Current Sweater

July 7th, 2012

acer.jpg

Current knitting, the Acer Cardigan, hanging out with some plants. I’m finishing the sleeves now, which means it should be done just in time for Fall.

Plant Herd

July 2nd, 2012

herd.jpg

Moss

June 29th, 2012

bark.jpg

Who says tree bark is brown? At least, not after a warm spring rain. (May 4, 2012)

100 Degrees

June 28th, 2012

I’m snacking on raspberries, cherries, yogurt, and coffee, and wishing I were back on the West Rim reading a book. Hot as it is, I did make a point of wandering by the river (barefoot) just to get outside. It’s too easy to slug about in the air conditioning, and now that I’ve returned to it I’m a useless (read as: bread-baking, cloth-sewing, cheese-making, house-cleaning) lump. In other words, things could be worse.

amber.jpg

Forest fire residue on the West Rim; Zion National Park, 2012.

Adoptive Creatures

June 27th, 2012

I recently made a public spectacle of myself in the middle of Treasure Mart (a local antique store) when I stumbled across a slightly-used wooden aardvark of middling size. I instantly clutched him to my chest and proceeded to leak hysterical tears of mingled adoration and mirth. After ten minutes of happy wandering, I was shamed out of buying him by my less whimsical companions. With an overwhelming sense of unease, I tucked him under a quilt so he could observe passers-by from a shelf perch.

For two days, I couldn’t shake off the reckless feeling that I Must Own Him. I felt guilty and on edge. I finally gave in, and rushed back to Treasure Mart after work to execute a search and recovery mission. I started in the basement where I’d left him…no aardvark. I got a little nervous, but hey, there are three floors. Forty-five minutes later I had frantically torn through every shelf, drawer, and storage-unit. I looked in things, under things, on top of things, behind things, and I was eventually forced to admit that he just. wasn’t. THERE.

I just couldn’t understand how anyone but me could develop a strong enough attachment to the ridiculous creature to take him home. So why wasn’t he there?! I trudged home sadly, wishing I’d had the good sense not to abandon something that so clearly needed me to love it. I tried to forget over a sewing project, but that quickly proved to be a hopeless attempt.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. I opened it…and there was no one there. I looked about in confusion, and my eyes fell to the floor.

aardvark1.jpg

My aardvark. There he was, with his funny snout forward and a bow tied about his stout little belly. David, knowing the strength of my internal aardvark-related struggles, had rescued him for me over lunch just hours before my panicked search.

While it’s impractical to buy every little thing that demands one’s love, this was truly an unavoidable exception.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I realize he was probably intended to be a pig. Aardvark tails are longer and thicker, and they have long stout legs. No, I don’t care. His face is too perfect, and he fooled the antique store. Good enough for me; aardvark he is!)

Air Plant the First

June 27th, 2012

I bought my first Tillandsia, or “air plant”, last February. She came inside and adorable glass pod that I immediately hung in my sewing area.

air11.jpg

She looked a little cramped, but I figured that as long as I spent time loving her and spraying her weekly she’d recover and grow. Well, I was wrong. I acquired three more Tillandsias in April, and learned very quickly that they love to be bathed. I also discovered that it’s impossible to remove a plant through a hole that small without damaging leaves. :(

Yesterday I discovered my solution. She was looking particularly sad and thirsty, but also sodden and at risk for rot (a common problems with the glass pods). I gently rescued her from her little nest, let her soak in the bath, and peeled her dead leaves.

air2.jpg

Success. Now I can easily remove her from the pod without damaging anything.

Porch Planters

June 27th, 2012

Before:

planter1.jpg

Planter one with its brand new inhabitants…

planter2.jpg

…and planter two (pre-woodruff).

These two photos were taken May 12. Nothing got planted last year because I’d hardly managed to move myself, but this year I decided to usurp David’s planters for my own selfish purposes. He did not object.

After:

planter12.jpg

I’m impressed by how far the fuchsia vine has stretched, and the coleus is almost unrecognizable. The begonia constantly produces amazing red-orange flowers.

planter22.jpg

This one is full of mint, vines, sweet woodruff, and a little forget-me-not that hides in the very center. The woodruff is my favorite, with its funny star-shaped leaflet crowns.

Braids

January 29th, 2012

Not too sure where my day went. I recently switched to washing my hair with baking soda and lemon, which I’ve meant to do for over a year. The basic formula is very simple; you begin by dissolving 1 T. baking soda with 1 cup water for washing, and 1 T. [acidic substance] with 1 cup water for conditioning/rinsing. From there, you experiment with quantities to find the most effective mix. The most common acid is apple cider vinegar, which I quickly discovered made my hair very oily. The Internet solved this problem; lemon/lime juice is much more suitable for blondes in general; especially those with straight hair.

braid21.jpg

 My most recent baking soda wash left my hair frizzy, so today (two days later) I rinsed with lemon on honey. Honey softens hair, but unfortunately it seems I did not rinse it out so well. I felt a little sticky and did not want to leave my hair down, so I devised a braid.

