Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to: Make a cat scratching post

We have three very rambunctious cats so we decided last year to build them a kitty climbing tree.  It got destroyed when we left on vacation and was in need of a new kitty scratching post.  It's a really easy thing to do and they love it.  Here's how to make one:

Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks
A staple gun
Sisal rope (we got this at Home Depot 50ft for less then $5)


Start by heating up your glue gun.  Make sure it's nice and hot to start.  Taking one end of the sisal rope, staple gun this to your post.  We have a clear 'back' to our post that faces the wall so we made sure all the staples were on that side.  

Then starting in a straight line around your post, glue one side, then lay your rope.  Hold down for 1 minutes until glue dries.  

Continue wrapping around your post until your desired length or until your rope runs out.  We stapled the rope about every inch on the back even with the glue just to make sure it stayed in place.  Finish the rope end with a staple too. That's it!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alpaca Christmas project

I got this lovely alpaca wool from Village Wools in Albuquerque a few months ago for a Christmas present which I am just now starting.  It is Henry's Attic Prime Alpaca from alpaca's raised in Peru at 13,000 - 16,000 feet.  I'm starting to really love alpaca.  It's like knitting with a pillow.  It's super soft.  It's just perfect for what I'm making, which will remain a surprise until Christmas. ;) It was a little pricey but I got 665 yards in one skein.  It is also a nice natural dark black.  This will be the first time I've knitted with fine black yarn which I've heard will be a challenge, but I'm giving myself five months to finish it!  Wish me luck...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Look what I got!  At my last Vixen group meeting a member, Jenn, gave me this giant ball of wool roving!  It's cleaned, combed and ready for spinning.  It's a rich gray color with hues of black and white here and there.  I think it will make a great cabled scarf or something like this - if only I could knit like that! I can't believe how much there is.  It will last me the next year!   Off to go spin...!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Convergence goodies!

I'm back from Convergence 2010!  I picked up a few things there - see above.  I got these yarns from the Mora Valley Spinning Mill booth from Mora, NM.  They are a non-profit spinning mill that supports small farms and endangered breeds of sheep.  They had really pretty colors and I picked two that I will be using for a Christmas present.  They are 66% Alpaca and 33% Rambouillet.  They are both very soft and I'm so excited to start working with them.  Other then shopping, I got to see a few friends that were up there including my spinning teacher JoAnn, and Lew and I checked out the exhibit hall.  Convergence was mostly geared toward weaving, but I still enjoyed myself there. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

See you at Convergence!

This weekend I'll be at Convergence!  I didn't even know what Convergence was before moving to New Mexico, but this biennial fiber arts conference is being held in Albuquerque this year!  There are classes on weaving, dying, spinning and other fiber arts as well as exhibits, judging and vendors.  I hope to be able to look at some spinning wheels just to see more, possibly buy some roving and just take in the experience.  See you at Convergence!

For more information on Convergence click here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Green Mod birthday card

Today is my sister's 29 birthday! I made her a green mod birthday card using a few things I had left over from other projects.  I started with a velum scrapbook paper on top.  I got it many years ago and it is basically clear plastic with a green printed design on it.  When it is laid on top of another color (such as the lime green cardstock I choose) it really pops.  I simply glued that down in the corners to the cardstock to make it stick.  On the inside I glued down a lighter colored carstock to make a base for the stamping.  I got these great mini stamps on our vacation and I just adore them!  I used Martha Stewart's Stem Green ink for the letters and Red Chrysanthemum for the heart.  It's a simple but fun card.  Happy Birthday Jeanine!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brighter garden news

My Echeveria rosea is blooming!  It's been hiding in our mud room because our cat Smudge likes to eat plants and he already tried to dig it up once, so I almost forgot about it.  I was in there the other day trying to find something when I spotted the pretty pink flowers.  I can't hardly believe it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Having a tomato plant with BER

