Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I cut the cheese.

No, really!

When I first got chickens, I realized just how many of those chicken sayings are true (pecking orders, home to roost, shake your tail feathers) and now that I've made cheese for the first time, I've learned that you really do cut it. Who knew?

Dad came back from a weekend workshop on cheese making (yes, handmade dorkiness runs in our family) all excited to try his hand at it. We took a quick trip to Hendrick's to get some raw milk and made a batch this afternoon.

It involved some stirring, some temperature measuring, some cutting of the cheese (the cheese below has just been cut into little cubes), straining, and stretching. I made my Dad use the hot water method rather than nuking the cheese (you do this to get it to the proper temperature to stretch it). I'm trying to imagine life without a microwave because I think I want to ditch it since it's such a creepy way to cook. He cursed the decision a bit, but I didn't think it was too difficult to reheat the whey and use that. Also, cheesecloth would definitely be better than the colander which got little bits of cheese stuck in it. In the end, we had a lovely blob of fresh mozzarella which we ate straightaway. We cooked up some Hendrick's bacon and ate that along with it (sounds a little weird, but was very good on toast), though I will not tell you how much the two of us polished off. Just imagine an insane amount of bacon for two people to consume in one sitting and then double it.

I'm still not sure where I fall on the raw/pasteurized milk debate because I think that there are good arguments on either side, but for cheese making raw milk is kind of important. My Mom came back from the cheese workshop all in a tizzy about store-bought milk because she learned that they put bleach in it. Apparently, natural milk has color variations and US consumers can't deal with that. I'm telling you, people, we need to take back our food supply and we need to do it yesterday. Maybe I really will consider getting that cow...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Feathering the Nest

Literally.I've rainbowized the bookshelves and now I'm hanging all of the stuff that we've never hung up. Well, some of it has been hung up, but I've changed the paint enough that everything has come back down and needs to be rethought. My goal is to try to create little moments around the house that are more than just a picture thrown up on the wall. For me this is a long, slow process that involves lots of hang-able stuff laying around the house for many months while I "think" about where to put it. I wish I was a more effective interior decorator, but my good ideas are few and far between. I will probably, therefore, never live in a house that is entirely put together. But I am finally happy with this tiny part of a wall in the entryway. I found this little shelves at a yard sale last summer and finally got around to painting it (them, actually, but now the second painted one will have to lie around for another few months while I figure out where to put it). I decided that the fistful of feathers that I've been collecting from our chickens needed to be displayed more prominently as did this lovely little bird sculpture which I did have hanging up, but in a really wrong spot. I like.

Oh! And I'm a winner ! I know I've already mentioned it, but if you don't already know about The Bright Side Project, check it out. I won this! It made my day and I'm getting a necklace with our (me, my man, and my babe's) three initials on it: ask. Yes, we spell word. Or, rearranged, a music genre. We are very versatile.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Elfkin Endeavors

I spent the afternoon on Saturday in my Dad's workshop, pretending I was one of Santa's elves. You know, the kind that make the toys for the Montessori school kids? In my ongoing quest to keep anything from China out of Stella's mouth, I purchased this book on making toys to develop a brainiac child. So great. Except that I don't know how to build stuff with wood. So, with the help of my Dad (which involved a little frustration...Dad's shouldn't teach their kids to drive or use power tools, it seems), I got started on these wooden beads and bead board. I'm still not very familiar with the ins and outs of using wood (my Dad was quick to correct me because I apparently sand all wrong), but I have to say that I'm pretty happy with the way it's turning out so far. It's definitely not perfect, but I'm learning as I go. So far my favorite tool is the drill press. There's something very satisfying about being able to drill a nice, even hole straight through the middle of something. And although it is definitely a little odd working with machines that could sever a limb, I'm getting used to it. I mean, I guess I could poke my eye out with a knitting needle if I really wasn't paying attention, but needle crafts just don't seem to keep my on my toes as much as woodworking does.

