Shabby Chick (and complicated)

Today, I’m getting to something I should have done at least a month ago. A lot of things happened, so I have a bit of an excuse, but still…!

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I’ve got a new listing on Etsy! And one thing I am super happy about is that I got it up there without much drama! This is a huge step, since I thought it was necessary to worry over it and delay the publication and think about how strange and horrifying it was that I was putting something online to sell. However, now I am fairly easy about it.

I’m really happy with these bags too, which I decided fairly early on to call my Shabby Chick bags. It’s obviously a sort of play on words, partly an inside joke because I forgot how to properly pronounce ‘Chic’.

I actually really like the Shabby Chic style. I think I’d do my own variation of it, which is inevitable with anything we do, but it kind of hits a mark I’d never been able to find – a cross between delicate with a touch of Victoriana and rustic, usually with a light summery look that’s not too pretentious or deliberate.

With my style and fashion, I kind of tend to float in limbo, and never actually focus on one thing (something I definitely want to work on), so I decided I’d try to make some bags that were actually Shabby Chic. As it turns out, they don’t look much like other Shabby Chic bags, but I’m perfectly fine with that, since I don’t want to imitate all the other things, and I want my items to be unique.

IMG_0653Another thing I like about these bags is that is I got to delve into one of the things I want to include in my shop, which I haven’t really had the opportunity to do yet. That is, the items are not just for show, and interesting little details aren’t slightly pointless. For instance, the front of the bag actually has a pocket included by unbuttoning the buttons, so the funny little front detail isn’t just for show!

You still technically can’t use it much, but I’m always happy to include another pocket, and I think I’d like to use it for carrying some things that are necessary but usually get in the way, or maybe a little snack you saved for yourself.

These bags actually proved a challenge to make, due to some miscalculation. I won’t go into the details because you’d probably lose interest. Basically the result is that the side pockets are finished in the back in an interesting little pleat thing. Basically, it was what we might call: “a moment of high seamstress drama and triumph” that I managed to finish the pockets, invent (or rather figure out) the solution and still make it look the way I wanted. Fortunately, a friend wanted me to make a couple more bags of the exact same design for her grand kids, and I got to do the same technique and it came out fine – plus, much less worrying than the first time.

IMG_0641Overall, I’m afraid I’d have to say that these are my favorite bags so far. I got to use some beautiful flowery fabric, the design was challenging and most satisfactory. I love the name too. It wasn’t at all what I had in mind, but it fits so well now I can’t imagine anything else. Plus, what I especially like about it is that there is a lot of room for me to explore this design, along many different lines (interesting duffle bag, anyone?)

Here’s a link to my new listing on Etsy: my Shabby Chic Shabby Chick Bags!

Have a great week, everyone!

Sarah

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Saturday Random Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Kugel

This is one of those recipes that is an example of two wrongs making a wonderful right! Spaghetti squash has never been one of my favorites, even when served traditional spaghetti style with our favorite meat sauce. And the usual kind of noodle kugel is bland and that’s about it. But a couple of years ago, we were inspired to use the stringy, odd squash in place of the noodles (which apparently hasn’t been done much before) – and, voila! Deliciousness emerged.

Spaghetti Squash Kugel

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. mixed dry herbs (either a premix, or a selection of matches; such as basil and oregano, parsley and thyme, or chives and marjoram.)
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, or a mix of two
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese

Prepare the squash with the help of this slideshow, and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or up to an hour:

 

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As the squash is baking, mix the other ingredients. And, in this case, cottage cheese is another unexpected inspirations: It makes the kugel rich and cheesy! However, when making this recipe, I usually just find whatever is open in the fridge and use that up. If using cottage cheese, you can use an immersion blender or a food processer to get everything really smooth.

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Mix in the grated cheese. Choose a cheese that matches the cuisine that you’re going for – Parmesan or asiago for Italian, Jarlsberg for something more appropriate to a classic Germanic kugel, or perhaps cheddar.

Test the squash for doneness by skewering it with a knife; it should be tender. Remove from the oven, invert with care so that the steam doesn’t scald you, scoop out the onions and garlic and add to the egg and cheese mixture. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh and shred the fibers apart. Mix everything together, pour into the casserole, sprinkle plentifully with more paprika, and throw it back into the oven for about 45 minutes. It’s done when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

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This makes a wonderful side dish, served with chicken-apple sausages or kielbasa. But might also be a lovely one-dish meal that’s vegetarian and gluten-free (especially if you mix in half a cup of ground chia or flax seed). The spaghetti squash’s slightly sweet and nutty flavor is the perfect ingredient for kugel!

