Monday, May 31, 2010

Finally: summer.

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful weekend. Here in the US, many of us had a three-day weekend, which made it all the better. For dinner tonight I made the most wonderful dish of brown rice, roasted veggies, and vinaigrette. It was very loosely based a recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine called Orzo & Grilled Vegetable Salad with Olives & Oregano.

Really, if you break the recipe down, you can rebuild it with whatever you fancy. Just pick one grain, grill or roast some veggies (I chose corn, radishes, zucchini, red onion, garlic, and red pepper), and add a simple mix of mustard, oil and vinegar. You could even toss in a handful of nuts. I added some olives and feta cheese. This would be great warm or cold, and perfect for a summer picnic.

Also, just in time for the gorgeous weather, I bought this bike for $40 off of Craigslist. It needs a bit of work, but I think it will suit me just fine for my 2 mile commute, and trips to the veggie garden. In other exciting news, I'm starting a ceramics class tomorrow. Ceramics was a love of mine in college and shortly thereafter, but with all my moves in recent years, I never had a chance to pick it up again. It will be great to be elbow-deep in clay again.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Major gratitude

While this is pretty off-topic, I just had to share--it's really the least I can do. In the past month I started having a lot of trouble with my 4-year old MacBook laptop. At first it wasn't waking up from sleep--which was annoying, but not the end of the world. I took it into the Apple Store, and the 'geniuses' decided to send it in for a repair. Despite the fact that I wasn't under warranty, they didn't charge me since they said it could have been related to an earlier repair. When I got it back, they had done some major work, and even installed the newest operating system. Fantastic! Unfortunately, it had immediately developed a new, and much worse problem--it would shut down randomly and without warning.

I took it back in, and they replaced a couple parts, again free of charge. I took it home, and it still had the same shut-down problem. At this point, I was a bit worried and annoyed--my problem was so much worse after the repair, that it rendered my computer basically unusable. I brought it in a third time, and without my even asking, they decided to give me a brand-new MacBook, free of charge! I figured I was completely out of luck, and that maybe I could beg them for a discount, but in my wildest dreams I didn't think they'd give me a brand new computer. So awesome. While I certainly never wavered in my love of Apple computers, this experience has certainly showed me that they are a company deserving of my trust and loyalty.

Community Gardening

I've been experimenting with vegetable gardening for the past year and a half, and was really excited this spring to help build a new community garden. My new city has quite a few of them, but in general it can be difficult to get a plot, since so many people hold on to plots year after year. I was delighted to see an ad for a new garden that was only a few blocks from my house. I jumped at the opportunity, and in no time was digging, moving mulch, and learning how to build a fence. The growing season is really short here, and I had to wait until this week to actually plant anything (trust me, I learned the hard way!) But I'm excited about my little plot, and hopeful that all my veggies will be happy there. I'll have tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, radishes, peppers, beans, and purple cauliflower (which I'm a bit skeptical about in the heat of the summer, but I read somewhere that it could be planted now). It's all very experimental, but I just love seeing veggies grow--it's such a departure from my otherwise very urban existence.

This week, in the new kitchen.

I had been dreaming about making Alfajores since my Chilean friend described these chocolate-covered dulce de leche-filled sandwich cookies. I cut out a recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine (also found here) and finally found the right occasion to make them this week. It all seemed to be going quite well at first. The dulce de leche was thick and tasted divine. The cookies seemed to come out alright, despite this being my first attempt at high-altitude baking.

Filling the cookies was fun, until I looked down at the completed ones to see all of the dulce de leche squeezing out of the sides! What a crying shame! I tried to remedy this by quickly dipping them into the chocolate, but disaster struck again--the chocolate wouldn't set, and ended up running all over the pan (I had thoughtfully placed underneath the wire racks!)

They ended up looking like a mess, but I was still hopeful that they would taste good.

But sadly, without much dulce de leche, I was just left with a fairly bland cookie and a too-rich layer of messy chocolate. Sigh. If only I had found the recipe reviews online before I started! Has anyone else made these successfully before?

Much more successful was my attempt to use up a surplus of potatoes and feta, by making some very yummy potato, artichoke and feta latkes.

I really liked the addition of fresh mint, which I picked from my garden.

Highs and lows, but all in the name of learning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Spanish translation of Shalom!

Well, the previous Spanish translation of the Shalom pattern mysteriously went off line, and Tejer Bien gratiously volunteered to retranslate it! Very sweet! The new version can be found here. Muchas Gracias!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lithuanian Weaving

For my birthday, I got the most wonderful gift from my aunt: a beautiful textile from Lithuania. I had originally thought that she purchased it recently, but when I called to thank her, she told me that her grandmother made it! She even spun the wool herself! It's really a very well-made woven textile. The geometric patterns are very intricately woven from cream-colored linen and black wool yarn. Although it is meant as a bed cover, I decided that it was the perfect size to cover a bare wall in my bedroom.

I hung it up using a technique we often use with museum textiles. You machine stitch velcro to cotton twill 'tape' and then carefully handsew the twill tape to the textile. The other part of the velcro is then attached to a bar that is then attached to the wall. This is a nice way to evenly distribute the weight of the textile, and to allow you to put it up and take it down without much trouble.

Quilt progress

In the couple weeks between when I finished my last job and when I moved, I did a lot of work on my quilt. I finished piecing the front and back, and basted. I then tried to teach myself free motion quilting so I could make these large, imperfect circles. I've done one edge so far--I had second thoughts and nearly went at it with a seam ripper, but after a couple weeks off, I think I like it again. I hope to start working on this again soon. It will be great to have it finished!

Around the house

One of my coworkers raises chickens and goats. He brought in about 8 dozen fresh eggs for us last week. Love it!

I now live less than a block from an Ethiopian restaurant (my favorite) and an antique mall. I stopped into the antique place today after work and found this large handmade ceramic bowl for $12. All I've had for the past several years are Pyrex mixing bowls, and I think I'm now officially too old to use mixing bowls as serving bowls (I forgot to mention in my update that I also turned 30 a few weeks ago!)

I'm feeling much more attached to my current rental than my previous few. I think it's because it has a lot of great vintage details--which I love--and because I think I might be here for more than a year. This is my favorite corner so far. I got the chair off of craigslist for free, and the pillow is from Morocco--I have about 7 of them in various sizes. This one seems to fit this chair perfectly.

I just can't quit you.

Well, it's been a jam-packed two months, without a single blog post to show for it. I half considered throwing in the towel, but I still enjoy sharing things with the greater blog community, even if I can't commit to sharing as often as I'd like.

Here's a brief summary of my life lately:

I was offered a new job, and accepted. I moved to a new state (and my 8th city in 4 years, in case you were counting!) Hopefully this one is for keeps--at least for 3-5 years. I've been in my new city for a month now, and am really loving it. It's much more suited to my lifestyle than the previous city. So far I've been busy going to lots of concerts, volunteering on a farm and helping build a new community garden, and settling into my new cute 1940s cottage. I haven't had any time for crafting since I moved, but I do hope to get back to that soon. I will also be starting with a new CSA in June, so I should have new recipes to share.

Thanks for staying with me!