Friday, June 29, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

Thursday, June 28, 2012

eating around these parts

buying just one avocado is really hard for me!
Mark and I have been making a concerted effort of late to cook more at home and eat out less.  It's always something we feel we should do but we definitely adhere to the idea more at certain times than others.  These last few weeks we have been good!  We've also been working on not over-buying at the grocery store (which is something I didn't even realize we were doing).

I was really impressed with Skinnytaste's Quick Black Beans.  I know we'll be making these again- they are vegan, too!

This week, we've made several things at home that I've been proud of.  We've been using our crock pot a lot as a way to get a hot dinner without heating up the apartment-- and in temperatures like these, it's not just ideal, it's absolutely necessary!

This half crock pot, half stove top chicken ropa vieja utilized chicken from our freezer and canned tomato sauce from our pantry.
Last night I managed to snap some photos before we sat down to eat.  It was a complete skinnytaste meal, all around!  At lunch, I started the crockpot so that the Chicken Ropa Vieja would be ready for me to complete when I got home from work, and it smelled fantastic when I walked in the door.  I made Gina's Quick Black Beans and used her recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice as a basis for making red quinoa with lime.  We topped our bowls with a little 2% shredded cheese, avocado and pickled jalapenos for a fully satisfying meal.  I'm kicking myself for not photographing the quinoa, but it was the last dish of the meal to finish cooking and when it was done, we just had to eat!

I also decided to give Nutmeg Nanny's Cinnamon Buttermlk pie a go, since I had leftover buttermilk from making biscuits.  I haven't tasted it yet, but it sure looks pretty!
I'm in love with these plates.  Sadly, you can't buy them in the store anymore.
Mark and I have concert tickets tonight, and I've made up some of the pie (which features a graham cracker crust) in individual ramekins.  We're going to pack a picnic and enjoy it during the concert.  Can't wait til dessert!
cinnamon buttermilk pie: tonight's dessert!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I installed an invisible zipper!

lovely vintage sheet
Well, I finally got around to sewing more than napkins.  Mark and I have had two uncovered pillow cushions on our couch since January and they have been crying for covers since day one.  My sewing mojo returned when I found a new-to-me fantastic vintage sheet at the thrift store last week, and suddenly I had an idea for what I wanted to do.

pillow front
pillow back
The cover includes two different sides. The front is a solid square of the vintage sheet with a layer of warm & natural batting underneath.  The other side is also a vintage sheet in solid mustard yellow with blue grid quilting.  I used spray baste to adhere the sheet to the batting, then I used my hera marker and my acrylic ruler to mark 1" lines.  I quilted along the marks and then repeated the process in the other direction.  I love that the lines are all straight (more or less), but that they aren't exactly 1" apart.  Handmade quirky!  Great reassurance that I am not a machine.

I installed an invisible zipper using my invisible zipper foot so that the cushion cover can be washed (frequently).  When I was living by myself, I think I did a lot less washing-- of rugs, pillow covers, kitchen towels, etc.  Now that I am married and there are two of us using these things (plus Moses!), it seems like we do three times as much laundry.  That's okay, though: laundry and vacuuming tend to be my favorite types of housework.  Instant gratification-- nice, neat vacuuming lines and clean, folded laundry.  Putting the laundry away is a different story...

I have plans for zipper covers for the remaining pillows on our couch as well-- working towards being a washable household!  And of course, I have to make a mate for this cover.  I've even been thinking, in lieu of completely re-upholstering our loveseat (or maybe leading up to it), I could sew quilted cushion covers for the seats on our couch.  It would take a lot more time, fabric and energy (not to mention piping!), but is an interesting challenge and our loveseat isn't worth much, so what have I got to lose?  Can you imagine an entire couch redone in quilted vintage sheets?  I vacillate between being in love with the idea and thinking it's highly impractical.