I'm going to use vegetable food dyes to color these beads and then seal them with linseed and beeswax and I am seriously excited for that part of the project. I'm trying to remember to KeepItSimpleStupid, but I want to avoid using just primary colors so some mixing will have to happen. I'll admit that I've considered getting out the woodburner, but I am going to avoid making some complex matching game out of these beads and just let them be basic and fun. I still have a few more beads to make though, so anything could happen...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Disorganized Organization

I needed my bookshelves to be organized by color. I just did. I'd seen it as a design element in a few places and poo pooed it at first, but it just looked so darn pretty. And I had a whole new set of built in bookshelves to really decorate. We used to have some dinky IKEA shelves on either side of the window in our living room. With the help of my Dad, we built full-sized built-ins on either side of the window (probably doubling our book capacity) and built a storage chest/window seat in the middle. I love love love it. But when the shelves were finally finished...after a few months of work during my pregnancy and bed rest...Bean arrived and we just threw all of the books onto the shelves and left them there.

But aha! I am now home alone with a baby all day. A baby who, in a recent turn of events, has learned how to nap in the early afternoon. Brilliant baby. And so I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and create a librarian's total nightmare: two full shelves organized only by color. I briefly entertained the idea of removing the dust jackets to kick it up a notch, but I'm really into simplifying my crap these days, not adding to it by trying to find storage for dust jackets which I know, once removed, will never make it back onto the books (even though I'd go on storing them indefinitely which was the same problem I had with those CD binders from the early 1990s which I filled but then couldn't bring myself to throw the jewel cases away...big mess). Andrew was skeptical at first, but saw the writing on the wall (I'm home all day, you have to be at work, nya nya) and in his consistent gentle way observed the process, but didn't say much. Until, after I'd basically finished the first top row (red) and I found him over by the line of orange/yellow I was creating and he said, with trepidation, "Wait, so all of the philosophy books won't be together?" Dear, sweet man. As luck would have it, most of the philosophy books were either black or neutral on the spine so it worked out pretty well in the end. I can't say the same for fiction, but (perhaps not surprisingly) science is mostly in the blues and greens. See? Change your perspective on something and a whole new way of looking at things opens up.
So, we have red/orange going across the top rows, yellow across the second, greeny blue on the third, bluish purplish on the fourth and then below that (out of the picture frame) there is a beigy row and then the whites and blacks on the very bottom.

Organizing the shelves like this also enabled me to cannibalize knick knacks from other places in the house which now, because of the rainbow of books, have their own colors highlighted in new and unique ways. And teaching Stella the colors of the rainbow will be so much more literary. AND Andrew (dear, sweet man) has stated that he thinks that he'll be able to recall the colors of most of his favorite books so that it won't be so frustrating to find them after all. Sorry folks, he's already taken.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Stuff I Didn't Make

Stella has been very blessed to receive handmade gifts. It seems there are a lot of crafty folk in her village. Having a baby has introduced me to the excessive amount of crap that today's babies apparently need to survive. Lots of plastic. Lots of mass-produced stuff. Lots and lots of unnecessary stuff and, amazingly, there are lots of and lots of people buying this stuff. It's not just that we've forgotten that we can make a lot of this baby gear (blankets, diaper pads, diaper bags) but we seem to think that babies can't survive without little doodads dangling off of every surface within a 5 mile radius. Don't get me wrong...someone gave us a mobile that spins, has things that slide around, and plays high falootin' classical music and I love it. It is the reason I get to shower every day, and I appreciate not having to be a stinky mom. However, I also think it's important to put away the mobiles and jangly things and let the baby look at the world! Anyway, Stella's world is so much prettier with the handmade things she's been given, and here is Megan's quilt:A few things which must be mentioned are that this quilt features chickens, Megan did the quilting herself (first timer), and the back is equally as fantastic as the front. As for the chickens, Megan is the latest victim in my plot to convince everyone in the world to keep poultry in their yard. Clearly, Stella needs to be recruited early to this worthy cause, so yay for chickens on a quilt! I truly have trouble deciding which end is up with this quilt, because of the sweet stripe down what I think one would technically consider the back. And the best part is that Megan did fancy machine quilting all by herself, even though every time she sees it she mentions something else she could have done better. Silly Megan, I think that it's perfect the way it is. I have it on good authority that Stella agrees, because she spit up all over it the other day and she only does that with the people and objects she loves the very best.

