a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

Another day, another (fabulous) upcycled T-Shirt

If you do crafty projects, at all, I’m sure you’ve seen this before — a T-shirt upcycled into a bag/tote. It couldn’t be a simpler project – and I’ve done it many times myself. However, when Fred and I were poking around a thrift store we happened upon on our travels (they were having a “store-wide 50% off sale.” How could we not stop?), I saw this womans shirt, sized small, for .99 cents on the rack and realized I couldn’t have found a more perfect shirt for a tote if I tried – so I got it (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a great shade of purple, either). I can always use another tote, right? (Okay, so I might be gifting this one since I have one or tw…elve).

I turned it inside out and marked 1-1/2″ from the seam (the top part of the bottom piece), all the way around, and cut it off. Since the shirt doesn’t really lay flat, I used scissors (though I’m quite excited about my new sewing rotary cutter and mat!) and only cut one layer at a time (rather than doing a straight cut across the front and back at one time).

Then I pinned the bottom together, matching up the bottom edges and sewed it shut. I did a double stitch to reinforce the seam (you never know what you’ll be carrying in this fabulous purple bag…) and turned it right side out again.

To finish it, and help ‘define” the handles, I cut a (appx.) 1″ (going lengthwise) strip from the fabric I just cut off the shirt and tied it onto the tops of the handles (I like the look of pretty little bows on this, though regular knots would be fine, too).

I tested my seams by rummaging through the house and stuffing it full of various things (I’m leaving out the photo of my new tote with rolls of toilet paper, dirty laundry, and sticky cookbooks peeking out the top – you’ll just have to take my word for it on this one). It actually held more than I expected, too. Probably because it was a (slightly) pleated, “bubble-like” shirt to begin with (now you know what to look for!).

Other ideas I had along the way were to use contrasting fabric for the handle ties or making and attaching pockets (inside or out) to the bag, using the fabric remnants from this or other projects. When I get my current project list under control (yeah, I’m laughing at this, too), I might have to do it.

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…and Jupiter aligns with Mars…

How often do things line up so perfectly, even if it’s just for a few hours, these days? I don’t know about you but it doesn’t happen to me that much. However, yesterday was one of those glorious days. The weather was perfect, my dear friend (whom I don’t spend nearly enough time with) was available, the deck on the restaurant was open (waterfront seating!), and there was nothing that I had to do that I couldn’t put off to go and play – for once!

We had a wonderful 2-1/2 hour fresh fish & chip lunch (I even had a cocktail…I’ve never had a cocktail with lunch before. I’m turning into a wild woman in my old age — and it’s about time…), talked, laughed a lot, and managed to get caught up on all the important (and not so important) happenings in our lives.

At one point I was glancing out at the water and happened to see this coming around the bend. The woman sitting at the next table apparently saw it the same time and gasped. She’d always wondered how they moved lighthouses from place to place….(of course it wasn’t a light house though I can see why, from a distance, she’d think this. I had to do a double take myself). It was an oil rig (probably heading to Alaska) — but I’d never seen a round barge before. I guess it’s true that you do learn something new, every day.

Today is a little cooler, a bit overcast and, if the forecast is correct, maybe even some more rain, which is okay since I really do need to get my chores and work done. But I still have yesterday to think back on…and I’ll smile when I do it!

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“1001 Uses For White Distilled Vinegar”

I’m in heaven. I found this website (http://www.vinegartips.com/scripts/pageViewSec.asp?id=7) while looking for natural ways to clean things (an ongoing search of mine). I knew vinegar was fabulous on salad, pickles, and mildew but had no idea there was anywhere near 1001 uses for this stuff. They have suggestions for uses in the garden, cleaning, laundry, health, automotive, pets and, of course, cooking! 

Here are a couple of ideas from the website to pique your curiosity:

~ Clean the microwave by mixing 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Bring it to a rolling boil inside the microwave. Baked-on food will be loosened, and odors will disappear. Wipe clean.

~ Remove perspiration odor and stains on clothing, as well as those left by deodorants, by spraying full-strength white distilled vinegar on underarm and collar areas before tossing them into the washing machine.

