Thursday, December 31, 2009

the year in words, and words for the new year

Most everyone I've talked to has nothing much good to say about 2009. It was hard, in so many ways, for so many of us, self included. I try not to just whinge online about the challenges; I've had plenty, but so has everyone I know. I will be glad to say goodbye to 2009. I lost a lot of ground this year. Friends gone forever through fatal illness, and fatal despair, and others, (less permanently) distant with the economic necessity of "going where the jobs are". Work here in Oregon is still more scarce than would be helpful, and that has had pond-ripples of effects on me, and all else who live here. I'm still waiting to see any changes from the hopes raised in 2008, still working four jobs and not going to the doctor, still waiting to get my left hand repaired...

But I'm still here. Maybe for those who read my writings it sounds like life here is just peachy most of the time. In one of the many artist's blogs I read, Mimi Kirchner's Doll, she refers to her blog as being sort of a Christmas letter version of my life"... I wouldn't go quite that far, but I also try to focus mostly on the upside rather than on the angst. I learned very late in my life that it is actually helpful to shift focus like that, not to deny the difficulties, but to pay attention to the small joys, even if the only good in a day is the color of the sky, or the kindness of the old man on the bus who reaches to pull the signal cord when my hands are obviously full and my balance shaky, or the scent of the daphne in Karla's yard in springtime. I do what I can, with what resources I have, to move towards the world I want to live in, the world where we all can live together, with enough. Not excess, but enough.

This poem, from Marge Piercy's The Moon Is Always Female has been one of my touchstones for decades.
The perpetual migration

How do we know where we are going?
How do we know where we are headed
till we in fact or hope or hunch
arrive? You can criticize,
the comfortable say, you don’t know
what you want. Ah, but we do.

We have swung in the green verandas
of the jungle trees. We have squatted
on cloud-grey granite hillsides where
every leaf drips. We have crossed
badlands where the sun is sharp as flint.
We have paddled into the tall dark sea
in canoes. We always knew.

Peace, plenty, the gentle wallow
of intimacy, a bit of Saturday night
and not too much Monday morning,
a chance to choose, a chance to grow,
the power to say no and yes, pretties
and dignity, an occasional jolt of truth.

The human brain, wrinkled slug, knows
like a computer, like a violinist, like
a bloodhound, like a frog. We remember
backwards a little and sometimes forwards,
but mostly we think in the ebbing circles
a rock makes on the water.

The salmon hurtling upstream seeks
the taste of the waters of its birth
but the seabird on its four-thousand-mile
trek follows charts mapped on its genes.
The brightness, the angle, the sighting
of the stars shines in the brain luring
till the inner constellation matches the outer.

The stark black rocks, the island beaches
of waveworn pebbles where it will winter
look right to it. Months after it set
forth it says, home at last, and settles.
Even the pigeon beating its short whistling
wings knows the magnetic tug of arrival.

In my spine a tidal clock tilts and drips
and the moon pulls blood from my womb.
Driven as a migrating falcon, I can be blown
off course yet if I turn back it feels
wrong. Navigating by chart and chance
and passion I will know the shape
of the mountains of freedom, I will know.

My only resolution for 2010 is to be kindly to myself and others. That actually cover a lot of ground, probably more than I realise right now. I have a lot of intentions, for projects and adventures, but if I can simply remember to be kind and to pay attention that is what feels vital to me right now.

I always have hope for the future, perhaps foolishly, when common wisdom from a stranger on the train is that humans will not last out this almost new century. (I pointed out to him that the planet itself will not die, even if us naked monkeys aren't playing here any more...) But I intend to continue living what life remains to me in the ways that make the most of what I am capable of, with whatever ability I can muster. If needful changes can only be made by those who can afford them, only by those at the top of the economic food chain, then we really are doomed. And I can't live believing that.

Where so very much in life is determined by random luck, I persist in attempting to change what I can. I'll never be beautiful, or clever with interpersonal communication, or young again, but the one gift I was given at birth was to be able to make things.... and in the coming year I will make that my focus, to bring my handicraft to every single day. It might look to many like I already do that, but from the inside, looking at my life, 2009 was in many ways a kind of wasted year, where many opportunities slipped away unused. I could have done more with my time, and since time is all we ever have, and the remainder left is entirely unknown, I don't want to be wastrel any longer. Making things is a delight, even when it is not. It is my only good. And the patient faithfulness of inanimate objects will be and is my only legacy to the world.

Wish me luck, as I wish for all and any of you as well...

a pictorial glimpse of 2009...

the year turned...

and a mushroom swap happened,
connecting artists all over the world

snowdrops bloomed in early spring

some new denizens of Acorn Cottage arrived

the kitchen was filled with the scent of baking

there were candied citrus cupcakes

and strange experiments were done in the kitchen...

the evening sky glowed in May

a long-awaited roof covered the front porch

Mom and I drove to the coast

three figs ripened on the front porch

my heart broke forever

a North Umpqua rafting trip shook up preconceptions

 forty years ongoing,
Oregon Country Fair proved still full of creative wonders

Sauvie Island blueberries were picked

 we gathered by the river

young hens arrived

my kid brother ran his first marathon

wool is always our friend

whether practical, or whimsical...

my creative friends and I do what we can.

local food is a big part of life here

and in the cold winter, at the end of a difficult year,
I am truly grateful for all the myriad gifts and blessings in my life
~ : ♥ : ~
wishing love and light to all of you in the year to come

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

the tortoise... and the crow?

