Shrimp Etouffee

I've been craving fish lately and so I rummaged through my refrigerator to see what could be created without going to the grocery store in the middle of the night.  I flipped through my Taste of Home Cookbook and compared it with the ingredients on hand and decided to make the Crawfish Etouffee, using shrimp instead.  Hence, my blog post title - Shrimp Etouffee.

In French, the word "étouffée" means, literally, "smothered" or "suffocated", so this past weekend, I enjoyed making and eating Shrimp Etouffee - shrimp smothered in a tomato based sauce.  And it was yummy.  In fact, truth be told, I think it tasted even better the next day when I had it again for dinner. 

Because I didn't have exactly all that was required of this dish, I had to make a few substitutions which I will post below.

Shrimp Etouffee
based on Taste of Home's "Crawfish Etouffee"

1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup of water
2 cups of tomato sauce (I used the tomato soup I made earlier.)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp aji panca (Peruvian red pepper)
1 cup of frozen okra
pinch of cayenne
pinch of dried thyme
pinch of ground cumin
1 lb of frozen large deveined shrimp, thawed

  1. In a heavy Dutch oven (or stockpot), whisk the flour and oil until smooth.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the flour/oil mixture is a reddish-brown.  (Basically, you're making a roux.)
  2. Sauté the onion and celery in this mixture.  After a minute or two, add the garlic and sauté.  Then add the aji panca.  (I used the aji panca in substitution for paprika since I didn't have any.)
  3. Add all the other ingredients except for the shrimp and okra.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.
  4. Add frozen okra and cook to almost done.  Then add raw shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn pink.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Typically, this dish would be served over a bed of rice, but somehow I served mine under a bed of rice.  lol

* Just curious:  Etouffee.  Why does using French words make you feel all sophisticated?  As a kid, I would pretend to speak French, butcher what I "read" in my mom's French books, and dream of the day that I would speak fluently.  What happened?  I took French I from a very Southern-speaking American teacher and the next year I switched to Spanish.  That teacher was German. 

Note:  If you haven't entered my 1st giveaway and would like to, follow this link.  :-)
Bon Appetit,

    My 1st Giveaway!


    Earlier I mentioned that I would be having a giveaway soon and now that time has arrived!

    Starting today, enter below for an opportunity to win Linda Kopp's book Cool Crocheted Hats. I have a copy of this book and I love the designs in there. There are patterns for all levels of experience, even those who love freeform crochet.

    This giveaway is open to U.S. residents as well as international addresses, so in other words, it's for everyone!

    The giveaway starts today, Monday, March 26, 2012 and will end on Thursday, April 5, 2012.  The winner will be announced on April 6, 2012 - Good Friday.  When you leave a comment below, please make sure you leave a valid email address, especially if your address is not listed on your blog or website or I do not know how to contact you.

    ¡Buen Suerte!

    More Visions of Spring

    I had a few more images to share from the Sandhills Camellia Show.  Although the spring is wreaking havoc on my allergies, it's such a beautiful season.

    I hope you enjoy these images...

    "Graem Yates"
    "Frank Houser Variegated"
    "Les Marbury Red" - This one won an award.

    ETA:  I did not grow any of these beautiful flowers.  It's amazing what other people can grow.  :-)

    Happy Spring,

    Trash to Treasure

    Today is such a beautiful day.  I'm going to ignore the fact that pollen is my nemesis and it's everywhere.  That's just a byproduct of spring, so I really can't complain.  Anyhoo, after running a couple of much needed errands (like getting an oil change) I discovered a few things:  (1) the Walmart that I went to to get an oil change has put back their fabric section and I could get some solid fabrics for linings, (2) Panera Bread had a line of customers that were actually waiting outside the door so needless to say, I chose not to eat there *sigh*, and (3) getting up a little extra on Saturday (although I love to sleep in) can be quite fruitful; nothing wrong with a little "me time", even if you're just getting an oil change and a couple of grocery items.

