Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Knitting Setup

I guess I have a few things to mention that are relevant to a crafting/publishing blog. First, winter's come early and the knitting is out. I had a fire going last night, but I'm out of the mulch-logs and this summer's experiences have left my confidence shattered. Sure I can start a fire with real wood, but where there's fire there's smoke, you know.

In publishing news, I paid a visit to Wolsak & Wynn to conduct an interview for a paper I was writing. Came home bubbling with industry gossip and free copies of some of the books I worked on. I could have sworn I took another one, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. And, as a rookie publicity mistake, I've covered David Collier's name on Hamilton Illustrated. I guess I shouldn't take ALL the credit.

And, a little late, this year's pumpkin features a smarmy snot-nosed pirate who's lost his eyepatch.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Roasted Habanero Hot Sauce

Those scotch bonnets growing in the garden? Oh they were habanero peppers. One of those instances where finding the labels for the plants should have been done before testing the fruit. No lasting damage done, except to the yogourt tub I attacked while my head was on fire.

MomBlom's household has never been one for spicy food, but with family additions we've been angling for the hotter things in life. As such, a plentiful supply of hot peppers was very exciting, but a little perplexing. What do we do with this much spice? We preserve'em!

As a perfect way to test out this preserving book I picked out at the gift show, I figured I'd get the peppers canned or jarred and see what to do with them next. First thing's first, they're apparently better roasted. That's easy to do! Just wash them and dry them with a paper towel, and lay them on some aluminum foil.

Sprinkle them with oil, place a rack in the top third of the oven, and broil the peppers until they're blistered and blackening.

Nestle them in paper towel (for the oil) until they cool, then slice off the stems (and seeds if you want, but I left them in).

Every time I did this I knew there was a whole new batch of peppers on its way, so instead of going right to the preserving process, I froze the peppers at this point. I don't have the book in front of me, but I think it says that they're good frozen for six months or so. At least three.

When I had enough habanero in the freezer, I got myself a brand new canner, some nifty jars, and a six-pack.

According to the book though, peppers aren't great to preserve on their own. They require a crazy method of canning that even this baby can't do. But sauces and chutneys that are high in acid can be preserved perfectly well with the boiling-water method, so I opted for a hot sauce recipe with plenty of vinegar. I've got the recipe on Pinterest, but for the sake of convenience, I found it here.

One thing I didn't know: the main ingredient in most hot sauces is carrots!

I think next year, if for some reason we grow this many pepper plants, I'll try a batch with fresh peppers. These just look so mushy and sad.

Here's the hot sauce post-puree and pre-simmer. I'm really curious as to the final product. The hot sauce recipe suggests simmering for five minutes to give a bit more of a liquid consistency, although I didn't notice much of a difference. The thing is, I've made two batches now, and each time I didn't have quite enough to fill the last jar. This means the preserving process wouldn't work, so those leftovers just go into the fridge to be eaten by me on everything. But I've yet to hear back what the finished preserved sauce is like.

The preserving process itself is really fun, because it seems so clinical and I like that in my kitchen. The dimensions of this canner make me SO ANGRY, but my first instinct to get squat, wide-mouthed jars was a good one. The boiling-water method is pretty standard and can easily be found on the internet, I'm sure. I got it from a book which makes me feel special, but then that book doesn't have a recipe for hot sauce, and the recipe I used doesn't tell you how long to boil the jars for. I made do with instructions for a tomato-sweet pepper chutney, which seemed to have most of the same ingredients, and boiled the filled jars for 25 minutes. That's why I don't know exactly how the finished product will taste; only the onions, garlic, and carrots are really cooked in the recipe, so I don't know what will happen to the heat or consistency after being boiled for another 25 minutes. 

It won't kill anybody though, I know that.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Say it with Quilting

Everything I want to say goes into this. The fabric itself holds kisses and tears, hugs from a hoop, and months of neglect, because how can I give these things a sense of completion?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Motel Camping

Lovely camping weekend planned, until this happened. We made it through one night, but the tent didn't really, and I guess the equipment's getting pretty old. We haven't been camping in the rain in a while so we never got the chance to check how weatherproof it all was. Well, it wasn't. Still, we went for a pretty epic hike, for my standards.