~ Stave off high blood sugar and other Alzheimer’s risk factors with a daily dose of vinegar.  According to researchers, there is evidence that vinegar sinks risk factors that may lead to memory decline and dementia — namely, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, diabetes and prediabetes, and weight gain. While vinegar does not confront Alzheimer’s directly, studies at Arizona State University have found that vinegar can curb appetite and food intake, helping prevent weight gain and obesity. Swedish investigators agree. In one study, downing two or three tablespoons of vinegar with white bread cut expected rises in insulin and blood sugar by about 25 percent. Pour on the vinegar — add it to salad dressings, eat it by the spoonful, even mix it into a glass of drinking water. Any type of vinegar works because it’s the acidity that counts.
–Source: AOL Health and “100 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S AND AGE-RELATED MEMORY LOSS” by Jean Carper. Copyright © 2010

~ Shine pennies by soaking them for a couple of hours or overnight in a glass or bowl of undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Okay, so I might never need to shine a penny…but I now know how if I ever do! What a great “stumble upon” site! Not only is vinegar cost-effective, it’s non-toxic as well, unlike many commercial items that do the same things. I’m anxious to print this out and put it my “natural alternative” notebook (I do have some organizational skills…). Right after that, I’m putting more vinegar on my grocery list…

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A few clever ideas

I love being neat and tidy and organized. Of course, with three dogs and a Fred, this doesn’t always happen — but I’m always looking for new, clever and, if possible, eco-friendly and cost-effective ways to improve this.

Who knew bread tags (the little plastic things that keep the bread closed) would be so useful?  Tagging spare keys, especially ones that get tossed into drawers, unused for months, or even years, is a very clever idea. Keeping cords labeled. THIS is one of the best ideas ever, I think. I use this on the computer cords (did you ever have to take a computer in for repair? There must be a bazillion…ok, maybe twelve, things that you have to unplug — and plug back in!). It’s been a sanity saver for me. Keeping elastics together…and away from getting tangled in everything else. How many times have you spent way too long looking for the end of the tape? No more!

I don’t know if these next ideas are “original” – but, as far as I know, they’re new to me! I was rather pleased that I thought of them. I took out the seal (the round detachable part of the lid with the rubber banding on it) and painted the rim of a Mason jar lid (in this case, black, to match our ugly bathroom). I put it back on the Mason jar and viola. A nice-looking cotton swab container. I can see me doing more of these, in different colors, for other projects as well.

These next two are thrift store finds. A .29 cent shot glass used to hold bobby pins. What a simple idea, huh? It fits in most drawers or on any counter top, takes up very little space, doesn’t look too bad,  and, best of all, the bobby pins are so easy to get out!

I found a medium-sized, flat-bottomed jar that opened from the front. It had no lid so I think that’s why the price was more than right at $1.99 (and I didn’t need the lid, anyway). I took it home, gave it a good washing, and now I have the perfect place for my hair clips. The ones I use more often I clip onto the rim so I don’t have to go looking for them if I’m in a hurry.

This last idea is not mine — but I did adapt it to suit my needs (ie: what I had on hand…this is my mantra, you know). One of my ongoing projects is going through my craft stuff and finding better ways to organize it so I can find what I’m looking for when I need it (what a concept, eh?).

Today it was the ribbon and ribbon-like things (rick-rack, strings of beads, twine, etc). I’d previously been using a large plastic bag. Not user friendly…at all (can you say “endless ribbon knots?”).

I’d purchased, on clearance (!!), a few small storage bins for CD’s and DVD’s — and I happened to have 2 left. They turned out to be the perfect size for this (9″ x 7-7/8″ x 6-1/8″).

The first one I used for the spool ribbon. I put them in, standing upright, with the ends of the ribbon sticking out the holes in on each side of the crate. I can now pull out, measure, and cut what I need (and yes, I did test this before committing to it…).

The second I used for the shorter pieces of (non-spool) stuff. It was, basically, the same except I just piled the ribbon in and stuck the ends out the holes (yes, tested this as well – no more knots!).

And, since the two crates stack, I have even more space for more crafts! Um…what I meant to say…

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File this under “C” for cool tool idea!

“Cool idea, huh!?” I enthusiastically asked, already knowing by the look on his face, the response I was going to get. “Uh huh…” Fred dryly replied, squinting his beady little eyes at me (okay, so this might be just my interpretation of what his eyes looked like at that particular point in this discussion…). 

I have a list of “must try” projects and, along with the list is another list of items needed for the “must try” projects. In this case, a cheap, old filing cabinet from a local thrift store. 

