Monday, December 15, 2014

Roasted Veggie and Butternut Squash Soup

I seriously considered naming this post "True Life: I'm Addicted to Soup." Once September hits and there is even the slightest breeze in the air I want basically every meal to be in soup form. This addiction lasts until about April when it starts to get a little too warm in South Carolina to pretend the addiction is justified.


Some soup can be great for you...these are not the soups I like. Give me cheesy. Give me creamy. Give me all things gluttonous. #noregrets Until my pants start fitting a little tighter. #alittleregret Then instead of foregoing Christmas cookies and festive coffee I look for ways to cut calories from the things I want to eat anyway. This roasted vegetable soup in the best of all worlds! It's so creamy and savory but FULL of good things. As an added unanticipated bonus, it's vegan, so you can feel better about your choices all around ;)

Roasted Veggie and Butternut Squash Soup

1 Medium Zucchini, cubed
2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, cubed
1 Small Sweet Onion, diced
4 Cloves fresh Garlic
1 Medium Butternut Squash, cubed
3 Cups Almond Milk
2 Tsp Thyme
1 Tsp Curry Powder
1/2 Tsp Cumin
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Brush a cookie sheet lightly with olive oil and spread your butternut squash cubes over it. Lightly brush olive oil over the cubes and season with salt and pepper before baking at 350 for 45-60 min. Prep another cookie sheet for your Zucchini, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onion. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and 1 tsp of thyme before putting them in the oven at the same time as the squash for only 30 minutes. The fact that both can be cooking at the same time makes it a pretty easy set up.

Once roasted, remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Transfer squash and veggies to a large pot on the stove top set on low. Make sure they are tender enough to mash slightly with a wooden spoon. Add 1 cup of almond milk. Use God's gift to soup lovers (aka an immersion blender) to start pureeing the veggies in with the almond milk. Add more milk as you blend until the creamy texture you're looking for is reached. Add in the rest of the thyme, curry powder, and cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Once the soup is heated up to the proper temp you're ready for practically guilt free creamy indulgence!

I wish I had carrots on hand to through in. I think that would be a delicious addition. Anything you would add? Do you also need a support group for soup addicts? I'd love to know!

Sheila

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Another Year, Another Trunk or Treat!

Last year, I gently forced everyone in my department to bust out their flannel for a Charlotte's Web themed Trunk or Treat. This year, we were a box of crayons inspired by the book "The Day the Crayons Quit." Children's book costumes ftw!



It ended up being loosely based on the book as well as traditional Crayola crayons; I thought going a little more recognizable might be easier to explain. I made a stencil from an old file folder to paint the shirts, covered recycled cardboard in dollar store yellow wrapping paper and green duct tape, and cut a few generic crayon shapes from construction paper for the logo in the center. It ended up being about $20, including the cost of the t-shirts, and taking about 3 hours, not including drying time.



The kids were adorable as always and definitely make any effort worth it. It was, however, FREEZING. And the wind was trying to tear everything apart, as you can see a bit in the above picture. Next year, I'm going to have to find a book that features igloos so we can all be in parkas just in case. Seriously. So. Cold.

How was your Halloween? Any ideas for a book I should use next year? I'd love to know!

Sheila

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What I learned from my First Garden

It's officially autumn here in South Carolina. The air has a sweet chill in the morning and the leaves have shown a touch of bronze. Coffee is being served hot instead of iced. I'm totally into it. Sadly, some of my plants from my first patio garden started back in April are not enjoying it quite so much.  I've learned a lot from this experiment. For starters, I actually enjoy gardening which was a bit surprising. A few other lessons were more practical and I figured some fellow ambitious gardening novice may actually be able to benefit if shared.




1. Not all plants are friends: I (stupidly) categorized all herbs as being friends. They can all live in the same container and have a sweet, happy herb party together, right? Wrong. Certain herbs, like mint, grow fast and aren't good at sharing. They tend to take over the space they're given with no regard for their flavorful roommates. So the mint got transplanted into a new pot. You'd think that would be enough for me to learn but no, I then found out that certain herbs don't even like to have the same amount of water in the soil. Lavender, apparently, prefers a fairly dry soil while basil likes a little more moisture. Putting them together, like I tried, would be like pairing together a fish and a cat in the same room and expecting them both to survive. Oh wait...I did that too on accident but that's another story (RIP Fancy). All the herbs that survived now have their own homes.

2. Not every blossom will produce: Every time I saw a flower on my zucchini or eggplant I thought to myself "YES. HERE WE GO." Every time. Every flower. Spoiler alert, not one zucchini actually grew all summer. It was disappointing but I've been told that was a pretty common issue in the area. It may have been a lie to placate me but I'll take it. I've heard there are ways to manually pollinate as long as you have both a male and female plant but heck if I know how to spot the difference between the two on a dang zucchini plant.


3. Pruning is more than pretty: I had heard of pruning before. I assumed it was mostly about the looks of plants. Because, you know, they're trying to attract those sexy female zucchini plants ;) Okay, not quite, but I did think it was about looks so I trimmed plants until I was happy with the size and shape and made sure they didn't take over the whole patio. As I'm sure the rest of humanity already knows, that was barely helpful in my gardening mission. The true reason to prune is to make sure the plant isn't wasting unnecessary energy and resources growing and supporting the wait of extra branches or leaves. Each plant has a different method that's recommended but in a nutshell, you want to prune to make sure the main stalk, sprout, shoot, whathaveyous, has enough nutrients before the plant has to worry about supporting offshoots.