    After I got home, my mom asked me to take her garbage to the dump.  (Yes, we both live outside the city limits so we take our own trash to the dumpsters - no city taxes paid here.)  Surprisingly enough, I spotted something truly beautiful just sitting there in the lot.  Yes, it was a 3-panel screen for hanging photos.  I checked it out and the only missing parts were the cardboard or cork backings that keep the pictures in.  Who can't find a way around this minor setback?  So, I grabbed it up.  The garbage parking lot attendant guy (sorry, just don't know the official name for that job) said that it had been placed there less than an hour ago.  I'm rinsing the pollen off then I'll save it for an upcoming set of projects.  So excited!

    Trash dump find
    I wish Yetunde of AfroMartha lived a bit closer to me.  I know she'd love to help out with my upcoming projects.  Check out her latest one!

    Potential Color Palette for upcoming project....

    Oh yes, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    [Image Source]

    I hope your Saturday is wonderful.  Enjoy!

    Sandhills Camellia Show 2012

    On Saturday, February 18, 2012, the Sandhills Camellia Society sponsored its eighth annual Sandhills Camellia Show.  As a member of the Sandhills Photography Club, I was afforded the opportunity to photograph the camellias at the show.  Little did I know that the show would be held indoors and all the camellias, besides the ones being sold, would be cuttings.

    Nonetheless, the camellias were so beautiful!  And the spectators were so knowledgeable about soil types, and fertilizers, and greenhouses, and all the perfect conditions to produce beautiful camellias such as the ones on display.

    Attending this festival also afforded me the opportunity to meet some very interesting people and helped to appease my itch for photographing flowers during this season.  However, that itch won't truly be satisfied until I can photograph some camellias in their natural habitat.  Trust me; I'm already making plans...

     "Duchess of Covington"

    On the brink of Spring,

    Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

    I've been craving chicken pot pie lately.  Maybe because of these rain spells, maybe because it's such a comfort food, or maybe because it's an all-in-one dish which is something I love.  I've never made a chicken pot pie, but I have made chicken casseroles, so I decided to do my own thing, with the inspiration of Ayana's Chicken Pot Pie vlog in my nearby memory.

    If you want to see her yummy video, click here.

    Here's my version:

    Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
    2 chicken breasts, boiled, deboned, and shredded
    1 can of cream of mushroom soup
    1 can of cream of chicken soup
    1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables (corn, beans, carrots)
    chicken broth
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 frozen pie crusts, thawed

    Cooking the chicken:
    Season two chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Then boil until done in chicken broth.  Be sure to season the broth.  I use Herbox Sodium-Free Chicken broth packets, so I always have to add some salt to taste.  Remove chicken from broth, allow to cool, then debone.  Set aside.  Reserve some broth for the sauce portion of this dish; the rest can be frozen for later use.  * I boil my chicken in broth to add more flavor to the broth.

    Preparing the sauce:
    Over medium-low heat, add cream of mushroom, cream of chicken and broth to a medium saucepan.  Allow to heat through until all creams are well blended.  Add shredded chicken and frozen vegetables.  Then add half-and-half until desired consistency is reached.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Preparing the crust:
    Unroll and place one pie crust in the bottom of a baking dish.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place pan with crust in oven while oven is preheating.  Allow to brown slightly on the bottom, then remove.  Pour chicken/sauce mixture into baking dish.  Unroll and place the top crust over the mixture.  Break away pieces that overlap pan and use them to cover spaces on the sides of the pan.  Cut a slit in the center of the top pie crust.  Place in oven and bake between 45 minutes to 1 hour.  If dish is done and pie crust isn't brown enough, brown underneath the broiler for a few minutes.  Be careful not to turn away, not even for a second, or you will have what my family calls a "Cajun" styled dish.  Trust me!

    * The next time I make this dish, I'm going to try it using the Bisquick Mix that you pour over the sauce.  It bakes up to such a lovely crust.  I've never tried it on a chicken pot pie, but I have on some quick cobbler dishes.  Yum-O!