It has been snowing here since mid-afternoon. I have guests coming that are on the road, and since I haven't heard otherwise, I am assuming that they are slowly making their way south on I-5. That's okay. I am slow. I learn slowly, and I am terribly slow at studio work. Actually this is my very last result from a gifting meme on LJ, in which I posted on January 17th...
The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:
- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
- What I create will be just for you.
- It'll be done this year.
And, just at the end of the year, I have succeeded in making something that I am hoping will be a treat. The intended recipient is currently en route to Acorn Cottage, I hope after making her way here through all the snow, it will bring her a bit of wintertime cheer...

cloisonne front, and pierced silhouette reverse
¼" x 1"

Monday, December 28, 2009

on a dark evening

this just makes my spirits rise and fly...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - good egg(s)

week 6 of 20
Huzzah! The young hens, Speckledy, Sparkley and Spot, have been looking rather grown-up lately. They are as big as Hennypenny, with nice ruddy combs and wattles, and have been taking quite an interest in the calcium supplement lately; I was delighted to find, when I looked in the henhouse today, three petite brown eggs! They are most certainly from the new hens, as HP is almost four, and her eggs, when she is laying, are much larger. (The older chickens get, the larger their eggs and the fewer of them they lay.) I am hoping that the new hens will be good layers; it certainly is a hopeful start to the season, to get three eggs when it is still deep in winter.
The eggshells are so very strong, much harder to crack than even the free range eggs from the store. My dark days meal is a simple breakfast, an omelet, and herbed home-fries. Only the cooking fat is from away. I'm using the very last of the Yellow Finn potatoes, and the brand new eggs, and just a bit of the herbs from the yard - thyme and green onions, sage and parsley. I'm going to cook them in some unsalted Tillamook butter, as the delicate flavor of the butter won't stand in the way of the taste of the very fresh eggs!
newly laid eggs - homegrown - 0 mi
Yellow Finn potatoes - homegrown - 0 mi
green onion - frontyard herb garden - 0 mi
thyme, parsley, sage - frontyard herb garden - 0 mi
unsalted butter - Tillamook County Creamery Association - 74 mi

the first of an unknown number of changes... my sewing plan:

Started cutting out the pieces for SWAP, and discovered that, unfortunately, there was not enough of the black and grey rayon knit for the Teagarden T. Foolishly, I hadn't checked, and there was a big chunk missing that I'd cut out for a long-ago forgotten project. Because the Teagarden pattern consists of one huge singular piece (+a gusset) it isn't really possible to piece together the fabric, and retain the look.

So, since I really like the rayon knit fabric, I decided to use a different pattern. (Besides, the only piece of stashed knit fabric I have that is big enough for the Teagarden T is black velour, and though that does have possibilities, I'm really trying not to have this be an all-black all-the-time set of clothes)

I'm going to use tried-n-true Kwiksew 3120, and add the split turtleneck collar from Simplicity 4878. Hopefully, as long as the neckline is a similar shape and equal in length, it should work. If not, I'll have learned something.

I wonder if many other folks buy up old patterns just to use parts of them, I had no use for most of the Simplicity pattern, but the collar was just different enough from anything else I've sewn before, and looked okay when I sketched it. That is, it looks like something I would be willing to wear, and that will also be wearable with most of my other clothing as well.
~ : ♥ : ~
It is astonishingly windy out there tonight, my roof is very noisy. Either than or there is something big thumping around in the attic, but it sounds like the turbine ventilators whirling hard... If only I had a wind generator up there, Acorn Cottage could be awash in electricity a little power station.

Friday, December 25, 2009

christmas wishes... all from Acorn Cottage. May your day be filled with homemade happiness and handmade goodness!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

widshful Wednesday - gratitude

Can you tell what this is that I found on the front porch of Acorn Cottage today when I came home from work?Maybe if you look a little closer...Can you all hear me being all excited and happy !?! I have been looking forward to this for a while; it is the pot-rack for the kitchen, all wonderfully hand forged by my dear friends at White Hart Forge. I handed Heidi a sketch on the back of an index card, and this is the result, even more wonderful in real life than it was in my imagination. The decorative finials just make me want to jump up and down, I love how the iron shows the makers handicraft and looks like it is alive. There are five double pot-hooks to go with it.

Once I find a nice solid piece of lumber to mount it on, it is going up on the wall above the stove. I need to find either a six foot piece of 5/4 x 8, or a six foot piece of 2 x 8, that can be anchored to the wall studs; I wouldn't trust any kind of wall anchors to hold.
~ : ♥ : ~
I was going to write something very different for today, but while walking about to and from my cleaning job in Sellwood today, I kept thinking about how very much I am grateful for: Acorn Cottage and all that implies (home, solid roof and walls, running water...), reasonable health, enough work to keep body and soul together, the love of my family of birth (parents, siblings and all) and the affection of my family of choice (the dear friends that bring me so much joy), and the eventual wit to realise that noticing the gifts given is a far happier way to live than crying for the moon.

I spent far too many years crying for what I didn't have. In one of my own dark times, someone, probably my Mom, sent me a card that had a cartoony drawing on the front of rainclouds, and inside said "above the clouds the sun is always shining". I hung that card on the cabin wall in Ida-hell, and it helped me get from there to a better place. So my Wednesday wish is for all and sundry to notice, amidst all the difficulty of this last year that was, whatever bits were bright. Because there always are bright spots, just like the light will return in springtime, and the hens will eventually start laying eggs again.
~ : ♥ : ~
I have always loved having cut flowers indoors, having flowers makes me feel "well-to-do" (they aren't tools, or supplies, and you can't eat them (usually), they are just for pretty) One of my eventual goals is to have enough things planted and growing here that I can go to the yard and cut some pretty snippets most all year around. It will take some time to get to that point, and so I was delighted have this splendid bouquet of roses, which arrived in honor of my speed limit birthday - Thank you, Mom and Dad, for some colorful cheer in the grey heart of winter!

~ : ♥ : ~
I heard this song on the radio this morning, and had to track it down. Enjoy, if you like this sort of thing, (obviously, I do)...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

textile Tuesday

Upon awakening, my groggy morning ears heard the radio tell me: "whatever your holiday traditions, we hope you make kink a part of it" Despite the fact that I know those are the call letters of the station, it was truly an unexpected exhortation...
~ : ♥ : ~
Perhaps a bit of fabric shopping will be necessary after all... I started laying out some of the patterns yesterday, (as a birthday treat for myself, taking an hour off work for some pre-SWAP prep), and discovered that the stripey flannel that I had intended for my matched stripe is not printed with the stripes evenly spaced at all. They vary just enough that matching them won't work.