I'm just glad to have something to show for all the thinking I've been doing about sewing lately.  Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Moses approves (Mark likes it, too).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

damn the deer!

sun gold cherry tomatoes
Last night I did a garden check to make sure the plants are doing okay.  The plants that have been replanted into containers are all doing very well and looking lovely (with the exception of the watermelon which I still cannot tell will make it).  Those guys have also been secured behind chicken wire.  The plants that we've run out of containers for, however, have been growing well but left vulnerable to the deer.

cherokee purple flower!
Yesterday, this is what my cherokee purple tomato plant looked like.  A flower!  Finally.  I did a garden check at lunch today, however, and the deer have completely taken off that branch.  No more flower.

the white stuff is epsom salt dissolved in water. I read that the magnesium encourages pepper growth.
Luckily, though they gnawed on my blushing pepper plant, they did not get the pepper.  I was hoping that there was some adverse affect for those that ate leaves of a nightshade family plant, but no such luck.  It's funny-- when I first moved here and saw deer in the city, my concern was for them: being driven out of wherever they live to seek food, and the danger that they might be hit by a car.  No longer.  Now, I understand why people call deer pests.

eggplant flowers
Though the deer have done some damage, they haven't touched my happy pot eggplant.  Those purple flowers are so beautiful-- and this plant is breaking out with them everywhere.  Hopefully that means many eggplant are coming!

Cucumber flowers
The pride and joy of my garden these days, however, are the tomatillos.  I am hopeful that my two plants are cross-fertilizing, but never having grown tomatillos before I do not know if these lanterns will be fruit or are somehow red herrings!  In any case, allow me to regale you with photos of what I hope to be some of the first tomatillo fruits of the garden!

Hopefully, more to come!

Monday, June 25, 2012

good 'ole standbys

that on top is actually a burp cloth. I'm testing out patterns and burp cloths are actually very much like sewing napkins.

I've been in a little bit of a sewing rut lately, not wanting to finish up projects but wanting to sew.  I have more than my fair share of WIPs (works in progress) but nothing inspiring lately.  I don't feel like I'm in a place where I can work through any pattern directions or trouble shoot something that doesn't turn out exactly how I want it to.  Thank goodness for my good 'ole standbys... cloth napkins.

I like matching florals and geometric prints for my napkins.

I know that cloth napkins are nothing special, and they are so easy to make, it's kind of ridiculous to blog them, but hey. I do what I can.  Lately, that's been the rather routinized comfort of cutting 17 1/2" squares and sewing them together. Clipping corners. Turning with the bone turner.  Ironing with homemade spray starch.  Top stitching shut. Neatly folding and stacking. Seeing progress pile up. 

Love nice corners and even top stitching.

Some days I can only handle one task a night.  Some days, I can handle twenty.  Some days- none at all.  Lately it's been about one task a night, with a visit to the garden. Napkin making has been good.  And these napkins are a good sampling of some of my vintage sheet stash.  I love the idea of having a set so large I'd never buy cloth napkins again (even inexpensive ones, or those for special occasions).  A big set of mixed vintage prints would look lovely, as well as a table of matching floral/gingham prints.  Or, a mix-and-match assortment of only yellow prints, like we did for our wedding.

I've made four of each color way so far.
Didn't realize there were so many ginghams!  All vintage or thrifted sheets.

Anyway, I'm looking to sewing up more intricate projects than napkins soon.  I've got a quilted pillowcase with an invisible zipper on the docket-- just as soon as I feel like I can tackle it.  A wonderful looking pattern to try out from elegantitus.  Some very belated sewn gifts for friends.  And I can't forget my quest for the perfect summer blouse (evidenced here, here and here).  Summer feels like it's ticking away, but I'm just taking it one day at a time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

Thursday, June 21, 2012

determined to grow

There is going to be construction soon, near our community garden.  This news has been extremely disappointing for us as we have learned that the construction will essentially prohibit us from getting to our garden right at the peak of the growing season!  Well I cried about it at first. Then I did a lot of complaining about it.  And this weekend, Mark and I bought some big cheap plastic buckets so that we can do something about it.  We're transferring our plants to containers and we're going to try our hand at container gardening.  This is going to be new and I'm worried about transplanting some of the bigger plants, but we're going to keep on growing things no matter what.

