Friday, June 14, 2019

Bag Lady

Here is a vintage apron that a child-who-shall-not-be-named got silver paint and tacky substances on.  To be fair, the apron was given to this child in desperation that clothing not be ruined in experiments that parents generally despaired of, but still.  I salvaged some unstained parts, including the pocket, and made it into a produce bag for my market cart. I have a lot of pretty bias tape, and I've been using it on purpose recently I guess so I can feel free to find more at the thrift store. That's a weird little mind trap!

I did a sewing-for-massage trade with a friend (so wonderful!).  The piece she asked me to resize was from Nepal and when the scraps where tumbled on my floor, I suddenly saw a bag to make.  The solid colors are so great and strong together, and that pretty ruffle is just right.  I actually used the scraps entirely to make this bag.  Satisfying.

The last bag ushers in a new era: an e-reader.  Oh my.  I do adore books, but I could not picture fitting enough books in my luggage and carry-on to keep me happy for an upcoming trip.  Obviously an e-reader is the way to take 40 books along, most for me but a few for my husband and kids just in case.  I only bought two with a coupon that came with the e-reader.  The rest are free downloads, mostly old books whose copyright has expired and have been digitized for such a time as this. Here is the helpful article that led me to books I wanted to read.

The e-reader seems sturdy enough, but I still feel pretty protective towards any screens I have purchased (and let me tell you, it has been a new phone and a new iPad recently, too, and I am sick of it). So I made a little padded bag - sturdy upholstery fabric on the outside, batting scraps in the middle, and lined with a flannel shirt scrap from my husband - with the pocket positioned to hold the charger.  I'm very pleased with it. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Singapore Street Noodles

My husband found this recipe somewhere online and cooked it with Ben when it was Ben's turn to make supper.  Total keeper recipe!  We all love it. I've tweaked it a bit, and I've also subbed in whatever vegetables and protein I had on hand: the sauce is the important part.

I loved the street food scene in Crazy Rich Asians because I love food.  Eating Singapore Street Noodles gives me a tiny little connection to the food on screen.

To cook this recipe, do all the prep and chopping first.  Once the wok for the stir-frying part gets going, you won't have time to chop anything or untie a jump-rope or check a child's "cleaned" room or supervise screen time.  Or maybe that's just me.

Singapore Street Noodles

Cook and set aside:
16 oz. pasta or rice noodles, skinny strands preferred - toss with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil after cooking to prevent sticking

Mix and set aside:
1/2 cup oyster sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sriracha, or to taste (some of us add more at the table)

Stir fry in large skillet or wok over high heat:
2 Tbsp. oil
8 oz. chopped, raw chicken breast

Add and cook for 2 minutes:
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1/2 cup julienned carrots
2 tomatoes, diced

8 oz. peeled raw shrimp

Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add cooked noodles - use tongs to lift and toss and combine well for 2-3 minutes.

Turn off heat.  Add:
1/2-1 cup chopped cilantro
4-5 spring onions in 1" lengths

Notes: I don't usually use chicken.  I use more shrimp or sub tofu or mushrooms. Boneless skinless chicken breasts are super-expensive if you buy local, organic chicken; the reasonable price is a whole chicken, and I can't be bothered to skin and bone a breast for this.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Results

We got back our test results for our backyard soil, and it is contaminated with lead. This has been keeping me up at night, stirred into the dire climate/environmental situation, worried about my family's health and the future. In all the years we have gotten extra blood tests for our children, they have never had elevated lead levels.  So I'm thankful for that.  

But I'm so sad about our soil!  Now that the black walnut tree is gone, I have sun and so much growth in the mint and the berries.  I am going to do a more focused soil test, to see if the beds are all contaminated, or just the area by the house which is typical of old houses with their former lead paint. 

I still have my raised beds with their clean soil that we brought in, so I'm growing edibles there; I may need to rip out my berry bushes and mint - I'm assuming that once a plant has been grown in lead-tainted soil, it doesn't help to transplant to clean soil. 

New this year, I colonized a ledge with two big planters filled with nasturtium seeds.  Little babies are coming up! I will never get over that excitement. I had wanted to plant grapes to climb up our side porch posts, but given our lead situation, I planted a clematis instead.  Perhaps I will become a flower gardener and rely on the excellent farmer's market 2 blocks away for my local produce.  Perhaps that is my silver lining - that I can plant all the flowers, instead of prioritizing for edibles. Poppies! Peonies! A lilac bush!

We planted our little oak tree, free from a city grant program.  It's barely taller than the irises, and I'm trying to be all mature about "planting for future generations" when I just want it to hurry up and give us some sheltering shade. 

Our street tree, a zelkova, is growing tremendously.  I planted some red creeping thyme as a groundcover in the tree well, and now I'm going to add some fencing because I think the neighborhood dogs are peeing in a corner and killing my thyme. 