Who's the slimiest little fungus? It's you!

Worth it?

Worth it.

Oh, and yeah. Since it hadn't stopped raining since we arrived, we checked in to a motel. While it sounds like giving up, it meant that we were free to spend the day getting as wet as we wanted. Rewards abound.

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Don't Know What I Am Anymore, But I'm Here

The internship is finished. FINALLY, I can COMPLAIN. My physical reaction to this schedule is something I've completely had to ignore in order to keep going. But two months of nonstop travel and six hours of sleep per night put me in complete fight-or-flight mode: insomnia, weight loss, vertigo, indigestion, constant stomach pain, gall bladder issues, the spontaneous loss of a toenail, and I STILL can't eat without feeling nauseated for half an hour afterward, but it's only been just over a week and I went to Halifax for the weekend. The sudden relaxation, of course, left my immune system confused enough for a head cold to walk right in and make itself at home.

But can I say, I still loved the work I was doing: totes worth it.

Now, I've got the quilting studio completely converted into an office, and I've started to get serious about this project report.

The experiences of the last... year? Four years? Month? Doesn't matter: they've left me totally broken open. And that's ok. I think it was time to realize that things happen and they're going to have their effect whether you're prepared, protected, vulnerable, alone, on the front lines, or elsewhere.

So yeah, Halifax. Well above, you see a visit from my spirit animal, lovingly posed in the Public Gardens.

And a pretty little scene that's only slightly ruined by the editor in me pointing out that Hey, this isn't Point Pleasant...

The harbour, ocean-side. Just a bunch of condos and fancy boats, I know. I hug it anyway.

Head cold remedies: whiskey punch at the Old Triangle.


What did we miss last week? Oh yes, turns out MomBlom's got some Scotch Bonnets growing in the garden, so I'm going to figure out how to make enough hot sauce to keep us warm all winter.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Week at the Gift Show

Spent a good part of the last week helping out with setting up and running the HarperCollins booth at the CGTA Gift Show. Culmination of my whole internship, basically, and with the office picnic tomorrow, everything's kind of got the old end-of-school-year vibe. I've been so... I don't even want to say stressed, because all of the work I put in was a joy (as it is for everyone: that life-size Gruffalo is hand-made by one of the sales assistants).  I guess I just love books. Hated them for a couple of minutes today, but naw, I love'em. I feel different than when I started this though. I mean, I felt a lot of things last week that were a result of steroids, but in general I think it finally hit me that only so much can drastically change before I change. And that's a huge relief, because it's that inner shift I've been waiting for, I guess. I just hope it sticks.

But also I feel sure that it WILL stick, if I just stick around books. Come on, look at this wall! I read more kids' books in the last three days than I have since grade school.

Then, oh my goodness, I found out that at the end of the show I get to take books home. Obviously, I went straight to the craft display. Tough call, but in the end I chose this modest pile:

Among which, most are for the nieces. Tal loves The Gruffalo (she even recited some of it at breakfast this morning), so I picked up a Monkey Puzzle board book. I think it's new; I don't even know. Also she likes planes, although that particular choice is rather basic. But no matter: maybe the Nai-pod will like it. My Zoo, who wouldn't like My Zoo? And The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water, I actually bought that for myself. I keep putting it on lists and it's just the cutest. Also, it reminds me of a certain someone who thinks baby crocodiles are cute and also likes dragons (spoiler alert: this particular baby crocodile IS a dragon).

But admittedly, I'm MOST excited about these two. And you should be too, since they're the ones most likely to reappear in this particular setting.


That is all.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened at a Wedding

Only the second wedding for me this summer, thank goodness. And it couldn't have been more wonderful: raw wood planks on straw bales, burlap boutonnieres, sunflowers and hand-picked bullrushes, and to top it all off, the bride went barefoot.

