Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weekend Fun with Strawberries

On Saturday, 3 good friends and I went strawberry picking at Bauer Berry Farm.  We agreed in advance that we would really only need 20 pounds of fruit to satisfy our eating, freezing and preserving needs.  However, once there, our eyes became bigger than our stomachs and our ambition doubled.  Long story short, we picked 32lbs of deliciousness(this doesn't include any casualties that may have been eaten whilst picking).  

And, oh what to do with 32lbs of deliciousness?  The possibilities are endless.  We spent the rest of the afternoon solving that conundrum.  Luckily, many hands make light work as we busily washed, hulled, sliced, infused,  mashed, boiled, canned, froze and baked.   And despite our best efforts to make any sort of significant dent in our harvest we all still managed to take home 2lbs of fresh strawberries to just simply enjoy.

 Half pint jars sterilized and waiting.
 Strawberry thyme jam
Strawberry infused vodka
Strawberry Scones

Monday, June 27, 2011


Oh my, these very hungry caterpillars seem to double in size every day.  Before I knew it, I had 13 chrysalis' and 5 honkin' big caterpillars getting ready to pupate.  See that dark chrysalis in the middle?  I wrote about him here.  The transparency of the chrysalis indicates that a butterfly will most likely be emerging within the next 24 hours.  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend Fun in Stillwater

Stillwater,  the quintessentially perfect tourist town.  It thrives on old time malts, saltwater taffy, antiques and beer.  Being there makes me forget everything and time passes in a blink of an eye.  I adore the warehouse sized shops brimming with antiquities and with junk (but I suppose that can be debatable depending on the buyer).  It is like walking through an episode of Hoarders and stumbling across Antique Roadshow.    The rarities are a delight, but the everyday artifacts are a marvel.

As Emily and I wound our way through piles of magazines, shelves of spice jars and bowls of old matchbooks, we couldn't help but wonder who and why anyone would have thought these things were worth saving.  I wonder where every item I see and touch has been and what it might have meant to each person.  I thumb through old postcards reading words written over 100 years ago and ponder about who wrote them and what they did. Despite the chaos, I am inspired by the simplicity of some pieces and the ornateness of others.  I appreciate the quality, the design and the thought that went into each item, a concept that seems to have lost its way in this modern world.

I've been snatching up crochet doilies as fast as I can.   I only have 5, but my goal is to get enough to eventually make a table cloth 
 I love these flour sack hand towels.  Linens like this are easily found and cheaper than what you would pay for them new, plus they are hand embroidered with quirky vegetable people!
I am a sucker for Venetian trading beads.  I love everything about them, the irregular shapes, bright primary colors, and simplistic designs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hello, my name is Adam.

I am notorious for talking about my cats, but once spring hits I become equally obsessed with my caterpillars.  Maybe I am just prone to liking things that have the prefix "cat".  Whatever the reason, I have blabbed endlessly at work about the miracle of raising monarch caterpillars until Beth finally asked if I could bring one in to serve as a team mascot.  Of course, I was excited.  So excited that I set up a presidential suite for this one special caterpillar.  The only question was, which lucky caterpillar would it be?

Later in the week on a walk with Adam, I was talking about caterpillars (as usual) and how to find them.  I then pointed out a patch of milkweed and watched as Adam walked up to the first plant and said nonchalantly, "I found one".  And indeed he did.  I was so proud of his discovery that I decided this lucky little guy deserved to be the special team mascot at work.  Adam, humbly, named the caterpillar Adam. 

Adam (the caterpillar) has since taken permanent residence on Beth's desk and I have been ecstatic to see how interested and excited everyone has been to observe and watch him grow.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rainy Days

This week has been a rainy one.  My bike and I have found ourselves caught in the rain almost every day- sometimes twice a day.

On Wednesday, I biked to work in a steady shower, but by noon the weather had cleared into a bright sunny day.  I distinctly remember sitting in a 3 hour meeting stealing glances through the window longing to be outside and counting down the seconds to the end of the work day.  Of course, to my dismay, the weather took a U-turn right at 5PM and I left work the same way I came, in the rain!

