Friday, December 28, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
In January, my maternal grandmother turns 90. Ninety. Isn't that amazing? What an accomplishment. Unbeknownst to her (good thing she's not on the internet - er, that I know of!), a large contingent of us are gathering together on the 29th to surprise her and celebrate together. I'm bringing a couple of fruitcakes that I made and aged this year (my first attempt at following in my grandfather's footsteps), and this pin.
How my grandfather ended up living and gardening in New Mexico while my grandmother stayed in Oregon with us is a long story. Suffice to say, it happened. In the 1990s, my grandmother went down to visit him a number of times, and when she returned, she would always have a new set of beaded earrings or a new beaded necklace or something. I remember how much she loved this set of beaded earrings with garnets (her birthstone) in them. So, to honour her 90th birthday, I decided to make her a new beaded piece with that same Southwest feel. I couldn't find a good garnet cabochon, as I was limited (by time) to searching shops in town instead of hunting on the internet. This turquoise seemed a good substitute. The black seed beads are glass, but all the other beads are semi-precious stone: carnelian (orange), coral (pink and red), garnet (dark red - a bit hard to make out, but they lie inside the ring of pink coral) and amazonite (pale blue). I do hope she likes it; it was really fun to do some sewn beadwork and peyote work again - it's been so long, I'd forgotten how soothing and satisfying this work is to do.
In fact, it inspired another beaded present, that I'll have to show you once I finish getting the backing on! More to come! Happy holidays, everyone!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Cass says it looks like the logo for some kind of superhero organization ... from the 70s. But he's down with that.
Friday, December 21, 2012
in one of the tests my friend underwent earlier this year, her full body scan "lit up like a star" at her throat, where she'd developed a malignant tumour on her thyroid. Pretty, but deadly. She had mentioned she'd like something starry to commemorate her survival, but it took me a long time to figure out what to make. I sent a trio of chokers earlier this year, to cover the scar while she gets used to it (I've always thought scars were interesting; they're like writing on the pages of our bodies - they tell a story of survival and endurance), and this is going to her for yuletide, for when she no longer feels she needs to cover it up. Made of faceted onyx and vintage West German glass beads, it features faceted solar quartz stones, a silver donut, and a large dyed agate stone with a fringe of amythests (with starry bead caps) and silvery star charms. A celebration of life, and the memory of that excised fatal star.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
My husband observed that this is a very "swords into ploughshares" aesthetic. I think I like it even more since he said that. I think I like these etched casings even more than the standard smooth ones.
more projects on the way - a bit late this year, but it's been a really hectic quarter. I'm juggling several projects right now, trading off nights stitching, beading, hammering metal. All my yule presents will be late this year - oh well! It's the love that counts, right?
Thursday, November 15, 2012
In September, my mother-in-law gave my husband a bag of HUGE cucumbers to give to me. They were a litle overblown, but I figured they'd make lovely pickles. Honestly, I'm not sure what recipe I used anymore. I think I modified it from this one. All I know is there's no dill seed in here. I packed the fresh cucumber slices with 1 dried chile de arbol, one or two whole cloves of garlic (peeled) and a few sprigs of dill. And then I poured vinegar over it. I must have put salt in the vinegar, too, though - right? Ugh, so hard to remember. I wish I did, though - I like to keep track of these things.
I did an initial batch with my first kilner jars, one of which didn't seal. I popped it in the fridge and started snacking on pickle slices after a few weeks. These are REALLY good. Like New-York-deli-good!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
unbelievable! Last week, I turned our final tomato harvest (left) into four jars of sauce (right). This has been perhaps the best growing season so far. Such a bountiful year; I feel so grateful to these little plants that kept on truckin' long past the autumn equinox - and to the sun for lingering so late.
More projects in the works ... trying to finish my halloween costume before Wednesday - I think I can make it, but I'm being fussy about things like binding the seams of my dress. I've also begun some holiday preparations that I can't wait to share - more soon!