    Bon Appetit,

    See That None Goeth To Waste {Tutorial}

    So, while prepping for this past arts showcase, although I love my crocheted pieces, I really wanted to see more paper crafted and sewn items for this event.  Because I thought my sewing machine was also acting dysfunctional, just like my computer, I decided to focus on paper-crafted items.  (The reality about my sewing machine was that I learned to leave my metal bobbins in my metal machine and my plastic bobbins in my plastic machine.  I'm so quick to switch between machines and carry my bobbins with me and since the plastic ones don't work in my metal machine at all and they do on the other, I just used metal.  Lesson learned.)

    Anyhoo, since I didn't have any access to any of my stored digital photographs (due to the absence of my computer), I decided to make use of many of my test prints and such and create bookmarks!

    Make note of this book.  It will be the prize in an upcoming giveaway.  Stay tuned!

    So, basically, I found prints I liked in some way, cut a 6" x 2" strip of the portion of the image I liked, then used a rounded-edge corner paper cutter to round off the edges.  I repeated this same action on some recycled cardboard pieces I found at a scrap store a while back (finally putting that purchase to use).  Afterwards, since I'm no longer afraid of the spray adhesive, I used the spray adhesive to adhere the photo print onto the cardboard backing.  Then, voila!  Bookmarks were made.

    For this project, I chose my tulip prints from one of my botanical garden trips and also an artistic print of cabbage leaves.

    The project was super simple and it made me feel good to use up supplies already found in the house.  Yes, I'm doing my part to see that none goeth to waste!

    Happy Crafting,

    Monday's Feature: Joan Blackwell

    Meet Joan Blackwell.


    AE:  Who are you and what is it that you do/make?   
    JB:  I am Joan Blackwell  - Proud Army Mom, Lumbee, and Gourd Artist.

    AE:  How did you get started/What is the motivation behind your work?  
    JBEleven years ago, while visiting a lady friend, Miss Louis, who lives in TN, I saw a gourd hanging in one of her trees.  We talked about it and she gave it to me.  I took it home, cleaned it up and painted on it.  I took it back to her as a gift, and that is how it all started.  Gourds are a wonderful medium to paint on.  After they dry out they have the consistency of wood.  

    Since then I have been interviewed several times by newspapers, a featured artist on TV, gave a presentation at UNCP, and continue to teach classes when I have time.  As a full time Art Education major at UNCP, I still love to paint on gourds and look forward to summer break to complete new artistic expressions.  I paint because I love too. 

    After retiring from a Department of Defense contracting position in 2000; I knew I wanted to find a hobby and volunteer work to keep me busy.  As a Mom to an Army pilot, who frequently travels overseas, I found this outlet helped occupy my time and keep me focused in a positive manner. 

    I am not a major production artist.  Most of my art has been given as presents and I have sold art internationally and nationally.  After painting 408 pieces of art, I only have 40 left.  I better get busy and paint some more soon.  I still enjoy setting up at festivals and have several exhibits in Pembroke, NC.  If you like, call me, and I can teach you this technique in my art studio located in my home.  You will need two hours to complete the art.  I will provide the supplies.  The fee is negotiable.  Bring a friend and the fee is reduced. 

    AE:  Where can we find your work? 
    JB:   I have several exhibits in Pembroke, NC.  I also have an online gallery.
    AE:  What is your website/contact information? 
    JB:  My online gallery is

    Joan's work is absolutely amazing.  I have one of her beautiful gourds - "Charmed Butterfly" - in my kitchen and she makes me smile every time I enter my kitchen.  Please be sure to check out Joan's online gallery.  You won't be disappointed.  :-)

    Peace & Love,

    River Roots Recap

    So this past Friday evening, I had the pleasure of being able to vend at the River Roots Emerging Arts Showcase.  When I first stepped into the University Center, I was in awe of all of the lovely work already present.  Minute by minute, moment by moment, as more artists brought in their handiwork, the room just continued to transform.  Beautiful paintings, photographs, handpainted gourds, carvings, jewelry.  Simply amazing.  And really, from beginning to end, the whole night was filled with such amazing talent from the performing artists as well.  All the singers of all ages sounded professional and you were drawn in by every word and beat of the drum during the storytelling.  A true art scene.

