Friday, December 31, 2010

report card

There were three words for 2010: kindness, handicraft, and infrastructure. Not a resolution, (since those only ever generate overwhelming inadequacy; my list of projects and improvements is so much larger than one woman can ever do in one lifetime) but words to live by.

handicraft - became: a year of textiles rather than metals

There was quite a bit of sewing in 2010, mostly clothing, as I refurbished my scant wardrobe with newly made or re-made garments. This was handy for the two big online sewing activities: Me-Made-May, and Self-Stitched-September. The challenge here for me was not the sewing part, but the self-acceptance to clothe the body I do live in (Little Teapot), rather than the imaginary self. I seem to have been able to step outside of the whole fashion idiom to simply walk my own personal style path. Over the course of the year: nine dresses, seven pinafores, four tops, and four hats (two from Goretex)

Knitting was is transit-riding-calming, and as transit takes quite a bit of my time, quite a bit of knitting gets done: nineteen assorted projects this year. The biggest project was the blue vest stripey vest for me, the most complicated was the tea cozy, and the most fun was the jellyfish.

There was additional artisanry during the year, including a fair amount of embroidery, and toymaking (that won a contest) among other activities, though not anywhere near as much enameling as in years past. The falling dollar combined with the stratospheric rise in metals prices, multiplied by the stagnant economy, equals not a lot of jewelry work.
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Preserving: is it a handicraft, or is it infrastructure? ...seems somewhere in between for some reason, but whatever... a lot of it happened this year, which was structured by the year-long preserving challenge Tigress's Can Jam. Preserving food safely is a good skill to learn, pantry shelves full of tasty local foods helps add another layer of resiliency to the sustainable life that is my goal. By December, the process of putting up fruit and pickles in various forms had become quite comfortable, and an activity that will continue to be integrated into the cycle of the year here.

infrastructure - became: slow but steady progress
The linens shelf in the bedroom finally happened, and adds great functionality as well as being a transitional design element

A new low-flow, dual flush, comfort height commode is a step towards transforming the bathroom.

The bedroom wall cabinet/peg racks were another "Needs-Fixed-November" project, and are in daily use. Being able to see my earrings, my necklaces, with comb, mirror and hairbands right there in plain sight, really helps my morning routines.

Almost finished priming the porch columns and roof underside. Learned that overhead painting necessitates taking it slowly, or else taking time off is not optional. (next year, only paint for an hour or less at a time each day)

The day before the end of the year, a new small front loading washing machine replaced the huge water-guzzling top loader that was originally here. 15 gallons instead of 60 should make quite a difference.

Made a small garden bed next to the persimmon tree out in the parking strip, and planted the four garlic that made it from last year there, protected by half inch mesh. Hopefully that will deter the squirrels and jays from destroying the garlic before it sprouts, and 2011 will have enough garlic to eat as well as to plant.

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kindness - towards myself and the world around me...

Hmmm...Taking better care of myself (internal kindness) is still a challenge. Some things are shifting, and external awareness and communication continues to improve. However, I know what my intention was with this, and it really still needs improvement.
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Overall, 2010, despite the lack of steady full-time work, was a year of more progress than setback, more creation than devolution. There were fun online swaps, and travel to share celebrations with dear friends. There was another enameling demo at Art In The Pearl, and a cloisonne teaching workshop with my new student A, who has made open studio time a delight. There was the beginnings of greater connection within the neighborhood here and most of all there was always time to notice the small everpresent beauty that fills the world, the life that we all share.

I am, perhaps foolishly, of good cheer going into 2011. Meet you there...
and as always, wishing love and light to all of you in the year to come
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

brought to you by the letter "S"

It was the last of the "last Sunday" Crafternoons... but no fear, the current plan is to switch to "first Sundays" instead, particularly since several folks who would have wanted to attend were not able to, due to holiday weekend commitments. So - same fun format, starting next weekend Sunday January 2nd, 1 to 5 PM, with an option of Sushi Ichiban afterwards, if that sounds good. Crafting and chat, snacks and teatime.

