Thursday, August 6, 2015

What happened to the summer?

So swimming has been amazing, and I've up to over 1000 meters of various drills each day, and it's getting easier.  My stamina is slowly increasing, and yoga is going well, too.  In case I haven't written about yoga, I started yin yoga in the beginning of the summer and have been feeling a big improvement in my daily life.  I can actually touch my toes now, instead of struggling mid-shin.  I highly recommend yin yoga, as I believe it's changing my life for the better.  Also, I should have a magazine article coming out in the winter, and am very excited about that.  Hopefully, people will like it.  I'm hesitant to recruit more articles in fear that I'll have to write them, but slowly, I will get over that fear.  This makes two articles under my belt, and the experience I've gotten going through the process has been great.  It's still scary, but in time will get easier.  I'm really tired now. It's been a long day, and I got to spend the evening catching up with my old colleagues from my previous school.  It was nice to see everyone.

Work starts next week, and in two weeks, the students will officially be welcomed back for the new year.  I'm excited and nervous, and can't wait until the day I feel confident going back to work, and have a good understanding of what to expect.  Every year so far has been filled with substantial changes, and I long for the day there's some more of the same, instead of everything different.  Good night.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Updates galore!

Hello my trusty follower!  It's been crazy here in NC, but that's soon to slow down a bit.  The great thing is a have a new job teaching in a self-contained autism classroom.  Years of hard work, money spent, tears and milestones, and I finally, I mean finally am getting the job I've wanted all along.  I hope I am not disappointed by the reality of it.  Looking forward to being back with my AU population.  I've missed them dearly.

I had a summer job but lost it, since there was no more work.  As stressful as it is to worry about lacking cash, it's nice to know I have a few weeks of free time.  I haven't had more than one and a half weeks off in years.  Haven't had a month off in forever.  This could work.

Been learning how to swim freestyle in the morning, which has been going ok.  Fibromyalgia stuff hasn't come up, and it's going to take a while to get back to a healthy place after years of bodily neglect.  Excited to get back to my old self in some capacity.  One day at a time :D

Tour de Fleece is up and running, so that is going well.  Finished three Loop singles skeins and am looking forward to getting more done.  A while back I joined a group called "50 skeins" with the intention of spinning 50 skeins in one year, but alas, have not done so well with this goal.  Making up for lost time will be fun.  I don't know that I've even spun one skein this year, embarrassingly enough.  To have three now makes me happy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lemon Balm Pesto

Lemon balm is prolific in my garden, as in many others.  A member of the mint family, it spreads like wildfire and produces fragrant lemon-scented leaves almost all year long.  Last year was the first year I became aware of its charms.  You see, I thought it was lemon mint, and was expecting fresh and fragrant mojitos in the bright, humid summer of Charlotte.  In any case, I was presented with lemon balm instead, and it took me a while to figure out what to do with it.  A rudimentary search on Pinterest led me to Lemon Balm Pesto.  Now that it's prime season for herbs, I decided to give it a try.

Lemon Balm Pesto

A handful of parsley
Two to three handfuls of lemon balm
Olive oil
Vegetable Oil
Scallion tops
Rice Wine vinegar
Fish Sauce

Toasted pumpkin seeds
Red pepper flakes

Mix until you get something that looks like pesto.  Easy peasy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Miracle of Spring

I've been thinking a lot of my plants and garden plans.  This was my first real spring after doing so much planting and planning last year, and it's amazing to see the fight for survival play out in my backyard.  Dawn's mom had bought me a Kaffir Lime plant last year.  True to my indoor black thumb, it was dried up and dead within weeks of bringing it inside to overwinter.  After a time, I stopped watering it, relegating it to the the small list of houseplants I have killed over the years.  You see, I already know my gift of plant stewardship ends at the threshold of my back door.  Without ground to spread their roots, or rain to supply life-giving water, my house is as inhospitable to plants as a desert terrarium.  In any case, I thought I had another botanical victim, until last week, when I swore my eyes deceived me.  Was that green in the lime pot?  Sure enough, the plant was sending up shoots from the base of the trunk.  Tortured, brown and spiny, the main stalk had passed away months ago, leading me to think I had another botanical victim on my hands.   Luckily, it was clear that Mother Nature had granted my plant a last-ditch effort to resurrect itself.  This was my Easter miracle.  As the weather in North Carolina is continuing to warm up, I promptly took my lovely lime outside, to be heralded by the spring sun and showers.  I'm sure it will survive, at least until winter.