     This vendor traded one of her butterfly gourds for my beanie/neckwarmer sets for her son and a photographic bookmark.  :-)

    I was able to share a space beside some vendors I met during my December vending event, which was lovely.  Such great company and I couldn't resist buying two of her limoncello cookies and chocolate brownie bites.  My mom and I will definitely share those.

    My vending goal is to still sale those items that I have made previously as well as add new items that are a part of my new style.  After networking with fellow crafters and listening to what customers like I think I will also use vending as an opportunity to sale items that I might not necessarily put in my shop.  Every crowd is different but I always like to get feedback so I know how to better market myself and what I make.

    One of the highlights of Friday night was getting a chance to meet Jessica, who reigns all the way from China and had only been here for 4 days!  Such an amazing sweet spirit.  :-)

    Don't you just love that bag!

    Another highlight of Friday night was getting an invitation from an arts council member to participate in a street festival next month.  A lot of the customers and vendors say they will also be there and will look for us (my vending neighbors and myself).  I have a lot of ideas now that I believe will help me along the vending way.  But one thing I know for sure...I've got to get more organized to do this kind of work!

    Happy Crafting,

    Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

    As soon as I got back connected online after the "no-computer" stint, I found out that I was the winner of a Vatika giveaway!  I do love some Vatika oil.  I'll be patient because this prize will be hailing from the UK.  :-)

    Thank you, A Bountiful Thing.

    And I had such a blast at the River Roots Emerging Arts Showcase tonight.  Of course I will fill you in on everything (just not tonight)!

    Happy Friday and Have a Great Weekend!

    Shimmy Shimmy Infinity Scarf {Tutorial}

    One of the items I've been wanting to make for a while is a sewn infinity scarf.  Some time ago, I came across DIY Raven's video tutorial on how she makes her circle scarves.

    If you've been reading my blog for a while, you're well aware of my fabric stash.  So, in an effort to destash, I thought this scarf project was perfect.  Now I will admit that I often browse the remnant sections of the fabric departments just in case I find a cool piece of fabric.  And I think I did when I came across exactly one yard of  this bright pink sequined material.  I will admit that sewing on stretchy, sequined material did pose a challege at first, but an adjustment in tension and an occasion wiping down of the appropriate needle to remove the gluey gunk that tends to build up on it solved my problems.  I am quite pleased with this project and will be taking it with me to the arts show.

    I would be tempted to keep this scarf for myself, but even though I have a heart for the color pink, this shade was a bit too much for me to wear (IMO), but I love to look at it.  :-)  I hope it finds a happy home.

    I can see more of these scarves and variations of these scarves in  my future.  Thanks, Raven!

    Wanna see the tutorial?  Look below!

    Wanna check out Raven's blog?  Find it here at  :-)

    Linked to:

    Enjoy and Happy Crafting,

    Notecards in Action!

    Spring is technically around the corner even though the reality is that spring has definitely already sprung!  Last Easter my mom was given a beautiful Easter Lily.  During that time, I was staying with my parents while I recuperated and so as soon as I was able to get a hold of my camera, I made sure to capture this beautiful flower before it died.  I call this image, "He is Risen."

    Originally I had one or two larger prints of this image dry-mounted for a photography competition but now those prints reside in my home.  Finally I decided that I liked the image so much that I would print 4"x6" prints to make notecards out of.  And so that's what I did.  (See the tutorial for tips.)