But the funny thing wasn't the wedding itself; on the contrary,
it couldn't have suited the couple better. But there was a moment before the ceremony when I heard Erin (of previous 2013 wedding fame) make a crack about her hay allergy. I'd never thought of that, but even when Naomi offered me her seat so I wouldn't have to sit ON the straw bale,  I declined. Sure I had a runny nose for most of the winter and spring due to new allergies, but I've been around enough straw in my life to know it's never been a problem.

Of course, by the next morning, my eyelids were itchy and swollen. A brief check showed me that most of me was itchy and swollen. A couple tablets of Benadryl, a cold shower, and I thought that was that. Until this morning, when I woke up with what the clinic doctor would define as "a serious, yes, a worthy case of hives." He then showed me the "reaction scale" which seemed to indicate that I was moments away from needing an epi-pen, but then no, no, that's just my paranoia talking. He didn't actually say it would progress further without treatment.

The whole point to this? Well I'll be on steroids all week and have already done everything to plan out the fall semester and cleaned half the studio to turn it into my office sanctuary for a brief time. Since 5:00.

Oh, an update on the zucchinis: they're going in a casserole tonight.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stormy Weather

 A little jaunt to this year's Beer and Ribs Festival showed what damage can be done in just ten minutes of a bad storm. This is the storm. Pictures could never do it justice, but I was fearful for my life as I often am during storms in this area. They're not hurricanes, that's for sure, but they're sudden and they're brutal. Also tornados, sometimes (this time, but not here)

But that was last week. This weekend I'm in a weird philosophical funk, thanks to putting on "Brave Neuro World" TEDTalks as I was falling asleep. Not weird in bad way, but just weird enough to influence this stupid choice in footwear for my tour around the muddy garden. Stickin' it to society the best way I know how.

As an update, this it not the SAME cucumber that I showed before, but this is how they're generally doing. There was a bigger one that we have since cut off and lost track of. They kind of look like sea slugs which is awesome, but apparently they don't taste great.

On the other hand, zucchinis. Gon' make a zucchini cake, maybe.

And oh my goodness the both of them. are. huge. MomBlom and I have just agreed to grow another huge prize zucchini this year. There's no actual prize: it's just big.

Perfection, non?

The robins thought so. Unfortunately this nest is right under the floor of the deck, so I think they've since moved on. That's fine. Nothing ruins an al fresco meal quite like an anxious robin leering at you from various vantage points.

This is my latest knitting project. It's so complicated it needs a crochet hook. It doesn't look like much of anything yet. Granted, I did accidentally photograph the wrong side of it, but the fact that I couldn't tell probably just proves my point. ALSO ALSO That yarn is a beautiful silk/cashmere blend that MomBlom got me for my birthday. In my favourite colour (greener than it appears here)! She's awesome.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Best Bits of July

A busy week followed by a busy weekend, and I'm having as much of a meltdown as this ice cream. If only I was half as soaked in cognac. On the plus side, the martini was for me. Something else for me?

The last of the birthday presents! One day I'll stay up late enough to cheers Craig Ferguson with it, but probably not until the internship is over. That's in exactly a month. Then it's the rest of my life.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Storm's aBrewin'

I haven't been very forthright lately. I think this is mostly due to a sense that complaining about my current situation does nothing in aid of ameliorating it. Because don't get me wrong: complaining about my current career path, or at least this particular stretch of it, is in no way a bid to quit. The work itself is, well, intern work. This doesn't mean I hate it; on the contrary, I simply feel underused, and worry that I don't have the opportunity to exercise my other talents. No, the internship itself is not the problem. It's perhaps the definitive knowledge that this is a new stage. I have talents and value now that I didn't see or have before. Some things that seemed insurmountable are so easy. I can take things by storm if I want to, and I managed to get to this point in a field that I love. But the fact of the matter is, this is not an ideal situation. I've mentioned my daily schedule, and I'm doubly burdened by the fact that this was my choice. Every day I wake up and think that if I just lived in Toronto I could sleep in for another three hours, but. When I get there, my discomfort is overwhelming.  It's not Toronto's fault, guys. I know plenty of people love it. But just as in Vancouver, where when asked how I liked living there I invariably answered "well... it's... um... actually, I don't," I don't mean it personally, or that I actively hate anything about it. I'm just not a city girl.

