Are filled with crafting and creating, when I’m not futzing around online, reading or watching Netflix, but I haven’t always been a crafty soul…
In my youth I was more concerned with other things and trying to sort out yarn and needles, hooks and string or anything other than my mildly artistic doodling was overwhelming. I groused for years that I lacked the skills to save my life if crochet or knitting were involved. Reading, music, life in general took front stage and the attempts to craft were put in the closet of my mind.
Fast forward to my mid 20’s. I found myself pregnant and desiring to make items for my soon to be child. Knitting was still too complex to fuddle through, yet crochet seemed more approachable. Success happened, soon I was creating gifts for cousins also expecting, toys, blankets and clothes for my son… Crafting was happening! That once complex means of creating things by hand wasn’t quite so complex and distant in my life, I was thrilled and began learning as much as I could about it. New stitches, reading patterns and charts, collecting hooks and patterns soon paved the way to my creating patterns to share with others. I could do this, finally I was a crafty person that could make items that even my very skilled great aunt approved of!
Time slid away with crochet being my only crafting outlet until by my early 30’s I was interested in the skill of hand-spinning. Taking a spindle or a spinning wheel and fiber and creating hand crafted yarn. A friend of mine had learned how to do this in an art program in university, she did it often while we sat over coffee and chatted, I was enthralled by the craft and desperately wanted a spinning wheel of my own. Another friend happened upon a spinning wheel at a local yard sale and called me about it, arranged for them to hold it until I could get there and for approximately a 1/4 of the price brand new, I had my own spinning wheel. Within a week I was spinning as if I had been doing it for years, producing my own yarns from fiber I acquired from online groups and sources that introduced me everything from raw fleece to clean and processed fiber. Over the years I have tried so many of them… different kinds of wool, mohair, silk, cashmere, angora, dog fur and so much more. Thick, medium and fine yarns accumulated in my baskets, they didn’t translate to crochet as well as I hoped, so they languished, waiting for a purpose.
Within 6 months of starting my journey as a spinner, I found a particularly large set of needles and took a chance in buying them as a gift for my friend. Instead, she used them to teach me how to knit. These large needles and a couple of strands of thick yarn, her patience, a little trial and error and some practice doing just the knit stitch and there I was knitting! I could do it, I could process it, it wasn’t nearly as hard as my young self had convinced me it was… There went I with much practice, learning new stitches and new things about this craft, deciphering patterns, collecting the various types and sizes of needles. I could now knit. The joke was on me and I was teased about how I could now knit to save my life – LOL. I didn’t care, I was having fun, I was exploring this new field in my skill set and having a grand time.
Now all these years later, I don’t crochet as much as I once did, knitting has taken over as my craft of choice… Slippers, socks hats, mitts, scarves, cowls, shawls and even a sweater among the things I crafted on my needles in the intervening years. There is a fairly large stash of yarns hidden and tucked away in odd spots of the house to feed the habit with, sometimes I go on the odd foray to the store to buy something for a specific project, otherwise I try to stick to what already lives here. As well, I have a fair stash of hand-spun yarns, in spite of how much I have sold or gifted to other knitters. Years of spinning have produced a lot of finished skeins of my hand-crafted yarns and I have even taken to knitting things in it for myself and others, instead of holding on to it for “something special in the future”… My future is now and the yarns are finding a use in my knitting finally.
I have a half dozen items for myself, I’ve done several items for my daughter-in-law, a couple for my son, an item or three for friends as gifts. Creating things by hand, even as far as creating the basic components from scratch is like therapy for me, the joy and accomplishment that comes from it is so much greater than I could have imagined all those years ago when I bemoaned my lack of skills. Sometime it takes time, maturity and the right teachers to make it happen. I have to say, I am plenty glad that all that and more have been a part of my life.
I look forward to sharing some of what I do in the future… Hope you will enjoy taking that journey with me.
Grandfather had found it in his young and foolish days he would say and with a year of hard work earned enough to lay claim to it for the price of the land.
This place started out as an abandoned outpost, on an old border. Modern times had moved the border and the threats, leaving this place without a purpose.
Decades spent building and breathing new life into it had finally turned it into a home that had raised 2 generations of children so far. Soon a third generation will be living and playing here…
Grandfather will be so happy.
Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a 100 word story.
Father had hired a photographer to come and take their photographs.
“Newest thing!” he chortled with glee.
He and mother had sat together to have theirs taken. Her brothers Charles and Joseph had too, both standing tall with chests out like a pair of randy roosters.
