Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Fruitcake is In!

The fruitcake was made this past weekend, and it is now swaddled in its wrappings waiting to come out on Christmas eve. Being from a fruitcake eating family, I never really got all the jokes about hating it until I had a really awful factory one. The light bulb was lit then. I have decided to continue making my own from scratch even though it requires up to four hours in the oven. This year I decorated my top and it turned out nicely. Now, in three weeks I can tell you how it fully turned out for taste this year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turtles Ready For Duty

I thought I would drop in a quick posting with some pictures of the new turtles. A few months ago, I posted about making toys for Jozef's birthday. One of the toys I made was a turtle that came out of his shell. This apparently has become his favorite thing, as in cannot be apart from it for even a few minutes. Of course, this means that the original one has been basically loved to death. He has been a constant buddy and even made a trip to Poland with Jozef to visit family for a few weeks. After all of this activity, he has gotten, well, loved to death. A call was made for some "stunt turtles" as I like to call them. They will now stand in and do all the original turtle's stunts, so that the first one can get a much needed retirement. I hope they pass muster and are undetected when we do the first switch. Time will tell if all the training I did with them will work and they can slip into duty.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Disaster Zone

It has officially started. My once clean office and sewing room has turned into a disaster zone. The crafting for Christmas is in fully swing, and the Etsy Store sewing has temporarily come to a close. There is too much to do to get ready for all the handmade gifts, so the pants and belts will have to wait again until after the holiday season. The shop will still be open to sell the items that are already made, but no new items for a little while. The bins of fabric are off the shelves, and piles of fabrics are being sorted through to find the perfect piece for this or that.

I am almost completely done with Jozef's toy, and I only have the hand embroidery parts left on that one. I am doing that in front of the television at night. Today I am working on cutting out some of the items for Craig's gift. I hope to have his fully cut out today. I am also working on another thing for Jozef. I am training up some new turtles to "stunt double" for his original one. I guess it has been loved almost to death, so we need some replacements to stand in since the original one can no longer do his own stunts. ;) I got all the pieces cut out:

I am working on them today as they need to be brought back to Illinois with me over the Thanksgiving holidays for stand in duties. I am going to take this opportunity to warn you all that blogging may become rather sparse now that I am starting to run on deadline for the holidays. I will again do the holiday round up at the end of the gift giving season, so that you can all see the toys and items I made for all the family this year. I hope that you come back and check in at the end to see it all. Until then, you can find out if I have a new posting by following me on Twitter or subscribing to the RSS feed for the blog. Till the next check in, I hope you all have great holidays next week and wonderful crafting times.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Apple A Day

Yesterday I did get some things accomplished. I got a bit more sewing done, and I was good and started in on the house cleaning again. While the cleaning did not get totally finished, hey there was a hockey game and parents on the phone, I did get some things cleaned up. In this time, I also managed to get an apple pie made. It turned out pretty good, with the exception of being too watery.

I made a Dutch pie for the first time, and I really like it. I have always loved streusel type toppings, and this seems like another great application of it. I did not use enough tapioca this time, so I had my opposite problem, too runny. Lately I have been using too much of the tapioca and my pies are too gummy. I am hoping to find tapioca flour in the future to avoid the small gummy ball texture and more evenly distribute the thickener across the filling. Well keeping it short today in the hopes of getting more sewing done. Hopefully today proves to be a bit more productive in that area.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reorganization and Restarts

My bread making skills have been steadily improving as I get more and more practice with the methods. I was really proud of this first attempt at French bread. It turned out to be more like Italian bread though as the loaf was too large and not a small diameter like a baguette. After the second rise, I knew it was too big!

It was still very good and came out of the oven golden brown!

I did not slash the loaf deep enough, so it expanded out of the side, however it was still delicious. I think I will be working on this more and buying bread less. The pan was also wonderful. The bottom of the loaf was really crusty, just like from a bakery. It also released the loaf with out any extra butters or oils. It popped out with out any fuss.

