Friday, December 21, 2007
Our local beach has some wickedly good beachcombing some days. When the tides get really exaggerated for a while, low tide will frequently drop to 1 or 2 feet below sea level. The trick is to get a very low tide occurring during the daylight hours, and then you're all set. I've found a couple of complete clam shells while I've been here, which has been terribly exciting.
I've been wanting to replace the drying, crackly animal's natural/muscular hinge with something more permanently flexible on dry land. This is my first experiment, so it remains to be seen how well it holds up: I made the hinge from some heavy copper wire (salvaged from a mirror that it framed) and used superglue to attach it. This one is a gift for a special friend that appreciates found objects and this kind of recycling/experimentation with nature. Fingers crossed that she likes it! (and that it holds up okay!)
I also decided to line the interior with purple velvet, so now it is like a pretty cushioned box:
... oh, and what's this inside? well, that's something for next time ...
We leave tomorrow morning, on a 6:30 am flight to LAX. After a 3 hour stay at the LAX Grand Airport Waiting Area, we hop on Mexicana Air and we're off! I couldn't sort out why my tummy was upset this morning. True, our hosts KEPT FILLING my little cup with Shoju last night - jeez, guys, I'm a lightweight - and true I ate some new things (kimchi, anyone?), but it didn't seem right.
After dropping off three packages this am (one of which included this guy. Perhaps I'll get a better, full-body shot of him in his new home when he arrives. Does anyone get the joke?), I think I've sorted it out: this is kind of an intense break. Money's tight, but I'm flying up to Seattle in January, that's got me watching my budget very closely. I applied to a program that I very VERY much want to get into, and I'm terribly nervous (sent my application off today). I'm flying to Mexico (big excitement, but also worried about, for example, hiking in the jungle on my awful old beat-up knees). And finally, I have exams when I get back, so I will have to study while abroad and of course, I always get terribly worked up about exams. I also feel awful about leaving the kitty for so long. We've never left her this long before. We're wracked with guilt.
I took a deep breath and told myself I had to let go of some of these worries and I feel a little better. Still, there's a lot to do today before we're ready to go (the house is still messy and we haven't packed a thing!) so I'd better run. Apparently, there's an internet cafe down the street, so I am writing a couple more surprise-ruining posts (don't look, E!) now that I can just post quickly tomorrow morning and then perhaps from Mexico.
take care, everyone! Have a safe and happy holiday and we'll be back in the new year!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
So yes. here it is. My tribute to Jenny Gordy's inspiring jumpers. I bought this 100% wool navy suiting fabric for a song at fabric.com, laundered it thrice (on hot water, oh the abuse!) to shrink/full it as much as I figured it would, thereby giving me a washable wool to work with, not to mention its lovely nubby organic texture. The yoke is self-lined, but the body (as I've sensitive skin and am prone to the "itchies") is lined with soft microfiber T shirt knit in a pale celadon that nearly matches the embroidery.
So, in short, I have a comfy-cozy pull on jumper that feels like something I want to sleep in. It looks darling with flats, I think, but I chose the wool so that, with thick tights, a long-sleeved henley, and some boots, I could don it in January for teaching days.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I think it will look fabulous with some of the bright sailor/preppy styles that are popping up in stores now.
Here's how I did it (for those that might be curious):
the center of the rose is an ornament from an old dress that I bought at a garage sale to rip apart and use its components separately. It was missing some rhinestones, so I replaced them by supergluing pearls into the empty holes.
Then, I ripped apart the poinsetta and painted the petals a pale pink with darker reddish edges, using very watered-down acrylic paint. After the petals had dried, I arranged them and stitched them together, one at a time, adding the ornament at the center. I tucked many of the edges under to create a curled "rose petal" look, using a touch of superglue to affix the curled tips.
