26 August 2014

Jamming

I've missed out making jam for the last couple summers. I'd do a batch here and there, but I hadn't been very serious about planning it out so we'd have jam all winter. Last summer I was too pregnant, and then too involved with a newborn, so this summer, I'm making up for it. This requires J. to watch the tiny one, since she has a habit of wandering into the kitchen and demanding to know what I'm doing and to see what's on the stove at the most inopportune moments. Now that we have a Learning Tower (no, I am not affiliated with them, nor do I earn money from this link, I just think it's a cool and useful piece of furniture), I'm hoping that this will be less of a problem, but you never know. 

One of the things that's kick-started this interest in canning is the book Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan. My mum gave me a copy when we moved, and I've already worked through a few recipes. The book is a lovely piece of work; it focuses on small batch canning and offers recipes for interesting but not too exotic jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces, as well as some pickling recipes and a few foods that can go in jars but which aren't canned. I plan to try many of the jam recipes and a few of the pickles. The canned tomatoes and tomato sauce are also on my list.

Image from foodinjars.com
Small batch canning interests me partly because I don't like turning an entire flat of apricots into jam--it's very time-consuming and it leaves us with nothing but apricot jam for the winter. I prefer to do several small batches of different kinds of jam.

Thus far, from this book, I have tried the strawberry vanilla jam, the apricot jam, the peach plum ginger jam, the nectarine lime jam, and the blueberry jam. The cantelope and spiced plum jams are also on the list. Pickled asparagus is on the list for later this week, since asparagus was on sale at the produce store (our new home is three blocks from a great produce store--we're already eating more vegetables just because I like going there).

The thing that has revolutionized my canning is the use of a stockpot instead of a canning pot for canning in. It's deep enough, big enough for about half a dozen jars at a time, does not rust after a season or two like the enamel-ware, and is not a uni-tasker. This is one of those brilliant ideas that had never occurred to me before, but is mentioned in McClellan's book as a great option to a canning pot that takes up space and doesn't get used for anything besides canning. I still need to get a round rack to put in the bottom of it, but so far I've yet to break a jar in it.

The other thing that somehow never occurred to me in the past was the use of a candy thermometer to make sure I've reached the jelling stage. That makes a huge difference. I used to mostly end up with syrup instead of jam. Great on pancakes or waffles, not quite as great on toast. And I'm more of a toast person than pancakes or waffles, since I tend not to be hungry in the morning.

Once I check off the spiced plum jam tonight, I have plans for pickles and cantelope jam later this week. Should be fun. I'm rather enjoying the process of filling up the cupboards for the winter.

11 August 2014

after the move

We survived our move, and have been in our new home for about a week and a half. Thus far, things are going well. J. can walk to work, so he gets home an hour earlier than he used to, and E. hasn't had any meltdowns about being in a new place.

Most of our stuff is unpacked; I still have the sewing things to sort out, and none of our wall decorations are up yet. There are a couple random boxes in mine and J.'s bedroom whose contents we're not sure about.

Moving provides an interesting opportunity to get rid of things. We got rid of a lot of stuff before we moved, and then once we got the truck packed up, J. declared that we had too much junk and needed to get rid of more things. I've already made a couple trips to the thrift store to drop stuff off. We've given other things away, too. De-cluttering and organizing everything anew is a good process.

It helps that our new place doesn't have a giant storage closet like our old one did. Initially I wasn't too thrilled about that, but it means that things can't get lost in a black hole anymore. Instead of two bedroom closets, a large linen closet/hallway closet, a storage closet, and a storage alcove lined with shelves, we have a smaller linen closet, the two bedroom closets, and two tiny hallway closets (one of which is weirdly shallow and is a good space for the vacuum and broom). Oh, and the shelf over the washer and dryer (where all the cleaning supplies go).