On Friday, Dan and I did something that we never do. We went out and bought the newest thing on the day it came out. We got ourselves new Droid phones! The last time we got new phones was when we got our first phones in 2003. It was a long time coming, and I am really happy to have a new smart phone. There has been a huge learning curve, but I am catching on very quickly as the user interface is really easy to figure out. Usually we wait for things to get older and almost ready for new models to come out before buying, but for once, we treated ourselves. That actually took up most of our day on Friday. Then, we both started to feel a bit sick. We spent all of the rest of the weekend feeling a bit awful and working on the house a bit. We reordered Dan's office, and I did the same to the sewing room. Most of it remained the same, but I switched up where my desk and storage shelves are. My desk is now in a cozy nook sheltered by the shelves of supplies and fabrics. The sewing area remained the same as it was working well before. Now, though, I can actually get the bins of fabric off of the shelves with out any tricky maneuvering or yelling. The only bad thing about the arrangement is that I am looking at the electrical panel for the apartment. All in all though, a good switch.

After the weekend of rest, I am off to a roaring start today. I have already gotten banana bread made and out of the oven, the whites and bed sheets laundered, and some light pick up around the house done. I hope this reordering of things continues. I would like to get harp playing back in the routine, and I am going to try to start that again today. I hope to add it to my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday schedules. Well I am off to sew since I am feeling the urge to finally complete the first Christmas project and move onto the next sewing one. I am also hoping to get some light housecleaning accomplished today as well. Wish me luck on the cleaning and that the crafting does not fully take over!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Jury is Out

Yesterday was kind of a pins and needles kind of day. Our jury system in California has a hotline that you call to see if you need to serve the night before your date. I called said number and was told to call back at 11 on the day of service. So, nervously I told Annie that she could head in for a girl's day but there were no guarantees of fun after 11 if I got called in to serve. She ended up deciding a few hours was better than no hanging out time, so we went to the restaurant supply store, and I also showed her the neighborhood a bit. Eleven o'clock rolled around, and it was time for the call to see what I was to do for the rest of the day. Luckily, they ended up not needing me, so we headed into the city for some girl time! It was very fun. We hit up some stores, had a fabulous lunch, rummaged through more cooking things, and headed to Imaginknit to check it out. It was a wonderful knitting store! Floor to ceiling yarns all in neat little bins just does something for me. I am not a big stash maker, but Annie had me convinced on this yarn.

It is made from recycled saris in India and is also fair trade. I am excited to eventually get to working on that. I also bought Annie a skein of a beautiful purple, blue, and green version of the yarn. It was a early Christmas gift to her as she brought me an early gift that day as well, a wonderful preservation book! I cannot wait to dive into some of the recipes!

In one of the kitchen stores, I managed to not talk myself out of buying a bread pan. I have wanted a French loaf pan for a while, and this one was too good to pass up.

The bread dough is in the oven right now proofing! I cannot wait to see how it turns out. Well I am debating going to craft night tonight at the Museum of Craft downtown, so if I go, I will report back tomorrow. For now I am off to get some sewing and kitchen cleaning done before heading out to 826 for tutoring. Happy crafting!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quince Jam

Yesterday was kind of a comedy of errors. I went to go and get jars as soon as I cleaned up from my breakfast and blogging, and I walked to my local hardware store in the district to pick up a flat. The last time I went to get jars in August, they were stacked floor to ceiling. There were several types of half pints there, both wide and regular mouth. Jelly jars were also there in plentiful supply. I figured there would be no problem because hey, how many people in this urban setting are making jam? Well I was shocked to get to the store and find they only had a few flats of quarts left. No pints, half pints, or jelly jars to be seen. This made even the store manager scratch his head. He said they would get more in this Friday, but my quince would not make it that long. So, I thanked him and left to ponder my options. I have learned recently that my time is much better spent calling around rather than trying to navigate around via public transportation and walking from place to place to find out they are also out of what I need. I made calls to many stores to find the same thing, sold out. Finally I found some in the city, and my awesome husband swung by the store on his way home and picked me up a flat. We had a wonderful dinner out and then he headed to a guy thing, so I went home to jam it up.

I washed the quince that are pictured above of all their fuzzy outside layer. It was an interesting texture and feeling. Kind of like wiping felt fuzz off of a waxy floor. They were yellowish and smelled very floral, like perfume, and the smell was quite pleasant but strong. I then started to cut them, and myself, over the next hour. Granted our knives are not as sharp as they could be, but this was beyond ridiculous. The quince, while ripe as far as I can tell from my research, were like cutting a butternut squash. I expected something more like an apple, but the texture is quite firmer. When I cut them open, I revealed a beautiful arrangement of little seeds.

I then worked on cutting out bad sections, cores, and paring up the fruit into smaller pieces. Then the fruit, water, lemon, zest, and sugar went into the pot, and the cooking process began.

It was a long one for this, and I am sure I could have taken it further to get a more rosy red jam. I was, however, quite fearful of breaking my pectin down and having a sauce rather than a jam, so I cut it off. I ended up with nine full half pints of jam. They look good, and the few tastes of the jam I had while doing my jelly test revealed a sweet, but perfume smelling jam. It is very similar to rose tea in the flavor, and I can see why this is good with cheese.

Today I am planning on getting all the things done that I did not accomplish yesterday due to the jar debacle. I also have the possibility of disappearing from the blog for a while. I am performing my civic duty by attending jury duty this week, so if I am not here, you know where I am.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jack O Lanterns and Dance

Halloween was a very busy day for me this year. I have been convinced by a friend that I should get back to bellydance, and I have listened. I moved up in levels at Fat Chance Bellydance, so now I am taking levels two and three. It is a nice and comfortable step up. I feel rather interested in dance again and am so thankful that I was convinced to come back. It was kind of like finding a long lost friend and picking up right where you left off a long time ago. It was comfortable and felt in a way like being home. I do also have to thank my old teacher Ishara for giving me such great fundamentals. I find that I can pick most things up quickly due to this fine foundation she created. It is great.

So, to go back to the Halloween festivities. After another marathon dance lesson session, I came home and got down to watching "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" while making our Jack o Lantern. I scraped the interior and did the drawing. Dan and I decided on the design, and he did all the cutting. We ended up with this as our lantern:

We watched scary movies that night and ate the roasted seeds from the pumpkin. We put our lantern out on the patio and kept the candles lit inside until we went to bed really late that night.

Sunday we went to the market in Jack London. We have not gone in quite a while as I tend to over buy, and it took us a while to get through all the old stock pile of fruits and veggies. It was nice to get down there and see all the wonderful fall fruits and vegetables. I happened to find something very neat that I have wanted to work with for a long time, quince. I am going to work on making some jam out of them today. I cannot wait to see what they taste like. It is one of those things that I have read about many times in my Medieval stories and have always wanted to find out for myself what it was like. Now is the time. I have to walk down to the store to get more jars today as I am, once again, out of jars. I then spent most of my time on Sunday working on knitting. We watched some television that we had taped from a while ago, including the original Nixon Frost interviews. Then, I made one of my favorite fall type meals, ham and sweet potatoes for dinner. The night was wrapped up with me falling asleep as we tried to watch the original series of "V". I am going to watch the segment I fell asleep to last night again today. There are also some presents I am working on today. I also hope to get those pants finally photographed now that we have a cloudless day for me to work with. Needless to say, I have a lot on my plate. I guess I should get off the computer and head out to the store before beginning to get these quince under control. I will report back on that tomorrow!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ravi Shankar and Friends

Last night was a wonderful night of sitar music! Seeing Ravi Shankar was a treat, and seeing the next generation in his daughter was great as well! The chemistry between the two on stage was magical, and the love was palpable. The tabla player was wonderful as well and tied the whole thing together. The entire ensemble in this concert was perfect and had a wonderful synergy. I think the audience gave a standing ovation for at least 10 minutes at the end of the performance. I left feeling calm and at ease in a way that I have not for a long time.

On that short note, I am off to the market to get eggs and start some laundry before hitting the sewing machine. Have a wonderful and safe Halloween this weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Iced Beauties

After dinner last night, Dan and I decorated the cookies we baked the day before, as they had finally aged appropriately. It was a really fun time. We turned on another silly movie and got to it. I took out all the decorations from the cake box.

We mixed up some different colors and got to working. Many candy corns were eaten and never made it onto the cookies. After a while, all the cookies found their frosting and toppings.

We made candy corn cookies:

The needed bats, cats, and a few Wizard of Oz style witches:

There were ghosts with M&M mouths:

And of course there were pumpkins, including my favorite vampire pumpkins!

I used to love making the vampire pumpkins with candy corn as a kid, and I found that I still find this amusing. Now, to keep us from eating them all in one sitting!

Tonight Dan and I are going to see Ravi Shankar and his wonderful sitar playing! I am really excited to go to this. Today is also a Halloween party at 826 for the kids. I hope that I can manage to keep myself sticky and spill free before the concert. Well I am off for some more toy construction.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Treats

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought it was time that I got some treats made for Dan and I as well as some fun for us for the holiday. I made cut out sugar cookies, and while not the sour cream cookies of my youth, these are Dan's favorite from his. I made the dough and let it chill, and we cut them out while watching a silly movie. It was a fun time. We picked, "easy to decorate" shapes this year. The last time made some of these we made too many of the difficult ones, like the witches. We stuck mostly to single color items like pumpkins, ghosts, cats, and bats. The weird looking shapes for the low imagination types are candy corns.

They are on the counter now to age properly. These cookies are best when left to get stale over night and then adding liberal frosting that sinks into the cookie and then makes it all moist again. It is a great technique. It also avoids the soggy cookies syndrome that some frosted cookies seem to get. Tonight, I am going to get out all the fun sprinkles, dredges, and make up some big pots of frosting in black, orange, and white. I will take some pictures of the finished project. Now I have to switch my mind set to Christmas and get into the sewing room to work on some projects. Hopefully the sun will finally be right for me to take pictures of the chocolate pin strip pants this afternoon. Well lots of sewing and knitting ahead today. I am feeling suddenly inspired! Hopefully it is not an artificial rush from my sneaking candy corn out of the decoration stash.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It Finally Happened

My mother told me this would happen one day, and yesterday was that day. I have a friend who is always concerned with exploding jam jars, and while that is not what happened, we did have one break in the canner. My mom told me that you will know when it happens by the sound that it makes as you lower it into the hot water. I heard it, and it is a difficult sound to describe. I would say that the best description is that of glass popping in a fire, not really a shattering sound like I thought it would be. Annie and I heard it and wondered. We decided to process the jars and then see what was cracked when we took them out. After opening the lid on her canner we saw:

That is right, floating bruschetta sauce. It was a bit of a disappointment. I was, however grateful that we broke a small jar rather than one of the pints. We removed the jars and then fished out the broken jar.

Upon closer inspection, it seems like the jar was mismanufactured. The markings on the bottom of the jar do not seem to match up to other markings. They look off center. Here is the jar after the accident:

We chalked it up to the canning gods wanting a sacrifice for all of our good results. I am happy with that idea. A sacrificial jar of bruschetta sauce. Annie and I spent the rest of the afternoon working on her winter garden and then some knitting. It was a wonderful day of girl time. I really enjoyed myself. Today I am off for some household errands and then some sewing on Christmas presents. I also got some of the supplies I ordered for another gift yesterday. It all seems to be coming together for a better start to the holiday crafting season. I hope I can keep up the momentum and finish ahead of the mailing deadlines this year with ease!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moving on to Toy Making

I finally did the last stitches on those chocolate pinstripe pants. They got cast aside last week due to the birthday festivities, and now they are hanging on my door waiting for a sunny enough day to take product photos.

I really love this fabric. It is very similar to a business suit I have. In fact, these pants would be wonderful for someone with an office job that, like me, lives for comfy pants. They are a soft bottom weight polyester cotton blend, so they are easy care as well.

