Wednesday, November 15, 2017

School Soup Recipe

It's finally been almost chilly here for a few days. So, you know, soup weather! Actually, I have to admit that we eat soup year round in our house. But, we really get to craving it as the weather cools. One of our favorites is a family recipe of mine that we call School Soup.
Vegetable Beef soup for a chilly day

It's basically a beef and vegetable soup. I really don't know where the name came from. I always thought it was from my great-aunt who had worked as a school cafeteria lady, but I think I was told that was wrong. In any case, it's a wonderfully easy and filling soup that will always be in rotation around here.

The ingredients are pretty basic (not pictured are salt and pepper - they were shy)

Chop the onion and throw it in a LARGE pot with the ground beef. Cook until the beef is brown and cooked through. Drain and return it all to the pot.

Add all the canned vegetables in their liquid.

Add the chopped potatoes along with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper (to taste).

Bring it all to a boil and cook for ten minutes.

Here's the beauty of this recipe...You can shake in some Worcestershire sauce and be done OR you can go the extra mile and add some pasta. We tend to add the pasta. It makes the soup go further and, well, it's pasta! We love us some pasta.

Pour in your pasta (about 1/2 a box) along with 1-2 cups of liquid (water or veg/chicken stock). Bring the soup back to a boil and cook until the pasta is done. Add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and stir.

This soup is one of Pat's favorites. And, I had to learn how to make it straight from my grandmother because she was the master of School Soup.


Here are the complete ingredient list and instructions for you.

SCHOOL SOUP

Ingredients:
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 can Peas
1 can Corn
1 can Lima Beans
1 can Carrots
1 can Green Beans
1 medium Onion, diced
2 small-medium potatoes, diced
Granulated garlic
Salt & Pepper
Worcestershire Sauce

*Optional
1-2 cups of Liquid (water or stock)
8oz. Elbow Macaroni


Instructions:
1. Cook ground beef and onions in a large pot over medium heat until beef is thoroughly browned. Drain and return to pot.
2. Add cans of tomatoes, peas, corn, lima beans, carrots, and green beans to pot with their liquids. Add diced potatoes along with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir.
3. Bring soup to boil and cook for 10 minutes until hot through.
*4. Optional portion - Add liquid (water or stock) and macaroni. Bring soup back to a boil and cook until macaroni cooked through.
5. Add 2-3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce to soup. Stir. Serve.


This is a totally flexible soup that you could add or subtract from. I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of cooked carrots or of lima beans, but when I left them out; the soup just wasn't right. So, I do add them, but I use small cans of them. Of course, since you've never had it, it would probably taste just fine to you if you left out any of these ingredients.  But, since I grew up on this soup, it didn't taste like home without ALL the vegetables. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do

What's your favorite comfort food when it starts to get cold outside?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Stay Busy While Waiting for Inspiration (& Giveaway Winner)

Ever get that restless, need-to-do something NOW feeling but you just can’t bear to deal with your usual tools and supplies or you just are not feeling inspired by what's in front of you? I've made this quick list of a dozen ways you as an artist or creative-type can still busy yourself when your muse has left you stranded. 


1. Sort through old work: Take a good hard look at some of your previous works of art. What worked? What didn’t? Make notes. Take apart and/or repurpose what's just not working for you. 
2. Organize supplies: I imagine we all have a hoard of supplies and materials that are piled up or stashed away awkwardly. Or, there are those tools that are never within arms reach when you need them. Re-think and reorganize the layout or storage of your stash.
3. Clean your studio: Busy yourself with the mundane task of sweeping, wiping, sorting, and generally cleaning your creative space. Just being in there may spark that inspiration.
4. Clean your house: Sometimes your studio may feel too confining. Expand the cleaning frenzy to your living space. The mundaneness of chores will have you back in the studio in no time (at least that's the case for me.)
5. Go shopping: Even if it's window shopping online or in a brick and mortar store, take a look at what current trends and styles are out there or what new art materials are on the market. What calls out to you? What can you do better? And, getting out of your own headspace is always good. 
6. Explore social media: Blogs, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram are not only full of eye-candy but behind all of that is real people.Take a moment to see what others are up to, lean on them for support, read about their struggles, share your own ideas and lack of motivation, find your tribe. Remember, it's SOCIAL media.