There was some entirely unexpected birthday present giving, and an entirely planned small gift swap as well. The biggest surprise of all was being gifted with this vast amount of yarn, a vivid assortment, over 20 gallons of sudden stash enhancement. Now there is plenty of yarn for giftmaking and yarn swapping, as well as the additional grocery sack of acrylic/wool blends that are earmarked for one of my 2011 goals: to knit at least one hat a month as a giveaway for homeless folks. In the last few days, I've been thinking about goals and ideas for next year, and that one felt right, but I was wondering about affording the yarn... and before the day was over - the supplies appeared!

There were no bite-sized quincemeat tarts made. My mind's eye saw them, but since the cupboards here have had only a few pattypans, and no mini-mufin tins, the tarts remained imaginary. On my way home from kitty food and meds duty over at Hotel Drachenwald, Goodwill beckoned, and in another bit of synchronicity, two mini-muffin tins were waiting to come home with me. Perhaps there will be quincemeat tarts for next Sunday's Crafternoon...

This morning, my party preparations were slowed by the surprise of a phone call from my friend T, and we ended up talking for almost an hour, not just catching up on how we are managing to survive/get by as independent artists, but in bits and fragments being able to go a bit deeper. My heart is brightened at each glimpse of common ground; he and I have some places where the spirit that underlies the work of our hands is very congruent. (I suspect this to be true for other friends as well, but it is hard, so hard most of the time, for me to get to where those aspects can be verbalised)

Picking up the house, putting the leftovers away, washing the dishes, planning the weeks work - I am smiling...

sunday morning snippets

The first plant that I remember planting here at Acorn Cottage was the culinary sage next to the front walkway, a gift from B long before I'd a home of my own. The second plant was this Nandina domesticata, for which several trips to local nurseries were necessary, to find one that was not the fancy dwarfed or color variant forms, but the plant that matched my childhood memory.

Commonly called "heavenly bamboo", it is not a bamboo at all, but a member of the barberry family; unlike common barberry, it has no thorns or spiky stems, just a round-the-year beauty that impressed me as a child, and still pleases me greatly. It gets no supplemental water and grows steadily but slowly larger, eventually it can grow quite tall and leggy, which will look beautiful at the outer corner of my front porch, where it now crouches as a small shrub. It seems to be doing well, a plant that is not "difficult", with red berries as bright as holly in the dark of winter, sprays of white flowers in their season, and a tidy habit of growth.
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Japanese artifacts are a great and abiding pleasure of mine, as anyone that has ever been to Acorn Cottage will find apparent. So also is participating in various gift and craft exchanges; this is the second year I've done the Hexmas Sekrit Santa Swap, organised by my friend C. A few days ago a small package arrived in the mail, carefully wrapped so as to be impervious to my (gentle) shaking... bad me, I know, but I just can't help myself... It was tortuously difficult to wait till this morning to open my gift, but look at the exquisite bit of carving that the clever and perceptive T sent me:

a beautiful netsuke,
actual size ≈ 5.5cm

and underneath...

look at the chicken feet!
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Like many, this time of year has me feeling rather nostalgic, both for dear ones far away, and the dear ones that have gone where I may not yet follow. Lately, in the last few years, many images, and songs especially, from my youngerself memories can suddenly catch at my heart, (fortunately not so often when out and about in the world, since a tearful face is not my preferred one to show in public) I remember this song when it was new, and these women from long before that, but in the words of an entirely different song "we will get by, we will abide..."

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail, too...

Whatever your creed whatever you believe, may you find light where there is darkness, abundance where there is lack, love where there is fear, and kindness, peace, and joy now, and throughout your lives.

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A wish from Acorn Cottage for peace on earth, goodwill to all...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Κεφαλόποδ + other random thoughts and treats

Fortunately, my cold seems to be on the way out. Maybe the three days of mostly rest and hot soup were just the thing (note to self: remember this, even at times when work is necessary, take time to rest and drink broth). As I'm feeling better, I do plan to have an open house Crafternoon on Boxing Day ( this Sunday, December 26) Hopefully there will be some folks around town that will feel like dropping in. Exciting planned holiday snacks will include the ancestral Fine Family Rum Balls, as well as other delights. Sunday afternoon 1 - 5 PM
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Soon it will be Christmas Day, and what does that mean... Well among other things it also means that SWAP 2011 will begin! Start your sewing machines (brmmm brrrmmm)... My ideas for this year's SWAP keep changing: originally my plan was to really push myself with multiple new techniques, and several difficult fitting challenges/new-to-me patterns. Now I'm not feeling like that is what will make me happy, as the thought of all that was stressful to the point not enjoying the planning phase, which is usually one of my favorite parts.

