Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blah blah blah

I've had the blahs lately when it comes to creating, starting many things and finishing few. Still, I thought I'd share one of the things I've almost finished and some of the things I've barely started.

This took forever! Something like 121 rolled roses, all stitched by hand. I used a wool blanket I felted several years ago and by the time I got to the end I was down to bare scraps of the fabric. And yes, that's the reason for the red rose. I still think the pillow looks a bit bare in places but without my resorting to more red roses it'll have to stay as is. The unfinished part? It's an envelope pillow and right now the back looks like a full-figured woman in a blouse she bought to fit her shoulders. In other words, it gaps. I think I'll put on a couple of buttons and strap buttonholes to hold it shut. I should have enough scraps left for that. One of these days.

As for the projects not quite started, a couple of weeks ago I bought some vintage lampshades to redo. Two of them are octagonal,

Actually one is octagonal. The other is this round one with eight panels, not really octagonal. For the round/eight paneled shade above, I'm embroidering some white linen, a work still in progress.

My intention is simply to do rings in white crewel wool, some intersecting, some free-floating.This shade will be for a lamp in my guest bedroom, an old openwork brass lamp. The real octagonal I'll use here in the office

The lamp is green and cream openwork porcelain, and I thought this fabric would work perfect as a shade. I bought it from Avenue 55 on Etsy.

The third is hard to describe so I'm not even going to try. It reminds me of the lampshades you see in those old movies with Myrna Loy.

 For it, I would love to find some black and white striped silk but so far haven't found what I'm looking for.

This is a Dr. Seuss-inspired cotton stripe from I'm liking it, but I'm unsure if it would work for a lampshade. It's for "quilting and craft projects as well as apparel and home decor accents." (The green newspaper print I bought sight unseen as well, but it's a linen cotton blend so I have faith it'll work.) What I really wanted was more of a cabana stripe in a silk.

Like this one, which is actually a beach towel from Ralph Lauren. (At $95 a pop, even if it would work as a lampshade I'd have to pass.)

I do have a Scalamandre silk onhand, but it's just not what I'm looking for. (As in, not black and white.)

It's a lovely silk, and I may use it anyway. Just have to get my mind to stop focusing on the cabana stripe.

That's all from here, for now. Ta.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Good Gravy!

Last night I made one of the hub's favorite dishes, city chicken. As I was making the gravy, it dawned on me that there might be people who haven't learned the tips I picked up over the years for making good gravy.

I was nineteen when I married and didn't know diddly about cooking so it was pretty much OJT (on the job training) for me. And it's been a long haul getting to the good gravy stage.

Tip number one: Make sure the flour is well-cooked. You probably already know that, but I didn't until I was in my thirties. Cook until it turns a nice golden brown, taking care not to burn it.

Tip number two: Remove the pan from the heat to add your liquid. This I learned in a cooking class about ten years ago, and I was amazed at the difference it makes. It keeps the roux from clumping when you add the liquid.

Tip number three: Bouillon cubes. Okay, don't wrinkle your nose; just do it. It really deepens the flavor. For chicken, I keep both regular and salt-free and try to use both together. That way, they're not as bland as salt-free, nor as salty as regular. With beef, I only have regular on hand is what it is. The beef is actually a cube, and I use one for about two cups of gravy. The chicken is granules, and, all told, I probably use about a teaspoon and a half for one recipe.

Tip number four: Potato water--or the liquid of whatever vegetable you're cooking for dinner. I use regular water to start, but whenever the gravy needs thinning, which always happens for me, I thin with the liquid from whatever vegetable I happen to be cooking. Better that you take advantage of nutrients you'd otherwise pour down the drain.

Tip number five: Browning sauce. Depending on how brown I got my flour, I may or may not use browning sauce. Made of caramel color, vegetable concentrates and seasonings, it adds a nice color to any gravy that might be lacking such. (You could also use a bit of instant coffee if you have that on hand. Me, I prefer the browning sauce.)

And finally, tip number six: When you're making gravy from a liquid base, as in last night's city chicken dish or a pot roast, pre-mix your flour and water in a small container--I use an empty jelly jar. Just put in a couple of tablespoons flour--or whatever's required for the amount of gravy you want-- add a third cup or so of water and shake that thing until the flour's fully dissolved. Then add this to your liquid base. Works a charm.

That's it for my gravy-making. Hope it helps with yours.