Black Spruce Hound

A Wisconsin Girl in the Woods, Knitting, Crafting, and Cooking. Also: Ugly Dresses.

April 30, 2012

Asparagus with Butter and Smoked Mozzarella

Also known as 'The Only Way Asparagus Gets Eaten in This Household', but that doesn't have as nice a ring to it.

Fresh spring asparagus + butter + salt + pepper + smoked mozzarella. Yes, please.





Asparagus with Butter and Smoked Mozzarella

1 bunch fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons butter
Salt, pepper
1/4 cup smoked mozzarella or other favorite melty cheese

Snap the ends off the asparagus, run a vegetable peeler over any really thick stalks.

Melt the butter in a cast iron frying pan that's just large enough to hold all the asparagus. Melt the butter over medium high heat.

When the butter is melted and foamy, throw in the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Be liberal. Be free with the S & P.

This is important - don't move it around! Let the asparagus cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side before turning them over. They should have a nice char on them. Char is good, char is your friend.

Cook another 3-4 minutes on the other side or until nice and tender. If you like crunchy asparagus, cut the cooking time in half.

Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus and place it into a serving dish. Serve and enjoy.



April 28, 2012

How to Make Candles from Old Candle Stubs

While I've been called a tightwad before, this truly puts me into the Cheapy McFrugal-Pants category.

I like burning candles around the house, and I've always hated throwing out those huge stubs of candle wax leftover after the wick is gone. A few years ago I started saving the wax and melting it back down to make new candles. This assuages the guilt I have over throwing out something so useful, and saves a lot of money. That and I get to feel like I'm back in the olden days for an afternoon, and that's always a plus. I think.

A caution before we begin - this is not for kids. AT ALL. This involves boiling water and screaming hot liquid wax, so make sure to do this when the little ones are not around.

The candle wick and wick tabs can be purchased at a craft store, or ordered from a gazillion different places online. I ordered 20 feet of wick years ago and I still have enough left to last me through a nuclear winter. Don't skimp on the tabs, though.

You will need:
- Old candle stubs
- A metal coffee can
- 3 canning rings
- Candle wick
- Candle wick tabs
- A wooden skewer or pencil, something similar
- Clean glass jars

Fill up the coffee can with wax. If the wax is in large chunks, break it down into smaller pieces so it can melt faster.


Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Place the canning rings into the bottom of the pot, place the pot on the stove. Place the coffee can on top of the rings, making sure to balance it evenly. The water should come up the sides of the can a few inches. Turn the heat on the stove to medium-high. When the water comes to a boil, knock it back to a good simmer. Let the wax do its thang.




Meanwhile, get the jars ready. Note: you do not have to buy jars for this - use old glass votive jars, old pickle jars, canning jars, whatever.

Measure out a length of wick for each jar, and then add a few inches to it. Stick one end of the wick through a wick tab, and crimp the tab closed.

To keep the wick standing upright inside the jar, tie it off to a wooden skewer or pencil.




And then you wait. The wax turns to liquid fairly quickly, but it takes awhile for the lumps to melt completely.

When the wax has melted completely (test this by stirring the wax with a wooden skewer) it's time to add any fragrance or color. (I skip this step, because I don't really give a fig about color and fragrance. But that's just me.)

Then, using thick pot holders or oven mitts to protect your hands, carefully lift the coffee can out of the water. Carefully fill the jars with wax.


Let the candles sit until the wax is solid. I usually just let them sit overnight. Then trim the wick down to 1/4 inch, and you're all done!


If you truly want to feel Colonial, instead of pouring the wax into jars you can take a long piece of wick and repeatedly dip your wick into the melted wax, and eventually you'll wind up with a taper candle. I remember doing that in 5th grade and it was a total pain in the ass.

And I really only put that thing about making tapers in there because I wanted to say 'dip your wick'. My apologies. Deep down, I'm a 14 year old boy.

Over and out.





April 26, 2012

Vintage Train Case, New Lining

I relined another piece of vintage luggage, this time a train case, using the method I described in this post.


Sedate on the outside, acid trip on the inside.

Like it? It's for sale in the Etsy shop right now. It has its flaws, but how fun is that thing!? Seriously. Check it out by clicking here.


April 24, 2012

What to Do When You're Missing a Button

I bought this sweater ages ago at Goodwill. I think I wore it once and then the dog got ahold of it and chewed one of the buttons off. She's a charming animal.


The logical thing to do would be to sew all new buttons on, but I have an abhorrence for sewing buttons. I don't get it either, but there it is.

An easy solution? Clip-on earrings!


