Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sewing Pottery II


I have made a second pot using strips of fabric wrapped around clothesline.  I learned this technique in the book, Sewing Pottery by Machine.  I have discovered two things.

1.  These are not terribly difficult, but they are terribly time consuming. 

2.  Because of 1., I wont be making any more of these anytime soon.


The basket I chose to make has three pieces.


The way you make these baskets with a hole in the top is to use a flat disc the size of the hole you need.  In this case it is a 2 inch disc, the one in blue.

There is a bit of fiddling to make sure the opening of the bottom piece matches exactly to the opening of the middle piece.

Then you use a seam ripper to remove the flat disc.  I needed two flat discs for this project, so after I removed the one from the middle piece, I used it for the top piece.


That is the quickest part and still took parts of two days.


Then the time consuming, finger poking began.  Basically it involves sticking your thumb and forefinger inside the hole on the top while holding a threaded needle.  A very long and sharp needle.  I had to poke it through many times to find the exact spot to stitch.  It needed to look as much like the machine stitching on the rest of the basket as I could manage.  Then I poked it back through the project, a much easier thing, because now I could see what I was doing, right?

Well, the stitch placement was easier, but the reaching in to get the needle provoked many words followed by exclamation points.  We'll stick with ouch!, shall we?


The top piece was sewn on much quicker, but still took close to an hour. 


At some future date I may add some embellishments around this pot, but that will have to wait.  I have spent DAYS on these sewn pots and while I like them, I need to get back to making fabric baskets to sell. 


I already have a commission to make a couple for my cousin.  She wants them large enough to hold a ball of yarn and with a loop to pull the yarn through so it won't get tangled.  That seems like a fun and worthy project! 

I still need to finish my Etsy site and start posting baskets, but I just want to make one of the baskets for Saja and see how that goes.  I'll keep you posted. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fabric Pots

I have had a lot of fun making fabric baskets.  I am still going to make them.  In fact, I am planning to sell them on Etsy.  But in the meantime, I found this book on sewing fabric POTTERY.  That sounded fascinating.

Does my blue "pottery" look like the one on the right?  It's what I was going for.

Sewing Pottery by Machine by Barbara Warholic demonstrates how to sew pots using the same techniques as sewing fabric baskets. 


First you sew the base of the pottery.  Next you sew a flat circle of fabric as a plug and use that to hold the hole in the top of the pot. 


Sew the top of the pot to the plug and then continue sewing a fabric basket until the two openings are the same dimension. 


A seam ripper takes out the fabric plug and you set it aside for the next project that needs the same size hole in the top.


Lining them up is a big tricky, but the directions tell you to leave a small tail and that is used to cover where the two halves come together. 


They most difficult part is then reaching your big hand in the little hole and hand sewing a zigzag stitch to match the machine zigzag stitch throughout your project.  This took many hours and I hope I get better at it soon.

I must say it is also difficult to make the two halves exactly the same size and I had to remove the top half several times to add or subtract stitches. 


The finished fabric pot is not perfect, but it is my first one.  I am going to try a different pottery project from the book and see how that one goes.  It has a larger opening making it easier to do the hand sewing, but it also has more pieces, so it is more challenging.

This is fun!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Parts Tractor Part II

The parts tractor is slowly moving from a big part in the drive to small parts in the garage.


Lee is removing things and then cataloging and shelving them.  This is a laborious process, but he seems to like it. He is also looking up the parts numbers and making sure they are marked on the individual part.  He has a list on the computer.  Who is the librarian (library assistant) here??


He put one part on craigslist as a test to see if there are clamoring hoards of people looking for Daedong tractor parts.  So far, they are controlling themselves.  Or maybe a new old tractor part doesn't make for an exciting Christmas gift.


Then he used our working tractor to remove parts from the donor tractor.  There is, perhaps, a metaphor here, but I can't think of one. 


But there is something strange about harvesting your own organs for a possible future transplant that sounds like the beginning of a horror movie.  Or an episode of a medical drama, after they have jumped the shark.


The process is almost finished.  Then he will start looking for another project.  On the bright side, it is getting darn cold (21° Fahrenheit last week) so that may push him inside, where car and tractor parts aren't allowed.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Parts Tractor

Have you heard of a parts car?  That is when someone buys a not very good car with some good parts to use to fix up their pretty good car.  Well, Lee just bought a parts tractor.

We bought a tractor when we first moved here.  It was necessary to help clear the land for use, move boulders, sand, gravel and other tractory things.  We have lots of steep hills, so we needed one with a pretty big engine and 4 wheel drive.  We knew nothing about tractors, except the pretty green ones (John Deere) are very expensive.  We found a guy about 1 1/2 hours away that had a wide variety of used tractors and bought one from him. 

This was a Daedong tractor from Korea.  They don't make them anymore, but he assured us he could get parts, usually from Kioti, which makes a similar tractor.  That worked okay for a few years, even with getting parts from as far away as Korea and New Zealand.

