Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon: a links-heavy update post

This week I got an impromptu visit from an old high school friend I haven't seen in six years. She and her boyfriend are on a nomadic adventure, travelling the country for the next three months trying to determine where they want to live next (they got tired of NYC). Check out their travel blog. If you look at their Flickr site, pretty soon you will probably see pictures of us dressed as pirates for the Critical Mass we did on Friday, or partying at The Domes, a cooperative community on campus. It was awesome to see them and I hope they decide to settle close to me!

I'm getting excited for my spinning class to start, though I still need to finish teasing the wool. Hopefully my friend Kim will help me dye it after it's been spun. Here are some examples of her beautiful hand-spun and hand-dyed silks, and the hand-spun yarns I found on the new-to-me blog brooklyntweed. If mine look anywhere close to these, I will be happy.

I went contra dancing at the The Co-ops on campus yesterday with my friend Sarah, and we danced our butts off for over three hours! I'm actually sore today. It got me really excited for next weekend when I'll be going to the Hoes Down Harvest Festival at my CSA farm, Full Belly. It's gonna be awesome!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Veggie Booty

We got our first CSA box of the Fall! I took a hiatus this summer because I had no one to share my veggies with, my friend Sarah was living up at Lassen. But now my two new housemates are really into the veggie box and we've begun again. We got a beautiful box: Tomatoes, peppers, yellow onions, beautiful Bintje potatoes, Granny Smith apples, basil, a globe eggplant, and red Russian kale.

I couldn't help but arrange the food by color, and now that I'm looking at the photo it reminds me of the opening scene in "Girl with the Pearl Earring." It's a gorgeous scene where the main character is chopping vegetables for dinner and arranging them all by color. That movie was shockingly true to the book it's based on, I was very pleased.

I also finished the fermentation of my sauerkraut and pickles. The sauerkraut is really strong because I put a few cloves of garlic in the crock. I might not put so much in next time, it certainly is pungent.

I also used a different method to grow alfalfa sprouts in my kitchen. I drained them upside down in a jar, which I read in a book somewhere, I can't remember where. I think I'll go back to the old way next time because the sprouts just started growing down through the cheesecloth and I couldn't drain them or get them out without tedious tugging.

And thanks to everyone for the birthday love this week!

Monday, September 24, 2007

All that remains

Happy Birthday to me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I got a pickle, hey hey, HEY HEY!

I made my first "half sour" pickles! It was so easy, and I've already eaten them all and refilled the crock with more little cucumbers from the farmer's market. I used a lot of garlic, as you can see, and $2 worth of cucumbers.

My new favorite book (I'm infecting all of my foody friends with a love for this book too) is called "Wild Fermentation: The flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods" written by Sandor Ellix Katz. I used it to make sauerkraut last spring, and I used it again to make my pickles.

Basically, you add peeled garlic, peppercorns, dill (fresh or dried), and grape leaves (to keep the pickles crunchy with their tannins) to the crock, add the cucumbers, cover it all in salt water and set in a corner to ferment. Mine came out incredibly salty, but I think I'm going to leave them in the crock for much longer next time and see what happens.

I also made a gingerbread cake from this amazing book I got from the public library.

I put jelly in the middle, and I tried to make chocolate icing for the top, but it failed (it got all lumpy and I think it's because I didn't "cream" the butter. My arms got tired, what can I say?).

I decorated it with pomegranate seeds, which I'm overflowing with right now because there are a few unharvested trees over at the student farm on campus.

I'm making a coconut cake today and enjoying my weekly dose of NPR. This book has totally infected me with a love of cake baking; I picked up over $10 of used cake pans at the thrift store the other day. It may also be because I turn 25 tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's all about me

A while ago I was tagged by the lovely Carlene of knitsquirrel. My job is to tell you eight interesting things about myself. I've been thinking about it for a bit, in order to cut down on redundancy and come up with all sorts of different types of facts (though most of them still have to do with things that I like, or enjoy doing). Anyway, here goes.