What I thought was a problem with bugs eating my roma tomatoes, I'm learning today is more likely BER or blossom-end rot.  All of the tomatoes on my roma tomato plant are rotting on the bottom and the rot is attracting these little white worm/jumping flea things (see picture above).  So, after doing some research online I learned that BER is caused by soil that lacks the right amount of calcium and or inconstant watering.  Apparently, tomato plants in containers get BER a lot.  Since I have been watering my tomato pretty regularly, I assume that it is problem with my soil.  I read online in several blogs that adding several Tums with calcium to the soil may solve the problem.  So, I dissolved two heartburn with calcium tablets in water and poured the water in my soil.  Maybe this will work.  It's so disheartening having plants that you watch over for months just die right in front of you.  But so is nature - always changing, dying, growing.  Perhaps this will help my tomato last a little longer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cast Iron Week #6: Skillet Browines

I figured I'd better end cast iron week with a sweet dessert and I found a great recipe in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.  It's called Fudgy Skillet Brownies.  I know that Griswold makes an actual brownie pan, but I used a large cast iron skillet to make these and they turned out very yummy.  Of course, I had to add some ice cream to my dish and although I didn't make the ice cream in a cast iron pan, I'm sure you can somehow! 

Here is the link for the recipe from Everyday FoodFudgy Skillet Brownies

I've had a lot of fun during cast iron week and I feel like I could go on forever with new recipes.  Thanks for joining me this week!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cast Iron Week #5: Real Tamales

Close to Thanksgiving last year a neighbor of ours brought over some wonderful tamales that she made from scratch.  They were amazing.  I've been thinking about making some ever since.  I had to buy masa for the tamale pie recipe and I had some pork shoulder so I thought I'd give it a try.


Masa (about a cup 1 1/2)
Dried corn husks (about 15-20)
2-3 lbs Pork shoulder
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
Dried red chiles (about 10)
Garlic powder


First, using your dutch oven place your pork shoulder on top of your trivet.  Add 3 cups of water, one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of salt.  Cover.  Set to simmer and allow to cook for several hours.  I cooked mine for a total of 3 hours and turned it once.

Meanwhile, take your dried red chilies, which you can get in your local Mexican food section, and using a coffee grinder or a spice grinder, grind everything but the stem.  Grind as many as you have to into a fine powder so you have enough to make 3 tablespoons of red chili powder.  I'm sure you could just buy chili powder, but this is the way I did and it was really flavorful.

After your pork is cooked turn off the heat, take the pork out and allow it to cool.  When it is cool, shred the pork.  Save the water from the dutch oven.

After your pork is shredded place it in a cast iron skillet.  Toss in the red chili powder, some salt if needed, and garlic powder to taste.  Cook the pork on medium heat for about 10 minutes, allowing it to brown a little bit more.  Meanwhile, take your masa and add, 1 tablespoon at a time, some of the water left over from cooking the pork.  Add enough to make a dough that isn't sticky but when squeezed holds it's shape.  Put to the side.  Then, fill a large bowl with hot water.  Place the corn husks in the hot water to soften up. 

When your corn husks are soft, your pork is cooked and your masa is ready you can start putting the tamales together.  To do this first take a corn husk and tear it into thin pieces about 1 cm wide.  These will act as ties.  Then take a plain corn husk and lay in flat.  Add about 1/4 cup of the masa dough to the center.  Top this with a tong full of pork.  Fold in the sides of the corn husks, then the top and bottom and tie the whole thing closed with the corn husk tie.  Repeat this until you have run out of masa and pork.

Place a steamer in your dutch oven.  Make sure there is enough of the cooked pork water left in the dutch oven so it will steam - if you don't have enough just add water.  Then, place all your tamales in the steamer.  Close your dutch oven.  Cook on low heat for about 1 hour. 

I realize this is a long recipe and it left me with a great appreciation for homemade tamales, but it is truly worth the effort.    

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cast Iron Week #4: Pop-overs!

I'm not sure how it started but my family has a tradition of making pop-overs on Christmas morning.  I have carried this tradition on with my husband with my mom's pop-over recipe and a jumbo pan purchased for us.  However, when we were recently in Ohio we saw a Griswold cast iron mini pop-over pan that was too cute to pass up.  A different pan we got actually had a cast iron pop-over recipe on it too.  It might not have been Christmas but last Sunday I had to try out both the recipe and the mini cast iron pan.  Turned out great!  I always have problems with my pop-overs rising so they look somewhat flat in my picture but I believe that's mainly due to our elevation (+6,500 ft).  Still taste good!  I love popovers with just plain butter, but they are also great opened up and covered with jam.