-Abigail-

 

Favorite Younger Sister – Sarah!

Well, today is a special day. Today is the day we celebrate our favorite younger sister, Sarah!

She’ll get annoyed at me posting pictures, but I can’t help it – I love her flower-like face, and her summery prettiness, so she’ll just have to skip over the pictures parts!

Sarah, having a Frappuccino
My lovely sister, drinking a Frappuccino almost as sweet as she is!

 

You have seen her photography, which is truly beautiful and amazingly talented. I’ll repost a few of her pictures, so you can see again some of her aptitude in this area. She is always dashing off a few more photos, constantly and quietly surprising us with her talented eye.

You also have seen her delightful bags – pictured below. And they are well worth looking into, since she puts a lot of thought and care into all of her projects.

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My Blue Pink Tote Bags, now on Etsy

But before she sewed bags (and placemats, and mug warmers, etc…) she sewed for herself lovely clothing! You might remember seeing detailing for this dress – she did hand embroidery as little sprigs of flowers all over the skirt. She is always sewing a new and awesome project! (Oh, and she sewed that adorable little bolero that she’s wearing in the first picture)CIMG3027.JPG

She also cooks and bakes! This year, Sarah made out favorite Blackstrap Molasses Cookies. And they tasted so good that they did not last very long!

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But she is so much more than her talents and abilities. She is one of the most dependable, patient people I know – she wouldn’t be able to put up with me if she wasn’t as patient as she is. She has a funny sense of humor, and a quality of light and laughter and bright beauty about her personality which is like summertime and spring beginnings – which are, not surprisingly, a couple of her favorite seasons. She is always there to be a ready listener for either Abigail or me. She is a dedicated worker, working at places where the rest of us are uninterested or too lazy.

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There are too many things to say about this wonderful, delightful, funny, sweet, quiet great young lady who I am proud and honored to call my sister. But for now, I will just say that the Lord has blessed me and my family greatly Sarah

Happy Birthday!

Hannah

A Bird in the Hand (or on the page)

I think I mentioned before that I wanted to work on decorating my Etsy shop. Well, I’ve started!

Technically, I started at the beginning of the year, by drawing all the birds in my calendar (I have a bird calendar, obviously). Most of them turned out alright, but I wasn’t terribly thrilled.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to go with for my shop, and I was mostly trying out pretty ladies and exciting colors. For some reason, though, it never grabbed me.

First Try 1I won’t go into detail about my process, because it would take a long time and probably be a very dull blog post!

It’s interesting trying to make something that will fit a narrow (literally) frame, make it make sense, look nice, and be what I want. If I could have anything I wanted, the large picture would probably be a little too complicated. I might draw it some time, just for the fun of it.

I settled on a bird for my theme, probably because I like the atmosphere they give, and suggest a nice summer day. The bird I decided on is the American Goldfinch, by the way. I think I decided to do a goldfinch, rather than one of my more popular birds like the robin, chickadee or junco, because of the bright, happy color. Also, they’re a little easier than humming birds. The birds pictured above are a couple in flight, which I attempted to do. They never looked quite right, though, so I’m going to go on working on them, and they might appear later on.

First Try 2On the left is an interesting selection of birds. A couple turned out very satisfactory, and one bird I have used somewhere. A couple of the birds are obviously huge bloopers, such as the one in the bottom left(ish), which I named Goldfinf. I drew a chickadee just to change it up a bit.

It took me a while to figure out how to incorporate something sewing-related in the picture, since I thought that should be essential. Then it suddenly occurred to me that it would be cute for them to be carrying some thread (which is where the flying birds came in) and I loved the idea.

So, there we go! I’ve finally settled on a theme for my Etsy shop, and there will be goldfinches appearing everywhere!

I really like the way it looks, although it’s a bit blue for my taste, so there might be changes before I’ve settled on something definite. Here is a link to my Etsy shop, SallySewing, if you want to see the new look!

I’ve decided on starting a Facebook page for my Etsy shop. I think it will work to explore some things in depth, and of course hopefully get my shop out there to be noticed. I’ve started working on it, but I’ve run into a few problems along the way (mostly from having been working on this all day and my brain is getting flopsy) so here’s a link to my Facebook page if you want to take a look! It’s extremely simple at the moment, but hopefully I’ll be uploading a lot of stuff and we’ll see where that goes!

yay! I’ve finally got this done, and it’s not March yet! Overall, I think I’m pleased with my progress.

