Blog Archive for March, 2009

new plants!


We started our spring planting today! Our garden is tiny – about a 6’x6′ area of ground reclaimed from the crabgrass in front of our apartment. About 2 years ago we dug up the corner, which gets a good bit of sun, and built a low stone wall to shore up the sloping ground. It’s little, but somehow we’ve managed to get an amazing number of plants to grow in there. Last year our tomatoes were over 6′ tall! Apparently, that’s not that unusual in California, but for a Minnesota gardener it was a little shocking. I had to check with my landscaper friend, who assured me that we didn’t have savage mutant tomatoes on our hands.
So far we put in some ranunculus (my favorites), two basil plants, some herbs, a little sun rose, A June Pink tomato and a Mr. Stripey tomato. I think we still have room for a Purple Cherokee and two peppers, but our nursery doesn’t have those yet.

First we had to harvest the lettuce that we planted this winter.

Dave planting basil…

Tomato tip: when you plant tomatoes, mix 1/2 cup wood ash and 1/2 cup bone meal in with the soil. This provides the plants with the phosphorus and potassium they need to grow well, without adding too much nitrogen, which can lead to leafy plants with little fruit. Also, plant as deep as possible up to the first set of leaves to increase the size of the root ball.

Ok, let me explain. I’ve never felt the need for a tea cozy. I mean, I do drink tea, but usually it’s boiled water poured directly onto a teabag in my cup. Not very proper, I know. But the other night I was brainstorming projects to make with my fabric when my neighbor Martin stopped by. Martin is a 50-year-old, shall we say colorful Welshman with a penchant for obscure ’60s musicians, beat poets and beer. This particular night he was already half-drunk and delighted by the idea of helping me brainstorm. He immediately insisted I make tea cozies, and somehow, coming from him, it sounded so appealing…



I have loved this little table ever since my dad gave it to me for my 11th birthday. He had jerry-rigged it a bit, tilting the top at a 45ยบ angle (with the help of a curved… thingamajig attached to the base), and added a lip to one edge of the top so that I could use it as a music stand for practicing my flute. I have since re-styled it back to a regular table, but have always loved it’s quirky, retro-gizmo style. Well, thanks to Leah at More Ways to Waste Time I now have a name for that style… it’s kind of “steampunky”! Check out her awesome post on the subject of steampunk style here.

daily soup


Tonight’s soup was a delicious vegan gumbo, made with 4 different kinds of greens from chef and author Bryant Terry. I found the recipe here. You can listen to a great interview with Bryant by my friend Britt Bravo at her blog Have Fun * Do Good, or by clicking here.



I wish I could convey in blog format the incredible sweetness of the air here. I don’t want to rub it in, for those of you who don’t quite have full-on spring yet (it’s coming!), but I think every imaginable spring flower is blooming right now. We have an orange tree right outside our door, and it’s bursting with blossoms. There’s pink jasmine, angel trumpets and pitisporium – the tree with the homeliest name but best smell I know. There are magnolias, calla lilies, tulips and daffodils… it’s almost too much. But not quite. A quick walk around the neighborhood this evening left me lightheaded after trying to breathe too deeply. Can you hyperventilate from trying to smell too much? Anyway, I’m glad it’s here.

It’s spring, and I am completely over my clothes. Bored, bored, bored. But my unsympathetic husband just stares at me incredulously when I stand in front of my crammed closet and insist I don’t have anything to wear. So I finally decided to comb through it and figure out just what was taking up all the space. It turns out, I actually do have a lot of clothes! Some of them are perfectly good, but they’re pretty basic, so I’ve been putting them aside for a free Sunday afternoon when I would do… something to them to make them more interesting. I had a couple of free hours this weekend, so I pulled out the stash and got crafty. Of course, it took me until Tuesday, but I now have some “new” clothes.

Before and after…

This one was the most time consuming, but I like the way it came out. I’ll definitely wear it now, at least!
1. cut desired stencil
2. use baby powder to mark design on shirt
3. cut out design with exacto knife (cutting board between shirt layers)
4. put second fabric under first (should be stretchy – another jersey works best) and hand stitch around the design (again, the cutting board between the layers helps, and you can scoop up 4 or 5 stiches at once)
5. cut off excess fabric from backing, leaving 1/2 inch from stitch line.