Looking back to the original SWAP concept, the idea started with using simple basic patterns, and letting the fabrics and limited color palette create a usable wardrobe. I do have basic patterns that fit me (knit top, bias-front top, several pinafore/jumpers), and will use what works rather than add the additional challenge of developing a functional blouse pattern to the other parameters*. We are asked to use new techniques or features, and pattern development is a whole different level than that.

For SWAP 2011, my focus will be buttonholes, closures, and pockets, additional variety of those details will add a great deal of style to my sewing, and are all feature/techniques that I could definitely use improvement with. I'm looking forward to exploring the many variations on buttonholes and pockets, (remembering that bound buttonholes and double welt pockets are cousins). There are great tutorials over on the blog ikat bag, including myriads of pocket styles and how to add them to garments:

* the blouse pattern challenge will be my personal challenge for later in 2011, I still really want one, but need to come at the project with an attitude of exploration rather than my current attitude of dread
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There's a small bit of holiday cheer all around the house ~≈ : ♥ : ≈

delightful, though not traditional...

Bone Poets Orchestra holiday video
(just a tiny bit NSFW)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

say goodbye...

I am sad. HP died today, quietly, indoors and warm. She was a good hen, from when she first appeared* in my front yard, five years ago. She was always far more human-social than any of the other hens, probably since (as far as we know) she was someones Easter pet chick before being abandoned. She started me on the path of urban chicken-keeping, and hopefully had a good life here at Acorn Cottage.

R.I.P. HennyPenny

* this post has the story of her arrival

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I'm still very much under the weather, though thanks to E (who kindly drove me to the East Vancouver Costco) there are now a dozen boxes of chicken broth in the pantry, which should tide me over 'til my respiratory system expels Mr Rhinovirus.

HP is not improving, and "not dead yet". I'm rather at a loss, she can barely stand up, and cannot walk, but seems not unhappy to be in a box under a warm light. When I am nearby she makes little hennish cooing sounds. I periodically offer her water in a cup and sometimes she will drink a bit.

But this is all sounding rather pathetic. Perhaps it would be nicer just to hear something cheery instead, how about Dar Williams, and one of my favorite songs of the season...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

you say it's your birthday...

Was really hoping to get a good view of the total lunar eclipse last night. It was overcast and raining, clouds like drifts of carded wool let the moon peek through at times. Did see the approach to totality, but once the moon was "dark" it seemed foolish to stand in the cold rain watching the sky to guess where the moon was hiding.

Oooo this was a treat though... earlier this year I'd mentioned to my parents about Salley Mavor's original artwork travelling to a museum show at the Danforth Museum, (not terribly far from the ancestral abode), and suggested that it would definitely be worth a trip to see. Not only did my folks go to the show, and my mother's picture show up in a group photo on Salley's blog (my Mom is the woman on the right, holding a copy of Salley's book "Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes"), but I now have my very own copy of the book, with a signed dedication from the author. What a delightful birthday gift. I have rather a weakness for beautifully illustrated children's books, and this will be a very happy addition to my bookshelf.

My cold has progressed to the horrid streaming stage. HP is worse, and refuses to either eat or drink at all. I'm going back to bed now...

Monday, December 20, 2010

monday media and minutiae

or the good the bad and the ugly...

There are various small good things, such as this very pretty bit of calligraphic animation...