The place as a whole is bigger, but part of that extra square footage is taken up with hallway space. E.'s room is slightly bigger than what she had in our place, but our room is slightly smaller. The kitchen and dining area is a better size, though. No dishwasher, but we're finding we keep the kitchen tidier without a dishwasher to make us lazy about it. Overall, we're quite happy with our new home.

We've done some exploring of the area. There are some lovely parks and trails nearby, and we're right in the downtown area of the city, so we are close to the library, grocery stores, produce store, and several bakeries. There's also a great gelato place. It's strange to be in a new town, but also rather lovely, too.

28 July 2014

kid's clothes week: after it's over

Geranium Dress-owls and foxes and hedgehogs, oh my!
I managed to muddle my way through KCW again. The picture above is another Geranium Dress, one size up from the usual. E. is growing, though when I popped it on her when it was finished, it was a bit big. And a little longer than expected. Not terribly so, but enough that it'll probably be a better choice of outfit next month. Maybe she'll wear it at her first birthday party (and no, we're not having a one-year-old extravaganza; we're having family, probably my parents and my SIL, since my in-laws aren't sure they can come and E.'s godparents are having a time of it getting new passports, and I'm using my cake pan that makes little rose-shaped cakes).

So, dress. I used a quilting cotton that I found at Mill End down in Portland at Christmas time. Some leftovers went into a set of coasters for a friend, and the other leftovers are waiting for me to make them into something. I love the fabric. It's adorable, and yes, rather more pink than I'd usually go with, but I don't actually hate pink. I just object to the "nothing but pink for little girls" attitude. I went with the pleated skirt this time, the faux-cap sleeve bodice, and the cut-out neckline. I did snaps on the back, without cursing. I wanted to do buttons, but all my buttons are in a box, and I didn't feel like digging them out.

We move on Thursday morning, and at this point, we're mostly packed up. I had one of my moving dreams last night, where I didn't have everything packed, people were loading up the truck for us, and I was out of boxes and then my grandmother called in the middle of the chaos about something. I've also had the dream where the previous tenants left behind a bunch of stuff, so the closets were all full of clothes and there was a full and very noisy campground next door.

I knocked out a couple of skirts in the last day or so of KCW. I based them off a paperbag skirt tutorial. The first one doesn't look quite how I envisioned, and is a little big in the waist. The second turned out just about right.

Skirt number 1: Not bad.

The basic pattern involves cutting a strip from selvage to selvage, seaming that into a tube, then hemming the bottom and top. The top gets an elastic waistband. I went with 12 inches, but didn't make my waistband as wide as I really should have, so the skirt is a little long. I went with E's waist measurement plus 1" for a seam allowance for the elastic, but that's a little bit loose. The material is some kind of cotton I found at the thrift store.

Skirt number 2: Much better.
 The second skirt was the same length, but I folded the waistband over more to get that lovely ruffle at the top, so it's just about the perfect length for E. right now. I also went with E.'s waist measurement without an additional seam allowance for the elastic. It stretches and doesn't slide down too much this way. This fabric is a corduroy from JoAnn's that I found at the thrift store. I have enough for one or two more skirts or possibly something else. I have ideas but haven't purchased the patterns yet.


I also finished a shawl I've been working on.

Batik Shawl
The pattern, Batik, is by Kitman Figeroa, and is available on Ravelry. I've had the pattern and the yarn for a while, and I finally got around to knitting it up. The yarn is one of the Kauni fingering weights. I love the long stripes in the Kauni colourways. I knit one ball up in shades of red a few years ago, and then bought this ball at Yarn Harvest that year. I knit the medium size of the shawl, since I didn't have quite enough for the large, and it's turned out beautifully. I get to show it off at knit-night tonight, then pack it away in a box for a couple days until we've moved.

And that's it for now. We'll be without internet for a day or so, since we move Thursday and the guy from Telus is supposed to show up on Friday. Let's hope that goes well. Last time it was a fiasco.

