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.
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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.
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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
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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

Friday, November 27, 2009

the helpful croquis

I will be doing quite a bit of sewing after the winter holidays, and will be planning a coordinated group of clothing. It's really useful to be able to sketch out possibilities; most of us don't look much like the seven-foot-tall all-legs images on the pattern envelopes. I've made myself a handy helper, a pocket sized croquis, drawn out on an index card that I can keep in my planner. The dark outline shows through regular (thin) computer paper, and makes it really easy to sketch in possible clothing combinations.

Since my personal proportions are a bit different than "standard" I also did this interesting exercise to determine where my areas of variability are. I already knew that my shoulders are very narrow, that's been a given my entire adult life, but I didn't know that not only are my lower legs a bit longer than in proportion, but that the distance from my bust point to my leg break point is almost 4" shorter than would be proportional. This information is not only useful when altering patterns to fit well; it allowed me to adapt the croquis to more accurately reflect my appearance, which allows for trial-and-error in the sketching stage, rather than sewing up things that won't make me happy when I wear them.

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Lefthand image is the Sewing Workshop "Teagarden T", a pattern that I already have and have made up several times in various fabrics, worn with Vogue 8499, a Marcy Tilton design that I'm thinking of sewing, hoping the pants will be both comfortable and a bit more stylish than my overalls.

Righthand image is the croquis, sketched on a 3x5 index card and then traced over with a finepoint Sharpie. While it doesn't look much like what you see on a pattern envelope or in an advertisement, it looks a whole lot like what I see in the mirror...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

trinkets, treasures, and toys

come to the annual Manyhands Holiday Marketplace...

It's a little less than three weeks away! And wowie-zowie do I still have a lot to do to get ready...

Lots of making of things going on all over the town, and we will have all kinds of goodies available... I've been making various kinds of holiday ornaments, which is something I really enjoy, in between finishing up the last bits of this years regalia orders. And I've started planning the 2010 calendar, which will be more of the alphasketches, for the second half of the alphabet.
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Finally feeling like the mojo is coming back... I've been using the Orca torch again, and it seems to be working okay, save that the smallest tip is still funky, so I have to solder with the medium size, which is HUGE for what I do. Lots of practice with having a delicate hand with the flame, and careful not to slag down the filigree. After the holidays I will order a new torch tip, if further cleaning proves ineffective.
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I had a great time teaching Intro to Cloisonne this last weekend, and hope to do more teaching in 2010. I'm thinking about hosting open studio night on Wednesdays...
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Teaparty on Sunday - I'm planning on being set up to do freezer paper stenciling, which is a really fun way to decorate things for ornaments or for gifts. If you want to participate all you need to bring is an exacto knife, some fabric, and possibly acrylic or fabric paint. I've done it on both woven fabric and T-shirt knits. I'll have freezer paper, and some supplies; if you want to get paint, they have it locally at Bolt and at Collage.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Media Monday - "The Other Side"

the 60's were stranger than we remember...

- from "God Bless Tiny Tim", 1968

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dark Days Challenge - nightshade fruit

week 1 of 20
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The edible nightshades are all pretty much warm weather foods, more tropical than temperate.
This first week I decided to use the very last of the eggplantlets that were hanging on - homegrown eggplant, in November! My very favorite thing to cook with eggplant is the very first thing that I ate with eggplant - Melanzane al Funghetto*... The variation that I use adds tomato, garlic, and fresh parsley. Since I only have a very small amount of eggplant, it will be a side dish, a topping over some "fauxghetti" made from shredded steamed squash. I'll add a cheese omelet, and some mashed potatoes, and that will be a rather nice dinner.

homegrown eggplant
homegrown squash
homegrown herbs, including onion "greens"
homegrown potatoes
homegrown sweet pepper

local eggs - my hens won't be laying till there is more daylight
local butter - from Tillamook
local tomato - gift from friends, stored in freezer

local cheese - Rumiano's Dry Jack, from Crescent City
this is outside my 150 mile limit, but I brought this cheese back myself from a trip several years ago

I've been thinking about the parameters of this twenty week challenge, and how best to adapt myself and the rules to each other... there is a lot of talk currently about is it better to choose organic that is grown faraway vs local and sustainable but maybe not registered as organic... and there is the issue with a lot of the smaller organic companies being bought up by various less savory larger corporations.