I think that the garden is essential to my happiness in the summer months.  Last summer, there wasn't much gardening because the deer ate our plants before we could get them all in the ground, and with our wedding planning and long distance between us, there was really no time or energy to redirect into gardening.  The two years before that I had a small back yard garden each summer and the harvest of basil and sun gold cherry tomatoes kept me going!

I'm determined that this year is going to be the best gardening year yet.  We've got six varieties of tomatoes (Brandywine, sun gold cherry, black cherry, Poseidon Pink, Purple Cherokee, Green Zebra), four varieties of basil (sweet, African blue, Thai, and purple ruffles basil), lavender, chives, cilantro, lemon balm, two tomatillo plants (you need two plants in order to have fruit), two eggplant varieties (one white, one purple), two squash varieties, blushing beauty and chocolate bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, a jalapeno pepper, and a small, but hopeful yellow watermelon plant (we had rosemary, too, but it died).

I've successfully transplanted two varieties of basil and the two tomatillo plants so far.  We're going to need more containers to finish the job-- and then we will most likely be transporting water as the new location for the containers is not close to a spigot for watering.  One thing is certain, however: gardening is the way to get me out in the heat of summer!

this is going to be a blushing beauty bell pepper.

eggplant flower!

re-potted plants, clockwise from left: two tomatillos (in the same pot), African blue basil, sweet basil.

the tomatillos must be happy in their container-- this flower is new since it's been re-potted!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

a peek in Aunt Sarah's garden

Last weekend, Mark and I headed up to Binghamton for a family visit.  Mark had concert tickets to see Ani DiFranco and Martin Sexton with his dad.  I opted not to go to the concert, since I had seen both artists in the last year or so and thought Mark might enjoy the time with just his dad.  I ended up the lucky one, however, because while they were at the concert, I got to go to a garden party!

Mark's Aunt Sarah and her husband Keefe live near the New York/Pennsylvania border and have a beautiful home and property there.  Mark has told me they built the house themselves, after they were married on the land (which I think is a beautiful story-and talk about 'handmade something'!).  The house itself is also beautiful and customized to their needs.  The kitchen counter tops are 4" taller than standard to accommodate their tall height!  I felt a little like a dwarf in the kitchen.  But, the best part is their back patio. Raised high on stilts with stairs to the side, their patio allows them to look over an enormous back yard and eight (8!) gardens that Aunt Sarah has planted around the property.  It was an incredible view!

Leslie, Ashlinn, Josh and I got to tour each one.  The variety and beauty of all of her flowers is astounding.  I've never seen such colors before!  None of my photographs have been edited.  I metered for light and snapped and what you see is a depiction of the what I saw with my eyes.

It's clear that these gardens are Aunt Sarah's peace.  A literal piece of land and a tangible peace felt amidst them.  The largest of the gardens is gated and has a grape arbor, too!


Sarah and Keefe have started a considerable garden.  They've got 24 tomato plants growing in a raised bed and more strawberry plants than you can count!  We got to sample the strawberries, mounded atop Keefe's homemade ice cream.  That was a real treat!  I'm so mad I didn't snap a picture... I was too busy eating.

Seeing so much growth was very encouraging for me to get out in my garden and do.  It's been awhile since Mark and I did any weeding in our own veggie plot.  I appreciate the lives Sarah and Keefe have carved for themselves, out in the country, away from the city.  I feel that I could live that way. With internet everywhere these days, there's no need to feel remote or disconnected (although if you wanted that, you could have it in the country!).  Since Indonesia, I feel like I've been on a quest to discover how things are done; how tortillas and tomato sauce are made instead of bought, how veggies and herbs are grown, how clothing and housewares are sewn.  Indonesia would be an entirely different experience for me than it was six years ago.

The more I learn and experience a handmade life, the more I want to get away from the commercial life where handmade things are passed over in favor of those that are commercially produced.  I much prefer Aunt Sarah's rambling flower garden than the strategically spaced pansies planted in the parking lots of office buildings.  I'm trying to do a little of this where I am, right in the city.  I guess this is the major appeal of urban homesteading.  My garden will grow this summer, but it's got nothing on Aunt Sarah's garden!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

Friday, June 8, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

Friday, June 1, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama