Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lists Working?

The Google Task lists seem to be working.... well at least a little. I now have things written down in a priority form that I cannot lose because it is on my phone. This makes for a somewhat stress inducing reminder of all the things I would like to accomplish and what I have yet to do. I did have to move Monday's tasks back to Tuesday, so that made yesterday's list look very intimidating. I did, however, plow through many of the items, including cleaning the dreaded bathrooms. It isn't that the bathrooms were so dirty that I did not want to tackle them, far from it, I just hate cleaning the bathrooms. I have no idea why that is, but it is. So, after many avoidance techniques yesterday and the day before, I buckled down and got it all completed. I also got the curtain panels cut out and ready for sewing up today.

In gardening news, I restarted the Aerogarden last week. It needed a complete overhaul, new motor, light bulbs, and new plantings. I ended up going with the very old herbs that came with the thing. I was not expecting much in the way of germination seeing as the seeds were so old, but I am happy to report that I have dill that is ready to have the cap removed already and the mint is fast approaching the same state. I don't see any other shoots yet, but the chives are also starting to develop fog on their dome, signaling the possibility of new growth there as well. Nothing yet from the thyme or the parsley, and I also did not plant the two basil plants yet as they germinate so much sooner and would overtake the other plants before they are established. I am going to give all the other herbs a big head start before planting those basil plants.

I hate to cut it short today, but I am feeling sewing inspiration today as the clouds are starting to break and let the sun in, so I should seize on this inspiration and go!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blood Orange Marmalade

Yesterday was not the list checking off day I had hoped, but I did get one very important thing accomplished. I made the blood orange marmalade. I usually make regular old orange marmalade for myself, but our friend who hosts us for football on Sundays is a big fan of the blood oranges. I decided to make a batch for her to have. It was odd getting back to solitary canning, seeing as Annie and I make such a great team, but I wanted to get this done today. It was an all day project as the recipe I followed took all the pith out of the oranges. The cooking process was long and multistage, but I think that the results were beautiful.

First, I scored the peels and removed them from the oranges. The peels were then cooked twice for 10 minutes in boiling water to loosen the piths. I then dug the pith out with a spoon. I think that this significantly cut the bitter taste that our friend likes, so this may be skipped next year for her to have the bitter overtone she likes. This also softened up the peels quite a bit, something I have not really been all that successful with in my other recipe.

Then I was on to sectioning out all the fruit and removing strings and seeds. This went really fast, and I did not stain my hands too much.

Next it was onto cutting the peels into little strips. I lost patience half way through, and the small pieces became a bit larger. Hunger was setting in as it was now decidedly after lunch time, and I was still jamming.

After a super quick lunch, it was time to cook it all. I ended up doing a two pot method that I think I will avoid next time. It did not seem to yield a "better result" than usual for all the work it involved. I filled the jars and then realized after only emptying one pot that there was too much jelly for the two small half pints left. I had a whole other pot to put into jars! I ran to the pantry and cleaned two more jars and sterilized them up and added the jam to those. Everything went into the canner, and then I got a look at the time.... I needed to head out for a dance session. I quickly got ready and then waited on the boiling jelly to finish. Once it was done processing, I removed the jars and luckily enough they all instantly sealed. I ran out and made it in time for the train. It was a close call though!

As usual, the book I have sorely underestimated the final amount you would end with by four half pints. I think with the end tally, there is enough for the two of us, so I will skip my usual orange marmalade making this year and just take some of the extras from this batch for the year. Who knows, I may be a convert to the blood oranges.

That was the only item I got to check off of the list yesterday, so I transferred all the rest of the chores over to today's list. Chiefly, I need to make up those curtains for 826. I am eyeing the front hallway to lay out the fabric, and I really hope it fits as there is no real good place in the apartment to lay out that much fabric. Well here is to trying!

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Week, New Goals

This week is already off with a bang! Things are getting increasingly busy as dance performances loom in the not too distant future! Friday was filled with house cleaning. The house had been rather neglected since the beginning of the winter crafting season, so I too to and started a deep clean of the house. Lots of items were sorted, organized, and put back in the places they belonged. Dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing of the living room, craft room, and bedroom were completed along with the usual Friday chores of laundry and business for Fabulous Pants. It was awesomely productive. Saturday was filled with dance sessions at the Fat Chance Studio. It was an awesome day there, as lots of the professional troupe were in attendance. We could get many perspectives and opinions on how to do different combinations as well as some wonderful performance tips and advice. It was, by far, one of the most enjoyable dance class sessions I have ever attended in my many years of dancing. The studio was filled with dance, laughter, and zaghareets.