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Whilst wandering around Ravelry looking a slipper patterns, I ran across "Duffers", a quick 19 row felted pattern that looked interesting. I always look to see the various versions that folks knit up, both to get yarn ideas and to see if a design looks different when knitted by someone other than the designer (sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes a good reason not to knit a pattern) There were these sweet somewhat fuzzy grey Lopi slippers that the Original Knitter did not love. Did I mention that they were grey, and just my size, and she said that if anyone wanted them she wanted to give them away... So I sent a message to let her know that I would dearly love them and give them a good home in a chilly house where they could keep my feet warm, and now I have a nice warm pair of felted house slippers just in time for winter. They fit as if they had been made for me. Smiley happy warm feets now - thank you Amybel
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I read blogs: artists all over the world write about their lives and that is my recreational reading these days. One of many favorite blogs is purple podded peas. When Celia mentioned the artistry of Andy English it was impossible for me to resist. A tiny gift for myself, ordered from Andy English arrived today all the way from Cambridgeshire in East Anglia UK. True wood engravings, handprinted as holiday cards, (at $5 each, I could afford one). I chose "Three French Hens", and plan on framing it once I have my focus back again. There are still many lovely cards available in his Etsy shop, a rare opportunity to purchase such small delights that are actually made and printed by hand (not photo-replications) ...
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the bad thing: HennyPenny is poorly. At five+ years old, she is no spring chicken. Though her feathers are shiny and she appears not to be "sick", she fell over yesterday while walking across the yard. By the time I came over to where she was, she was up and moving around with the other chickens, so I figured no problem...

Today she was lying down on the dirt, and didn't get up when I came outside with henfood, and when I tried to pick her up she kind of fell over. In picking her up, it was obvious that she is almost completely skin and bones under her feathers. (I am reminded very much of when I realised that Smokey was wasting away under all her fur.) Not wanting to leave even an elderly hen lying in the cold rain and mud, I brought her inside. A large Rubbermaid tote with wood shavings seemed a bit less austere, with wire mesh across the top and a lamp with an incandescent bulb to warm her up.

She is willing to drink just a bit if I offer her water, but is not at all interested in eating, even warm oat porridge with egg, or fresh wiggly worms from the worm bin. She sits there all crouched down, and will make soft happy chicken sounds if I talk to her, but all is not well. A friend who is more chicken-knowledgeable than I am, said that HP is probably on the way out.
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The ugly thing is that I've come down with a turrible cold, the kind that feels like Mr. Rhinovirus is doing bad tapdancing on your face. I just want to sleep, and that is what is most difficult, since I also want to breathe. And, there is work to be done, etc etc...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

because it's time...

In wintertime, one of the things that gets made every year here at Acorn Cottage, is candied citrus peel. My father, notoriously difficult to find gifts for, enjoys candied peel, and it is a Useful Ingredient in both holiday baking and garnishing. It is rather time consuming to make, but not at all difficult, requiring only citrus peels (please use organic, as you will be eating the peel), sugar, and water.

To begin with, take the citrus peel and make sure you have scraped away any excess segment membrane from the inside of the peel, more an issue with grapefruit than with orange. I like my candied peel to be thick and juicy, so I do not scrape away all the white part. While the white of the peel can be bitter, the next steps will deal with that.

Cut your peelings into strips about a quarter inch wide. Put into a pan of cold water, bring to a boil, then let sit for at least a half hour. (I sometimes do this before bedtime and just let them sit, in the pan, overnight) Pour off the water and do this at least two more times. This "blanching" can can also be done in a crockpot, by cooking the peels till the water boils, (or overnight) draining off the water and repeating at least twice.
After you have blanched the peel strips, make a simple sugar syrup. It is a good idea to use a pan with a fair bit of height, and a nice hefty bottom; a thin pan might let the syrup burn, and hot sugar syrup boils up quite a bit, so you want some room between the liquid and the top of the pan. I use either a tall Revereware pan or my maslin pan, depending on how much peel is being processed

starting to simmer
Use equal amounts of white sugar and water to make the syrup, judging the amount in proportion to the peelings. You want enough that the peels are covered by liquid, allowing enough to eventually be absorbed as well, it is kind of a judgment call. Better to have too much than not enough, the leftover syrup can be stored in the freezer for future use. Bring the sugar/water mixture to a boil, the sugar will dissolve, making a simple syrup. Add the peel strips and turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer.

further along
The peelings will need to simmer for quite a while, usually an hour or more. They start out being mostly opaque, and gradually become more and more translucent and shiny. At that point, turn off the heat, and prepare for draining and drying the peel. The peel can simply stay in the syrup (refrigerated) till a convenient time for the next step.

fully translucent peel
Set cooling racks on cookie sheets, you will need a place to let them stay overnight. "Spaghetti tongs" are helpful to pick the sticky drippy peel strips out of the syrup and place them carefully on the cooling racks, they should be separated so the excess syrup can drip off and they can start to dry a little.

