Monday, December 28, 2009
Christmas was very quiet and very enjoyable. Dante went to Medford to visit his mom and friends we usually spend holidays with were out of town. A dear friend came over and we prepared prawns the size the rib eye steaks, homemade pasta with leeks, and salad. It always comes back to food, doesn't it? Sue helped me work on a current quilt project…a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
We've been talking about playing mahjong for years and Christmas Day seemed like the perfect time to learn. Takashi hasn't played in nearly 30 years, claiming we needed to have a special table to do so. About four years ago, we bought the materials to build a table top that would sit on top of a card table so we dug out the materials along with the mahjong set, downloaded some tips on playing from the internet and found a book at the library that explained Japanese rules in English. Takashi has a well-worn book but since it was all in Japanese we weren't trusting him to guide us.
My favorite Christmas activity is always the Christmas Eve Candle Lighting service. There is something magical about the story, the music, and the candles that touches me every year. And it just isn't Christmas until I've heard "O Holy Night".
Monday, December 7, 2009
I do make cherry coconut bars every year – at least one double batch. I wonder where mom got this recipe? It is absolutely wonderful…here it is:
Pastry: 1 cup flour ½ cup butter 3 tsp. confectioner's sugar
Filling: 2 slightly beaten eggs 1 tsp. vanilla 1 cup sugar ¾ cup chopped nuts
¼ cup flour ½ cup coconut ¼ tsp. salt ½ cup quartered maraschino cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, butter, and confectioner's sugar with hands until smooth. Press into 8 inch square pan. Bake 25 minutes.
Mix filling ingredients. Spread over top of baked pastry (no need to cool) Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned.
I always make a double batch and put it in a 13X9 pan.
And no…I'm not sharing ;-)
Continuing my commitment to the 10-Minute Hooking Challenge has been…a challenge. I am grateful that I made the commitment during sabbatical in order to establish the habit before my return to work. While the 10 minutes is now closer to actually being 10 minutes than the 90 minutes it was turning out to be, I still see progress and it keeps me motivated. I must remind myself that much of my inspiration for Sunday talks comes when otherwise engaged in creative pursuits such as hooking, quilting, etc. Why do I always seem to make "work" be difficult?
So here is the current project that I started November 9. It would have been completed over a week ago had I not had to struggle with dyeing more background. After several tries, I got some that was just a tad bit lighter – it worked well in the center of the piece. Today I redyed some a bit darker to use around the edges. I think this will work…hooray!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Here is the progress on my latest 10 Minute challenge rug.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I haven't been posting for a few weeks but I have a multitude of excuses, the first one being – entrelac! I've never been much of a knitter – every scarf seems to turn into a triangle and I never knew how to correct mistakes or go back and make adjustments. About one year ago, my dear (and VERY patient!) friend, Sue Whitmore was actually able to teach me to knit socks. I was hooked! I've made about 7-8 pairs this year. Then this Spring while in our local yarn shop, The Wool Company, (a wonderful shop and the owners are delightful), I saw this very unique scarf using entrelac technique. Entrelac is a knitting technique used to create a textured diamond pattern. While the end result resembles basket-woven strips of knitted fabric, the actual material comprises interconnected squares on two different orientations. Check out a tutorial for this scarf at http://knittyotter.typepad.com/otterknits/2007/03/entrelac_scarf_.html. After many read-throughs and a couple of false starts, I enlisted Sue's help once again. After a couple of afternoons of knitting and ripping out, I think we've finally got it! It's such fun but requires quite a bit of attention in the beginning. I haven't taken a picture yet but will do so soon. Just don't look too closely!
Monday, November 9, 2009
The days are flying by and I feel a sense of urgency as the time to return to work draws near. This weekend I cleaned out more kitchen cabinets; we've cleaned out our garage, the backroom of the rental next door, the shed, and on and on it goes. Hmmm, I think Takashi may be happy to have me return to work!
We have been enjoying some wonderful meals lately…rediscovering some old favorites and trying some new things. We all enjoy tabletop cooking. We've have been using an ancient butane burner that was getting crankier and bordered on being dangerous. Takashi found a great new burner online for only $20.00. We ended up buying three of them – one for our wonderful neighbor/tenant and two for us so we can more easily accommodate more dinner guests. Time to try some new dishes!
