Saturday, July 16, 2016

rose tincture update

The rose tincture from earlier this summer is coming along nicely. I was disappointed with the results of the first infusion (it was more appley/rose hip flavored - the perfume of the rose blossoms didn't come through), so I've continued to infuse fresh batches of rose petals every 3-4 weeks. This is the fifth infusion and the perfume is finally coming through. I may do one more infusion before bottling, just to see if I can push it a little further. Never too much rose perfume!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

high summer

Since I'm sick with a cold, let's just look at some pretty pretty pictures I've been snapping on walks in the park lately, shall we? It's strange to think that the hottest part of the summer is still ahead of us; we had a couple weeks of hot weather sprinkled throughout the springtime and now that we've returned to a normal northwest summer (lingering clouds, a marine layer), it feels like ... okay, that was it! Time for apples and pumpkins!

And then the rugosa hedges are already setting their hips and the rowans are covered in brilliant orange berries and even the haws are coming on (but they're still very green). Which is all a bit disorienting ... are you sure it isn't autumn?  

Summers are still a strange time for me. It's only been a couple years that I've been working them, and despite the length of the days, the season does slip so rapidly through your fingers when you only have the weekends (and as exhausting as it is to learn a new job, I really only have the weekends - I am positively crashing when I come home at night).

See? Apples. Some of the apple trees on campus (somehow I never noticed before that there are apple trees on campus - how did I never notice?) are dropping their apples all over the place already. (Oh. Maybe that's why I never noticed; the apples were gone by the time the school year started.) Walking back to work after a yoga-lunch-break this week, I caught the rich, spicy tang of the decaying fruit, a scent that seemed out of step with the hot, summery sunny afternoon weather.

But I'll be sad when the spiraea fades and the fireweed has bloomed all the way up to the tip of its stalk again. These wild flushes of pink are my favorite signs of summer. Okay, autumn can wait. Let's bask a little longer in this glow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


It's been a crazy couple of weeks. My exciting new job comes with ... a real lack of coherent structure/training/orientation. It's a good thing I'm logical, methodical, and extremely driven. I'm working on training myself as quickly as I can. And then my boss suffered a serious injury on July 4th and I haven't seen her since my first day. We're mucking along as best we can, over the phone and I email her things periodically, but she can't really respond via email, but wow. There's nothing like being thrown into the deep end, eh?

Still, despite the fact that I'm completely wiped out when I get home, and though I may have a had a little moment where I almost cracked today, part of me also recognizes that I'm actually incredibly at home in this environment - I thrive in it. Oh, academia. You're so wacky.

So, sorry it's been quiet around here lately. It's been hard enough just managing to DO anything other than work, sleep, and wrap up my final freelancing projects (I've been ending all those commitments, too) that it's a miracle I documented anything. But I did. And hopefully this week, as some things start to level out for me, I'll have time to go through all those photos and share some things.

We did manage to hit the Farmer's Market a couple weeks ago, just as the tart cherries came on the market. That in itself is such a hit-or-miss, blink-and-you'll-miss-it occasion that I've actually started growing a tart cherry tree for our garden to provide us a reliable source in the future. So I did a completely normal thing and bought six pounds of tart cherries without any plan for how to use them. I spent an evening pitting them and then cooked them lightly with a bit of sugar and pectin and lemon juice to make a perfect tart cherry sauce just like my grandfather used to make - just as delightful poured over pancakes, ice cream, or baked into a pie or a tart. Of course, it's just as likely, I'll eat the entirety of every jar with a spoon, like I used to as a kid!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

So many roses

This weekend I had half the kitchen table covered in rugosa rose petals that I'd washed and set out to dry. Some of them went back into the rose tincture for a double infusion (double strength!); some of them were dried and added to the raspberry rose tea mix I'm working on; and a good number of them were pickled using this recipe from Martha Stewart, for eating on a lovely layered beet salad with yogurt and spiced brown butter.

Pickling rose petals does sound a little twee, I'll admit. But it's actually quite fast, and the results are really lovely. After cleaning your petals, you simply measure them out (gently packing them), then make a brine by gently simmering vinegar, honey, and salt and pour it over your petals. I put a resealable plastic cap on the jar and pop it in the fridge and voila! All set for the summer! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

At long last

Finally! This baby gift is finished and gifted ... only a month after the baby arrived (close enough, right?). We gave the quilt (it's Elizabeth Hartman's Fancy Fox quilt pattern) with a copy of Coralie Bickford-Smith's very pretty little book, The Fox and the Star.