The next day, the now candied peel can be rolled in granulated or superfine sugar, this will help keep the strips from sticking together, and make them easier to pick up. Cut into cubes, they make a splendid and glittering garnish. (Another further option is to dip the peel strips in melted chocolate for a truly delicious decadent treat.)

The candied peel should keep for at least several weeks without refrigeration, I have mailed it to the East Coast in winter with no difficulty. For longer storage, it can be frozen, but it never lasts that long around here...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

well duh...

two words: rectangular construction

I have been putting the raincoat construction project off for months and months well more than a year, dreading the multiple muslins needed to get something that will deal with my bitsy shoulders. Last night, while riding the #75 on the way home from visiting L, it occurred to me that a way to stop being all weird and stressed about it, would be to make the primary construction rectangular construction and to use the "pretty" details from useful patterns as just that, added details.

Rectangular construction* preceded shaped pattern pieces, and while not suitable for all modern garments, should work without trouble for a semi-shaped (but loosely) fit rain-over-coat. Now that I've both a nifty rainhat, and my Keen boots of awesomeness, it is time to have an actual raincoat. I vaguely remember my friend K suggesting just this solution months ago, but I'd my heart set on a particular shawl collared swing coat pattern instead. Now it is mid December, and just maybe before winters end there will be a new raincoat, the right size to fit me, long enough to wear with dresses, and the shabby worn Goretex jacket can be retired.

I'll be documenting the project, once started (There are a few studio projects that need finished first). By using this construction method, it should be possible to entirely bypass the frustration of shoulder fitting*. After all, my Goretex jacket doesn't even have an armscye seam.

My idea is for mid-calf coat with a flared skirt, a zip front with a snap wind-flap, a tall cowl-ish collar lined with polartec, pockets (maybe with single welts), and a Goretex shouldercape for additional rainproofing. I have the fabric already, the black London Fog fabric (bought when I lived in Seattle years ago) so all that is needed is notions, a sturdy separating zipper, some snaps, and possibly some lining fabric. Not sure what raincoats get lined with?

* making clothing from cut to measure rectangles and triangles. (pre-renaissance, viking, and earlier clothing was often made this way)

** I still really want to come up with a button up the front shirt with shoulders that fit me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

something cheerful to watch on a dark and stormy day...

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Sunday after next, the 26th, last Crafternoon of the year here at Acorn Cottage.  I'll have tea and snackage, and was thinking about a post-holiday gift exchange as an activity in addition to the usual chatting and crafting. Bring along something that would be a treat to get, nothing too fancy, just a wrapped gift (homemade, thrifted or re-gifted is all good) and we can do a bit of round robin swapping. Sounds like fun?

Monday, December 13, 2010

a year of canning safely...

This Can Jam year flew by, (though years mostly do that now that I am older). The year of preserving was such a wonderful focus, to pay more attention to what is growing seasonally, that knowledge that drifted away for a while, which now is becoming clearly important again, as is the idea that to enjoy seasonal bounty will necessitate preserving some of it for use during the rest of the year.

The compendium posts on Tigress's websites** will be a Useful Resource for adding variety for preserves both sweet and savory. More than anything else, this CanJam year has brought me a sense of ease with the process, and a gentle but definite stretching of my flavor comfort zone. Rather than ketchup, the remaining frozen tomatoes are destined for Awesome Sauce. There is a jar of tasty tiny homemade pickles in the fridge, and pickled beets on the pantry shelf, a surprising development for this girl who did not like pickles.

Not all the recipes from this year will end up as regular pantry guests, but there will be guest and holiday gifts for a while to come, and I learned a lot. Using apple for pectin gives a nicer (softer) set than Pomona's. Jelly is a luxury product, requiring not only much sugar, but leaving behind most of the fruit (which can, of course, be used for other preserves, but still...)

