Tuesday, March 31, 2015

new growth


in which our plucky heroine takes a look in the backyard...

Last year a feral grapevine started growing in the middle of the back yard here, probably planted by squirrels... not wanting a big vine rambling round the center of the mulched area, Mindy moved it for me, over next to the south facing fence on the edge of the yard.

It seems none the worse for the move, and has begun to sprout new leaves! The intention is to encourage it to grow up along the side of the fence, as the chain link is strong enough to support a grape vine; the pruning books here have information about how to care for grape vines (and other soft fruits)

While I do not expect grapes, it would be lovely to have it vigorous enough that I can steal some grape leaves from time to time for homemade dolmas!

Today was the first day that apple blossoms opened on the tree in the backyard here. Not sure if there will be any apples this year, since it is pouring down rain and hail, which tends to discourage pollination, but they are so pretty all covered with raindrops:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday musings: in search of the lost mojo...


...in which our plucky heroine notices a sort of odd dilemma...

There has been no sewing for myself for at least a year, and am feeling pretty frustrated. I have no difficulty sewing for other people; several of my friends have had lovely additions to their wardrobes either modern or medieval. My last self-sewn wardrobe contributions were early in 2013; since I don't purchase clothing for myself, my closet contents are looking fairly worn. Some of my hesitation is since I have gained a lot of, some, weight, all of my assorted TNT patterns (that make up the components of my chosen wardrobe) are in need of refitting, which is somewhat daunting and very discouraging.

With the intention of taking a small kaizen step in kindness towards self, I am going to sew a kitchen apron, because that will require little in the way of fitting, will use some fun fabric I have set aside in my stash, and is, in fact, something that has been definitely needed in my everyday wardrobe... I will be using this free pattern, and this funky barkcloth (someone gave me several large pieces of it, and for some reason the metallic gold "dandelion seeds" printed all over it just make me smile):

:::

This last weekend was fairly busy, as Saturday was my workshop on "Block Printing for Heraldic Display", intended to encourage folks to carve a simple block to use for printing on fabric or other flat materials. Here are four different examples of either partially finished or completed prints... My students did well in the two hour class

While they were working on their carvings, I started carving a block with a Japanese floral motif. My plan is to decoratively print the fabric for the outer layer of the kosode to wear to Honor Feast this autumn... there are at least two more designs I will need to carve, to get the effect desired

:::

For some reason, "lost mojo" transmogrified into a memory of this album, one of the very first ones I bought for myself decades ago:

:::

Sunday, March 29, 2015

new little friends


... in which our plucky heroine completes the whole set of sewing box accessories that Kateline asked for...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday fragments


in which our plucky heroine chooses to focus on what was accomplished rather than what still remains un-done...

My friend Kaitline asked me to make her a wee mousie tape measure as a companion to her kitty face needlebook... I am very pleased with how this project turned out! The mouse is a great combination of useful sewing basket tool and clever toy. I always use horsehair for animal whiskers, as it is durable, springy, and can be stitched with...

:::

in the middle of the night, yesterday...moved the iron multi-hook plant hanger "tree" into the middle of the far backyard, to have a place to hang the the trap, and set up the WHY* trap in the backyard; the instructions specify to do it at night or very early in the morning, since the last thing you want is to be holding a trap full of attractant when the insects are active. I am hoping that by setting a trap, I will reduce the likelihood of future stings by trapping the queen wasps as they awaken. At least that is the concept...
* W.H.Y. = Wasps, Hornets, and Yellowjackets
:::

....and... more baby seedlings are sprouting in the salad table, the warm weather and cool nights seem to be doing this project some good.
:::

In the interest of both less stress and more stamina, when I just missed the bus home from the copy shop late this afternoon, I decided it would be good to walk home; it is just over a mile, and I figured it might be temporally equal with waiting for the next bus... not quite, but it definitely upped my daily pedometer total. I am always seeking a balance between pushing self to improve, and not becoming too exhausted and in pain to function... it is tricky, but if I want my situation to be different, I need to do different things. Plus, as some may recall, two years ago I couldn't walk to the end of the block without crying from pain...
:::

