Little Birdies

I made this little bird for a friend and it turned out so well I made one for myself. Then I had to get some things made for a local holiday art show so I turned out ten more! I've been bird crazy! The main body is made of silk dupioni and the breast and tail feathers is made of a silk stripe. The wings are embroidered and the crest on her head is beaded.

While this one is made of silk, I have made them in felt, cotton and just about anything else that isn't stretchy. I made this pattern up in two sizes, this one is the tiny one which is about three inches long and the larger is about five. I'd really like to post this so you could go to a link and download the pattern, however, I'm not sure exactly how to do that. So, two things here...if you want the pattern, just leave a comment with your e-mail address and I'll send it to you as an attachment. The second thing, if you know how I could put it on here as a link, please let me know how it's done!


Finding Balance

As you may have noticed my blog posts have been in short supply of late and I was, at first, thinking the title of this post would be "To Blog or Not To Blog?" but to rewrite Hamlet a bit, that is not the question. I have been realizing that in a lot of areas of my life I either go all out or I quit.

Then I started going to the local Y and adding regular exercise into my life and I really wanted to commit. With a membership you can get several sessions with a trainer and I thought it would be a good idea to help me get past that time when I want to quit. When I started to get overwhelmed with exercise cutting into my studio time, Seth, the trainer, a very wise young man, made me come up with alternative ways to think and act. Maybe only go three or four days a week, go on alternative days and times, don't stay as long, etc. Then he grilled me on thinking differently about my eating habits and it has actually worked.

So what does that have to do with blogging? When I first started blogging it was for fun, a friend talked me into it and I really enjoyed reading comments from new and old friends. Then I decided to really try to get new readers and blog everyday. It took over my day, which meant less studio time and so true to my habits, I set it aside. So, back to my Hamlet quote. The question "To blog or not to blog?" is answered by balance. I will be blogging a few times a week, not daily and not leaving three or four weeks between posts, at least that is my goal. I will try to read and comment on others blogs as often as I can and am inspired to. I really need to exercise, create, cook, do laundry and manage my life and I want to do it in a balanced happy way. It only took me 52 years to figure this out, but better late than never!

The image at the top is another little garland I made, some crocheted fall leaves. Just so you know, I have been creating!


Beef Bourguignon

After I posted the Brunswick Stew recipe a friend asked me if I had a good beef stew recipe. At the time I didn't, but I took it as a challenge. I immediately thought of using a slow cooker because the longer a stew cooks, the flavors become richer and deeper. I found a recipe for Beef Bourguignon in The Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting Cookbook by Rick Rodgers. He maintains that you can't just throw a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker and expect it to taste good. Rather the cook should treat the ingredients just as you would if you were going to put them in the oven. Hence, there is a lot of sauteing and searing before you put the ingredients in the pot. The preparation is longer but the result is fantastic. So here is the recipe for Beef Bourguignon.
Bistro Beef Bourguignon

1 pound baby carrots, peeled
1 pound small boiling onions, peeled
4 ounces slab bacon cut into 2 inch pieces
2 pounds boneless beef bottom round, cut into two inch pieces and well trimmed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
10 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
4 shallots or scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup double-strength beef broth, canned or homemade
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Place the baby carrots and boiling onions in a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the bacon and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain well, rinse under cold running water, and pat dry with paper towels.
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon strips, turning often, until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.
4. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the beef, in batches without crowding, to the fat remaining in the pan and cook, turning often, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker, add the bacon and season with the salt and pepper. Mix well, but leave the carrots and onions undisturbed.
5. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the slow cooker. Add the red wine, broth, parsley, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf to the skillet and bring to a simmer, stirring to blend in the tomato paste and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add to the slow cooker.
6. Cover and slow-cook until the beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours on low (200 degrees F). With a slotted spoon, transfer the beef and vegetables to a serving bowl, discarding the bay leaf, and cover with foil to keep warm. Skim the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid.
7. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, without browning, for 1 minute. Whisk in the cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Cook, whisking often, until thickened and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the beef and vegetables, mix gently, and serve immediately.