Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Christmas Wishes

For each of us, my wishes are many and heartfelt. I think I wish nearly the same things every year. And not just at Christmas!

Peace...the kind that brings your heart a seamless quietude and calm.
Hope...A sense of well-being and energizes your waking and your every movement, mixed with that feeling that the best is yet to come, that God is in His heaven, and all's right with the world. Cockeyed optimism? Well, maybe. But, at Holy Mass, when I say that I "believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen ... and the life of the world to come," what's not to hope for! (ref: Nicene Creed)
Love...more than anything, I wish you the blessing of loving and being loved. May true compassion become the order of the day.
Simple pleasures...a game of Pictionary or Scrabble that leaves you laughing until you cry, the taste of tiramisu, good books, wonderful music, hugs that last long enough to really feel them, the gift of a smile from another, "Merry Christmas!" yelled with gusto by a child, thoughtful/prayerful moments under a clear night sky.

I hope your Christmas is special this year and always, with new and old memories to fill your heart.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gift Exchange

When December arrives -- or when we arrive at December -- parties ensue!
Our Fiber Art Fusion group dined to celebrate another year of artful creating together. At our dinner, we exchanged little 5x7-inch original pieces of artwork. It is our second year, and I think we love it so much, we want to do one mid-year, "just because!"

Here is mine -- Ann Quandee chose it from the stack of wrapped art. I hope she enjoys it as much as I will enjoy mine from Judy Alexander. The color is a huge departure for me -- pinky-red, orange, even a purplish tone. I cut the pleated bit from some great fabric and pleated it in a semi-circular form. Again, from the same fabric, I cut a smaller motif, padded it, appliqued it and even added a few bugles. I find it almost impossible NOT to add sparkle, a la beads. I bordered it in satin stich with this great Madeira variegated thread. Variegated threads are a big favorite of mine -- they add lots of interest and depth without having to change thread (which would often be too disruptive to the piece). The silks and even dyed cotton fibers are great for embroidery.
I wish everyone a blessed season of love -- love for families and friends and all of God's gifts to us!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chili Cookoff Season

We haven't had quite a frost in Atlanta yet, but the leaves are beginning to turn (and fall) and the temps are quite chilly -- YAY! I always celebrate this season. I love everything about the change to fall, then on to winter. The position of the sun, the smell of fallen leaves, someone burning leaves somewhere, the earth seems to give up such a rich smell. The breezes refresh completely. The "ceiling" is so very high and the blue skies make me feel free! To be able to breathe air that isn't laden with the cloying humidity of summer is a treat.

Now, for a discussion on chili. My friend Karen South has challenged her blog readers to publish their chili recipes and link to her blog for a give-away.

A word on Karen. This woman is so very creative and quite an accomplished crazy quilter. It doesn't end there. She has a side business of preparing crazy-quilting (CQ) packets and she does a great job of pairing fabrics with little surprise embellishments. Try ordering a few and challenge yourself to complete a CQ block or wee piece with only the fabrics in the packet. Her blog is as charming as she is -- full of pictures, projects, GREAT embellishments, and all kinds of news. I welcome you to meet Karen on her blog.

Okay, time for the recipe:

Ground sirloin -- 1 lb plus
Ground turkey breast -- 1 lb plus
1 medium to large onion, chopped
4-6 scallions, chopped
3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
Fresh garlic -- 1 heaping tsp, minced
Chili powder -- at least 4 Tblsp (I like Mexican style), adjust to degree of "heat" preferred
Ground cumin -- about 2 Tblsp
Cinnamon -- heaping tsp
Cilantro, dried -- about 2 Tblsp
Salt & pepper to taste -- remember that you are seasoning the entire pot with meat and veggies and tomatoes, added in "layers" with every new addition. Remember that celery adds a salty flavor, so taste test every now and then
Large can diced tomatoes
Large can crushed tomatoes
Can (#10) tomato puree or tomato sauce
One or Two cans dark red kidney beans
One or Two cans light red kidney beans
Can pinto beans
Can black beans
Chicken stock OR tomato juice -- about four cups throughout the cooking time, adjust to your preference on thick/thin consistency
Ketchup -- about a half cup -- this makes a huge difference in the taste (adds a bit of sweetness to counteract the "bite" of the tomato products)
In a large soup pot, brown and breakup meats in a little olive oil. Remove the browned meats from the pot.

Warm more olive oil and saute onion, scallions, garlic, and celery, until the celery and onion are translucent.

Add the meat back into the pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add spices, tomato products, and beans (slightly drained).

Pour in about two cups of chicken stock.

Simmer for a long time -- I usually simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring often. Add ketchup. Stir and simmer for another hour. I imagine beef stock would work well, too.

Taste test along the way to judge spice levels. Adjust to taste. Also, watch the consistency and add stock as required.

At the end, add more dried cilantro.

Serve toppings of your choice: shredded cheddar/jack, fresh cilantro, chopped onion, pickled jalapenos, sour cream.

