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hairpins.

Aren’t these the cutest? I recently cut my hair short, for the first time ever.  I love it, but it makes using these a little more difficult!

I also love her navy rosebud belt and the chalkboard gift tags – aren’t they genius? Regifting never looked so good.

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book

I know I’m not turning five again any time soon, but I think this is a brilliant idea:

“I told each of the mamas of the party guests…that we have more than enough toys and other stuff in our home already.  For this party, I invited each of them to send their daughters with a wrapped book for a book exchange. 
In other words, everyone brings a book and everyone goes home with a book.”

(found here)

I’d take this for a birthday party, girls’ night, baby shower…in fact, I’d forgotten until now that I asked for books for my wedding shower, and loved getting them!

I just finished reading this book, and while it got a bit tricky reading the last chapters, it was very cleverly written and I was surprised I’d never heard of it before. It’s got the feel of a classic to it – and for all I know, it is a classic!

It’s the story of a small fictional island off the east coast of the States. Their most prominent citizen was Nevin Nollop, the creator of the panagram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Letters of the sentence begin to fall from Nollop’s statue, and the island’s Council decides that this is the will of Nollop, who becomes more or less a deity in the eyes of the elders. The letters are banned from speech and writing, and the Council moves towards totalitarianism.

The letters written between islanders become more clever and desperate as letters continue to fall, until all that’s left are the letters LMNOP (sound it out). Dunn’s ending is impressive – you’ll have to read it yourself!

roast chicken.

I am not saving the best for last. This is probably the best thing I have going in that recipe box of mine. I love roast chicken – although really only the dark meat – and I will make it every chance I get, any way I can.

Originally I only made it the way I’d found it, but I’ve found that I can make it much quicker as well. The long version allows the spices to fully flavour the meat, but having them just on the outside for the short version is still tasty. I’m giving you the spice mix, but also two ways to roast your chicken, and the methods for making a chicken gravy with the roasting pan and a simple chicken stock with the carcass.

Spice Rub:

I usually scale it up and make a canning jar’s worth at a time, but this amount will be enough for a 3-4 lb whole chicken or 2-3 lb of chicken pieces:

2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Quick Version (Chicken Pieces):

Sprinkle some of the rub into a small bowl and add a bit of oil so it makes a thick paste. Rub chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks…whatever your preference) with the rub and let sit while preheating your oven to broil. The rack should be 10-12″ from the top of the oven. When the oven is ready, cook first side for 12-14 min and second side for 8-10 min, until cooked through. If it begins to char, move the rack further from the broiler. Let chicken stand for 10 min (under foil) before serving to redistribute juices.
*Tip: putting a wire rack inside the roasting pan and resting the chicken pieces on the rack will give you a crispy skin.

Long Version (Whole Chicken):

Thaw your whole chicken. Pat dry with a paper towel to help the rub stick to the chicken. Add a bit of oil to the rub to make a thick paste, and rub the outside and inside of the chicken (if you can reach under the skin, put some there too). Chop a whole peeled onion into eighths and place in the cavity. You could also add some cut garlic cloves. Double wrap in saran wrap and let sit for 12-24 hrs. Bake at 250 degrees for about 4 hours, until the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is 180 degrees (or you can stab it to test – the juices should run clear and there should be no pink meat inside). Let the chicken stand for 10 minutes before cutting to redistribute the juices.

Chicken Pan Gravy:

If the whole chicken or pieces have left a good deal of ‘stuff’ stuck on the bottom of the pan, make gravy while the chicken is standing. Add 1/4 c. white wine or chicken stock to the roasting pan (make sure it’s safe for the stovetop), place over two burners and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon until dissolved into the wine/stock; pour into a large glass measuring cup. Scoop off any fat that rises to the top. In a small pot, melt together 1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp butter. Let cook gently for about one minute, then add the wine/chicken liquid. Whisk until a smooth sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper. I also usually add some parsley for colour.

