Friday, November 28, 2014

Refreshed, reenergized and back with earnest intent!

Dear Readers, yes, I have been gone a long time. When was my last post? March! It was in March that I began in earnest to work on a long-term project that ended with me achieving one of my bucket-list items - to go to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. Over the spring and summer months I created a Regency (early 1800's) wardrobe to take with me and wear 24/7 while in Bat for a week. I was one of 14 people from California to go.  It was so much fun! If you are interested in seeing a snippet of my trip and what kept me away from you all, take a look:

The trip, itself, was wonderful and worth all the monies and time I put into it to prepare. But have you ever put so much energy into one project that when it is done, you feel emotionally and creatively limp? That has been my state of being since I returned from the trip. On top of that, I am an educator and had to return to my duties at my school. Working took what energy I had left, all I could do was bask in my accomplishments (Yay, one bucket list item done!) and recover.

Renewed and energized, I am back and the holidays are the best spur in my flanks to giddy-up! I am in earnest now, to blog and post as I furiously take the reigns of my creative hobby horse to create, enjoy the process and share. So, let's get out the paddock! (Not sure where the equestrienne references are coming from, but there we are).

Years ago, when I was very young...Lordy, that was in ancient times, it seems! Anyway, my mother brought home gold paper stars that were folded up and flat, but could be opened into 3-D stars to hang on a tree or where ever you wanted. She used them as Christmas cards that year and kept some to hang in our windows. I always thought that was a lovely way to send a greeting that would become a keep sake and not end up in the 'bin' once the holidays came to an end. About 10 years ago, I revived her creative idea and made paper ornaments using double sided decorative card stock. This year, I thought I would do it again and send to special friends that I would not see this holiday. The process is relatively easy and I want to share the process with you so that you can consider using it to 'Make it and Send it'.  Here we go:

Decorative card stock that is printed on both sides (Check your scrapbooking supplies - usually come in 12x12 squares.
#2H pencil - (when tracing, don't bear down too hard, hard enough to see it and cut on it).
Freezer paper or paper to make a pattern
Cording for loops
Sewing machine with white or off white thread (The color can be what you want).
Scissors (paper, and sharp) that can do small cut outs and help you follow you pencil lines.
Hole punch - optional

I got envelops out to figure out the size my ornament greeting should be.
Freezer paper cut to size, folded, then the shape drawn on one side (1/2), then cut it out.

A selection of double sided card stock.  Some designs have a direction, so plan
your pieces how it works for you.

You can do this with just two, but I like the dimensionality of 3.
Use you pattern, lay it on top of the card stock, trace with pencil enough to see it and cut on the lines.
If you want perfect cutouts, then you will need those machines that all the rage these days
in the scrapbooking world.  I like the imperfections that hand-made creates.

Option #1:  For adding a loop for hanging.  I took the center piece and zig-zagged
the doubled string down the center.  No, I didn't use pins - ya, gotta eyeball this.

Sandwiching this center piece b/w the other two, I used a straight stitch down the

The finished ornament.  I fold the outer pieces along the sewn center, to open the ornament carefully!

Option #2: For adding a loop for hanging.  I used a very small hole punch to put a hole
at the top through all 3 layers.
Sew the three (or two) layers down the center just below the hole.

Attach the string for the loop.

The finished ornament.  I fold the outer pieces along the sewn center, to open the ornament carefully!

Some notes to consider if you should decide to give this a go:
1.  It will work with non-cardstock, but will be flimsier, may not hold up from repeated flattening and folding each year the recipient uses it.  The card-stock also doesn't split from the seam/sewing thread as easily.  Experiment of course with watercolor weight paper, embossed papers, etc.
2.  If you don't want to use the 'scrapbook' card stock, by all means use plain colored card stock and rubber stamp, emboss, paint or with whatever you wish to make it.
3.  When I sewed the center seam, I used a 3.0 stitch length and white regular sewing thread.  Please, check you tension and play with scraps before hand.  I would give embroidery threads, etc., a try for stitching if you use a plainer card stock. (Whoa, just thought of an idea, to free motion embroider card stock and then, use the stock to make the ornaments!)
4.  When you put the ornament in the envelop to send it to your dear one, flatten it.  You can also sign it somewhere on one of the pieces so that your loved one can remember where they got it from in years to come.  Or, just send it with your yearly holiday letter on how your year has been.