This same process happened all over my garden.  I had replanted a sad hosta, which was a Walmart special last year, and it is so happy now.  Double the growth in week!  Also, the striated leaves are more prominent.  Two of the Wally world ostrich ferns poked their fiddle heads above the ground in the new tree beds I made of alpaca compost and leaf mold.  No sign of bleeding hearts yet.   It's possible I planted them too deep.  Recon when the sun comes up!  The potted comfrey and peony are reviving nicely, and the rest of the crew, save the rosemary and lavender that officially died last year from lack of water, are doing well.

Last night, I mixed up a fragrant batch of soil for the strawberry towers, complete with Starbucks coffee grounds.  I will finish it off with some alpaca manure and get them planted, though it is a bit late.  Also, I cut the wood for the salad table cage.  The squirrels are way too interested in them for me to start planting, and my head lettuce is getting leggy.  That's all for now!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter Vacation Everyone!!!

I'm happy to be on vacation, and feel pretty accomplished in the last three days.  On Friday, we bought the municipal compost I wrote about last time, and spent much of the day raking and shoveling it around.  We had bought some river rock to put in the firepit area after we laid out the area in bricks.  We're quite pleased with the effect.  Then I used the leftover bricks to build the front garden bed I've dreamed of since the day I moved in.   A quick trip to Lowe's supplied some bedding plants, Polka Dot plants, white Dianthus, two violets that came up in the herb garden this year that I transplanted, a Red Russian kale, to move in the direction of edibles in the front garden, and some lemon balm, which I'm both hopeful and fearful will do well with just some morning sun.   Hubby also helped me put the straw bales in place, so I made the vine bed, and what may end up to be a three sisters garden.  I was thinking maybe I shouldn't plant corn, but now I have decided screw it.  I will move the arch back to the other bed, since the corn will be supplying most of the trellising.

I've started the straw bales with two cups of Milorganite each, and daily watering.  They overwintered in the open Walmart parking lot, so I feel as if they are composted enough to start plants in within the next week. This was a tough decision.  I saw that Milorganite was composted sewer sludge, and did some research.  I have decided at this time, I'm OK with using it in the vegetable garden.  Even though it is labeled as organic, it is not for use in an organic garden.  I have heard that people have gotten some great results from this product.  Even the salesperson at Lowe's was surprised I asked for it and told me he usually recommends it.  Also, it is rumored that it repels deer and rabbits.  For this alone, I am willing to try it out.  

Dawn and I went to the farmer's market, where we succumbed to pie and plants.  (Speaking of which, my rhubarb is coming up!)  On our way, I spotted an upturned plastic bucket indicating a yard sale. We vowed to return on our way home, and could have never imagined at the time what we were getting into.   

After purchasing tomatoes and kale from a lively character who urged us to spread copious amounts of lime on our red clay to improve the soil, we returned to the yard sale only to be greeted with a pile of refuse, the likes of which I haven't seen since garbage day in front of a block-long Manhattan apartment building.  Piles of trash provided a fence for a few worn pieces of furniture and assorted glassware, among some other odds and ends.  Hosting this event were two native Charlotteans, whom sadly enough were helping out the brother, who had not paid taxes in seven years.  It was as if Hillbilly Blood met American Pickers.  There was so much junk.  The man told us that we could have anything we want for $10.  Dawn and I looked at each other, and in a few moments, it was clear we weren't leaving without a truckload of stuff.  

We had spoken earlier in the year about possible starting a weekend home-grown business, maybe flea market booth.  Sadly, as both of us are lacking the funds for starting up said business, it's been on hiatus.  Well, after this trip, we now have enough furniture to start flipping to start it up!  After making a pile, including most of the furniture, used greenhouse pots, random bricks from around the property, glass wine jugs, a lamp, a rain barrel, and other stuff, we promptly returned to my house to empty the truck of the mulch that still resided there from the day before.  Feeling like proud multicultural Picker Sisters, we slept well.  