1. I discovered recently that I tend to laugh hysterically immediately after something scary happens. I don't mean scary in the sense of scary movies, it's more like things that could have caused me severe bodily harm. For example, I've been in multiple near-misses involving my bicycle and other people or other people's bicycles (and one time, a door), and immediately following the swerve to avoid these things, I break out in maniacal laughter. It's strange, and I can't help it.

2. I think that the best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them at the house they grew up in (bonus if you can get some time with their family too). It really adds context to a person, and I've been all over the country visiting friends to see what their houses and families are like.

3. Plant nerd alert: I've decided that I want my future children to have Latin plant names incorporated into their names. My favorite of the moment is the genus name for maple: Acer. My first little boy will have Acer as his middle name, and we will call him Ace. It will be awesome, and he will love it. Maybe.

4. One of my top five favorite things to do (other than eat ice cream) is to watch movies outdoors, preferably on huge screens. When I was studying abroad in Hawaii, my friends and I spent every Sunday night on Waikiki beach where they set up a huge movie screen and played free movies. But one of my favorite outdoor movie events was last year when I watched Rocky while sitting with my friends on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Classic.

5. I have a bordering-on-unhealthy obsession with Dolly Parton. The woman, her music, and her movies.

6. I don't see the point of flowers that have no scent. Why? Though I have been warming up to gerbera daisies lately.

7. I once put a 200 pound female sea turtle in a headlock. It was during an internship in Hawaii where I was monitoring the nesting activity of Hawksbill sea turtles, and we had to tag her before she got back down to the water. Despite my iron grip, she proceeded to drag me down the beach, carrying me away like I was a fly on her nose. We eventually threw a towel over her head to calm her down and tagged her, but I had visions of being dragged down into the sea and spending the rest of my life as a mermaid, coming up only to sun myself on the black sand beaches of Hawaii.

8. Finally, I love eating foods that require a lot of effort to actually eat. I'm not talking about preparation, but the actual act of eating them. For example, pomegranates (which are starting to ripen about now!), clementines/satsuma oranges, and crab legs. I love the process of peeling away the outer skin to get to the good stuff. I'm not sure exactly why, maybe it's because it feels like I earned it after all that effort.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oh You Tease!

Here is the wool, mid-tease. The laundry basket holds the un-teased wool, full of VM, and the cotton bag on the left is the cleaned, teased wool. The bed sheet is to catch the dirt falling out of the wool, and there was way more than I expected.

I brought the teased wool home to CA, and a bunch of the un-teased wool as well. The rest of the un-teased wool remains in NJ where my saintly parents offered to tease it for me. This is a picture of my father teasing the wool, which is basically just pulling it apart and letting the VM fall out onto the floor.

It's definitely not done yet, and with school almost starting I'm not sure when I'll get to it. But I signed up for a spinning class at the Craft Center, so that should get my butt in gear. And my dear friend Kim has offered the use of a drum carder that she has at home, so I hope to process, spin, dye, and knit the wool into hats by the end of the quarter, just in time for Christmas.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday, the Day of Rest

Saturday, my second full day back in California. I was reluctant to return because of the academic responsibilities that I'm not ready to pick up again. And because my best friends are on the east coast and I forgot how many great people I know here already, after only one year.

I spent this morning at the farmer's market and the public library with my good friend Nicole, and Sam, my canine charge for the weekend. We walked our paws off all day; going on errands, eating pizza, hanging out at the dog park (even though we were the only ones there).

Now it's only me and Sam, eating incredibly ripe heirloom tomatoes and drinking homemade iced tea. I started another crock of sauerkraut today and I bought some little cucumbers at the market so I can try to make pickles sometime in the near future. This American Life is on and it's a "best-of" show because they're doing another pledge drive (I might donate, and it might have something to do with the fact that my donation enters me into a raffle to win an iPhone. Just maybe).