For the little flowers, I cut flower shapes out of a bit of fulled grey cashmere. I brushed both sides of the cutout with a mixture of water and tacky glue, allowing each side to dry before moving on. I then mixed some acrylic matte medium with some copper metallic pigment to make a shiny "copper paint," and polka-dotted the flowers. I stitched and gathered the cutouts to give them shape, then made a center with a brass head pin and a freshwater pearl. I put a bit of tacky glue on the front before pushing the pin through flush to the fabric, then put glue on the back and turned them all upside down to dry. I left the long ends of the brass pins sticking out the back, and covered them in superglue and stuck them in between the petals of the rose, letting it sit and dry.
For the lace, I used a bit of antique lace that I received from a friend's mother about 16 years ago. I painted it with watered-down acrylics in a deep amber yellow colour (over paper towels, so that all the excess moisture could be absorbed). When dry, I added the little bits of ivory lace, stitching them down. I then stitched the lace to the back of the flower and added the hair comb.
time consuming (many steps), but fairly simple!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Part of trying to enjoy this all-too-short and all-too-busy break has been forcibly slowing myself down and indulging in some fun little crafting for myself - accessories stuff, mostly. I have been consciously and purposefully engaged in rediscovering one of my best skills: my ability to make a thorough mess of a room. The living room is covered in neat tupperware storage boxes, their contents of beads, thread, lace, paint, glue, brushes, tools, etc. strewn everywhere. How liberating to stop cleaning and enjoy dirtying the place up for a change! And how nice to treat myself to some of my crafting.
This has been something I've wanted to do since late summer. I finally found one at Antiques Alley yesterday and snapped it up (along with these white elbow-length leather gloves!) I know, I know, I'm a terrible nerd, but this makes me laugh ridiculously, and I plan to pin it neatly to a cardigan for my first day of teaching next quarter, just to see if my students notice. The embroidery is quite small - I sturdied the back by stitching it around a nickel - so they'll have to squint.
Friday, November 30, 2007
It doesn't feel much like Christmas to me, which is making me rather sad. I suppose it's because I've been so busy with classes and being sick that I haven't really had time to think about anything else, much less get in a "mood" of any kind (other than tired or stressed!). But there's a light at the end of that tunnel and it's getting closer. I'm nearly halfway through both of my final papers, about to start diving into textual analysis, which is my favorite part because it's the easiest, it doesn't require digging through multiple texts for evidentiary support, and it's something I'm good at. So! I'm off to do some of those final bits of research and then I'd like to get through all of the textual analysis for one of the papers today.
Monday is my birthday and I have this goofy desire to hunt down a tiny tiara and war it all day. I teach on Mondays, and for some reason, I can't seem to resist making a fool of myself in front of my students.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Anyhow, we lost track of this one again, somehow we hadn't made it in more than a year when Cass rediscovered it. Holy cow it's good - warm, comforting, and yet really light. I think it'll be just the thing for the upcoming post-Turkey week. I sometimes add a second bag of spinach to the broth and skip the salad for the night.
Herb Dumplings and Spinach in Broth
1 c flour
1 1/2 Tbl minced fresh herbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 ts salt
1 1/2 tsp shortening
1/2 c. milk (or soy milk)
6 c. vegetable broth (I use Trader Joe's boxed vegetable broth)
4 c. fresh baby spinach (I use one - or two! - bags of Trader Joe's baby spinach)
combine the flour, herbs, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well. Cut in the shortening until crumbly. Add the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until mixed. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 1 minutes. Pat the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 32 pieces.
Bring the broth to a simmer in a stockpot. add the dough pieces. Cook, covered, for 10-13 minutes; do not remove lid until the dumplings are cooked through. Fold in the spinach with a heatproof rubber spatula. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
My work is done for the day, though, so let's see if I can't put a double dose out tonight. First off, some helpful links per your question, Jess: I honestly don't remember where I learned to embroider. I must have seen it in a craft book somewhere. All I know is that I learned the basic stitches a long time ago.
That said, here are two resources for getting started:
Adorn Blog has somewhat helpful images showing eight basic stitches at http://www.adornmag.com/node/14
However, the far more comprehensive (and beautifully explained) Stitch School over at Primrose Design will probably be more help. Have a look, Janet gives detailed instructions and step-by-step photos. Her website is http://primrosedesign.blogspot.com and Stitch School posts are linked in the right column.