“See? If you turn it this way, and take out the drawers, and then do that…” I started to explain. But, I knew I’d lost him when I saw his eyes glaze over and he let out an obviously large sigh. At that point I realized the only way to further pique his curiosity about my new upcycling project, short of stenciling “Sears Craftsman” on the side of my “filing-cabinet-turned-tool-holder” which, of course, wasn’t going to happen, was to finish it and show him the potential of this beat up little cabinet.

“Why are you doing this?” was the last question he asked before walking away. “Because you weren’t able to stop me haHA!” should’ve been my response but, instead, I defended my filing-cabinet-turned-tool-holder idea and said “it’ll work just fine…”  Now I had to go figure out a way to make it work just fine…

First I took the two drawers out of the cabinet. They were each “latched in” by two metal tabs at the back. It was easy enough to pry them the other way (inward) with a screwdriver (unless this is Fred reading this which, in that case, I used the appropriate tool for the job, whatever that may be).  Then I cleaned it, inside and out. I found remnants of sticky fingers, decals, two “4-year” pins (not sure what those are), and a little spider web. For the gooey things, I used “De-Solv-It.” I love this stuff. It does it all – from gum in your darlings hair to price stickers you’re sure were put on with Gorilla Glue. And it’s safe and environmentally friendly, too (apparently so much so that it’s even been used in the neonatal wards to get the tape residue off babies).

Once it was dry from cleaning I used regular shipping tape to make a “design.” I could’ve just painted the whole thing a solid color but I felt like ‘dressing it up” a bit (stencils or peel-off decals might work as well). Since the back of the cabinet was now going to be the bottom of the tool holder, there was no need to paint that part so I did random stripes around the three sides (the original bottom of the cabinet, which is now the 4th side, was still open at this point).

Though purple was a lot prettier, in my opinion, I used red since Fred was going to have to look at this, too. I know spray paint isn’t the most eco-friendly (if, at all) thing to use but, again, I’m for using what I have on hand and I had this from another project. It’s the kind that’s made to be used with metal so I didn’t have to use a primer. You can use whatever paint will work on metal, whatever delivery method you choose (just make sure you do it in a well-ventilated area and use a mask). It took a few coats of paint, letting them dry in between, but I like the results I got and am happy with the color. It’s looking less like a filing cabinet and more and more like…um, not a filing cabinet.

When the paint was dry (or close enough because I’m not great at waiting for paint to dry), I gently and slowly peeled off the tape to reveal the design. If I do this again, at any point, I’ll take more time with this but, for a first time, I like it. I think it has character and will add some interest to the, otherwise, boring boy garage.

Next I tackled the open side (the original cabinet bottom). Rather than just ‘plugging the hole’ I wanted to make it useful. I looked at a few different options – plywood, pegboard, metal sheeting – before an idea hit me. Someone had given me the slats to their old wood blinds to, somehow, use in my art projects. I decided to try to make my own “lattice panel” to use to hang smaller tools from. I measured the opening – I wanted the panel to be 1/4″ to 1/2″ smaller than the actual size (so I could fit it in!) which, in my case, was 14-1/4″ x 17″.

Feeling somewhat clever, but not to the point of trying to make lattice from old blinds on an angle, I opted just to ‘weave’ it and hope for the best. This would reinforce the strength of the wood and help make it into a single piece I could work with. I had to adjust the slats a bit before I got the outside measurements at 14-1/4″ x 17″. I used a dab or two of super glue to hold the “outside edges” together and secured them with clothespins. When the glue was dry, I scored the pieces that were sticking out, with a utility knife (on a cutting board, not the kitchen table…) and they popped right off. (I also covered two of the 4 sides, top and bottom, with a strip of duct tape – I don’t believe, at this point, that it was necessary, but I left it. Couldn’t hurt).

Then I needed to figure out a way to stick this panel in place. I poked around my craft stuff and found some 3/8″ velcro strips (really now, who doesn’t have extra pieces of velcro lying around?). I put (appx.) 1″ pieces all around the edges of the panel (note: with the open side of the tool holder facing up, I put the panel in the tool holder before I started placing the velcro so I could check to make sure it wasn’t going to be visible anywhere).  Once the velcro was in place, I lifted the panel up to meet the tool holder and gave each a good little squeeze to make sure everything was adhering properly.