Hubby and I spent Easter watching a Season 4 Game of Thrones marathon.  It felt really good to relax and do nothing all day, but eat candy and watch TV.  This morning, I started to catch up on Outlander, installed a second clothesline, hung up a few loads of laundry and contemplated the garden layout.  Today I will make a compost sifter, get the strawberries planted in the soda bottle column,  and plant the concord grape in a container.  If there's time, I can finish Dawn's Giant Jenga I started before Christmas.  Still lots of sanding and painting to do for that.  Then I might finish in time for knitting :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring has Sprung in North Carolina

Spring has Sprung in North Carolina

It's a dreary, cold day today, but that's ok.  It's an outlier from the amazing weather we've been having lately.  In the winter, Charlotte is very brown and bleak.  Within a week, the whole place has turned green.  Sad sod has perked up into perky green spears, golden forsythia blooms abound, and spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips are everywhere.  The pansies and violets continue their steadfast contribution to the landscape, while plants like hostas and rhubarb begin their ascent by timidly peeking out above the moist dirt.  I love spring and I love Charlotte.

I thought we might be able to look into buying a house, but unfortunately, things happen (my favorite saying) and it's not likely this year.  What forces me to keep my rental another year gives me more opportunity to continue to develop the garden.  A few recent events have given me more hope for a productive garden this year.

Event #1
Alpaca Manure:
I've bartered a spinning demonstration for alpaca manure, and though it's rocky and filled with fire ants, this black gold is the backbone of my fertilizing program, in contrast to the mainly wood-product municipal compost of last year.  Low in nitrogen and hydrophobic, I will steer clear of it in the future.  I had overseeded my raised beds with rye and vetch, and have since cut the crop down and left it to compost with a layer of alpaca manure and leaf mulch.  Hoping that the vetch and alpaca manure will help the remedy the problems of last year.

Event #2
Straw Bales:
Dawn went to Walmart and discovered that they were getting rid of straw bales that had overwintered in the weather.  Soft, damp and slightly composted, they are a dream come true.  I took the truck and acquired 8.  Will have some straw bale gardens and potato towers,  Going to try to get some free tires for those.

Event #3
Mattress Inner spring:
When Pinterest ideas take hold, it's hard to prevent myself from obsessing over them.  Fortunately, when a free inner spring came up on Craigslist, it was right on schedule.  Pea trellis, here I come.  Along with the straw bales, I have the perfect vine set up.  This will also support the two soda bottle strawberry towers.

Event #4
Craigslist strikes again.  I knew I wanted bricks, and have been lurking on free stuff for over a year.  I finally was rewarded with a winning inquiry before the masses.  We loaded up the truck and got about 40-60 bricks, plus some concrete cylinders.  I would have liked more, but they were demoed and had chunks of mortar on them.

Event #5
This hasn't happened yet, but I will be going to get municipal mulch for $10 cubic yard to line the paths I had envisioned last year.  It's possible I could end up making stepping stones for the paths to make them last longer.  That would be awesome!

A gardeners work is never done, and there are plans for squirrel cage on the salad bed which will also support a row cover to prevent bugs from getting to the lettuce.  In addition, I'd like to attempt a rainwater collection system for the summer, since the water bill was a nightmare.  Maybe even a water feature...

Ah, spring.  I love it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Ice Week! Mill tour and Peg Weaving!

It's official!  We're having a nice ice break from school.  This comes at a good time, as we have already started the countdown, 75 days.  Dawn and I went to Asheville this past weekend to go to Echoview Fiber Mill, where I was researching an article.  We had a great time and ended up going to Woolworth's lunch counter for some grilled cheese and tuna melt action, and some egg creams.  We also went to a tea and spice shop, where I got some rose petals to add to some spice mixes, and ate dinner at Luella's BBQ, which was delish.

The day at the mill was lovely and Julie Jensen was a fantabulous hostess.  We made fast friends with the canine pack, and our accommodations had a lovely view overlooking Tennessee.  The mill is amazing, from the building to the layout, everything was well thought out.   We toured the facility and in one room, Julie showed us a peg loom with some weaving in progress from selvedge scraps leftover from a fabric mill.  I was smitten, and the loom haunted me for days to come.  After marathon watching videos about peg loom weaving, it was time to go outside and find a log.  Yes, I have some scrap wood in the shed, but I really wanted a log.  Don't ask me why.  Here are some crappy iPhone videos that document the beginning of the project.

I apologize for not finishing the video series.  My archaic iPhone 4 has met memory capacity, and I was roaring to get started on the cat rug, so I finished my rug in a few hours.  Suffice to say, there are plenty of peg weaving videos, so my novice snippets are all you're getting!