Sarah

The Lost Rowboat

Last week I mentioned, in my blog post Happy Ladybug Week!, I’d be working on a small(ish) wooden boat shelf, which is one of my ‘fun’ projects that have been piling up. Well, I actually did it! I thought I’d talk about it a bit today. (by the way, since woodwork is not technically one of the things I want to go into detail with here, this won’t be an in-depth post about my work. For one thing, I’m definitely an amateur!!)

IMG_0583The pre-painted version is on the left, already sanded from a couple years ago, when I first got it.

I had it hanging up on a wall, where I would ‘remember’ to work on it.

 

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Part of the reason why it took me a while to get to this project was that I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to do. There is something a little too flexible about a blank canvas sometimes!

Pretty soon after I got it, I decided I wouldn’t go too nautical. Of course I checked out what people did with these fun shelves, but it’s not a style I’m going for now, or am likely to do in the future, so I decided to go with something more – ladylike. Pink and green were almost immediately the colors I settled on.

IMG_0588 I’ve recently become familiar with a kind of woodwork called distressing, or: making wood look old. I thought this might look fun on the boat.

Before I go on, I have to give 2 tips I’ve learned from painting wood. 1, paint your project in stages, so there’s a blank side it can sit on to dry (and make sure it’s a sufficient side, because even the paint/stain on the other sides will stick. 2, Don’t put too much stain/paint on something, if it’s fitting into something else (such as a drawer) or it gets too thick and won’t fit. Of course, if you want to consult someone who actually knows what they’re doing, that would probably be a good idea.

IMG_0600I tend to smudge (literally!) on some of my painting. If I ever paint wood to sell, I’ll be more careful, but I don’t mind if my projects have strange little spots that were forgotten. The back or bottom of things tend to be my test. Fortunately, with this project they turned out alright.

Continuing with the theme of Ladylike, I (or someone who’s better at crocheting) will do a thread Irish Net for me to drape across the side, and hopefully I’ll find some more decorations to put on the boat. For now, I usually have a small bouquet and a teddy bear (the teddy bear just kind of fits there)

IMG_0615And finally, on the left, the finished version!

It didn’t exactly turn out the way I expected originally. I think I am definitely happy with the way it looks!

It was fun doing the distressing, because it provided a lot of freedom, and I felt OK making a few mistakes, since it might add to the look anyway.

When I was all finished with it, Abigail came into the room and announced that my boat needed a stripe of white. I probably could have tried going a bit more nautical, but I think I like it this way it is.

 

IMG_0605I’m coming up with lots of wonderful ideas about this boat, which explains the title of this blog post. I’m going to have to make Abigail write a story – probably tragic – all about a lady’s boat that was lost, or possibly the lady and her boat. And then the boat was eventually found.

I couldn’t think of any names to put on the side. Now, while I’m writing this, something comes to mind. It’s too late now, since I’ve varnished it, but I would have had my Mum (since she has the nicest handwriting) write on the side of the boat:
The Lady of Shalott

Sarah

Cogs and Gears: Rebellion

Have you ever had it up to THERE with something, and just can’t go on with it no matter how hard you make yourself? Maybe you have a task in hand that seemed interesting and full of promise once – but is now nothing but boring, tedious, irritating, and a total waste of time?! You’ve made yourself work past several problems, squeezed out solutions to a flock of difficulties, troubleshot lots of trouble – but there seems to be more and more issues coming up and you can’t get to them all and they’re little but insurmountable and you can’t get anything done and – !

Yeah, I’m pretty sure this happens to everyone.

And more often than not, that includes me! Etsy, of course, is included among those tasks and projects: Getting a shop started and then running efficiently is a complicated effort (and sometimes doesn’t seem to produce much); so every once in a while – especially after a big push to make new products or a list and promote them – it just seems like too much work. What was inspiring and exciting 3 weeks ago becomes almost loathsome!

With our “Cogs & Gears” feature, we invite you to see what goes on in the machinery of our Etsy shops – how we make stuff, new ideas, even business. How it all works. And – well, every once in a while it just doesn’t work. That’s what I call Rebellion!

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At times of Rebellion, one takes a stand against the tyrannical forces of overwork – sometimes by doing fun stuff like making a random new costume. These things must be done!

It’s when my mind revolts from the thought of writing another listing, my heart sickens at the touch of a crochet hook, my hand refuses to reach for a camera, my mind will simply no longer apply itself to the intricacies of promotion! So, without meaning to, I rebel: I might do something else totally unrelated for a few days – like sew, or read, or get involved in a new form of social media, or (most dreadful and destructive of all!) do nothing but potter about.