My sister Amy had chosen to demonstrate the womanly art of embroidery.
I decided to show my true passion and set up my writing at the little table. Once he was ready, I struck my pose.
Mother might not have been pleased, but one day others will see my beginnings as a great writer.
By choosing to simply title these with flash fiction writings with numbers, I am trying to avoid giving the reader any preconceived ideas about my pieces. It is my hope that it allows the readers mind to create the deeper flavour for themselves.
Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site. Use her Wednesday picture as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.
OK, I had planned on writing a blog up about other things today. I am trying to keep up with my plan to post a blog of some sort on each Saturday or Sunday. Had a plan; an idea too… Apparently my plan slide sideways as my health pulled rank on me and I had other things on my mind, so I am falling back on another idea that was being held in reserve for just this reason…
I had a hankering one day recently to make something of a fine parcel of ground pork, originally bought to make a particular recipe, but that didn’t happen as planned and I wanted to get it used before it went bad. After hunting around the internet for an idea of what else I might make with it, the idea of going with Asian spices and a burger format sounded like a fun way to go. I read through a few recipes and made notes of the various types and amounts of spices and finally settled on what I was going to do. Knowing my gauze-like memory, I made notes on my notes as I was working to be sure any changes or additions were recorded before they escaped me like dust in the wind. When it came time to cook them, I decided to bake them and then heat them up as I planned to eat them later
Once the mouth-watering smells [and the timer] said they had cooked enough, I pulled them out to find a pool of tawny juices lurking in the bottom of the pan. Not wanting them to go to waste, I went to reach for a container to pour them into when a light bulb flickered in the dim interior of my mind… This would be fantastic to cook up some onions in, like those Harmony Burgers [ARCHON] has mentioned here, but with an Asian Flair to them. Be still my growling stomach! Onions, juices, pan, heat and it looked good already, but that bulb went off in that dim brain of mine once again and suddenly a secret ingredient was added to the pan – Pickled Ginger! Wait! What do you mean not everyone keeps a jar of pickled ginger in their fridge? No worries, I’ve added a substitute recipe for that too.
I lost track of time as I nibbled one of the finished patties, warm off the pan, while I tossed the onions around and worked at getting them cooked up right. Soon the juices from the pan and the onions created a nice caramelization, they were declared done and ready to taste test. My mouth was saying they had turned out mighty good for a slap-dash-into-the-pan idea, so I dished out another patty and tried the two of them together, in a word, yum; just yum. Once again I was excited how a glimmer of an idea had turned out into a fantastic food idea.
Notes were transcribed to the computer before my scribbles turned into untranslatable squiggles and I started making notes at the bottom of the digital copy with an idea for making the onions if you decided to grill the burgers and didn’t have the juices. Since there were not enough onions to go around for those remaining, I set out another night to test my noted ideas. A fine set of ideas they were too! Wandering back to the computer to make a few minor adjustments and what do you know here was a full service recipe is born and ready to share.
So for the few who follow me, my gift to you and anyone you wish to share it with:
Taste of Asia Burgers © 2014
Serve these Orient-inspired burgers topped with the Ginger Caramelized Onions listed below on sesame buns with a side of stir-fried veggies or a nice salad.
- 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce or fish sauce
- 1 tbsp dry sherry
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce [like Siracha]
- 1½ tsp garlic chili paste
- 2 tsp grated ginger root
- 1½ lb lean ground pork
Mix & mash all ingredients together in a bowl until well mixed, cover and place in refrigerator for at least one hour. Take out and divide into 12 equal balls and form each into a patty. Place patties in a flat baking pan with sides and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven, move patties to a platter and reserve juices for the caramelized onions. Re-heat the patties under the broiler or throw them on the Grill/BBQ to really give them some flavour!
Ginger Caramelized Onions
The perfect accompaniment to the Asian Flair Burgers, these onions borrow the flavour from the juices left from the burgers to create a unique version of an old classic.
- ½ Cup reserved juices from Asian Flair Burgers
- 3 Tsp finely chopped pickled ginger
- 2½ cups slices onions
Cut each onion in half and thinly slice each half. In a frying pan on medium-low heat, carefully pour in juices, add pickled ginger and onions. Gently break onions apart and stir until ginger is well incorporated. Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, stirring regularly until onions turn translucent and the sauce thickens. Add salt & pepper to taste, serve as desired.
** If you want the special onions and don’t have reserved juices, here is a substitute recipe. Using this version of the onion recipe might require longer cooking time [approx. 45 minutes] to get the sugars in the sauce and onions to caramelize properly.
