Wednesday 27 October 2021

Things on Pins: Boho Brooches From Found Objects

Some years ago I came across a bag containing several kilt pins, hanging on rack at Value Village.  I wasn't quite sure what I'd do with them but, magpie that I am, I brought them home and added them to my Stash of Shiny Things. 

My stash has a diverse range of items in it, many sourced from  necklace racks in various thrift shops. If a piece of costume jewellery has some elements I can use, I bring it home, take it apart, keep the elements I want and then use what remains to make crafting kits for kids.

One evening I was stirring through The Stash of Shiny Things and, seeing all those different elements together, came up with the idea of stringing some of them together into short strands and then hanging the strands from the kilt pins. I had so much fun that I made several brooches in a single sitting. My husband promptly dubbed them "Things on Pins," and the name's stuck with me ever since.

This won't be an instructional post. Every single "Thing on a Pin" that I make is different, and I make up the techniques as I go along but I can offer some basic tips.

You don't need a lot of tools to do a project like this. I have a pair of needle nose pliers, a pair of round nose pliers, and a pair of wire cutters.

Likewise, you don't need to know a lot of elaborate techniques. I do recommend, though, that you learn how to make a wrapped wire loop.  This tutorial from The Knitted Raven is a good place to start.

Cut each piece of wire longer than you think you'll need.  It's easier to manipulate a long tail when wrapping wire than it is to bend a short one.

This is not fine jewellery so there's no need to invest in expensive wire.  I use inexpensive colour-coated wire. It comes in multi-packs and is often found in the aisle where paper crafting supplies are sold. Sometimes it's also available at dollar stores.  I also sometimes use copper wire. I buy it at hardware stores because it's much less expensive there than it is at specialty craft stores.

You'll be working on the side of the pin that can't be opened so you won't be able to slide beads directly onto the pin itself.  In order to maintain spacing between the strands of beads hanging from the pin, wrap wire along the arm of the pin to make spacers.

Don't limit yourself to just beads.  All sorts of found objects work well for this craft. You know that single earring you've been hanging onto even though you've never found the one you lost? Perfect! As are game pieces, tiny toys, dice, charms, bits of chain, thimbles, buttons, pretty pebbles, beach glass, shells, tiny gears from watches...Pretty much anything goes. 

I do hope you'll give this project a try.  Have a glance through the pictures, then break out your own Stash of Shiny Things and see what you come up with.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Stretching Leftovers: Roasted Veggie And Chicken Hash

My husband worked on a Fisheries ship for most of our marriage, right up to his retirement. The ship's patrol area stretched along the BC coast from the Washington border in the south to Alaska in the north, and all the way out to the 200 mile limit. There were two crews on the ship. Each worked three weeks aboard and then spent three weeks ashore.

The crews were small and tight knit. Their work, which involved both enforcement and search and rescue, was often dangerous and their lives depended upon them working well as a team. It became a bond as strong as family.

The first Sunday morning after my fella and I moved in together, I awoke to find most of his crewmates sitting in the kitchen and living room. They'd climbed in through the spare bedroom window and as soon as I appeared they chorused "What's for breakfast, Mom?"

I knew full well that the boys were being protective of my guy. They were testing me to see that I'd be good to him, and assessing how well I'd fit into the group. I made coffee - lots of it - and then looked in the fridge and cupboards to come up with something to serve for breakfast. We had a couple dozen eggs, some leftover roast pork, potatoes, and leftover cooked veggies. I made hash from the pork, potatoes, and veggies, and paired it with scrambled eggs to make breakfast for all fourteen of us. It felt a little bit like the story of loaves and fishes. lol!

The hash was a big hit and the breakfast gathering proved so popular that the crew continued to come for breakfast every Sunday they were ashore, right up until the time we purchased our first home and moved to a different town. Even after we moved, "Hashed Everything" continued to be a menu staple at our house. It's an incredibly versatile dish and it makes excellent refrigerator Velcro, using up whatever small bits of leftovers I happen to have on hand.

This is the version I made last week: 

  • 1 Tbsp oil, 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups diced crimini mushrooms
  • garlic powder and poultry seasoning to taste
  • 2 cups diced roasted vegetables (I had roasted potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, and green beans)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or a combination of butter and chicken fat (I saved the fat I removed from the top of the cooled pan juices leftover from roasting the chicken. Lots of good flavour there.
  • 1/2 of a large roasted chicken breast, diced (A friend gave me a huge roasting chicken - more than 5 pounds - and the chicken breast I used was from that bird. If you're using leftovers from an average fryer - about 3 pounds - you might want to use a whole chicken breast.)

 Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, on medium-high heat, until the butter is melted.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and season them to taste with garlic powder and poultry seasoning. Saute them until they're deeply browned. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside.

Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter (or combined butter and chicken fat) in the pan and add in the diced roasted vegetables.  Cook the veggies until they're heated through and nicely browned.

Add the diced chicken breast to the pan together with the cooked mushrooms.

Cook, stirring now and then, until the chicken takes on a bit of colour, then season the dish to taste. 

Serve piping hot.

This makes enough for two generous servings. 

I sometimes use hash as a base for baked eggs.  To do that, I preheat my oven to 350F. I spread the hash into an even layer across the entire pan. If the hash is cold, I put the pan in the oven until it's reheated. I use the back of a ladle to press down on the surface of the hot hash and make "nests" for the eggs. I crack an egg into each nest, season the eggs with salt and pepper, then put a lid on the pan. I put the pan in the oven until the eggs are cooked.


