Monthly Archives: December 2013

Elderberry cocktail

We were out in Indiana visiting Jasmine’s family and we found some more food to forage: Elderberry.  These are small black/blue berries that are on a shrub and show up in the fall in tight clusters.  Since we didn’t find them till the end of December, there were not many berries left on the cluster.

The frozen lake by the elderberry patch

The frozen lake by the elderberry patch.

Bramble with some elderberry (they don't smell anything like my father)

Bramble with some elderberry (they don’t smell anything like my father).

I collected them in my pocket - this is a bad plan unless you like stained pockets

I collected them in my pocket – this is a bad plan unless you like stained pockets.

Good job we didn't have the guard dog, she love eating berries off bushes

Good job we didn’t have the guard dog; she loves eating berries off bushes.

We didn’t have very many berries so we couldn’t do anything cool like jam or sorbet so I settled on making an infusion of elderberry and vodka.  You’re supposed to cook the berries before using, but I didn’t and I thought it tasted fine (and I’m not dead yet :).  All I did was put some berries in vodka and let it sit for 10 minutes. It was rather good, somewhat like a fruity mixed drink.

The long wait of infusion

The long wait of infusion.

mmm... vodka

mmm… vodka & elberberry

Knit Christmas Mice

Now that the holidays are over, we can post some of the things we made people for Christmas. I knit most of my presents this year and found this pattern while looking for something cute and Christmasy: Holiday Mice. Lloyd and I both liked them so we made two for Lloyd’s sister-in-law.

I ran into a couple of problems with the pattern. First of all, the bobble was a bit beyond my knitting skill. I just could not get five stitches out of a single stitch. Thus, I just knit a single regular stitch where the pattern called for a bobble. Then I made each foot using the following pattern and attached them where they looked right.

Foot Pattern

  • Row 1: Cast on 5 stitches.
  • Row 2: Purl 5 stitches.
  • Row 3: Knit 5 stitches.
  • Row 4: Purl 2 together, purl 1, purl 2 together.
  • Row 5: Slip 1, knit 2 together, pass slipped stitch over.
  • Bind off and sew the edges shut.
The foot once I finished knitting it.

The foot once I finished knitting it.

The foot once I sewed it shut.

The foot once I sewed it shut.

I made four of these feet for each mouse. Next, I made the body and head as described in the pattern. When I attached the head and feet to the body, it looked like this:

The body with the head and feet attached.

The body with the head and feet attached.

I then added some embroidery to make the eyes and nose. The eyes were made with black yarn and the nose was made with the same pink yarn used in the tail and ears.

It's looking more mouse-like!

It’s looking more mouse-like!

There were a couple of options listed in the pattern for the tail. I decided to braid the pink yarn to make the tail since it looked to be about the right thickness. On the side that would be the tail tip, I cut the yarn close to the knot while I left the yarn long on the base. This was so I could easily attach it to the body.

The tail by itself.

The tail by itself.

The tail attached to the body. This actually did help with balance!

The tail attached to the body. This actually did help with balance!

I ran into another problem with the ears as described in the pattern. First of all, the ears were big enough to make the mouse look like Dumbo so I had to rework the pattern to be smaller. Secondly, the ears looked silly when made entirely out of pink as described in the pattern. Thus, I made the ears out of the same gray as the body and added pink linings by embroidering the inside of the ears with the pink yarn. I attached one ear to the head of each mouse.

Ear Pattern

  • Cast on three stitches.
  • Row 1: Purl one row.
  • Row 2: Knit one row.
  • Row 3: Purl one row.
  • Row 4: Slip 1 stitch, knit 2 together, and pass the slipped stitch over.
The ear looked much more like a mouse ear with my modifications.

The ear looked much more like a mouse ear with my modifications.

It's starting to look like a cute mouse!

It’s starting to look like a cute mouse!

