Thursday, March 28, 2013

meanwhile, in the garden...

a rare sight in Seattle in March: sunny days. We've actually had sunshine the last three days running; I honestly don't remember ever having such weather during spring break at the university (not in the last five years of my PhD or during my undergraduate years). What a treat! Sure, I have to be inside, working - but I've been opening the windows and doors (though it's a bit chilly) and letting the fresh air in.

The deck is filling up with tiny pots in which I've transplanted onion seedlings and rhubarb starts, and sown Shirley poppies (they've come up already; I thinned the seedlings today), sunflowers ("mammoth"-something or "giant"-something, I can't recall at the moment...) and calendula. I have such a hankering to be outside these days, and once again, I really really really want to install yet another vegetable bed. There's something about growing your own produce - once you get going, just want to keep going. And every year, by midsummer, I'm bored because there's no space left to fill with plants. (That's when the shovel comes out and we lose a few more square inches of grass! )

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the big and the small

I noticed last week at the grocery store that all the specialty citrus fruits are coming in: more meyer lemons, sweet limes, and about five different kinds of grapefruits, as many tangelos, at least a half dozen oranges - but no sour Seville oranges! Dagnabbit! So, I decided to stop waiting around for Seville oranges and try some new marmalade experiments this year (which isn't to say I won't make another batch if the Sevilles ever do come in).
So I've got a couple experiments planned. This is the first: a pummelo-kumquat marmalade. Massive mellow grapefruit meets tart tiny kumquat. I used this recipe for the pummelo part of things, but added cut-up kumquats to the pummelo fruit, and cooked the marmalade until it reached about 210 degrees Fahrenheit (much longer than 20 minutes - and be careful! It needs frequent stirring). The colour darkened beautifully during that last 30 minutes or so of cooking, down to this rosy-orange hue. It's quite nice. This marmalade recipe came out chunkier, more like a relish - none ofthe orange jelly surrounding the bits of fruit that you get with Martha Stewart's recipe (that I used last year). For my next experiment, I'm going back to Martha's recipe, and bringing an herb into the mix.
More on that in a day or two; I have a rather time-consuming dinner planned for today (lamb meatballs with tomato-bean ragout and green garlic), but I'm hoping to have time to get a fresh batch of marmalade started and soaking overnight tonight, if I have time. I also have two more bags of meyer lemons to put up!
Sure is lovely to see some sunshine around here; while half the country is covered in snow, it actually feels like spring here in Seattle.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

tiny petals

Oh, baby clothes. They kill me. Never really wanted children of my own, but I do SO LOVE the exquisite tiny clothes. Always have. When I was a girl, I wanted to make doll clothes. As an adult, baby clothes totally feed that same drive to indulge in the details.
One of my professors just gave birth to a baby girl, Elitsa. She's only been at our department for a year and a half, but she is so generous with her time, so down to earth, and so supportive of us doctoral students. I contributed to the collective fund for the Ph.D. baby gift, but I wanted to do something more personal. So I made this adorable romper, out of a linen and rayon blend. It buttons up the back and the criss-crossed straps are adjustable - there are buttons on the inside of the back placket and each strap has two buttonholes.
The embroidery pattern is something I saw on a beautiful Japanese baby romper. I sketched one half of it, scanned it and mirrored it in photoshop, then printed it out and traced it onto some water-soluble stabilizer and embroidered it in basic DMC floss, using colours I already had on hand.

I really really really love how this turned out. I think, sometimes, that I might be happy making gorgeous, one-of-a-kind kids' clothes forever. No. Joke.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

things are springing!

There's nothing like fresh cut flowers to add a little spring cheer around the house! I picked up these stocks, waxflowers, and the little white guys (feverfew? some kind of chamomile?) at Trader Joe's yesterday. I rounded out the little guys with some rosemary from the garden; there were even enough left over to make another bouquet in a shorter vase for our bedroom.