 

The irony is that I find these times of Rebellion almost as frustrating as the fatigue that drives me to them: I’m not productive, though I feel like I should be, and often not even relaxed and refreshed as I might have been if I’d taken an intentional break.

And that’s probably why Sarah’s “Ladybug Week” is such a good idea. Maybe we should stop pushing ourselves so hard – making ourselves work, forcing ourselves to problem-solve. It might not be such a bad thing to take a little intentional time off to do other activities or simply relax – before we hit the fatigue!

I might try it. How about you?

-Abigail-

Saturday Random Recipe: Manicotti

A little while ago, I did a post all about our favorite meat sauce. And the sauce is so good – believe me! Here’s the post for how to make some of the best tomato pasta sauce you’ll ever taste!

But today, I will show you what to do with this delicious recipe, once you’ve whipped it all up.

Manicotti!

Once the tomato sauce is going, you get out your favorite sausage. We get ours from a local deli, Keller’s Farm Store, their Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage. We used to do the regular Italian Turkey Sausage, but we discovered the sweet one is really good! But then all of their stuff is good! But any good Italian sausage works, though. You start browning it and then break it up to smaller pieces. I think I would prefer larger pieces than we did here, but whichever way you like.

Now that you have the sausage all cooked up, you get your casserole dish out. We have a wonderful, big Pampered Chef roasting stoneware dish. It’s all pale and unseasoned right now, but someday we’ll have it the right, deep brown color that it’s supposed to be. Spoon enough sauce on the bottom to cover it.

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While the sausage is heating up, you work on the filling for the manicotti. Take about a pound of ricotta cheese, one egg, salt and pepper, and some ground nutmeg. Mix it up in a food processor until its all smooth and creamy, and then you fill either a pastry bag or a big plastic bag with the cheese mixture. It’ll look something like this. Cut a small hole off of one tip.

IMG_0134.JPGTraditional recipes will have you boil the manicotti until a little softened. We don’t do that – in fact we kind of cheat! But actually it totally works fine – just don’t tell your fancy chef friends about it and they won’t know the difference! We leave them uncooked. They’re much easier to handle at this stage that way!

IMG_0138.JPG Fill up the manicotti tube with the cheese mixture. You first squeeze it into one end until you can see that it’s about half way through the tube, and then you switch sides and squeeze it into the other end. It gets it into there more efficiently this way, otherwise you make a big mess, since it starts oozing out the wrong end. IMG_0143.JPG

Fill all of them up and lay them side by side at the bottom of the casserole dish. The sauce underneath and on top creates enough moisture to soften the manicotti. Then you sprinkle on as much sausage as you want, and then the sauce. It has to have enough to completely cover the pasta. I did the picture with a couple of the manicotti sticking out so you can see them better, but then I pushed them back under the sauce.

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We did a couple different cheeses this time. Usually, we just do grated mozzarella, but we added provolone. So now you can call this three cheese (ricotta, mozzarella, provolone) manicotti, or you could add Parmesan and make it four cheese (ricotta, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan) manicotti!

Dot the Provolone all over the top. It doesn’t need too much, since you’re putting on the mozzarella in a moment.

IMG_0155.JPGAnd then the mozzarella.

IMG_0160.JPGAnd then you pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes with some sort of covering (a lid or foil, and the foil should dome enough so that it doesn’t touch the cheese). And then a few more minutes without the covering so you can brown the cheese a little. When you take it out, it should be all hot and bubbling. Bake it at 350.

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And now you serve it up with a yummy green salad, some garlicy broccoli or bacon and apple Brussel sprouts. And there you have it! Our family style Italian food – and however good or bad you are at cooking, there’s nothing like home cooking. And this really is pretty simple, so you can’t go wrong!

Four Cheese Manicotti

~ 1 pound of ricotta cheese

~ 1 egg

~ salt and black pepper, to taste

~ freshly ground nutmeg

  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 or 3 slices of Provolone, broken into pieces
  • A grating of Parmesan cheese

Pre heat the oven to 350. Put the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper, and the ground pepper into a food processor and blend until smooth, and then put into a pastry bag or large plastic bag. Cover the bottom of a large casserole dish with meat sauce. Fill the manicotti with the cheese mixture, filling it half way on one side, and then half way on the other side of each manicotti. Layer the filled manicotti on the bottom of the pan, side by side. Sprinkle liberally with Sweet Italian Sausage. Cover them completely with meat sauce. Dot with provolone and sprinkle mozzarella.

Cover with lid or aluminum foil, domed so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake again until browned and bubbling. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy with the family!

 

What is your favorite Italian cooking?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Hannah