But what's THAT in aid of? Well, nothing. I'll have to move there anyway. My only hope is that having a small box to call my own, in which to read and have quiet and be unseen for a little while each day will make Toronto bearable, and will fix the funk I've been in. It's not a depressive funk, not really. On weekends I experience a strange inability to speak, which may be an unwillingness to talk about work coupled with a lack of any other subject matter. This turns into indulgence, of course. Not of booze or anything else, but indulging in nothingness. In not having conversation trickling in to every moment of the day, no outside noise, no irritating need for decorum or professionalism. It is not sad, this funk. I love it. I love the quiet, and I love it in what feels like an almost ruthless and cruel way. I will fight for it. I will lie and cheat and steal to get my fix. I cannot go out, I might moan, for I am exhausted from the travel. To my delight, it works every time.

Well, it is true. It's exhausting. In any case, I'm finding it to be tremendous motivational. I don't have to lie or cheat or steal because all I really need to do is get a paying job. If I get a place to myself in Toronto then I'll have SO much time to myself and to feel like this that, yes, I'll likely get bored of it and stop being so antisocial and brooding. I'm not turning into a supervillain, although it sort of feels like it. So. The best way out of this is up.

In other news, MomBlom's garden is filling out nicely!

The clematis is going just INSANE for some reason, but we haven't been able to figure out why. I feel like his chair might have a bee problem because of it. Wouldn't know though: haven't sat in it.

This is what is officially the last peony of the year. Pure white and slow-growing, but perfect. Once it's gone, it might as well just be Christmas though, I mean what's the point.

Oh yeah. Now it's the time of year for the best gardening of all! Functional (i.e. delicious) plants!

Ever wondered what a baby cucumber looks like? This little guy is maybe an inch long:

Now you know.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Commuter's Weekend: Bloomsday Edition

Welp, this is my life these days. My me time. The time for reading books and writing theses. More the former than the latter, but I guess if books are what I do... it's all research really.

But at home, it's Father's Day and Bloomsday. Very recently I lost my grandfather, my mother's father, which I meant to post about first and completely forgot, but I suppose this is more timely. Anyhoops, MomBlom and I decided to spend the day together, in honour of both our fathers. We tried to think of something that they would both enjoy, but apparently all they really did together was work on a pig farm, with my Grandfather's quiet stoicism and my father's ensuing feelings of inadequacy (a city boy, you see). Consequently, we just decided to go out for lunch (and a Guinness), watch some Sherlock, and finish the evening off with some Irish Whiskey.

In other news, remember how I only had three peonies last year? No? Well I don't really feel like linking to that entry, so all you have to know is that there were only three flowers on the shrub, but I learned that if you cut the blooms off on the first year, you'll have a lot more the next. Well turns out that's true! These are just the six biggest as of today:

in the same vase in the same place! But I won't leave them out in the sun like last year because a) they wilted in an hour and b) there isn't any sun.

Oh my god, what is going ON back there? Well that's MomBlom's fantastic new garden in the works. Here she is plotting exactly where the vegetables and herbs are going to go. Immediately after a little gust of wind!

Oh yeah hey, remember that whole thing about Peonies and ants? True:

Apparently they like the sweet coating on the unopened buds, and may help to weaken the structure such that it's easier for the flowers to open quickly, but there's nothing to say that the flowers can't open without the ants, or that the ants pollenate the plant, so it's not really symbiosis. It's just something cool that happens. Also, a brief dunk in the pond rids any cut blossoms of their ants and does no harm to the blooms either!

Other things about the back yard: I'm in charge of the pond this year! Which of course means no goldfish, and the lilies are totally taking over again. But there's a pretty flower about to come out so I don't have the heart to choke them out with, say, water hyacinths.

Lots in the works for the garden, and while I'm sad to miss it during the week, it's really nice to see such progress on the weekends. Next up: these plants have to go somewhere...