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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Classic Chicken Soup

This recipe is a great starter recipe; it's the first soup I've made and I have fun adding something different to it each time I make it. 

What you need
1 whole chicken (Perdue oven roasters work well, remember to remove the giblets from inside)
5 carrots
5 stalks of celery
4 onions
12 cups water (a combination of chicken broth and water works well too)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional veggies - up to 1 cup each (Turnips, cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, snap peas, just about anything really....)
Optional egg noodles

Start by boiling the whole chicken in the 12 cups of water/broth.  Quick chop two onions, three (peeled) carrots and two celery stalks.  Chop celery flowery, leafy greens and add all to soup.  Let boil for two hours, stirring every once in a while.  Skim off any impurities that rise to the top.  Take out chicken and let sit on a large cutting board to cool.  Place a large strainer in a large bowl.  Pour soup into the strainer/bowl to strain.  Pour broth through a sieve back into a pot to boil.  Peel, chop (bite sized pieces), and add all veggies to pot of broth.  Boil on medium for 2 hours or until veggies are soft.  After chicken had cooled, peel skin and meat from bones.  Put the meat in a bowl with a lid and put in the fridge. Add chicken and salt and pepper for the last 10 minutes.
If you'd like to add egg noodles, you may add them hard or boil them first in water and add them after. Adding them preboiled will cause the noodles to soak up a lot of the broth in your soup, and will leave it very thick.   I like to boil them first and add only a little bit.  Sometimes my awesome husband makes dumplings to go in the soup.  The very cool thing I love about this recipe is how backs it is, so you can add really anything you want!  Have fun experimenting, let me know what you've added in your recipe in the comments below! 

~The Craftmeister

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pet Stocking

Growing up, all us kids had personalized stockings.  My parents picked out stocking for us with a cool design or character on it, and my mother wrote our names in glitter.  I always liked that tradition, and I would love to continue that tradition when my husband and I start our own family.  Right now though, our pets are our family.  And like kids, they each have their own personality traits and different looks.  I wanted to make truly unique stockings for my furry kids that captured their spirit.  

All of these stockings were made with felt and lots of love. 

Henrik: The crazy eyed, always excitable Australian Shepherd.   

Gordo: The happy ginger cat.
And Puffin:  The princess kitty.

 After creating these stocking and posting them on facebook, they were so well received!  People loved them!  So here's a few more that I've created...

Vegas: The pampered Mini Schnauzer.

Unfortunately, I don't have a complete picture of this stocking

Toby: The playful and doofy lab mix.

Lucky: The Cutie Yorkie.
This stocking was made with a combination of felt and yarn

Molly: The Poised Mini Poodle.

Kayto: The shy American Eskimo .

Cosmo: the playful American Eskimo mix (Kayto's brother).
Cosmo has light beige spots by his ears, I created that effect by using tea as a dye.  It worked well and it smells yummy!

Callie: The sassy and silly tortoiseshell cat.

So that's what I've been working on for Christmas and why I haven't been posting.  If you'd like one of these personalized stocking for one of your furry kids, let me know!  They are $20 a piece and I do require a week or so to create them, so place your orders for next Christmas now!

Hope everybody is enjoying their holidays!  Here's a bit of holiday cheer I made for my kitchen while making some Broccoli & Cheddar soup - recipe coming soon!   ;-)

Broccoli stem and carrot peels    Ho Ho Ho!

Stay crafty!
~The Craftmeister

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Split Pea & Ham Soup

I don't know what it is, but since I've learned how to cook I've LOVED making soups.
You just plop in the ingredients and smell it cooking all day.... so delicious. So easy! So yummy!

One of my favorite soups to cook is a soup I hated as a child....  Split Pea & Ham soup. 

I love making this soup with a leftover smoked ham.  There's usually sooo much ham left over this is a great way to use up some of the leftovers without feeling like you're eating ham for a week.

First start to any good soup is a decent broth.  I make the broth for this soup pretty much from scratch.  It takes a long time but it is so so so worth it.