Having some extra time has allowed both Takashi and I the opportunity to play in the kitchen and it has been very satisfying. I've rediscovered the joy of making my own pasta – it started with the udon and has continued since then. And canning! Oh I had forgotten how much that feeds my soul. One thing I've never made is pickles. The growing season on the Coast is just not conducive to tomatoes but we had to at least try since we have the deer fence this year. We had a few ripe ones but mostly we had a ton of green tomatoes left. I had a few of the spices used for pickles but not all of them so went to the grocery store to pick up some premixed "pickling spices" – yowzers! – expensive! As I looked at the ingredients, I thought, "Hmmmm, this seems familiar." So I checked out the box of "crab & shrimp boil" – yep, almost identical and a fraction of the cost. What the heck, I decided to try it. I threw in some whole garlic cloves, fennel, onions, and jalapenos. Here's the result:
So it was time to start a new project in order to continue my 10 minute daily commitment. This pushed me up against my primary challenge – initiation! How to start a project so quickly…what to hook…how to color plan…what cut do I use??? Help! These are the times when I really miss having a hooking buddy or two nearby or access to a teacher – it is a tremendous help with motivation and inspiration.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The other day I dragged out my old pasta machine and we made udon. Udon are thick Japanese noodles, usually served in a broth. We love 'yakiudon' – fried noodles with veggies. This time we served our udon in soup with inari and tempura shrimp. Yummy!
I made my own noodles for years and during this sabbatical time it has been very satisfying to return to these activities that feed my soul (and my tummy). Later in the week we made spaghetti with fresh herbs from the garden. Life is good
I grew up with apples…we had a small orchard in our backyard. Apple trees are great climbing trees. My best friend, Mary Grace, and I used to climb up in the tree and discuss the secrets of life when we were in grade school. But these trees…they produce a lot of…well, apples. And you have to do something with those apples. As kids, it was our job to pick up all the apples that had fallen off the tree and put them in buckets…ewwww, those were some stinky apples in hot, humid Illinois. I have two older (much older <ggg>) siblings so they constantly tricked me or threatened me into picking up the most apples.
Mom made the best apple squares – using lard! – and Dutch apple pies and of course, applesauce. One of my favorite memories is from kindergarten when she came to my classroom and helped us all make applesauce. I was so shy in kindergarten that I never spoke a word out loud so it was a memorable day for me to have the reassurance of my "mommy" with me, even if it was just that one day. In fact, I just recently came across the big thank-you letter our teacher/class wrote to mom.
So here I am now in a house that has an apple tree right off the back deck. Every year I make a few Dutch apple pies and then we pick up the rest and pile them up for the deer. This year the tree produced the most beautiful, biggest apples it ever has in over ten years. Being on sabbatical, I decided to return to my "past life" and made applesauce. Ahhh, the smells and tastes of childhood! And yes, there was still a wheelbarrow full of apples left for the deer, with more on the tree.
It is so satisfying to me to pick the fruit or vegetables and then can or freeze them for the long winter nights ahead. I've missed that over these past years I've been in Oregon. This year, I have pureed squash to freeze for making soup later, made pesto, blackberry jam…and now applesauce will go on the shelves. A taste of childhood. A taste of the past. Satisfying indeed.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666 and countless scientists and artists have studied color since that time. For some reason, color theory stymies me. Maybe I just have a block about it – sorta like square roots and stuff like that. As soon as I start reading about primary, secondary, tertiary, complementary, analogous --- my eyes glaze over and my head screams, "I just want something pretty!"
A good "color sense" and some rudimentary knowledge of color theory goes far in designing rugs or quilts and especially in dyeing. I remember the first time Leota (the dear woman who taught me how too hook) pulled out a huge poster board with little snippets of color pasted all over in a circle and suggested that I memorize it. Hey, I just wanna make pretty rugs!
This week I wanted to dye some primary colors for the border of "Perfect Harmony" rug. I have lots of eight-value swatches in my stash but seem to be short on larger pieces of basic colors. It's difficult for my head to wrap around the concept that dyeing a piece of yellow wool means I have to pull out not only a yellow dye, but some red and blue dyes as well. April from Red Jack rugs calls yellow, red, and blue the "magic colors". I like that!
Imagine…all the colors in the universe can be created from just these three colors! Every beauteous shade and hue is a result of a unique combination of these magic colors. Each one of us is an individual, shining our light in different ways, beautiful and unique to ourselves. And yet, when it gets right down to it…we are all made up of the same magic qualities. I don't know how you might name the three constituent parts of ourselves – mind, body, spirit? Love, imagination, faith? Doesn't much matter…as Hans Hofmann said, "It is not the form that dictates the color, but the color that brings out the form."
