Monthly Archives: July 2011

All Clean and Ready to Sew

The Eastern mess before....

My last post was all about getting rid of stash. I mentioned that every surface was covered and the picture to the left shows you the before picture of one side of the room. It had clearly ended up being the default place to toss anything with no clearly defined place of its own.

It was hard to even walk through the room, and that was about all I was using it for–walking through to get to the elliptical machine. You can see that in the second picture. The room is long and narrow, and these to pictures pretty much show the whole space. The mess behind where I stand is just…too much even to show anyone. Let’s just say it was really, really bad.

I had spent way longer than I care to admit just thinking about cleaning it and doing nothing about it. There’s something about the inertia when taking on a huge project. In order to clean up the room, I would have to go through my stash. In order to do that, I would actually have to make decisions. I’d have to get rid of some things. Rather, lots of things. And, in order to deal with this room, I would also need to clean out and organize my storage closet which is in the main hallway of the house. The domino of thoughts would invariably lead to me picking up a project and getting onto the treadmill without actually doing any cleaning whatsoever.

Having a ‘need’ to get something done finally pushed me over the edge and launched me into action last week. There is still the small closet that needs work–but the photo project taking up some space is way more involved than I can even begin to deal with at the moment. I just blogged about some of my particular knitting related cleaning. And now, I’ve got a room that is picked up, organized and even cleaned. There hasn’t been a vacuum in there for…well…a very long time. Now, I get to take the reward of all that time spent organizing and cleaning. Yup. Time to cut into some fabric and get sewing!

Oh…and the results of all that effort:

Makes note to self. “Get rid of the dead plant hanging in the corner.” So, maybe I’m not 100% there, but I’m close.

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Letting Go of the Stash

The stash...or most of it, anyway.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to have Hulda Emilsdottir come over and help me organize my house. She’s probably the queen of the world when it comes to organizing things and getting rid of stuff. At the time, she said something that I sort of brushed aside or just pointedly chose to ignore. I can’t remember the exact words she used but it was something about just having this extra stuff around is taking up space and energy in my mind. She was talking about the boxes and boxes of fabrics and projects that I have…erm…had (more about the change in tense soon) filling my storage closet. Even with them neatly labeled in boxes, just having this stuff sitting there unused and unfinished was taking up some amount of my energy thinking about “one day I’m going to do this or that.” She was right, of course, but at the time, I didn’t want to give up on some of the ideas I had that lived in the physical stash.

OUt of the boxes and sorted into scraps vs. yardage.

Recently, my daughter asked me to help her make a skirt, and I looked around the virtually unused sewing room and went into a state of near panic. I haven’t done much sewing of late, and every horizontal surface was covered with stuff. It had become the room that I ended up tossing stuff in before parties–piles of stuff that should have rightly been sorted and tossed or dealt with but seemed too much to do in the face of forty people showing up. But, even more, there was more stash to deal with. Not fabric so much, but yarn. I had exchanged my passion for fabric into that of yarn. Add to that an impulsive few days on E-Bay, and I just had TOO MUCH STUFF. I went through the closet that Hulda had helped organize and pulled out everything that I needed to just…let go.

I found fabric that I had purchased while working at House of Fabrics, my first job that started in 1984 and only lasted until about 1987 at most. I also found fabric from my stint at the Lake Washington Vocational College’s Professional Tailoring program that I took after being laid off from Quadtek in 1992. The concept of sewing professionally only lasted a short while. The economics of it plus the fact that the fussy work involved was okay when I was poking along for making my own clothes, but working for clients one-on-one was just not my cup of tea.

I also found scraps. Lots and lots of scraps from the many dresses, quilts and costumes I’ve made over the years. I’ve got a pretty tactile based memory, and just touching various pieces of fabric brought projects long gone back to mind. Pillows for my mom’s living room, a fairy costume for my daughter, a dress I loved until it was shreds, a silky bit that was left from my first attempt at a negligee, brightly colored knits from a shirt Bill wore until it was faded into pastels, quilts I made for my kids and other family members…the list goes on.

I sorted through the boxes, pulled out a few pieces of choice fabric that still excite my artistic tendencies and put the rest out for friends to comb through. After a few days of Facebook advertising, and many loads of stuff taken away, I moved to Freecycle. I had several people interested, but found that the request from a mom in charge of a 4-H group with fifteen very interested girls hit my heart just right. I was treated to squeals of delight as we loaded up the back of the ‘taker’s’ minivan. Fabric that I had hoarded with hopeful intent and given up on is now being fondled and dreamed about anew.