    These "He is Risen" prints are mounted on the front of acid-free black cardstock notecards.  In the inside, I have adhered white cardstock so that a special pen wouldn't have to be used to be able to write on black paper.  On the back you will find my label and copyright information.  On the envelopes, I also adhered shipping labels that have decorative cut-out edges on each corner.

    I love black and white images and to-date this one is by far my favorite, in terms of still life objects.  I have 10 of these card/envelope sets made and they are ready for the upcoming arts showcase in March.  Whatever doesn't sell there will go in my Etsy shop just in time for Easter.  :-)

    In addition to the "He is Risen" cards, I'm also taking 3 other sets of notecards to the upcoming show.  Two of those sets are florals and one is of the frozen pods.  I had these cards printed some time earlier in the year and now I'm finally debuting them. 

    The "He is Risen" cards will be sold individually, but these other cards will be sold individually or in a set of 8.  I will allow customers to mix and match the ones they want.

    Happy Crafting,

    How to Create Photo Notecards {Tutorial}


    I've been promising myself to make notecards out of my photographs for a long while now.  The thing is, it's been really difficult to find a (notecards) printer that I love with a price that I could afford.  When I say afford, I mean that if the price I pay the printer is the price I wanted to sell the cards for, then that's not affordable.  Or if I have to order 300 of the same print to get the price I want to pay, then that's a no-win situation too.  So, needless to say, I haven't printed many cards.

    My present-day alternative has been to make my own cards out of professional prints instead.

    Disclaimer:  I am not a scrapbooker or stamper or die-hard papercrafter; just a girl who will try a new craftform as a means to an end.  lol

    Make sure all materials are acid-free.
    • cardstock cards and envelopes
    • double-sided scrapbooking tape*
    • cardstock (for inside if the card is too dark to write on)
    • photographs (feel free to splurge a little; I always choose a professional printer and opt for special paper and coatings depending on the photograph.  For this one, I also had the photographs printed with a white border.)
    * I almost used a spray adhesive, but I got nervous after I read all the cautions and such.  Call me chicken, 'eh.

    This is basically what I did:

    • Placed double-sided tape on the back of the photographs.
    • Removed the top layer of the paper covering the tape to expose the adhesive, then carefully placed the photographs on the front cover of the notecard.  No margin for error here - this tape is super permanent!
    • Adhered cardstock on the inside of the notecard, leaving a 1/2" margin on each side.  Yep, my cards are black and if I didn't do this step, you'd have to use a special metallic pen to show your writing.  (Guess what?  I un-chickened out and used the spray adhesive for adhering this cardstock on the inside.  I just turned my ceiling fans on.) 
    • Adhered my clear label on the back of the cards.  Gotta keep my credits you know.  :-)

    Voila!  Now if I were that scrapbooker, stamper, or die-hard papercrafter, I would embellish the mess out of these cards, but I wanted to keep it pretty simple.

    These are my "He is Risen" notecards.  I'm definitely taking these to my next vending event and I'm thinking of making more to put in my shop online.  Now I better get a jump start on my florals.  I've got lots more white notecards to use and many pretty prints.  :-)

    Linked to:

    Happy Crafting,

    On the Horizon

    If you've noticed, my Etsy shop has remained empty for quite some time - mostly because I have had my heart and mind on other crafty pursuits that haven't come into fruition yet and partly because I've set my eyes on vending this year and using Etsy as a true back-up online shop, instead of my main way to sell handmade items.
    Recently, I was accepted to vend at the River Roots Emerging Arts Showcase, sponsored by the River Roots Arts Guild.  The mission of the Arts Guild is to "support, expose, and illuminate the arts in our town, county, state, and universe through various venues for economic development, education, enjoyment and healing."  I'm just so excited to be able to take part in this first-time event and to be surrounded by other local artists as well as learn more about the Lumbee Indian culture through participation in this event.

    I've been working to have some new items for my display and the showcase deadline is fast approaching, so your well-wishes are greatly appreciated.  Upcoming posts will highlight some of the handmade items I will bring.

    Until then,