Martinique Beach Provincial Park

For the long weekend, we decided to go check out the beach! That is what everyone does in October, right? We made our way up north to Martinique Beach Provincial Park which is only a 45 minute drive north of Dartmouth and just hung out on the beach for the morning. It is not the first time we have taken Holly to the beach, but every time we go she can walk a little better so she gets more and more keen on exploring. Can’t wait until next summer when we can go swimming at the beach with Holly!

It was around 2km of unbroken sandy beach. Coming from the Seattle Puget Sound I am jealous.

It was around 2 km of unbroken, sandy beach. Coming from the Seattle Puget Sound, I am jealous.

Now with extra walking

Now with extra walking!

It only rained a little bit

It only rained a little bit.

Exuberant Walking!

Exuberant walking!

Homemade Iris Ink

I realized in the middle of summer that it had been a while since I had done any fun projects for no purpose, which was sad. The iris that we had clipped and left on our table was also looking sad. When it dropped some purple water from the wilting flower I got and idea: I should make some ink!

After looking into it, there seemed to be a lot of varied information about how to make ink from plants, but nothing said you could make ink from iris flowers with certainty. Rather than care if it worked, I decided to use science, randomly cluggeded together info from websites, and a variety of flowers to see how it worked out.

The chosen flower, based on what was blooming in the yard. Poppy / Iris / Camilla

The chosen flowers, based on what was blooming in the yard. Poppy / Iris / Camilla

Step 1: Boil white vinegar and salt with the flowers. I put in too much salt, really you just need a pinch as you boil down the ink later.

Step 1: Boil white vinegar and salt with the flowers. I put in too much salt. You really just need a pinch as you boil down the ink later.

Strain (I just used leftover muslin) the peddles after 30 minutes of boiling.

Strain (I just used leftover muslin) the petals after 30 minutes of boiling.

Results! the far right is Iris after boiling down to the consistency of ink.

Results! The far right is iris after boiling down to the consistency of ink.

The top left shows the inks after one boiling and straining. They were much more like watercolors than inks. Middle left, I reduced the inks by half volume and they worked as paint, but were not quite ink. Bottom left, I boiled down until I got the consistency of ink and it worked! The colours were all pretty muted by the end of the boiling and the poppy was especially hard to use as the additional salt started to crystallize the ink, but this is certainly a way to make ink.

I used a piece of ornamental grass cut at the end to a sharp angle as an impromptu quill.

I used a piece of ornamental grass cut at the end to a sharp angle as an impromptu quill.

Overall, I would say this was a great success; I succeeded in making ink. While I just threw these out when we moved, I am certainly going to try this again next year with some measurements and a real quill!

We’ve Moved!

Sorry for the lack of updates recently but we have had a very busy couple of months! Jasmine wasn’t happy with her job so she found a new one – with a twist. It is a marine robotics job located in Nova Scotia. So a couple of weeks ago, we finished all of our preparations and moved to Canada!

We have a bit of a backlog of posts, some moving related, some crafting before we put all of our belongings into a box. I plead tiredness, but the posts will begin anew soon!

We were all tired.

We were all tired.

Jellyfish Mobile

I bought a book of knit amigurumi patterns a few years ago. I’ve made a lot of things from the book, but kept thinking about the jellyfish pattern. Just one jellyfish seemed weird and I didn’t know how to get around that problem. So when Lloyd and I talked about making a mobile for our daughter, I knew what I wanted to do. Two trips to the yarn store and a few months later, we had an fun mobile (The knitting was easy. Finding the time was … difficult.)!

The jellyfish is knit in five parts: a body and four tentacles.

The jellyfish is knit in five parts: a body and four tentacles.

Attach the tentacles to the body and you get a jellyfish.

Attach the tentacles to the body and you get a jellyfish.

The completed mobile in the nursery.

The completed mobile in the nursery.

I can report the mobile is well loved. Holly gets excited about it on a regular basis. Success!