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Swiss Chard, Potato and Cheese Pie Thing

It’s hard to not be excited about creating dinner from the garden. The poor weather we’ve been having has had the side-effect of creating a bounty of fresh greens in the garden. I cleaned the batch you see pictured and realized that there was going to be more than enough for one meal. Even with all of us happily eating a meal, we can only eat so much Swiss chard. Okay, maybe not Bill. That hubby of mine can put away any green like no-one else on the planet. But still. My son, who is eight, has yet to develop that same love of greens, but he did eat a pretty good sized piece without much complaint.

I had some potatoes from the garden and decided to go with what I know sort of works. No recipe book, just out of the head. (Oh, I know it’s not vegan.)

Swiss Chard, Potato and Cheese Pie Thing
About 4 cups swiss chard leaves (Stems removed and leaves cut into smallish pieces)
About a pound of potatoes, peeled, quartered and steamed
One onion, chopped fine
two cloves garlic (Minced or ready for the press)
two eggs
1/2 C cream (I used soy cream)
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
salt
pepper
grating of nutmeg

After the potatoes are steamed, toss them into a bowl and mash them with a fork. Don’t worry about getting them smooth, just don’t leave huge chunks. While the potatoes cool, saute the onions and garlic until tender. Once the onion has wilted, add the chopped greens and cook until they are dry. You want all the water out of the greens, and the mixture will get a little sticky, so use a non-stick pan. Once the greens are cooked, season with salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. Add this to the potatoes. Whisk the eggs and cream and stir into the veggies. Mix in half the cheese. Put in a pie pan, sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake in 350 degree oven until brown and bubbly.

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A 3-D World is Enough For Me

I went to the movies for the first time in a while last week to see the last Harry Potter release. I’m one of those people who go so infrequently that I enjoy sitting through the previews as I don’t get them anywhere else. We have no cable and no broadcast television, so everything we watch is via Netflix, Hulu or Zune, and we pretty much rely on recommendations of friends. So, here we were, sitting in the theater getting the run down of what’s coming to the big screen. Time and time again I thought, “Hey, I might like to see that.” And, to my horror, almost every offering ended with a declaration that it would be in 3-D.

I hate 3D movies. Hate them. Hate them. Hate them. They are nothing but a headache inducing two hours to my brain. If they offer the movie in regular good-old-fashioned 2-D, I’ll pick it any time.

Anyone else remember going to the eye doctor as a child and having them hold up a picture of a spider that is supposed to make you jump and startle? For me, it looked like a couple of squished flat blurry spiders. That’s right, I don’t actually have depth perception that works all that well. I didn’t jump, even though my mom screamed. I was just confused. After some time on a patch and various glasses, I’m to the point where I can see stairs and make general safety judgements as I drive etc. Skiing has always been a bad idea, and it’s just recently that I’ve become comfortable climbing rocks and relying on a better sense of balance and overall health to feel confident with jumping over small chasms.

Not seeing the world exactly the way other see it isn’t really a disability–I’ve adjusted, and I can’t quite explain how my vision would be different from that of others. I know that it is but can’t erm…see it from any other perspective really. I sometimes miss when reaching for things, and I have a hard time catching balls. Don’t even get me started on the excruciating days in PE when I was asked to try to hit a ball with a bat or a racket. There’s no small wonder why I picked swimming as my sport of choice.

When I put a pair of 3D glasses over my glasses or over my contacts, I see blurry movement in shades of blue or red, depending on the moment. It flashes back and forth between colors as my eyes work to make sense of what is before me. As I try to focus and work at seeing anything, I get a headache. I took off the 3-D glasses in one movie and found it wasn’t any worse or better with the glasses on. The only difference was that I could see the colors of the movie better.

I know most people enjoy the whole 3-D experience. The gasps of surprise and awe usually clue me in that something must have come flying out of the screen, but I’m usually left sitting there speculating about what, exactly, others are seeing. I’ll wait to get most of the movies later and watch them on my home screen. It’s just disappointing to get excited over a preview and bummed all in the space of about thirty seconds.

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Yummy Summer Pea Soup

The question, “what’s in the broth?” could be asked in any number of tones of voice in my household these days. Sometimes it is laced with the suspicious nervousness of a wary eight year old. At other times, like tonight when I served this amazing soup for dinner, it’s a different tone–one that I get occasionally–the “is this really vegan?” tone of voice. I prefer the last one because it usually means I’ve made something that tastes so good it doesn’t matter to the concerned party that it actually is really vegan. The ‘cream cheese’ frosting I made last week, for example, had my eight year old asking whether or not it was vegan. I told him if he had to ask, he must have liked it. He looked at me funny and finished the cake without pushing the point.

So here is another really delicious recipe, pretty much just made up from experience and what I felt like doing on the fly.

Ingredients:
Peas (3 cups after shelling)
two large leeks, white part only, minced
one yellow onion, minced
two large shallots, minced
three cubes Rapunzel broth cubes
Water
Salt and pepper to taste

No, really. That’s it.

Using a non-stick stock pot, place the onions, leek, and shallot into the pot with cup of water or so. Cover and steam them until they are soft. Watch carefully and allow the onions to begin to brown and stick just a little bit–but stop them from burning. Just as they are getting brown, pour in another cup of water and de-glaze the pan. Put the broth cubes into the pan and mush up with the onions until they are dissolved. Add six cups more water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let the broth simmer for about half an hour. Meanwhile, shell the peas. Once the broth has simmered, use an immersion blender to puree any bits of onion that haven’t dissolved into the broth. Put the soup back on the stove and add the peas. Cook for three or four minutes, but not so long the peas get mushy. I like it when the peas sort of still go pop in my mouth when I bite down on them. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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The Best Ever Summer Salad

The smell of garlic, herbs and summery freshness fill the room.

Bill first found this recipe in Christopher Kimball’s Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. I take no credit for the yumminess to be found other than that I actually do all the shopping and chopping. One of the things that I love about this salad is it’s “naturally vegan.” What I mean is, it is in a traditional cookbook and needs absolutely no modification. It’s very approachable by people who are wary of things with the big “V” attached to it. I tend to shy away from “fake meats” and can totally relate to being rather suspicious of what is in something if it doesn’t have what I am used to.

After three weeks away with limited fresh vegetables to be found, I jumped at the chance to make this for a potluck we are going to this evening. It’s hard to beat the smell of freshly snipped oregano from the garden with garlic, lemon, and fresh veggies.

The basic ingredients are four cups beans (any variety of legume will do), two tablespoons onion, three chopped scallions (or some chives), chopped parsley and two ribs celery. These get mixed with two tablespoons lemon juice. I’ll note that I don’t follow the exact proportions all that closely. It’s just a salad, so almost any combo of good stuff is going to taste great.

Kimball lists a large number of “optional ingredients.” This is, in my mind a “what do you have in the fridge/garden” sort of decision. Today, we have cucumber, corn, cherry tomatoes, and green beans (cut and cooked until just tender.) I think almost any veggie will work here except I’d caution against mushrooms. I tried that once and they got slimy on the second day. And trust me, this salad is all about the second day. I hope there are leftovers tonight!

The dressing starts with three tablespoons red vinegar, whisked with a 1/4 teaspoon salt and fresh black pepper. Whisk it up and add in two tablespoons (fresh, not dried) tarragon, two tablespoons (fresh, not dried) oregano chopped together with two cloves garlic. Add that to the vinegar with a tablespoon dijon mustard and whisk in 1/2 cup to 3/4 olive oil until it’s thick and creamy. Toss the salad with the dressing and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Stir it around every hour or so to bring the dressing back up to the top. Just before serving, taste to see if you want more lemon, salt and pepper. Beans very with how well they take up the flavor, so this last step can make a difference.

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Camden Market

20110702-060103.jpgI’d heard of Camden Market, but never come before. When I was here as a student, we had zone 1 tube passes, and the market is in zone 2. Also, I didn’t really have much money or free time to spend, and I tended toward spending time in the theaters when I was free. (I saw at least 35 shows during my three month stint, all at a reasonable student price.)

We got into London from our driving trip around 2:00, checked into our hotel and dropped off the car about twenty feet from a tube station. We headed straight for the market with legendary food stalls and vendors of all kinds. For my Seattle friends, you can take Folk Life and Pike Place Market mix them up triple them in size, add in some goth influence, cut back on the live entertainment and make it more international and British at the same time to get a good picture. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words…so here are a few thousand words in graphics.

Reda, the Lebanese falafel god makes the tastiest falafel wrap ever. I had to chat him up big time to reveal his secret spice blend. I’m going to have to mess with it a bit because he didn’t give me any ratios.

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The stores along the street have phenomenal decorations.

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Tons of food choices….and interesting seats

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Pedicure, anyone? The fish nibble at your skin to remove dead skin. (and no, we didn’t do this.)

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This guy cut the fresh coconut open for us and splashed his face in the process. He launched into a little spiel about the benefits of coconut water on your skin.

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My 8 year old decided chicken kebab looked good for dinner.

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The down-side to returning as the market closes–sardine time. (Tip: waiting through another train or two during a backup clears up most jams.)

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And my 16 YO is looking a bit annoyed that I’m taking yet another picture in public.

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