But, life goes on.  I remind myself of that trip I took to India in 2006 in the middle of the monsoon season when scattered showers interrupted each day.  At first, I took every effort to dodge under a canopy to wait it out, but then I noticed that nobody seemed phased by the downpours, they just simply went on with their lives.  I imagine nothing would ever get done if we all decided to wait it out together.  So, by the end of the trip, I had gotten used to trucking along rain or shine.

Despite this schizophrenic weather, I welcome the intermittent downpours.  Rain is cleansing. Like the sorbet between courses, it erases and it freshens.  It also nurtures nature and it nurtures me.  It gives me a moment to take a break and it reminds me that there are things out of my control.  I think about one of my favorite characters on Star Trek, Tuvak, who so wisely says, “It is illogical to dwell on situations beyond your control”.   This philosophy applies to life and not just weather, logically.

Of course, I still sit here; now, inside, listening to the pitter patter of raindrops outside and tell myself, "this is a perfect day to get things done."  I should do all those things I hate to do (particularly on sunny days); like clean or organize.  Instead, I wind up weaving, reading a book or knitting; but then again that is the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.  Isn't it?  Rainy days are to enjoy; not abhor.

And it hasn't stopped me from my milk weed/caterpillar hunt or from enjoying the glimpses into summer that I have been yearning for.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Last weekend I went to Bachmans to pick up some  annuals for my flower pots.  There happened to be a flower show hosted by the Minnesota Peony Society.  Until now, I thought peonies only came in the color scheme of Valentine's Day.  Boy was I wrong.  Check out some of these rare beauties.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Hand towels are to looms as socks are to knitting needles.  Apparently I seem to be in a hand towel funk.    They are just so easy and fun and relatively cheap to make.  They are great gifts and I can try a lot of different techniques and color combos. I promise my next project will be a second set of curtains for my bedroom, but I guarantee I will always have a hand towel warp ready to go as a good filler project.  This is my second stab at turned twill blocks.  This warp just makes me so happy.  I love the saturated tonal aquas and zesty limes.  Whenever I sit down to weave I am reminded of the ocean.  Happy weaving!

Monday, June 13, 2011


When life gives you lemons; make Limoncello!!  On my recent visit to the bay area, I was lucky enough to enjoy Baby Imo's beautiful lemon tree in full fruit.  Within feet of these gorgeous lemons the scent is lemony to the millionth degree.   I spent my first evening there casually sniffing a lemon every few minutes.  With such bounty, I insisted on stuffing 24 of them into my already crowded carry on.  Once home, I was dead set on making Limoncello.   After completing the first batch, I decided to make Arancello (orange) as well.
 Check out these lemony beauties.  Even after a long plane ride and a few days in the fridge, the scent is undeniably strong and delicious.
 Peeled with all pith removed, the alcohol is already beginning to extract the oil pigments from the skin of the fruit.  
And what to do with 24 leftover lemons?  Well, make lemonade of course!  

 Here is the recipe I use for home made Limoncello.  You can start drinking the deliciousness after 80 days, but for a smoother and more mature flavor, I recommend a 1-2 year mellowing period.

1 Bottle Everclear 95% alcohol/90proof 750ml
1 bottle Vodka 40% alcohol/40proof 750ml
15 thick skinned organic  lemons
750ml filtered or distilled water
5.5 cups sugar
1 Gallon Jars ( I used Kimchee jars)
#2 coffee filters
#4 coffee filters

Day 1
Wash and peel lemons.  You can use a lemon peeler but you want to make sure to remove all of the white pith as this will cause your limoncello to taste bitter.  I used a fruit zester.

Combine lemon peels, Everclear and Vodka in the gallon jar.  Close tightly and store in a cool dark place for 43 days

On days 8, 22 and 36, gently stir

Day 43
Test brittlness of peels.  If they snap easily then they are ready.  With a slotted spoon remove peels from alcohol

Filter limoncello with the #4 filters 2 times.  In the mean time wash out the gallon jar before returning limoncello to it

Combine 3 cups water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool

Once everything is filtered, add the cooled syrup.  Return to a cool and dry place for 40 more days

Day 83
Filter limoncello through the #2 coffee filters.  Repeat.

