*note: in the process of replacing images*

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Thrift Haul 12/21/2012

Thrift Haul 12/21/2012

Thrift Haul 12/21/2012

[Top image: "Circus McGurkus 123!" - Dr Seuss | "You're Only Old Once!" - Dr Seuss | Cheer Up Little Duck! - Ronnie Randall/Caroline Church | Mr Jeremy Fisher bath book - Beatrix Potter | "Wally Whale and his friends" by Pam Adams/Annie Kubler]

[Bottom image: one large world map | one medium sized K12 world tectonic plates map | "Atlas of American History" - Rand McNally/Houghton Mifflin | 1972 copy of Spinnerin knitting booklet]

Total: $6.91!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

On A Zoo Membership






One of the best decisions of 2012 has been getting a yearly membership to our local zoo. We pitch up with the kid in the stroller (in time for his nap), get some breakfast, see some animals and get some sorely needed exercise/fresh air. Sure, the zoo food is a little bit overpriced and sometimes there are far too many people with their strollers, but just look at the view. What a deal.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Praying Mantis


That's one off my insect bucket list. Yes I have an insect bucket list.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Post Baby Blog Post

Henry Fisher Hei Gie Woo - born July 14th at 12:06pm, weighing in at 8lbs 14.5oz.

I thought I'd write more this year while pregnant, but it turns out I just wanted to get things DONE rather than spend too much time writing about all the things I was working on. I wanted a fast turnover, and throwing together sentences to describe it all just felt like an obstacle not worth climbing. Pregnancy wasn't a huge trial on my body - I seem to have been luckier than most, and I'm recovering well - but it did impress a sense of urgency upon me, that I knew once he was here in the real world, life would be more straightforward without clutter or dodgy furniture or half finished crafts lying around. So these things were done, completed, sold on Craigslist, taken to Goodwill, sorted into boxes and restacked into closets... or just plain thrown out. I feel like a more capable human being when things are neat and clean, even if I'm sitting here 5 days post-partum writing this in my underwear and a breast milk stained t-shirt. Laundry can be done in an hour - floorspace would take days to reclaim now.

Phew. So onwards, I suppose. The new regime is beginning.

Saturday, 5 May 2012




Supermoon! Now 14% larger and 30% brighter! Unfortunately I wasn't anywhere decent to catch the moon-rise, but Vince Thorne in Winnipeg was. Nice shot sir.


Wikipedia on Supermoons
YouTube: Supermoon returns in 2012

Monday, 30 April 2012

Cornish Pasties



Unhelpful commentary to start with: I didn't make these myself (this is all Fred's doing), and there's no specific recipe that's worth following from start to finish. What's best is to look for the ingredients and techniques that suit your end goal - it's a lot easier than it looks and it's a very flexible piece of food stuff.*

HOWEVER to be more specific: this batch (of which there were NINE, most of them ending up in the freezer for later consumption) were made with Gordon Ramsey's shortcrust pastry recipe (4 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water) and overall technique/ingredients/cooking advice from YouTube user martintennant's mum, who uses a traditional mix of skirt steak, onion, pepper, salt, potato, carrot, swede/rutabaga and leek.  That lady has been making Cornish pasties for decades, and she knows her stuff. Heed every part of her wisdom before you give your own a spin.

And of course, they tasted fantastic.

Bonus cultural education link: The Cornish Pasty, a documentary.

*(to the best of my knowledge they can even be vegan, just switch out the butter with margarine and load it up with potato, vegetables and spices)

Saturday, 31 March 2012

March Leftovers





March went faster than I expected. Some days I felt great! And then some days I did not, which comes along with the territory of incubating incoming human life (less than 16 weeks of this nonsense to go, hoorah! Everything is healthy and normal. It's very boring really). Regardless of how I actually feel each day, I'm getting things done - and there are more garden things being done than documented:

