a profusion of green

For various reasons, outside of a little weeding here or there, A and I haven’t done much with the garden for the past couple of weeks. We went out there today to weed in earnest (it never ends) and were confronted by a verdant explosion.

img_20180603_0908581

What.

Cue a busy morning of making pesto, making sikil pak, drying herbs, and making kale chips. I infused the lemon verbena into some simple syrup for cocktails later.

img_20180603_085303

Top: dill, lemon verbena, tarragon, marjoram. Bottom: oregano, basil, parsley.

This wasn’t even a full harvest. This was just trimming stuff back. An abundance of kale is not pictured, though you can see it peeking into frame in the upper right.

Little pawpaws were coming in too, which is very exciting.

I’m slightly worried that they’re going to ripen right when we’re going on (or during) our Europe trip. Pawpaws have a distinctly short shelf life and go quickly from perfectly ripe to way too overripe. So timing the picking and processing of fruit is very important. I’ll have to come up with some contingency plans (I can think of at least one person who would be ecstatic to help me out…).

I’m super excited for the cucumbers and beans to come in. Thus far, the garden experiment this year has been working quite well.

 

macaron lab notebook

Remember those lab notebooks you had to put together in high school and/or college chemistry? The graph paper, the carbon copies, the wrinkled and warped pages from when the notebook got inevitably wet. Those were the days…

Sort of.

I was thinking about them today because I’ve restarted my macaron experiments in earnest. I’ve made these cookies successfully previously –

 

Those smooth tops! Those ruffled feet! – but the notes I took at the time were sloppy and incomplete. Although I have a bunch of flavors that I want to try baking kicking around in my head, I’m reluctant to experiment too broadly until I’ve nailed a base cookie consistently (because that’s how my brain likes to work). There are a few major parts to doing that – the recipe, the technique, and the oven.

For the most part, I’m using Stella Parks’ French macaron recipe (with some adjustments here and there for cooking time, oven temp, etc. – I try not to mess with the ratios too much). I’ve had good success with it in the past, and I love that she breaks baking down very scientifically and demystifies the process. (Her book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, is the next on my cookbook wishlist.) There are a couple other recipes that utilize a different cooking methods that I want to try at some point, but this hers is definitely my go to.

As for technique, I have a method of doing the meringue and macaronnage that I think is pretty consistent at this point. I’m sure there are variations between batches, but that much can’t really be helped.

So the part that I’m really trying to dial in right now is the oven and baking method. My oven has both convection and conventional settings, as well as a removable divider in the middle that transforms it into a makeshift double oven (that I rarely use because I find that it does not separate different temperatures all that well). It’s calibration is a bit off, and it loses heat pretty rapidly (about a 25 degree drop in temp every time the door opens – I checked with an oven thermometer because the display does not tell you that). But it’s a poor craftsperson that blames her tools, so I’m still trying to learn the weird ins and outs (there seem to be many) of my particular oven.

To do that, I need what every scientist needs – documentation.

Enter, Airtable. (There are several pictures of sexy, sexy spreadsheets coming up. If that’s not your jam… too bad, I guess?)

Continue reading

sewing for europe

In a couple of months, A and I are taking a trip to Europe. We’re meeting up with my family in Bordeaux, which has been a little over a year in the making. It’ll be A’s first time to Europe, so we’re extending the trip a bit so we can hop around a bit on our own. I’m thinking Amsterdam, maybe Belgium. I’m super excited!

Even though we’re a little ways out, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to pack. I’m more of a fall and winter person (Long coats! Fuzzy sweaters! Cute boots!), so I’ve never been good at summer clothes. How do you wear skirts? How do shorts work? I have no idea. My wardrobe in general is kind of a mishmash of different styles, none of which I necessarily feel like are my style (whatever that means). Add to that the fact that I’m trying not to buy any new clothes this year (unless I can’t make it or it’s thrifted), that means a lot more sewing is in order!

For this trip, I’m thinking lots of basic pieces that are easy to mix and match and clean. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to putting together outfits (partially because how do?), and I prioritize comfort and secret pajamas.

europe summer 18 inspo

one / two / three / four / five / six / seven

There is a surprising lack of pants in my inspo board. Also, that was the first time I made one of those, and I refuse to admit how long it took.

I’ve put together an absurdly long project list with full knowledge of the fact that I’m not likely to finish every project.

  • Projects
    • T-shirts (white and black). Going for a slightly slouchy silhouette. – Plantain probably (free Deer and Doe pattern!)
    • T-shirt dress – self-draft. Which should be interesting. I got an interesting tie-dye jersey that I’ve earmarked for this.
    • Easy to wear pants. In a fun pattern or in black. Maybe a linen blend or a crepe. – Alexandria Peg Trousers by Named
    • Maxi dress. I’m not a hundred percent sold on this yet because I’m wondering if it would take up too much space in luggage. – Highlands wrap dress
    • Shirt dress. I’ve been coveting this basically ever since I discovered Heather Lou’s blog. – Kalle
    • Shorter/fancier dress. Not totally sure this will be necessary, so it’s definitely lower on the priority list. – Amalfi
    • Skirts. I’m having a moment with them. I want to learn how to wear them.

So… yeah. A little ambitious, sure. But it’s good to have goals.

read it: so you want to talk about race

IMG_20180518_155141.jpg

Go. Buy. Read. Now.