22 July 2014

KCW: Day 2

On track so far with KCW! I made a bonnet for E. yesterday for Day 2. I made her a sun hat a while back, and while it is fantastic, we've discovered that it's much harder for her to pull bonnets off and toss them on the ground while we're in transit. I have run over that poor sun hat so many times with the stroller.

I used the same pattern for this bonnet that I used a while back for E.'s pretty floral bonnet for her costume when we went to Fan Expo. The pattern is from MAKE, and it's a bonnet that was originally designed for upcycling vintage linens. The only vintage linens we have on hand were ones my great-grandmother and great-great grandmother made, so obviously, that won't do.

Pink fabric, purple and yellow rick-rack. No, it's not stereotypically girly at all.
 However, my fabric stash has a number of odds and ends in suitable amounts, so I ended up pulling out a very pink piece of floral-printed fabric. I don't usually often sew pink items for E. because we already have so much pink in her wardrobe, but this fabric suited the pattern well, and I had coordinating ric-rac on hand (is it rick-rack or ric-rac or either/or?).

This pattern let me practice some hand-sewing--after sewing the lining and outside together, you flip the bonnet right-side out and blind-stitch the gap together. I used to be terrible at doing blind-stitch--I kept mixing it up with whip-stitch and doing that instead, but I seem to have finally figured it out.

If I make another one (and I kind of want to), I want to line the bill with interfacing to make it a bit stiffer. The first time I made the pattern, I did the ruffled brim. This time I did the flat bill option, which I think I like better than the ruffle, but lack of interfacing on the bill means that it doesn't have as much structure as I think it should.

Baby in her new hat!
 E. seems to like the hat well enough. I showed it to her and she grabbed it and wandered off across the living room, waving it over her head. Shortly after that, she got distracted by a pair of sunglasses and abandoned the bonnet next to one of the many boxes decorating our home.

On the list for today: A new Geranium. We are moving up a size! 6-12 months, here we come!

21 July 2014

Kid's Clothes Week - Take 2

Well, I signed up for Kid's Clothes Week again. The latest round of it started yesterday and I'm making plans. And I got a headstart on it by sewing a baby dress Friday (I just couldn't stop myself). This is the Easy Summer Baby Dress from See Kate Sew.



I tweaked the pattern a little--I enlarged the bodice, which turned out to be an unneccessary change. E. can wear it as a jumper dress in the fall and winter, and as a slightly-too-big summer dress right now. It's also a bit long--blame it on how I cut out the dress so as to avoid weird skinny strips of fabric from the edge of the material. I whipstitched the lining over the seam at the bodice. The tutorial makes it sound like you just sew bodice, lining and outside, together to the skirt and then maybe zigzag or serge the edges of the seam and I preferred a neater finish. I could just be misreading the instructions, though. I accidentally set the straps a touch too far in. They're supposed to be at the very edge of the bodice and that didn't quite happen. Oh well. It works anyway.

What I love about this dress in particular, other than the simple construction (it took me an hour or so to make this, with the hand-sewing), is the straps. They are gathered with elastic and they make the whole thing look adorable. It's a simple thing to do, but it adds so much to the dress without being over the top.

It occurred to me when I signed up for KCW that it might not have been the smartest idea, what with us moving two weeks from now and all. Now that we're closer to time, I think committing to sewing for an hour or so a day will be a welcome distraction from the stress of moving. We've checked off some of the important things, like moving our hydro and internet and booking the truck. Now we're mostly at the "get more boxes and put stuff in them" stage. The really breakable things are nearly all packed, so I can put stuff in boxes around E. without worrying about her trying to help me unload them.

Sewing is a lovely break, and it uses up some of the fabric I have lurking around, so there's less to pack in the sewing supplies boxes. I've tidied up the sewing corner of the bedroom, so that's helped a bit. I've almost finished a tailor's ham that I've been stuffing with fabric scraps. It's not quite full enough, so I'll have to do a couple more projects and use up the leftover bits and pieces.