- 1/3 cup broth of your choice [or water if you just don’t have any]
- 1 tsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tsp oyster sauce or fish sauce
- 1 tsp dry sherry
- ¾ tsp of your favourite cooking oil + ¼ tsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp chili garlic paste
No pickled ginger? Put 3 tsp regular minced/finely chopped ginger in a small bowl, add ½ tsp sugar and 1 tsp rice or white vinegar and let sit for ½ hour before adding to recipe.
So I showed my friend her Cowl [that I wrote about on my Handmade Gifts post], that I had knit up for her and she was amazed at the work and all, but it turned out she really wanted something more in the line of a scarf than a cowl, so over-riding her protests, I ripped it all back to loose yarn, balled it all back up and started over with a different pattern idea. So far she is happy with my plan and we shall move a bit more slowly to ensure she is on board with any changes or final stages before finishing it off. I want her to be VERY happy with the final item and I don’t care how long it takes to get right, but hopefully sometime this winter so she has a chance to wear it. 😉
Mom’s vest continues to be a work in progress… The bloody thing weighs more than expected and it is a work-out hauling that thing around in my lap to get seams and ends dealt with. Once mom had a real chance to take a look as the final pieces, she requested that the pockets be wider than they were long, please. So they are getting ripped out and knit again so they are the right way around. Then they need to be sewn on the vest and the whole thing washed and blocked to settle all the seams and such. Hopefully things will be done soon so she can actually have the vest to wear.
I went out Thursday to a regular appointment and got stuck in the snow 5 times. The first 3 times I managed to wiggle and work my way out of the jam, but the last two times were just beyond me and the chair. The 4th jam up was near where son works, so I made a call to ask him if he might get of work out long enough to help me, he asked me were I was and then all I heard him say was he was on his way and a click. I can’t begin to tell y’all how bloody much I love that boy of mine!!! While waiting for son to come rescue me, three older teen boys, immigrants from some African country, suddenly came up and started to work on getting me free from the snow. They spoke English, but didn’t stop to ask if I needed help, they just stepped in and helped, suddenly I was free and moving on my own again. I thanked them and they took off to get back to what they were doing, all I could think was how grateful I was for their help. Thinking to get to the corner where things looked clear and meet up with son, I got not 100 yards down that same sidewalk and I was jammed again! All this snow that looked packed down was, in reality, really loose in some areas and this kept causing my wheels to get jammed. Good thing son was on his way, by then I am really tired, sore and running out of energy. Son arrives, gets me broken loose once more and delivers me to my appointment. From then on I take only the roads and the cars can crawl behind me for all I care. Don’t like it, shovel your damn sidewalks properly!! My last 2 jam-ups happened on sidewalks belonging to the Big Mall’s property, which they sort of cleared enough for able-bodies people to manage to get through… buggers!
Speaking of clearing up the snow, son was attempting to dig me out from the pile the snowplow left in my parking spot and the walkway in front of it, when the plow tried to bury him in yet another load of the white shit it was clearing off of the parking lot in my co-op. I had to go out and have word with the operator and tell him that I didn’t care what anyone told him, this area had been maxed out for the dumping of snow and he was now blocking wheelchair access. My son was having to dig me out so I could get out, not just for any daily access, but in case of an emergency and I didn’t give a damn where else he put the bloody snow, as long as he didn’t put anymore of it there. Now with the plus temps we have been getting the past few days, the snow has melted off some, but I will still be ripping the snow removal guys a new one if they pile snow up next me like that again.
I have had fun cooking lately… I made Gramma Ladybug’s recipe for homemade Hot & Sour soup and tried making green onion pancakes from a recipe I found on the internet for supper Friday night. The soup was easy, but the pancakes didn’t quite work out as I had hoped. They were good and edible, but didn’t have the flakiness they are supposed to have. Then last night I used some online inspiration and my kitchen-witch powers and whipped up a meal of Curried Pasta and Asian Flair Pork Burgers with Ginger Caramelized Onions that was all my own in the end. Got smart and wrote things down ASAP so I have my recipes available to make these yummy dishes again [I might share the recipes if anyone is actually interested]. The kids were super thrilled with both meals and happily ate well both nights. *wink*
All this activity has pushed me physically, so of course I am sore and hurting, but some meds and my stubborn attitude are keeping my going. Working at little bits every day gets things done, whether it is cooking, knitting, working with my fibre, spinning, cleaning or tidying up, I try to do at least one thing that I can count as an accomplishment… even if it is just getting out of bed that day!