Spring Flowers

One of the few benefits of the quarantimes is extra gardening time since you are not going anywhere anyway! The unfortunate part is that there are not a lot of open nurseries or garden centers so our vegetable patch is looking a little sparse but, on the plus side, we have a lot of perennial flowers and herbs and even some overwintering veggies. Enjoy the various views of our spring here in West Seattle (and hopefully we are getting into enough of a groove that posts will be more frequent again soon).

DSC_0138 (2)

Holly likes exploring the vast (to her) backyard.

A couple different sorts of tulip, daffodils, and some purple flower I don't know. Up next are the rhododendrons and roses.

A couple different sorts of tulips, daffodils, and some purple flower I don’t know. Up next are the rhododendrons and roses.

Made a pesto with the local parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and Swiss chard.

Made a pesto with the local parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and Swiss chard.

Homemade Crackers

I’ve been taking advantage of the lack of easily accessible baked goods to be a bit more experimental with my baking and crackers have been one of my ongoing projects. I came across the recipe in How to Cook Everything which claims they are really easy. In my experience, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The recipe, at least, is super simple:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water (plus more as needed)

Combine the ingredients together and kneed until the dough sticks together and feels a bit stiff. Then roll it out until it’s about 1/8″ thick. I don’t bother to make it look pretty, but that’s a personal call.

The first tricky bit is something I’ve noticed in all of the How to Cook Everything baking recipes: the recipe as written is boring. You definitely need to add seasoning to make it interesting. I’ve been doing sea salt and fresh ground pepper because it’s what we have and it goes well with a variety of toppings. Once I add the salt and pepper, I run the rolling pin lightly over the crackers a couple of times so that the seasonings don’t fall off when it bakes.

The next tricky bit is scoring the crackers. The instructions say “lightly score”, but you really need to cut through it at least 75% and then let the crackers cool completely before you try to break them apart. I’m still trying to perfect this part. Making progress, though! Then bake at 400 F until lightly golden brown. About 15 minutes.

Once you break apart the crackers, serve with your favorite topping. They’re use up relatively few resources and make for a tasty snack. I’ll definitely be making these again!

This is what my latest batch looked like before I put it in the oven.

This is what my latest batch looked like before I put it in the oven.

The crackers are ready to come out of the oven when they're just a little golden brown.

The crackers are ready to come out of the oven when they’re just a little golden brown.

Ready to eat! With guacamole!

Ready to eat! With guacamole!

Coffee!

Are you working from home in our new distance economy? Does that daily grind get you down?

yes :(

yes :(

Well you need some coffee! After having discovered that I actually like coffee a while ago, especially cafe drinks, I spent some time learning how to make coffee at home that I like. You will need a 12 oz french press, a burr grinder (yes a burr grinder or buying pre-ground is much better), a whisk, and some boiling water. Oh yeah, a cute assistant doesn’t hurt either.

2 mugs, whole milk, french press, whole bean, burn grinder, pot o' water.

2 mugs, whole milk, french press, whole beans, burn grinder, pot o’ water.

Cute assistant.

Cute assistant.

Grind 1/4 cup of beans (I like medium roasted, but you do you) into 1/4 cup of ground beans. Add to the french press, then add 1/4 cup of water just off the boil. Bloom the coffee by stirring, then letting sit for 30 seconds. Next, fill the french press 90% full with water and steep for 4 additional minutes. During this time, heat up 1/2 cup of milk, occasionally whisking on medium heat. Split the coffee and milk evenly in the two cups, and there you go – coffee for two.

Blooming.

Blooming.

Coffee

Coffee.

Finally, you want to enjoy the coffee sometime in the next half hour. Longer than that and it will taste meh. So that is how I make coffee at home, which I have to say is a large step up from a communal pot.

Enjoy.

Enjoy.

Seattle Aquarium

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Seattle Aquarium with some friends and now we are finally posting about it! I’m not saying that kids are distracting and take time, I’m just saying.

