Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Color Drunk Kitchen, Crochet Obsession, and a Killer Peanut Butter Cookie!

Sitting area in my kitchen
I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen.  I live in a 1952 ranch style home.  Nothing particularly lovely about the structure.  We bought the house for the amazing property upon which it is nestled...a veritable Old Florida oasis.   I have learned to love my home but it sure didn't start out that way.  The architecture is awkward....clearly designed before Feng Shui was introduced into popular vernacular.  Awkwardly placed entry ways dogged my efforts at furniture placement.  Poorly situated windows limited choices...there is only one spot to place the TV, the couch, the bed, and so on, and so on.  Fortunately, over the years I have been largely able to beat it into submission. 

...except for the kitchen. 

The kitchen was a nightmare!  Truly, it was a dark and unpleasant hovel of a room....the brown cypress wood cabinets and cypress wood walls made me claustrophobic.  The white tile counter tops and white tile floor were stark and lacking in character.  Living with the kitchen "as is" was  difficult for Color Lovin' me, and plans were eventually made for an Elaborate Remodel.

....and then the Tech Industry collapsed and our finances followed suit.

Plans for the Elaborate Remodel were immediately scuttled.  I painted the walls yellow  and life went on.  Yellow became Green and the contrast with the white tile actually worked.     In fact, when finances improved and there was again talk of a remodel, I realized that I didn't want another kitchen... My kitchen was just dandy, thank you very much!

Beamer and Hubby
....and then I got my first black lab, Beamer.

Dumb name, long story, but a heck of a great dog.  Beamer likes to swim.  We have a lake in our back yard so there is ample opportunity to swim.  Beamer has taught my other three dogs to appreciate the benefits of a daily recreational swim.    Yes, indeed, they  swim all of the least when they are not digging holes or eating furniture.   I have white tile in the kitchen, in the laundry room and on my back porch.  A sea of white tile and four muddy dogs.  Need I say more?

My hobby for the last year and a half has been mopping my white tile floor.  I do it at least once a day, usually twice.    Keeping the dogs out of the lake is an exercise in futility, so I mop...again...and again...and again!  Most of the time I do it with a smile because I really  like my little kitchen now.  My dark cypress cabinets are wonderful against the green walls and bright white counter tops.  It is warm,  colorful, and cozy. 

Broken tile is an EYESORE!
...and then my counter tile started to chip off..

 I can deal with relentless mopping, but I CANNOT deal with gaping holes and exposed plywood.  What to do?  What to do?

Game Room Floor
I have decided to mosaic the floor using yellow, red and green tiles.    I did something similar in a game room and it withstood messy teenagers for years.  The busy bursts of color will definitely hide muddy paw prints better than the white.   I looked for counter tops that would complement such a floor but kept coming back to tile.  I know it is not fashionable or trendy, but I love my tile counter!  I can cut on it, put hot pots and pans on it, and pretty much abuse it.   Accordingly, I picked out a pretty red to complement the floor.    

Although I am excited to get started, I do have some trepidation.  I tiled the game room floor twelve years ago.  My back and hands hurt at 38...I can only imagine how it will feel at 50!  I figure that I will be popping Tylenol and working fewer hours each day.  The project may drag on for the entire month of April, but I am only going to do what I can reasonably do.

This will be the color of my cabinets
Too Much Color?
The really scary kitchen is still dark and getting rid of the white tile will make it even darker.  The only thing that I can think to do in an effort to achieve some balance is to lighten the dark wood cabinets that I have grown to love.  My pretty natural cypress cabinets are scheduled to get a coat of Ochre paint before they are lightly distressed to allow some wood to peak through.  I am usually fearless regarding color but this endeavor has me more than a little bit nervous.  Is there such a thing as too much color?

What the hell..I am gonna JUMP!  Wish me luck....

Kinda sad, but functional
Early in December I picked up a great brass floor lamp at a garage sale for only three bucks.  As referenced above, my house is REALLY dark and I am always on the prowl for interesting lighting.  This particular lamp was definitely NOT interesting, but it was cheap.  I kept it in the studio while I noodled around a reincarnation.  Finally, I felted a lampshade and added lots of felted flowers and Swarovski Crystal sew on  and hot fix stones.  Life got busy and I ignored the project until inspiration struck again last week.  I went into a crochet frenzy and finished it off... and I am tickled with the results.  I had to do a fair amount of problem solving along the way and my next project, a chandelier for the dining room table, will be a bit better finessed, but I was pleased.  The folk arty lamp is a nice addition to my color drunk kitchen, don't you think?

In the Kitchen:

My kids will be coming home soon and in my house, that means PEANUT BUTTER SNICKERS COOKIES!  This no flour recipe is always a hit:

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies
  • 2 cups peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Bite Sized Snickers candy
  • Small bowl of white sugar.
Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together peanut butter and sugar until combined well. In a small bowl lightly beat egg and beat into peanut butter mixture with baking soda until combined well.
Wrap dough totally around a bite sized Snickers bar and then roll the ball in sugar. M’mmm M’mmm….it’s gonna be good!

Place the little balls of goodness 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until puffed and pale golden, about 10 minutes.

WARNING:  These cookies are totally addictive.  Your friends and family will think you are amazing but your jeans might get a little tight.  Not that I know anything about that sort of thing.....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Workshops, Goat Envy, and the Shrimp Curry that saved my marriage.

Life has been busy, busy, busy on my little speck of dirt.   Lots of workshops, the construction of a goat house, another foster puppy come and gone. One of the highlights was my first Folk Art Pet Pillow workshop. I knew that the two day workshop would be very intense so I limited it to two students. Lucky me... I spent the week-end with Anne Shapazian and  Pam Beauchesne, and we had a blast!