I decided to quilt it in a geometric pattern of lines wrapping around a central square. It's all hand-quilted, and the binding is finished by hand, as well (with a line of trapunto machine-stitching to ensure it is durable).

I used two layers of batting to give it extra loft, extra coziness. I almost wonder if this was a mistake for a lap quilt, if now it feels more like a pad for sitting on than a blanket for wrapping around oneself. But my husband proclaims it perfectly snuggly. (Hopefully the new parents like it as much as we do!) I almost think I should make one for our bed ... but I think I need a little break from quilts for a while.

Friday, June 17, 2016


I have a new job. At the University. I'm really excited.

I have a week off first. Time.

I have a week off because I left my old job before my two weeks' notice was up because a.) they were getting pretty abusive once I gave my two weeks' notice (wow, super abusive.. SO UGLY) and b.)  a friend died on Wednesday afternoon and I realized: nothing I have left to do at this point is really that important anymore.

A friend died Wednesday afternoon. She gave birth to her second son on Saturday. She went home Sunday. She woke up sick on Wednesday. She was rushed to the hospital, pumped full of antibiotics, sent into surgery ... and died.

She was a partner at my husband's firm. She got him his job. They went to school together. She was the valedictorian of their Master's class. She introduced me to oilbar, my medium I use for paint. She was soft spoken. She was goofy. She was kind. Always kind.

So many things don't make sense right now. I just saw her two weeks ago. She was getting so big. I exclaimed over it and she joked that she was fat and shouldn't be wearing horizontal stripes anymore. (She wasn't big. She was always slim during pregnancy.) She always joked.

I didn't get to say congratulations.

I didn't know I wouldn't see her again.

None of this makes any sense.

I walked into my husband's firm Thursday morning after leaving my job and hugged the bosses. No words. I just walked up and clasped them each in turn. They sobbed. We sobbed. The firm had a morning meeting before dispersing for the day. Cass and I went to the woods. We walked in the quiet. It was the only thing we could think to do.

The community is mobilizing, organizing support for her widower and two sons. It helps; it gives structure and direction at a time when we are awash. And our own network is here for us: our friends and neighbors are going out to dinner with us, bringing us cookies, going for walks, being with us. As we get older, we get better at grieving, we learn the techniques to process and deal.

But still, there is that moment, when I wake up in the morning, and I remember. There are all the moments throughout the day when I remember. When a character on television says, "I don't understand" in response to bad news. When I see the wetness of my husband's green eyes, and the little twitch of his mouth. There are all these little moments in the day. All the hours to fill.

We sit, and wait for time to pass. For time to pass and make it better. For time to pass and help us find a way to move on, without her.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Midsommar is coming

Our annual Midsommar preparations begin: 2.5 quarts of salmonberry jam. There's a little 8-oz. jar left over tucked into the fridge for eating on toast. Delicious.

Monday, June 13, 2016

raspberry and rose

A little summer gathering, dried on a hot summer afternoon. Not done blending yet, but it's a pretty start!

Sunday, June 12, 2016


I saw these great incense burners (for cones) at a local boutique in Seattle a couple weeks ago; they were shaped like geometric prisms, made from a kind of cement, with a little triangular niche set into one side of the prism in which to tuck the cone.

What a great idea! Of course, I wanted to try my hand at making them myself - and given that the materials to make many of these cost as much as one cost to buy, well ... here we go.

It just so happens that A Merry Mishap posted a DIY to make a cement diamond, and that I pinned it some time ago because I was thrilled to try it out.

We printed out copies of the template that Jennifer linked to in her post. Instead of covering the template with tape, after trial and error, we found we preferred gluing it to E-flute and cutting it out (template goes on the outside, plain cardboard on the inside).

You simply cut it out, score on the dotted lines, and then tape it together.We mocked up the niches ourselves, covered them in tape, and taped them inside the form. (Cut the back/bottom off the template so you have a way to pour the cement into the form.) We lined heavy-bottomed short glasses with plastic wrap to protect them from spills and drips, and placed one form in each cup.

We used hydrocal to fill our forms. We placed 1 part water in a bowl and added 1.125 parts hydrocal. We stirred it evenly, then sprinkled in about 1 Tablespoon of powdered black pigment. We mixed it until it was evenly distributed, then added another 1 Tablespoon of powdered pigments and lightly stirred so that the pigment was not completely evenly mixed - in other words, to create a marbled effect. Here we are, pouring hydrocal into a form.

Jostle the cups lightly from side to side to make sure it settles evenly into the form. Let sit for at least 2 hours before testing how firm it is - if it's hard, you can peel off the mold and let it cure.