Finally, I made a beret for each mouse: one in red and one in green. The beret the pattern resulted in was comically large so I reworked the pattern to be smaller. It also was a bit too puffy to look beret-like so I took the yarn from the top of the beret after I gathered the last stitches and tied the knot and threaded it through the opening at the bottom. Then I could pull the top down so that it looked like a beret again. Finally, I attached it to the mouse to cover up where the other ear would go.

Beret Pattern

  • Cast on 12 stitches.
  • Rows 1-2: [Knit 1, purl 1] six times.
  • Row 3: [Knit 2, make 1 stitch] six times (18 stitches).
  • Row 4-6: Knit in straight stitch.
  • Row 7: [Knit one, knit two together] six times (12 stitches).
  • Row 8: Knit one row.
  • Row 9: [Knit two together] six times (6 stitches).
  • Cut yarn, thread through remaining stitches, and pull tightly together. Tie off.
The finished berets ready to be attached.

The finished berets ready to be attached.

These guys turned out to be more work than I thought they would be, but I”m happy with the result.

Mouse with a red beret.

Mouse with a red beret.

Mouse with a green beret.

Mouse with a green beret.

Out in Ohio

Jasmine and I are out visiting some of the family in Ohio and as such there will be a week of exciting nonstop OHIO action on the blog.  And by nonstop I mean I’ll post about it when I remember.

Lloyd was recruited as an Elf in training for assembling Hadley and Jackson's presents.

Lloyd was recruited as an Elf in training for assembling Hadley and Jackson’s presents.

Ohio is flat - now with snow and birds!

Ohio is flat – now with snow and birds!

One of the family Christmas traditions is a night that everyone cooks a meal – we call it Iron Chef and it can be a little competitive.  Jasmine and I made Tom Yum soup and the other entrees were:

Kyle and Meg hard at work on the stromboli

Kyle and Meg hard at work on the stromboli.

Kent with a Marsala Chicken

Kent with a Marsala Chicken.

Tyler going to town on some mushrooms and leeks. (His flank steak won the coveted Hadley vote)

Tyler going to town on some mushrooms and leeks. (His flank steak won the coveted Hadley vote).

As always, there was no winner, mostly because it is all tasty and not more then two of us would ever agree on a favorite.

Sanborn County Park (N37.24 W122.07)

So in our continuing effort of visiting all of the Santa Clara County Parks we made it up to Sanborn Park up in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It was another really nice hike, really hilly and really shaded with some really cool giant redwoods (Most of the redwoods are smallish, maybe 100 ft or so, but some are huge!).  We did about 9 miles and 2500 ft elevation on Sanborn Trail/Skyline Trail/ San Andreas Trail.  The park, as always, was set up nicely at the entrance with a pretty cool redwood grove / picnic area and a bunch of grassy fields.  We made it up to Indian Rock/Castle Rock by the end of the hike which has a bunch of really cool rock features, and appears to be a favorite bouldering spot.  It is very shaded and cool which means that we’ll be coming back in the summer when its hot everywhere else.

December in CA is rough

December in CA is rough.

Panorama of the Entrance Grove

Panorama of the Entrance Grove.

I <3 trees

I <3 trees!

The obligatory to of the hill view

The obligatory top of the hill view.

Nice little stream

Nice little stream.

The tree root steps.  Looks a bit like an ent...

Tree root steps. Looks a bit like an Ent…

Indian Rock (one of them)

Indian Rock (one of them).

I was crawled into cave to escape the light of day.

I crawled into a cave to escape the light of day.

It looks like a bone almost

It looks like a bone almost.

Rowan (Mountain Ash) Jelly

Not too long ago in Seattle I bought a book on Backyard Foraging and I have been hyped up to try to forage as much food as I can.  One of the recipes it has is a jelly made of mountain ash berries – and I found some around here – foraging time!

The wild berry in native habitat :)

The wild berry in native habitat :)

So collect a bunch of the berries, let’s say the amount that fits in your tied up sweat shirt sleeves because you didn’t have a bag on you. Take them home, wash them off and destem.  Put into a pot or pan and cover with water.

Desteming is fun and easy too! (well it is easy)

Desteming is fun and easy too (Well, it is easy.)!

Bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until berries are soft.  Break out your potato masher and go to town.

Our potato masher is the height of 1500's technology

Our potato masher is the height of 1500’s technology.

Strain out the juice.  You’re suppose to use a jelly bag and wait over night, but I’m impatient and don’t have a jelly bag.  So I poured out the juice I could get easily then squeezed the rest by hand.

Lot of manual labor in my recipies

Lot of manual labor in my recipes.

Now, for every cup of juice add a tbl of lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar.  Bring to a low boil again for about 20 minutes till the juice starts to jell (you’ll know after a couple tries).

Boilin'

Boilin’

Now put into a ball jar and you’re good to go.  The jelly is tart and a little strong for eating straight up but it is a great counterpoint to rich meat dishes like fatty beef, lamb, and anything a little gamey.  Have fun.

The jelly at Thanksgiving

The jelly at Thanksgiving.

 

Cut Glass Planter

My dad emailed me a picture of a really cool terraced set of planters using cinder blocks, and I thought it was cool, but not conducive to out rented house.  I thought I could make an equally cool little garden with another easy to find good – old wine bottles.  First though, I needed to find out if I could make a planter out of wine bottles – as it turns out I can!  And so can you with the following:

Step 1:  Drink Wine.  Tough, I know.  Then clean and dry the bottle.

Step 2:  Draw a line around the bottle at whatever height you want.

Draw a line with a sharpie.  Well actually a cylinder but lets not be pedantic

Draw a line with a sharpie. Well, actually a cylinder but lets not be pedantic.

Step 3: Break out your glass cutter (available at most any hardware store) and oil it (I use mineral oil).

Glass cutters are awesome! A little brittle but what ever floats your boat.

Glass cutters are awesome! A little brittle, but whatever floats your boat.

Step 4: Firmly scribe a line around the bottle ending at the start point. DO NOT scribe twice! Just once as you are only starting a crack.

Firm = 23.78 oz pressure

Firm = 23.78 oz pressure

Step 5: Pour boiling water over the crack.  The glass should separate along the crack.  This may take a couple attempts; just run cold water over the glass between boiling water intervals.

Watch out for the boiling water and glass shards.

Watch out for the boiling water and glass shards.

Step 5: Sand down the edges if desired.  I use 100 grit then 220 grit to smooth the edges.

Its done!

Its done!

Step 6: For indoor planters, I have just been filling the bottom 1/4 with Perlite (fine rocks) and then the rest with potting soil.  This works great, just only water once a week or so as there is no drain hole in the bottom.  If you live somewhere wet (I don’t) you could drill a hole in the bottom with a glass or tile drill but I don’t need to and it is very convenient to have clean bottomed planters.

Tulip, chive,Lavender, garlic for my indoor garden

Tulip, chive,lavender, and garlic for my indoor garden (only 3 weeks in).

So that is it, more details in March about how I terrace these for outdoor use.

 

 

 

 

 

Super Secret Project

I have been working on this slowly for a while now so I thought I’d give a sneak peak.

Shiny.

Shiny.

The hull is all done; now it just needs to be kitted out and have a sail put on it:)  Sometime after Christmas probably…

 

Crab Fishing (v1)

We went crab fishing in Pacifica this weekend for dungeness with some of Jasmine’s friends from school and we were completely unsuccessful.  We fished off the pier with some line-tossed crab traps and managed to catch only a handful of undersized female crabs that we had to throw back. I’ll report back with more details if we succeed in catching any next time, but I don’t want anyone to get any bad ideas from our mistakes.

Jasmine's Crabbing! She scared the crab away with here non camo jacket

Jasmine’s Crabbing! She scared the crab away with her non-camo jacket.

My best crab face

My best crab face.

We did still have crab that we bought from the store and also some jacksmelt that the guy next to us caught; apparently he was just doing it for fun while crabbing.  My only consolation is that no one else appeared to catch any crab either.  So better luck next time.

Our (neighbors) bounty of the sea

Our (neighbors’) bounty of the sea.