Friday, September 21, 2012
my first ever batch of tomato jam! We're back to normal Seattle skies today - grey, misting - so the colour in this photo is a little softer than in real life. This turned a beautiful, rich tomato red. I'm making a second batch now, with my green zebra tomatoes - I didn't want to muddy the colours by mixing the two together. So, perhaps another post later today with a photo of the green!
I used David Leibowitz's recipe on epicurious. Boy is it good! It's thick and sticky, more like a tomato caramel than a jam - and definitely meant for dessert. While the 2 pounds of tomatoes only made 3 little four-ounce jars of tomato jam, that's okay. It'd be easy to make any time of year using store-bought tomatoes, too. I think I'll devote one jar to a dinner party and pair it with the foie gras we brought back from L'isle St. Louis in Paris, on toasts - the tomato jam has a perfect sweet-piquant flavour and could easily stand in for the traditional gelee atop the foie. I think this would also be amazing paired with strong, sharp cheeses on a cracker: Oregon Smokey Blue, or a fresh chevre, an aged cheddar or maybe even a salty aged gouda. It would definitely stand up to double gloucester or cotswold. I also think it could be warmed and drizzled over a creme fraiche ice cream - not that I could eat it, but I bet it'd make a beautiful and unique dessert.
This has been a real eye-opener for me; I'd never tried tomato jam before. I think it's going to have to enter regular rotation around here, because, wow - what an excitingly bold, yet versatile flavour!
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
I'm big on candles. I always have a few scented candles about. I love to light them early in the evening and let the daylight die down around their glow. I like to light them before dinner parties even though the house is already filled with the smell of cooking.
But candles can get expensive. Beeswax candles, in particular, can get expensive. So I'd been meaning to pour my own. It's really not difficult. I started saving the glass cups from every little scented votive I'd burned (to clean out the glass base, place it in the freezer for an hour or two; the frozen wax is pretty easy to scrape/pop out of the base). Then I bought some unfiltered beeswax (cheaper than filtered) and wicks (with bases already attached - easy!) at Zenith Supplies here in Seattle. Dandelion Botanical Company (a natural apothecary) in Ballard also sells the stuff - probably a few other shops in town do, too.
To filter beeswax, just heat it over low heat in a metal saucepan on the stove, swirling the pan to keep it from darkening as it all melts down. Strain through pantyhose, and it's ready to go! Yes, the pan you use and whatever you strain the melted wax into should probably be vessels that are devoted to "beeswax usage only." I just went to Goodwill to find a pan, a metal bowl, and a pyrex glass measuring cup (the pour spout means I don't make a mess when trying to pour melted wax) to use. I added a few drops of bergamot essential oil to the melted wax to make a scented candle, but apparently it was not enough oil because these don't smell like anything but beeswax! Next time, I'll be a little more daring.
Affix wicking to a metal base if you haven't bought pre-assembled wicks (like lazy me), then tack metal base to the bottom of the candleholder. Pour wax, holding wick straight (you could wrap it around a pencil set across the top of the glass base. My wicks are all 6" long and needed to be trimmed, but the store was out of 4" wicks when I went to buy supplies and I figure these long wicks mean I can make bigger candles if I want. I made these three votives with about $8 of wax. Considering that the votives that were in these originally (granted, yes, I was paying for special scents) EACH cost more than that, I'm saving quite a bit of money here.
You could also buy a mold and build your own pillar candles - then you'll really enjoy the savings!
It's not going to absolutely end my scented candle purchases, but I do love the honey-scent of beeswax candles, so this is a great way to be able to enjoy candles whenever I want without having to worry quite so much about the cost.