After curing, we did have to wash/scrub (using a nonabrasive scrubbing pad) to remove the fuzzy film of E-flute cardboard from the sides of the prism - and leaving a soft, papery kind of texture to the cement behind. We sanded the bottoms smooth with sandpaper, and voila!

I'm going to be giving some of these away with Blackbird's stunning incense cones for holiday gifts to a few ladies this year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

change of plans

I woke up so tired this morning. So tired.

After about a half hour - just as we were leaving, and for the umpteenth time I was yawning and saying, "I'm so tired today!" - my husband looked at me and suggested, "Why don't you just stay home?"

He had a point. I didn't have any meetings today. In fact, it's a rather quiet week for me at my day job. And I have a decent stash of personal time and vacation hours saved up.

So hey, why not?

We got coffee together and then he dropped me back at home. I pulled my PJs back on and climbed into the guest nook with a drawing pad, my cell phone, some pens, a notecard for making a list/plan for the day, my laptop, and my coffee.

I put on a foreign movie I'd started a few days ago and hunkered down in the blankets. I didn't even drink my coffee before I crashed.

I woke up 3 hours later. My coffee was cold, but I didn't care. I poked around on ebay and snapped up a couple basic summer skirts for work. (I had a great thrifted silk skirt for summer days at the office that I wore like crazy last year - until I spilled salad dressing down it and stained it. So I've been looking for replacements.)

I went downstairs and made breakfast and brought it back upstairs to bed with me - remember the fancy oatmeal recipe I was going to try out? It's really super-duper good.

Then I streamed a little trashy fantasy TV and broke out my pens and finished this border for a friend's book. It took me four hours to finish, and it felt so incredibly luxurious to just sit there in bed, drawing. Wonderful.

I squeezed in a short workout and then went out and smoothed and tamped the soil in an area of the yard that we just tilled up and enriched with compost this weekend, and planted several dozen dahlias from my MIL. I wound up having to pot up the last 17 tubers until we can prep more soil for them. They won't hold long in those quart-sized pots, but it's something, at least.

And it's May, and there are peonies. Luscious, romantic peonies. We are building a thing of beauty.

Monday, May 23, 2016


It's wild strawberry season! I brought about a dozen of these plants with me to start a colony at the new house. They're already sending out runners everywhere and I'm cheering!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

another work week begins

It's late. We had such a lovely weekend, though, that I want to pop in and say something about it before I go to bed.

Wait; scratch that. It's not just about having had a lovely weekend. It's also about choice.

There are always so many good opportunities, so many interesting, rich, and rewarding things to do. So many things I want to do. So many things I want to learn. So many things I want to make. So many things I want to read.

These interests create pressures.

There are also pressures created by the fact that I don't come from means. That I put myself through college - beginning with undergrad - and not in a lucrative field. So when I get the opportunity to freelance, to continue building a solid foundation of experience (and demonstrate my worth - my freelancing rate is going up), I have a hard time saying no. We have bills to pay. I'm always worried about what would happen if one of us wound up in the hospital. If my hubs got one of the many cancers that a certain genetic trait predisposes him to get. If, if if ...

So many worries.

I need to stop worrying quite so much. I know it's not productive, but it's hard to stop.

Just like it's hard to step back and say, "I am going to complete all this work by my deadline easily. So it's okay not to work this weekend."

I didn't so much consciously make that choice this weekend as ... a book arrived in the mail on Friday. A book my mother read in her book club and has been insisting I should read so we could talk about it. I requested it from the library on Monday and it actually arrived at the local branch on Thursday - I had planned to go for a nice long walk on Friday afternoon and pick it up. But then the book showed up on my doorstep! Funny Mom!

I took the book to bed with me on Friday night. We slept in the sleeping nook in our guest room that night because the weather had turned cold and there was more heat in the attic than downstairs. This is all setting the stage for the perfect moment: Saturday morning, I woke late (for me). Cass was fast asleep beside me, Zaha curled in a ball between our feet. I pulled the book out from under my pillow and started reading.

I was more than halfway through it a couple hours later, when we finally went to go get coffee. I had originally intended to head downstairs as soon as I awoke on Saturday, hit the elliptical for a couple miles, then make a grocery list, and generally do some tidying up.

Instead I lay in bed with my dearest darling next to me and our little lamb of a cat curled at our feet and I got lost in a book for hours.

It changed things.

We got coffee and made dinner plans with a friend for next Friday. We ran a couple errands at a lazy pace. I bought fabric, frivolously, to make a dress for a friend's new baby - after I finish the fox quilt for her, that is! Cass was completely in the spirit of the thing, picking out cute buttons for the dress. As we get older, I think we both are really growing into this role as part of several families' "villages."

