Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Still no internet, but . . .

The internet should return to my life in a serious way tomorrow (fingers crossed). Until then, this is my newest obsession: Flight of the Conchords. A new series on HBO that's funny like whoa.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's been a long time/Now I'm /Coming back home

Sorry for the absence peeps. My family was here last week, and amongst other things, they helped me move to my house across town. We don't have internet there yet, so bear with me. Pictures from wine country to come soon . . .

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quilting and Sewing and Weaving, Oh My!

My parents are asleep in preparation for their flight, so I think I can safely show off my finished "shawl" and some other works in progress.

This is an overshot weave called "Mexican Blooming Flower." I'm still not well-versed enough in the weaving lingo to give any more details, other than to say that the loom is a 4 shaft jack loom. I could look up the pattern if anyone is interested.

I wanted it to be a shawl, but as usual it is too short and a little too wide. The overshot pattern means that there are two strands going across the loom at once, one that is doing simply over-under-over to hold everything in place, and one that is a contrasting color doing the pattern. The pattern strands are just a bit too loose and I would be worried that they would catch on things if it was actually worn as a shawl. So I think it's more of a wall-hanging or something. But it looks pretty cool and it's really graphic, which I didn't actually expect.


This is the log cabin quilt that I've been working on for about two or three years now. It's my first full length quilt (it will be 6x6 feet) and I'm doing all the sewing by hand.

Log cabin squares can be rotated to create lots of patterns within patterns. Mine is going to be several large diamonds created by the blue-green and red-orange colors. And if all goes right, it will go from dark on the outside to light on the inside, as well as the same gradient within each square. If that doesn't make sense, don't worry, I'm going to try to lay it all out someday and take pictures.

I think the squares below are working out the best. The other ones need to be rotated and re-evaluated, I just threw them together to give you the general gist of the thing.


On the fourth of July a few friends and I decided to make sundresses. The only fabric I had that was big enough for any of the patterns was this ridiculous one. I got all the pieces cut out, but I haven't started to sew any of them together yet. It was over a hundred degrees on that day and I reached a serious breaking point sometime around 6 pm when I was kneeling on the floor trying to pin my pieces together and sweat was just dripping from my head. Intense. So hopefully it will eventually get finished, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

There you go, that's pretty much all of my crafting activity for the past few months!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Beet it, just beet it

This post by Cookiecrumb over at I'm Mad And I Eat inspired me to post a picture of one of my favorite aprons. I have a ton more back in NJ, but only two of them made their way out to CA (this will soon be rectified and I will show you all the amazing aprons I've inherited from my mom and grandma).

And here's a pic of some beets that I scrubbed and cooked the other night. I tried an idea from my friend Kim; cooked beets in Annie's Mac n' Cheese. It was pretty good, and the pink color was satisfying (sorry no pics, it wasn't really that attractive, despite the color). It certainly was easy to prepare, but I think I'll continue to look for beet recipes. Any suggestions?

My family is coming to visit for a whole week on Friday, and we're visiting the Sonoma Valley this weekend. This means two things; pretty pics of vineyards and bubbly coming up, and I can show off that weaving project (the Mother's Day gift), after I finally give it to my mom.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I Want Yuba

On Saturday a new friend and I went out on an adventure. The Central Valley has been incredibly hot and dry lately, and an adventure was just what I needed. We prepared a big picnic lunch, complete with peaches from her neighbor's tree (which hangs over the fence onto her property, so we both think the peaches belong to her and her house-mates, and don't try to tell us otherwise). We also hit up the Farmer's Market on the way out of town, for some chocolate chip cookies to round out the lunch.

Our goal was to drive for about an hour and half, then hike 2.5 miles to University Falls and enjoy the day swimming and relaxing. Through a mistake in navigation, we ended up driving about a half hour in the wrong direction, and abandoned our plans for the hike, electing instead to stop at the Yuba River for a swim.

We stopped at a bend in the river where large boulders slowed the waters so it was almost a little lake. There were a lot of people there, it was almost like a beach atmosphere with all the coolers and canopies and stupid people with bad tans. There was good people-watching and the water was warm and the setting was beautiful. We really lucked out (and I don't think either of us really wanted to do that hike anyway).