I wasn’t sure if it’d work – but, I must say, it did. In fact, I was really pleased with the results. I added a couple of hooks (okay, so these are left-over drapery hooks – but they work really well for this) and was ready to fill my new filing-cabinet-turned-tool-holder.

I’m happy with the way it turned out, including the part about the whole project costing less than $10 and reusing several different “throw away” items; an old filing cabinet, a broken window blind, small pieces of velcro, and old drapery hooks. I’m excited to see what Fred thinks of it now that it’s done but, I’m pretty sure, he’ll be okay with this addition to his man-cave.

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Bring on da (freezer) jam!

This is just what you do when it rains here in the Pac NW…you carry on.

Realizing the cloudy weather wasn’t going to clear up just for us, Fred and I decided to go strawberry picking, anyway, drizzle or not. Donning our rain gear (as stated in an earlier posting, this consists of my Mary Poppins umbrella and his commando rain hat), off we went to the berry farm.

We were able to get about 11 lbs. of berries before needing to give up…not because of the weather, mind you, it’d stopped raining by then — it’s because we’re old. Bending over or crouching down like that just isn’t “old people friendly.” But we were happy enough with the berries we got, can always go back for more another time, and it was more than enough to keep me busy for the afternoon making freezer jam. Although it’s time-consuming, it’s easy peasy to make if you follow a couple of simple (but necessary) steps and it keeps for a long time (it’s kept in the freezer until you thaw what you need for a week or so…hence the name…).

I use equal parts strawberries and sugar. (I know this seems like a lot of sugar but this isn’t a salad…it’s jam. And, unless you’re eating it all in one sitting, which I suppose is possible for you serious jam lovers out there, you should be fine with the amount of sugar you get from a tablespoon of jam on your toast or on your sandwich). Some people add lemon juice, as well, but I never have and am happy with the results I’ve always gotten.

Okay, here are the steps to making freezer jam;

  • Wash the berries and take off the stems, caps, & any bad/unripe parts.
  • You can either mash them or puree them (we like chunky jam so I only use a potato masher).
  • Never make more than one batch at a time. I don’t know the scientific reason but it never seems to turn out if you do more than one at a time.
  • “One batch” consists of 4 cups of mashed berries and 4 cups white sugar.
  • In a large pan, stir the berries and sugar together and bring this mixture to a soft boil, turn it down to low to medium low and let it cook about 2 hours, stirring once in a while, until it sets. (Strawberries have very little pectin so they need a longer cooking time than most other fruits).
  • As soon as you start cooking it, put a small plate in the refrigerator to get it cold. This will be how you test the jam to see if it’s “done.”
  • After the 2 hours of cooking are up, take a small amount of jam (appx. a teaspoon) and put it on your cold plate. Let it set for a minute or two (refrigerate if it’s a warm day). Run a spoon through the middle of the jam. If it doesn’t run back together, you’re probably good to go – but you can cook it another 30 minutes just to make sure.

If it still seems too “liquidy,” you can always drain off some of the liquid (and, for heaven’s sake, don’t throw it away! Use it as ice cream topping!) but it’ll thicken as it cools so let it cool before deciding. Once it’s cooled off (another few hours…see? I told you this took a bit of time…), you can pack it into zip-top bags (double bag if they’re not specifically made for the freezer) or small freezer containers and pop them into the freezer until you need some jam (make sure to keep some out to eat right away, too).

Of course we had to make a stop at the beach on the way home (there’s something delicious about being by the sea after its rained) — Fred needed to rest after all that picking and I needed to gather my strength for my afternoon “jam-a-thon.”

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Taco soup…and nachos!

While I’m not “queen” of the one-pot cookers I believe I am, at very least, somewhere in the royal family (and, if you suggest “princess,” Fred would, no doubt, heartily agree…). My interest levels are determined by the number of items that will need to be washed when I’m through cooking the dish – and slowly decline with every utensil and pan needed for the recipe. Therefore, if I can do it in a single pot or, better yet, a slow cooker, it will be something that will be served in this house on a regular basis.

Although its June here in the Pacific Northwest, there is nothing that reminds me of summer yet. It’s still cold and wet and calls for something hot and filling for dinner.