Jan - grapefruit marmalade* &tc
Feb - carrot cake conserve*
celestial carrot marmalade
Mar - roasted garlic syrup
Apr - scarborough fair jelly
May - gang of 4 jam
strawberry rhubarb jam*
Jun - easy as pie sauce
Jul - watermelon jelly
lavender blueberry jam
Aug - golden treasure drink syrup (tomato)
Sep - (meant to make plum sauce)
Oct - capsicum condiments*
awesome sauce*
Nov - spiced seckel pears
Dec - quincemeat preserves*

The starred recipes are keepers, ones that delight my tastebuds and are asked for by friends, ones that are or will become pantry staples. Will there be another year of CanJamming? Only Tigress knows... With great gratitude I thank her for the inspired year, and know that my pantry will never be the same!

** tigress in a jam & tigress in a pickle

Sunday, December 12, 2010

night rain on boro mountain

Though I imagine that to those working a more normal job my life must look a lot like toddlers playtime, in fact working four self employed jobs takes rather a bit of every day, and most times when not working, my householding responsibilities fill as much time as allowed. Unadulterated playtime is a rare thing, or it'd not be so noticed when there is a bit...

Took a bit more time last night with the stitchery-scene, (inspired by Jude Hill's "cloth whispering" video series, on her blog Spirit Cloth), and it went off in an entirely unexpected direction. The cloth at the top is a scrap from a beloved well worn thrifted shirt; when torn to a rectangle, the heavy multiple light colored threads made a kind of scattered fringe off the edges, reminiscent of rain falling. Maybe it is the current ongoing rain reverberating?

So, what if the rest of the various blue fabric was simply covered with lighter running stitches, a kind of informal sashiko, reminiscent of boro cloth? What if the moon was stitched down with horizontal stitches like a haze of clouds? What if the trees were mostly dark against the snowy hills?
Not sure if the lighter trees work with the design...

the image echos memories of the year of winter in Idaho; the trees dark, the snow under moonlight bright enough to see pathways; memories of childhood: how once the leaves fell, the shapes of the hills underneath showed clear against the sky; so many memories of watching the rain move over the land in different seasons and places...

To just take materials and play, to allow them to have a voice in what they become, the collaboration... that is timeless delight.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Thursday I did a very simple change to the grey tunic from my SWAP 2010 attempt. My initial vision had large shoulder flanges, which ended up being both unpleasantly droopy-looking, and rather heavy to wear. So, after realising that said tunic had been simply sitting in the drawer ever since being completed in March... off with the offending flaps. With a bit of hand-stitching for the edges that were underneath, to align with the stitching already on the vertical seams, it is much more comfortable now, and will be a good addition to the winter wardrobe layers


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It is a good thing to have an assortment of small handwork projects, appropriate for various lengths of time and locations. Sometimes knitting is what is needful, sometimes stitching, sometimes sketching. Unfortunately, my enameling and metalwork have no portable handwork associated, they are pretty much strictly studio projects.

Just for fun, I'd decided to follow along, in my own way, the inspiring instructional videos from Jude Hill* for a winter holiday cloth. Indigo bits have been picked from the scrap boxes and stitched together as a backing. The removed tunic flanges were sitting on the coffee table in the living room, and caught my eye...


Now there are steep hills, and a place is forming. I like the way it is reminiscent of the landscapes I drew over and over again as a young adult, steep hills and mountains against the sky. Some triangle trees of various sizes are set to go through the laundry, as possible additions.

* the series of her posts starts here, just follow the links on each page...

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Because it get put away each year, in the cupboard over the hall closet, the featherbed often gets somewhat forgotten at the beginning of wintertime. It was a birthday gift one year, and is ever so toasty warm. It forms a kind of container, with the shivery human in the middle, poufy feathers around the edge and the blanketing over the top. After only a short while, body heat warms the container and warm sleep is obtainable. The trick with it is that it needs to be puffed up anew each day, as sleeping on it flattens it out quite a bit, since it is basically a big sack full of fluffy feather/down mixture. In combination with the Hot Rice Bag, this should make a big difference.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

look up, pay attention to details...