And just to keep a running tab on the cool things that Stella is doing lately, today it seems she noticed her foot. Just her left one, the right is still a bit of a mystery. Beautiful baby.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Staying Home

So, I'm taking a big leap and staying home with The Bean this year. Financially, this makes no sense. Suze Orman would kick my ass if she ever found out (shhh). But in terms of what I know is the right thing to do and for what is in my heart, I know that we will make it work. I look at this baby who is now 15 weeks old and I know that I am nowhere near ready to leave her. She's just started smiling and laughing is not far behind. There is a personality starting to peek out, and I'm not going to miss a minute of it. The thought that I would have had to leave her 10 weeks ago if I wasn't in academia takes my breath away. I feel so sorry that there are so many families in our country that can't afford to have a parent at home during this time, and I wish we would get it together and realize that 6 weeks is not enough time.

But I am lucky that we can make this happen. And so I've been channeling my inner 1950's cooking/cleaning/child-rearing self and loving every minute of it. Stella has basically no idea what's going on, but I love doing things with her and explaining what's around her. For instance, she's already been to two zoos. It's never too early to introduce a child to a bearded dragon, I say.

So this will be a year of simplifying. It will be a time for me to really use the fabric stash, yarn stash, paper stash, and general hoard-o-rama I have going on up in that craft room. Really. I'm going to buy materials that I must have to finish a project, but otherwise use what I've got (OK, I've already totally broken this rule with the purchase of a jelly roll and book of patterns, but I'm going to try to be better I swear). I am going to clean out my fridge and cabinets and not let so much food go to waste (I am really terrible about this). And you know what? Although I have only been home alone for a week or so, I'm finding that I have more time to think about how to be more mindful of using what we have as creatively as possible - - whereas when I'm working, I'm often so frazzled that I don't have any time to plan accordingly. Veggies go bad, I purchase doubles of craft items I already had but forgot about. I swear, living in a house with both people working is like being on a ship with no one at the helm. I mean no disrespect to all of the women who paved the way for me to be able to have a career and a vote and all that, but man, I am really OK with being home. So again, lucky lucky me. I'm going to squeeze everything I can out of this year.

So here is a snapshot of a good stay-at-home moment that The Bean and I shared with Grandpa last week: driving out to the farm where we get our pastured meats and dairy, we passed a farmer setting up a stand of corn on the side of the road. We made a note and were sure to stop on the way home. I love the fact that I live close enough to places where farmers leave their veggies on the side of the road with a box for money. Three cheers for the honor system! We got our ridiculously sweet corn for a ridiculously low price and I'm still adding it to every meal we eat.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Slightly Different Pace

Things have been progressing around here rather...slowly. It's called Stella Time and it's what we've been on since this little baby landed in our laps. I'm generally a pretty fast-paced person, and I thought that I'd be driven mad by the lack of time I'd have to complete anything, but I'm actually finding some beauty in the madness.

For instance, here is a photo of the only project I've been able to start and complete since The Bean has arrived:
A few things to note:

- this is a blurry photo

- this is a skirt that I did not make, I just added to it

- adding to this skirt consisted of quickly stitching some thrifted trim with some contrasting thread.
OK, it was a little more involved that that. I had the trim, but it was too white and so I tea-stained it (though I have bags and bags of fleece and some chemical dyes that I'm itching to mix up, it won't be happening until this baby decides she doesn't want boobies anymore). Choosing the trim out of the yards and yards of odds and ends I have occurred in one nap cycle. Tea-staining approximately 2 yards of trim took two cycles, a nap and a feeding, and I forgot about it cooking on the stove and all of the liquid evaporated and it started to burn (yes, I almost burned cotton trim on my stove top, though the color turned out quite lovely). Sewing the trim on took three nap cycles, the first line of stitching had to be aborted mid-stitch at one point. Photographing the project had to wait for another nap, at this point three days after the project was begun.

The beauty of all of this is how much I've been able to let go of because of the limited time I have. I can be so incredibly fussy about the details of what I make, that sometimes it's hard for me to even get a project off the ground. I could have spent days just trying to figure out trim, maybe thinking about sewing a little flower or a button on there, but the truth of the matter that I had a hem that was unravelling and I needed to spruce up this skirt that I love and I needed to do it now. The project got whittled down to the essentials, and a lot of the background noise that I normally feel buzzing around me when I'm in the craft room was gone.

As for larger projects, such as the 6 cups of chopped peaches I have in my fridge which must be turned into jam asap or the baby quilt I made for Stella that still isn't quilted, I'm not quite sure how I'll go about accomplishing those!

made. by k.d.