Anyway….here's what the dye pot yielded last week (along with the two pics above)…
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Wanda comes up with some great exercises. Recently she introduced us to a concept called "Notan". From http://www.wikipedia.com/: Nōtan (濃淡) is a Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark next to the other in art and imagery. This use of light and dark translates shape and form into flat shapes on a two-dimensional surface. Nōtan is traditionally presented in paint, ink, or cut paper, but it is relevant to a host of modern day image-making techniques, such as lithography in printmaking, and rotoscoping in animation.
Here is my first try - this is cut from a 6X6 piece of black paper...all I can see when I look at it is a woman dancing, dressed as a gift box!
Next I did just a couple of little things which I think would be great in a hooked rug border...wonderful reminder to look for the light/dark in my rugs and other projects.
As I worked on this process, my brain grappled with the idea of positive/negative space and the play of light against dark. Sometimes as I was cutting, it was hard to remember what I was looking at - is this a black part? Or is it the edge of a white space?
Reminds me of life...sometimes I get so focused on the "dark" parts that seem to have so much more weight and form than the white spaces. Troubling situations, stresses, circumstances are all that I can see. But if I train my eye to see the "negative space" - the white/light parts - as well, I realize there is always peace at the center, a calm that underlies all that is happening on my palette of life. This blank page is mine to create the shapes I wish to see manifest in my life and in the world. It has been said that the imagination is the scissors of the mind - let me cut those shapes wisely, ever remembering the peace that is the foundation of my heart, mind, and soul.
Here is the progress on "World of Harmony" after one week...
Friday, September 25, 2009
Some oils are carrier oils - emu oil is like this, penetrating deep into the layers of skin and taking with it the healing properties of other oils with which it is combined. Rubbing some tea tree oil on your skin is good, but if you want it to really penetrate, emu oil will help "carry" it's healing properties deeper. Affirmations (essential oils) are great - they remind us of Truth with a capital "T". They point us in a positive direction. But unless they penetrate deep into our hearts, minds, and souls, their effect is somewhat superficial and not lasting. Consistently and persistently coming from a place of love rather than from fear acts like emu oil. Love carries positive affirmations deep into our consciousness, helping to heal and transform us.
Other oils are protectants - shea butter is particularly helpful for damaged skin, helping to restore elasticity. Prayer and meditation act as a protectant from the negativity and limited thinking we encounter in the media and in the world around us. It keeps our mind open and flexible - elastic.
So here's what I learned from my foot cream - remain centered in love, transform through positive affirmation and protect your sweet spirit with prayer & meditation.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Cooking (or just putzing around in the kitchen) is one of my favorite ways to relax. I love the colors and how they change with heat, the aromas, the sizzle in the pan and the pure magic that takes place in the kitchen. And yes, of course, I love to eat!
We've been trying some new things lately (aren't we always?) - we harvested our shiso and and made shiso juice using my mother-in-law's recipe. The first challenge was to have Takashi translate it from Japanese and the second was to convert grams into ounces and then use the postal scale to measure ingredients. Shiso juice is a refreshing summertime drink - a concentrate is made by boiling the leaves and then adding sugar and citric acid. We've always had red shiso juice in Japan so we were curious to see what would happen with our green shiso. Yep...there's that magic I'm talking about! It turned out a beautiful shade of crimson, diluted with ice and water we have lovely and delious pink juice.
Next on the list of "we gotta try" was takoyaki or "octopus balls" (yeah, I know what you're thinking). This delicious street vendor food is like a crispy, yummy, gooey dumpling filled with octopus, ginger and other goodies. On our way home from Silverton last weekend, we stopped at the wonderful Asian grocery in Eugene - Sunrise Market, where we uncovered a takoyaki pan. After some searching in the backroom for the handle, we headed home and Sunday was takoyaki day.
After watching a number of youtube videos on how to make takoyaki, we headed for the kitchen. We had been forewarned that the first few batches might stick. They were right. So we have photos of them cooking, but not the finished product. Rest assured, the taste was not affected.
This week was also time to harvest basil and make pesto to freeze for use over the winter months. Basil can be finicky in our coastal climate but we bought quite a few plants this year and should be set for the winter.