This one is the same idea, but I used fabric paint to stencil the cherry blossoms on the pink fabric first. If you do this, heat-set the paint before you sew.

I tried a bleach stencil on two different plain waffle weave shirts, and I like the way they came out. I feel a little sheepish using the stuff, but I had some around, so I tried it out. I’m going to try it with oxygen bleach too, but this is just the regular stuff.

Dave’s jeans got some funky patches…

… and ribbon trim. Just don’t actually call it “ribbon”.

I hate logos. Patches help.

It’s spring, and I am completely over my clothes. Bored, bored, bored. Unfortunately, I’m also feeling rather broke, broke, broke, and not too inclined to shop. In an attempt at spring cleaning I’ve been going through my closets trying to weed out the things I don’t wear, and not too surprisingly, there are a lot of them. They’re perfectly good clothes, but they’re pretty basic, so I’ve been stowing them away, waiting for a free Sunday afternoon when I would do… something to them to make them more interesting. So, I decided to devote last Sunday to clothes renovation. As you can see, it’s now Wednesday, so I didn’t get it all done in one afternoon, but they are definitely more fun!

d.i.y. soap!


As I’ve mentioned in a couple earlier posts, our kitchen regularly gets turned into a laboratory for various bath and beauty products, and recently Dave and I have been interested in making soaps. We dipped our toes in the water and tried an easy approach, using an olive oil soap base and adding various clays, herbs and essential oils. The results were pretty and smelled great, and it was really fun to use various found containers (milk cartons, yoghurt cups, pasta boxes, etc.) as molds. Still, we didn’t really make the soap itself, so now we’re going to take on the slightly more intimidating project of blending lye with oils and letting it cure for a couple of months. I got a little worried after I heard that a friend of a friend almost burned his house down when the lye combusted, but I really do want to try it. I’ll let you know how it comes out! In the meantime, here are some of our melt-and-pour-plus concoctions. If you want to try to make these, we got the soap base at Michael’s (they had an olive oil base and a glycerine base), and the essential oils and clays came from Whole Foods and Lakeshore Natural Foods (if you’re in Oakland).

The soap in the box was made with rose petals and rose oil, and just a little bit of food coloring. We used a 1/2 and 1/2 carton for the mold. The “edwin” soap was made for Dave’s dad, and has lemongrass and spirulina (for the green color). We stamped it with little letter stamps when it was almost set. The round soap has green clay and we used a yoghurt cup for the mold.

White clay and vetiver soaps with vetiver oil…

Rose petal soap with rose essential oil and orange soap with orange zest and tangerine oil.

Okay, this is the last soup recipe for a while. I promise other non-soup projects soon! But as long as I’m making up these recipes, I figure I might as well share them… I just made a delicious mushroom soup for lunch – here’s the recipe:

Mushroom Soup

16 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons flour (plus more, if desired)
2 quarts beef broth
1 cup milk
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
1 teaspoon salt
generous cracked pepper
2 tablespoons port

Melt the butter in a soup pot and saute the onion until soft.

Add the thyme and saute 1 more minute. Add the flour and cook a couple more minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms.

If the mixture is dry, dribble in 1 tablespoon water. Cook 1 minute, or until slightly softened. Add the 2 quarts beef broth and bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper, and simmer 1/2 hour. Add the milk and 1/2 and 1/2, adding extra flour to the milk if you want a slightly thicker soup. Puree the soup in a food processor and return to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and add the port.
2 tablespoons port

I made an incredibly good African Peanut soup this weekend, from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook. It’s not my recipe, but I found a link to it here. It’s spicy and wonderful, and I highly recommend it. VERY rich, though! Not an appetizer soup.

While we’re talking kitchen stuff, I’d like to point out the knives in the photos, above. They’re from Hida Tool in Berkeley, and they have made cooking so much better! Razor sharp, lightweight, perfect. I can chop up an onion in seconds. In addition to knives, they have all sorts of carving tools, bonsai tools and other gardening supplies. I just found they have a website too!