I have decided that it is time to cast aside the pants sewing for a little while in order to start work on the many toys and gifts for the holiday season. I have one almost cut out and marked. I hope to get it done today. I am also working on a project for Brenna's birthday. I started this one last year and abandoned it due to poor results. This time, however I am doing much better with it. I hope to have this all finished soon and waiting to be mailed out for her birthday on the 5th of December. It pays to plan ahead, especially since it has to travel across the country to the other coast. I also have quite a few patterns to copy over to interfacing. I am a solid believer in not cutting my patterns now, and I have found that interfacing makes a great transfer medium. Well I am feeling inspired, so I am off to finish cutting out all the pieces and putting this toy together. It will be fun to have so many "friends" hanging out in the sewing room as the holidays approach.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sudden Downpour

Yesterday was highlighted with a sudden and strong downpour during the storm. It was nicely timed as I had just finished up doing some yoga and felt rather refreshed in my soul. As I finished my short session, I saw the clouds approaching from across the bay, and then the skies just opened. It was by far the closest thing I have gotten to a good old Illinois thunderstorm since we left the state. I took a picture of the shrouded city skyline:

Here is the view of the skyline today:

What a difference a day makes. I spent the rest of the day cleaning up from the flurry of weekend activity and making dinner. I also got around to working a bit on a personal velvet wreath. I have made one of these for my mother, sister, and sister-in-law, but I have never gotten to make the one I wanted for myself. Now is the time I guess. I have quite a few of the leaves cut out and also on their wires, but there are still a few colors that need to be pressed and then cut out. Perhaps I will work a bit on that today if there is time. I am determined to get one of the gifts that is partially cut out fully cut out and mostly sewn up today. I know that was the goal yesterday, but there was more cleaning to do around the house than I expected. I am also going to try to pick up the harp and learn to play it again. This has been a multi year struggle, and I would like to kick the quitting train. I am resolving to watching less news in the afternoons and do more things that are good for my soul, mainly yoga, dance, harping, and reading. I hope to stick to the new plan. Well I am off to try to rouse the 770 into playing my station again. It has become difficult again as of late. Hopefully I can convince it to connect to the network, so I can groove away on this holiday sewing!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bountiful Brunch and the Begining of New Things

The past few days have been a whirl wind of activity. On Thursday, I ran all around to get the presents for Dan's birthday, and Friday was filled with running errands to get food for the brunch for Saturday and cleaning the house for the guests. I prepped for the meal all evening, so I skipped dance class again. The brunch was bountiful, partially because of my fear of running out of food. I made fresh pumpkin bread on Saturday morning to avail my fear and focus on pulling off some new recipes I have never made. It is such a hosting no no, but I really wanted to make these recipes I have never gotten the chance to because they make so much. I made a recipe for caramel apple and cranberry French toast from Tyler Florence and my second recipe attempt out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was also a success. I made a quiche. I only wish there were pictures, but I was too busy hosting to think to take them. The food was awesome. We also had applewood smoked bacon from the smoker next door to our building and lox with creme fresh, capers, and red onion on mini toasts for the meats. It was a great spread, but the cleaning of the party is still on going. While I started the cleaning right after the breakfast, the rest of the party went over to Alameda for a tasting at the Saint Georges distillery. Needless to say I was pooped and gave up on fully finishing the cleaning around 6 that night.

Sunday was Dan's actual birthday, so we planned to celebrate it as well as get some of our weekend errands done. We ate some of the leftovers from brunch for breakfast. It was still very good. We then went and shopped for our pumpkin to carve for Halloween. I think we picked out a winner. I will make sure to take pictures for you all to see.