Please, have fun with this and any feedback on the instructions or information is always welcome if it will help everyone, including me, improve on the process.  I share this with an open heart and hope you will enjoy.

Most posts to come!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Yes, I am still alive and reenergizing...

Hello, I apologize for the long absence of posts.  The world tried to turn itself upside down on me but I was having none of it!  It was a struggle but I am back on track, slow but surely.  I hope, dear Readers, that you are well and the transition between winter and spring will bring the delights and hope of wonderful year.

I was contemplating what it meant to be creative these past couple of months.  As I struggle with my own sense of creativity, I have been doing a little research around what it means to be creative.  In this process I stumbled on this article:

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

Carolyn Gregoire Become a fan

It was an interesting article that laid out 18 facets of what would define a 'creative' person. When I read the article, I asked, "am I truly a creative person?" (I want to believe so). It was interesting that I found I struggle with 5 out of the 18 points

I don't work hours I would like to do...real life intervenes. I have to work a 9-5 job. 
I often do take failure personally...though I am learning not to.
I tend to not take risks unless they are completely calculated to probably be successful. 
I do loose track of time but not doing what I want to be doing...sigh. 
And finally, as most of my friends know, I am not a boat rocker...ergo I don't 'shake things up'. 

So 5 out of 18 isn't too, bad so perhaps I am a creative person who is still evolving?  I would like to think so.  What do you think?  Please follow the link to the article, then leave me a comment.  I  would love to hear what you think.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In The Kitchen: Marmalade and Candied Citrus Peel

The new year is starting with very little planning and more serendipitous action.  Every year I have begun it with resolutions, promises, a well planned calendar and lots of goals!  There is an accompanying 'to-do' list that expands over the year but is mainly to break down goals into doable chunks.  Yet, alas, in reflection on New Year's Eve, I do seem to only achieve 50% of what I had planned. Big released.  I think we all know why?  Life has a habit of not honoring our personal boundaries and goals when we have a lot to do.  Since we do not live in a bubble we are often waylaid by the daily challenges of being engaged in the lives of our co-workers, friends, family, our communities and routines that get waylaid.  

This year, I have reduced my priorities to basic things like pay attention to good health practices (exercise and fresh whole foods), reduce clutter (an on-going process), keep work at work, do something creative everyday and keep one on-going project alive that you can, should you wish to, follow on my historical clothing blog:  La Chatelaine Chocolat.  That being said, I have taken the last few days before I return to work as an educator, to relax, recharge and have fun.  Having fun for me is putting my hands to work cooking, sewing or some sort of creative endeavor.

My parents have several citrus trees in their 'back 40' as my Dad calls it.  (It isn't really 40 acres and there is no mule) but a nice size yard with 3 citrus trees: orange, grapefruit and Meyers lemon.  I picked a huge bag full of the oranges and the lemons and decided to make marmalade and candied citrus peel.  I haven't done this in such a long time and as I want to improve on the quality of food I eat and share, I thought I would give it a go.

Today, I finished up the marmalade and made the candied peel. What recipes did I use?  Well, between my 1950's Joy of Cooking by Rombauer (the new versions having nothing about canning at all in them), Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler and my own limited experience, I made the marmalade.

I used:
4 medium size oranges
3 lemons
All quartered and seeded and boiled in 3 cups of water the night before and allowed to sit 18 hours.

Today, I shredded the orange and lemon wedges and and returned it to the liquid it was in and boiled it.

The back enameled pot has the oranges and lemons before sugar is added.  The forefront is
the first boiling of the candied peel.
The marmalade was allowed to boil for 1 hour then I added 3 cups of sugar - I used an organic brand sold at Trader Joes.  I boiled the mixture until it reached jelly stage 220 F and used the chilled plate method to be sure it was ready.  The one thing I learned or was reminded about was to keep the marmalade moving. Stirring constantly...can't walk away - scorched marmalade is not tasty! (And, no I didn't scorch it but nearly did!)

In the meantime I sterilized my jars, and screw-tops and washed the lids.  When the marmalade reached the desired carmel color I filled the hot jars up to a 1/4 inch and sealed them.  The sealed jars went into a hot water bath for 10 mins.

Prepping the hot marmalade for hot processing in boiling water.

Hot water processing.

Finished product.
I love hearing the little 'ping!' when the seal solidifies.  Next I worked on the candied peel.

I used:
3 medium sized oranges
2 Meyers lemons

I removed the peel with as much pith attached as possible.  The peel was then shredded - sliced into strips.

In 2" of water, I brought the peel to a boil - removed and strained off the water.  This was repeated twice more to remove as much of the bitterness as possible.

After the rinsing boils, I put in the pot 1 cup of water and 2 cups of sugar and then brought to a boil.  The rind was added and the lot was boiled till the strips were translucent.  I prepared another jar - sterilized it - and when I poured the boiled rind into a sieve, the sugary liquid was captured to use as an orange/lemon syrup in cocktails or another culinary dish.

I allowed the candied rind to drain on a rack with parchment paper under neath to catch the drips for easy clean-up.

Candied rind fresh out the pot.
I decided to use a super fine sugar to coat the candied rind - it is what I had on hand...having used up my granular sugar stock in both processes.  I put the sugar in a large wide bowl, about 1 cup, then added the rind.  The rind was sticking to the rack, so I had to pull a lot of it off.  As I moved the rind about in the sugar they separated from each other and was well coated.  I let it sit a minute and then dusted them again in the sugar.  The sugared rind then sat on the parchment to cool and dry.

Sugaring the rind.
Once cooled, you can store it in an airtight container.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I used the Sweet Paul recipe in the Winter 2013 issue.

One of my 2014 goals is to eat less processed food and rely on home cooking to regulate my diet. By making your own jams and preserves and 'candy' you can control how much sugar you use. This batch of marmalade is sweet but more tangy than store bought marmalades. I didn't use the full amount of sugar stated in either book I used as a reference.   I had fun doing this and I am looking around to see what else I can make...

If you try this, please let me know what you made and how it came out.  The resources I mentioned above are great for the novice jam maker.    Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

A new year has begun and when I look back at 2013, I see that I was able to accomplish many things, one of which was to start this blog.  My goals this year are simple:  To continue to live and breath a creative life.  I keep reflecting on whether I have actually achieved that.  When you work a full time job it is often hard to see past all the anxiety of the weeks work and commuting to note:  Hey!, I am doing something creative everyday or at least most days!  Feeling frustrated that I haven't been able to keep up with my new blog.  Losing sight of my vision for this blog in the craziness and excitement getting ready for the holidays has been slowly undermining my focus and motivation to keep trying.  That being said, I can but try.  My main focus or the foundation of my New Year's Resolutions is to maintain my four agreements (by Don Miguel Ruiz):

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind, I hope to figure out how to prioritize and organize my time so that its is manageable - doable.   Fitting creativity around a weekly job that is not 9-5 in many cases - I am a teacher by profession - is always a challenge.  Working with teens is rewarding and I do not regret my 29 years of teaching at all.  However, it is exhausting physically and emotionally.  I need my creative time to help me refocus my attention on what is also important to me - art, crafts, sewing and writing.

I hope that 2014 will be my year to continue on my life's journey one step higher up on the spiral of possibility.  I have begun my quest to live a creative life and there is no time like the present to re-energize my motivation.  Thank you for stopping by. I hope to share my journey more frequently than I have.

May 2014 bring great joy, love and hope to your dreams, your family and all that you hold dear.