Fill and cork bottles with limoncello and continue to store in a cool dry place.  You can now enjoy your creation, however the longer you wait the mellower and smoother your limoncello will be.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tis the season for butterflies!

The weather, being unseasonably cold has pushed out the start of the Monarch Butterfly Season.  A week ago, I spotted my first Monarch fluttering around my backyard and I knew the time was soon approaching.   A few days ago, on a whim, I took a walk around my neighborhood to do a bit of caterpillar egg reconnaissance at some of my favorite milkweed hot spots.  I came home with 12 eggs and 5 caterpillars of varying sizes.  Since then, 9 of my 12 eggs have hatched and I have found 5 more on my own milk weed in my backyard.  Once hatched these caterpillars, although only the size of a pin point, will grow vigorously over the next 2 weeks and will require a constant supply of milk weed to feast on.

Today, on my way home from work, I decided to bike along the midtown greenway to search for more eggs and to gather a stockpile of milkweed for my ever hungry and growing caterpillars.  The hunt is  incredibly satisfying for me.  I kept my eyes peeled for clusters of milkweed along the greenway as I rode slowly by.  Once spotted, I hopped off and spent a decent amount of time searching for my prized treasures.  I focused on plants with large gaping holes in the leaves, knowing that these were most likely to reveal caterpillars hiding underneath.   To my delight, I found a plant containing 2 caterpillars, but then later outdid myself by finding one with 3 of them and then 4 of them!  I have never found very large caterpillars, so I was absolutely thrilled to stumble across a humongous one.  My hands were so overladen with leaves that I emptied my lunchbox and used it as a carrier.  I look forward to watching each and every one of these magnificent creatures transform into a gorgeous butterfly.

Currently the Monarch population is dwindling due to lack of milkweed acreage.  In the wild, the chance of an egg making it to the butterfly stage is only 3 out of every 100 eggs laid.  For more information and  fun facts on these beauties check out National Geographic.
 Each one of the above milkweed leaves contains a caterpillar egg.
 My most recent acquisitions.
That extra large one, munching on his home plant.  This guy will be the first to make a chrysalis in my household.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weekend Fun San Francisco

After my 3 day trip to L.A., I hopped a flight up to San Francisco to visit my 2 California Imos and a good friend, Marie.  During my stay I....

Feasted on Korean food.
Indulged in a scrub and massage at the Korean Bath house.
Ate the best mochi ever from Shuei-Do Manju Shop in Japan town.
Walked halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Tried my hand at rock climbing at Planet Granite and only cheated a little!
Delighted my taste buds at Tartine Bakery.
Savored the smell of fresh lemons in my Imo's backyard.
Played with at least 15 different foster kittens
Snapped about a zillion kitten photos.  It was just too LOL CATS to pass up

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Santa Monica

Last week, I was off to Los Angeles on a shopping trip for work.  I love to travel, so an all expenses paid trip to almost anywhere is right up my alley.  I've been to L.A. twice before but I think this is the first time I noticed how literally every single L.A. inhabitant is absolutely gorgeous.  Even the chick getting me my coffee looks like she just got off the runway.  I don't know how they do it, but I did start to feel self conscious about my unruly hair and not so cute sandals.  It probably didn't help that we stayed, in what I would consider, a swanky hotel called the Viceroy in Santa Monica where the degree of gorgeousness increased exponentially.

On the bright side,the weather was a balmy 75 degrees, we were outside for the majority of the day and I discovered my new favorite breakfast hot spot in Santa Monica called Urth Cafe.
 Cappuccino art
 Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding with caramelized bananas
Wandering through Santa Monica in the wee morning; I also stumbled across the Santa Monica Community Garden.  I am happy to see that even prime real estate is being devoted to such a humble hobby.