4. Aphids are the devil: I can't even express my frustration with these gross little mini-demons. They have attacked a few of my plants and completely ignored others. Because sometimes I overly trust the world that things that suddenly appear must be a good sign, I didn't know they were a pest and I didn't immediately try to eradicate them. Because as you may have gathered by now sometimes I'm an idiot. Eventually I wised up and tried some homemade remedies. They worked okay, but I've had much more success with a product called Bon Neem. It's available at your local nursery, I'm assuming.

So there you have it. It's almost a little embarrassing to admit how little I knew about plant life in general before starting this project. I've gotten rid of a few of the strugglers who didn't like the cooler weather and replaced them with beets, parsnip, kale, and spinach. Don't worry, I actually did some research this time. But I am starting from seed so there's lot of room for error.


Are you planning a fall/winter garden? Any other tips that would seem obvious that you want to share? I'd love to know!

Sheila

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stitches the Pig

First things first, I would like to start this post by giving some amazing reason for my delay between posts. Like, maybe, I was abducted by aliens and just returned to earth. Or bite by a shark and my hands have ben recovering. But the truth is I've just been incredibly lazy at home/busy with work. It's a good thing because I love my job but I also love being able to share crafty things with the internet world. Did you notice the absence? No? Okay, then I'll just move on...

Part of the busy-ness at work has been planning our Piggy Bank Auction. That's right, we auction pigs. Bill Davis, from Thomas Creek Brewery here in Greenville, makes the bare pigs then local artists add their spin. This year I HAD to get in on the action! I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before and eventually decided I would crochet a pig. Because I'm that much of a nerd. 

I started with mini granny squares using remnant yarn, then I combined the granny squares and experimentally added on some ears using the corner spaces of two squares. I made the face by creating a small circle for the nose and crocheting only on the back stitches to make the edges. Stitches were added as they seemed to be needed until it was big enough to cover the whole face and be attached. Of course, the buttons and eyelashes had to be sewn on as well. Lastly I made another growing circle for the bum and little straps to go around the feet and connected everything together. 100% trial and error but in the end I really enjoyed how it turned out. And it sold! So that's a good sign, right?




Here she is in her social debut at the auction. Makin' that coin.

I never really think of myself as being an artist. To me, that seems like a title that has to be earned. Crafter, yes. Artist, not so much. It was fun to pretend though for the night :)

What do you think of Stitches? How would you make a pig if given the chance/choice? I'd love to know!

Sheila

Monday, August 18, 2014

T-Shirt Pillows

Every so often, a shirt comes around that is just too great to be stored in the closet. You might try to wear it as frequently as possible to share the awesomeness with the world. After all that sharing with the world, eventually it starts to wear out. That, my friends, is a sad, sad day. This is a story of two such shirts.



Behold the awesomeness that is this pink Elvis t-shirt that was a Birthday gift from my best friend, and this Golden Girls shirt my Gram gave me as a Christmas present. I have had a slight obsession with both Elvis and the Golden Girls since high school, if not before. Yup. I’m so hipster I liked these things before it was cool to ironically like them. Adjusts unnecessary glasses and sips PBR.

They’re both made of very thin material and were starting to get a little worn over the years. I was worried that a hole would develop and it might be lost forever. The best course of action was obviously to turn these great t-shirts into great pillows.

You Will Need:

Nerdtastic t-shirts
Scissors
Ruler
Chalk or Pencil
Sewing machine (or needle/ thread/ perseverance)
Stuffing
Straight pins
Embroidery floss (optional)

Square Pillow


Lay your t-shirt flat and decide how much of the main image you want to be featured on your pillow. Take a deep breath and thank the inanimate object that has been worn so many times and started so many conversations. Tentatively, hesitantly, and mournfully cut the sleeves and collar from the shirt. Have second thoughts. Decide to continue and tell yourself you’re giving it new life. Cut up the side seams of the shirt and across the shoulder seems, separating the shirt into two pieces, front and back.

Turn halves inside-out, use the ruler and chalk or pencil to draw a square on the shirt featuring the design as desired. Pin the two sides together inside your lines. Carefully cut out your square.

Use your sewing machine to stitch around the edges leaving about 3-4” open at the bottom of the pillow. Remove the pins and turn it right side out. Stuff your pillow A little fuller than you think it should be; the filling will flatten out over time. You can also use a pencil to help get the stuffing all the way into the corners. Once it’s full, use a slip stitch to sew up the last few open inches. You can stop there OR you can add tassels. And when you have the option to add tassels, why wouldn't you?

To make the tassels, don't listen to me. I kind of just messed with embroidery floss until it worked. Seriously. Each one is slightly different. Since I can't be trusted when it comes to tassels, this tutorial will be much more useful. When they're finished, just run a few stitches through the center of the tassel into the corners of the pillow.

Circle Pillow



The circle pillow shares a lot of steps with the square pillow but you have to be extra careful not to tug the fabric while machine sewing the edges or you'll end up with a lumpy circle. T-shirt material is notoriously difficult because it is so stretchy. I used a lamp shade as a guide for a perfect circle because I'm a classy, classy lady. Don't forget to leave a few inches open to turn right side out and stuff. Afterwards, stitch it up and you're all done.



Any favorite t-shirts laying around that need a makeover? Do you know how to make a good tassel? I'd love to know!

Sheila

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