For the broth:

Bone from ham with some ham bits on it
3 quarts of water (can mix in some soup stock if you have any.  This time I mixed in about three cups of vegetable broth)
2 good size onions, cut in half and peeled
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut in quarters
2-3 stalks of celery, quartered
Leaves from celery chopped in and added (the first time I saw this in a recipe, I cringed.  I always threw it away.  But it adds a lot of flavor to the broth and you can toss it out afterwards)
One herb bouquet with three bay leaves, a tablespoon of thyme, and a teaspoon of peppercorns

Boil it all in a large pot for about three hours.  Tent the lid so the steam can escape.

Put a strainer inside a large bowl to pour the soup into.  Drain the broth and discard all the solid stuff in the original broth boil (the onions, celery, carrots, bone, herb bouquet, etc).  DO NOT dump all this yummy deliciousness down the drain by accident.  I triple check to make sure my strainer is in a big enough bowl and then pour it in.  Pour it back into the pot through a sieve to take away any small impurities.

For the soup:

2 quarts of the broth you just made
2 cups cut up ham
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
2  16 oz bags of split peas
salt & pepper to taste

After you get all the 'dandruff' out of the broth, add all the veggies for the soup (everything but the ham, peas, and salt & pepper).  Boil until the veggies are soft (about two hours).  Then add the ham and peas. Mix constantly, the peas will want to sink to the bottom.  Keep it boiling and keep mixing for another two hours or until all the peas are mashed up and the soup is thick.  You may use a blender if you're impatient, but I like lumpy soup so I leave it as is.  Top with some saltines and you're all set!

And your house will smell awesome and yummy!  No scented candle needed :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Peppers the Easy Way!

Peppers are one of my favorite veggies.  So easy, so yummy, and they can be added to most recipes very easily.  They're the base for some of my favorite meals; sausage & Peppers, Stuffed Peppers, Fajitas...

...But those seeds can be really annoying. 

I've heard the "myth" of female and male peppers.  That the peppers with three bumps are male and the peppers with four bumps are female.  And the female peppers are full of seeds, the male peppers are sweeter and better eaten raw.   Well, this information is WRONG!

If this is true, then what 'sex' is this pepper?
Clearly it's a hermaphrodite pepper...

For more information on the science behind the lie of sex peppers, please view this article

Basically every pepper has seeds, and no pepper had more seeds than another, unless there are size limitations within the pepper cavity itself. When I first lived on my own, I'd cut the pepper blindly and clean up the seeds after I was done cutting.  It was a pain in the butt and I always got seeds all over the place.  In the sink, on the floor, on my shoes....  Until I figured out a no mess way to cut peppers. 

And becasue I'm so nice, I'm going to share my first ever self thought up kitchen secret with you!  I'm sure others do this too, but I came up with this on my own. 

First, wash your peppers.  Wash em gooood in cold water.  Then turn the pepper upside down so you can see the "sexy" bumps. 

Then slice within the grooves of the bumps, but don't cut all the way through.  Use the knife and slice just through the first layer of pepper skin, do this all around the entire pepper.  Cut from the dimple on the bottom of the pepper to the top of the pepper. 

After you made your slices all around the pepper, peel each section of the pepper back until it snaps or pops off the stem of the pepper. 

Do this to all the sections of the pepper that you cut.  When you're done you should have your pepper sections and the stem with most of the seeds still in tact on the stem. 

It's not perfect, there will still be a few seeds around.  But it's much better and neater than cutting into the pepper blindly and then cleaning it all up afterwards.   And the way the peppers are sliced leaves it very easy to cut into strips or chunks for a salad or stir fry. Of course this method of cutting peppers will not work for stuffed peppers...  But for those slice off the 'hat' of the pepper and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.  A little messy, but hey stuffed peppers are worth the mess!  

Happy cooking! 