Sunday was a recoup day before plunging headlong into this new week. I made some really great food out of both Cooks and Cooks Country magazines. We had their version of the Dutch baby pancake, and it dethroned our usual recipe for our new official recipe. We got to use two of our Meyer lemons in the batter, which was extra satisfying. I also picked up some blood oranges for a marmalade I am making for our friend.

She is always the gracious host for us during Bear's games, so it is only fair that she gets her favorite jam made for her in return. I hope to get that all made today. I have a good looking recipe in mind, but I am not sure if it will be bitter enough for her. I may do some more searching to compare what I have and what others suggest.

I also made some awesome s'more brownies from scratch! They were well worth the effort, and I believe that I am officially swearing off boxed mixes all together. I made a gram cracker crust on the bottom, added the brownie batter over that, then I melted some mini marshmallows once they were baked. I found this recipe in a Cook's Country from a few years ago, and it was a clear winner. Dan and I showed great restraint though and only took one each.

Today I am trying to be better about accomplishing things. My new idea is to adopt Google Task to try to get more done. I have downloaded an application for it to my phone, and I am hoping that having this new virtual to do list will allow me to be more productive. I have yet to cross a thing off that list, but as I finish this entry, I can finally tap that little box for my check mark to appear! Making marmalade is next, and then working on finishing up house cleaning and cutting out curtains. Hopefully I can get it all done before another studio session tonight! And now for that check mark!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fabric Sample

Quick little posting today as I have lots to get done in a short time. Thursdays are my busiest day of the week, and they have recently gotten busier with show prep for Rakkasah and the student salon at the studio. I also still have my tutoring time at 826, so there is a lot to do before I head into the city. Last night I finished off a pair of pants that were ordered. It was really nice to get back to making pants. I hope that I can spend more time on that in the coming days, as I have some great fabrics that are awaiting transformation. This pair was a wonderful red that faded into a slightly lighter tone. I called it red swirl.

Look to the Etsy Store in the coming months for more new pairs to appear! Till then, I am off to watch some dance video and work on cleaning up the house a bit. There are also some curtains to be made in attempt two for 826. All in the next two and a half hours! Yikes!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rainy Day Yields Inspiration

Today is the third day of rain here in the Bay Area, and I am finding myself rather renewed. I spent most of Thursday working on prepping for teaching Annie sewing as well as working on a special order that I hope to finish up today. Friday was kind of an exercise in frustration and disappointment. Annie and I hoped to make cheese, but we could not find the starter and rennet to save our lives. We licked our culinary adventure wounds and went back to the sewing room to work on aprons. The sewing went well, and soon Annie will have a new apron!

I went to class at Fat Chance Belly Dance this past Saturday and had a great time. Now that I am performing at Rakkasha with the group of students at the studio, I have more rehearsals and classes to attend. I also have signed up to do the student salon, so there is a lot of dance to participate in lately. The neatest thing was getting to attend a class taught by Carolena, the founder of the dance form. It was in a way a huge dream come true. I know it is corny, but she was one of my biggest inspirations when I started dancing. The class was so interesting, and I got so much out of the session. The rain showed up later that evening, and it was a welcomed thing. It made me sit down and just relax a bit and let myself rest. I was pretty wiped out from the dance sessions and all the fun of running around with Annie.

The rest of the holiday weekend was filled with reordering and picking up the house. The china cabinet was reorganized and reconstructed to make it much more functional. I also worked on my embroidery project that has spanned many, many years. I hope to get it finished in 2010, but it may be a stretch.