I'll be sure to take swatches of all the relevant fabrics with me, and look for another blouse-length of a suitable medium to small scale print. I've been resisting doing any shopping at all, but was given a small holiday bonus from a client, and decided to spend half of it on textile treats for me: a length of fabric and a new circular knitting needle in one of the sizes I don't yet have.

Now I just need to find where I put the Marcy Tilton pants pattern, I put it somewhere safe, which wasn't with the fabric, or with the other patterns.

I'm going to make a knitted vest, which may end up as part of my SWAP. Though I didn't have enough of the grey yarn in my stash for a whole garment, I am going to combine it with the bittersweet chocolate brown yarn (recycled from a thrifted sweater) and make a striped vest version of Sonnet. My sketch shows it with a generic jumper and turtleneck shirt:I'm taking my inspiration for this from these sweaters: stripey sonnet, embroidered knitting, and delightfully striped. I'm hoping that this will be both practical and a bit whimsical, so as to be friends with the other new clothes I'm planning... And since garment sewing on public transit is pretty difficult, this will be a way to make SWAP progress while travelling to and from work

Friday, December 18, 2009

hippo birdie to me

I made the drawing playing around on the odosketch website, (which seems to be down currently; when the site is running, you get a flash animation of the whole drawing process, which was even niftier), my drawing-with-a-trackball skills are about the level of a primary school child, but it was fun, and I like the effect.

Its been a pretty good day here at Acorn Cottage, I got many happy online birthday wishes, phone calls from friends, as well as singing telephone calls from my family, including all three of my nephews on both coasts. I am truly wealthy in having such great people in my life.

This evening my neighbors Mariana and Mark were hosting a cookie swap and singalong, and since I'd spent all day working, I took a break and went over to say hello. Now I am well supplied with assorted small cookies for any holiday visitors. Earlier, when I got home from work, I mixed up a bunch of "Open Sesames" as my contribution; they are quite tasty, vegan-friendly and used ingredients that I had on hand.

~ Open Sesames ~
Preheat the oven to 375F.
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c + 2 T olive oil
1/2 c sesame seeds, toasted 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
2 T cold water
1/2 t cinammon
1/4 t nutmeg
In a bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In another bowl, combine the oil, sesames, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the water alternately to the oil mix. The dough will look oily and crumbly. Divide it into portions and form into small rounds with your fingers. Set on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 20 min.When the cookies are lightly golden they are done. Let them cool, and enjoy!

These cookies are a kind of rich shortbread, not too sweet, and even with all the olive oil they do not taste like salad dressing! You could easily vary the spice mix. I usually divide the dough into enough pieces to make 4 dozen cookies , but then I like smallish dainty tea-cookies.
~ : ♥ : ~
And since it wouldn't be Monday without some kind of media, and I couldn't find a good rendition of the Volga Birthday song online...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

frugal knitting

In which our plucky heroine is grateful for requests promptly answered.

I was feeling a bit pitiful about buying any more yarn, given the state of my piggybank currently, and the need to keep the temperature here at Acorn Cottage somewhere above freezing. As I'd mentioned, there is not any one yarn in my small stash that I've enough of to make anything garment-ish, at least not in my size. (I have been making some baby booties for upcoming small fry among my friends).

I like having things to do on the bus, since I spend so very much time every week there. Knitting is best, though I have been making do with some simple stitching, working on the patchy border edge for the corduroy overall jumper.

Yesterday, I wrote this post on my sewing blog...
possible sweater - "Sonnet"... This might be a good option if I end up deciding to knit a sweater for the 2010 SWAP. My other knitting idea involved creating my own interpretation of the Stripey Sleeve Bolero from Sunday Knits, (since that one is only available as a complete kit (spendy), and I am out of size range on it anyway)which I still may do eventually, but that is a big project.

The pattern : Sonnet (from Knitty- Fall 03)has quite a bit of potential to be adjusted for size and configuration, and it is mostly in garter stitch, so good for bus knitting; this is a picture of the sweater knitted up with alternating color stripes and dark bands where the texture pattern is... stripey Sonnet. I'd probably not do the texture pattern on the sleeves, I think it looks dorky. I might have enough of the grey Rowan DK, if I can get another yarn that would also work with this, like a darker grey, indigo blue or a bittersweet dark brown. I'm thinking maybe KnitPicks...
Stopping in to the Goodwill today, I was very happy to find, hiding amidst the acrylic uglies, a nice dark bittersweet brown 100% merino wool sweater, of the sort that can be unraveled. I think, that combining it with the medium grey DK that I already have, I will have enough to make a knitted vest (maybe even enough for whole sweater).

The yarn is rather kinky right now, but some washing and relaxation will soon take care of that. Here is Knitters Review on how to recycle yarn, and here is what TECHknitter has to say about dealing with kinky yarn

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - exploration

week 5 of 20
I've been pushing myself to use this challenge as an encouragement to seek out additional resources, to explore what is out there that I've not yet found... This is actually an interesting combination of difficult and fun. I definitely have a bit of hunter-gatherer in my personality. Today's find was a little shop, Proper Eats, that I remembered seeing in St Johns, at the end of one of my usual bus lines. The place reminds me of Smokey Joes Cafe in Saratoga Springs, where almost 40 years ago I washed dishes, learned to cook, and listened to U Utah Phillips tell tall tales. I'd thought that Proper Eats was simply a veg-head cafe, but the front half of the shop is a sweet little market, featuring quite a bit of local produce, all marked with the farm it is from, and quite an additional selection of foods.

I was inspired to try a kind of soup that I'd never before made after reading about Ref's chowder. Though I didn't have quite the same ingredients he had suggested, the soup I made was very very tasty. I started by cooking up some small bits of Pacific Village pork in some leftover bacon fat till it was brown and savory, then pulled the meat from the pan and added a chopped up Gee Creek Farms onion. That cooked gently till it was softened and just turning color a bit. Then I put the onion into a saucepan, added thickly sliced homegrown potato, and covered it with the last of the broth from those riblets. Seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, and a bay leaf, it simmered till the potato was cooked. I then poured in part of a carton of half-n-half, and scattered the crumbled pork bits on top, as well as some homegrown green onion.

It is hard frustrating not to have the resources to stock up on protein sources (my health suffers when I eat an entirely vegetarian diet, beans and rice and soya are not my friends). I do eat a lot of vegetables, and one of my goals is to increase each year the amount of those veggies that are homegrown. But animal based protein keeps me healthy... I guess my other goal is to get to where I can afford to buy a lamb, or part of a hog, or some home-raised chicken, to put in my freezer. Instead I buy tiny amounts of relatively good meat several times a week. Fortunately the folks behind the meat counter do not laugh at me when I ask for a quarter pound of their shop-made bulk sausage, or two chicken legs, and fortunately I live near a grocery that has a meat counter with actual people working there.

Always having to think about what the trade-off is when making choices. I'd far rather buy small amounts of meat that was raised in a sane way, and have been doing that ever since I stopped being a vegetarian twenty-five years ago. Thinking about what to choose for the dairy component of the soup - do I go organic but imported, or not organic but local. The organic cream comes from California, shipped here in returnable glass bottles; the local cream is in "recyclable" cartons, and though rBst-free, is not organic. I chose to go with the Portland-based choice, and will hope that their new line of organic milk will be available on my side of town someday soon.

Yellow Finn potatoes - homegrown - 0 mi
yellow onion - Gee Creek Farm - 17 mi
green onion - frontyard herb garden - 0 mi
thyme - frontyard herb garden - 0 mi
bay leaf - Sharons bay tree in Olympia - 114 mi
lamb riblets, then broth - SuDan Farm - 26 mi
pork - Pacific Village Pork - either 25 mi or 280 mi...
half and half - Alpenrose Dairy - Willamette Valley unknown mi

~ : ♥ : ~

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

speed-limit* CraftTeaParty this Sunday

Hope to see some folks this weekend, if the weather and life allows...The last craft-tea-party of 2009 this Sunday December 20. Noon till fiveish, as always; cake and savorys and sweets and tea of course. ... Bring yourselves, bring a project to work on, and bring a can of food for the food-bank. I'll have glue, and various bits and bobs of craft materials, if folks want to make decorative ornaments.
~ : ♥ : ~
is an lovely and elaborate flash animation, only up till December 25, so go take a look if you like...
~ : ♥ : ~
I'd been thinking about knitting a sweater as part of my SWAP wardrobe plan, so decided to pull out all my yarn and see what might be possible... Um, nope, not unless I want to look like Joseph in a technicolor tweed. That's okay, I'm not actually a very fast knitter. Unlike my fabric stash, I've a very modest collection of yarn, which is now all neatly organised into three half-ream-sized boxes. And now I know what I do have, not enough of the DK Rowan grey yarn that I'd thought would be ideal. (200g will not make anything that will fit the criteria; it can't be a scarf)

Would that organising my fabric was as quick and easy, but that will have to wait 'till sometime in late winter. Though I did find a length of black and white tweedy herringbone that may become I'm considering for a "bog coat" as part of the SWAP, it is dense but kind of drapey, so would look a bit graceful, and I could do some interesting things with recombinant pieces from my other wool coat which has nice cardwoven trim, and sleeves that are somehow far too short. I could get some Jaquard acid dye and overdye the wool in a taupe-y grey, or a blue-grey, which would soften the look from black-n-white to something more suitable for my "Mist and Fog" theme...
~ : ♥ : ~

*(to paraphrase Marian...) "on Monday I'll be a speed limit"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday musings + media

Despite storm warnings, the weather this weekend here in Portland wasn't a repeat of last years blizzard. There was plenty of frost and ice, but not so much that no one dared the streets to come to our art and craft sale. There was quite a bit of local traffic, (thanks to the great job of putting up signs by Team ManyHands) and various friends came by both Saturday and Sunday. It turns out that my neighbor Molly is an old friend and climbing buddy of Vandy's and they had a good time catching up. We all sold some things and it was fun, (if also a lot of work)
Truly my life would be far less flavorful without my pals. I was reminded of that when Vikki came back from a quick jaunt up the street to Goodwill with some lovely wool/silk yarn for me; to unwind the skeins into a more useable format, I turned to the most recent gift from another dear friend, Rois of Hrafinstaad. She had found this umbrella swift at the Bins, and sent it my way knowing that I do quite a bit of textile craft, and that if I couldn't use it I'd surely know someone who could...
It looks far more like an actual umbrella than any other swift I've ever seen (they are mostly these wooden contraptions, rather than a delicate construct of wire and blue plastic). I'd been wanting one for a long time, and this one even matches the house! I still need to do the actual winding by hand, but it is eversomuch easier than trying to unwind a skein by draping it between two chairs!
~ : ♥ : ~
I decided that all my tiny frost sprites were a bit too unstable on their little floss feet, and attached them to flat stone bases. These two looked so happy together that I couldn't resist the temptation to make them a pair... I will be listing them in my Etsy store for use as a decoration, or as a potential wedding cake topper.
~ : ♥ : ~
I didn't forget my housiversary last week, the year four gift is traditionally fruit. I think that Acorn Cottage will be getting something from the plant nursery this year, like oh, say, some elderberries for fruit and flower, pretty to look at and healthful to eat
~ : ♥ : ~
Lastly, as a way of saying thanks for not dumping snow all weekend, I found this little ditty -


Saturday, December 12, 2009

well begun and half done

The first day of the ManyHands Marketplace has been a qualified success. It did not snow. People came, including passers-by who were driving up the street and saw the signs, and folks who saw the signs we'd put up on the main streets and came by to check it out. We had a sign painter stop in and give us advice on color theory for signage. One woman came who had heard me talking to the store clerk last week while I was shopping at Bolt . A few of the folks who came here actually purchased things. If the weather holds, we may get more visitors tomorrow. I'm feeling hopeful.
ManyHands Holiday Market 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - experimentation, partially successful

week 4 of 20
Whilst cleaning out the fridge, I came across the very last little red bell pepper from my trip to the farmers market, still mostly good, though a little soft. This inspired me to make stir-fry, using some of the bok choy remaining from that same trip and a bit of boneless pork rib from Pacific Village Pork, and I decided to do some experimenting...

I have been reading "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes" written by Jennifer McLagan and a very fascinating read it is indeed. For most of the centuries that humans have been around, we have cooked with animal fats of various kinds, and they actually contain compounds that are very healthy for us, as well as being far more stable than the easily-oxidised manufactured plant oils that most of us grew up using. I had carefully saved the nice clean white lamb fat that had risen to the top of the broth, so I decided bravely to try using it instead of oil. Much to my surprise, the finished dish did not taste like mutton.

The other experimentation was that I decided to try and give it a sweet and sour flavor. At the end of the cooking, I added a half teaspoon of local honey (from Hillsboro, just over the hills from Portland) and about a tablespoon of very strongly overdone homegrown kombucha, which was far too tart for me to drink. The results were pleasant, but not really at all like what I would call sweet-n-sour, being very subtle, and with a definite honey flavor.

I intend to continue to save the fat from my various cooking projects, and to clarify them and store them in the freezer. After all, I am paying premium prices for the animals to live good lives, and be fed healthy foods; it seems to me to be respectful to use as much of them as is realistically possible.

The kombucha didn't add as much of a tart taste as I'd have expected; I'd like to try it in a salad dressing, but that would require olive oil, which is certainly not local. (it would be another interesting experiment though) And perhaps some local fruit juice or puree would have been a better choice than honey, which has a very distinctive flavor (that wasn't realy one I will try again in this context)

bok choi - Winter Green Farm - 135 mi
was lamb riblets, then broth, then cooking fat - SuDan Farm - 26 mi
free range eggs - Stiebrs Farms - 118 mi
red bell peppers - Gathering Together Farm - 89 mi
kombucha - my kitchen counter - 0 mi
green onion - frontyard herb garden - 0 mi
honey - Wessels Family Honey - 18 mi
pork - Pacific Village Pork - either 25 mi or 280 mi...

The Pacific Village Pork that I buy at New Seasons come from one of two farms that they have contracted with, that meet their standards. One is close by, the other is almost 300 miles away. You can read more about it here in an article form Oregon Public Broadcasting, or watch a short film about the folks from New Season going out to help raise a new pig barn here. I feel that while it would be great to be able to have the time to shop at the farmers market, or to hopefully get the resources to buy a half lamb, or a share in a pig, for right now it is not a bad thing to walk a mile to the market and have such a good option available.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Steppe-n out...

Okey doke... at 16°F this morning the requirement is to find all the useful wool layers. Not only the BIG mittens, but the SCA outerwear, a wool wrap coat, and a calf-length wool sleeveless coat. That one is made from melton cloth, a triumph of pieced-together rectangles and triangles, with the edges bound in handwoven wool trim, and the sides appliqued and embroidered with the same Norse ponies that are carved on the bed headboard. (Yes, I spent hours constructing these clothes, they are my go-to clothes not just at events but whenever the temperature warrants dressing like a viking, even if I do look a bit odd even for the streets of Portland.)

And instead of my sweet knitted acorn hat, it was time for the deep winter hat, the one made from two layers of tightly felted wool, all embroidered and spangled and trimmed in fluffy white fox fur. With seven layers from the skin out, I looked a bit like a fur-trimmed cone a steppe nomad toddling off along the sidewalk to go to work, but inside all that I kept warm and safe.

I've tried several variations on the wrap scarf around nose and mouth, and have decided that I really don't like inhaling mohair, or in fact, inhaling any kind of fluffy wool. I may make a cowl specially for this kind of weather, that is lined with true Polarfleece. Yesterday I did a bit of recombinant sewing and attached the fleece sleeves from a thrifted jacket to the bottom edges of a pair of bike shorts...Kind of fast and dirty sewing, but now my lower legs are WARM. (I plan on adapting my regular pattern to make long fleecey nether-garments; waiting for the bus gets downright chilly!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

inspected, injected, dejected, selected

inspected -
The one window that I already put the bubble-pack on is significantly warmer than all the others; I have good double-pane thermal windows, but they are still big glass holes in the walls. And really the texture isn't any more offensive than textured bathroom glass.

injected -
Spent yesterday evening at the NxNE free clinic, I have both my flu shots, one in each arm. I'm feeling a bit puny today, but not anywhere near as bad as getting the flu would be. They offered me a pneumonia vaccine as well, but I thought that three in one day would be a bit much.

dejected -

I am a bad plant mother...with a lot on my mind, I completely forgot about the figs on the front porch until this morning... I hope that the cold hasn't killed them. I brought them inside today, and will store them in the coldest spot inside till the weather improves. They are pretty hardy, and got through last year without a problem, but single digits at night is a bit much.

selected -
When the mercury plummets, its time to take out the BIG mittens! I've a wonderful pair of naalbound mittens made for me several years ago by my friend Ariadne; more than 1/4" thick, they are completely windproof and delightfully warm, this morning I pulled them from storage in the furnace closet, where the repeated efforts of the furnace has not only kept Acorn Cottage from freezing but very sweetly preheated the mittens.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Media Monday + ornaments

Every day, in addition to my regular work, I've been making things for our Holiday Marketplace this weekend. It is always a real challenge for me to come up with ideas for things to sell for under $20, as mostly I make things that are very time consuming. This year I am focusing on small decorative ornaments, intended to sell some for $5 and some for $10. Today I finished using the last of some beautiful printed linen, combined with felt and a bit of embroidery...
There was one small piece left, and I decided that the front door of Acorn Cottage needed a bit of Dala horse holiday goodness. I added the holly leaves from a scrap of felted sweater and some leftover bits of red wool felt. I was over at Bolt, my favorite small local fabric store, on Saturday; I brought along the ornaments to show them, since I'd been buying the felt and floss there,(the quarter yard of printed linen was from Japan, by way of Etsy). Gina (the owner) asked me to let her know if ever I want to write some tutorials for their shop. When using public transit, local shops become very important, I could go to Fabric Depot or Mill Ends (never to the evil J-A empire), but that takes at least an hour or more; Bolt is only a short busride away, in the summertime I could actually ride there on my bike, and the folks who work there are both very knowledgeable and really friendly.