I finished So You Want to Talk About RaceSo You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo this weekend, and it was great. But even more than that, it was (is) necessary. Essential. It is honest and clear and direct and kind. This book should be required reading for everyone everywhere.

If I had the means, I would buy a copy for everyone I know. But I don’t, so instead, I’m telling you to go buy it, borrow it, read it, and then tell everyone that you know. Then start having some of the hard conversations, with yourself, with others, with government officials coming up for re-election…

designing a sewing space

About a year ago, I started dabbling in sewing. I’m already a knitter, but I have a chronic case of unfinished knitting projects. Likely because I get antsy when progress seems so slow, and I have trouble sitting there knitting for long stretches of time. I enjoy it, but sometimes I just need more immediate satisfaction.

Sewing is perfect for that: it’s just fiddly enough for me to focus, and the projects I’ve done so far have come together pretty quickly. I still have a lot to learn with regards to pattern alterations and sizing (I made a Tamarack jacket a little over a month ago based on what I thought were accurate measurements, and then they weren’t. But the jacket fit my friend perfectly, so now she has it in DC.) — I assume that comes with more practice.

I haven’t been sewing as much as I’ve wanted to because in order to actually do it, I take over basically the entirety of my kitchen island and dining room table. And then it’s cumbersome to move stuff around (we have a lot of stairs in our house), so there all of that stuff sits until I’m done with a project and I lug everything back upstairs to sit in a corner in my office.

IMG_20180327_155554.jpg

Taking over the dining table. Incidentally with the Tamarack jacket.

I’ve mentioned before that A and I have been slowly putting the house together. The third floor is still empty — right now, we use it as a makeshift guest room. But what if we could also add some work surfaces and I could have a crafty area?

Continue reading

tier one gardening

A and I have very different backgrounds when it comes to nature and green growing things. He grew up surrounded by prairie and fruit trees and ponds (of both the fishing and swimming variety), whereas I have always lived in big cities. I have a highly romanticized view of what it means to garden. (In my view, bugs don’t try to bite me all the time.) When it came time to look for a house, we both wanted to have some outdoor space — he to remind himself of the green he had in childhood, and I to fulfill my lifelong dream of having a secret garden.

When A and I moved to St. Louis, we found an awesome Victorian house that had an actual yard, a rarity for most of these older homes. The house sits on a double lot, and all that extra space is gorgeous greenery, something we had been sorely missing when we lived in the metal-and-concrete-locked Dallas.

img_20160613_121431.jpg

The original yard was landscaped with a lot of decorative plants.

Last year, we didn’t think about the garden until summer was already underway. That was a time of life changes and redirecting, and the garden was getting along decently with minimal intervention from us. We had managed to get an herb garden in the ground, though I made the mistake of choosing plants that were novel rather than ones I would actually use. We had a poorly placed lemongrass that tried to cut you when you attempted to get to the other herbs. We had pineapple mint but no minty mint. We had dill, even though I literally never use dill. Yet, even with that small amount of planting and those mistakes (likely because of the mistakes), we learned a lot.

img_20170513_155926.jpg

We took up some of the tiles and made a mosaic herb garden. The lemongrass is that one in the top left corner, and it got huge.

Continue reading

disengaging from social media

One of my goals this year is to disengage from my phone more. Late last year, my phone completely broke down and black-screened, falling into an inescapable boot-reboot cycle. Customer service quickly threw (okay, diligently packaged and carefully sent) a phone in the mail for me (incidentally, Project Fi is awesome – that’s my referral link if you’re interested), but there was still a weekend’s worth of lag time. I didn’t realize how tethered my habits had become to my phone until I didn’t have it anymore. I couldn’t roll over in the morning and silence my alarm and then immediately check email or my RSS feed. I couldn’t watch Netflix while I was cooking or listen to podcasts while I was getting ready. I couldn’t text people throughout the day. It was jarring to realize how often I reached for a phone that wasn’t there. And then it quickly became liberating because I was actually able to focus on what I was doing without buzzy notifications diverting my attention. It was a pretty great weekend actually.

Now, to be clear, I’m not planning to divorce my phone. But I’ve realized that I’m in a pretty unhealthy co-dependent relationship with it. I feed it electricity (and personal information, let’s be honest), and it gives me the internet and dopamine drips. Overall, I think carrying a computer around that has all the information is amazing. BUT. The pattern of my phone use needed changing. So I uninstalled Facebook and Twitter, I turned off most of my notifications, and I set up specific silence times where my phone doesn’t transmit ANY notifications so that I can have regular uninterrupted stretches of time.

Even then, I was still surfing reddit before bed. I was still watching YouTube videos to fill the silence. I was still reading Twitter (via browser now, of course) for the outrage and righteous indignation as much as for any useful info. It was a visit to my childhood home that prompted me to go even further. During that visit, instead of having face to face conversations and reconnecting as, you know, people, my family mostly sat around on devices (sometimes two devices at once) and ignored each other. It was baffling. Then it quickly became frustrating and infuriating. Sure, sometimes they were reading news or responding to urgent emails. But most of the time, it seemed like they were surfing Facebook or scrolling through various text convos instead of having actual conversations with the people sitting in front of them. (This is apparently called “phubbing,” which is a word I hate almost as much as the act itself.)

Continue reading