Here are photos of the rug.  Cat approved!




Sunday, January 25, 2015

Went hunting and brought back trophies!!!

Hello!  I'm taking a break in the midst of my marathon cleaning day to type a quick entry.  Dawn and I had the most fabulous time yesterday, traipsing around Matthews.  We went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, and I bought a sewing machine.  Now for those who REALLY know me, you won't ask why I bought another sewing machine.  For those who sort-of know me, I assure you, I did need it.  You see, before I left New York, I had a lovely Singer treadle machine with a beautiful cabinet.  It had gingerbread decals on it and was from about 1918 or so.  I sewed my historically accurate dress for Old Bethpage on it, and always planned on having the cabinet restored.  Unfortunately, when moving to Charlotte, I realized I had no place to put it in the new apartment/house.  It was a tearful decision to donate it to my favorite thrift shop, but since it hadn't been used in a long while, I realized it was time to spread the love to another happy owner.

Now that I've been here for a while, I know how much space I have, and it's been a bit of a struggle to keep all the stuff contained.  There have been numerous opportunities for a replacement machine, however, it doesn't solve my lack of space.  A full sized treadle table takes up a good chunk of real estate.  Did I mention this summer I bought a serger, a ridgid heddle loom, and my third spinning wheel?  Clearly, there's enough stuff jam packed into our mid-century modest abode.  Why we'd be lucky to have 850 sq feet in this place.  And that's OK.  But anyways, while living our dream of the perfect Saturday, filled with crepes, navigational adventures, ReStore, discount shopping and thrifting, we spotted a beautiful sewing machine.


She had no tag, so I cautiously asked how much.  The woman hadn't decided yet, and proceeded to go on eBay to price it.  She remarked she found a similar one with minimum of $25, and then we found dollar brushed nickel knobs for Dawn's decidedly uncool brass themed kitchen, so she trailed off mid-sentence to help us find what we were looking for.  My heart sank, as I figured she'd give me a price higher than the minimum, but when we asked again, she said $20!  After a quick inspection, it was determined that she did indeed work.  We said, "Hell yeah!" And I found $20 magically in my black hole purse. It was a sign from the crafting gods.  And Dawn lugged it to the car because it weighs about 30 pounds, lol.

My new baby is a Japanese "badged" or clone machine.  It's marked "Home Mark," however, I've seen it branded "Aux Claire," "Morse," "Fleetwood," "Bradford," "Good Housekeeper," "Edison," "Brother," "Modern," "New Raymond," "Wizard," "Riccar," "Bamberger," "Sovereign," "H.G. Palmer," "Premier," "Compac," "Dress Maker," "Western," "White," "Housekeeper Deluxe," "Remington," "Princess," "Viscount," "Universal," "Marvel,"and that's just with a brief online search.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  If you're searching for one, try keywords "vintage deluxe precision sewing machine."  This seems to gather good hits.  Having seen all the names in a list, it's pretty funny that they attempt to convey modernity, royalty, or domesticity.  If you have this model with a name not listed, please leave a comment and let me know :)

 It is a slightly improved version of Singer 15-series, complete with hinged bobbin cover, exterior feed dog knob with 4 settings, and a fun color.  Take that Singer!  These machines can be inexpensive, being that they were considered "cheap junk" back in the day, and the American market was flooded with them after WWII.  I believe these will be highly collectible in time, especially, working models in good condition.

She works great, just have to fiddle with the tension some more, but more tales from the thrift tomorrow :D

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy New Year! and Why I Love Trader Joe's

Hello loyal reader!  It's a new year and new things have been happening here in the not-so-deep South.  But first, a message from our sponsor, lol...

Trader Joe's: Fine Purveyor of Stuff to Make an Impromptu Moroccan Meal

So yesterday, Dawn and I went grocery shopping and I found something really interesting.  Now I'm usually pretty good about abstaining from the dreaded, ¨Things I don't need but really, REALLY want¨ category.  I've passed the Roasted Nut Oil Trio on numerous occasions, and no matter how much I dream of a roasted beet with mandarin orange segments, and fennel salad with a drizzle of pistachio oil, or how lovely it would be to have a hazelnut-imbued roasted butternut squash, I persist in sighing deeply, closing my eyes, and walking quickly away. $14.99 is an insane price for 25.5 ounces of specialty oils, but it's too much for me to spend on oil.  I mean, really, it's oil.   But yesterday, I could no longer resist.  Next to the aforementioned oil trio, I discovered a set of four spice blends.

Now normally, I can easily resist spice blends.  The spice cabinet in my kitchen is actually a spice ARMOIRE, and there's a crapload of spices from all corners of the earth.  If I need herbs de Provence, barbecue rub, pumpkin pie spice, or any other spice blend, I mix it up myself.  You see, I am a total control freak.  I like my sweet spice mix to have a shitload of ginger in it, and some cardamom to round out the flavors.  I like my gingerbread spice to have black pepper to add a bit of heat to the warmth of the spices already present.  I like my herbs de Provence to have a noticeable amount of lavender, since I love cooking with flowers.  Which brings me to how I ended up with four Trader Joe's spice blends in my cart.


The draw was sumac.  I have been looking for an affordable source of sumac for years, and while I always keep an eagle-eye out for a stand of staghorn sumac pointing up from the bleak landscape, the opportunity to pick the berries off of said sumac stand has consistently eluded me.  So, when I saw a whole container of sumac in a spice quartet for $6.99, I had to take a closer look.  Having already put my requisite tub o' hummus in my cart (plain so I can personalize it), after reading the label of the Zhoug blend about how to sprinkle on tahini with olive oil, I felt I could immediately put it to work.  But the final deciding factor was the Ras el Hanout.  It has all my favorite sweet spices, with some heat and interestingly, spearmint.  But the last straw was drawn at the last ingredient:  Rose Petals.  For years I've been touting the pleasure of cooking with flowers and people are catching on at last.  Flower liqueurs are mainstream, and Trader Joe's has not one spice blend with flowers, but now two!  OMG!  (The other is the Flower Pepper grinder which I love to use on eggs and salads.)  Clearly, it was a sign from God.

This morning, I stared at the spices on the counter.  I need sustenance, and since it's my day off, I decided to put some effort into breakfast.  Yesterday when Googling Ras el Hanout, (no not R'as al Ghul, I know who he is;  the husbeast would divorce me citing irreconcilable differences if I didn't, lol), there were some recipes for Moroccan eggs or Shakshuka.  Basically, I've been making this for years, but with the wrong spices :D

It's very similar to Huevos Rancheros-pretty much eggs poached in salsa.  The recipes all had Ras el Hanout in them, and Harissa.  Now unfortunately, I don't have any harissa on hand.  While it is completely probable I have ingredients on hand to make it (I'm looking at you Pasilla and Ancho chiles from my last bout with mole), I was famished, and soaking dried chiles to make a condiment when I had Ajvar and Sriracha in the fridge was a no go.  So here's how I made my Shakshuka:


Trader Joe's Shakshuka

Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Diced Onions
Minced Garlic
Can of Fire-Roasted Tomatoes with Chiles
Roasted Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic
Sriracha Sauce
Ras el Hanout
2 Eggs
Olive Tapenade
Pink Himalayan salt

Saute the onions and garlic in a cast iron pan.  Add the tomatoes and red pepper spread (ajvar).  Squirt some sriracha on top.  Add the Ras el Hanout.  Mix.  Make a well with your spoon and crack eggs into the well.  Cover pan with a lid and cook on low until egg whites are cooked.   Salt eggs.  Put a spoonful of tapenade in the ugly crater made by slightly overcooking eggs.  Sprinkle with parsley and sumac.  Serve in skillet.

What else can I say but it was delicious.  The recipe makes enough ¨salsa¨ for two, so I used a large pan to make it and a small pan to cook the eggs and serve in.  That means I have more for tomorrow!  Yay!  Thank you TJ.  I never thought you could get even better.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's all Timey-Wimey Up in Here!

Good Morning.  I'm going back in time to write this post :)

Happy New Year!!!!!!

I passed the Praxis!  Woo-hoo and praise be to the Lord Jesus and all his minions.  I sent out all the paperwork to add the area of Adapted Curriculum for Moderate to Severe applications!  Yay!  On the job hunt and can't wait to see where it leads me.  New York was the usual crazy relay race.  I actually went to every borough and Long Island.  There was much shopping to be had and it was nice to see everyone.  On the flip side, it was nice to come home.  We did our shawl practice and learned much as always.  Back to the grind.

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