- all the tomato plants are now firmly in place. Not all the tomato CAGES are in place, but the plants have so far evaded the early spring aphid swarm and are standing pretty strong. Don't ask me about tomato spot though.
- bean and squash and cucumber seeds are propped on the edge of the porch getting themselves ready for an April emergence/planting. I learned last year that it's a pointless task to start them early. They know when it's time to grow, and as long as I give them soil and water, they'll take care of themselves.
- the hops are growing! Even if you don't homebrew, if you ever want a sure sign of spring, it's Cascade hops poking their leaves above the soil. This year begins the Great Relocation to raised beds (to protect them from gophers*), and the two that are in place are doing well.
- compost is being definitively turned, and the spaces that once held winter plants are being rehabbed, slowly, with much help from the last of the rain and piles of mulch.
- the weeds aren't too bad this year and are gradually being erased when there's the time, with care to leave spots for ladybugs and bees to flourish. Next year there will be even less, as long as I remember to reseed the edges in October with wildflowers and cover crops. It was very obvious where I neglected to do this. The Grass of Shame.
- all the trees are blooming. The Mulberry tree has had berries for weeks (that will no doubt be left to ferment away again), the apricot/plums have blossoms that lead me to hope that I might (might!) try turning the fruits into jam this year, and the persimmon is as bloody resilient as ever.
- I hold hope that I'll be able to keep the food coming through the summer, despite being hideously pregnant and then laden with a newborn. It's only outside. Outside is but a short way, and holding onto a normal activity should keep me sane. Even in 90-100F heat.

On the yarn front, I'm just destashing as much as possible, finishing UFOs and hoping that I'm making enough space. Space is at a premium until the baby finishes cooking and we can realistically figure out how much space he's going to take up. I'm hoping I can take a drawer back from the dresser in the spare bedroom that we've half filled with baby paraphernalia, but I don't hold much hope. I think it's Rubbermaid containers from here on out.

And so it goes.

*Gopher death count of 2012: two.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Ladybugs

Although I'm not a big fan of buying live beasts bred for profit, the warm winter weather brought a massive onslaught of aphids to the raised beds this year. Heaving clusters of ashy grey aphids, ruining all in their path. Kale, bok choy... only my purple broccoli seems to have remained untouched. Last year I nearly lost one of my key heirloom tomato plants to a smaller wave of aphids around March and it did not make me happy.

Although I'm not starting from seed this year (too much attention required, I'll get back to that next spring), I didn't want to lose the seedlings (tomatoes, peppers and beans) we bought to supplement our summer garden either.  So, $9 for a hundreds of ladybugs that will be a lot happier in our yard than in a plastic tub at the store? That felt like a good deal when they'll be saving hours of work and at least $30 of plants. Go ladybugs go!

Plus, it was super fun releasing them and watching them swarm over the worst affected plants. It was like releasing doves at a wedding, only far more productive. My spinach in particular seems to be a favorite - which is ace, because I'm hoping (with a bit of luck and ingenuity) that I can keep it going through the summer. I chose thicker, larger varieties (Giant Noble and Gigante d'Inverno) that grew pretty large unassisted by fertiliser and managed not to bolt in 85-90F weather. So we'll see what happens there when summer gets down to doing it's thing, because that clock is definitely ticking.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Thrifting Mojo Returns!

I think I'm back on track with my thrifting schedule now that I've a) donated a whole bunch of things and b) have a lot more energy. Good times are here once again.

Baby crap bought from our local brand spanking new Goodwill Plaza - two crib sheets and three varying-in-size onesies for just under $8 in total. The green one is from a Carter's John Lennon range, and thus says "Imagine all the people". Cute, slightly athiest AND philosophical.

Used books from Maxwell's. We don't shop here nearly enough, and they have a wide range of books - from kind-of-rare to $2 science fiction paperbacks. My choice out of this pile is the predictable "Letters of a Woman Homesteader". IMPORTANT NOTE: please do not worry, I am not remotely turning into a fundie Christian. I just really enjoy reading about that era, especially it's impact on women.

Old and classic knitting patterns that needed saving, $2.25 of one of my favorite brands of yarn, and a $0.75 embroidery hoop (still not a fundie, just like making stuff) for my first attempts at making tiny crosses on fabric.

$1 of button porn. I have a jar I'm trying to fill to make a button stash for the future, and when I examined the ziploc these came in and saw the teacher/graduate owls (on the far right), there was no way I could let them go. They're now unquestionably heading for a cardigan related future. Perhaps this pattern.

The tiki masks (?) are a bit unexpected. Not sure if I could pull those off on a garment for me, and there's only four of them. Maybe something for the kid? I have no ideas. If in complete crisis, I'd put good money on Ravelry having a button swap group. Someone, possibly less white than I, could put them to good use.

I'd given these buttons the side eye last year but didn't expect to see them still hanging around in the store. They're mushroom shaped, made in Japan and kind of... squishy, almost like gummy candy? But not. I have no idea what I'll use these for, but I know I was meant to have them. Even if they are pink.