Then it quit working and a part we needed was unavailable.  Now, we use the tractor many times during the year, but not enough to justify buying a super pricey one.  Probably.  Then Lee found a guy that had an old Daedong tractor, just like ours, that he had been using for parts to fix his Daedong tractor.  Then he sold the good one and had the leftover tractor sitting in his field.  So Lee bought it.

Notice on the fender that this is the DELUXE version of this tractor.  Pretty impressive, right!
Is this a smart purchase?  Who knows.  At the present, Lee is taking all the parts off and storing them.  The farmer he bought it from had to lift the tractor onto Lee's trailer with a fork lift, because he had taken the wheels off to use them elsewhere. We don't have a fork lift.  So we can't use the trailer or put it back into the barn until we get the tractor off.  His plan it to remove all the parts and label them.  Then we will use our engine hoist or the front loader on the currently working tractor to take the last heavy bits and put them somewhere.  Somewhere.

You can see the tractor we use off to the right in the background.  Maybe he should just fix it up and get a John Deere!  But where is the fun in that?
Lee intends to keep a few parts to repair that which he figures will break on our working tractor.  The rest of the parts he will put on EBay or craigslist and sell.  Those of you city dwellers don't realize that a farmer can take an old engine and use it to power all sorts of equipment that he has put together.  They are perhaps the last of the brilliant, self-taught mechanical engineers!  So, he figures someone will buy it.  What he doesn't sell or save for future use, he will sell for scrap. 

Lee thinks he can break even or make money on the deal.  I have my doubts.  But he is enjoying himself with this new project, so it's all good.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bean with Bacon Soup

Do you remember making Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup?  That was always a rainy day favorite.  I still buy it occasionally to keep on hand for those days I don't feel like cooking. 

But that was before I started seeing other people's version of it on the internet.  I thought, I can do that.  So I did.

Bean with Bacon soup

4 cups chicken broth
2 cans Northern White Beans, rinsed and drained
8 or so slices of thick cut bacon
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
pepper to taste
Don't add salt.  The bacon is plenty salty.

Place the broth and the drained beans in a large stock pot. 


Heat to a low boil.


Brown the bacon in a large fry pan.  It took me two batches.  Remove the pieces when brown on both sides and drain on paper towels.

Add 2/3 of the bacon bits to the soup pot.


Pour out most of the bacon grease, leaving a Tablespoon or so for cooking the vegetables.  Place the vegetables in the fry pan and cook until softened and the onions are translucent.  Add the tomato sauce. Even though the tomato paste comes in a small can, I rarely use the whole thing  I freeze the remainder in  Ziploc bag in lumps of about 2 Tablespoons.


Cook the veggies until the tomato paste is fully incorporated.  Then add them to the soup.


Cook for about 5 minutes more.  You want all the flavors to blend!

Serve with some of the reserved bacon pieces for a garnish.

I'm not going to say you will never buy a can of this soup again.  That is a nice and easy choice.  But this soup is more flavorful and has REAL bacon pieces, and big ones!  It is also pretty quick.  Most of the time is spent cutting veggies and cooking the bacon, and that goes pretty fast.

I could soak the beans overnight and make my own chicken broth.  But I won't.  I like to cook, but I am not a fanatic about it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trista on TV

Our daughter lives in England. (note to parents: don't let your children go to school abroad or they might never move home)  In addition to her main job, which is free lance editing, (UCLA, please quit calling for donations) Trista has been working on a nut butter business.  She sells to local (UK) gourmet food shops, Farmer's Markets and is developing quit a good online business as well.

The ITV news segment aired!
Thanks Melanie Brown for making me woman up and watch it!…/artisan-food-giving-british-treats-an…/
In the final part of our series on up and coming artisan food producers in our region, we meet Trista Smith from Nottingham. Trista is from California, and works from home as a freelance editor. When she came to the UK she…
I stole this screen shot from Trista's Facebook page.  If you can't see the video, try this link.

Now that she is FAMOUS all over Britain, I expect she will be spending a lot more time in her kitchen!

We are very proud of her.  Check out the news story and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rob Thy Neighbor

If you are a reader, you know what I mean when I say I get excited about a new book series.  This one is by David Thurlo.


The premise is that two former special forces guys move to Albuquerque and buy a pawn shop.  They both have permits to carry guns, as I assume most pawn shop operators do.  Because of their training, you really shouldn't mess with them.  But it is nice that people ignore this warning, because that is when the fun starts!

Charlie Henry and his friend and business partner, Gordon, are enjoying a barbeque at the home of some friends.  They hear gunshots and see the bloody arm of a neighbor trying to get over the block wall between the homes.  Charlie helps her over and he heads back towards the shooter when she says they are attempting to kidnap her husband.  Gordon runs around to cut them off and they end up rescuing the couple and getting hired to protect them until the police can catch whoever is involved.  There is a lot of action in this book and unlike many mysteries, Charlie and Gordon cooperate and get along with the police.