All three below used to belong to my grandmother. The two faux pearl earrings are my favorites, though I do use all of them.


You just push the clip through the hole where the button used to be. The threads will have left a small hole in the fabric; you'll just have to shove the earring through.


And then through the buttonhole on the other side.


That's that! Much faster than sewing on buttons, and it has the look of a brooch or sweater clip.


Have fun!


April 22, 2012

Yeast-Raised Waffles

I can't think of one exact reason why waffles made with yeast are better than those made with baking powder/baking soda. Besides the fact that they just are. These waffles cook up more crisp, they have a depth of flavor (look at me, getting fancy with my terms) that other waffles don't have, and they are delicious made with all-purpose flour or whole wheat. Or both. Get crazy.

They do take a bit of planning ahead - the batter needs to sit for at least 30 minutes. An hour or two is better. If you're crazy like zee fox (and want waffles that taste tangy like a very mild sourdough) you can leave it sitting out on your countertop overnight. You wild thing, you.

The batter rises and becomes a big, bubbly bowl of goodness.




I managed to take only one bad picture of the waffles. I was too busy eating them to devote any time to photographing them.

And one last thing - you don't have to use the recipe below to make yeast-raised waffles. Take your favorite recipe, leave out the leavening. Heat up whatever liquid the recipe calls for to lukewarm, add 2 teaspoons of yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then proceed as the recipe below directs. Easy peasy.

Yeast-Raised Waffles

2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour (I use 50/50 whole wheat and all-purpose)

Place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan, heat over a low flame until lukewarm. (You should be able to stick your finger in the milk without burning it - if the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast.) Pour milk into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit 10 minutes or until yeast is dissolved and foamy.

Add all remaining ingredients except the flour and mix well. Add flour, mix just until combined. Don't overmix the batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. The batter will have doubled in size and be nice and bubbly when it's ready to cook.

Cook in a waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.


April 20, 2012

Juniebelle Wants Her Uniform Back

Lately I've been having trouble choosing weather-appropriate clothing. It's either absolutely gorgeous outside, or raining. Or 55 degrees in the morning and then 30 degrees and snowing in the afternoon. Or it looks beautiful, but when you step outside you discover that the wind is frigid and it's actually colder than a well digger's ass.

So it's been a jeans-and-flannel party lately, I'm sorry to report. 

The weather finally cooperated the other day, and I wore this for the first time. This is a thrift store bag sale purchase. I had to have it (even though the waist is way too big) because it looks like a waitress uniform. I performed a shoulderpadectomy, of course. I didn't like how it buttoned all the way up to the neck, so I created a faux collar by leaving it unbuttoned, folding the material back, and stitching it in place. 




I cinched in the waist with a tooled leather belt, wore plastic bangles, and protected my legs from the cold with tall leather boots. 

Dress - thrifted
Belt - one of my husband's old belts
Plastic bangles - etsy.com 
Boots - Frye Campus boots (expensive and worth every penny)

April 18, 2012

Vogue V8788



Some of you eagle-eyed readers might notice a small difference between the drawing on the pattern and my results. Something like, oh I don't know, A MISSING BODICE.

I already posted photos of this skirt here, if anyone would like to check it out.

I am 100% willing to acknowledge that a lot of the trouble I had with this pattern was good old Operator Failure and inexperience. That, and I think I cut the bodice a size too large - it gaped and fit oddly all over. After a few hours of fiddling with it to try and fix the fit issues, the bodice looked like a pincushion. So I said to hell with it and cut the damn thing off.

I had just enough fabric leftover from this Massive Failure to make a waistband. Waistband + hooks and eyes and I had me a wrap skirt.

The good thing is that I really like this skirt. I don't know if I'll attempt the dress again in its entirety, but I definitely plan on using the skirt pattern pieces to whip up a few more of these in the future.

The fabric, hooks and eyes, and thread for the dress cost $11.40. Because I only used a portion of the hooks/eyes and fabric, the total cost of this skirt comes in under $10.00.

Note For the Curious - the fabric is a slightly stretchy cotton that was on a clearance rack at Wal Mart for $1.50 a yard. Snap.



April 16, 2012

DIY Bracelet Storage

This one is a little complicated, but it works so well that I hope a few people will attempt it.

First, take a large bottle or two and stand them upright. Bottles that have long, slender necks work best.


The next step is to...


...hang all your stuff on them.

This is the best bracelet storage method that I have come up with, seeing as I don't have a proper jewelry box. The 7 UP bottle is one that my husband's coworker dug out of the ground on one of their jobs. The wine bottle is from my favorite wine, sans label.