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Honey or Sugar Banana Bread

Remember in the 90's when Bread Makers were huge?  There were infomercials, huge displays at the department stores, all promising a machine that could make a whole loaf of bread and not take all day!   The Maders had one too.  My parents made all sorts of bread, and it made the house smell awesome.  I thought about them the other day and so I was inspired to make some Banana Bread.  Well, that and my bananas were looking too sad to eat, but just right for baking.

Dan and I picked up some Wildflower honey from the farmer's market in Warwick, NY.  It's some damn good honey.  I wanted to find a recipe that used honey in it to give the bread an extra boost of flavor.  Unfortunately, when I had found a recipe I couldn't get the jar of honey open.  The honey got under the lid and made the top stuck to the jar.  So after looking at other recipes, I adapted the honey recipe to a different recipe - one with sugar instead.

I did and it was great!

Uhh... I should have taken the picture earlier.

Later that same evening, my wonderful strong husband opened the honey jar for me (some honey from my honey).  The first batch of Banana Bread was so good I figure I'd make the Honey Banana Bread too and let you know how they compared!

Watching me mix

Becca's Banana Bread 

 2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Mashed Bananas (about two bananas)
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Milk
1Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
Parchment Paper/Wax Paper

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper (or wax paper).
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl, set aside.  In large bowl combine bananas, eggs, oil, milk, & vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to banana mixture. Mix until moistened. Add chocolate chips.  Pour into parchment lined loaf pan. 

Bake for 60 min or until it passes the toothpick test.  Cool for 10 min in pan, let stand on wire rack for 30 min before slicing.

Honey Banana Bread 

1 3/4 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Honey
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Mashed Bananas (about two bananas)
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil 
1/4 Cup Hot Water
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
Parchment Paper/Wax Paper

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper (or wax paper).  Beat honey and oil together in a large bowl.  Add eggs, mix well.  Stir in bananas & vanilla.  Stir in flour and salt.  Add baking soda to hot water and add to banana mixture.  Add chocolate chips.  Pour into parchment lined loaf pan. 

Bake for at least 60 min or until it passes the toothpick test.  Cool for 10 min in pan, let stand on wire rack for 30 min before slicing. 

Honey Banana Bread

Craftmeister's Verdict:
Personally I liked them both!  The sugar banana bread had more of a spicy flavor to it, you could really taste how the cinnamon and nutmeg complimented the bananas. The honey bread was more moist tasting but I think the flavored honey may have extinguished the cinnamon flavor.  Don't get me wrong, they were both delicious!  But delicious in different ways.  If I were to make it again, I'd prob make it with the sugar.  I think with the type of honey I used - locally purchased Wildflower Honey - it didn't taste how I wanted, and the honey isn't cheap. 

I love baking in this weather.  It warms up the house and you don't have to put the heat on!  I got a recipe from my sister in law for Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Cider Donuts.  I may have to try baking those next!  

Stay Baking, 
~The Craftmeister


The bathroom is no place for...

I'm currently in the process of redoing one of the bathrooms in my house.  It's a small bathroom on the main floor; it's the one that gets used the most.  As some of you may know, I have a modest rubber ducky collection.  Hahaha, who am I kidding!?  I love rubber ducks!  I have devil duckies, cowboy duckies, sheriff duckies, graduation duckies, leprechaun duckies... and the list goes on.  So to match, I painted half of the bathroom a buttery yellow.  The bottom half of the bathroom is covered by white beadboard/wainscoting, so it's not too overwhelmingly yellow.  I was looking for ideas on Pinterest for additional bathroom decor ideas, something kitschy that would compliment the many duckies.  And what I found really, really put me off of bathroom decor.

What is with the passive aggressive signs for the bathroom?

Here are some of the best of the worst....

Wash Your Hands and Say Your Prayers, Because Jesus and Germs are Everywhere! 

If You Sprinkle When You Tinkle, Please Be Sweet and Wipe the Seat. 

My Aim is to Keep This Bathroom Clean, Your Aim Will Help. 

