Monday, March 29, 2010

Missing Pieces and Putting It All Together

Lately, I have been in a really creative place. There have been so many ideas and so little hours that I cannot seem to get them all out of my head and down onto paper fast enough. Plus, add onto the situation that I am attempting to get work done, and you have one dizzy person taking notes, looking up things on the computer, and trying here and there to get some of the housework and sewing accomplished that I needed to get done, like last week. My niece's birthday gift, while turning out adorable, is woefully late. My sister always assures me that it is nice for them to get something a bit after their birthday to keep the kids guessing, but I am afraid, this is later than I would have liked. Pictures will follow once I get all of the pieces of that puzzle put together.

This weekend was filled with get togethers and visits from out of town guests. My brother in law came along with one of our friends from Illinois for a business trip that was wonderfully extended into a family visit for the weekend. During that time, we all managed to finish the puzzle that has been moved from apartment to apartment, across the country, and more recently from table to table in an attempt to finally be finished. Since this project was started well before Christmas, I was glad to see it come to an end and pleasantly surprised that it was only missing one piece. I am kind of proud of us all, as no one cheated and looked at the box for clues in any of the puzzle solving process across all that time.

I also put together the puzzle of this year's canning plans. I am doing more this year, and I hope to reach the same number of successes and the same stunning low number of defeats. Along with the jelly and jams, tomatoes, salsa, and peaches, I am going to add things like bbq sauces, pie fillings, fruit cocktails, and some new salsas and jam flavors. I am so excited to get canning this year. First, though, I need to conduct a census of sorts to figure out what I still have and what I will need for the next year. A helpful thing would have been to write down what I started with at the beginning, but, well, I was not thinking long term when the canning bug hit last year. Here is to better planning this year.

Putting the pieces together in my projects can be challenging at first, but as the pictures become more clear and clues are evident for the next course of action, everything just starts to fall into place. Some of those pieces are starting to fall into place for the Etsy Store. Look here for updates soon as to the path of the Fabulous Pants shop and for pictures of the birthday gifts for my niece!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Food and Hiking

This weekend was filled with much activity, at least the first part of the weekend was! Dan and I hatched a plan to go hiking this past weekend. We were really excited about hitting the trails again and planned to go to Mt. Diablo to hike the waterfall trails while there is still water flowing. We started the morning off with a Dutch Baby pancake. Dan and his family got me into these delectable treats when we were both in college. Slightly like a popover, the pancake is chewy on the outsides and the bottom is almost like custard in texture. The pancake is then dressed with butter, a little powdered sugar, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. They are simply wonderful to eat! We used to wait up to an hour and a half to have these at a restaurant, but with the purchase of our own cast iron pan and a book about cast iron cooking, we found out how easy these are to make. It almost makes me regret all the waiting around for a table at that restaurant for something so easy to make.

We then took off for the mountain. We drove up to the summit first, and then came the realization that we could not get to the trail head that I wanted to use with the car. We would have had to circumnavigate the entire mountain using roads that would take a long time to achieve our goal. We decided instead to just hike out to the trail, turning our once 5.5 mile hike into a near 10 mile one. This also resulted in us going downhill at the beginning rather than the end, another decision we would not be happy with later. We saw quite a few small and beautiful waterfalls. I took pictures of two of them. The sunlight was perfect, highlighting the ripples and flow of the water. At times the water would splash up into droplets that looked like diamonds in the air. It was glorious.
We walked in and out of forested areas and into grassy fields. The trail was a bit narrow, so side by side walking was rarely an option unless we were on sections that were the fire roads. There were lots of people out as well. I think the first day of spring always makes people want to get out of the house and explore nature again. The clouds were gone, and for the most part, the haze was minimal, giving us beautiful views of the San Francisco and Discovery Bays. The valleys stretched out like a shaggy green carpet. It was nice to be surrounded by so much green as so much of the summer and fall here is so brown. The wildflowers were something to behold as well. The poppies, Indian paintbrush, and lupines were all in full bloom. Many people were walking around with guidebooks for both the flowers and the many birds that were out and about with us all. Soon enough it was time to turn back and head up the mountain. It was a hard hike that took us a long while due to being a bit tired from the up and down sections of the waterfall loop. We eventually made it and then collapsed into the car, two very sore hikers. Sunday was declared a day of rest, literally. We did not move a bit due to the extreme soreness we both were feeling. The only movement activities that we partook in was the making of food. We cooked a mostly from scratch pizza that was marvelous. We made the crust with semolina and white flowers, used jar sauce*, and then added cheese; our wild boar sausage; and some caramelized onions. Needless to say, it was gone as soon as it was out of the oven. We hoped for leftovers, but there were none!

Today I am going to work on my niece's birthday gift as well as plant the tomato plants out into their permanent pots. They have gotten too large for their temporary home in the office window. While the soreness has subsided a bit, I am still feeling it. Hopefully I will be back in form for dance class on Thursday!