In addition, unlike every other place that I have lived, in lovely, green, sustainably minded, Portland Oregon, the farmers markets here are the most costly place to buy food, being even more expensive than the upscale groceries. Not that I begrudge the farmers getting paid well for their efforts, but I wonder why in Seattle or Olympia the small farmers are successful year after year and still manage to sell at a more affordable price point. (end of rant)

So, my current thoughts on the guidelines are basically the way I try to shop anyway: sustainable and local will trump corporate organic, though I will attempt to find sources that are organic and affordable. Since butter is available locally, I will use that for the cooking fat. I will exempt spices. (I'm not going to bother to exempt coffee and chocolate, since I don't indulge) Basically I will shop imagining the way that things were available to our medieval ancestors, maybe something special was available in the marketplace and could be purchased and preserved for use later... That is how I feel about including the salt jack, stored cold it lasts for years. I've also just started making a batch of salted lemons, a Moroccan condiment and seasoning, organic lemons preserved in their own juice and salt. I would include this, as a "one time bounty" of six lemons can be preserved to last for months...

* Italian: eggplant, mushroom style

Thursday, November 19, 2009

back-alley bouquet

Walking home today, I saw something bright among the drifted leaves and debris in the alley down the street from Acorn Cottage. There were a few purple campanula still blooming, and a little further along I found a few other flowers, cosmos, and lavender, and yarrow... All these are technically "weeds"; windblown and bird-left seeds find hospitable places in corners of the urban landscape. My more gardenly neighbors don't give them yard-room. I thought the flowers would be just the thing to brighten Acorn Cottage on a dark day.

I've two small flower holders, cubes of lucite with a rare earth magnet on one side, the center drilled out to hold a small glass test tube. One lives in the kitchen, next to the sink; the kitchen cupboards here are original 1950's painted steel. The other one lives in the bathroom, also next to the sink, where an Ikea steel cupboard stands in for a proper medicine cabinet.

Having fresh flowers make me smile when washing dishes or brushing teeth. And while my goal is having flowers to cut for the house growing here most of the year long, for now I will enjoy these small foraged delights.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

so tiny

I've been knitting little baby bootlets, two different friends of mine are expecting new babies this winter. I've never made these before; baby feet must be really tiny. The pattern, from Elizabeth Zimmerman's "The Opinionated Knitter" is not only quick and easy, being all in garter stitch, but it is a topological treat - you knit starting from the top and back edge of the boot in to the center front, then pick up and knit out again to the bottom of the foot, ending up with an oddly shaped, not really flat, bit. A bit of stitching and it turns nicely into something foot-shaped. Ever so much nicer than faffing about with a bunch of wee double pointed needles

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

wishful Wednesday - a sewing friend to play with

Body Double: Making Your Own Sewing Mannequin
FT705 • APR 3 (1 session); SAT 9:00AM-4:00PM

Fitting is the hardest thing about sewing, especially
when sewing for yourself. In this workshop,
we’ll make a custom-fitted body form out of
simple materials. Your new “body double” will be
invaluable for solving your fitting problems, shaping
pattern alterations, and draping new designs.
Sewing for yourself is so much easier when you
have an assistant that is your exact size and
shape! NOTE: Students will be working in pairs
to wrap each other’s bodies—this is a good workshop
for friends to take together! No prerequisite.

I decided to go for it, and signed up for this workshop at OCAC in April. I am confident hopeful that I will not be desperately doing arithmetic this coming April, and will instead, be cheerfully making art and sewing clothing. It would be really fun to take this class with another friend, surely I am not the only one who has dreamed of having a body-form to make sewing easier. Since the spring schedule just came out, there are still spaces available.
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These are the fabrics that I am thinking of using for my wardrobe sewing, scheduled for after the winter holidays, more information about this project here:
Left: grey corduroy, black cotton knit, grey-blue widewale corduroy, black and grey polkadot cotton. Center: grey linen, black floral knit, grey asian print textured cotton, light grey abstract acorn print cotton, grey flannel floral stripe. Right: grey and white texture-woven cotton, hand embroidered and beaded floral , grey batik rayon, grey and white textured rayon blend.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

S.O.L. E. food

sustainable, organic, local, ethical

Sounds good doesn't it. I do my best to eat that way, as much as time and pocketbook allow. So as a way to share that, and challenge myself to move beyond my ubiquitous stir-fry dinner, I'm going to participate in the Dark Days Challenge. Basically, between Nov 15, 2009 – Mar 31, 2010, the idea is to cook one meal a week focusing on this, and write about it.

Local is defined for this challenge as within a 150 mile radius. This is good, because I can include butter from either Tillamook or Rose Valley. As far as I know there are no local groves of olive trees. It means I can include the lamb,(sourced from Olympia last year?) which really needs eaten up this winter; I'm attempting to use up much of what is in the chest freezer, so I can defrost it next summer when the weather is warm. I know that my grocery of choice (the Arbor Lodge New Seasons) has local products tagged, but I'm not sure what their definition is, so that will be something to check when next I'm there. And there are the bits and bobs that are still in the yard, and food that I grew last summer. I know there are some potatoes, and apples, and some of the giant summer squash of doom still on the pantry shelves...