In fact, I am currently embroidering the blue wool jumper that I made last month (shown above) with the Palestrina Stitch that I learned from Janet!
hope this helps!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
It would seem I'm a bit low on calcium. My calves are finely-tuned calcium-measuring machines, yes they are. But why am I telling you this? Well, in the delicious pursuit of pain management, I tried a new cheese and a new fruit accompaniment tonight. I highly recommend both, but it's the cheese I really want to tell you about. Now, I've had a handful of wine-cured/soaked cheeses, and I'm a huge fan of Drunken Goat, but I've never had a wine-soaked cheese actually smell and taste rather winey. Brillo de Treviso (Italy, cow's milk, on the soft side) is incredible! It smells like a very yeasty red wine (or like wine and freshly baked bread, the yeast smell is that strong). And the flavour? Smooth, yeasty, and fruity. It's like wine-and-cheese all in one bite. Holy cow, go track some down and charley-horse, begone!
In other news, I have been racking up foodie and sewing things to share with you! I'm going to spread it out over several days. I hope you won't mind, but it makes me feel better when I can post a little more regularly, and I'm so busy, it helps to rack up images to post. Anyhow, the sewing projects are partly selfless and partly selfISH sewing, which I can show you more of.
But for tonight, let's talk food. Here's a yummy salad I played around with the other day. The good news is, all of these ingredients are available at Trader Joe's!
Persimmon and Avocado Salad
1 fuyu persimmon
red and green oak lettuce (I used two small heads for a large salad)
raw pecan pieces
honey or agave nectar
1 Tbl olive oil (approx)
1/2 Tbl Champagne vinegar (trader joe's orange muscat champagne vinegar)
1/2 Tbl orange juice
salt and pepper
Cut persimmon in half. Drizzle lightly with honey (or agave nectar) and broil for about 10 minutes until slightly softened. Cut into chunks.
Meanwhile, make dressing: mix olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste together in a glass or jar with a fork. Adjust oil/vinegar balance to taste.
Slice the flesh of half an avocado into thin slices/chunks
Coarsely chop lettuce.
Toss lettuce, avocado, and persimmon chunks in a bowl. Pour 1 Tbl dressing over and toss by hand. If necessary, add more dressing to taste. Sprinkle about 1 oz of pecan pieces over the top and enjoy!
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
1.) Cassidy. I almost put a pic of him up, but I don't know if he'd want me to. This guy is my favorite person in the whole wide world. He keeps me grounded, he makes me laugh, he shows me daily that he loves me. He's a real catch, this one.
2.) My new assignment. I dare not elaborate too much, at least, not until the letters are signed and it's all official. Suffice to say, a huge weight is potentially off my shoulders for next quarter.
3.) My friends. Something I love about growing older has been building a community of the amazing, talented, intelligent, charming folks I meet. My friends are incredible people. One of them took this amazing photo last summer.
4.) My work is done for the night. I could do more, but heck. My eyes are strained. No reason to read in this dim light. Oh, plus, we need more light. Which equals lamps. Yay, we can get lamps this weekend! Required shopping!
5.)I'm going to either a.) go sew or b.) watch The Queen - do note: this will not count as eyestrain. =)
Monday, November 5, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
last weekend we had a pumpkin carving party. We had some 15 (more?) people, and 11 carved pumpkins at the end. I made a feast, we stuffed ourselves, and got to carving. I think the best part of the evening was being told, "This is so disgustingly cute, it really shouldn't be this much fun."
So there you have it. Proud to be bringing the joy back to graduate students and young professionals everywhere. That's right, people, it's time to kick back, risk looking silly, and enjoy yourselves!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I'm in the process of shopping for a Singer. My last was a New Home, and 15 years old now. We could rewire the plug, but it's been through a lot of abuse, clacks loudly and frequently gets tired (at which point, all sewing is DONE for the day, as it will just snarl thread, snap bobbins, and chew fabrics when it is out of sorts), so I think it may just be time to move on to my next relationship.
