Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Miscellaneous thoughts

-Ugh, apparently, no one who received an invitation to the bachelorette party realized they were supposed to be shoes. Only after I told them did they say “Oh, it is a shoe!” It’s sort of funny now, the best-laid plans and all that…

-I have a dentist appointment today and my dentist is my friend Karrie! It takes us so long to get through a cleaning because we laugh the entire time. It makes the whole thing (even when I have a cavity or worse) really enjoyable. I'm actually excited for my appointment!

-I’m thisclose to buying a Kindle. But I’m chicken because they’re expensive and a lot of people have had problems with them breaking. But I got to play around with one in person on Saturday and now I’ve got the fever.

pin crabapple blossoms

-Karrie and I spent a lazy Saturday lazing around her house. First we lazed around on the patio and then we lazed around in the four season porch. Then we lazed around at the coffee shop. It was fabulous. It all reminded me of the part in The Great Gatsby when Nick finds Daisy and Jordan lazing about in the sun room:

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.

The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.


white crabapple blossoms

-I’m currently obsessed with The Decemberists song We Both Go Down Together which you can hear for yourself on the jukebox on their site. I know it’s all sad and tragic but the melody and the music make my heart swell to bursting. I’m not much into music unless it makes me feel something and this one certainly does.

-Three days to go until the bachelorette party. I have to make a couple of trips to a couple of stores and then I'm finished with the planning. I'm quite looking forward to the day...it's supposed to be sunny and warm with a chance of rain late in the evening. I hope the forecast can be trusted. I'm still thinking about the menu...I like to wait until the last minute, which you well know.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Let's all eat cake!

The invitations for the bachelorette party have all been received so I can finally show them to you:

marie antoinette shoe

I was clicking through flickr, looking for party ideas and I found this gorgeous paper and fabric shoe. Inspiration hit me hard and I knew Laura's party had to have a Marie Antoinette theme. I really should have thought of it sooner because Laura loves all things MA (especially the shoes).

I knew I had to incorporate the shoe into the party and the idea to turn it into an invitation was too fun to pass up. I purchased these boxes and lined them with scrapbook paper. I used double sided scrapbook tape because I hate waiting for glue to dry.

The shoes are made from scrapbook paper and each has a picture of Marie Antoinette, a ruffle of tissue paper, a satin bow and a filigree decoration.

marie antoinette shoe

I also found some small fabric flowers at the craft store, threaded beads on the stems and hot-glued the bouquets inside the box.

Not pictured are the little scrolls of paper I tucked inside the shoes. The scrolls contained the party information and were wrapped with another mini bouquet to keep them from unrolling. I secured the lids with a satin ribbon, wrapped the boxes in brown paper and sent them in the mail. Apparently, they didn't even get crushed in transit.

marie antoinette shoe

I made these assembly line style but it still took about six hours to make five invitations. This included a little time for trial and error so in the future, they'd be much faster to make. Still, I don't think I'd ever want to make more than a dozen for any given occasion. Maybe no more than a half dozen.

The rest of the party plans are a secret so I can't really talk about them here until after the party. Just over a week to go...I have so much left to do!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I make stuff

Check out this sweet piece of artwork by Will Bryant: I make stuff because I get sad if I don't.

Just the other day I was thinking about why I make stuff. I was shocked to realize I've only been a stuff-maker for the past four years. Before that I was doing silly 20-something things with my friends, wandering around, dating jerks and feeling pretty empty. And before that, my artistic talents were never really encouraged. They weren't discouraged, more like left to their own devices.

The making of stuff came on gradually. I started dating Ian who is decidedly not a jerk. He gave me all the space I needed to figure out who I really was. And, it turns out, I'm a maker. I'm a doer. I'm a problem solver. I look at things and think: I can make that, I can fix that, I can turn that into something beautiful.

After four years of making things, I don't think I could ever not be a maker. This is who I am, this is how my brain works. There are infinite possibilities in life when you have the power to turn things into other things.

I make stuff because I get sad if I don't. I make stuff because there is no other path for me.

Why do you make stuff?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Embroidered for me!