Friday, September 7, 2012
Well, the damage done, I still had to use up those apples (destroy the evidence!). About a third of them were useless, actually - totally brown through and squishy when I cut into them. I salvaged all the good bits, threw in some wild crabapples and some heritage crabs (Dolgo, I believe) and made my first-ever batch of apple butter. I used the recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation since it was my first time, though I reduced the sugar and played around with the spices. It took me two days to really slow-cook it down to the proper consistency, and I had to put it into little jars to have enough to go around for everyone at the holidays, but it totally worked!
I opened one today to treat myself to a tasty early-autumn breakfast of a toasted English muffin with apple butter. Perfection!
(ps. sorry it's been so quiet around here. I've got some things in the works, but they're taking a lot of time - more good stuff a'brewing to show you soon!)
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I found my herbs and flowers at Dandelion Botanical Company in Ballard (one of my favorite shops; it reminds me of my hippie hometown! I get so nostalgic shopping there!) and the cheap vodka we had on hand was given to us by a friend who is in the liquor business. So, all in all, I paid about $5 (plus maybe $15 toward a new bottle of vodka?). This is a really great bargain when you compare it to retail: the only licorice bitters I've seen around town are made by Bob's (and it was Bob's product which inspired me to try making my own), which cost around $30 for just over 3 ounces. I got about 10-12 ounces for $20 (and that's being generous about the cost of the vodka).
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Here in the Seattle area, salal is everywhere. It's in planting strips, in gardens, growing alongside parking lots and playgrounds and in the parks and woods.
Something I've learned about picking salal: wear rubber gloves (not the kind that are covered in powdered latex). Why? Well, for two reasons. For one thing, as the berries ripen, it becomes difficult to pick them neatly from their stems. Often times, the skin slips off, leaving a rather gross and slippery-slimy berry center mashed all over your fingers. (This is also why I make jelly instead of jam: any remaining stems are filtered out, along with many of the seeds!) The second reason? Well, the berries have a kind of sticky coating on them. After a while, this gunk builds up on your fingertips. After our first year picking salal, I had to scrub my fingers with pumice until they were raw to get the tacky residue off.
So - gloves! Not necessary, but recommended!
As far as process goes, I rinse the berries well, then put them in a pot with enough water to cover by 1-2 inches. I bring the berries and water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the berries are completely broken down. It can take an hour or two. I leave the lid off the pan and add more water as necessary - so that when I strain my berries, I don't end up with an excess of water in the mix, which would result in a weak-flavoured jelly. While it's cooking, put a small plate or saucer in the freezer for testing your jam later.
When the berries have broken down run them through a food mill. Save the lees and place those on four layers of cheesecloth layered over a fine metal strainer set over a dish to drain. As you gather up the corners of your cheesecloth and wring the mass of the lees tightly, the pressure will force more juice out of the mass than the food mill can get out alone. However, the cheesecloth will keep all the tiny seeds from ending up in your jelly. Combine the juice/puree that resulted from the cheesecloth squeeze and the food mill: this is the base of your jelly. Measure the juice/puree as your pour it back into your cooking pot.
Bring your fruit juice/puree back to a simmer and simmer awhile if the flavour is thin. It probably won't be. Start adding sugar. As a good rule of thumb, I measure the juice/puree before I return it to the pot, and I use the recommended amout of sugar for that much juice/puree according to the instructions on my jar of low-sugar pectin.But I like my jam tart, so I don't add all of the sugar, and I always reserve one cup that I am going to mix the pectin into before adding to the jam.
So. Start sweetening. If you're like me and you like a tart jam (in other words, you're not going to add the full recommended amount of sugar), add 1/2 cup at a time until the flavour is almost where you want it. Stop before it's attained the sweetness you want, when it seems like it is almost as sweet as you'd like - and again, remember that this is a wild berry. There is a tannic earthiness that grounds the finish of what might otherwise be described as a blueberry-and-mint flavour. (It's quite good. Our favorite jam from last year, definitely.) Now is the time to add a bit of fresh lemon juice if you like (I like it with salal, just as I do with huckleberries and blueberries) and taste again. This also reduces the ph of the jelly, making it even safer for home canning.