What started out as my version, based on what I had on hand, of “taco soup” quickly progressed into something even more wonderful last night, “taco soup nachos…and a new family recipe was born. I’ve made taco soup before so I’m not exactly sure what happened this time to make it so thick. Perhaps it was because I used dried onions (had no fresh) or drained the corn – I don’t know. All I can say is this is what I did — and we really liked it.

LB’s Taco Soup Nachos

  • 1/2 Lb. Ground Beef (or veggie substitute), browned and drained.

To this add;

  • 1 package Taco Seasoning Mix (or 3 Tbs. equivalent – I buy this in bulk as it’s less expensive)
  • 1 package Ranch Dressing Mix (yeah, still sounds weird to me, too, but it doesn’t work the same without it)
  • 1 15.5 can Black Beans, drained (you can rinse them or not – your choice)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes (I use small dice with garlic)
  • 1/2 of a 15.5 oz. can Corn, drained (or add the whole thing…or use a smaller can)
  • 1/2 of a 15 oz. can sliced Black Olives (see corn comment above)
  • 2 Tbs. dried Onion (fresh if you have it)
  •  1 10 oz. can Green Enchilada Sauce (red will not work as well)
  • 3 Tbs. Sour Cream (really good in chili, too)
  • 2 Tbs. Tomato Paste (I had leftover ‘Manwich-type” sauce and used that. I like improvising…most of the time it works and Fred lets me know when it doesn’t).

All of this goes in a large pan/pot. Bring it just to boiling then turn down the heat and simmer, on low, about an hour or so (giving it a stir, now and then, to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot). It’ll thicken nicely (even more so by the next day).

At this point you can eat it as soup (you can even add a liquid of your choice, such as water or stock, to thin it if you don’t like it so thick) or you can make it into nachos, or try both if you have enough (one pot, 2 different meals, may I add a little “yeehaw” here?).

To make the nachos, drain off all of the excess liquid (very important step), otherwise the chips can get a bit soggy (ick) and dump a few spoonfuls right over tortilla chips. Add some shredded cheese (our favorite is good old cheddar) and bake, broil, or microwave (your choice of methods) until the cheese has melted and is bubbly. I believe you will like this as well, if not better, than any restaurant nachos you’ve ever had.

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A new twist on an old classic: Banana Bread

A friend of mine emailed me this recipe a while ago. I’ve been meaning to try it and, today, I just happen to have some overripe bananas. I could freeze them but I also have a couple of eggs that I need to use, too. How deliciously convenient…

 

 

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7×3 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I also had about 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips left in the bag that I found while I was digging for the sugar. I threw them in the batter…chocolate chips & bananas. Nothing wrong with that.

I don’t know why you couldn’t add just about anything else to this recipe. The sour cream makes it so moist that there’s not really a chance, as long as you don’t overdo it, of drying the bread out too much. I think, next time, I’ll try shredded coconut and drained or dried pineapple…”pina colada” bread sounds good, doesn’t it? 

(I contacted my friend, just before posting this, and she said this recipe could be found on Allrecipes.com – another website I love!).

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More than 2 pieces of bread…

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has said “I don’t like sandwiches.” Even if you’re not a ‘traditionalist,” I believe everyone likes some kind of sandwich. Me included. In fact, I love ’em. They’re a pretty quick meal, easy to take & eat wherever you are, and the options are, as far as I can tell, virtually endless.

You might be thinking “but, LB…you’re a vegetarian. How can you love sandwiches with no meat?” “Au contraire” I would reply in my best French accent. “There are also so many vegetarian possibilities!” I will even go as far as eating sandwiches for every meal today, just to help prove it! (What can I say? I’m a giver…).

For breakfast I had an open-faced sandwich that consisted of a toasted english muffin, some Ricotta cheese, sliced strawberries, and topped with chopped walnuts. This is one of my favorites – I’ve tried this with different types of “bread” but the best, in my opinion, is waffles. SIDE NOTE: Waffles can be just as “convenient” as any other bread, even if you don’t buy the frozen. Next time you make a batch (yes, I make waffles from scratch…who knew I could be so domestic?), make extra and freeze them. When you need them, let them thaw about 10-15 minutes on the counter then pop them into the toaster. No, they’re not as good as fresh but if you only have a few minutes, they taste just fine.