I've been up and down a lot lately, so this Saturday represents much needed alone time for me. Although I will never underestimate the effect of some canine company on my mood.


g can


the m




- e e cummings

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Got my [Pumas] on but they look like sneakers"

My birthday is coming up, and here is my number one request right now: Custom-designed Puma sneakers! On the Puma website (you have to search for "Mongolian Shoe BBQ") you can choose the color and texture of 20 different elements on their sneakers to design a one-of-a-kind shoe. The website requires a fast computer, and it's actually kind of irritating to use, but I've already designed one pair (they are dark brown, pink, and yellow and I think I'm going to try again before I actually order them). It's super fun, and I can't wait to get mine in the mail!! Eeeeeeeeee!!

Here's an example of someone's design, not mine, but very cool nonetheless.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

. . . Have you any wool?

Raw wool! What a gorgeous, smelly material. My friends in PA set me up with some two weeks ago and I've been madly researching the cleaning process ever since. Last week my mom and I donned our rubber gloves and began the process of washing the wool.

There are approximately four steps that you must take to process raw wool before you start spinning it into thread:

  • Skirting (picking out the large pieces of dirt and "VM" - vegetable matter)
  • Teasing (removing the rest of the VM - there are other ways of doing this, but teasing is the cheapest)
  • Carding (fluffing the wool out and aligning the fibers so it can be spun and there are no weak areas)

I skirted the wool with the help of my parents last week, so it was ready for washing when we tackled it on Friday. Here are my supplies; washing bin (large tupperware), draining basket (laundry basket) rubber gloves, dish detergent, mesh bag filled with raw wool (laundry bag), and thermometer (not shown):

The first step is to fill the washing bin with really hot water (about 160 degrees F), which we did by filling pots with hot tap water, and boiling some water on the stove to mix with it.

Next, you add the detergent until the water either turns cloudy, turns the color of the detergent, or feels slippery to the touch. Our water was distinctly green after I finished adding the detergent. We added the bag of wool, letting it slowly sink into the soapy water because too much agitation in the hot water will make the wool felt together.

As soon as the wool hits the soapy water, the lanolin starts coming out of it. I really didn't expect that, but it was so cool and disgusting to watch it actually move out of the bag and into the water.

We drained and rinsed the bag a few times, washing it with cooler and cooler water each time.

And finally, we drained the wool and set it out to dry in the sun.

So now it's dry, and a lot whiter. And it smells like Palmolive. Which I don't actually like very much, but hopefully that will go away, or else I will use a different detergent next time.

And now the next step is to tease it. Hee hee.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Changing of the Guard

Family Reunion: Labor Day 2007
(this post is pretty heavy on the pictures)

We have a family reunion with my mom's side of the family every Labor Day, at my cousin's gorgeous Victorian-style B and B on the Delaware River in New York state. This is the second time I've been able to go in the past six years, so I was incredibly pleased to make an appearance and deal with all of the various accusations that I am turning into a "California girl."

The house started as an A-frame, and now there are 14 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, and a wrap-around porch. And they've been renting inner tubes out of their garage for over twenty years at the same price, $5 a tube, all day rental.

You could throw a stone to the river from the back porch, it's so close. Here's the view. They lost a huge tree to the flood last year, which is a shame, but the view is much better because of it.

A rare empty moment for the front porch rocking chairs.

The "Lady's Room." Each room is decorated differently; my cousins have an antique business, and the house reflects it.

Sun-filled hallway on the second floor, overlooking the river.

The back lawn, which has seen quite a few beautiful wedding ceremonies.

My family loves to play pinochle (a card game like bridge), and this is a very familiar Labor Day scene.

Finally, this reunion was incredibly significant because it was the first one without a single member of my grandma's generation. My great aunt Regina died this past year and none of the remaining great aunts could make it. However, this year was also the first year that a member of the next generation was present; my cousin's baby Alexa.

You can bet she got an incredible amount of attention. And why not, she's absolutely perfect. I think we heard her cry twice in three days, she was perfectly fine being handed from relative to relative, and she could sleep with a raucous game of pinochle occurring in the same room. She is about five months old right now and the next time I see her will be Christmas and she will have changed so much already. Crazy.