* My plans for this next canning season it to work on our own pizza sauce. The usage of store bought sauce is hopefully a thing of the past next year! Any good sauce recipes? Send them my way!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green for the Holiday

Spring has certainly arrived, and today is the first day I felt I could fully open up the house to the outside air. It is nice having breezes flowing in and out and smells of the neighborhood are also all around me once again. Between coffee roasters, the meat smoker, and the greasy spoon, the house smells like an elaborate breakfast place. I hope to add to this layered texture of smell with my cooking today. I am going to cook the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal that I have always had since I was little. I only cook this meal for today's feast day, unlike other members of the family who enjoy it more often, and the corned beef and cabbages are sitting in the refrigerator with anticipation for tonight. I am also making Irish soda bread to go with it, and for dessert, the decidedly un-Irish pumpkin pie. I forgot to make a pie for pi day and have been craving some sort of pie ever since. Since there are no really good fruits in season for pie yet, I am going to make a pumpkin one out of the hoard of canned pumpkin I acquired when I heard about the pumpkin shortages that were supposed to occur this year. Needless to say, there is still plenty of pumpkin to go around on store shelves.

Pie filling is something I would like to can this year. I am looking around for good sources for information and recipes, but I have yet to find them in my current books. Perhaps Annie will have some insight on her bookshelf.

I did get around to doing some gardening yesterday. I had to move the beans out to their final planting spots as they were getting too large for the containers I had them in. Their root systems were already all tangled up, and I hope that they take hold outside and do not stunt due to the lack of sunlight out on the balcony right now. Next year, hopefully, I will look back at these entries and hold back my enthusiasm for starting the gardening so early. I also took the chives out of the original herb box and planted them into their own pot. I love chives and use them often, so hopefully with more room to grow and new enriched soils, they will also be more happy. They look more perked up and lively today than they even did yesterday, so I am sure this is a good change for them. I also hope to plant some cilantro and finally root into the herb box the majoram and oregano that I started in the window of Dan's office. Both, though will need actual direct sun that is currently not available. The zucchini also seem to finally be growing a bit more. They are getting more leaves, and I think it is due to the warmer night and day temperatures. I hope that I get a little more action on the cucumbers that are planted along side them. They seem to be really unhappy with the lack of direct sun, but they will hopefully recover in a few weeks when it all changes. I love having all the new green plants all around, and they are just in time for the holiday.

Now I should get down to some baking and perhaps the harp. I have not gotten to pick it up for quite some time, and while I am sure the neighbors are glad that my constant playing of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Yankee Doodle" have been on a hiatus, I am sad that I have not gotten to play them. Back to beginner lesson one on the dvd and some more rudimentary and annoying songs!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life Returning to Normal in 3 - 2 - 1

Life has been pretty hectic over the past few weeks, and the lack of blogging is on of the results. Certain things, though, kept in motion. The Aerogarden is really taking off. While I am slightly concerned that the thyme plant is going to eventually get choked out by the dill and basil, overall the garden is thriving. The outdoor plants however are stunted. I believe my over zealousness started that part of the garden too early. The patio is still not getting much direct sunlight, so the plants are languishing. The zucchini have gotten a few leaves, but the cucumbers are doing nothing. The beans are also stalled out. The peas, however, seem to be pretty happy. They are slowly climbing up the trellis and are very full with leaves. I hope that they are at least happy. My tomatoes are still inside as well as my peppers. I also had to restart more beans. The two that I planted outside are the only ones to germinate. the others just went bad. The new ones look rather healthy, and the largest ones are going outside into the box today. I am afraid that if I leave them inside any longer they will slump due to not having a pole to wrap around. Hopefully they do not stall out too much themselves. Needles to say, there is a lot of gardening that needs to be done today. I also want to redo my chives into their own pot as well. It will be nice to eventually redo the herb box. I just need more sun on the balcony. Hopefully the time change will start to have an effect sooner than later.

So over the last two weeks I have been rather busy getting ready and performing at Rakkasah. My friend Christine came the last weekend in February, and I had a wonderful time with her. We went around the city and saw all sorts of fun things including the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. It was an action packed weekend. All the fun though came to an end when I dropped her off at the airport. I quickly came down with the flu and was out of commission for a week. It was stressful as I was looking to have that week for costuming and completing all the sewing I had to do before the show, including redoing the bra pictured here. I loved this bra the first time I made it, but it had some flaws that needed to be fixed. This second time around I could not be happier. It even has me considering making coin bras for Fabulous Pants! I also had to make another 25 yard skirt. It looked like I was sewing up mummy bandages in the sewing room. The white underskirt was beautiful with my other skirt over. It looked like a beautiful petticoat under the main skirt. I think I will be using this combination for many a show! Now if only I could figure out the ruffle foot on the machine... it would have made this project much easier. It would also open up the possibility of me adding 25 yard skirts to the shop. Let me know if there is interest in either the skirts or the bras! I would be happy to open up the creativity to those items if they are something you all have a desire for.

Now I am off for that gardening and returning to some of the normal mundane tasks that have been ignored over the show prep. There is cleaning to do and books to balance.