7. Go outside: Work in the garden. Go for a walk. Just take in a breath of fresh air. There's so much to absorb and take your mind off being stuck. From cloud patterns in the sky to leaves growing haphazardly to the breeze blowing across your face, let yourself be consumed with the beauty outside your door. You'll find interesting color combinations and patterns and contrasts that will help renew your creative spirit.
8. Read: Lose yourself in another world, another time, another place so when you come back to your table your view is a little different. However, if fiction's not your thing, a creative book or magazine may be all the break you need.
9. Exercise: There are those who SWEAR by the endorphin release that exercising gives you. I have to admit that I'm not really an exercise person. Though, I do enjoy stretching out the muscles from time to time.  Exercising, in general, is a good way to really focus on one thing and get your mind off the block. It's hard to think about making art when you're sweating your butt off (literally).
10. Create outside your area of expertise: If you make jewelry, try painting a little. If you paint, maybe sew something. If you sew, try knitting. And, so on and so forth.  Getting out of your comfort zone stretches those creative muscles so you can think more fluidly about your work. 
11. Do creative prepwork: Stay busy at your desk preparing for when you get that stroke of inspiration. As a jewelry designer, this can include making ear wires and clasps, aging wire, texturing or etching metal. For a painter, this might be building and gesso-ing canvases. Get yourself ready to be manic about creating.
12. Learn something new: Watch a video tutorial. Hone your photography skills. Take a class. Learning something new might shine a light on how you normally work or might help you incorporate something new into your process. Or, it just may give you a new outlet. 



Those are just some of the ways I like to stay busy when I'm in a creative rut. What are your tricks?

Now, for the GIVEAWAY winner! Using a random number generator, the winner is:
Congratulations! I'll be in touch with you.
Thank you to all of you who came by wishing me a happy blogiversary and who entered the giveaway. It was the perfect way to commemorate the occasion. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Peek at My Week | Oct. 29 - Nov. 4

I take way more pictures than I share on here or other social media sites. What's the point of having all those pictures if I'm not sharing them with anyone? So, here's a peek at some of what happened in my week (please note that some of the pictures were shared...somewhere.)

Sunday included a silly, silly Zoe who needed many belly rubs.

I discovered that the farm behind our property was growing cotton this year and couldn't resist sneaking out there for a few pictures.

Monday started with work on pulling these components together into a necklace.

And, it doesn't have to be Tuesday to have tacos! They're still delicious.

It was Tuesday when the hue of the paint water caught my eye. I don't even remember what I had painted, but that blue is absolutely dreamy.

While out in the yard taking care of a few things, I spotted beans growing on our trellis. I had long given up on the beanstalks yielding anything. They had browned and withered to almost nothing. Since it was Halloween morning, we dubbed these "Zombie Beans".

Knowing I would be at my mom's house for most of Wednesday, I made sure to take plenty to do with me. While waiting for a video to upload, I finished this necklace.

I was also able to get a few things added to the Etsy shop during the course of the week. 

Thursday was spent working on the video/blog post for the fifth installment of my Jewelry-Making for Beginners series. 

Once that was done, my focus went back to my own jewelry making. I become mesmerized by the color flashes in some labradorite beads. They're so pretty!

After dinner, I had a cookie craving. My old standby recipe for chocolate chip coconut oatmeal cookies came in handy. I hope to share that recipe very soon!

I spent almost all of Friday working on organizing my twitter (don't ask). That evening, I enjoyed watching my nieces march in the band at their last regular season football game. Since they won this game, their team is going into the playoffs! And yeah, I was too busy watching the band to actually get a picture of them (oops!)

The hubby's been sick for WEEKS so Saturday was very low key, mostly spent watching college football (ROLL TIDE!) and recovering. Oh, and there was plenty of puppy snuggling of course!

That was my week for the most part. There were a few hiccups, but in pictures, it's a lot less frustrating. How was your week? What were the highlights for you?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jewelry-Making for Beginners Part 5: Other Supplies

In the realm of jewelry-making, there are a plethora of supplies and materials that can be used. Previously in this series, I've covered the following:

Before we move on to jewelry-making techniques, I thought it would be a good idea to quickly review some of the other materials used to make jewelry.

The materials I'm reviewing in this post are not ones that are necessary to have for all jewelry-making types. In fact, you may not need any of these at all. As well, I'm not even breaking the surface of all the jewelry supplies out there on the market. But, I felt that it was necessary to go over what some of these items are and how they might be used, especially since you may see them in future tutorials.

Bead Mat: This is simply a square of soft, fuzzy fabric. It's used for working on and keeps your beads from rolling away. I've seen them in the size shown above as well as a larger version. While it's nice to have one or more of these, a towel or washcloth works just as well.

Bead Board: Much like a bead mat, a bead board is used to contain your beads while you work on a project. It has several recessed, bowl-like areas to hold your beads. As well, there are grooves in the surface for placing your beads as your design your pieces. Around the grooves are measurements to help you get an idea of the length of your finished designs. 

Wire Jig: The purple square above is known as a Wire Jig. There are other terms out there for them, mostly related to the brand or company that sells them. It's usually a small plastic or acrylic block with a grid of small holes in it. Pegs of varying sizes are placed in the holes and wire is wrapped around the pegs to create designs. I've had this wire jig for ages and haven't really used it much. Though now that I've pulled it out, I wonder why that is. It's such a cool tool. 