We ate and napped and swam and watched people jump off of the bridge into the water, almost 200 feet below. The sound they made when they hit was incredibly loud and painful-sounding.

It was the first time all summer that I've worn my bathing suit, which I think is a crying-shame. But that's what you get when you live in farm country. I just hope I get at least one more chance to wear it this summer.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

"The Office"

I think I've mentioned before that my office on campus is a hole-in-the-wall with six desks, and that only myself and an ecology grad student, Todd, are ever there. Well, we've been spending a lot of time there recently, and we've decided that something must be done to brighten the room.

I've been elected "decorating committee" and I started by bring some gerberas up from the greenhouses at ENH. Notice how I've kept the nerdy science vibe going by putting them in an Erlenmeyer flask.

We've also added Buddhist prayer flags and some plants, and I hope to add some paintings/posters to the wall soon. It won't be the prettiest room ever, but at least it will be livable. I'll keep you updated with the progress. I think Barry Zito is going to have a new home there too.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Jepson Herbarium

My trip to the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley on Monday was pretty cool, even though I didn't find exactly what I was hoping to find. But I got to go behind the scenes and look through Lawrence Heckard's files, including his field collection notebooks. They were really interesting to read because they are basically a chronicle of every single plant collection trip he went on from the early 40's to the early 90's. I could see how his writing style changed, his shorthand developed, and how different people came in and out of his life, simply from reading those little old notebooks.

So I spent the day taking notes, and searching through the herbarium vouchers trying to piece together exactly how he and Tsan Iang Chuang germinated Cordylanthus palmatus back in the 60s and 70s. Through some clever sleuthing I figured out one or two things that might help me, but it remains to be seen whether I can do anything with the information. In general, it was pretty cool to be back there, using the herbarium like a regular old scientist.

Funny note: The herbarium is in the huge Valley Life Sciences building, across the atrium from the Museum of Paleontology. I was told that it was across from the T-Rex, which was true and kind of bizarre.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Researchin' the day away

I finally got to visit one of the sites for my study, the Alkali Grassland Preserve in Woodland, CA (ironic town name, as you can see). Here are some pictures that I took myself of Cordylanthus palmatus. This time I don't have to worry about getting permission to post the pics.

We went early in the morning (the PhD student, Tracy, and I) in order to beat the heat and the blackflies. We checked on some experiments that Tracy is working on and I wandered around, going "what's this?" "what's this?" every five minutes. Some of the plants out there I recognized, especially Salicornia, pickleweed. I love this plant, it looks like seaweed growing on land, or knobby little gnome fingers.

We also took some samples of three different Atriplex species, hoping that one of them would be the ever elusive Atriplex joaquiniana, one of the rare plants that I'm supposed to include in the second half of my study. One of the plants we collected was kind of weedy in the site, and I had already shown it to my professor who said it wasn't A. joaquiniana, but we took it anyway. I brought the three plants to the herbarium at Davis and the curator there, Ellen, wonderfully offered to press them and show them to the California annual Atriplex guy, Robert Preston. I just went by there today to see what he had to say, and there are not one, but TWO RARE ATRIPLEX on my site!!! This is big people. Very exciting. Apparently the one that is weedy actually is A. joaquiniana, and a smaller one I collected is A. depressa. Wahoo! This means that my master's research will not be on only one plant, but at least two, if not three. I am sighing with relief.

Things are coming along with my research otherwise as well. Of course there is the requisite stress in between, but things are rolling now, so as long as I continue to make myself massive to-do lists, things will be aaaaaaall right.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Giants Game

On Saturday I went to a Giants baseball game in beautiful AT&T Park in San Fran. It was awesome, the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 4-1 (5-1?) and a good time was had by all.