The front lawn is raked, and most of the leaves are now in the hen pen; the girls were very dubious about my dumping piles of leaves all over their spot, but soon discovered that there were bugs-n-bits in those leaves. Total time for raking and leaf moving is about four hours, spread over several days...not too bad. The henhouse is also all cleaned out and fresh straw installed. While doing all these healthy outdoor chores, I had a sudden flash of insight about the henhouse: I don't need to build a new one, I can remodel the one I have. If I add windows (probably plexiglass reinforced with wire mesh) to the main area of their house, it will be lighter inside, and less appealing as a place to lay eggs. Then if I add a different nest box that is both lower and darker than the main area (and maybe close off the current nest box), they will probably decide to sleep in the upper zone. Needs more thought over the next month or two, but has possibilities.
~ : ♥ : ~
I decided to hang the laundry outside to dry, as the sky is clear and sunny. However, it is so cold today that the dishtowels that I was hanging out froze stiff, looking very odd as they didn't flap in the breeze. but tilted. Hopefully the wind will gradually pull the moisture away, and if not, I haven't lost anything and can still put them in the dryer.
~ : ♥ : ~
And to start the week and the month and the holiday season off properly here's something slightly askew - I first heard this song as a freshman in college...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - coping with cold

week 3 of 20
Yesterday was frost, for today we have freeze; this morning the thermometer read 28F at 8:30 AM. Last night I got out my ultimate keep warm at night tool, the Featherbed. Usually it lives in the linen closet, where it bulges out threateningly like the pillsbury doughboy from the top shelf. But when the mercury drops, strong measures are required. It was a lot more comfortable sleeping last night, with wool blankets and the down puff on top, and the poofy feathers on either side forming a kind of gorilla nest, and sealing the warmth in. Of course, that made getting out of bed this morning even less appealing than usual, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do...

First order of the day, after the morning chicken routine, is breakfast. I've been trying to come up with a tasty cold weather breakfast that I can turn into part of my morning routine, and one contender is egg-drop soup. This morning it is not only low carb, but local as well. I had a pint of lamb broth in the fridge, from the riblets last week, and it was the work of a moment to slice up some chard leaves and beat up two eggs. Once I was able to pry the jellied stock out of the Mason jar and into the saucepan, I had breakfast in a trice. (Soup is perfect for this kind of weather, since grain-based breakfast is a thing of the past for me.)

Homemade lamb broth is ever so much nicer than shelf-stable chicken soup in a box, which is my organic pantry staple. In a few months my hens will start laying again, so the eggs will be a short walk from the backyard instead of from the store. And maybe someday I'll have a pressure canner, and will be able to put soup broth up rather than usually buying it in boxes at Costco, but for me it is all about how to balance everything out. For someone who doesn't live anywhere near the top of the paycheck bell curve, I choose to eat pretty well...
~ : ♥ : ~

bok choi - Winter Green Farm - 135 mi
was lamb riblets, now broth - SuDan Farm - 26 mi
free range eggs - Stiebrs Farms - 118 mi

Friday, December 4, 2009

wind chilly + assorted treats

It is cold. Last night was a hard frost, the hen's water froze solid (reminder to self, bring inside after writing this post). There is a weather alert for temperatures in the teens and twenties. I'm thinking about the lengths of wool jersey in the sewing closet, and warm underlayers are calling my name. I have, in the box of "garments to be copied" an ancient ladies union suit, I'm guessing probably from the 30's or 40's. It is constructed differently than the red-flannel drop-seat kind, and has a sweet band of lace that gathers the sleeveless top at the neck. That would be the perfect thing, in warm wool, or even polarfleece, if the cold deepens...
~ ♥ ~
I'm tuckered out. I raked the front yard. Didn't get the leaves to the backyard, where I'm thinking to put them in the henyard, rather than in the compost. The hens will enjoy scrabbling in them, and they will still break down and turn to compost. Moving the leaves will be a task for tomorrow, in between working in the studio. I'm going to turn on the kiln and enamel all day. 1500 degrees will feel kind of nice, in contrast to the less than 55 that is ambient here. I hope that my hands don't crack and break off from thermal shock, that would be inconvenient.
~ ♥ ~
After the winter holidays I look forward to trying out the "magic loop" knitting technique, I found the concept perplexing, and Sam very kindly gifted me with an instruction manual... should be fun, and I love having something to look forward to. Yum, new techniques!
~ ♥ ~
As a treat, I bought myself four paperwhite bulbs, which are now sitting on the kitchen windowsill in pint jars with water and gravel. once the roots start forming, it will be time to add vodka to the water...I did this last year and it really helped keep the stems short and sturdy.
~ ♥ ~
Though I'd planned on working all day, I ended up meeting G for lunch + Powells; he was coming down to Portland to sell some more books. It was nice to get warm, eat lunch, and have a chance to catch up... I now have a sweet little mudflap-girl-reading sticker, which will be attached to a bit of plexiglass, so as to become a detachable decoration for my bike. Tee hee hee
~ ♥ ~
Yesterday, since I'm currently between knitting projects, I spent my hours on transit in sketching various kinds of elaborate non-standard garment closures, coming up with ideas that would require layers of loops and straps, or hinged hardware interlocking; I have a tendency to want to do something more that just adding variously colored buttons and calling it good...