March SMART goals
#THINGS MADETHINGS FIXEDTHINGS GONE
1ginger candied peelsill boards sandedyard waste bin
29 tiny enamelsfront yard weededyard waste bin
39 brooch settings  close plum prunedcompost bin full
4Bill SCA pantsmore mulch spread -
5Mindy undergownapple tree pruned-
6Mindy embroideryarborvitae pruned-
7Mindy aprondresssalad table trays-
8Laurel underdressworm bin renovated -
9Laurel aprondresssalad table planted-
10kawaii coasters--
11blood orange marmalade--
12Seville orange juice--
13mouse tape measure--
14---
15---

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

wishful wednesday... or in praise of procrastination


... in which our plucky heroine discovers that (once in a blue moon) procrastination pays off...

I hadn't managed to get down to REI yet to purchase a new camp mattress, which will complement the new sturdy camping cot for this years upgrade to tourney kit, and make it easier to pack small for transport. Today my REI dividend came in the mail, along with a coupon good for 20% off one full price item... Can you say nice new cushy camp bed at a discount!
:::

The Bartlett pear in the back yard is covered with blossoms this week... I sure hope it gets warm enough and stops raining just long enough for a few pollinators to make it around the neighborhood, it would be amazing to have pears again this year!

There were quite a few pears last year, which were delicious. I found good information on how to ripen them at this OSU site, and managed to do a not too bad job of thinning the baby pears so that the tree was able to produce pears of a good size for eating rather than many tiny pears of extreme silliness...
:::

...and just because this is one of my favorite songs of all time, and because the message is timeless, and because I never stop missing the ephemeral beauty that leaves the bright world too quickly:

Kate Wolf - January 1942 to December 1986 - R.I.P.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

springtime sprouting


...in which our plucky heroine takes advantage of a sunbreak to look around at the new growth in various frontyard plantings...

Today the first bits of sprouting seedlings were evident in the salad table! Since I planted primarily "mild mesclun mix" I have no way of knowing exactly what they are, other than that in a month or two they will be in the kitchen if all goes well! A week of temperatures ranging from 50F+ down to mid 40's seems to have been just right...

and a closer look at a seedling in the salad table

The dwarf lilac, a gift several years ago from Elfrieda, is almost ready to flower...

The horseradish root that my friend Freydis brought me from her garden, is now vigorously sending up new growth

One of the two sad rhubarb that were transplanted into the parking strip planter is now sending up a new leaf; when they first break through they look a lot like little green brains...

The ubiquitous Euphorbia chiracias wulfenii... Some may call it a thug, but I have nothing but good thoughts about a plant that happily makes itself at home in my yard with no effort on my part, yet is easily removed if desired... true, it isn't edible, or particularly good as a cut flower, but that vivid chartruse is lovely.

Monday, March 23, 2015

bitter, sweet, and sour


Yesterday our plucky heroine finished processing the blood orange marmalade - four 8 oz jars and three 4 oz jars. In addition, am experimenting with processing Seville orange juice... How different they are from modern oranges, which have much more liquid and far fewer seeds, not to mention being significantly sweeter. (Seville oranges are much closer to the original period orange)...

It took about a half dozen Seville oranges per 4oz jar of juice, which gives me an even greater appreciation of the use of this in period recipes* and how much status it would add to a dish; this type of orange is only available for a short time each year.

I intend, as well, to do yet more experimentation with the period candied peel recipes, since there is now more orange peel to play with... but for now, the peels will need a great deal of preliminary processing first. The recipes** I have seen involve, a short simmer, then a soak in fresh cold water, sometimes several times a day for up to eight days... not at all the same thing as modern blanching....

Currently there is a small tin of the ginger-cinnamon-sugar (dry) ones in the pantry, and a small jar of the rosewater and sugar (syrup) ones in the fridge; there is going to be a preserved foods competition at Egils this year, and I intend to enter my candied orange peel. And since Seville oranges are only available for a short winter season, I need to get the process underway now, and then store the candy til then...
:::

March SMART goals
#THINGS MADETHINGS FIXEDTHINGS GONE
1ginger candied peelsill boards sandedyard waste bin
29 tiny enamelsfront yard weededyard waste bin
39 brooch settings  close plum prunedcompost bin full
4Bill SCA pantsmore mulch spread -
5Mindy undergownapple tree pruned-
6Mindy embroideryarborvitae pruned-
7Mindy aprondresssalad table trays-
8Laurel underdressworm bin renovated -
9Laurel aprondresssalad table planted-
10kawaii coasters--
11blood orange marmalade--
12Seville orange juice--