Hey, I can now count this blog as something else I’ve done today… I’m doing good…
Just a quick post to share…
I had a very good year for making handmade gifts in 2013.
A friend has opened up her studio one day a week and I have been doing some neat stuff there that ended up being good enough to offer up as gifts. In fact I had at least two people as for certain pieces if I was in a mood to give them up. So after hunting down some nice frames and spending an afternoon doing the work, they were added to my pile of gifts that were ready to go.
I found a sweet set of figurines that seemed to be perfect for my brother, except for the ghastly colour they were painted. Kind of a crap brown with a few badly placed spots of cream that were meant to be highlights. I spent the money [it was through a hospital gift shop, the money goes to fund the hospital] and decided to do a new paint job on them. I forgot to take a before photo, but here is how they turned out.
Next came the knitted goods… I meant to try and get it all done, but I was down to the wire on Son’s socks to the point were I forgot to snap a photo, but they got wrapped and packed in time for gift giving on the big day. Here are some of the other things I did get done, a cowl and a pair of hand-spun, hand-knit, lined mitts for d-i-l. You will just have to imagine the socks in your head… tube style, green cuffs, purple foot… what can I say, the kids love funky socks!
[EDIT – Son stopped by for a few minutes to grab some stuff before heading back out and happened to be wearing his hand-knit socks so I grabbed a quick photo of them in situ to add here]
So that left the items in which only some of the parts were done and some were still in progress, the house vest for my mom [which BFF #1 was helping with] and a hand-spun, hand-knit mobious cowl for BFF #1. The Vest for mom still needs to be seamed and finished, but the cowl is done except for the sewing in of the yarn ends… looks pretty nice though, the trim has fur from her poodle who died a couple of years back spun into the yarn, so it’s a lovely memory piece for her too.
I will have to take a photo and share the vest when it is finally done, but I hope you have enjoyed my handmade gift gallery from the 2013 holidays.
For anyone that isn’t a spinner that needs to wash out skeins after they are finished being spun, who like me, waits until I have a bunch [or a couple dozen] of them to do all together and make the effort worth the time, you can take a pass on this blog if you want…
For anyone who is, please read on… I got a brilliant light bulb moment back about 6 months ago and finally tested my theory out the whole way and I have to say it saved me a ton of stress and angst. I use the washing machine, fill it with hot soapy water, soak them awhile, spin them out, add a bit of vinegar to the rinse water, soak again, spin out again and then hang them to dry. While they are all going through that washing, rinsing, being all wet cycle, my paper tags can’t stay with each skein and then I lose track of what each one is and yardages on each, etc. Memory like a sieve most days, some of you have to hear me on this…
anyway, brilliant idea came about when I realized there were a pile of bread tags in a dish that we had been saving for some reason no one could remember and I was going to toss them out when I happened upon the idea of using them as ID tags for my skeins.
I picked out the white tags with no printing on them and with a sharpie marker I started labelling them “A, B, C, D, …” and so on until I got to R [ran out of tags at that point], then I grabbed hinged ring to keep them all together and neat while not in use. All I needed was a notebook and I started ID’ing my skeins and listing all the pertinent information on that skein under the letter on the bread tag.
Finally got to a point where I really needed wash the skeins I had finished, or make up more bread tags and tossed all my skeins into a wash & rinse cycle… Lo & behold! There are all my skeins, clearly tagged and now I just have to refer to my notebook to create paper labels for each one once they are dry and ready for sale or storage.
How easy [and cool] is that!
I have a standing invite every Monday [that isn’t a holiday] to go to a friend’s Open Art Studio day. It runs from 3 pm to 9 pm and typically I take advantage of the full 6 hour stretch. She encourages me to do painting while I am there to get my head into a whole different artistic space for awhile, it’s genuinely fun, all the folk who show up end up spending time talking, laughing and sharing stories over a coffee or tea and I have come home with some fantastic work that is actually worth framing and hanging on my wall.
So today I was not feeling so great, my head and body are all achy, head and nose are feeling like they are full of cotton and my nose won’t stop yelling for tissues – STAT! – It’s the fall allergy season; I’m used to this after years of suffering… I know it is going to be a stretch to haul my aching self there on the bus and then the congestion & cotton brain is just not the kind of thing that makes creativity spring up happy and free, so I opted to stay home and try to do something even mildly creative here.
Today’s creative project was photography… No matter if you are a hobby crafter, an artisan, a cottage industry seller, or a whole sale Ebay master, you need pictures of your product if you are going to sell your product.