This Bathroom Was Clean Yesterday... So Sorry You Missed It

Changing the Toilet Paper Roll Will Not Cause Brain Damage 

Then there's the many rules on one sign trend that have basically all of the things listed above, but lovingly signed "Love, Mom".  Seriously?  Are people who use your bathroom that dirty that they need stupid reminders in the bathroom?  Or maybe people just think it's cute?  I really don't get it. 

I DO like cute signs in the bathroom.  Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Baths 5¢, Smile, Powder Room, or my personal favorite for a full bathroom.... Get Naked. All perfectly fine in my book!   But don't nag at me to clean behind my ears while I'm on the John.... 

Am I alone in this?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's a Wrap!

When I did my internship back in 2004, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work at a designer jewelry showroom in New York City.  I worked for the designer Chan Luu, she's made jewelry that was featured on the shows Charmed, Friends, and more recently, Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  All of her jewelry was beautiful and handmade with real gemstones.  One particular style really caught my eye, and I went home and played with my jewelry and string until I mastered how to make....

The Wrap Bracelet

Getting Started
You'll need
*Leather cord (Twice the length of your desired finished piece, plus 12 inches).
Cut the cord to twice the length of the desired bracelet size PLUS 12 inches. For example, a 7.5-inch bracelet will require 27 inches of cord. - See more at:
Cut the cord to twice the length of the desired bracelet size PLUS 12 inches. For example, a 7.5-inch bracelet will require 27 inches of cord. - See more at:
*A whole bunch of beads, similar in style (if this is your first piece, it's easier to use all the same size bead.  Once you get more advanced you can experiment with different sizes together)
*Nylon thread (or nylon coated thread) Non stretch **Craftmeister tip** I always use nylon thread, or nylon coated thread because over time natural fibers break down.  Items made with silk or cotton thread are very delicate and can fall apart if worn every day.  
*A needle thin enough to fit through your beads
*A button (optional, you may use one of the beads from your selection as a button if it's big enough)
*A clipboard for easy holding **Craftmeister tip** I don't have a clipboard at home, so I used a piece of cardboard and a hair clip.  Totally worked!
*An afternoon free

Fold your leather in half and make a slipknot at the top. Make it sized so you could fit your button through it tight.  This will eventually be your clasp.  For my example I'm going to use one of the beads from my project as the button. I'm also using contrasting thread and leather colors so it cold be seen easier on the tutorial.

Cut about 8 feet of the nylon thread for your project.  If you're not comfortable with working with longer pieces of string, you can use shorter lengths, but you'll need to attach it when you run out.  **Craftmeister tip** Your arm span should be about your height (unless you're Michael Phelps) so I always hold my arms apart as far as they could go and I know it will give me a string a little over 5 feet long.  Much easier than measuring.

Tie the nylon thread in a knot on the left strand of the leather, just under the leather knot.  Slide the knot up to the leather knot to hide it, and clip the knot to the clipboard for easy holding. Slide one bead onto the thread and place it in between the two leather strands.  The bead should be situated so both holes are horizontal. Wrap the thread around the right leather strand once, back to front.  Then thread back through the bead.  Wrap around the left leather strand, back to front.  Thread through the bead again.  This first bead has an extra stitch in it to hold it in place. 

The placement of the first few beads are tougher than the rest of the bracelet because you're setting it up and training the leather how to bend. 

 The thread should now be on the right side under the right leather strand.  Wrap the thread over the leather, strand a bead onto the thread.  Bring the thread under the left leather strand and wrap it over and through the bead. The thread should end up under the right leather strand. 

Wrap the thread over the right strand, thread one bead.  Wrap the thread from back to front over the left leather strand.   Thread back through the bead, pull the thread from under the leather and wrap over.  Repeat until it is the desired length. 

 Try not to lay the beads too tight next to each other, you want there to be room for movement.
You can do it all in one step!

Keep the under-over pattern going. If you switch to over-under your beads will pop and not stay in place.  Try your best to keep the leather straight.  If you stitch with the leater twisted, your finished project will also be twisted.