Measure out your pectin (again, I start with the amount recommended on the box of pectin - about 1 1/2 Tablespoons per 2 cups of juice/puree) and mix the pectin into another 1/2 to 1 cup sugar. Add the pectin/sugar mix to the fruit mixture and stir until dissolved.
Once the pectin is in the mix, it's time to bring the jelly to a boil. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer or a low boil, and pull your saucer or plate out of the freezer. Dribble a couple drops of the hot jelly mix onto the cold plate and wait 30 seconds. Push at the jelly blob with your fingers. If it wipes smooth, keep cooking and try again in a few minutes (and if it's not setting up any better at that point, consider adding more pectin!). If the jelly blob wrinkles over the top, it is ready.
Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and seal according to the manufacturer's instructions for the particular jars you are using. I process mine for 10 minutes, using the boiling water method. More information on the boiling water method and a chart for timing your processing according to altitude can be found here, at the National Center for Food Preservation.
Enjoy! We picked a lot more salal this year, since we did not have enough jars to give to everyone last year. I hope our friends and family are excited to try this wild flavour!
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Monday, August 6, 2012
So, today I am a sleep-deprived zombie, but at least the weather is cooler. And don't get me wrong - I know the rest of the nation has it much, much worse. And the garden loves it, and it was nice to go canoeing on Lake Washington on Sunday. Plus, during our heat-induced lethargy on Saturday evening, I sat down and made lavender wands while Cass put on The Rocketeer. Remember that movie? It was kind of cute to watch it again.
These wands are really easy to make - especially the second, third, fourth time through. Last year I included a link to Dharma Trading Co.'s instructions for making these - here they are again. Even though my lavender was already open (heck, some of the flowers were even starting to fade!), I decided to go ahead and make these anyway. I used some silk cord from the bead store and cinched these really tight around the open buds. As I crushed the flowers inside the wand, tons of lavender oil began to saturate the silk cords. They smell amazing.
I also have some lavender stems drying by the back door again; I'll make sachets in a few more weeks. I think both the wands and the sachets make lovely gifts. Oh, that was it! I was going to say "practical perfume" or something like that, for the title - because these are great to tuck into your drawers or hang in your closet as they not only perfume your clothes, they also keep insects (like moths) away from your nice things!
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Ah, summer. You are the magic fairyland where childhood lives forever.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
This is the first batch of nasturtium capers, and I've got a bowl of nasturtium pods in the fridge getting ready for the next one. I want to wait a few days and pick over the nasturtiums again and get another big jar going.
I seriously love these. They may be "poor man's capers," but I love them way more than the real deal! Find my post from last year, and a link to the recipe, here.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
All I did here was shell peas (I had maybe 1.5 - 2 cups shelled), saute over medium heat in 1-2 Tbl. of butter, with salt and pepper to taste. I added a couple generous Tbl. of chopped marjoram (also from the garden) to give it a bit of depth and complexity, and as the peas started to cook through and soften, I smashed some of them with a fork. Just as the colour was turning from bright green to a slightly more muted/olive tone, I poured in maybe a quarter to a half-cup of half & half. I continued to saute until the liquid was almost entirely cooked off, then scooped the peas and sauce into a bowl, and we spooned it onto baguette slices.
Seriously, this was SO good! If you've still got peas (though I can't imagine anyone has still got peas coming on - suffice to say, the PacNW is still struggling to get up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoon; I feel for all of you sweltering in 100-degree-heat!), or if you will have another round coming in the autumn, give this a go. Simple and delicious!
Monday, July 23, 2012
This woman is a survivor.
Friday, July 20, 2012
The top of the necklace is just a brass plate, shaped to fit the amythest crystal and adhered with an epoxy made by gorilla glue. A brass chain (Nallik's is gold-plated) and simple clasp finish off the look. I used a 24" long chain for mine.