In the meantime, however, I'm still trying to work on solstice gifts, in order to bank time for that lap quilt I'm really hoping to finish on time. Here's what I did tonight: amythests knotted on cotton cord, silk ribbon ties, with a vintage silver leaf charm and some sparkly bobbles just for fun. I really like this one, the stones feel large enough to be embracing a bold/primitivist/earthy trend, and the feather is perfect for my intended recipient. I think this would be particularly lovely next spring, with a crisp white - or better, black - blouse.
Anyhow, I hope she likes it.
Friday, October 12, 2007
tonight I had planned a special dinner, an entree I last made in Seattle. I consider this dish special because - according to the NW Best Places Cookbook, from whence it is drawn - the chef who created it dreamt it up on a sunny beach in Hawaii while feeling homesick for her native British Columbia (to whence she has since returned). It's a northwest dish at heart, and tonight I made it for the first time since leaving the great wet north, feeling great sympathy for the homesick Canadian when she first came up with it.
Somehow, Santa Barbara and I are in synch tonight - the night of all nights that I cook my homage to home - as the patchy clouds this morning built up, greyed out, and broke rain upon us by evening. Rain! Even now, I hear the cars outside and the familiar wet sound of water on the pavement as they drive along. We are at the end of harvest, the time of cornucopia, the time of thanksgiving, and I am so grateful for all of you.
So tonight, I set a place for you, wishing we could all be together, feasting, keeping merry and warm against a cold, dark, and wet exterior. I poured you a lovely glass of Kenneth Volk's Negrette, all blackberry-licious and wonderful. I made you a salad of fennel and mushrooms, marinated in balsamic and garlic, and served over endive and arugula. And finally, I brought you a chicken breast coated in mustard and fresh herbs from the garden with a crunchy coating of chopped hazelnuts, swimming in a blackberry-raspberry sauce.
Berries, mushrooms, hazlenuts, red wine. On a northwestern evening, wishing we all could be there.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I'm so inspired by the great work of Lisa Congdon, that I thought it would be fun to use up some of the scraps from my coat for a project like this (plus purple velvet and grey cashmere). This was a total blast, and it was nice to work on something small for a change - I've been able to put time in over several evenings, when I'm too tired to read anymore, and it's satisfying my creative needs just fine.
I hope her future owner likes her when she turns up this holiday season! For now, we just have to keep the cat away, as Zaha is convinced this toy must be meant for her.
Monday, October 8, 2007
when you're sick, that is. Yes, I'm talking about soup. Good, old-fashioned, soup. Sunday morning witnessed bread-baking (oatmeal-bulghur, one of my favorites for its crunchy bits of bulghur, comforting oats, and fantastic crust), two stocks, and a soup from one of those stocks. Above is early in my morning - the bread rising in the background, and the mushroom stock for this week's risotto simmering away. It was just so pretty with the red onions and the fresh sage from the garden.
I do love to get up early on a Sunday morning and make stocks and bread. The stocks warm the house up (I also like to pretend that there's a need for this. Oh, I can't wait for winter, I miss my foggy mornings) so the bread can rise, and Cass always wakes up (eventually/finally) to ask, "Hey, what smells so good?" It's like a nice big house hug. And hugs of all types are nice when one is sniffly and sore-throated and head-achey and generally feeling rather pessimistic about the near future.
I had some vegetables I had to use up yesterday, so I thought I'd share an experiment that turned out delicious: potato-mustard soup. It was more like creamed mustard greens when I was done, but still - Cass and I devoured all of the small pot in one sitting.
Stock: Simmer about 8 c water with vegetables (1 red onion, peeled and cut into six wedges; two garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife; about 4-6 oz baby carrots) and herbs (I used a good 5-6 inch sprig of rosemary, two smaller sprigs of marjoram, and several small sprigs of thyme). Cook until about 4-6 c. of liquid remain. Strain out vegetables and herbs and set aside.
