For some time, I’ve been looking for a project that I could make work in what appears to be one of the busiest times of my life, thanks to an already bustling family life and the addition of a newly acquired house. I needed something portable and fairly forgiving of errors if my attention strayed. Since we are in the darkest time of year here in the Pacific Northwest, something with some rich color seemed requisite. The soothing sense of soft fiber in my hands and the gentle repetition of the stitch pattern seemed to make knitting or crochet ideal.
Since we are on winter break from the college and the alternative school, I finally got some time to raid my stash and found this nice, little project:
So far this afghan has proved to be just the ticket, even in the midst of the craziness. It just goes to show that there is always a way to find time for a little bit of creating.
2. Hoisin Pork and Vegetables from Prevention’s Ultimate Quick & Healthy Cookbook: I bought this cookbook not long after I married, and it quickly became a favorite before we had children. After that, the recipes seemed a bit labor intensive and the quantities too small for the time I had to cook and number I had to feed. This week, however, I found this recipe. After changing the proportions to twice the meat and noodles, three times the sauce, and at least three times the vegetables, it turned out really well, and I have leftovers for another meal.
Hoisin Pork and Vegetables
3. Ashley Cowl: Okay, we aren’t going to discuss this one, let alone photograph my progress this week. Let’s just say I learned that, as much as I’m determined to make progress, it’s better to stop when I’m tired or distracted. :/
4. WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: This week, the topic was silence. I’m still a bit on the fence about my photo, but I suppose it sometimes counts just to show up.
I’m toying with adding a daily or weekly writing prompt from one of my writing books and/or carrying a small sketchbook with me so I can doodle or make a fast sketch when I get a moment away from home. I think there is a balance to be found between being spread to thin among various endeavors and having different avenues of creativity for whatever circumstances I am in.
My goals with this book is first, to increase my enjoyment of coloring by being able to get depth and a better color schemes into my pages. A second, longer term goal is to improve my skills for my own art work and possibly for children’s book illustration.
Thus far, I’ve read through the first three of her four chapters covering tools, color theory, and techniques. While the tools were pretty familiar, the color theory provided an easy-to-understand review of basic color theory which I needed, and she included several techniques which I had not previously seen.
I am now working my way through her final chapter where she provides step-by-step instructions to get specific effects. The last part of the book contains coloring pages on which to follow her instructions. I’m really enjoying this. Here’s my first completed piece.
I am, at heart, a California girl. I was raised in Gold Country, where tales of “Sourdough Miners” were part of my childhood, and trips to San Francisco could only be made better by clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl eaten on the open air as we dodged seagulls on Fisherman’s Wharf. In short, “sourdough” is synonymous with home for me.
I am guessing that is what has been behind my drive to learn how to bake sourdough bread since I moved to the Pacific Northwet almost four years ago. Yes, I can find some decent sourdough here, but something inside me has needed to make it myself. However, to paraphrase the old saying, if wishes were loaves, I would have opened a bakery by now. Truth be told, I am not a great baker. My husband is far, far handier with the oven than I am, while I am mistress of the stove and crock pot. Therefore, despite diligent efforts, I have failed repeatedly.
Until this past week!
I think the stars finally aligned for two reasons. First, this past January, I took a class on making sourdough at the Country Living Expo. There, I found a teacher who convinced me that ordinary mortals can actually do this and provided the class with a seven-day chart derived from a King Arthur Flour recipe to feed my starter and a basic sourdough recipe that she essentially swore we could not screw up if we followed the directions. (I would post a link to that recipe, but I can’t find the original source to give it proper attribution.) Second, I copped a sample of sourdough starter from my friend, Andrea at Farm and Hearth. Although I believe that you can create sourdough starter pretty much out of flour, water, and thin air, I had more confidence using Andrea’s starter since everything she touches seems to turn out delicious.
For the better part of a week, I worked at feeding my starter at the right intervals, then kneading and proofing. And this resulted!
Probably more gratifying to me than the actual loaves is the fact the bread disappeared shortly after the picture was taken as my sons, husband and even diet-conscious mom consumed chunk after chunk. Indeed, my oldest and pickiest son, who would gladly exist on sugar and simple carbs preferably from a box, said that my bread was not only really good, but better than what we have been buying at the store. Now that is what I call a delicious victory!!
I love to knit and crochet, and I think the aspect that attracts me most is watching lovely colors and textures come together. So, when my friend invited me along to a 4H class to learn how to dye and spin yarn a year or so ago, I joined readily. I left the class even more curious but completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, the latter feeling rarely stops me.
Fast forward to last fall when a trusted fiber goat breeder offered some of her kids for sale for a price I simply could not resist. So, Purl and, a week later, her twin sister, Knit(wit), joined the family.
Purl (left) & Knit
Since then, I have been tackling a pretty steep learning curve about fiber goats care and yarn spinning. (Hint: do not purchase young animals just before the wettest, most miserable winter on record for Washington.) Indeed, one of my goals this summer is to process the two bags of fleece I sheered from Knit and Purl this past winter and spring into yarn.
Always being cost conscious, I decided very quickly that I would use the drop spindle method of spinning, rather than use a spinning wheel because a drop spindle can be bought for well less than $20, while spinning wheels run in the hundreds of dollars. Still, there was something intriguing about the lovely wheels. . . .
I’d put the whole matter to rest some time ago, when my husband asked me this week if I’d be interested in a wheel? Apparently, he spotted one in pictures of an estate sale happening this weekend. I jumped at the chance to at least look at it. And so this happened today:
In one class I took on spinning, the instructor warned us to make certain that the wheel we purchased wasn’t just decorative, as apparently novices make that mistake and end up with a wheel that was never meant to spin. At the sale today, the cashier knew that the current owner had only used this wheel for decoration, but I suspected it might have been used for spinning by an earlier owner. So, we haggled a wee bit and settled on a price that was half the asking price and well less than one hundred dollars.
Closer examination at home has confirmed that this wheel was and can most likely be used for spinning, but it clearly needs a great deal of TLC. So, now I’m off to learn about the care, maintenance, and repair of spinning wheels. A new project is born!
A few years ago, my husband and I spent our anniversary puttering around Napa Valley. We ended up at the Oxbow Public Market. While meandering the stalls, I discovered lemon-thyme salt at Whole Spice. It quickly became a favorite in my kitchen, particularly in stews.
When we moved to Washington, I carefully hoarded my small stash of salt because I knew I couldn’t return to Oxbow too easily. However, I finally ran out and needed to seek a new supply this year. Price made it impractical to purchase and ship it online, and I could not find it in our local spice shops. However, one merchant was kind enough to point out that it wasn’t that difficult to make myself. Eureka!
Using this recipe for proportions, I substituted table salt for coarse salt and skipped the mincing by hand in favor of using the Cuisinart to dice the thyme and lemon zest to a paste. And I ended up with this lovely jar in a few days. It smells delightfully lemony and amazing and comes with the added satisfaction of having made it myself.