I complained about the name of the park before, and that stands, but everything else about it is awesome. The park opens up to the bay, and people hang out in kayaks and boats, waiting to catch "splash hit" home runs. After talking with my friend Mason, I found out that the stadium is built in a style called "retro-classic" which was started by the Baltimore Orioles in 1992 (he, being from Balmer, knew all about this). It basically means that it is baseball-only, and it has elements that hearken back to the way that parks were built in the golden age of baseball (think Fenway Park and Wrigley Field). AT&T Park has amazing public transportation too, I took the MUNI straight to the front door (with a thousand other people, and I was the only one not wearing orange and black).

I went with my housemates G and M, and two of their friends. I ate enough cotton candy to make me sick, I actually had to stop, can you believe it? It was also bobble-head night, so I now have a Barry Zito bobble-head in my possession. Doesn't he fit right in?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Please sir, may I have some more?

So I have another photo that features sauerkraut, sorry. This is a picture of the best way to spend a Sunday morning:

Scrambled eggs, fresh tomatoes, salsa, and sauerkraut, listening to Car Talk on my $5 rummage sale radio, sitting on the back porch early in the morning when it's not so hot yet. I can even wear slippers and jeans that early in the morning, what luxury!

To be honest, I've moved on from eggs and sauerkraut to a new favorite breakfast food. Let me first say that breakfast has always been my favorite meal. It probably has something to do with the fact that you can pass off dessert as breakfast and eat as much maple syrup, jelly, and carbs as you want. It's also just a great way to start the day, taking some time for yourself to make food, then sit and eat it while reading some blogs or the newspaper or something. Of course, that means that you have to get up early enough to prepare said food and have the time to eat it slowly, which I usually do. It's a priority.

So here is the latest breakfast endeavor. I was reading a post by Carlene over at knitsquirrel the other day and I decided to try her "vat of steel cut oats." It was super easy to make and I copied her and stuck the whole pot in the fridge afterwards.

I've been putting milk, flax seeds, and raspberry jam in there. It is soooooo good, and it's basically what I've been looking for in a breakfast meal for months now. I've been making my oatmeal with rolled oats and I've been craving something creamier. This has the perfect creaminess, with a little crunch from the oat kernels that reminds me of the subtle crunch of quinoa, though much smoother in texture, obviously.

A total success.

I also got a CSA box on Wednesday and I get the whole thing to myself this time because my CSA buddy Sarah is out of town.

Basil, "Nantes" carrots, beets, white sweet corn, a cucumber, "Red Haven" peaches, potatoes, and summer squash. So many funny shapes, so many rich and varied colors. I'm going to have to make zucchini bread, it's for sure. I have some more summer squash left over from the BBQ, and I'm never going to eat them all in time. The little goose-necked yellow squash are almost dead as it is. I might also get around to making those carrot spice muffins from FatFree Vegan Kitchen that I've been thinking about too.

The newsletter came with a recipe for Roasted Beet Salad which I'm going to try, though I've been thinking about trying to dye some fabric with the beets as well. Unfortunately, most of the online resources I checked make me think that that won't work too well.

I got a huge bunch of basil and I'm going to try to make pesto. I've never made it, but the last time I got basil in my box I let it go bad in the fridge. I haven't gotten the hang of keep it nice and fresh, it seems to wilt, then when I try to freshen it with water, it rots. It's a mystery to me, I think I'll just try to use it as quickly as possible.

There were four peaches in the box too, but two of them didn't make it to the photo shoot. Whoops.

Posts have been few and far between lately because I'm hard at work trying to figure out my research. Tomorrow I'm going to the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley which I am nerdily thrilled about. An herbarium is basically a large facility with thousands of dried plant samples in it, neatly pressed on sheets of paper. It's an important botanical resource for people to use to identify plants and compare them to specimens that have already been collected and identified. I've been invited down there to go through the old files of Lawrence Heckard, one of the old curators of the herbarium who has passed away. He and Tsan-Iang Chang are the authors of an article that was published in the 70s that is the only published record of the germination of the plant I'm studying, Cordylanthus palmatus. I'm going to see if his records will give me a hint as to how he did it. I actually feel very important, the Jepson Herbarium is really big and prestigious and it's devoted largely to California flora. Nerd it up!