Old Cast Iron Pop-over Recipe:

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425*.  Grease pop-over pan with butter and set aside.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Heat pan in oven and remove.  Fill warm pans slightly less than half-full.  Bake about 35 minutes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cast Iron Week #3: Roasted Chicken

I have a weakness for roasted chicken.  However, buying roasted chicken at the supermarket is usually incredibly expensive and when we tried roasting one in our own oven it made a big mess that boiled over, leaked and then burned.  Solution: cast iron dutch oven.   We have a No. 7 dutch oven and it was just large enough to hold your average size chicken.  Here's how we did it:

1. Brown the outside of your chicken -  if you'd like crispy skin - using a skillet.
2. Preheat your oven to 350*.
3. Place your browned chicken in your dutch oven.  Make sure you use a trivet so it doesn't burn to the bottom.
4. Cover your chicken in salt.  I have used salted butter before but you can just use salt and cut back on the fat. 
5. Cover your dutch oven and put the whole thing in the oven.
6. Cook for several hours - depending on how many lbs. your chicken is.  Always check the internal temperature to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. 
7. Remove from oven and take the chicken out.  Cut and serve as desired.

What is nice about this is that all your mess is in the dutch oven.  All the juices and fat that have come out of the chicken are saved at the bottom - not a huge mess in your stove.  Because the juices are saved inside it also makes the chicken nice and moist. I saved my chicken juices and froze it along with the left over bones to make chicken stock in the future.  We had enough chicken for several meals with this:  first night, chicken with a side of beans, second night roasted chicken salad and third night chicken salad sandwiches.  Three meals for two on one whole chicken and none of it thrown away.  Can't beat that!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cast Iron Week #2: Tamale Pie

I made good investment recently when I purchased the book: Cast Iron Cookbook: Delicious and Simple Comfort Foodby Joanna Pruess.  What a great book!  Not only does it cover cast iron history but it is filled with recipes that require cast iron cookware.  It seems like many of them are tried and true recipes and I want to try each one of them.  So far I've only had time to try a few and one of those was the Tamale Pie recipe.  I won't be publishing this recipe in respect to the author, but I can tell you that it was awesome.  It requires a dutch oven and one ingredient most people probably don't have in their pantry: masa harina.  I was able to find this in our local supermarkets Mexican section.  It is corn flour and I highly suggest using that instead of cornmeal.

I can't wait to start making more things from her cookbook including Chocolate Chunk-Pecan Cookie Sundaes with Salted Caramel Sauce - and yes, it's cooked in cast iron!

Note:  I am not affiliated with Joanna Pruess, I just really like her cookbook! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cast Iron Week #1: Deep Dish Pizza

I love deep dish pizza and I just recently figured out how to do it in my cast iron skillet.  Few commercial pizza places can match it.


Pizza dough (either store bought or homemade)
Toppings (i.e. artichoke hearts, broccoli, roma tomato slices, pepperoni, salami, olives, mushrooms, onions, etc.)
Feta cheese
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Olive oil


Heat oven to 400*.  In a large cast iron skillet add oil and any veggies that need cooked a little before like mushrooms, peppers, onions.  Saute until almost cooked all the way.  Remove from pan.  With a paper towel or baking brush, move remaining oil around pan to cover the entire pan including the sides.  Add more oil if you need to.  This will help keep your dough from sticking.  Next, add the dough to your pan.  Press from the center up to the sides, making a crust on the edges.  Add sauce, then toppings.  Add both cheeses on top.  Put in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Be sure to check it to make sure it doesn't burn.  Once the crust is turning brown and the cheese is bubbling, remove from oven.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Using a knife, slide along edges to loosen pizza.  Then slide pizza from pan to plate.  Serve.  Yum!