I feel better for having written this all down.  This helps me have some perspective and cling to the good parts of this story and my life, instead of focusing on the bad and chewing on it to feed despair.  Today is a beautiful, breezy spring day, and I'm going to go out and sow some cilantro seeds in my  raised beds.  Onward!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Little Vintage Feedsack for a Little Nightie

This vintage feedsack scrap came in the box from Laura - all the sky-blue and coral polka dots, pretty roses, and yet not at all dainty or saccharine. I paired it with this pale blue striped cotton because I do really like light colors in sleep clothes, especially summer ones. 

I was thrilled to find the perfect coral bias tape in my stash, so I used it inside and outside the bodice. The buttons are Beatrix Potter. (side note: I have always adored the name "Jemima Puddleduck" and thought she must have a delightful story, but recently found the book in our Little Free Library and was in for a nasty surprise as the fox gets after her. I'm going to put it out of my mind and think instead on her lovely name.) 

Unfortunately, the age of the feedsack scrap means that it's not holding its seams very well.  I may be patching it up a few times, but it's worth it for Phoebe's pleasure in the nightie and my pleasure in the colors together. She's such a dear.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Lemon Rhubarb Marmalade

I am trying the third time with a rhubarb plant in my back yard.  This year, there is no black walnut tree to poison things, so we shall see. 

In the meantime, I buy rhubarb at market.  And I overbought lemons for Ben's birthday party.  So this recipe from Food in Jars' Preserving by the Pint jumped at me - I've been looking at my preserving with fresh eyes since I read Marisa's new book, The Food in Jars Kitchen.  I've got a rather crowded schedule these days with three freelance projects right on top of each other, but this recipe is done in in flexible stages, so I thought I could pull it off.

I didn't take the time to slice the lemon peel really fine, but fortunately, it cooked down soft and I like it.

The color of this marmalade is so pretty, and I can attest that it is delicious. It pleases me that there's no pectin involved other than what's in the lemon seeds (tied up in cheesecloth when the jam boils) and pith - and the viscous nature of cooked rhubarb.

A lovely slice of toast on a chilly spring day with a cup of hot chocolate and a fascinating book to edit.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Phoebe is Four

Phoebe has been celebrated for several days now.  She is just a delight, especially when we wonder aloud who would need a present? Or what are these cupcakes for? And let's have a party just because, right? And when Phoebe remembers all over again that it's her birthday, she bubbles over with joy.

Yes, darling, let's have lots of joy. Let's remember the first few moments of your life, your wondering eyes and calm.  Let's see again the sweetness of your brother and sister meeting you for the first time.

We need this joy to counterbalance, to season, the pain of other dear ones who are sick and dying.  And I do believe there is joy for them on the other side of death, but for us who stay here? Oh, that is hard. Phoebe asked me the other day: "when is Uncle Ron going to come back to life?"  Getting Jesus and Easter and our loved ones all stirred in together.

Joy and pain.  The contrast that makes the patchwork of life.

 Let's look now at the Phoebe's birthday cupcakes - made and decorated by Genevieve, shared with preschool friends and then later with grandparents.  I don't have a good photo of the layer cake I made for Phoebe - it's from Smitten Kitchen Every Day and I highly recommend it.  Easy to make and one of the best-tasting cakes I've had in a long time. It was a yellow cake with fudge icing, and Phoebe requested "pink and purple" ice cream, so we had strawberry and raspberry ice cream to go with it.

Happy, happy birthday, darling girl! Many happy returns!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spring Things

It's all happening, and I want to pay attention, truly I do.  Something new and pretty happens outside every day!
My oregano plant came back, which astounds me because I thought it was an annual.  I hope that I am gaining gardening skills every year, but man: I don't seem to make much progress overall.  The profusion of spring, green everywhere! all the pink flowers! weeds sneaking everywhere! It's just a little overwhelming. I signed up to get a red oak tree for our backyard, but I don't exactly know where and how I will plant it.
We are finally getting our soil tested after eating food from it for years - city soil can be laced with heavy metals, oh dear. But I have a serious vision of a grape arbor, so I'm checking the mail every day for our test results. My raspberries, both black and red, are growing by leaps and bounds; I pruned off old canes (I think) and got some nasty old thorns stuck in my skin.  I have started wearing my gardening gloves more faithfully.
Some days, I can only manage to grab at a weed as I take a break from writing and editing projects, or hang up and take down the endless laundry that my people require. We bought a badminton set, which the children love, and which caused my neighbor to look wistfully at their leaping and shrieking and tell me about her spring badminton matches with her four older siblings.
All of this eases my heart a little: my dear uncle died on Palm Sunday morning. He was full of juice and fun and nothing about spring or any season, actually, was wasted on him.  He paid attention, and he made everything into an adventure.  I cannot really believe that I will never see that adventurous gleam in his eyes on this earth again.  So my heart is a little broken, but I have vowed to Uncle Ron, wherever he is with God, that I will take inspiration from his approach to life.  See? Spring is so lush and vigorous, and I am looking.


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