because I didn't live near her. But finally came the time when she brought the doll along during a visit. I decided to fix the doll up as best I could and present it back to my mom on her birthday three weeks later. 

I'd only made dolls' hairdos out of yarn, so was unskilled in any kind of fancy wig-making. Instead, I bought a package of doll hair and glued it on, curl by curl, to completely cover the painted hairdo. That was a big improvement right there! 

I'm not skilled in sewing vintage-style doll dresses either, but luckily I had a vintage baby dress on hand, bought years ago at an estate sale. It was a little big for the wax Baby Jesus, but I liked the tucking detail on the yoke, and figured it would be closer to what the doll had originally worn than to the dress my aunt had used. 

My mom was pleased with her birthday "present", which made me feel good! It ended up being her last birthday, so I'm glad she had a nicer version of the doll for a little while.

As for the history of the doll itself? I don't think my mom knew exactly how old it was, only that it had come from her mother's family. Either an order of nuns made it, she thought, or else they taught the craft to local girls attending convent school. Either way, the nuns would have been in either Quebec or Manitoba. It's likely that this sort of doll is European in origin, since on eBay there are similar examples that are thought to be French, German or Italian.

My mom told me that my grandmother displayed the wax Baby Jesus only at Christmastime. The doll obviously had meant a lot to her since she brought it with her when the family moved from Manitoba to Michigan at the beginning of the Depression. My mother would comment that my grandmother often felt sad at Christmas since they'd left so many relatives behind in Manitoba. I hope when she saw her wax Baby Jesus she felt a little better. 

As for me, I feel better that I was able to rescue this heirloom from the trash can!