When I got home last night I found a pile of packages at my door, supplies for the bachelorette party. Then I realized I should only have two packages. But there were three. Hmmm.

I opened the mystery package and found this:

lavender sachets from J

The loveliest sachets embroidered by my friend J! They're filled with lavender from her own garden! And the card...with a sprig of lavender on the front.

lavender sachets from J

And secured with a gorgeous ribbon was a huge, intensely dark bar of chocolate...Ghirardelli Twilight Delight, because, you know, she just couldn't help herself! Oh Edward!

Ian was with me and we were trying to get back out the door as quickly as possible but after staring at everything for a full minute, I yelled "I have to take pictures!" I made him hold the lamp for me. And then I complained that he was doing it wrong. Because I'm like that.

And then we had to leave but I couldn't stop talking about the sachets. Ian and I would be in the middle of a conversation and I'd blurt out "but she embroidered them for me. Embroidered!" I just could not get over the fact that someone out there was thinking of me, creating something for me with her own two hands. Something so sweet. I feel so very special right now. Thank you J!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Under pressure

It seems that lately I’ve spent more time thinking about my projects than working on projects. The creativity is building up without an outlet. I always feel like these obligations keep me from being creative, from creating. But just today I read the following passage in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Dantes and the Abbe Faria are talking in the Abbe’s prison cell. Dantes has just seen all the things the Abbe has fashioned while in prison including pens, ink, paper, tools, knives, a knotted fabric ladder and an oil lamp:

“I was reflecting, in the first place,” replied Dantes, “upon the enormous degree of intelligence and ability you must have employed to reach the high perfection to which you have attained; -if you thus surpass all mankind while but a prisoner, what would you not have accomplished free?”

The Abbe responds: “Possibly nothing at all; -the overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; it needs trouble and difficulty and danger to hollow out various mysterious and hidden mines of human intelligence. Pressure is required, you know, to ignite powder: captivity has collected into one single focus all the floating faculties of my mind; they have come into close contact in the narrow space in which they have been wedged, and you are well aware that from the collision of clouds electricity is produced - from electricity comes the lightning, from whose flash we have light amid our greatest darkness.”

This makes perfect sense to me. Oh, the infinite wisdom of the Abbe!

I like my life to always be smooth; I like my days to be obligation-free. I thought all that space gave me more room to be creative. But when I think about it, my clouds really are wispy during those times. And during the times when my life is busy, my ideas become more compact, more like lightning! A little pressure, it turns out, is a good thing.

I have no idea why I didn’t realize this before. I always did my best work the night before a school project was due. My last minute papers always got the best grades. I always thought this is what taught me to be a procrastinator but maybe I became a procrastinator because wispy clouds do not make lightning, because pressure is required to ignite powder.

What do you think? Pressure vs. freedom? Which brings out your creativity, which makes you more productive?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Homemade Mozzarella!

There was a request for a cheese tutorial so here it is: how to make mozzarella in just a few easy steps! It really is easy so don’t be scared. This will yield about a pound of cheese. Last night we were going for speed and finished the whole process in less than an hour.

Ingredients:
-One gallon of milk. Do not buy milk that says ultra-pasteurized! We buy Kemps Select because the label says Grade A pasteurized. We use whole milk but they say you can use 2% or skim. We want to try 2% next time.
-1/2 cup and 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water…bottled or filtered is fine

-1 ½ tsp citric acid (we found it in the bulk section at Whole Foods)
-1/4 tsp vegetable rennet. This can also be found at stores like Whole Foods. Keep it refrigerated. It should be good for up to a year.

rennet and citric acid

Tools
-big pot (apparently it’s important to use non-reactive materials but I don’t know what that means…we just bought a big metal stock pot at Target)
-wooden spoon (because, apparently, it’s non-reactive)
-medium sized glass bowl
-slotted spoon (ours is metal)
-cooking thermometer (we use a meat thermometer)