Pam is a fairly experienced felter, but Anne had never felted before.  Fortunately, she is a creative and crafty gal who quickly came up to speed.  I am amazed by their projects!  Pam's pillow top features her Springer Spaniel, Lucy.  I dyed up some goat curls to get the curly texture that Lucy  required and Pam took some artistic license to fashion a Swarovski Crystal collar and a fuchsia 3D flower that POPS off the surface.  Adorable!

Anne's pup, Bunker, presented even more of a challenge.  His monochromatic coloring forced Anne to pay special attention to shading and detail in order to make his image truly lifelike.  Fortunately, goat curls make Bunker's crazy curly coat come alive, don't you think?

One of the benefits of hosting a small and intimate workshop is that I get to play along!  I haven't made as much progress as Pam and Anne, but I hope to have my Bella pillow finished in the next few weeks.

We were all exhausted and exhilarated by the end of the week-end.  If you are interested in creating your own heirloom pillow, I have another workshop scheduled for June 16 and 17.

In Other News

I have been suffering from Goat Envy for years.   Seriously.  I started to research dairy goats about three years ago, although my husband was steadfast in his opposition, joking that one Old Goat was enough for the family.  [ Hmmm...I always assumed that he was referring to himself, but....could he have meant ME?] During my youngest child's senior year I became the typical weepy mom....every little event came with the recognition that this was a "last of" occasion.  I was a mess....the empty nest that loomed closer and closer had me riddled with anxiety.   During a moment of weakness, my husband promised that I could get goats once Rachel left for college.  I bid her a tearful adieu and immediately put a deposit down on some Nubian Dairy Goats from Kristian Said, a local breeder whose award winning goats are shipped all over the country.  I was one of many in line for two does and since Kristian could not predict how soon I might be a goat mom, I put the matter on the back burner and forgot about it.

....until two weeks ago, when we got word that my girls had arrived and were and ready to go home.  Gulp.  I had two weeks week to build a goat house!  Unfortunately, there were no spare minutes available in Week One, so I put the project aside until Week Two.  The following  Monday was focused on connecting with contractors and soliciting estimates, all of which proved way beyond my budget.  By Tuesday afternoon I was starting to panic and regaled the gals at the Fiber Guild Meeting with my tale of woe.  These gals are kind and strong, generous and inventive, so I was not surprised when they offered to know, like an old fashioned "barn raising."  They were genuine and sincere and it touched my heart. 

Sweet as they were to offer, I had to decline.  This was crunch time...the goats were coming so this goat house needed this to happen within the next three days! Fortunately, the hours spent crocheting quieted my panic and I started to noodle around some alternatives.  My limited budget could work if I played contractor's assistant, so I found a contractor willing to work by the hour.  I cancelled all other plans for the week, and got busy: digging/sawing/hammering/sweating/and swearing.   My back hurts and every nail is broken, but the mission was accomplished!   Stella and Ruby came home on Sunday afternoon to a clean, dry, and secure shed.

They are as cute as can be...much more like dogs than I would ever have imagined.  They follow me around the yard, hopping and skipping and twirling as they perform a little goat acrobatic routine.  Their current favorite activity is to climb up and down and over the picnic table in the back yard.  They are fascinated by the chickens and the hens seem to be equally enamored.  In fact, I have already found a few eggs in the goat's sleeping area.

The biggest surprise has been how much like human babies they are...from the bottle feeding to the desire to have constant companionship.  Stella (brown one) is one month old and is already independent and adventurous.  Ruby, two months old, is the baby.  She screams (yes, it really is a scream!) when I leave her pen. It takes her some time to settle down when I leave and  I am like the nervous parent of a 5 year old on the first day of kindergarten.  I peek around the corners to make sure that she is really OK before I head back to the studio.  I sneak a look whenever I can do so without alerting her to my presence, because once she sees me, the drama will start again.

Ruby, the Drama Queen
John and I make it a habit to share a cocktail out in the backyard at the end of the day.  The dogs frolic in the lake and we re-connect after having been apart for the preceding hours.  It is one of my favorite parts of the day and it has gotten even funnier as the goats dance in the mix.  What a joyful addition they are to my household!

Stella has no fear.

...and the Shrimp Curry Recipe that Saved my Marriage.

My husband is a swell guy and he tolerates my nucking futz tendencies fairly well, as I do his.  One of the things that I have learned over the years is that he cares not a whit how much I choose to put on my Plate of Life, provided that I always make time for him AND cook him good dinners.  Seems fair enough and I can usually pull both off with relative ease, but the week of goat house construction was a bitch.  Late one afternoon I realized that I hadn't even thought of dinner and it was well past dinner time.  UH OH.

I mentally went through my list of quick and easy dinners and was missing ingredients for most, until I remembered Jean Upton's Shrimp Curry Recipe.   It is crazy simple and tastes like you put some effort into it...I served it over white rice with some steamed asparagus.  WINNER.  It took minutes to prepare and got complements from the Husband.

Curry Shrimp
by Jean Upton on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 8:26am
1/4 c. onion (I used 1/2)
1clove garlic 
2 T. fresh cilantro (I used dried)
1/2 T. olive oil
1 lb. uncooked shrimp
1 T. curry powder (I used more...)
1/3 c. nonfat Greek yogurt  (I didn't have any so I used Sour Cream and a splash of cream, and doubled it)
Salt and Pepper

1. Prepare ingredients: chop onion and cilantro and press garlic. Set each aside individually.
2. Sautee garlic and onions in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Season width salt and pepper.
3. Add shrimp and curry powder. Cook shrimp until pink.
Season again with salt and pepper.
4. Remove from heat stir in yogurt and cilantro and serve.