The shelf above the bedroom door is up, in a most rudimentary form. Wants painted*, but even as it is, there is now a Useful Place to store bedding, which frees up a bit of prime storage space in the hall cupboard (which was my thought behind storing the bedding in the bedroom instead, where it actually gets used!)
The way it lowers the ceiling just as you enter the room is subtly pleasing to me. Not certain if it is a Pattern Language pattern or a Not So Big House pattern, but somewhere I remember reading about how a transition from a lower ceiling to a higher one is a good thing for entranceway spaces. 'Tis one thing to read about it, and another to experience. Now granted, the entry to the bedroom is only the matter of stepping through the door, but there is a definite and noticeable transition caused by the presence of the shelf. And all my intention was for simply providing another storage space.

holding the camera overhead, not easy = fuzzy picture

As a small detail, the outer corner of the shelf is cut into the double curve motif used all around the house. Took only a little more time than just cutting it square, but in time, the house will become more and more integrated in both function and decorative aspects. The same double curve is used in the porch support beam, and in my front porch flashing. There is another house a few blocks away that is a great example of this, with flashing and brackets and moulding all with similar contours. Small details that make a big difference.

The hall cupboard could be utilised much more effectively than it currently is. The central shelves should hold things that are used often, though like all ostensibly "linen cupboards" the shelves are quite deep and far apart, which makes for messy storage of anything other than sheets and bathtowels. Must needs do some brainstorming about what belongs in the space, which should make clearer how to organise it. One shelf could hold all the stationary type stuff: tape and glue and paper and notebook thingummys, all the stuff I can never find when needed!
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There is a very interesting series of videos up at Spirit Cloth. Jude is working through her process of creation of some small holiday art cloth, and it is very tempting to join in working along. Her artwork is stunning and intuitive, and her blog is a thoughtful inspiring daily read for me.
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An egg a day almost every day; homegrown is wonderful, and unexpected in the heart of winter. Good hens!
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More boring medical-fu interfering with the daily necessities of life. Bah.Tuesday was pretty much useless, I'd intended a studio day, but got an Urgent Care day instead. Nothing serious, just time consuming. Studio work will get pushed back just a tad, but there are three almost finished project in process, two old commissions and one tiny brooch pair for me, all should be done by the weekend...
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* the whole house interior wants painted. The first room that can be easily cleared out will be the first painted. Probably that means the bathroom, but oh how I want to paint my bedroom!

Monday, December 6, 2010

housiversary the fifth

Five years here, and it seems like only a few moments away in time that my life changed so radically. May all who are homeless eventually find a home that fits them so well. For all the trials of being a householder, I'd not trade it for anything.

The traditional fifth yeargift is wood, so I am working on one of the many unfinished projects, an over-the-doorway shelf for the bedroom, to hold linens and towels. Nothing fancy, just a board, two brackets and a wooden cleat. Maybe someday projects like these will be a straightforward for me as working with fabric is, where I simply think and move forward. Not yet.



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - quincemeat preserves

Hard to believe but the year of Tigress's CanJam wonderfulness, set in motion by the brilliant Tigress, is drawing to an end... Her choice for this last month of all was dried fruit. It would normally never occur to me to use suchlike as an ingredient for something water-bath canned, since it is already shelf-stable.

My first thought was to use something exotic, like dried mango or papaya, but on further research, there was very little information about the acididty level of dried fruits. From what is listed here, it seems that as fruit dries, it becomes slightly less acidic than the comparable fresh fruit; raisins and dried apricots are both within the safe zone

Of course, chutney is the most obvious use, but with various other savory jars already in the pantry, and not being as much of a chutney enthusiast as my dear mother, I remembered a recipe in the back of How To Be A Domestic Goddess that seemed like a good starting place to riff off of. Nigella has a great enthusiasm for quince, and coincidentally there is still a small jar of quince still in the fridge (most all of the rest was properly canned, and is stored on the pantry shelves) as well as a half jar of spiced seckel pears.

After looking over the recipe for Quincemeat, the parts that seemed vital to me were the proportions, (more quince - less dried fruits), with an assortment of spices, and candied orange peel, as well as brandy, and either suet or shortening. The suet-free recipe on the previous page calls for apples instead, "...extra apples make up for the suet by keeping everything nice and moist", so extra apples it will be.