I have decided to try to start a new routine with this week. In honor of the new moon and the belief that the new moon is a good time astrologically to start new things, I am going to try to get back to my exercise routine. I am going to go as soon as I post this and do a yoga workout. It has been many month since I have done yoga, and I am starting to notice the effects in my everyday life and not just during dance. I am more stiff and feel less flexible to do things that I once could do easily. I am also going to work on taking up the Christmas gifts again. I am starting to rapidly fall behind again and need to get back to working on things again. I hope to get the gift I have partially cut out fully cut out and mostly sewn up today. I will also take pictures of these items for an end of the year wrap up like I did last holiday season. Well off to stretch and start up some sewing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Soup on a Rainy Day

Yesterday was completely glorious in how rainy and dreary it was. I miss days like that, and today is also a nice day with some sun but really beautiful fluffy clouds. I have caught myself staring out the window at them almost 10 times this morning. It is just nice to see some variance in the sky besides fog or sun. I did revel in the rain yesterday by creating a rainy day feast of butternut squash and apple soup with homemade rolls. I made a recipe from Ina Garten that I added some modifications to for the soup. I have made this one before, but I did not like it as well as tonight's with my modifications. It was by far the best soup I think I have ever made.

The rolls were my first attempt at Parker House rolls. The dough was really good, and they tasted yummy. Sadly, though they did not all stay crimped shut, so some were just like biscuits. They were however all eaten, so I am sure they were not awful. We had them with some local honey and my homemade apple butter.

I declared, after eating the rolls, that we would no longer be a pop roll family. There were way easier to put together than I thought, and took very little time. So, I think I am adding another from scratch only to my list.

I did not get the pants done as planned. Many friends were calling me yesterday, and it was wonderful. There were people that I had not talked to in months that all decided to call me yesterday. I took the opportunity to work on some ironing and cutting out of Christmas gifts, as that can easily be done on the phone and sewing is too loud. Today, though, I am focused on those pants. Hopefully tomorrow is sunny enough to take a picture, so they can get listed up on Friday. They are a wonderfully dressy pair, that look almost like they could be suit pants. I have some shopping to do this week as well to get Dan some birthday gifts, so don't be surprised if there are some late entries into the blog in the next day or so. It is as it needs to be! Well I am off for pants finishing and more toy cutting out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Stom of the Season

Do you hear that?! Listen closely! Yep, that is rain; actual rain hitting the windows of the studio. I could not be happier to hear that noise. While I love the constancy in weather out here, always around 75 degrees and sunny to partly sunny, having a switch to a real rain storm is wonderful. I miss the storms of central Illinois more often than I thought I would, and while not missing the snow, the lack of that clean feeling after a gully washing storm is something I could handle having around here more often. Things already smell cleaner and look cleaner, and the storm has just started. We have had a few brown outs this morning, but we still have power for now, hence the early blog posting. Today I am going to finish up those pants. I did not get any work done on them yesterday due to taking care of both Dan and myself. I ended up sleeping most of the afternoon, and I feel much better today for it. I worked mostly on the hairfalls that I have started. One is just about finished after leisurely working on them. If the power goes out, I am going to switch over to copying some of the patterns I will be using for this year's Christmas gifts. Well I am going to post this up since the lights just dimmed again, and I don't want to lose this posting. I will be drinking my tea and working on sewing as long as I can use the machine, then perhaps some hooky to read my book. ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

There is a storm blowing in today, and I am glad I got myself out and cleaned up the balcony garden on Friday. It looks rather lonely out there and not as inviting as when all the green plants were out there. I guess that is just a function of winter approaching and looking forward to next spring when all will be planted anew. If the dying plants were out there it would be quite a mess I am sure as we are supposed to have winds around 60 mph and quite a bit of rain. You can even tell this storm is coming by how crazy people have been acting over the last few days. There is an odd air of panic that seems to be surrounding people. Erratic driving, while not unheard of, seems to be on the rise, and I am seeing weirder than normal behavior in the people around me on the streets. I am wondering how bad, or disappointingly not bad the storm is going to be. The only plants I have left out on the balcony are the rosemary, jasmine, and lemon tree. I am even rethinking leaving the lemon tree out there for this storm. I am afraid all the lemons will be blown off the plant if I leave them out there.

The herb box is inside for the colder winter months. It is not cold enough to freeze them or anything like that, but they are not getting enough sun on the balcony, and I am hoping the windows in the living room get enough sun in the morning and light from our lights at night to help them take off again. Even after being inside for just a day the plants look happier.