Simple, but so pretty! I need to make more of these for my girlfriends. =)
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
it's been a bit quiet around here, I know. After the school year ended, we threw our annual midsommar party (pictures forthcoming when the friend who took them posts me ... it might be a while), and then we packed our things and left for Europe!
I was at a conference in Paris giving a paper on McQueen at the Sorbonne last week, as part of a panel on fashion and exoticism. The rest of the time, my husband and I walked around Paris a lot. We also made it up to Giverny - this is the church near Claude Monet's home where he is buried. Rue Claude Monet is truly beautiful - so many flowers, just leading up to his house. I definitely appreciate hollyhocks in a new way now, and plan to plant an even wilder, more impressionistic garden next year.
We spent this week in Granada, Spain, and return on Friday. I've got some lovely new necklaces to show you that I had almost finished when we left. I hear it's warm in Seattle - nowhere near as warm as southern Spain, but then again, in Seattle, you have humidity. So, between the heat and the jet-lag, I think Saturday will be a perfect day to finish those necklaces and post you some pictures. Maybe even some pictures from our trip?
I've also started a big alabama chanin project: a beaded reverse-appliqued dress. I'm making it out of wool jersey (lined with a softer rayon jersey) for winter. I can post pictures of the progress, but this one's going to take a while to finish. More on that in the months to come.
hope your summer's off to a fantastic start! Things will be picking up here with the usual berrying and etc. once I'm back!
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I have to say, it was a LOT harder to put together than I'd thought. Layering rhinestones in over brass chains and trying to link them all together is a major pain in the butt. I understand now why it is almost $500; I have a lot of experience with basic wire work and this required patience and a lot of time and fiddling. But still, I love the results.
If you're thinking about making one yourself, let me know if you want some of my leftover black gimp trim. I can send you the 6" or so that you'll need ... because I really don't think I'll be making these for holiday gifts this year. Nope, this is me spoiling myself.
Friday, June 8, 2012
A friend-of-a-friend runs this great food preservation blog called Food in Jars and with the release of a new book and my friend's facebook posts, it caught my eye. I've been really excited to try out some of her techniques, including a simple process for culturing your own yogurt! This batched turned out a bit runny, more like Swedish yogurt or kefir; I wonder if it's different using 1% or skim instead of whole-fat milk? Or if goat milk doesn't perform like cow's milk? I'm going to try again, and increase the temp slightly on the warming phase AND in the cooler for the 8 hours of culturing. Still, this was good! I was a little worried I'd make myself sick or something - much like the first time I tried jams I'd canned and put up, as a preteen - but all seems to be well! I think if I can get the formula down, I'll just make my own yogurt from here on out; it's a much cheaper way to get into goat and sheep yogurts, which are easier for me to eat, as they have much less lactose. Plus, you know, it's just plain cool to do.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
can you believe it's that time again already? I can't. I really can't. We had a warmer spring this year (a nice spate of several weeks of warm, actually - which doesn't sound like much for an entire spring, but for Seattle, it's quite good) and the plants got started earlier. Cass and I were up in the mountains with our in-laws on Sunday and we harvested for hours in the woods. I got 11 jars sealed and one jar open, in the fridge (so I can check the consistency - it does seem to be setting up well, a little soft, but okay) and play around with it. I feel like this would be absolutely beautiful glazing a pork roast or something. Or maybe worked into a jam cake? Midsommar is coming, after all, and the salmonberry is the closest U.S. relative to the Scandinavian cloudberry - maybe I'll make a salmonberry cake this year!
Anyway, looks like it's going to be an amazing summer! I just hope the thimbleberries are ripe *before* we go. We've found loads of good picking spots lately, and they are my favorite of all the berries. I would absolutely love to pack up some tiny jars of thimbleberry jam this year!