Rob Thy Neighbor is the third book in the Charlie Henry Series.  It was good enough that I immediately ordered up the first in the series.  Then I ordered the second.  I can't wait. ( I should have ordered both at once.  Now the library staff have to go back in the mystery stacks twice.  Sorry.)

Charlie Henry is Navajo and I love the bits of insight into Navajo culture.  In this way, it reminds me of a Tony Hillerman Mystery.  The first two books were written by the writing team, and husband and wife, Aimee and David Thurlo.  Sadly Aimee died and now David Thurlo is continuing the series.


If you like a mystery book with action, set in the Southwest, then you should like this series.  And Tony Hillerman fans will be glad to find another strong Indian protagonist. 


Saturday, October 1, 2016


I was getting pretty excited about selling my baskets at Mountain Magic in Fall, a local festival here in Buchanan, VA.

Then the rain began  It rained off and on for about 5 days.  The last 24 hours or so dropped over 5 inches.  Many inches came poring out of the sky in just a few hours. 


The James River is up and the carnival grounds in Buchanan, where they hold the festival, are soaked.  So the Town Of Buchanan decided to push the festival back to next Saturday.  The Saturday when I will be in Texas.  That Saturday.

So now I have bins of baskets. Bunches of bins of baskets.  Scads of baskets.  Sixty-six baskets.

I will put them away and wait for the next Buchanan festival.  Or maybe I will start an Etsy site.


Either way, I will sell them somewhere.

But in the meantime, there are some other shapes and things I want to try with the baskets that I put off learning.  I wanted to make as many baskets as possible in as many styles as I was comfortable making, so I put off my experimentation.

So now I get to go play around and I don't have to worry about producing.  So, that will be fun.

But I REALLY wanted to try selling them and see if other people like my baskets as much as I do.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Honey Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

Lee likes pork chops, but just frying them gets boring.  I found a recipe that sounded different.  I altered it a bit to suit me and they turned out amazing.


Balsamic and Honey Glazed Pork Chops

4 large pork chops
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic


Place the pork chops in a gallon sized Ziploc bag.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over the pork chops.  Seal and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes


I used this time to prepare my side dish of roasted vegetables and put them in the oven...another favorite.


Remove the pork chops from the bag.  Shake off the excess marinade into the bag and reserve it.

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pan and cook the pork chops about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.


Pour the reserved marinade over the meat and cook about 5 more minutes  The marinade has to boil for a few minutes, because it had the raw meat in it.  It has to boil but not burn so keep an eye on it.

Remove the chops and place on a plate.  Spoon some of the thickened and delicious balsamic glaze over them.  Serve with some nicely browned, roasted vegetables. At least that's what I did!


Pork chops are nice but this balsamic glaze really makes them delicious.  You should try it!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Three Way Lemon Cookies

I serve our B&B guests freshly baked cookies every day.  I make the cookies and then freeze them raw, so I can bake them fresh each day, without baking a whole batch every time.  I try to do different recipes and this time I wanted to do a lemon cookie recipe. 

I couldn't find any recipes I wanted to try.  Most of them required a lemon frosting.  I decided they needed that because they didn't use enough lemon in the recipe, so I used three versions of lemon in these cookies and I really like the end result.  The latest guests even wanted the recipe.  Check my blog, I told them.


Three Way Lemon Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring
1 1/2 lemons zest, zest both and reserve the zest from the other half of one lemon
juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

Lemon Sugar
zest from the other half of a lemon
1/2 cup sugar


Set out two sticks of butter to come to room temperature. 


Don't heat the oven at this time.  You will need to let the cookie dough chill for at least and hour.


Wash and zest the two lemons.  Take half the zest from one lemon and place it in a small bowl. 


Add the sugar and mix, breaking up the clumps of the zest to evenly distribute it among the sugar granules. 


Beat the butter for 3 minutes in a stand mixer.  It will become fluffy and pale in color.  Scrape down the butter and keep mixing two times during the mixing process.  Add the sugar and mix until the sugar is incorporated into the butter.


Add the eggs and mix until well blended.  Add the vanilla, lemon flavoring, lemon zest and lemon juice.  I squeezed the juice over a small strainer, so that I didn't get any seeds in the cookies.


Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of the flour.  Mix.  Then add one more cup of flour and mix.  Then mix in the last cup of flour.

Scrape down the sides and chill the dough for an hour or more.

Heat the oven to 350°.  Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad.


Make balls the size of a walnut and drop them into the lemon sugar.  I used a mid-size cookie scoop and dropped them directly into the lemon sugar.  Roll the cookies gently in the lemon sugar and them place them two inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Use a fork to lift them from the lemon sugar so you don't end up with too much sugar on the pan and not on the cookies.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.  Don't over bake.  These cookies are meant to have a lemony crunch on the outside and a soft chewy lemon burst on the inside.


I made enough cookies from this batch so that Lee and I could have a few.  You can't give cookies to people if you haven't taste tested them!  The rest of this batch went in the cookie jar in the B&B.  The remaining raw balls of dough went into the freezer for our next guests.