What amazes me is how much cleaner I feel using baking soda to wash my hair. I’m used to the feel of foam building up in my hair, so it took a few weeks to adjust to using slippery “water” to clean myself. Instead of becoming oily, my hair stays clean and soft for most of a week. Chemically, alkaline baking soda cleans the hair and helps remove oils. The scalp is naturally acidic, so the vinegar/citrus rinse restores biological conditions and closes the cuticles of the hair strands.

<:3 )~

Sourdough Bagels

January 27th, 2012

I’ve always believed without exception that bagels should be made with a sourdough base. In reality these are exceedingly difficult to find…outside my kitchen. Next time I complain about the inconvenience of my needy pet yeast, please slap me. (Or just demand bagels.)

I used this recipe, converting all measurements from volume to grams. Because I was using sourdough starter (I keep mine at around 60% hydration), I started with 200 grams of starter and adjusted the other quantities to preserve the given hydration percentage. So far I’ve chosen to use regular baker’s yeast on top of the sourdough; once I perfect my technique I’ll experiment with letting my yeast to do all the work. I think I deserve some street cred in the baking world due to the continual presence of dried barley malt in my Flours & Seeds cupboard.

bagel1.jpg

I used the traditional shaping method, which is to divide your dough and roll it into snakes. The ends are then joined to form a ring. I love the diagonal splits this produces in the finished bagel.

bagel2.jpg

 One adjustment I made was to alkalize the water using 1 T. baking soda.

bagel3.jpg

In case you couldn’t tell, we have a mutual favorite bagel topping in this apartment. (Er…ignore my little green kitchen friend. She’s harmless, and provides entertainment during slow moments.)

bagel4.jpg

 Post-baking gloriousness.

bagel5.jpg

I still have some adjustments (and recipes) to try, but if I never improve on this result I may actually be content.

bagel6.jpg

Next week I should receive my new supply of rennet and some cultures in the mail, at which point I can add cream cheese to my repertoire.

<:3 )~

So much for “blogging”.

September 24th, 2011

I really started doing this so Mama Duck wouldn’t feel left out while I was busy with school. It always sounds like such a good idea, because if I kept up with it I might feel more obligation to finish things as I start them. I always read other people’s blogs and think how nice it is to see progress updates, inspiration, and new techniques. Most importantly, the best blogs could be used as an interactive timeline for when things got started, finished, shunted aside…

Sadly, I’m just not that organized most of the time. If anyone ever bothers to check anymore…here you go.

Breakfast, in the form of avocado bacon toast.

avobacon.jpg

I’m living on the South side of town with a cave-dwelling cookie monster,  where I’ve finally readopted my plants. The jade plant is even healthy enough that it’s grown two branches over the summer!! If you’d seen its previous sad state of neglect, you would be as surprised as I was.

jadebranch.jpg

Home is decidedly an apartment, but I can hardly complain with such a nice balcony. Oh–and there are ducks that frequent the yard between my building and the next one. Yes, please! It’s a lovely place for hand sewing and coffee.

coffeehem.jpg

Which is probably why I spent most of my summer doing this.

summer.jpg

There are occasional setbacks such as this “pin”…

pin.jpg

But it couldn’t dull my insistence for silk-lined pockets.

silkpocket.jpg

Fortunately, I finally acquired a reasonable sewing “table”, though I’d be lying if I told you it still looked like that. Craft supplies have a unique way of refusing to be orderly.

desk.jpg

I’ve also resumed breadmaking, which I can’t say I’ve done in about ten years. I’ve particularly been enjoying this webpage, which is excellent if you’re good at guessing URL tags and/or using search functions to find things that are improperly linked. The dough below is for the traditional sour rye recipe, which I’m not sure I’ll like but which looked unbearably fun. For the record, it’s exactly as fun as it sounds. Still two more steps to go.

sourrye.jpg

Finally, I gave in to the overwhelming urge to make sourdough. As a semi-experienced baker who has not worked with sourdough it’s still too early to tell if I’ve succeeded, but after two feedings it smells decidedly sour with increasingly noticeable bubbles. I’d say it’s going well. I’m using Professor Calvel’s recipe, which is much thicker than most and initially includes small quantities of salt and dried barley malt. It also starts with rye flour, then shifts entirely to white as you continue to feed it. I’m especially pleased by the idea of setting a trap for wild yeast in my kitchen. This photo is just before the third rising phase. It’s much more cohesive and smooth than the initial dough.

sourdough.jpg

That’s all I have for now. If you’re good, I might post some knitting and/or bread photos later this week.