Since I am a crafter of various crafts and try to sell what I can to help pay for the multiple hobbies I partake in [and for the simple fact I like the feeling when my stuff goes to people who are just keen for the handmade stuff], I needed to do the photo shoot thing to give my prospective buyers a decent idea of what I am selling. You see, while there is a huge truth in the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but there is also the codicil that says the wrong kind of picture can kill your story before it starts!
I had taken a bunch of photos of my hand-spun yarns awhile back, but I needed GOOD shots of the yarns if I was to post them for sale. Starting with the brighter yarns in the small case I usually take to markets, sales and festivals, I set up my mini studio on the trunk in front of the living room window to take advantage of the natural light as much as I could. I will tell you this little fact, natural light can go from fantastic to shitty in the time it takes to shift one skein of yarn off and the next one on, but I digress…
The pictures I took back in February were only intended to be a visual inventory of what I had on hand and ready to sell, the pictures I was trying to get today are intended to interest buyers in these skeins of hand-crafted yarns; they have to make the product look good and that can be hard. There is a lot that goes into taking product shots; first you have to get it to look appealing, then you have to get the lighting right so the colours stay as true as possible, you can’t forget to keep them clear and focused so they can make out details you are trying to highlight.
For example, the inventory shot of a pair of skeins
vs. the for sale shot
You can see the presentation is different…
So my afternoon has been filled with controlled chaos and my already aching body has now added tired to the list of complaints, but I am a stubborn and move on… I need to try to keep track of what I have already done, don’t forget to work the presentation, lighting is important [keep an eye on it!], details & keep it in focus, get multiple shots to cover all the bases – then times all that by a couple dozen skeins – it is very time consuming and a great deal of work, but in the end you look them over with fingers crossed that they look as good on the screen as they did in the camera – all that work for a bunch of crappy shots can break your heart and make all that work a futile effort.
If they have all turned out as you hoped, then comes then next hurdle in selling online. You see posting and/or uploading them is the easy part, it is adding all the right details along side the right photo that can consume an afternoon or evening before you know it… so I cheated a little bit and made sure to take photos of the labels as well so that I can refer to the photo itself for the information, saving me the hassle of needing a written inventory and making posting them for sale soooooooo much easier!
Then there is dealing with the clean-up afterwards, because you know you wanted to get the light while you could, so you just draped the skeins in a pile so you could move fast. A couple dozen rounds of twist and tuck gets them looking neat and tidy and so they don’t get messed up and/or tangled while in transit. In the end they are all tucked back into their travel case and stacked back with the other cases of items for sale.
This is the tip of my iceberg, but it was all I could handle today and it is better than nothing at all…
Now I can relax with a mug of tea and peruse a bit of this and that, a few hours of work to produce not so many pictures as one might think, but I have to say I am so very grateful for the digital age, this would have cost me a freaking fortune if I had to do all this on actual film!!
Take these tiny little things in the picture, they are silicone nose pads. For those that don’t wear glasses, they are the things that keep the frames from rubbing your nose raw if you get a pair that don’t have them ready made in the frame itself.
Last week I lost one of the pads on my glasses. It had to have been sometime on Thursday I lost it, but I didn’t notice it was missing until Friday morning when I put my glasses on first thing in the morning and things didn’t feel right.
I took them back off to see what is amiss and there was the problem, one missing pad, leaving me with a little metal stump to press into the side of my nose and put an incredible amount of pressure on one tiny spot on my nose. It was quite painful, like someone pressing a sharp pencil tip into the side of my nose. A little eye glass shop was going to charge $5 to replace just one… My Optometrist’s office would replace it for free if I could wait until Monday.
Monday afternoon I was finally able to swing past the Eye Dr.’s office and get that little silicone piece replaced, can you say “what a difference a tiny little thing like that can make”?
It made me think about all the tiny little things that make life tootle along in our day-to-day life. We can rant about how tiny things bug us, irritate us, anger us, frustrate us, but I would like you all to think about the little things that make our lives easier, different, better, more comfortable, cleaner.
Like the little nose pads on glasses, clicker buttons on pens, all the little seals in our cars/plumbing/etc, the safety pin in the bottom of your purse [or desk drawer], a sewing needle, a penny, a hearing aid no bigger that the tip of your little finger…
I could keep going, but the point I want to make is I stopped to take a look at one tiny thing that made such a difference in my life and wanted to share the idea that tiny things can make a big difference in all our lives, perhaps we can all take a moment to be grateful for at least one every day.