What I really love about this is that you could have pizza once a week using in season produce and have a different pizza for months.  The possibilities are endless but my favorite right now is a mushroom-artichoke-broccoli-onion-and-feta pizza.  Delicious!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cast Iron Cooking Week

This week I'm starting the Cast Iron cooking week.  Recently, on our trip back East, we picked up a few new (to us) cast iron pans.  When I married Lewie, he came with three cast iron skillets that his grandmother gave to him.  I've been cooking with cast iron ever since.  I love cooking with cast iron.  There is no non-stick weird coating on cast iron like there is on most new skillets you buy at the super market.  They are also nice because you can cook with them on the stove top or toss the whole thing in the oven and they cook nice and even because of the way they retain heat.  Back East we got several cast iron items at antique shops including a Griswold pop-over pan, a Griswold cornbread pan, a Griswold waffle maker, and a Griswold dutch oven .  I also found a gem pan that makes cookies with bowling pins on them.  My mom has quite the collection of gem pans herself and was willing to part with the one that makes heart shapes to add to our collection.  Please join Off The Map each day this week while I share a recipe I use to make something in our cast iron!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This time of year...

We recently got home from a trip back east and it was awesome.  Having not been back to the east for almost a year and half, it was so nice to see family and friends.  We live in New Mexico now so it was also nice to walk around yards in our bare feet, enjoy the shade of a tree, and go swimming in a creek.  Other reasons I love the East and this time of year:

Afternoon cat naps become a regular routine,

you can watch things grow on a daily basis,

  and no one seems to tire of a good super-soaker battle.

Featuring, Duma the cat, my mom's garden, and two-year old Castin.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

RED velvet cake, WHITE cream cheese frosting, and BLUE sprinkles.  What a good way to celebrate the 4th of July!  Hope everyone is having a safe and fun weekend!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hummingbird card

Here's a simple blank card that can be for anything, just a note, thank you card, or congratulations card.  I make it using a new cartridge I got called Give A Hoot.

Cricut Machine or access to one such as in a scrapbooking store
Cartridge - Give A Hoot
Cardstock paper in five colors [green, yellow, orange, purple, blue]
Craft glue
Bone folder
Bazzill Basics Paper Cardstock Strips - Cloverleaf
Various stamps
Martha Stewart's stamp ink - Lilac


Start with making the base of your card by cutting out a rectangle that measures 8 inches by 4 inches with a ruler and scissors. Fold this in half using a bone folder.  To start making the front, using your Give A Hoot cartridge, cut out one Hmmngbrd in yellow that is 2 1/2 inches.  Then, cut out one layer Hmngbd-s that is also 2 1/2 inches in orange.  Next, cut out one layer Hmngdb in purple (2 1/2 inches).  Glue these together.  Because your stem on your flower will still be yellow, I used some paper from the Bazzill Basics Paper Cardstock Strips - Cloverleaf to glue over that part and then cut out.  I used the remaining Cloverleaf Cardstock Strips to decorate the outside edges.

On the inside I used Martha Stewart's ink (color = lilac) and a simple stamp to finish my card.  I also stamped the back in the same color with my "homemade by danielle" logo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Taking the Cake birthday card

No matter your age, a hot pink card mentioning cake never gets old.  My husband's Aunt's birthday was last week and I had a blast making her card.  Happy Birthday Janie!

Cricut Machine or access to one such as in a scrapbooking store
Cartridge - Just Because Cards,  Wild Card
Cardstock paper in four colors [pink, brown, light brown, off-white]
Craft glue
Brown Sharpie marker - thin


Start with using the Just Because Cards cartridge.  Using your pink cardstock cut out one Cake that is 5 1/2 inches.  This will be the base of the card.  Next, cut out one Cake-s in off-white that is also 5 1/2 inches.  Glue these together.  Meanwhile, cut out one word Cake in pink (5 1/2 in).  Then, cut out one word Cake-s in brown (5 1/2 in).  This will make the phrase "you take the cake".  Glue these together and then glue them to the front of the card.  To make the cake cut out one layer 1 Cake in light brown (5 1/2 in).  Next, cut out one layer 1 Cake-s in dark brown (5 1/2 in).  Lastly, cut out one layer 2 Cake-s in pink to make the cherry (5 1/2 in).  Glue your cake together and add this to the front.  I used the Wild Card cartridge to cut out the Happy Birthday phrase on the inside using brown.