My first contribution for Kid's Clothes Week was another Easy Baby Summer Dress, this time in a purple rayon. Rayon and me don't usually get along very well, but I did much better with it this time. I suppose it's mostly a matter of practice, fabric weights, finished seams, and lots of pressing.

Not the greatest picture, but at least she's holding still.
After that, I think I may be more willing to sew with rayon. I may need to get a non-blurry picture of the dress later. E. is walking and getting faster every day. When she sees a camera, she just moves closer.

Next on the list for KCW: a summer bonnet, aka hat that babies have a harder time throwing on the ground. It's cut out and partially pieced at the moment. In a burst of "use up random fabric," I've ended up with a very, very pink creation. At least no one will assume she's a boy in that hat.

08 July 2014

Recent Discoveries

Recently I learned...

Washing cotton batting to pre-shrink it is a bad idea. It looks sturdy, but it does not like the washing machine. I now have less useable cotton batting than I had before, and more stuffing material.

We have close to a thousand books in our collection. I haven't finished cataloguing all the children's books, so my numbers aren't exact yet, but the unscientific estimate is "a lot." That number won't be dwindling anytime soon, either. The beautiful pine bookcase I bought for myself when I was a kid, that once housed my entire personal library, is now too small for our non-fiction collection. J.'s science reference books will be staying boxed up for a while after we move, just to make sure we have some shelf space.

Babies are very contrary creatures. When they are able to walk, they walk up to you and then insist that you need to pick them up and carry them.

Pretty much all of our wall decorations fit into one box. It's a good-sized box, to be sure, but it's just one. Whew.

I don't like summer. I knew this already, but I re-learned it again, like I do every year when the temperature soars.

Nutella goes well with apple slices.

You cannot buy crickets or any other type of insect at the local gourmet food store.

And lastly, cleaning the oven is far more annoying than vacuuming.




02 July 2014

reading notes: Pelkey's Mandarin Tone in Historical Epic Quest Perspective

I'm including this in my Reading Notes series in part because it's just a fantastic piece of work, and in part because I had the great privilege of working with the author several years ago as his teaching assistant in a course on historical linguistics and as his student in a directed studies course on semiotics. Only Jamin would come up with a work like this on the historic of Mandarin tone. 

Pelkey, Jamin. (2013). Mandarin tone in historical epic quest perspective. In Jones, Trey, Slater, Keith W., Spruiell, Bill, Pulju, Tim, & Peterson, David J., The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics (p. 43). Washington: Speculative Grammarian Press. Retrieved 1 July 2014 from www.academia.edu

Pelkey's summary of the development of tone in Mandarin is told in a unique fashion, via an epic poem. The tones are characterized as knights. The development of register is signified by the addition of a lady paired with each knight. The division and rivalry between characters and deaths over time reduce the tones back to four: high-level (first tone), rising (second tone), low-contour (third tone), and falling (fourth tone).

My own study of Chinese is very limited; I took an introductory year in the language during my undergrad and was very interested but at the time unable to continue with any subsequent courses. Since then, I have read a few articles on the subject, and when I took a course on tonal analysis, I went with any optional readings on sinitic tone that the instructor offered (the instructor's specialty was African tone, so the course leaned more heavily on that side of things). While I've no real idea whether I'll ever up going to China (given my seasonal/environmental allergies I might not fare too well in most cities there long-term), I've wanted to at least visit the country for a long time, and would like to learn more of the language, both from a speaker's and a linguist's perspective.

At any rate, I know the very basics of tone in Mandarin from learning a little of the language, and I do have some education in the development and analysis of tone, though it's not exactly a specialty of mine (when I TAed for phonology courses, I ended up doing the lectures on stress, the other category of suprasegmentals). And this poem was a delightful way to learn the outline of how tone developed in modern-day Mandarin. It makes me want to learn more. Thanks, Jamin, for rekindling an old interest when I finally have time to actually pursue it!