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
I know, I know; in so many parts of this country, it is already warmer than it'll be here in August. Ah, well. While there are still pears at the store, this is a great salad to serve for dinner when we haven't quite made it to the "salad days" of summer yet. A bit of feta, some sharp radicchio, toasted walnuts and a bit of grain means that this salad has some body and heft! In fact, I think it's a winter salad, as all of the ingredients are ripe during the coldest months of the year; but it transitions nicely to late May, too - especially if it is a grey and slightly moody day where you are, too =)
How was your holiday weekend? I put a big shell out on our coffee table. That might seem like a strange thing to do over Memorial Day weekend, but it is a shell that my grandfather brought back from the South Pacific, where he was stationed during WWII. I remember asking, years ago when he was still alive, if I could have it. Strange request, perhaps, but I like that I remember my grandfather with a shell.
Other than that, not much happened here over the weekend. I was so tired the whole weekend - what's up with that? I took a few naps (against my own will), fell asleep on Cassidy, slept in late. Got a little garden work done, and we went for a very short walk, but that was about it. I'm actually looking forward to riding my bike to Czech table (a Czech language meetup) today, as I think I am overdue for some real physical activity for a change!
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
So, the net result of a lot of medieval dance music + a lush garden (extra green from all that rain!) = I came home, lit a half dozen candles, and started creating.
I give you: peach tart with almond paste and dandelion jelly glaze. The dandelion jelly was a sweet gift from friends who came to our Swedish midsommar party last year; this is a perfect use! And in case you are wondering, the green and white bits are bartlett pear. =)
I have another little-person dress to show you, and at least one picture from my mother's birthday care package. It's been a busy time lately, with my own writing and grading/editing with my students. Sorry to have been absent - but more posts coming in the next few days as I resurface, once again, from the whirlwind that is academia.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
We gathered a small basket of them and I called our foodie friend to "come play!" in the kitchen with us. We threw together a pot of sorrel vichyssoise (a creamy potato-based soup, with lemony sorrel from our garden) so we'd have some real dinner, and got to work. Recipes for traditional native American fried squash blossoms abound, but we found that mix a bit too thin. We ended up making a lot more batter than we needed, as we figured out the proportions. If you'd like to try this, here's the mix:
whisk together 1 egg yolk with 1/4 tsp baking soda until smooth. Add 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1.5 c. flour and 1/3 c. sugar (or use a bit more maple syrup and a bit more flour).
Heat a few inches of oil in a deep saute pan. Dip maple blossoms into the batter. It's quite thick, so you need to use your hands to kind of pick up the batter and pull some of it over the top of the blossom (the goal is not to break the blossoms off the stems). Once you have it coated, ease it into hot oil, and use tongs to turn it every 30 seconds or so, until golden.
Set on paper towels to drain and sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
The six green beeswax tapers I snapped up on big dipper's website for a song (factory rejects - some are ever so slightly curved or off-kilter), the candle sticks and vases from goodwill, glass boboches from the hardware store (not that we needed them in the end - no drips! )
I'm still waiting for a friend, who obligingly took pictures of each of our six candlelit courses in order, to post them on facebook before I snag them and recap the dinner here. I think it went down quite well, though - I believe I'm starting to get the hang of a more polished fete! And it was lovely to have a nice big party for a leisurely meal and celebrate the new season together.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
then I realized I had just enough to eke out a diaper cover that could pair with this pretty floral-print that I had purchased to make a little dress out of.
I think this is my favorite so far. I wonder if the mother-to-be will like it? Is it too traditional a design? Is the palette too muted? Well. Fingers crossed.
Still. I always wanted to have friends for whom I could sew these little dresses and pants and things (though I have never wanted children of my own). I have a feeling that I'm going to have more opportunities to indulge these whims in the next few years than I ever dreamed of.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Also, I bought a child's cape pattern. Who wants a Red Riding Hood outfit made from quality fabrics that can actually be worn on a cool autumn day - for trips to grandmother's house, perhaps? =)