In same pot (sans stock), saute one shallot, chopped, and one red onion, chopped, with thyme and 2 Tbl (approx) of olive oil until onions/shallots are softened, about 5-7 min over medium heat. Return strained broth to pan and add 4 small potatoes (baby red potatoes, small yukon gold, peruvian purple, whatever you've got), chopped, to the pan. Simmer until potatoes are softened, about 20 min.
Pour soup base into blender and puree. Set aside.
Rinse soup pan and fill with water. Bring to a boil. Add one bunch mustard greens, stems removed, and boil for about 10-15 min or until a bright green (the longer you boil, the softer the flavour, but the lower the nutrients!).
Drain mustard greens and chop. Return chopped greens to pan with pureed soup base, add several good pinches (or shakes, in my case!) of crushed red pepper, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve with parmesan if your doctor hasn't put you on a 30-day no-dairy sensitivity test diet (rats). I can vouch that it's darn good without, too!
enjoy over homework, and regain energy and pep for the rest of your day!
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
In other news, I FINALLY tried out my first summer pudding. Isn't it gorgeous? Oh, and so delicious. We ate a quarter of it last night, and that was with restraint. This dessert captured my imagination in middle school when I saw a recipe in a friend's mother's magazine of Victorian living (yes, I've always been a bit attracted to fussiness). For a kid with allergies to eggs, dairy, and fat, summer pudding offers a solution to the cravings of the sweet tooth (if you don't serve it with whipped cream, of course): it is, essentially, 8 cups of barely cooked berries (just five minutes with some sugar and the juice and zest of one lemon, to get the juices of the berries going) which are layered with bread in bowl or pan, weighted, and refrigerated for 8 hours. That's really it. I could eat this all day. In fact, in the heat of high summer, I often survive on berries and water-rich vegetables during the daylight hours, as it seems to be the easiest thing on my poor stomach.
Next time, I think I'll reduce the 3/4 c. of sugar to 1/2 or even 3/8. Not that I don't love the flavour - it is, spot on, perfect and completely addictive - but I think I would feel less guilty about eating it all day long if it was a bit less sweet. I also think this would be a fantastic birthday cake for a child's party. Fewer refined sugars, and plenty sweet and fresh. I can't wait to have a slice later today.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
The Zaca fire is raging to the north, threatening homes and landmarks like Cold Spring Tavern. Some days, it snows ash and the light turns orange and the very air smells like burning. This was one of those days.
Monday, July 30, 2007
So how's this for a bicycle-delivered lunch? We have a warm roasted pear stuffed with gorgonzola and broiled to gooey-ness, alongside lamb's lettuce and baby greens dressed with a balsamic shallot vinagrette and freshly crisped bacon. And because he feared that would not be quite enough to get him through the day, in the back is a tupperware of vegan (no eggs!) yam-sage gnocchi simply dressed in some olive oil and herbs from the garden.
Now, before you get the impression that this was a lot of work, the salad is leftover from last night - I just had to rewarm the pear, toss fresh greens in leftover vinagrette, and brown some bacon. The gnocchi is from a huge batch we made about two weeks ago. We froze leftovers and then bagged them up in individual portions so that we could have instant dinner whenever we needed.
By the time I'd put it all together, I was heartily wishing I hadn't been such a pig and insisted on eating my leftover pear last night - as dessert with my pinot noir. Oh well. We'll definitely be making this salad again, especially when autumn arrives. And just for you, here's the recipe below:
Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Bacon:
Pears (1/2 pear per salad), cut in half, cores removed
1-2 Tbl. butter
Gorgonzola cheese (figure 1/2 oz - max - per salad)
Greens - arugula, lamb's lettuce, spring mix, whatever you like! (we even included some romaine last night!) - two generous handfuls per salad
Bacon, 1-2 slices per salad.
For Shallot-Balsamic Vinagrette:
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinager
1 medium shallot, minced very fine (use a food processor if you'd like)
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cut bacon into bite-sized chunks, and brown over med-low heat in a heavy saucepan, about 15-20 min. Drain on paper towels when done to remove excess oil.
