June 30, 2011

Maryland Cream of Crab Soup

I have spent a lot of time in Maryland over my lifetime (lots of my family lives there). Therefore, I have a profound respect for the majesty of the Maryland Blue Crab and the devout culinary following it has inspired.

It's been hot as Hades out here lately, so soup of any stripe has pretty much been out of the question. But, I'm going to share it anyway because crab season is in full swing, and I just had to make it (or die thinking about it).

What You Need:
    1/4 cup flour
    1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter (if you use unsalted, just add a little salt into the pot)
    3 cups milk (I use skim because of all the cream)
    1 quart heavy cream
    3 Tbs. Old Bay seasoning (more or less to taste. I prefer more.)
    1 Tbs. lemon juice
    1/2 cup chopped shallots (I use dried which is instead 2 Tbs.)
    1 pound lump backfin crab meat (don't use the imitation stuff)
    Parsley and pepper to taste

June 23, 2011

Seascape Quilt, part I

I've been drooling all over art quilts for some time now. There are quite a few on display at one of my local quilt shops and they are something to behold. They use such interesting techniques and unusual mediums, from yarn, beads, yoyos, ribbons, you name it.  I decided a while ago that I'd start one, so I drew up some ideas and decided that I wanted to do an underwater scene. I drew out the design and used my laptop to blow up the design to an appropriate size.

I want to use this quilt as a wall hanging to take up the dead space above the sofa. Hubby-to-be seemed skeptical of sea creatures in the living room, but I think it is an improvement over the Halloween Circle quilt that's currently up there, leftover from last year. I've been slowly collecting blue batiks for the background for a while, and I finally bought the last few on sale a few weeks ago. I printed out the pattern pieces and cut out the background pieces this week.

Gathered up and waiting to be cut

June 17, 2011

Carrot Bundles? Yes, please!

I haven't had much time for sewing this week, but I have done a lot of cooking. Do you ever have trouble getting your kids to eat veggies? I don't have anyone underfoot, so it isn't a problem I've had. But I remember being one of those children, and we didn't have a dog I could sneak them to. I have the seriously most simple way for you to prep fresh vegetables that make them pretty tasty without adding anything, so they stay healthy, too.

Are you ready? Blanch 'em. Seriously. I never would have thought of it, and I bet you didn't either. My favorite vegetable to blanch is carrots, because it just softens them up a little but they still have a nice crunch. To blanch vegetables, all you need is to boil some water, drop your cut veggies into it for 2-4 minutes (depending on the thickness and how done you want them). I do not salt the water when I do this, but you can if you prefer.

I usually stop there, because I just pop them on a plate as a simple but tasty side dish. But, if you want to blanch them and make a little sauce to accompany them or grill them, then you need to dunk the newly blanched veggies in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. I got the idea to bundle a few carrot sticks together from Paula Deen, who tied them together with some blanched chives (to soften them up enough for tying) and then dunked them into a skillet of butter, brown sugar, and white wine. The woman is overly fond of her butter for my taste, but she has some fantastic recipes and creative cooking ideas.

June 14, 2011

Homespun Honey Quilt

This is a project I started in late November of last year. I found a bunch of cute homespun fabrics on sale, and I knew I had a pattern for a scrappy homespun quilt somewhere at home. Particularly, a pattern that I thought my honey might like. Being the ambitious creature that I am, I thought I would have time to finish it before the medley of winter holidays (I celebrated Christmas growing up and Hubby-to-be celebrated Chanukah, so we do both now). No surprise that it didn't happen.

I managed to get all the strips cut out and sewn together before we left to spend Christmas with my parents, but the whole project got shelved because of holiday visits and then forgotten about during the new year. That was when I got my Etsy shop started, and those projects took precedence over all my other current projects. About a month ago I pulled the strip sets out and dusted them off and got to work on them again. Sadly, I had to iron them all over again (I will not being making the mistake of setting aside an ironed project in the future).

Lots of happy strip sets, freshly dusted and pressed

June 11, 2011

New Crafts Soon!

This week has been a little hectic, so I wanted to assure you that I'll be posting up some new crafts soon. I've been working on a full-sized homespun quilt for Hubby-to-be and the mini quilt kit that I purchased from the Quilters Unlimited show. Sometimes I have so many projects going at once that none of them get finished at all.

And very soon a quilting surprise for me should arrive in the mail. I can't wait to test it out and finally see what it's like to use one myself. It should make my large quilting projects much easier. But I have to get the homespun quilt top finished first. As soon as I try it out, I will have a full report on it and if it's worth the pricetag.

June 4, 2011

Quilters Unlimited Aftermath

I had so much fun yesterday, and I certainly spent too much money. I met all sorts of nice vendors, and even ran into some I met at the previous quilting Expo in October.

My favorite demonstration was the first one of the day, "How to be a Charming Stripper" by Colleen Casey of Some Art Fabric. I am recently enamored with charm packs and jelly rolls, and this demonstration was all about helpful ways to be creative with these precut fabrics.

She utilized a special triangle template that I loved so much I had to buy one. Essentially, you sew your jelly roll strips together, let's say 4. You sew them together all around together to make a tube. Yes, a tube. Trust me, it's almost like magic when it's done. You line up the sewing line with the line on the template and cut a triangle. Then you flip it 180 degrees and cut again, repeating for the rest of the tube. The sewing line at the triangle's top point falls open because you cut most of the stitches away when you made the triangle. When you open them all up and put them together, you have a gorgeous square ready to be sewn together. Magic.

June 3, 2011

Quilters Unlimited Show

This weekend is the annual Quilters Unlimited show in Chantilly, VA. The event is run by a large, local quilt group and it is right down the road from me. I've also been interested in joining a quilting group, so this will give me a good opportunity to meet some of the people who run this one. Whenever I talk about quilters groups, I'm convinced Hubby-to-be hears "cult" instead of "group." But he does not understand. He doesn't get excited by rotary cutters, appliqué, or new fabric like I do. I can promise if I spent more time with a group of like-minded individuals (ones who ooh and ahh over new fabric lines), he'd be hearing a lot less of my craft-talk.

The Expo runs from Friday-Sunday, and it's only $10 to get in (or a weekend pass for $20). They are doing some demonstrations just about every hour, and there are ones I want to check out on each of the days. It wouldn't be an Expo without oodles of vendors, and I can't wait to see what they'll have on display. There are vendors from all over the country, but also quite a few from my local area. A few of my favorite shops will be there, as well as some that are close by, but not close enough to just visit on a whim.

I had better get going now, the show opens up at 10 today and I have a lot I'd like to see!
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