Continue threading the beads onto the leather until it's at a lenth that you like and that can fit around your wrist as many times as you'd like.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!  I'll be sure to help you with any problems you have.

Feeling lazy? 
 You could order the bracelet seen in this tutorial from me for $60, or you could buy the "real thing" from Chan Luu here.
Please leave a comment if you're interested or if you've tried the tutorial yourself!  I'd love to see what you made out there! 

Happy Crafting!
~The Craftmeister

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Border Patrol

My first solo crochet project is almost finished!  

The color combination looks great, but the sides are a little sloppy.  So I've decided to add a border to the scarf after I'm done.  In order to finish the scarf I'm using up all the yarn I bought for it.  The yarns all came in a package of other yarn, so I really don't want to buy more.  In addition to the brown, pink, white, purple, and beige used for the scarf, I have green, lavender, and a soft buttery yellow yarn.

Which color do you think works best for the border?  I'm leaning towards the green, only because it's another favorite color of mine.  I'm not convinced that it goes with the color scheme of the scarf.  I could always use white to border the scarf, but that's so boring!

Let me know in the comments what you think, and of course I'll post picture once it's all completed! 

Stay crafty.
-The Craftmeister

Monday, October 14, 2013

Resin in the sun

The first time I ever saw epoxy was when I was a little girl and my dad was fixing the bathroom.  He had used epoxy to bond something, and he gave me a little cross he molded with extra epoxy.  When I took it from him, it was physically hot!  But it still looked like fun-tac, it even had an imprint of my dad's fingertip.  I was fascinated by this substance!

A few years ago while looking for new jewelry techniques I came across clear casting epoxy.  It brought me back to the little crooked cross my dad made for me and I knew I had to try to the stuff.  Clear casting epoxy (or resin, as it's commonly called) is a two part liquid mixture, and when they are combined it creates a hard plastic-like form.  It can be used in molds, or anything really.  I do recommend that you use it outside on some newspaper, because it can get smelly and messy. 

Being that the weather outside is so beautiful, I figured that today would be a perfect resin casting day!  I had a few half-finished projects and pendants that were waiting casting, so I decided to finish them up.

Back in February, I visited my sister in Puerto Rico.  We stayed at her house near Seaglass Beach, and we walked there almost every day with her puppies. During my trip I collected almost a full  ziplock bag's worth of seaglass.  The larger pieces I plan on experimenting with using wire-wrapping at some point.  I had collected waaaay more teeny smaller pieces than larger pieces.  Some too small to wrap with wire.  So I figured that could make a pendant with resin and the really small pieces, kind of like a mosaic piece.  First I separated the larger pieces from the small and medium sized ones.  Then I separated by color, and similar shape.

Please ignore the Vieques sand on the page
Now that I had the pieces mostly picked out, I needed a vessel in which to place them. Dan and I love soda with real sugar in glass bottles.  They just taste so much better than regular soda!  Anyway, we recently drank Virgil's Cream Soda (I definitely recommend it, was very tasty) and had a few bottle caps ready to be thrown away.  I've seen other crafters use bottle caps with resin and make some cool pendants.  But I have to say, I am not a fan of the fanned ripple around the cap.  So I used my needle nose pliers to flatten them out.  It's not exactly round, but I didn't mind.  It gives it more of a handmade look that way!  Then I peeled out the little plastic seal inside the cap.  Here's what it looked like when I was finished.   I couldn't decide if I wanted to paint the inside or not, in the end I decided against it.  Next time I may paint the inside.
I didn't flatten it out too much, the epoxy needs a cavity to fill
All filled in with pretty seaglass!

If you don't have any trinkets to put inside of a resin caste, I suggest looking at the vast scrapbook paper collection at your local craft store.  I found a really cool scrap book page of vintage stamps a few months back, and I have made three (and counting) bracelets from it!  The heart pendant has a snippet from a birthday card I liked a lot.  It's true what they say - Inspiration CAN come from anywhere!
Stamp bracelets, before the resin pour
Heart birthday card pendant

I wanted to make an old fashioned brass looking tag for a soap pump in my downstairs bathroom.  It's an opaque soap pump, and I think some people shy away from using it because it might be lotion.  Now with the tag, it will not be a mystery!   I hand wrote the "SOAP" and now I'm second thinking that... Oh well, this one will just be a first draft.