* a few medieval and renaissance recipes that call for orange juice:
  calamari recipe, that calls for orange juice (we might more commonly use lemon juice on seafood, but having tasted the unsweetened Seville orange juice, it is equally tart, with a pleasing bitter orange flavor)

swordfish recipe, that calls for an orange juice sauce (I am not sure that I agree with her redaction of the sauce, as she adds in 2 tsp grains of paradise, which appears to be an addition on her part uncalled for in the original, she uses a mixture of modern orange with lemon and lime juice to approximate sour orange)

an orange omelette "for harlots and ruffians" (scroll down, it is towards the end of their blog post)

** some additional period recipes for candied orange peel


Sunday, March 22, 2015

good things come in small packages


...in which our plucky heroine unpacks some very tiny boxes...

There was squee-ing last night when I opened the box! A pair of very wee origami silver Akita earrings, a gift from my pal Raven... they are perfectly detailed and perfectly delightful.

As a young child I spent a lot of time folding origami; I remember how to fold a crane and probably a "flapping bird", but now I want to look up and see if I can find instructions for this design. Honor Feast (this October) has a Japanese theme this year after all...

In addition, just last week I indulged myself in tiny whimsical online shopping treat, intended as artwork components. The reverse sides show counter enamel; (in various colors, much to my delight) somehow it didn't occur to me that they would be made from vitreous enamel...

... and the front sides are elegantly detailed... yes they are pocketwatch clock faces, and no I am not turning steampunk! All of the white ones are true enamel, the black one is painted. I am particularly pleased that some of them are from the Waltham Watch Factory; decades ago my first apartment was within walking distance of that location along the Charles River where it passes through Waltham, though the factory itself had long since been closed...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

not the back forty...


in which our plucky heroine begins a grand experiment in growing salad greens on the front porch...

The "Salad Table" is an idea that has been popularised by the University of Maryland Extension Service. The table itself was built last October, at another of the epic Blue Cedar House visitations; the trays just this last weekend, and with a very modest amount of effort on my part, the whole contraption is now ready for liftoff...

My hope and intention is that this will be an easily maintained growing space and add "zero mileage" nutritious salad fixings to daily meals here at Acorn Cottage. It should make good use of small amounts of salvaged household water that is gathered when waiting for the hot water to reach the kitchen or bathroom faucets during daily activities.  The worm castings from the kitchen worm bin will help maintain the soil fertility; not quite a closed loop system, but definitely a net gain. This project has been on my to-do-someday list for years, and finally has made it into the sphere of everyday reality...
The internal trays, with their bottoms of half inch galvanized mesh, also get a layer of window screening, to keep the soil in place. Fortunately there was a roll of screening in the Useful Pile, so the only materials needed to be purchased were potting soil and seeds

The trays in the salad table have been filled with potting soil and compost and a mixture of mild mesclun greens and lettuces have been planted. A scrap of bird netting is currently laying over the trays, in the hope of discouraging avian vandals until I can add an arching wire mesh cover...
:::

March SMART goals
#THINGS MADETHINGS FIXEDTHINGS GONE
1ginger candied peelsill boards sandedyard waste bin
29 tiny enamelsfront yard weeded
39 brooch settings  close plum pruned
4Bill SCA pantsmore mulch spread -
5Mindy undergownapple tree pruned-
6Mindy embroideryarborvitae pruned-
7Mindy aprondresssalad table trays-
8Laurel underdressworm bin renovated -
9Laurel aprondresssalad table planted-
10kawaii coasters--

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

hypersomnia


... in which our plucky heroine has adventures of the mixed media sort, with a small interlude of unintentional drama...

This past weekend was a fantastic visit from all of Blue Cedar House including the children. I have been busy for the last several weeks, making these three their first set of Viking Age clothing, and this is the result of my labors. They are intending to start doing SCA activities this year, and I want them to have comfortable clothing that will work well and look good.