Today I am at home with Dan. He is working from home as he is feeling a bit under the weather. I am going to try to get the chocolate pin stripe pants finished today as I pretty much slept all day on Friday to work on getting better from this cold. I also am going to try to get one of the Christmas presents cut out today, so I can potentially sew it up tomorrow. I am hoping for no power outages, but the news is already predicting there will be many of them tomorrow due to the high winds. If you don't see a posting tomorrow, that is probably why! Well there is sewing calling and the 770 is still being fussy, so I guess it is the classical radio station today. Off for sewing goodness!

Friday, October 9, 2009

First Cold of the Season

I have come down with my first cold of the season. While I have been trying to ignore and deny it, today I can no longer do that. I am sick, and while not miserable, I wished it was not the situation. There is a lot that I would like to accomplish, but I am going to try to take it easy this time. I usually go full steam until I physically cannot do things due to feeling way to ill, which usually results in a prolonged version of the illness. This time I am trying my hardest to take it easy and nip this in the bud. I just have a hard time taking things easy unless I feel ultimately miserable.

It is the end of the terrace garden as well. I hoped it would be able to last through the winter, but the sun has changed its course in the sky and no longer shines on the balcony. The plants are also racked with whatever fungal or bacterial illness they received in the year, so most have died or on their way to that end. The only real producer on the balcony was the tomato plant, which was wind pollinated. I guess there are just not enough insects to do the job. Next year I will know and make up for them with the use of cotton swabs. Today I am going to work on taking down the lattice work and remove the plants and dirt for disposal. I wanted to get this done either today or over the weekend before the first fall/winter storm rolls in early this next week. I am also going to move the herb box into the house now that it has stalled due to the lack of sun. I hope it will do well with the morning sun coming in through one of the living room windows. I also am debating moving the lemon tree in as well. It also does not get enough sun, and I would hate to lose that. The jasmine is quite happy right now as is the rosemary. I need both a trellis for the jasmine to shape it onto and a larger pot for the rosemary since it has gotten so large again. I hope to leave those two outside unless there is a frost warning.

I did get around to photographing the Black and Gold Vine Sari pair down in the front courtyard. It proved to be a great spot for taking photos. I got over my shyness with doing this, and it turned out that few people actually noticed me. The few people that did were more worried about messing up my photos than being annoyed that I was doing it. The ease of taking photographs in the enclosed area was wonderful compared with the photos I took on the patio at the old apartment. There was less wind, so it took me only 15 minutes to get good shots versus the hour it used to take me at the old apartment. It was pure joy. Here is one of the product shot sets I took:

I am also going to work on some things in the shop if I feel up to it. The chocolate pin stripe pants are coming along well, and it would be great to get them finished up for photographing and listing next week. More likely, I will be working on a pair of green and black hairfalls I started. It would be awesome to get them up early next week as well. I think they would be a great addition to someone's Halloween costume for this year. Well I think the sore throat needs a cup of tea, and the laundry needs to get started. Off for some low impact activities.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Photo Session, New Listing

Today I am finally going to bite the bullet and try out the front courtyard for pants photos. I have that wonderful pair of new black vines hanging in the studio, and they need to find their way into the Etsy Store and into a new home. It will be very different taking my pictures on street level, and I have decided to change from using a choli in the pictures to a nice shirt instead. I hope they turn out.

I also have finished up taking pictures of that second red work embroidered tin. I love the thistle style pattern on this one.

I also worked on taking pictures of this one and yesterday's box with a vignette setting. I used some of my own embroidery and sewing tools in the scene, and I am quite pleased at how it turned out.

I am going to get this one listed up in the store as soon as I am done here. Then it is off for the photo shoot in the front entry garden. Finally I hope to either work on a pair of chocolate pin stripe pants in a poly cotton blend, or sit on the couch and work on a set of Halloweenish hair falls. It all depends on how I am feeling and whether or not this cold starts to take a stronger hold on my sinuses. I hope to sew rather than braid now. I would rather work on the falls tonight with our television viewing. Right now we are working through the National Parks series by Ken Burns. It has been really interesting. Well I guess I should be off for my close-up!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finally Focused

Yesterday was truly focused. I got a lot accomplished in the time I was working on things for the shop. I cleaned up the kitchen, put away clothes, picked up the house in general, and then set to doing shop things. I finished up that pair of black pants that I was dragging my feet on. They look great. Here they are after the final ironing before taking pictures of them.