Last night as I drifted off to sleep, I realised what would work for the "unusual closure" requirement for SWAP... brooches! After all, one of my jumpers will be based on the "shapely Viking Apron dress", and my barely conscious brain thought it would be amusing (for me) and interesting (for others) to use brooches as a closure. Now mind you, I'll not be using my big dome brooches, but rather will make something more button sized. I figure that if I make a set of two eyelets in each shoulder strap, and a matching set of two eyelets on either side of the front bodice, I can simply pin each strap in place, and remove the brooches when doing laundry.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

future sewing thoughts...

I've signed upfor the (7th Annual) 2010 "Sewing With A Plan" Contest on the Stitchers Guild forum, which begins on December 26 and ends on April 30, 2010. The last time I participated in this contest was in 2005, and I still have, and wear, the jean jacket and one of the T-shirts. I found that having clothing that I could mix-n-match made getting dressed in the morning something that I didn't need to think about, since I'd done all the planning ahead before sewing.

If you could only see my living room, the dining table is covered with paper, and old patterns that I have pulled out to gather details from...the small croquis that I made earlier has really gotten a workout, and is truly my new best friend. I'm pretty happy with what I have come up with for actual garments to be sewn, I think that they all work together stylistically, and will all be things I will enjoy wearing, (and coordinate with the clothing that I already own)

5 dresses
Black textured cotton button-front shirt-dress
This is a nicely made dress that I found at a thrift store. It is currently about ankle length, and too small in the bodice. As always, the shoulders are too wide. I plan on using the fabric that I will remove from the skirt to create side panels, and re-do the bodice with princess seams in the front, in order to add fabric only where it is needed to make it fit well. Whilst doing this, I will also re-cut the armscye and re-set the sleeves.
Black & grey polka dot cotton dress
I'll be using the bias cut front from (OOP) Vogue 2545, re-styled to have a center front seam. The bodice will be combined with another OOP pattern, New Look 6881, to get the basque pointed bodice edge and the flared, slightly gathered 4-gore skirt. I'll draft my own sleeves.
Grey corduroy jumper with bias trim
This is one of my three TNT jumper patterns, which started life as a dolman-sleeved something back in the eighties. (I removed the sleeves and re-drafted the side panels decades ago) I'll probably go with self bias for the trim and edge binding, this is a pretty visually busy SWAP, and the grey on grey will look rather sculptural and somewhat subtle, I'm hoping...
Black cotton knit jumper
This pattern is one that I copied from a RTW jumper about fifteen years ago; I've some nice heavyweight knit set aside for this one.
Grey corduroy overall jumper
Self-drafted jumper (based on Viking era clothing, another style that I sew often), the flared skirt just makes me so happy. I will be doing a strip-pieced edge border, using as many of my mid-tone grey fabrics as I can. I did the same hem treatment on a denim jumper last year and get lots of compliments.

4 tops
Black & grey rayon knit top
I'll need to do a bit of alteration on the pattern, Sewing Workshop Teagarden T since I've gained a bit of weight in the last few years, but this is a great pattern, so comfortable and just a bit unusual.
Grey mixed fabric bohemian tunic
This one is going to be my "embellished" piece, I'm starting with a square yoke that I hand-embroidered several years ago, and combining three different grey fabrics. The inspiration for this one was a mixture of Gudrun Sjoden and Anthropologie, and I'll be using simple rectangular construction. aka sewing without a pattern, just using my measurements.
Grey striped flannel bias front top
Again I'll be using the ADRI pattern (Vogue 2545) for this top, but in the original diagonal front style. I'm going to do a narrow bound edge in a coordinating fabric, (maybe the tiny plaid that I sadly did not have enough of to make a shirt), and maybe pipe the diagonal seam. This is going to be my "matching stripe" piece, and I will do my best to match the armscye seams to the bodice on the front. Really I haven't matched anything since junior high, I don't often wear stripes or plaid...
Grey cotton print camp shirt
This is a pattern that I copied from a RTW blouse that I heavily modified to fit me (I re-cut the armscye/shoulder interchange, and added a pretty substantial vertical bust dart) The fabric was a gift from my dear Mom, she knows how fond I am of acorns as a motif. Fabric from Ikea in a botanical, mid-century inspired, print (it is the "grey-black" option on their menu)

1 pair pants
Grey linen loose fitting pants
This Marcy Tilton pattern Vogue 8499 will be a stretch for me, I very rarely wear pants... I've got some midweight grey linen set aside for these. I'll be doing at least one mockup first, of course.
~ ♥ ~
Still need to decide on my "your choice" item... I'm thinking that some kind of outerwear would be really useful, but not sure that I can realistically add that in to the plan without crashing and burning. Might be best to wait and see how much time there is left after all these are completed, though they're mostly straightforward TNT patterns, so should go smoothly...

I have fallen in love with the style of this bolero sweater from Sunday Knits, but is is only sold as a kit, and at $95, is so not in my budget... I did have fun choosing what colors I would pick out to coordinate with these clothes though, lovely charcoals and indigo and other darks... and some of my knitting friends may be able to help me deconstruct the style so as to knit something similar

Another idea I had was to make a raincoat. Hard to imagine that I live in Portland and don't have one! (I do have a Gore-tex jacket, but it is only hip length, and green doesn't coordinate with anything I own) I actually found the pattern today that I bought at Sewing Expo five years ago to try and make a coat. Would it be realistic to attempt this? (and still have time for life, work, etc?) I did a quick sketch of my idea, and as usual for me, I'd need to do some drafting of unknown parts, but wouldn't this just be so very perfectly right for me? Somewhere in my stash, I have a length of black London Fog raincoat fabric, and I know I have at least a yard of black Gore-Tex that would work for the shoulder cape. I remember, quite a few years ago, Threads magazine had an article by David Page Coffin about making raincoats. Maybe after the winter holidays I'll dig that one out of the archives here at Acorn Cottage...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