Monday, March 11, 2013

DIY single flame cuff

Well, it took a few days to get decent light to photograph this, but here we go! You can refer back to this post where I broke down the cost of materials. In addition to the leather, brass bracelet blank, and crystal that I bought, I needed super glue and a metal file to make this bracelet.
step one: use a metal file to soften any rough or sharp edges on your bracelet blank. Take your time; it'll be worth it to be comfortable!
step two: affix the crystal to the bracelet. I placed the crystal on the bracelet a few times to figure out where the two surfaces met. Then I removed the crystal, and ran a thin line of glue along the bracelet blank where the stone would touch it. I placed the crystal on the blank and let it stand for a few minutes (at least) to adhere. I did this project in steps; after each step, I'd set the bracelet aside for a few hours, to let everything really cure.
step three: begin the wrap! (Yes, I could have trimmed my leather down so that it was only half as wide and the end result would look more like the original, but I was a little too excited to sit still and cut my leather in half. I wanted to get started!) Set your bracelet crystal-side-down. Add a thin line/bead of superglue to the back of the stone, and gently press the leather into it. Hold for about 30 seconds, making sure you do not get any of the superglue on your skin, because it is much easier for the leather to adhere to your skin than to the stone! After about 30 seconds, you can release the pressure, but again, walk away for a few minutes (or hours) to let it cure. Only adhere one piece of leather at a time, so you can focus and not rush.
Step four: now it's time to begin wrapping around the side and top of the crystal. You'll need something to gently push the leather into the crevice between the bracelet blank and the stone. I used the back corner of my file. Put a drop of superglue in the crevice, and gently push the leather in. Keep applying gentle pressure for at least 30 seconds (longer if necessary), until it adheres and doesn't come off when you release the pressure. Do the other side and let stand to cure for a few hours.
Step five: begin to wrap over the stone. Before I put any glue on the leather, I wrapped it around the stone and used the handle of my file to press the leather into the crevice between crystal and bracelet on the other side of the stone. A few gentle presses left a little bend/mark in the leather. I applied a little bit of glue along the back side of the leather just up to this mark, and then wrapped the leather around the stone and held it in place for maybe a minute or so to adhere, then left it to cure. (In the picture above right, the piece of leather on the right shows how I left things at this step - you can see the crimp where I marked the leather for the next step, but I have only just affixed the leather across the stone. Slow and easy wins the race here.
Step six: tuck the leather into the crevice at the base of the stone, just as you did in step four. in the picture above right, the piece of leather on the left shows how this looks. Work only one piece of leather at a time and let the bracelet rest to cure for several hours.
 Step seven: flip the bracelet over. Run a line of glue across the back of the bracelet. Lay your leather over this line, crossing diagonally over the first wrap. Press to secure, then let stand to dry.
Keep repeating steps 4-7 until you are satisfied.When you are done, affix leather to the underside of the crystal and snip off any remainder.

 voila! It's done! Pennies on the dollar - and so chic!

Saturday, March 9, 2013


finished that bracelet today! I'll edit the photos and post the results (and a tutorial) tomorrow; for now, I'm too tired to do much more than post these snippets from the garden (details below), where I put in a good three hours or so today, sowing carrots and purslane, cilantro and parsley, poppies, potatoes and sunflowers for this spring and summer.

Top left: The rapini I sowed in February is already coming up! I love seeing those little lines of green appear - like magic! - every year. I've got spinach and mesclun greens coming up from seed, too. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for signs of the mache and frisee to start following suit.
Top middle: chives!
Top right: the first of three rhubarbs starts to stir it sleepy head!

Bottom left: I finally cleared the last of the four veggie beds of its winter bed of straw. I put carrots and purslane in around the few remaining kale and broccoli plants.
Bottom middle: each mound houses a rose finn apple fingerling potato start
Bottom right: I'm experimenting with the vertical method of growing potatoes this year, for the first time. French fingerlings in these wire cages, in a mix of soil and partially-composted garden refuse. We'll see how it works - and how high I can get them to grow!

Alright. Bracelet tomorrow! I've got to go soak my aching back.