1. Pour the whole gallon of milk into your pot and heat to 55°f. I do this on medium heat and stir a lot.
2. While the milk is heating, pour 1.5 tsp of citric acid into ½ cup cool non-chlorinated water. Stir until dissolved.
3. Once the milk reaches 55°, slowly add the citric acid water to the pot while stirring the milk. The milk should react by getting a little grainy:

add citric acid

4. Pour ¼ tsp rennet into ¼ cup of non-chlorinated water, stir and set aside. We’ve had our rennet for close to 9 months so we added an additional three drops to this mixture in case it lost any of its potency.
5. Continue heating and stirring milk until it reaches 90°f. I do this on medium to medium-high heat.
6. Once it reaches 90°f, turn off the stove (but leave the pot on the burner) and slowly pour the rennet water into the pot while stirring. Stir for another 20 seconds or so and then stop stirring.
7. Wait and don’t stir. The rennet will turn the milk into a solid-ish mass (curd). In a few minutes, the curd should pull away from the sides (about ½”) like this:

pulling away from the sidessticking together

8. Wait 10-15 minutes. Using your slotted spoon, ladle the curd into your glass bowl. The curd will not actually be very hard. Mostly it’ll be gloppy and won’t stick together very well. This step takes some time and patience which is why I do it while Ian finds something else to do. Don’t worry if you get some of the whey (the watery part) into the bowl.
9. Also, don’t worry if you can’t get all the solids. A lot of it won’t be big enough to spoon up. Once you transfer the curds into the bowl, the whey will look like this:

whey

10. Pour off as much whey from your glass bowl as you can.

pour off liquids

11. Microwave on high for 1 minute.
12. Knead your cheese but be careful, it’ll be a little hot, especially the liquids. It’ll also turn to mush at this point. Keep kneading for about 20 seconds and pour off the liquid.

kneading
Ian asks you to forgive his hairy Scottish arms.

13. Microwave for 35 seconds.
14. Remove from microwave and sprinkle with salt (we used 1tsp but this part is up to you)
15. Knead again…it will be hotter this time. Pour off liquids. It should be getting firmer and it’ll sound squeaky.

kneadingkneading

16. Microwave for 35 seconds.
17. Knead again. If you want, you can pull it like taffy. If it cools, microwave again.

stretchy mozzarella

18. Keep kneading and, while it’s still warm, roll into a ball (or divide however you please).

finished mozzarella

And that’s it! Eat right away or put your mozzarella into a bowl of ice water for ½ an hour. Remove from water, put it in a container or zipper bag and store in the refrigerator. I’m not sure how long it’ll last because we can never go more than a day before eating it all.

Also, apparently you can make ricotta from the whey but we didn't have time. That would be two cheeses for the price of one! I'll do a tutorial if we ever try it.

Let me know if you have any questions about the tutorial (or about making cheese in general but you should know, I'm no cheese-making expert).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yet another squirrel post!

There are more squirrel photos on my flickr page but I just had to post this one:

ian and baby squirrel

Aren't they both cute?

I wonder how long it'll take the squirrel to become afraid of humans. Hopefully soon because the little neighbour kids had their hands all over him all day. They were being nice but there were no adults supervising and I'd hate for something bad to happen to him, accident or no accident.

He was perfectly content to walk from person to person, to be picked up. He didn't bite or scratch or really notice that we were anything other than fancy trees. He was so soft and weighed almost nothing. His feet were too big for his body. He really was the cutest thing I've seen in a long time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Important squirrel update!

baby squirrel!

Awww...nuts!

My boyfriend held a baby squirrel today! It tried to climb his leg like a tree. Then it let him pick it up and pet it. Then Ian put it back in a real tree.

So, if you, like me, wish you were there to see it and if you, like me, think squirrels are cute and funny then I’ve compiled some of my favorite squirrel-related things, just for you:

Squirrel shirts and squirrel skirts.

Some squirrel art I like.

Squirrel fabric and fabric squirrels.

And last but certainly not least: a really great and sort of creepy squirrel embroidery design. He’d be nice on a tea towel, no?

Sneak peeks

This is what I did all last night:

sneak peeksneak peek
sneak peeksneak peek

I wish I didn't have to be so secretive but I’ll be able to reveal the whole thing next week. And probably a tutorial as well. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these little peeks.