Saturday, May 23, 2015

Adventures in Dairy

Well hello there, May.

I made butter last week. It was surprisingly easy.

The Google can tell you a lot of ways to do this. What I did:

  1. Dump a pint of cream (pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized) into the mixing bowl of a standing mixer.
  2. Use the whip attachment
  3. Whip on medium-high for awhile (8 minutes?)
Oh yeah, once it starts to butter-ize, it will start to get messy as the buttermilk starts sloshing around, so drape a kitchen towel over the mixer. I hear a handheld mixer works just as well, just requires a little longer. Or, you know, an hour of hand whipping.

Overwhipped cream

Starting to butter (see the moisture at the bottom?)

I took a Beginning Dairy class a few weeks ago (no, not really the name) where we made butter by passing around a sealed mason jar full of cream and everyone shakes it for a couple minutes. After about 20 minutes you get the same results. We also made ricotta and discussed yogurt, feta, and other young cheeses. Apparently I need a good cave to make aged cheeses. Bummer.

I really like very fresh butter that hasn't picked up any off flavors. I have a problem with most grocery store butter, as it so often tastes just that little bit funky. It's fine for cooking, but straight up, it tastes like whatever else happens to be near it. I admit to occasionally paying way too much for fresh farm butter from the farmers market, since it just tasted like butter, and nothing else (which I would use a tiny bit of, and freeze-hoard the rest, slowly thawing out pieces for myself). My butter tasted pretty close to this, which makes me happy.

Oh, to make it last longer, I did rinse it in several washes of ice water:

  1. Pour out the buttermilk into another container
  2. Pour ~a cup of ice water onto the butter
  3. Squish with rubber spatula
  4. Dump out the cloudy ice water
And repeat until the dumped ice water is no longer cloudy. 

I should have froze some of it, because it makes way more butter than I can eat in a few days. Although I did then have to go bake a loaf of oatmeal buttermilk sandwich bread, so I could a) use up the buttermilk, and b) have my butter on my bread. Yum.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I haven't been posting because I've been avoiding this. I don't particularly want to talk about it now.

Frances died at the end of last year.
I still miss her all the time.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Biblical Precipitation

The weather report says it's supposed to rain A LOT tomorrow, in a small amount of time (check out that Total Precipitable Water graph: nice Pineapple Express jet, huh? It's aimed pretty much directly at where I live. I get unhealthily interested in being at weather epicenters)

Image from the University of Wisconsin - go take a look at the animated one, it's neat.

They're predicting 3-6 inches of rain in the city in the next 24 hours, along with heavy winds. They've already canceled school in SF, Oakland, and Marin (which is supposed to get even more).

Now, to be fair, 6 inches of rain in a short amount of time creates big problems in a place that:

(1) already has saturated wet ground, so the soil can't soak up any more. This is kind of hard to explain to anyone who doesn't live in a desert, but the rain doesn't soak in, it RUNS OFF. (Or even more fun, it feeds underground springs and creeks. See also the sinkhole that opened up last week). Back in Portland the ground could absorb enormous amounts of water before it just got waterlogged and couldn't take any more and suddenly you had a pond not a backyard. The soil here is totally different.

Other cities that are used to flash floods have infrastructure to contain them. Albuquerque, New Mexico has an extensive system of storm drain arroyos to funnel off all that massive precipitation so that it doesn't just run down streets, e.g. the path of least resistance, like it will here tomorrow.

(2) Also there are a bunch of plants and trees suffering from the drought, so many of them are either dead or parts of them are dead, leading to:

(3) expected high winds at the same time == trees falling down and bringing down power lines.

So if the worst happens, it'll be fairly dangerous driving around, with pouring rain, downed trees, and possibly power outages and downed live wires.

But still, it makes me wince a little inside to think of school called for rain. Oh, California.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


At the end of October, my Mom and I drove from Utah to Florida.
We went from this:
to this:
in five days.

It is a long story, but the upshot is that Mom decided she was going to spend the winter in Florida this year, and that she was going to drive there. I came along to keep her company and share the driving.

Before this trip I'd never been to most of Texas or the South, except for the occasional layover in Atlanta and Dallas/Ft Worth (I once spent a week in Houston in July, which I hope to never repeat.)

Since we spent most of our time driving and this trip had an emphasis on Getting There,  we didn't see as much as either of would have liked. We missed almost all of Louisiana, much to my regret. We had to pick and choose where to dawdle. But we did have time for a few things. It was an interesting trip.

Cadillac Ranch, outside of Amarillo, TX

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


First: Aw, thanks, LynneW. It was fun to make it! I'm very pleased with the result.


A few weeks ago a friend of a friend invited me over for an indigo dying session. I haven't ever messed around with indigo before and so was interested to try it. Friend of a friend's friend (this is getting confusing. Let's just call him Alfred, and her Tien) was well-practised in the indigo and prepped a vat for us. We also did some katazome, which is Japanese water-soluble resist dyeing using rice bran paste.