Slow Cooker (or Stockpot) Chicken Stock:

I usually do this overnight after we’ve had the chicken and I’ve picked off the leftovers for later. Save the chicken carcass and if you want, the bones from the drumsticks etc. Place in slow cooker with:

1/2 unpeeled, coarsely chopped onion
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. pepper
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp thyme

Almost cover the chicken with water and cook on low for 8-10 hours (Try not to add too much more water unless you’re getting dry – I haven’t had to add water yet). Strain and cool uncovered, then refrigerate covered. Remove cooled fat with a spoon when ready to use. Can season with salt and pepper, or just add s&p to the dish you’re using the stock in, to taste.

Stockpot Version: If you don’t want to use a slow cooker, you can also do it in a large pot. Slowly bring the chicken and water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, skimming the fat occasionally. Add the veggies & herbs and simmer partly covered for 3-4 hours, adding more water to almost cover if necessary. Strain and cool uncovered, then refrigerate covered. Remove the fat with a spoon when ready to use.

painter’s dropcloth.

I don’t know where my mom came up with the idea, but a few years ago she made tab curtains for her living room out of painter’s dropcloth. Thick, heavy, cream-coloured canvas hanging from black iron rods with finials. They reached the floor, and with the weight of the fabric, looked quite professional. The colour of the fabric let in a warm, filtered glow of light during the day, but was thick enough to give privacy even at night.

They looked similar to this, but cream-coloured and touching the floor.

Painter’s dropcloth is dirt cheap compared to canvas at the fabric store, and especially compared to ready-made or custom-made curtains. There is a bit more nubbiness to the fabric than fabric store canvas, but it makes for nice ‘texture’. I usually find it at places like Home Depot in various sizes.

For a 6′ wide window like mine, it would be $20 for enough dropcloth to make two floor-length curtains (to meet in the middle). It’d be about another $15 for a decent-looking curtain rod.  You just have to be willing to put in a bit of time to sew the curtains. If you were feeling really adventurous, fabric dye would cost about another $5-10, depending on how saturated you want your colour (be sure to wash the fabric before dying to avoid uneven colour distribution). I do most of my dying the easy way in the washing machine. RIT dye has instructions in the box.

I’ve also used dropcloth to recover a futon mattress and to make an apron. The weight of the canvas works far better and looks much nicer than quilting cottons (or worse, a bedsheet draped over the futon). Canvas tote bags are classic and durable. Dropcloth would make a casual tablecloth (think outdoor dinners in the summer) or sunshades for your deck, diffusing the intensity of the light instead of putting you in the shade. It’s naturally water-repelling, but to prevent mildew I’d use a petroleum-based (not silicone) waterproofing sealant for any outdoor uses.

Canvas is the perfect summer fabric, so get going on all your projects before it’s over!

black walnut trivet.

here:

and here, for Canadians.

hospital corners.

Hospital corners always looked nice, but I never really bothered to learn how to make them. Other than for appearances, it didn’t seem to matter that much, and how many people really see your bed regularly?

I’ve found out that they really are ideal, though. If you have wide enough sheets, you can tuck them in on the sides and have the sheet nice and tight across your feet (if you like that sort of thing). If you leave the sides untucked, you have a ton of foot space to toss and turn in, while still keeping it looking neat for days on end. For whatever reason, the sheet stays tucked in place a lot longer than it ever used to.

Plus, I no longer have to heft my mattress up to stuff the sheet underneath – I suppose this is why they tuck their corners like this in hospitals where a patient often remains on the bed throughout sheet changes. I know, I’m a genius.

Here’s how:

Lay your flat sheet centered on your bed, with the top as far up as you prefer it with the remaining edges hanging over.

Tuck in only the bottom end of the sheet, straight across with no bunching.

Lifting the side of the sheet up, wrap the corners of the sheet around the side of the bed.

Tuck the piece you lifted under the mattress. If you leave it untucked, you’ll have a lot of freedom for your feet and the edges will hang down smoothly and neatly.


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