We came home and I worked on that fox quilt, while watching a Harry Potter movie.

I never did work out.  We had a family dinner in the evening, and that was that for the whole day. .

Today was much the same: a few necessary errands done, with some frittering about sandwiched in between. A little bit of yard work, but we were halted several times by rain. Eventually we gave up and called it a day, our planned task left unfinished. House not quite so clean as I'd intended it to be before the work week starts.

But you know? Sometimes you just have to give yourself space to breathe. Time and space to let whatever it is that's inside of you unfurl.

Here's to unwinding.

I made this awesome and dead simple curry dish on Friday. It was supposed to be dinner, but it was so good I ate two bowls of it for lunch and we had to make rice to stretch it for dinner (even then, it was a light meal!). I used a good vadouvan mix for the curry powder, substituted aleppo pepper in for the red pepper flakes, used light coconut milk instead of full-fat coconut milk (because my stomach can't handle a lot of fat like that), used the entire contents of a big bag of spinach from Trader Joe's (because why not?), and used fresh-cooked (not canned) garbanzos because if you have the time to soak and cook, why not?

It's a really delicious dish - I think it'll be going into our regular weeknight rotation because it's so fast and tasty. Try it!

This coming week, I'm trying this fancy oatmeal recipe. I'm using coconut sugar to sweeten mine, and I prepped a TON of both chopped almonds (which I toasted!) and stewed rhubarb (probably four times as much as the recipe calls for!), figuring I could just quickly cook up a couple batches of the oats on various mornings. I'll let you know what I think once I've tried it - but I do so like starting the week with something special to eat for breakfast. A special breakfast is like a hug from your Weekend Self to your Workaday Self, don't you think?

Apparently, I'm very much focused on self-love and self-care right now. Not a bad place for an overachieving perfectionist to be.

Be good to yourselves this week!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

grandmother's coffee cake - tweaked

I keep forgetting to write down this recipe, and having to call my mother at all hours of the day and night to get it - again! I've finally put it down in a little recipe book, but I wanted to post it here, too, so I can find it easily when I need it next. Here's the family version, with some notes at the end on how I change it up these days (hint: it's vegan).

Blueberry Coffee Cake

For Crumb Mixture

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. soft butter
For Cake

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. soft butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 c. sifted flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter and flour a 9" square pan

Make crumb mixture: combine dry ingredients, then mix in butter until evenly combined. Set aside.

Make cake: mix together sugar, butter, and egg in a large bowl. Stir in milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over top of cake.

Bake, 45-50 min or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.


My substitutions:
Use coconut oil for the soft butter in both crumb mixture and cake.
Use egg replacer for the egg.
Reduce sugar in cake to 1/3 cup.
Substitute 2 c. homemade blackcurrant preserves or fresh or frozen huckleberries (in this cake, I used 1 c. blackcurrant preserves and 1 c. frozen huckleberries).
You may need to bake for an extra 5=7 minutes if using frozen berries or preserves.

tincture of fir

Tincture of Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii; started May 21, 2016.

Monday, May 16, 2016

tincture of roses ( a photo essay)

Tincture of roses, rosa sp.; started May 15, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

flowers in the garden, leaves on the table

Unexpected delights in the garden: this tiny, first-year elderberry is already putting up a couple umbrels of pink blooms, and my "My Castle" lupine is even more beautiful than I remember it being last summer. In the kitchen, I've been trying out a recipe for dolmas made with veal, almonds, and tart cherries from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume.

Friday, May 6, 2016

hustle and bustle

Feels like I've been working so much lately - every day, the evening gets away from me and there's no time to update here. So, here's something of  round-up. Lilacs on the mantle, on the table, everywhere. I wanted to candy some, but I think I might have to admit that there just isn't time this year...

Pink milk! Tart cherry concentrate in vanilla almond milk, a favorite afternoon pick-me-up of late.

I finished the fox quilt top and am starting to quilt it. The baby's overdue at this point ... looks like my gift will be, too. But not too far off (if, that is, I keep at it).

I bought this floral fabric a couple years ago because I couldn't bear to leave the fabric store without it. It's the perfect, sweet backing for the foxes.

Bolognese-making on a grey, rainy Sunday.

Little lupines I started from seed...

....all potted up, There's time for these to grow (and be potted up) for a year or so, while we get the back yard all tilled up and ready for a garden. Then I'll pack them in, everywhere. I've got purple echinacea, foxglove, and columbine coming on, too. Next year's garden will be so much showier, with all these little darlings added to the mix.