Indigo legs

I was fairly happy with how my samples turned out, even though they weren't great (shut up, inner perfectionist). Indigo is kind of fascinating to work with from a chemistry perspective - the dye exists in soluble, reduced form in the vat, but once removed from the vat it oxidizes into the blue with which you're familiar (blue jeans!). Wet out of the vat it's a beautiful teal-ey green that slowly turns blue. It's got a copper sheen to it as it dries.

We had such a good time, Tien suggested we might go do a weekend workshop with a master artist she knows up in Northern California.

So this is how I found myself last weekend in Covelo, CA, taking a workshop with John Marshall.

One of my samples of katazome & fresh indigo dyeing, on cotton. The flower pattern is woven in.

We learned an enormous array of things - fresh indigo dyeing, growing tips, Japanese textiles, block dyeing, rubbings, natural pigments, katazome preparation and application. Yar, I need to sit down and write out all my notes. I've also got about a billion pictures. Fresh indigo dyeing produces a blue that's a bit more green and less grey than regular indigo.

The plant itself is nifty - you can see the blue in the leaves!
Blurry, terrible picture of fresh Japanese Indigo, Polygonum tinctorium

Fresh vat (abetted by some commercial crystals, as we ran out of time steeping the fresh)

Sadly I don't have much space to grow indigo (or enough water. Stupid drought). The weekend was fascinating, though. It was like being able to talk to an encyclopedia and him being able to answer back and go off on tangents like those wikipedia link wanderings I like to do. It was also lovely to talk with someone who absolutely knows what they want to do and is actually doing it. And who after all this time is still fascinated with it and learning new things about it. I only wish that I could feel so grounded and content. Contentment doesn't necessarily mean boredom.

Beautiful Covelo, CA.  Do cows have mid-life crises?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Adventures in Figs

I don't know about you but I never ate much in the way of figs (except in Newton form). However, now that I live in a Mediterranean Clime, I find figs in the local grocery stores, in little green plastic baskets like the kind that hold strawberries.

Aren't they pretty? These are Black Mission.

I had some plums from the CSA, and found a Grown-Up Recipe involving figs and plums in a brandy-sugar reduction, and though maybe I'd pretend to act my age and try it out. It was fairly simple, and very, very good. I am so making that again if I ever host any dinner parties (Ha. That happens about once ever 10 years).

I had some figs leftover after Grown-Up Recipe, and since roasting makes everything better, on another night I brushed them with some olive oil and stuck them in the oven. We had them in a salad with blue cheese and nuts. Mmm so good.

I used to hate salads when I was growing up, and I pretty much still despise crappy lettuce salads. I don't much care for lettuce drowning in some half-assed vinaigrette, and I can really do without the iceberg except in certain specific cases where I'm looking for crunch. I prefer salads that balance all their flavors together. The lettuce is just one of those flavors. Look at me, a salad snob.

We did this last week with peaches (not really roasted as much as just warmed up). Oh WOW. I'm usually not a huge fan of sweet-savory, but these peaches weren't particularly sweet, and with some goat cheese and arugula they were amazing.

In other news, I made a throw pillow. With an invisible zipper, even! I have a new friend, and she is called Invisible Zipper Foot.

Monday, September 29, 2014

There has been much fabric

And not a whole lot else.
This is only a small bit of it. But it's a cute bit.

(There is, of course, the Current Commuter Socks, and I got bored one night and started Glockenblume, but doilies don't count.)

Crazy Aunt Purl once had a post about how she noticed that she was buying stuff because at work she missed her current stuff, and her speculation was that she was just buying things so that she could "visit her stuff" on the weekends. That is an excellent description of what I've been doing lately. It's not really how I want to live, so I am working more on actually doing and not just acquiring.

The quilt shops of San Francisco are small but well-curated. They are definitely aimed at a particular audience, but as I appear to be pan-fabric-phyllic, it's all good.

Back before I gained the pile of yarn, I did a lot of quilting. Since I got distracted by yarn and dyeing, there's been all this interesting new modern quilting movement, and it's been fun to look through quilting blogs. I am so dating myself.

(except I am so over perfect women with perfect houses and perfect children and the rest of their perfect  lives. Also I might twitch a little at blog posts signed with big swirly signatures. Not a hater, just reminds me of those elementary school girls who used hearts instead of dots on their i's. I didn't have a great experience with those girls.)

I do not have a perfect life, although I am extremely lucky to have my own studio space.
My very messy studio space.

That's the panorama shot I took a few weeks ago. Huge, unworkable mess. Here, I've annotated it for you:

I got tired of not being able to find anything, and finally committed on some shelving. With Ikea and the Love Monkey's help securing things to walls, it looks a little better now. I'm still working on it. I'll take an after picture when I can see more of the floor.

A couple of San Francisco pictures:

Dr. Seuss called and he wants his flowers back

This is the bloom of the Red-flowering Gum. Yes, I know it's pink. San Francisco has such a weird really-it's-a-desert-except-for-all-that-fog climate that very odd things grow here. Australian and New Zealand natives seem to have done the best. And enormous, so-large-you-would-not-believe-it jade plants. No seriously, they're considered an invasive species.

Bay Bridge at sunset, from the Embarcadero

This looks very much like Pacific Northwest picture to me. I think it's the ferries coming in that does it.

Frances and I, basking in the sun