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and it just wouldn't be Monday without some goofy media; not sure how I found this one, but the associated comic Little Dee is just slightly surreal, and vaguely reminiscent of Odd Bodkins and Calvin and Hobbes...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

perhaps Acorn Cottage needs a quince tree?

Isn't this lovely, like bottled garnet...

Well, I found out that making jelly is a much more wasteful and time-consuming process than making jam, involving boiling and skimming and dripping of juices through cloth and then more boiling and skimming; I probably will return to my former habits of jam, chutney and marmalade... It was educational to try this out, since I'd never made jelly before, and the results are simply exquisite however, and wonderfully tasty. I'd never though of jelly as a form of conspicuous consumption before, but it certainly fits the description. If I am gifted with quinces again, I shall try another recipe, perhaps Danielle Barlow's Quince Marmalade
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Anyone out there in Portland interested in (taking a workshop on) making your own sewing mannequin? It looks like OCAC is offering a workshop in April. I've wanted one for years and years, and it would be really fun to take this class with a friend, actually they suggest that in the class description.
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I ran across this preview online, and while I am no fan of Roald Dahl, I just may have to make an exception in this case, since I am a great fan of stop motion animation...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

blue acorn and oakleaf hat

Here is a better picture of my new woolly hat; the color is more accurate, it is a soft denim-y blue rather than the lapis color in the previous photos. (I think I took the earlier pictures with the camera set on "fluorescent" which does odd things to the color balance.)

I'm really happy with the knitted oak leaves and acorns that are here used as a hat decoration...

And it is indeed a very nice thing that the yarn, chosen for its softness and the lovely color, happens to be "o-wool" from the Vermont Organic Fiber Company. I didn't realise it was organic till after I had brought the yarn home, and read all the details on the tag...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

random Thursday thoughts

Bleah! Dang! I have a cold, despite washing my hands so much that the skin is chapped and cracked. It is just a unpleasant consequence of riding on public transit. At least I will be healthy before next weekend, when I have a student coming to take a cloisonne workshop. If anyone else is interested in enameling, this is a good one for making those special holiday or 12th Night gifts...
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My acorn and oakleaf hat is finished, and the double-thick band is just as toasty warm as I had hoped. I'm thinking about knitting up some acorns for holiday ornaments for the sale in December. It looks like we will be having a holiday sale here at Acorn Cottage the second weekend in December, stay tuned for further information...
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I've found someone who wants my old carpet...when I am finally able to remove the bedroom carpet and put down the Tundra flooring. They can use it on the farm where their border collies train with sheep, and will come and Pick It Up with their truck, so all I need to do is remove it and roll it up. After the winter Holiday Season.
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Despite feeling like cr*p today, I did get outside and do a tiny bit of gardening, since it was not raining. The two swiss chard starts are now planted in the garden bed in the backyard. I am hoping that it will be happier there, and that I will have some greens later this year and in early spring. If I can ever manage to build a hanging light fixture for over the student table in the workroom, it occurs to me that it would also be a good place to start seeds; there are no sunny windows suitable for that, so I've been pretty much acquiring plant starts rather than starting my own.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is there such a thing as too much acorn goodness?*

The small oak leaves and acorns were knit using the instructions in “100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet” which is widely available both to purchase, and from my local library… I found the instructions therein to be easy to follow and the results delightful.

The oak-leaf cable runs horizontally around the crown of the hat, layered over the ribbing that eventually turns into checqered knitting. I want this hat to be WARM. There is I-cord yet to be added to decoratively edge the cable panel...

Now all that is still needed is to attach the remaining I-cord, and figure out exactly what I want to do with the top of the hat. It needs some kind of blocking, the checkerboard knitting is rather lumpy. I currently have it with a kind of stitched "tuck" basted in just above where the cable band ends, which gives the hat a nice kind of pillbox-y shape, and I'm still wondering how best to attach the small acorns and leaves...

*well, yes, there is... there are a lot of tacky acorn things in the world, I try my best not to add to them...


Isn't that a wonderful word? I love the way it looks.