Today I am feeling like I have lots of energy to get things done despite a bad night's sleep. I am going to go and make a spice cake after this entry as well as finishing up the special order. I also want to dust the house and clean up in general. I am also making my final determinations as to the balcony garden for this year. I hope to make the order for all the seeds today or tomorrow. After all of this, I want to work on making a database to find recipes more easily in our collection of Cook's magazines. I am tired of going through each issue to find the one recipe that I need. Hopefully that will help. Well I need to stay with this wave of inspiration while I still have it. Spice cake pictures and recipe review tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holiday Wrap Up Three

One of the presents I was really looking forward to making was a learning book for Craig. I found the pattern on the internet and bought it up. It was a vintage Vogue pattern for a book called "It's A Zoo." The book was great as it used up lots of fabric from the bins. I only bought some of the fabrics for the pages themselves. I also got to use up some old and wrinkled interfacing that I have been kicking around for some time as it is featherweight fusible, and I do not really need that too often. I was astounded at how well this one came out. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Title Page that was customized for Craig:

Page One: A fishing pelican. I made it out of the same material that his previous and Jozef's pelicans were made out of for some continuity. The fish attach and come off of the hooks.

Page Two: A turtle that is a sensitive fellow. Learning to use snaps.

Page Two: A hungry alligator on what must be a hot day. Learning to use a zipper.

Page Three: A giraffe all ready for a night out with her hair all done. Learning to tie a bow.

Page Four: A kangaroo out for the day with her baby. Learning to use a buckle.

Page Five: A bear ready to coach his baseball team. Learning to lace up eyelets.

Page Six: A rollerskating elephant ready to go! Learning to button and unbutton.

Page Seven: A lion all braided up neatly. Learning to braid three ropes.

Page Eight: A hippo is driving the bus for all the animals to ride. Learning to button and unbutton again.

All in all it was a fun project and used up lots of scraps in this new era of using up things. I also got to use up a bunch of notions that I have had knocking around drawers and things. Any cleared up clutter is good use in my mind.

On that note I am off. I have a special order I need to complete today as well as transferring the pattern for Annie and I to sew up aprons. Lots to do before I need to head out for Long Now tonight!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holiday Wrap Up Two

In my attempt to get things accomplished today around the house, I am going to keep this entry mostly pictures and kind of short. I ended up buying Brenna's gift for Christmas, so no pictures there. I did make her birthday gift however, but I forgot to take pictures of it. I made her a set of hand dyed play scarves. I am not sure I would ever do that project again as it was a lot of work for not so great a yield. I think I would buy them in the future and avoid all the mess here at home. She has been enjoying them and making things with her imagination to decide what the colorful pieces of silk are going to be.

Claudia got a homemade Christmas gift though. I made her a castle play set. I purchased the patter from Gulf Coast Cottage. The pattern was well written and easy to follow. As a bonus, it used felt, which I have in abundance from buying too much during my felt food making days with Brenna. The set took longer to make than I had anticipated, and much of that was due to me being overly tired and this being the last of the gifts. I worked on this until 5 am to get it finished and off in time. It had to be mailed on its own along with Grandma's missed present from the first box we sent. Her jam was not packed with the rest of the presents. Luckily I found it before it was too late. Here is the set as I made it sitting under the tree before I wrapped it up to send off to my niece.

The set comes with a princess with removable hat, knight with removable shield, unicorn, dragon, tree, and castle with a working drawbridge. The land underneath the set turns into a carrying case for the pieces. It was a great project, and if I had not have been in such a time crunch I think I would have enjoyed making it even more. I really did love this project though and would highly recommend it to anyone that would like to attempt it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Holiday Wrap Up One

Well I completely got busy at the end of last week and did not get around to starting my holiday wrap up, so I thought today it would be good to start it out. I have three things to show off today, two of which are repeats from last year, one is a new item just for this year. I have to say that I am surprised that I managed to pull it off this year, getting all of my handmade items finished in time to give them or send them for a Christmas day opening. I also managed to meet my goal of getting all the major mailing of Christmas gifts off by the ground shipping deadline. It was still expensive to help Santa out by sending that many presents, but it was worth every penny. The theme this year was to try to minimize buying new materials and use up materials I already had heaped up in fabric bins, boxes, and containers of crafting supplies. Overall, it was a pretty successful endeavor.

For my Dad, I did a rehash of a moss stitch scarf. I had one ball of the Cascade EcoAlpaca left from the attempt at this scarf from the year before, so I got another one and knit it up, this time correctly, for my Dad. It looks entirely different since I knit the knit stitches rather than knitting them to the back. I like this one a bit more, but both still looked great in the end. I was just glad that the yarns were a really exact match since there is no dye lot because it was natural alpaca yarn.