Now that we have the projects picked out, we're ready to mix and pour!  When mixing the resin with the epoxy hardener, it will not be clear.  As it cures, the color will dissipate, leaving a clear coating.  It's smart if you mix in a paper cup and use a toothpick to mix.  Do not use a paper cup with wax coating, the wax may break off into your mixture.  Mix slowly to avoid making too many bubbles.
Not clear...yet.

When pouring the solution into the pendant (or bracelet, or bottlecap), pour slow and spread it with your toothpick before pouring more.  Pour until you see a slight bulge of the liquid.

Try to avoid over-pouring.

You can poke away the bubbles that are near the top using your toothpick.  If you can't puncture all the bubbles, wait for a bit.  The bubbles will rise as the resin cures. The more you 'mess' with it, the more bubbles will appear. If you place paper in the pendant to be resin-ed, coat it with two coats of a clear glue, like Elmers or mod-podge.  I didn't do that on my soap marker, and the scrapbook paper underneath is already starting to decolor.  Good thing it's a first draft piece!
See the bubbles?  These can be poked away using a toothpick. 

The resin will take a full day to fully cure, to be safe I usually leave the newly cast pieces alone for a few days. I'll update in a few days when they're all set and completed.  Until then, if you'd like to go to sunny Puerto Rico and collect some awesome seaglass for your own projects, I suggest checking out my sister's rental properties for a nice place to stay.  You can check out her listings on HomeAway, the links are below.  Tell her the craftmeister sent ya!

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Love Yarn Day 2013

Happy I Love Yarn Day!  

In honor of this craftified glorious day, I want to share with you and showcase my awesome Picture-Afghan made for me by my mother a few years back.  It's by far the most impressive piece of crochet workI have ever seen.  It's huge - covers my queen sized bed - and it has my baby kittums, Gordo, featured on it.  Gordo was a stray cat, and he loved looking out the window at the birds when we lived in Queens.  He'd sit there all day... staring, plotting, and wanting to chase them.  My mother made this blanket with Gordo sitting on the grass looking lovingly (or hungrily?) at a mother bird feeding her chicks.   Here it is! 

The entire blanket is made up of small 'granny squares' in all different colors, and a few topically applied details (the faces, beaks).  For a total of 580 granny squares, I know for a fact that my mother worked on this blanket for months.  You know the expression 'Made With Love'?  Well, when you're working on a project for so long and you have a specific recipient in mind, something happens.... You keep in your mind  - for almost the entire time you're making the project - of the final awesome moment when the recipient opens it, or gets it.  So I know that my mother thought of me and Gordo for a long long time while making this. 

Gordo knows too.  Look!  Here he is, checking out himself.


Now I'd like to share a few teaser pictures of some projects that I'm working on for some very very special ladies.  Pardon the vague pictures, but I don't want to give too much away! 

A Blanket I'm working on 
And some appliques for a blanket that I'll be starting soon

I'm also making some great progress on my chevron scarf for myself.  I used my favorite colors; purple, earth tone beiges, pink, and a neutral white.  I'm very excited about it, and I think I'll be able to finish it before the cold weather REALLY kicks in.  The yarn I'm using is so soft, and very thin.  It feels soooo nice as a scarf, but I have to use the smallest crochet hook and make very tight and tiny stitches so it's taking me longer than I anticipated.  But, let me tell you, the Chevron stitch is so much fun!  It's really really easy, but looks like it takes a lot of work.  Here it is so far... 

I love the depth of the rows,  and the texture created just by the stitch alone.  I still have another half to make, and I will post the completed pictures and the pattern when I'm done.  

What are you working on for this I Love Yarn Day 2013?  Please share in the comments below, I'd love to hear what you're up to!