Lunch was a grilled cheese or “cheese toasty” as my friend, Dennis, in London calls it. I used regular oat bread, American cheese and, here’s the best part; rather than spraying or buttering the pan, butter the outside pieces of the sandwich bread and sprinkle some Parmesan onto the butter (not the yummy real Parm — the stuff in the green can that you feed unwanted house guests) before you grill it. It gets a most beautiful crispy, cheesy crust this way. Of course you can also add other things to your sandwich, too. Fred likes ham or thin-sliced chicken on his. Some people like tomatoes or sautéed veggies. Me, I’m a purest…just cheese with an occasional sweet pickle thrown in.

Dinner was something that many of you won’t try. Only because it’s made with tofu and, for whatever reason, tofu has gotten a bad rap. It’s practically tasteless, has nice protein, and adds a lot of “meat-like” texture to most recipes. However, if you’ve only been exposed to the slimy, nasty stuff in the cardboard boxes, I can understand your dislike. I don’t like that, either (no offense to the manufacturer but it is kind of gross) — unless I’m making a pie (yes, I do make pies from “silken” tofu. And, no. You don’t have to worry about turning down a dinner invite from me – I’ve only made this for company one time. They liked it until they found out what it was…). I use fresh tofu (from the local health food store) or extra firm water packed. Okay, the tofu mystery is cleared up. On to the recipe.

Eggless “Egg” Salad

This makes about 2 large servings (or 3 small). And, if you don’t eat eggs, for whatever reason (vegan, allergies, etc.), this is a great recipe for you!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. fresh or water packed Tofu

Before I go on to the rest of the ingredients, let me add that everyone has different tastes when it comes to “salad dressings.” This is just what I like – you tailor it to suit your tastes and wants.

  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (the vegetarian/vegan alternative, Nayonnaise, works great in this recipe).
  • 1 Tbs. Mustard
  • 1 tsp. Turmeric
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1 Tbs. small diced Carrots (optional – I have carrots on hand more often than celery and like the sweetness)
  • 1 Tbs. small diced Onions (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. Sweet Pickle Relish (optional)

Mash the Tofu with a fork or potato masher until you have appx. “pea-sized” pieces. Add in the rest of the ingredients, stir, and refrigerate about 2 hours before serving. The Turmeric will turn the salad a bright “egg” yellow, making it even more convincing…okay. So it’s not a dead ringer for the real thing. But, I once fed some to my father who said “so, how much Tofu did you put in the egg salad?” That was good enough for me.

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Just me and my shadow box

About a month ago, when Fred and I were toodling around town, we stopped at a thrift store and I picked up a small shadow box for $1.99. It was in pretty good condition, though the wood was a bit rough. I decided to get it because I thought it had “potential” (what doesn’t?) and wanted to try painting it.

Since this was just an “experiment” (as most things are with me) I chose colors that I would, probably, never pick for myself – just to be different and see what I could come up with. I work mostly with acrylics because they’re so “forgiving” as I tend to make a lot of mistakes before I get things just the way I want them…or close enough. 

After cleaning the shadow box with a damp rag (and making sure it’s dry), I painted each of the little ‘cubbies’ a different color and the outside a solid, dark brown. I ended up applying 3-4 coats of paint, letting each one dry thoroughly in between.

While the paint was drying, I poked around the internet to get some ideas for a design. Though there were several out there, I couldn’t find any one that I liked well enough but, based on different components of what I saw, was able to come up with something of my own; an Amish-looking flower tree.

When the base paint was all dry, I drew the design on (in pencil) then painted it using the same colors I’d used for the cubbies, because I like “matchy-matchy,” plus I added white to give it a little more interest and make the flowers ‘pop’ a bit.

Once this was all dry, I applied a layer of gloss varnish. I did this for two reasons. The first is to seal the artwork to prevent it from smearing when I did the last step. And the second was because I wanted to “age” the piece but not cover up the design. The varnish helps keep any additional layers of paint from soaking in and totally covering the existing artwork.

When the varnish had dried, I applied a thin layer of brown paint, doing one section at a time, and wiping off the excess with a rag – to give it an aged/vintage look. (If you feel you got too much paint on the piece, dip one tip of the rag in some water and wash it off).  Let this dry and apply another coat of varnish (you could even use tinted varnish for an even more aged look). Attach a hanger on the back and you’ve got yourself a nice new, old, upcycled/reused shadow box…though, now that it’s finally done and I’m looking at it, I may just add handles to the ends and make mine a tray…hmm. So many choices.

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