I also made another counting fish pelican for Jozef. It was requested for him last year by Kathy, so I had fun making a second one in what I am sure is a long line of counting pelicans in my career. Overall this did not meet the full criteria of using up and not buying more items to make it, but all I really had to purchase was the zipper and yellow dot fabric for him. The fish were totally made out of scraps of other fabrics. It is nice to see how much faster you are at doing things the second time around.

I did not do so well on the not buying when I made this banner for my Mom. I thought, though, that it was a great exception to the rule. I made it using a pattern from Butterick that Dan picked out. She really liked it, and I have heard that it is hanging up in the kitchen currently. I was amazed while working on this to see how much better at applique I have gotten. I did have to do some shopping for the buttons with my Mom when I was home for Thanksgiving, so it was pretty funny when she opened up the package to find the buttons on her gift.

Today I am working on gaining the motivation to start some house cleaning. Over the holiday crafting extravaganza, things like dusting and vacuuming fall by the wayside. I also have a rosemary bush in need of some transplanting out on the balcony. The lemon tree is chugging right along, and the first lemons are starting to ripen. I do have a bit of sad news in regards to the balcony garden. White flies were hard at work while we were gone traveling during the holidays, so the herb garden is basically no more. I have decided to turn over that box to strawberries this spring and instead use the Aerogarden for the herbs as the likelihood of white flies inside is lower, so I will not have to pour so much time into fighting insect battles for my herbs. They have been missed this week as I wanted to prepare a recipe only to find that I forgot that there is no easily accessible sage any more. It was rather disappointing.

I am also working on prepping for an apron sewing session with Annie this week. I am determined to copy the pattern and sew one apron on my own so that when I am teaching her the lessons will be more successful. The harp is also in need of some time with me as one of my resolutions is to become more proficient on that poor neglected present. Now that I received my knee bones for Christmas, there are no more excuses. Calloused fingers, here I come!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finally Back to Normal

It has been a really busy and fun filled month of December. Now that I have reached the Epiphany though, the tree has been put away, and new places have been found for the last of the gifts that arrived today. I made quite a few gifts this year and will be showing them off in the next postings on the blog. Some things were different this year, like my swag over the hutches went from colored lights to white since I broke the colored strands when unpacking them.

I also went on a trip for Christmas with Dan's family. We went to Colonial Williamsburg for the holiday. It was quite delightful and full of fun. The historic houses were all decorated, and we went to see many traditional concerts and ate a ton of traditional meals. I of course was so wrapped up in having fun that I did not remember to take many pictures. I did however, snap a picture of one of my favorite houses on the way down Duke of Gloucester Street.

The weather was actually quite pleasant for the majority of the time we were there. The only day we were rained on was Christmas proper, and most of that day was spent inside of buildings and not walking around outside.

Dan and I then came home for two short days, and then we were off to Las Vegas for a week to celebrate the New Year. Here again I did not remember to take pictures as there is just too many other things to keep your attention. I did snap this picture of the conservatory in the Belliago hotel of their Christmas display.

This year is already off to a quick start. I have been invited to dance with a group at the Rakkasah bellydance festival, so I will be spending a lot of time in the studio over the next few days. I also have a custom order I am working on along with some more personal goals for this new year. I have decided to try to work on some of my own projects this year. Along with working on some new plans for both Fabulous Pants and the yet to be revealed second project, I am determined to learn the harp more this year and to also finish a long lingering embroidery project. Needless to say, I am going to be busy. I am hoping to eliminate some of the unnecessary television and internet surfing to try to get things done. Here is to hoping it works!

I am however, glad to be back to the quiet house and settling back into a normalized routine. I am planning the patio garden for next year, and thanks to Annie's book, I am learning quite a bit about container versus ground gardening. I am also ready to tackle cheese making with her in the next few weeks and months. There is so much to learn! I cannot wait. Well I am ready to get down to the sewing machines again. I am going to follow through with my focus on self plans a bit here and finally sew up the machine covers I keep promising myself. Pictures when they are done! Tune in Tomorrow for day one of the Holiday Wrap Up 2009!