I hope to take pictures of them today and list them up either tomorrow or Thursday. I tried to take a close-up of the fabric for the blog, but it is a bit blurry.

I always love how this fabric looks and feels, but it is horrible to try to photograph. I am going to work out using the front garden of this building this time. I hope that the neighbors don't mind, so I will see today I suppose.

I also got those red work tins finished off.

I am working on some new photography for them this time, including a vignette style with some sewing accessories to make it more visually interesting. It may also help people envision how I use them myself. The sunlight patterns have changed since we first moved into this apartment, so it is hard to get pictures in full sunlight now. I am going to try using the lighting in this apartment and see if I can use that and editing to get good pictures for the store. I did get one really good picture of a tin before the sun dipped behind the building.

I hope to have the rest of the pictures taken today and load this onto the Etsy Store sometime this afternoon. I am also headed into the studio to work on a pair of chocolate pinstripe pants and cut out a pair of olive colored sari pants as well. Lots of inspiration now that I have my focus back! I am headed off to work!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lots Going On

You would think with fall in full swing that things would start to calm down, at least that was what happened in the last two years. This year has been exceptionally busy. Having Annie around is only a small piece of the puzzle. I think the newer bigger apartment requires more cleaning than the last one. It is more area to cover. Also the jam obsession has contributed to this all quite a bit. I am also getting back into baking quite a bit. My first pumpkin pie came out a true success, again due to Hubert Keller's pie crust recipe. I feel the pounds adding from this all butter crust, but I think it is so worth the extra walking I need to do for the pieces of this crust!

Plus, I am very happy to say, the early start on the Christmas sewing is nothing to sneeze at. Less pulling of hair this winter will be a welcomed change. The shop is also busier, with more orders this year than last year, especially in the custom work area of things. I am truly happy and blessed with all the hub bub of activity lately.

On Wednesday I had lots of appointments to make, mainly a dental one and a hair cut. I promptly fell asleep after eating lunch on the couch, so that day was chalked up to not much done. Thursday was mostly spent working on some computer and office work for the shop as well as tutoring for 826 Valencia. Friday was a fun filled day of showing Annie's brother around the city. We went for Dim Sum in the Richmond district and then wandered around Golden Gate Park. We took in one act at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival and also visited the Glass House to look at flowers. My favorites were definitely the orchids and the special exhibit on edible plants.

Saturday was a low key day. Dan went to code camp, and I worked on cleaning up the kitchen as well as making some wrapping papers for the shop. I have not sat down and done that for a while, so it was good to restock the supply. We then took off for the Pacific Pinball Expo and had some great hours of pinball games. I especially liked some of the older Gottlieb games from the 1940's and 1950's. There seemed to be fewer machines this year, but it was still a really good time. I just wished there would have been a Circus Voltaire for me and a Junkyard for Dan, but we cannot always get the machines we want when you are borrowing from collections of willing people. Sunday I went and collected items for a potential custom order. I am waiting to hear back from the person who requested it. We also worked on cleaning out the Aerogarden. I decided to finally shut it down after the pump failure. The plants were still quite healthy and producing fruit, but I wanted to take a break from having it up on the counter.

Today I got orders ready to ship out as well as a care package for my sister. I also shipped out the pants that a friend made and wanted me to fix for him. It was a busy packing day before the postal worker got here. I also listed up the last pair of maroon and gold sari wrap pants.

I really loved this fabric, and it seems like people like it as well. I just wanted to let you all know this is the last pair in this fabric, and I can never get that fabric in again. So, if you are a lover of these pants like I am, go and snatch them up now before this last pair disappears! Today I am off to put the finishing touches on a pair of black pants as well as those redwork boxes. If the weather is good, I will get pictures taken and load them up for sale this week.