Okay, so the plan is to make a chunky-ish spiced mixed preserve. My first step (since there is one orange in the hanging basket next to the kitchen counter), is to peel and blanch twice the orange peel, then simmer it in a sugary syrup, to approximate candied orange peel. Actually making candied orange peel is not difficult, but takes rather a bit more time, and you'd want to use more than just one orange! I'll be making up a big batch sometime later this month, as it is a favorite holiday gift for my father. If all the marmalade from January had not already been eaten, that would be a good substitute.

Quincemeat Preserves
1 c cooked quince
3 preserved seckel pears
½ c apple
¼ c dark raisins
¼ c golden raisins
¼ c dried apricots
¼ c candied orange peel
3 T dark brown sugar
3 T dark rum
½ c spiced fruit syrup*
¼ t cinnamon

*leftovers from
preserved quince & pears
Prep all the jars and canning supplies, set canning water boiling

Chop all fruit, except raisins, into raisin size pieces

In a non-reactive pan, add liquids, sugar and spice to fruit.
Bring to a boil, and simmer till apple is cooked
(you may add more syrup if needed to prevent scorching)

Using the normal waterbath canning process,
fill jars
- ½" headspace - process 15 minutes
Yield: three 8oz. jars, 1 4oz. jar

Now the house smells amazing! Using the rose/quince and the spiced/balsamic/pears in addition to the dried fruit makes for a mightily aromatic preserve, rich and strange. In the interest of using what is here, I substituted rum for brandy. They're not the same, true, but for me, dark rum is a taste of wintertime, all on account of the rum balls that were an every year New Years confection.
This is my first original recipe for waterbath canning, but all the components are safe for canning*, and there is even some vinegar in the spiced fruit syrup, though not very obvious, it adds additional complexity.

*The acidity cutoff point for safe canning is 4.6...
apples 3.3 - 4.0
seckel pear 4.0 - 4.2
quince 3.1 - 3.4
raisins 3.8 - 4.1
dried apricots 3.3 - 3.5
oranges 3.3 - 4.1

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday snippets

in which our plucky heroine attempts to return to cheerful equanimity (as opposed to the funk of the last few days...)

My viral flu-shot arm is now back to normal size. I'll spare you the rest of the other assorted medical-fu of the week, boring boring boring annoying boring.

E very kindly drove me to pick up henfood at Concentrates, with a stop at Cash & Carry for assorted large container food supplies. They do indeed carry white wine vinegar, (which proved so very difficult to find elsewhere in anything other than minuscule precious vials), but it has preservatives (:P) in it, which are a non-starter in my book. Oh well. I'll just stick to either white vinegar or cider vinegar for future pickling.

After stopping at C&C, it occurred to me that a large commercial cookie sheet would make a dandy slide-out tray for underneath the perch area in the new (yet-to-be-built) henhouse. There are various bits of wood, and random Ikea parts set aside for that project, which will hopefully eventually create a house which will encourage perching and discourage nestbox-sleeping.

Someone in the henhouse laid an egg yesterday! Is HennyPenny hoping for a reprieve, or has one of the moulting Speckldies an extra amount of vim? At any rate, even a few extra eggs in the winter will be welcome, as a favorite breakfast or snack is hot broth with an eggs stirred in.

After much online and bookstore searching, it became obvious that persimmons are not intended to be canned as simple fruit preserves. Not needing a mort of chutney, the beautiful orbs will be turned to puree and frozen, so as to patiently wait for a chance to become something sweet and delightful. Perhaps this pear persimmon spice cake with whiskey creamcheese frosting

Best of all, one of my blue handknit fingerless mitts, which had disappeared over a week ago, leaving me with one hand warm and one hand cold, has been found. While walking to the other bus stop, the one without a bench, there in the edge of a pile of soggy leafage was a glimpse of stripey blue. None other. A wash and a great deal of vegetable matter removal and there was a grand reunion in the warm hands drawer, not to mention that my outdoor wintertime workaday tasks will be much improved. Speaking of which, since it is grey, but windy and not raining, there is a load of laundry that is waiting to meet the clothesline...