Now that I have the basic patterning for them down, the next step is to make up several more sets, so that they can go for an entire camping weekend... which will entail another two sets of clothing and hopefully a woolen cloak and hat for each of them. Their daughter already has a small hooded woolen cloak that I made several years ago for her. It is going to be all kinds of fun to be able to share my favorite recreation with my dear friends!
:::

There was quite a bit of outdoor refurbishment this last weekend, as my March SMART goals chart now shows...

Mindy is absolutely whiz-bang at weeding and making my yard look cared for... The corner near the driveway now looks like this. We decided to transplant the baby rhubarb, that were growing adjacent to the lovage, to a more sunny spot...

The baby rhubarb are now in the bigger planter box out in the parking strip, with an enriched soil mixture including nutritious compost and homegrown worm castings. Hopefully they will like this better and will reward me with nice strong stalks, once they settle in... maybe by next year I can add homegrown rhubarb to my pantry...

The backyard had an expansion of the mulched area... all the darker brown patches are new. We took an evening trip to Ikea to harvest large pieces of cardboard to layer underneath the wood chips; Mindy and Heather both worked on the yard this weekend

The comfrey is waking up this spring, and soon will have a nice crop of leaves. Comfrey leaves make great nutritious "mulch" for things like fruit trees

Mindy also weeded the side yard, since there were returning weedlets since her last visit... she told me that it went about twice as fast as the last time though, so for now, we are winning (just for contrast, here is what it looked like before we started, back in 2013)

In the front yard, the long bed against the ramp was weeded and mulched. The hellebore really likes the springtime light, and the tiny violets have started to bloom, along with the grape hyacinth. The cyclamen looks to be spreading, and there is new growth on the hardy fuschia too!

In the backyard, former owners planted this arborvitae much too close to the house, and it was pressing in on the corner and the eaves. Mr Robertson cut back just the half of it, so now there is air circulation around the house edges instead of moisture being held against the siding and eaves...

There are now trays made to fit the salad table! I have to line them with windowscreening, and then can start my Grand Experiment of growing greenery on the front porch... We made a side trip to Portland Nursery where I acquired more potting soil and some spiffy nutritious compost with things in it like rock dust and kelp for extra micro nutrients.

On an earlier visit Mr Robertson sweetly cut me three pieces of plywood that I intended to mosaic for new front windowsills... neither of us noticed at the time that what I thought was red paint was actually flocking!! I sent the boards home with him last month, so the fuzzy surface could be sanded down... Apparently the red color stained the plywood, but I rather like the effect, and may just leave it as red-stained woodgrain. Once I paint the window trim (indigo/black), and repair the front windowsill edges, this long drawn-out repair will be completed...
:::

In the middle of the long weekend visit we took some time out to celebrate Pi Day/Crafternoon, and who better to celebrate with than the folks with the household motto "Si moriturus es, morere plenus tortae"*... There was a splendid mixture of Portland and Olympia, and good conversation and project progress as well as the requisite refreshments - pie and more pie! For dinner later that night, the entire Crafternoon gang ended up staying, and we had the most delectable and convival suppertime
Young Heather has turned into an excellent piecrust maker... Mindy has been sharing her familial piecrust knowledge and lore, and our plucky heroine introduced them to the joy of lard crust last November, and no one has looked back since...


I made up a few dozen fig jam tartlettes...


... and Heather and Mindy made a blueberry custard pie with streusel topping and a pecan pie (all of these intended for Crafternoon nibbling)


but the real piece de resistance of the day was this fragrant and tasty dinner pie...
Homemade turkey pot pie, the crust so flakey it shattered in crispy shards along the cut edge and the filling was amazingly savory and delicious... we know how to eat well!... Si moriturus es, morere plenus tortae
:::

All in all it was a totally splendid and productive multi-day shindig, up until Sunday afternoon, when I ended up with a wasp sting, after disturbing a piece of roof moss on the shed, which apparently had a wasp queen sleeping inside it. I broke The Blue Cedar House rule about it is all good fun as long as no one ends up needing to go to the ER... I was very grateful to have folks here when this happened. Two days of prescription Benedryl later, my hand is back to normal, but those two days were pretty much a total loss...
:::

March SMART goals
#THINGS MADETHINGS FIXEDTHINGS GONE
1ginger candied peelsill boards sandedyard waste bin
29 tiny enamelsfront yard weeded
39 brooch settings  close plum pruned
4Bill SCA pantsmore mulch spread -
5Mindy undergownapple tree pruned-
6Mindy embroideryarborvitae pruned-
7Mindy aprondresssalad table trays-
8Laurel underdressworm bin renovated -
9Laurel aprondress--
10kawaii coasters--


*"if you are going to die, die full of pie"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

spring flowers


... in which our plucky heroine finds the perfect gift...