I've never checked for the quantity of finished chili -- it makes A LOT! Freeze in serving sizes.


Enjoy the chilly weather and the chili!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Accomplishing Goals

This four-day weekend has been FULL of activity at the Betz house! Randy has been off, which makes my honey-do list come into play. My list and I have annoyed each other for months. Mostly cleaning pesky, hard-to-reach, full-to-the-max cabinets and closets.

The Church yard sale is a month away -- a shot in the arm to get things done. Corner cabinets in the kitchen ... CHECK! I was actually afraid of what we might find in the nether reaches of those deep, usuable spaces. But, thankfully, no funky surprises. Just old pasta and some even older spices. Funny how, being the only person on earth who cares one whit about those cabinets, it can make my day to know they are fresh and orderly.

Next, the linen closet...CHECK! Oooh Nooo! (Like "Bill" the clay guy on Saturday Night Live used to scream.) The door would only shut with serious coercion, so I haven't used it much in the last couple of years. It is now ready for public viewing! The door shuts like a dream. And three huge bags of good-but-never-used linens are on their way to the yard sale. Does everyone keep all of their Waterford boxes in case they move some day? (see my problem?)

The cats have been trying to keep up with all of this industry, but usually collapse each day for a long afternoon nap. Sam and Doodle are our cats. Both are adopted and have made us laugh every single day. "Sam" is a perfect name for our older cat. He's rather elegant, quiet, not too curious -- just enough. "Doodle," admittedly not a very high-falutin name for such a marvelous creature. started from a string of names beginning with Angus The MacDoodle (a wink and a nod to the Isle of Man for our little manx marvel), moved through Loki Doodle (Loki being the name of the Norse god of mischief), and now, he's just Doodle. Actually, I was having second thoughts about calling him Loki. I thought that perhaps we were invoking the god of mischief...NOT something you need to do when you're already living with two high-energy cats and one only a kitten with a personality as big as all outdoors!

After losing two big, beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs -- Matisse and Heidi -- we are now "cat people." So be it. I receive so much love when Doodle walks across my desk in front of me and loves me with his cheeks and purrs so loudly that I wonder how he keeps from choking. Such love! At 3:00 a.m., it's a little bit of a nuisance, but I still love it. Love is a gift in whatever form it takes. And I never turn down good love!!

No studio time this weekend. Four whole days just looking out there every now and then and having my muse "harrumph" when I do. But, tomorrow, that will change. I have so many new ideas, that I simply must plan on some studio hours in the midst of all that fabric and all of those beads!

I'll post some pictures within the next week of a few works in progress.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Leaf

It's nearing the end of summer. It's always special to realize that we are nearly finished with the heat and humidity that makes being outside pure torture. Soon enough, we will have fresh air, cool breezes, color in the trees, and that sweet smell of the earth in autumn. Wishful thinking? Sure. I have been very busy and having fun in the studio. The pure number of UFOs has shaken me into finishing some pieces. Well, that, and the serious need to create order and make additional space!

Our Fiber Art Fusion group put the Transformation Show on exhibit at The Art Place in Marietta from July 24 through August2 22. What a lovely showing of our work! (If I do say so myself) Such a variety of techniques, media, size, varied as we are as creative individuals in a group.

More on finishing (with pictures to follow soon)...I finally added sleeves to two pieces that were finished over five years ago. Isn't that shameful? (Not the new sleeves, but the length of time these pieces were sleeveless!) A gift for a friend is nearing the home stretch. I'm using her favorite color (yellow), which is quite a challenge for me. But something finally clicked a couple of months ago and I actually like the piece. Also, I have finished a little CQ block for my redecorated bathroom. I noticed that my house was missing CQ and had to fix that situation!

I've been reading voraciously this summer. More than normal (which is saying something). Lots of religious history and Papal encyclicals (try these some time...they are brilliant and quite educational). Also, a lot of fiction. Two friends recently shared a list of the books they have read. I printed the lists, hoping to use their list-making abilities to jump-start my own list.

I've always kept lists -- favorite things, favorite books/movies/quotes/names, things to do before I die, etc. Seems in order to try to list the books I have loved. I also keep journals. Have always done so. I remember my first diaries. I didn't edit what I wrote. Mom found them, and that put my diary writing on hiatus for a while. Then, when I started again in college, I edited what I wrote. But, thankfully, I edged out of that tar pit (a writer could get stuck and sucked into the depths of dark ick), and now write as I think...freely, hopping from topic to topic, writing poetry, writing prayers, assessing today and feelings and thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams. I also keep a creative journal with sketches of little things or special designs that impressed me, ideas for future projects, etc. Also, I keep a journal of my spiritual journeying, my delight in the Grace of God, and my musings of my deepest self in knowing and loving Our Lord and serving Him, and my unending gratitude for blessings and God's gifts. A recent convert to Catholicism, I have had a LOT to write about!

So, come journey with me.