These add a lot of color to the room as well, which I love. I tend to forget about things if I can't see them, so hopefully I'll remember to wear the bracelets once in awhile now that I can see the damn things.



April 13, 2012

How To: A Button Down into a Sleeveless Fitted Shirt

Turning a baggy button down into a fitted sleeveless shirt is a quick, easy project that can be finished in under an hour. Mine took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

All you need is a button down shirt, color matching thread, scissors, and a sewing machine.

I forgot to take a picture of the shirt before I started. Just imagine a big baggy men's button down, okay?


First, off with zee sleeves! Cut them off as close to the seam as possible, right where my finger is indicating in the photo below. If you cut them off right at the seam there's no further hemming that needs to be done.



If it's a men's shirt, you may need to take it in a bit. This is also easy peasy.

Button the shirt all the way down. Turn it inside out. Lay it out nice and flat. Make sure the side seams are even.

Find a shirt of similar style that fits you really well. (Do not use a shirt that is made of stretchy material.) Lay it flat right on top of the shirt you're altering. Match up the armpit seams. The photo below is crap, but you get the idea.


See how much smaller the shirt on top is? We're going to use the shirt on top to make new side seams for the one on the bottom. 

Line up the armpit seams, and draw a line from the armpit seam all the way down to the bottom hem, following the line of the shirt on top. I used a pencil for this to make a nice dark line that would be visible in photos, you will probably want to use a fabric marking pen. 



Pin the front and back of the shirt together to keep it from shifting around. Sew a straight stitch or zigzag, following your line. (I erred on the side of caution here and sewed a line a bit further out than the one I drew. I'm overly cautious, what can I say?)


Cut the excess fabric off. Stay a good 1/2 inch away from the new seams so that you can hem the excess fabric neatly if you want to.


Try on the shirt. Mine fit pretty well, but I took it in another 1/2 inch on both sides at the waistline.

Note: If there is any gaping under the armpits, you can insert a bust dart. A 3 inch dart on both sides is probably sufficient.)

If the shirt you're using has long tails, you can cut them off wherever you like and re-hem the bottom of the shirt. If the arm holes are too large for you, you can also hem them. I left mine alone.



And that's it!




April 11, 2012

High Waisted Skirts and Chocolate Bunnies

These photos were snapped after we got home from an early Easter dinner at my in-laws' house.

Unfortunately, you can't really tell from these photos that the skirt is high-waisted. It was cold, I didn't want to take the sweater off!



The Mr, not realizing the camera was clicking away. 



Shoes - Kenneth Cole Reaction, eBay
Skirt - made by me from a 50s pattern
Everything else - thrifted


April 7, 2012

Potato Soup

Potato soup. The way my mama makes it. Technically I think it's more a chowder than a soup, but let's not get fussy about rules here, people.


Potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. That's all you need to know.

This could be modified in about 7,548 ways - add ham, add sausage, add corn, add herbs, add broth instead of milk, add cheese, add whatever blows your hair back. I like to follow the recipe exactly. It's simple food. That's it.




Potato Soup

6 large-ish potatoes
3 or 4 large carrots
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, small dice
1 rib celery, small dice
Salt, pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups milk

Life's too short to peel potatoes, so fuhgeddaboutit. Chop them into 1 inch chunks and place them in a large soup pot. Do the same thing to the carrots. Cover with cold water and boil just until tender. Drain.

This is the weird part - reserve 1 quart of the cooking liquid before draining the vegetables. Trust me on this.

Put the same pot back on the stove over a medium high flame. Melt the butter. Add the onion and celery, season them lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until tender, about 8 minutes.

Sprinkle in the flour, whisk to combine with the veg. Cook 1 minute, then crank heat to high. Whisk in the milk, all at once. Continue whisking until the milk has thickened and is smooth and simmering. Add the potatoes and carrots back to the pot. Reduce heat to low. Taste for seasonings. Simmer gently for 5 or 10 minutes to combine flavors, then serve.

If the soup gets too thick, add some of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen it back up again. Don't toss the liquid - keep it in the fridge. If the soup is reheated and needs to be thinned out again, add a bit more of the reserved liquid.


April 5, 2012

How to Walk a Bloodhound, Part 2

Well, okay. It's the same as any other time of year. Except there is usually an abundance of slobber in the warmer months. Guess who had dog drool in her hair in recent weeks? Yeah. That be me. When Scout shakes her head, it's best to be out of slobber-flinging range.







There's plenty of sniffing. Of course. It's her purpose in life. That, and to sleep on the couch and make it smell awfully funky.



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