There is a reason I live here and not where I grew up... look closely at the thermometer outside my parent's kitchen window:
I had sent a small box of twigs from the forsythia and the ornamental plum in my yard to my mother for her birthday (since she was sadly unable this year to retrieve some forsythia branches of her own to force for indoor flowers, said shrubbery being under six feet of snow); somehow, and unexpectedly, in transit the twigs opened all their blossoms, so she received instead a box of already blooming springtime.

Monday, March 9, 2015

tiny tiny wonderfully tiny


...in which our plucky heroine completes a set of Roman tunica button brooches...

This commission was done in Limoges (painted) enamel. Each piece is fired at least eight to ten times in the kiln before completion, and the work is at a scale that really pushed the limit of my capability! Once the enamels are completed, they had silver settings fabricated so they can be worn as individual brooches.

.
My good friend Tullia, who commissioned the set, in her lovely Roman clothing, with her characteristic brilliant smile! The very tiny brooches I made are used along each side to hold together the inner layer (tunica) along the shoulder and arm. For more information about this topic and others about Roman women's clothing look at the papers on her website: "ROMANA SUM"
:::

March SMART goals
#THINGS MADETHINGS FIXEDTHINGS GONE
1ginger candied peel

29 tiny enamels

39 brooch settings 

4-
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5-
-

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

coasting along


In which our plucky heroine realises that one good thing about decluttering is finding out what household things you have plenty of, and what things are missing...

I have a plentitude of pillowcases, but no coasters. I have therefore put together a "kit" to turn some cherished fabric into a set of coasters for the house. I like having an assortment of small handwork projects to use the time spent on transit in a useful way...
Years ago, Abby sent me this amazing Japanese fabric, as a thank you gift for tracking down an obscure bit of data. The design has all the oriental zodiac animals inside clamshells (which I've since found out is in reference to a period "memory game") Rather than cut up the fabric for modern trim, by turning it into coasters I will be able to highlight the beautiful whimsey of the textile motifs, and enjoy it far longer than any garment would last. Once quilted, which will be the work of a week or so riding the bus, the edges will be bound with another Japanese fabric, some mostly indigo ripstop cotton. The tabletops here at Acorn Cottage will be safely protected...

Monday, March 2, 2015

march forward...


in which our plucky heroine stays up waaay too late in the workroom...

In this series there will be a half dozen enamels all 1/2" across, primarily done in Limoges (painted) enamel. Each piece is fired at least eight to ten times in the kiln before completion, and once completed the designs will be permanent for centuries, one of the things I so love about this art form. These enamels are each the symbol of a particular honor or affiliation of my patron for this commission, and will be set as buttons and worn together as regalia. I enjoy making regalia, and even moreso making some that steps beyond the standard brooch or pendant jewel...

...starting out with some sketches and some silver...

... the silver is cut into circles...

... the circles are enameled in the base color for the varying designs...

... the Three Mountains design is the most simple in this series...

... and the next piece, the Golden Torc, has an almost dimensional feel, in a space little more than a quarter inch across...

... the beginning of the Phoenix, doesn't look like much more than some blobs of enamel...

... but in time, that enamel can be transfomed into a very tiny detailed image...

...as can the start of of Tullia's heraldry...

... probably the tiniest thing I have ever attempted, the baby rabbits are about 1/8" across. I used a 12/0 brush...

... in Three Mountains, the phoenix is the symbol of a champion...

...and in An Tir, this lion's head is the populace badge...

... the light of Arts & Sciences burns brightly in the doorway...

... and here is the whole set, together... Not bad for a weekend's work!

:::

March SMART goals
#THINGS MADETHINGS FIXEDTHINGS GONE
1ginger candied peel

29 tiny enamels

3 

4-
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5-
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