Thursday 14 October 2021

Stretching Leftovers: Turkey and White Bean Soup

Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. If I'm honest about it, Thanksgiving's never been a really big deal for me. It's always nice to have an extra day to visit with family and friends. Other than that I can quite happily let it slide by without any sort of observance, even more so since my husband passed away almost seven years ago. Cooking a traditional turkey dinner for just me seems more work than it's worth, and it's 'way too much food for a single person.

This year, I planned to have macaroni and tomatoes on Thanksgiving, with a salad on the side. That would've made me quite happy. It's quick, simple to prepare, inexpensive, and comforting. I did end up getting a turkey dinner though. On Sunday night, I had an after-dinner visit with friends and they sent me home with a generous plateful of leftovers from their Thanksgiving feast.

I'm all about making the maximum number of meals from whatever protein I'm cooking with, so I looked at that generous dinner - roasted potatoes and carrots, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, and turkey - and decided to figure out a way to make at least two meals of it. 

When I got home that evening, I put some dry white beans to soak overnight.  The next morning, I treated myself to the veggies and stuffing for breakfast (so good!) and I used the beans and the turkey to make a soup for supper that night. 

When it was time to make the soup, I gathered these ingredients: 

  • The pre-soaked white beans
  • 4 cups of homemade stock (I used an all-vegetable stock this time but chicken or turkey stock would be good too.)
  • A bay leaf, a couple of sprigs of thyme, some parsley, a couple of sage leaves, and 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup of gravy (I used leftover chicken gravy from the freezer but if you have leftover turkey gravy, all the better)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of diced, cooked turkey breast
  • A few chives for garnish
I put the white beans in a saucepan and poured the stock over them, then bundled the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, sage, and garlic together in a piece of cheesecloth, tied it off with some butcher's twine and added it to the pot too. I brought the pot to a boil, turned it down to simmer, put a lid on it, and walked away.  I returned after half an hour to begin checking on how tender the beans were and kept checking every 10 minutes or so until I decided they were at the right texture for me. (It took about 50 minutes.)

Once the beans were cooked I drained them, discarding the cheesecloth bundle of aromatics and reserving the stock I'd cooked the beans in. 

I set aside about 1/3 of the cooked beans and transferred the rest to my blender.  I added in the gravy together with enough stock to allow the blender to do its work, and hit the puree button. I checked the thickness of the puree and added in enough stock to thin it to a soup consistency.

The last step was to return the puree and reserved beans to the pot, stir in the chopped turkey, and reheat the soup. 

When it was heated through again, I tasted the soup to see if I needed to add salt and decided to leave it just as it was. All that was left to do after that was to ladle it into a bowl and snip a few chives over the top.

Simple, right?  It was surprisingly tasty.

This recipe made just over 3 cups of soup; enough for my supper and for lunch the following day.  

There was stock left over from cooking the beans so I cooled it, put it in the fridge, and used it to cook rice a couple of days later. Beans are rich in solable fiber so the stock not only brought flavour to the rice but added nutritional value as well.

I hope I can encourage you to think about ways to stretch a small amount of animal protein over a larger number of servings. With meat and poultry prices being what they are, it's a useful skill to have. 

If you have any questions about this recipe or suggestions for ways to use less meat to make more servings please do share them.  I always learn so much from you guys!

Thursday 7 October 2021

A Halloween Paper Doll To Cut Out And Colour


Did you play with paper dolls as a child?

When I was a little girl we received three catalogues from each to two stores - Eatons and Sears - every year. They were great sources of entertainment.  We'd page through them looking at everything from clothing, to toys, to hardware, and even build-it-yourself house kits. The possibilities for flights of the imagination were endless. When new catalogues arrived and the previous issues could be retired, my mom would turn them over to us kids and, with scissors and glue, we transformed pictures cut from the catalogues into collages, greeting cards, and paper dolls.

To make a paper doll from a catalogue photo, we'd cut the figure out and paste it to a piece of light cardboard cut from a cereal box or something similar then trim around the edges of the pasted figure. If there were no catalogue pictures available, we'd draw our own figures. I remember these quite vividly, with their horseshoe shaped armpits, perfectly round heads, and faces always smiling widely despite the fact that the poor things must have been dreadfully uncomfortable, standing as they were with their feet turned outward at right angles to their shins. 

Once the dolls were made, we could go about the business of designing a wardrobe for them. Each outfit began the same way; by tracing around the outside of our cardboard mounted figure and then, using the outline we'd traced as a guide for shape and size, drawing clothing. Once the clothing was drawn and coloured, we'd draw tabs on the outer edges that could be folded to hold the outfits in place on the paper doll and carefully cut the whole thing out. 

Finally, we'd fashion a stand for the doll buy cutting two slots at the bottom of the cardboard and then cutting a long strip of cardboard narrow enough to fit in the slots. The cardboard would be folded at the center and then each arm fed into one of the slots to create a v-shaped base.  Once all that was done, the dolls could be dressed and the make believe would begin.

Because paper dolls were easy to make and we always had the materials with which to construct them on hand, the doll population boomed.  We made up elaborate stories around them, with large, complicated casts of characters. They provided us hours and hours of happy play on rainy days, or in the evenings after our allotted half hour of TV had been enjoyed, and made lots of happy memories.

Because I have such good memories of my childhood paper dolls, I thought it might be fun to design one now, to colour and cut out for Halloween. I'm hoping it will provide more happy hours of play, either to the kids in your life or to you, yourself.  After all, we're never too old to indulge a flight of the imagination, right?

You can find a printable pdf for my Halloween paper doll at this link from now until November 1.  Print it, colour it, and cut out the pieces.  Construct it as described above.

If you care to share pictures of your finished dolls, I'll love to see them.  Have fun!