While bacon is cooking, melt butter in another heavy saucepan. Add pears, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until browned, about 10-15 min. When pears are brown, place on a baking sheet or roasting pan, cut side up. Sprinkle pears with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until tender - times vary, ours only took 5-10 min.
Meanwhile, make vinagrette: whisk all ingredients together in a mason jar or tall glass until combined and thick.
When pears are tender, remove from oven. Turn on broiler. Stuff approximately 1/2 oz of gorgonzola cheese into the hole from each pear's core. Place pears under broiler until cheese is melty - approximately 2-3 min.
To serve, place greens in a large bowl. Add 1 - 2 Tbl. dressing and toss by hand to coat. Use more dressing only if needed - this will keep the salad light and the flavour of the greens will come through. Add bacon bits and toss again. Place one pear half on each plate and mound greens beside it.
this recipe only slightly adapted from Gordon Hammersley's "Bistro Cooking at Home," perhaps my all-time very most favorite cookbook ever.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Well, thought I, a reprieve! And I laid the matter to rest.
You know how the story goes: the gal who usually arranges the cakes wasn't there. No one knew it was his birthday. No cake. And Friday night was quiet, and I think he was surprised to find himself missing the usual celebration. "I think I'm starting to understand what it was like for you," he reflected - referencing my constant loneliness my first few years in Seattle, when putting myself through school left me bereft of any sort of social life.
Poor guy! So Saturday night (had to wait for the day's heat to pass), I whipped up his favorite cake. I have made this cake for his birthday something like 4 or 5 years running now, and I have to say, this is the best chocolate cake recipe I've ever found. I'm not actually very particular to cake at all - but this one, this one is the exception. This is actually a very pared-down version: just one layer, no fancy decorating. But I frosted it - per his request - with Irish Cream buttercream frosting, and sang him a happy birthday as I brought it out.
"You're the first one to sing it!" he smiled. We each had a very thin slice - then he had two more! - and dang, if it wasn't every bit as good as I remember. =)
happy, happy birthday Cassidy! I wish you many more - cakes, that is.
The Perfect Chocolate Cake
Irish Cream Buttercream (note: I found this a little TOO buttery, so I nearly doubled the Irish Cream and added extra confectioner's sugar until the consistency was right)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
experiments with self-timer
Saturday, July 14, 2007
next up: either I try and use up some eyelet (approx 1 yd), or 2 yds of striped silk or I recon a blue silk shirt. The recon may come first, as I've been putting off doing something with it for ages, and I'm trying to get through old projects first these days. I'm welcoming any suggestions re: the eyelet in particular. I know I want to do a blouse, but what? Some kind of gathered, yoked top, maybe? I was thinking if I could find some vintage crocheted lace for the yoke and line it?
Friday, July 13, 2007
after skipping a free trip to Knott's Berry Farm (as a chaperone) in order to read and paint yesterday, and getting up and painting all morning, I have accomplished the dubious: finishing this today. I honestly didn't think that I would, and I'm really pleased both that I finished, and with how it turned out. I think I learned a lot during this. I wish I could go back and do some parts over, only ... I don't want to touch it. My fingers are pretty stiff and I need a shower, as I didn't get one this morning, owing to the need to finish. I'm behind on my reading goal for the week, but oh well, can't win 'em all, can you? And seeing as it will be 10-14 days before this is ready to travel and be photographed, I have plenty of time to read while it cures.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
the interior bed - the light here is so harsh, it's hard to get a decent picture, so let me tell you: chives in the foreground are in a pot, the bed is planted with tuscan blue rosemary (3), thyme-leafed fuschia (2), begonia fuschia (4), mint (2), parade rose (1), mexican heather (2), and some cockscomb and moss rose.
my lemon verbena is floppy; it needs to be staked. Chives in a pot, and behind, the newly expanded bed: cockscombs, moss roses, and an azure-blue germander. I'm thinking of shaping these lovelies into standards, just for fun. Further back: a little glimpse of rosemary, a lot of pineapple sage, and the briefest peek of lavendar.
a final shot. Azure blue germander, moss rose, cockscomb, pineapple sage, and lavendar.