TL;DR The aquarium was a little small, but cool and fun nevertheless. The only downside was that it is surprisingly hard to take pictures in the aquarium that turn out at all with the weird lighting, thick glass, and fast motion. Mostly, I blame the index of refraction.

I think that the highlights were probably the otters for me, as they are very cute and entertaining to watch. It was more of a generally cool place with some neat underwater viewing like a huge dome and some giant tanks. We would probably go back at some point in the future, but are not in a rush.

Insert generic coral in an aquarium photo here.

Insert generic coral in an aquarium photo here.

Jellyfish! They had some color changing light and UV to show of the jellies phosphorescence.

Jellyfish! They had some color changing light and UV to show off the jellies’ phosphorescence.

Trapped in a gelatinous cylinder.

Trapped in a gelatinous cylinder.

Half of an underwater dome.

Half of an underwater dome.

An outside picture so you can reflect on how weird aquarium lighting is.

An outside picture so you can reflect on how weird aquarium lighting is.

Garden 2019 Retrospective

This was our first year in West Seattle and this means getting to know the new garden!

On the plus side, there was a bit of a garden when we moved in: one nice plum tree and one not so nice plum tree, two mediocre blueberries, and two nice fig trees. I pruned the plums aggressively and they produced alright. The berries needed a bit more pampering, but we got a handful. The figs, sadly, had too much shade or cool weather and, while we had a couple hundred figs, almost none of them got ripe. So, for the trees, I think it is just one more year of aggressive pruning to get them back to normal; then we shall profit.

On the herb front, there was some very nice sage, thyme, and seasonal parsley. Also a bunch of chamomile, but I didn’t recognize it until too late to harvest. At the end of last year, I added some rosemary and I will probably add some marjoram and basil as seasonal herbs. And I planted hops in the spring, which might count as a herb?

For the first time ever, the corn I planted got us edible corn! It was exciting but not worth it, so corn experiment done. The sunflowers are staying around for the flowers even if I never get a seed (we got maybe 50-100 seeds this year). And the scarlet runners really like the sunflowers to run up, providing us with a couple of meals worth of beans.

The tomatoes and peppers where a bust – next year, I am going from seedlings rather than from seed.

Swiss Chard (or silverbeet) remains my favorite to grow and Jasmine puts up with it OK. I think maybe worth while to add in a little lettuce for variety. And the sugar snap peas are Jasmine’s favorite so I will be running those back as well.

I planted some strawberries late in the season and they LOVED the weather, so they get a whole 3′ x 6′ plot on their own. And we will add some raspberries in a 3′ x 3′ container.

Overall, I would say I was quite happy with the garden this year and I can use the teachings to make it even better next year.

 

Corn! We got a half dozen ears. They were a bit starchy. It was not worthwhile.

Corn! We got a half dozen ears. They were a bit starchy. It was not worthwhile.

My favorite. Sunflowers.

My favorite. Sunflowers.

Scarlet runners nestled up against the sunflower. Double Flower!

Scarlet runners nestled up against the sunflower. Double flower!

New Christmas Stocking

After Holly was born, we knew we had to follow family tradition and make her a stocking. Lloyd and I spent a lot of time working out a design together that we both liked before I started knitting. It took less (calendar) time than I thought. Babies sleep most of the day so I had plenty of knitting time! Bonus: I already had most of the yarn and only had to buy one skein. This wasn’t planned; I just have a lot of yarn.

We’re very happy with the result and are looking forward to using it for many years to come.

Working out the design on grid paper. We decided to go with something a bit more hollyish than the original design.

Working out the design on grid paper. We decided to go with something a bit more hollyish than the original design.

The finished stocking,

The finished stocking,

Our Christmas fireplace. Just a slight variation in stocking sizes...

Our Christmas fireplace. Just a slight variation in stocking sizes – probably reflective of our (eventual) heights. :)