thingmaking & thinking

At the teaparty on Sunday I had the fun of encouraging my friends to try freezer paper stenciling*. Elfreda and Sam both tried it, while Connor had the suggestion of running the freezer paper through the computer printer to eliminate the step of tracing out your design. I think they will be trying that out, (my printer is a bit cranky); it would be a great option if it works. My experiment was to see if I could cut out multiple identical stencils at one time, by stapling together 8 layers of freezer paper blanks ... it worked, though doing eight at once made it a bit difficult to get clean cuts. I'll be making sleep sachets filled with hops and lavender from the stenciled linen, which is now printed with the kanji for "rest and relaxation".
~ ♥ ~
Earlier this year I knit socks, which promptly and immediately wore through. Now granted, I was using stash yarn which surely was not intended for socks. So I darned them, and on the next wearing they promptly wore through right next to the darn. So I felted them and turned them into this flock of birds. My needlebook kitty is sure that he is having a wonderful dream...
~ ♥ ~
Just a hint for better picture taking - I discovered that my camera has a very useful feature: the self-timer. I thought it was just for taking pictures of well, yourself, as in set the camera up and quickly run around to the front so the photograper is the photographee. But on experimentation, I discovered what is for me much more useful... it is a great way to stabilise the camera when taking closeups in natural light. Simply switch on the self-timer, press the shutter release then carefully hold the camera steady until it "takes the picture". Since I discovered this I haven't had the dreaded "picture is blurry - save picture?" message, which was the inevitable result of point and shoot without the flash. (I do have a tripod, somewhere, in one of the cupboards, but that would require more setting up than I am usually interested in)
~ ♥ ~
When I saw this tutorial for acorn mushroom ornaments, I was enchanted. Lisa, of Lil Fish Studio News, is one of my creative inspirations, transforming recycled wool and natural objects into small objects of beauty to delight the eye and decorate the home. But I do not live in the great north woods, but rather in the heart of urban Portland, and despite the name of my beloved little house, there are no oak trees at Acorn Cottage (the yard is far too small)... Consumed by a great desire for tiny acorn mushrooms, I wondered where to find acorn caps. I even looked on Etsy, where I found that they could be purchased from a clever entrepreneurial forager from upstate New York. But buying acorn caps and having them shipped cross country seemed so very very inappropriate... so imagine my delight when I was out running errands yesterday, and I happened to be looking down while walking between the post office and the bus stop. What to my wondering eyes did appear, but the perfect acorn caps, not very many, scattered in the mulch under the leafless trees. I scooped them up and stuck them in my pocket (and they are now drying out on the countertop, having been washed of their wet debris); soon to have the pleasure of making some acorn ornaments of my own, for me and maybe for the ManyHands Holiday market, which is in eep! two weeks...
~ ♥ ~
*for those who missed the teaparty: here is a simple tutorial for freezer paper stenciling.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Media Monday

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - farmers market meal

week 2 of 20
In which our plucky heroine has to eat her words, but would rather eat dinner...

Today I decided to take a trip to the big farmers market, which is one of the few still open in November. I hadn't been there in the last two years, it is in a part of the city that is not nearby downtown Portland, public transit takes about an hour each way from where I live. That market will be shutting down in December, there is another market in Hillsdale, which is even further away, but which runs all year long, though only every other week in the winter. The prices were not as high as I'd feared, and for $12 I brought home a modest bag of groceries.
~ : ♥ : ~
Out of curiosity, I thought I'd compare the costs with what I can get at my usual market...

The big treat was finding the lamb riblets, they were one of the least expensive at $2.49/# of the lamb possibilities, and one of my favorites. New Seasons does not carry riblets, (I asked at the meat counter). The head meatcutter told me that if I asked ahead, they could get some for me, but there was no price listed for them since they are not usually offered. (I'm guessing that the price would be somewhere between the $1.99/# for lamb dog-bones and the $4.99# for lamb shank) New Seasons gets their lamb from Umpqua Vally Lamb in Riddle OR, which is about 300 miles from here.

The bok choi was an enormous head, just over 2#, at what worked out to be about $1/#, the grocery bok choi was $1.49/# from an unspecified Oregon location

The wee little cauliflower was just under a half-pound for 82 cents, comparable in price to the store cauliflower at $1.79/#, but from much closer than somewhere in California

Red bell peppers were only $2.90/#, as compared to $4.99/#, and Philomath is a lot closer than Mexico

The goat feta was pretty much comparable in price to the other farmstead feta in the specialty dairy case at the store, which however was nowhere near as local in origin, being from Wisconsin and California.
~ : ♥ : ~
Now granted all of this, there was plenty of produce at the farmers market that was out of my price range, I'm a pretty careful shopper. What I noticed most particularly there were foodstuffs available that are not in the shops at all: wildcrafted mushrooms, this seasons fresh walnuts, direct from the fisherman seafood, and specialty meats, like buffalo, elk and yak. Given the distance and travel time from Acorn Cottage, I'm not sure I will make a habit of shopping at the farmers market, but if I'm downtown anyway, finding things more comparable in price is possible.

The riblets will make two meals, one of "gnaw the meat off the bones", and one with roasting the leftover bones then making broth from them. The veggies will make at least three meals, and the feta will be stored in brine in the fridge, to add to meals throughout the next several weeks...

~ Tonights dinner ~
roasted lamb riblets
rubbed with thyme, salt, and a bit of olive oil
a Greek-inspired salad,
ribbons of bok choy greens
a leaf or two of the chard greens from the garden
a few parsley and sage leaves from the garden
a red bell pepper
bok choi stem sliced
some of the leftover green beans from T-day
crumbled feta
steamed cauliflower

I ate the salad (small, but very tasty) while I was waiting for the lamb and cauliflower to cook
One of the small apples from the young six-way espalier in the backyard was my dessert
~ : ♥ : ~
farmstead feta - Dee Creek Farm - 40 mi
bok choi - Winter Green Farm - 135 mi
lamb riblets - SuDan Farm - 26 mi
cauliflower - Groundworks Organics -101 mi
bell peppers - Gathering Together Farm - 89 mi