Bead Spinner: Basically a bowl that spins, bead spinners are most often used with seed beads. Used in conjunction with a curved needle and thread/wire, these are a great tool for loading up a lot of beads onto your wire or thread. You place your needle into the bowl, spin it, and the beads pile up on the needle. I've used this one a few times. It does take several attempts to get the technique right, but then it works like magic. These come in a variety of sizes.

Bench Block & Anvil: These two work basically the same way. They are simply a supremely hard surface on which you can hammer. This is great for flattening wire, texturing metal, hammering items flat, stamping words or images into metal surfaces, etc. You should place some kind of buffer between the black/anvil and your table/work surface to protect it and buffer the sound. There are sandbags and rubber mats that can be purchased specifically for this purpose. I personally use a small folded towel.

Soldering Iron: This is a basic hardware tool that can be used in jewelry-making. I use mine together with copper tape, flux, and solder to join items together like attaching jump rings to surfaces or soldering two glass slides together. Using a soldering iron takes practice, but can be a lot of fun.

A variety of hammer types exist out there, more than I ever knew. Here are two of the ones most commonly used in jewelry-making

Texture Hammer:  There are a variety of types of texture hammers. Some simply have a texture on one side, some are homemade from old regular hammers. The one I have has removable ends with small heads that can be interchanged for a variety of textures. These heads are banged onto the surface of the metal to create interesting finishes. 

Ball-Peen Hammer: This is a jeweler's all-purpose hammer. One side is generally flat like a usual hammer, while the other side is small and rounded (almost spherical in shape). The flat side is great for hammering wire flat while the small end gives a lot of texture and detail. 

Disc Cutters: Basically what it sounds like, these tools cut discs out of metal. You slide your metal in the block, fit a matching metal sphere into the circular space, and hammer until a disc pops out the bottom. This should only take one or two hits of the hammer. I admit that I haven't perfected this technique. My disc cutter is a fairly cheap version, and you get what you pay for. There are a variety of cutters like this out there, some even cutting out other basic shapes (squares, ovals, stars, teardrops, etc.), and they're in a variety of price ranges.

Hole Punch Pliers: Again, these are just what they sound like. They punch small holes in metal, much like a paper hole-punch. There are other tools out there that will achieve the same effect (like the disc cutters), but I've found these pliers to be the most efficient, depending on the metal itself.

Dapping/Doming Block: While this supply may look kinda crazy, it's purpose is totally simple: it domes metal pieces. Each of those knobs on a stick corresponds to a dome in the block. You hammer the spherical part of the stick into the dome to curve your metal. This example is a metal one, but I also have a smaller wood one that doesn't mar your material as much. Though, it's not as sturdy either.

Tin Snips: The ones pictured are only one version of tin snips. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes but generally look something like scissors. They do cut tin, along with a variety of other metals, so long as they are thin enough. Some tin snips are designed to cut straight lines, some to cut curved lines. Some of the stronger/larger ones (found in hardware stores) will leave "teeth marks" on the metal, so you should be careful when selecting yours.

Tweezers: I'm sure you are familiar with tweezers. In jewelry-making, they're perfect for picking up small beads, holding down small bits when gluing, or generally acting as tiny fingers.

Glue: Most jewelry techniques don't involve glue, but you will come across projects, from time to time, that need it. I often use E6000 as a super glue to adhere large elements (like cabochons) to other surfaces. Bead Stringing Glue is great because it has a needle tip to get in tiny spaces. I use it especially to secure knots in threaded projects.

Files: There are a variety of files out there that can be used to help make jewelry. Something as simple as a nail file can work in a pinch. But, if you're working with more industrial materials, you're going to need more industrial supplies. Pictured above are a metal nail file, a heavy-duty metal file, and a wire rounder. The wire rounder has a tiny cup on the end to help file down wire ends. This is especially great for making ear wires. Not pictured, but also key, are bead reamers. These are thin, round files that are inserted into the holes of beads to clean and file them. 

Dremel: Another hardware-store supply is a Dremel tool. It's a multi-purpose electric tool with interchangeable heads. It can be used for drilling, sanding, filing, buffing, and many, many more tasks depending on the head you put on it.

The supplies I have pictured and mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg. There's no way I could ever cover every little thing that might be used to help you make jewelry. You will undoubtedly uncover many more materials as you continue learning to make jewelry. I do have a video review of these same supplies if you want to see/hear that.


I'm looking forward to getting to the next part of this series when I'll finally start sharing techniques with you! For now, please let me know if you have any questions, corrections, or additions to this subject in the comments.