I was given a whole grocery bag full of quince, and decided that they needed to be made into jelly. The last time I tried to do anything with quince, about five or six years ago, I attempted quince paste, and got something that was well, edible, but not really a treat, being not that lovely red color, and well, rather grainy. Not a treat, despite hours and hours of work. So, scanning the internet for likely recipes, I found this one which looked promising. SO, I've been simmering the cut-up quinces all evening, and will drain them overnight, with the idea of turning them into jelly tomorrow. I've never actually made jelly before, lots of jams and marmalades and sauces, but not that clear wriggly aromatic sweet. Those who say that quince is low in pectin must be wrong, since there is clear evidence to the contrary wherever the juice from the simmering liquid has drippped on my stove. I imagine that like other fruits the pectins are concentrated in the skin, core, and seeds, and if those are cut away before cooking, it might be lacking. Well, tomorrow will be the test for certain...
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I have made some progress on my winter knitted hat project. The oak-leaf strip is finished, as is the body of the hat. I've stitched them together, and added one of the I-cord bands at the bottom edge where they join. I still need to knit the other I-cord band for the other edge of the oak-leaf strip, figure out how I am going to connect the small knitted 3-D acorns and oakleaves which will form a kind of central tassel, and block the crown of the hat to a smoother shape. It is a hat with a lot going on, but mostly sculptural, the color is a soft medium blue, almost but not quite indigo, and it has the oakleaf cable, and the crown of the hat is all in checkerboard knitting. The only other color is the I-cord, knit in yarn shaded dark blue and grey and taupe. It has been really satisfying to come up with an idea and gradually through trial and error, design my own knitting. I'm used to doing that with fabric, but not with yarn.
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I've had this song running through my head for days now...
Long long ago, when I was a young thing in the early seventies, my friends and I saw the Kinks at the old Boston Music Hall, and somehow ended up sitting only a few rows back from the stage. (Only once have I ever had better seats for a concert, and that was when Steeleye Span played upstairs in the Galleria in Harvard Square, that was the show that had dancing girls and Morris dancers) those were some good times back then...
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* Dutch for "quince jelly"

Monday, November 9, 2009

bits-n-pieces + Media Monday

I've been able to find several important things that have been misplaced, like the title to Nimblefoot, and the pieces of my unhappy Orca Torch... I found a small heavy-duty tarp in the SCA closet, which has now been attached to the back fence in the hen-yard to give the girls a small area, besides under the coop, that is out of the rain.
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The tourney-kitchen-box that Viki passed on to me has been moved from the back deck (where it was getting rained on, and trying to grow mold) to right outside the back door. I scrubbed the inside with bleach, and set it atop the leg parts from my old "standing workbench". Once it dries out, (hopefully before springtime) it should be great for storing small yard and garden bits and bobs.
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My friend Gryphon came down last week from Olympia to sell books at Powells and bring me some of his late wife's gardening things; three Earthboxes (self-watering planters), two huge planter-pots, some beefy welded wire tomato cages, and a spiffy multilayered worm bin. Some of the sewing reference books that Powells didn't want, I was able to give a good home here at Acorn Cottage; I have happy memories of going to Sewing Expo with Larissa, and will remember her often.
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a pixelated and somewhat fractured tale

Monday, November 2, 2009

media monday + sewing thoughts

...been feeling a bit lonesome and puny and off-balance since I got back from the other coast, nothing real specific, just hard to get motivated, and wanting more company than I usually have. I'm sure I will soon feel re-balanced more like my usual self. There is so much to be done here to get ready for wintertime.

One thing for sure, besides working, is that I need to sew some clothing. I got a good start whilst I had access to my Mom's Bernina; finished one light blue jumper and another indigo one needs only pockets to be completed. I also pulled a pattern off an old and dearly loved silk noil camp shirt that was "worn to a ravelling", a good pattern to use, that I know will fit without needing mockups. So today I pawed and dug through my tubs of fabric bits to see what I could come up with in the way of large enough pieces to really get a start on a bunch of new jumpers, dresses and shirts. While I had intended to go with my usual indigo based colors, I've found I have a great assortment of various greys, from corduroy to rayon knit. I even found the raincoat fabric that I bought when I lived in Seattle years ago, though I am not
yet feeling ready to tackle that strenuous project .... If I can find suitable fabric somewhere in the stash, I will also make some leggings/longjohns...

Mist and Fog...a Tentative winter clothes sewing plan:
grey widewale corduroy jumper
black knit jumper
grey/black polkadot cotton shirtdress
black linen shirtdress
grey Ikea oakleaf and acorn cotton shirtdress
textured grey cotton japanese landscape print shirt
grey/black flowered rayon knit top (SW teagarden T)
grey textured rayon "hippie/bohemian" shirt with embroidered yoke
grey jaquard rayon bias front top
grey linen pants (Vogue Marcy Tilton pattern)

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