And something for the man of the house. Because he sat around in that thrift store forever waiting for me to be done. Once again: I love that our thrift store sells magazines and all thrift stores should do this.

Also bought but not photographed: a mint condition $1 copy of Roald Dahl/Quentin Blake's The Enormous Crocodile and a battered copy of Super Baby Foods. Not easy to photograph, and while useful and awesome, not interesting enough to take up more visual retail here.

Unrelated note: still haven't mown the backyard. We'll do that next weekend. Suuure.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Spring in February

[top to bottom: 1) succulents a-sprouting | 2) an unknown wildflower, seeded before the October rains | 3) Dai Mao beneath the grapefruit tree | 4) honeybee aloft a bok choy flower | 5) the first ever flower on my Alpine strawberry plant, originally started January 2011 | 6) Cour Di Bue cabbage]

As you might notice, everything still needs a good weeding and mulching. It rained again last weekend, not something I'm liable to complain about as this has been a dry winter, but it does prevent any kind of taming of the weeds. The bees are loving it, and that's enough for now. Hoping to put a bit of work into it over the weekend so that I can take a long overdue wide shot of everything and make some notes about our raised bed arrangement.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Winter 2011-12: What A Bust

You could say that things started going downhill around the time I found out I was pregnant, and got knocked on my butt for three months dealing with the first trimester exhaustion/sickness. But in all honestly, all that would have happened if that was the only obstacle would be that the weeds have grown - I was getting out to water the plants, I was just too tired to weed until now.

And sure enough, the weeds grew - because given half a rainfall's chance, SoCal vegetation will appear. So we have a situation like this, where I can't get to what I thought would be my Mammoth Red Cabbage until it's mown flat:

I'm certainly not risking the contents of my uterus traversing that.

But like I said, if that had been the only combination of problems, we'd be out there conquering it with machines and gloves now. Good compost will thrive with only weeds and food scraps, so it's certainly useful. Unfortunately, it's also been unseasonably hot over the last two or three months - barely into the 40s at night, and an average of 70-75F during the day.

So my bok choy bolted

and while that's lovely for the bees, that doesn't really help a household that wants to actually eat from their back yard. I also don't know if my spinach will last in direct heat - none of my plants are very large. I'll keep the faith for now.

I'm coming to the conclusion that it's not really worth planting any extra "winter" crops that take longer than a month until harvest, because I can't see this year getting much cooler. I'm seriously considering just moving straight onto beans, tomatoes and squash at the end of the month. I'll try radish and carrots around summer plants and wait until next time for onions and turnips and broccoli and bok choy.

But hey! Not everything is an abject failure!

I'm thankful I followed good advice to pick Italian-origin/hardy type heirloom seeds - this bed from left to right is Russian Red Kale, generic Buttercrunch lettuce (seems to do well under 85F), Oak lettuce and Cour Di Bue cabbage, all of which, despite my lackadaisical watering, are thriving in the unseasonable heat. I'm starting to pull the Buttercrunch, and the Kale could easily start being added to a stir fry or when roasting vegetables.

This Alpine strawberry plant I started from seed in January 2011 somehow survived last summer and is now expanding quite happily. Should I repot this plant? Possibly. There's an idea. I should do that soon.

Mixed lettuce seeds in containers in the shaded side yard, also another success. Although at one point, I accidentally left the watering can on the wrong setting and nearly obliterated these with the pressure. Large they are not, but they're great for a salad or two. I just wish I liked lettuce more. Next October, I'll try growing spinach in containers.

And today, unsure if it was ready to bolt and with no plans to water until tomorrow, I pulled in most of the Rapini Broccoli and a head of Buttercrunch lettuce. At the very least, once the aphids are washed off, this can all be put in the wok, cooked with chili flakes/garlic/green onion/sesame oil, and it will make a great greens dish to eat whenever the fancy is taken. Hot or cold. Trust me on the cold thing - it's basically a Korean recipe, and those people know what they're doing with vegetables.

Subnote: It's good to be back in the land of the doing. I'm very fortunate the baby is due into this world as the downturn in planting productivity begins - all I ever need to do between the end of June and the start of October is check for bugs, pull suckers on tomatos and harvest produce. Having months upon months of doing nothing is not my chosen way of living, and I'm hopefully going to set the garden up to work as hard as it can while I can't. More on that later.