Monday, November 3, 2014

Welcome to our Autumn Garden

I spend a lot of time in our garden. I prefer gardening to working out at the gym. It's so easy to spend a couple of hours here, sit down and mull, then spend a couple of hours of there, I notice I tend to follow the sun in autumn,  in the summer I follow the shade of the large oak and pine trees that help with some dappled shade on the east side of the house. On the west side we have a enormous 250 year-old Mountain Maple that is gorgeous all year long, in the summer time cooling shade on the west side of the house when the sun goes down at the end of very hot days.

In the rainy season the trunk and the main branches are covered in a thick coating of the most brilliant green coloured moss. The moss is in some places almost an inch thick. When the sun hits the branches in winter and early spring before the leaves have begun to unfold the tree shimmers in a green outline. Most beautiful to view from the kitchen or family room.

Shishito for Paprika
The photo is the dried branches of the Oak Hydrangea, beautiful bush in the garden and especially when the end of summer has come and gone. Most of the plants and trees have survived this terrible drought that is now into it's third year. I lost only a few of the larger bushes, I was expecting more, so counting my blessings.

I let two small lawn areas die back but since it has turned cooler and we actually finally had a couple of days of rain over the last month, both lawns have re-emerged, which makes me think, I don't have to water these two areas next year at all if they have enough moxie to survive.

Old fashioned Summer Strawberry Jam Recipe:

4 cups halved small firm strawberries
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice.

Mix berries and sugar and let stand for at least 8 hours, better overnight though.
Place mixture in medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Add lemon juice, and return to a boil, rapidly boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 24 hours.

Bring berries to full boil again over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
First harvest of Pomegranates 2014

Ladle into hot hars and process for 10 minutes. Makes approximately 2.5 cups. 1 cup of finely chopped rhubard can be added in the first step. (adapted from Small Batch Preserving)

I am contemplating what to plant and where next year, it could be another year of hardly any rain again so I'm gauging what to plant strategically. So far I've got some lovely garlic that is sprouting madly, and I know I shall plant onions. Good crops for over winter into spring harvest, and last until mid autumn. I just finished my onion harvest from last year this past week.

We have managed just fine getting fresh vegetables due to the fact we have a wealth of farmers in the area and regular farmer markets throughout the year on different days during the week. So fortunate due to where we live in one way.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A most wonderful Autumn day

Children weaving
The sky is just the clearest blue, one of those skies that you can see in California or on the western coast of Scotland. The warmth of the sun is pleasant still in the 80's but easy to work out side, hang the laundry, dry seeds type of day.

Yesterday was just as nice. We headed down the hill to Patrick Historic Ranch near Durham. It was the Fibre Fusion event, and we were not disappointed. The work by these folk is amazing, all hand done, from rearing the animals, to shearing their coats, spinning into the most delicate and wonderful fibres that some of us love to touch, and create things from.
Felted artwork


Angora rabbit in the lap, spinning directly from bunny

Add caption

I learnt about growing flax in the area locally, where they want to grow and create linen from it, very interesting, and I signed up to join the group, I think they are called Chico Cloth.
threshing the flax

I even managed to get some flax seeds that I plan on growing a little patch in the garden as my little experiment to see how it does.
 The event was geared towards encouraging young ones to try working with fiber, and they had some kits but you had to be much younger than me to have, for free!!! I wished Zadie had been with us, I think she would have enjoyed herself immensely.

I did buy ginormous knitting needles and a crochet hook. I wonder how I will use them, I mean ginormous, these are not for the fainthearted tools.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Stool Cover amongst a couple of other things

And in my spare time gather the end of the harvest from the garden. I made Moroccan Zaaloouk last night, very tasty, it's a warm Eggplant and Tomato Salad. Best of all the husband who is not keen on Eggplant, liked it and was surprised that it was this vegetable. We also grilled Squid, and included a simple green salad to finish off the supper. Tonight a good old fashioned Roasted Chicken, stuffed with apples from our garden. Bones will be used to great a soup base in a couple of days. I think that's called frugal. That's me being a true Scot, and love it. Sometimes I'm so tight I squeak.

All the eggplant are the small heirloom Japanese variety, and taste sweet and delicious. The plant size stays medium and is perfect for our raised beds.

Gathered up all my bits and bobs from projects I've been working on for months now, and need to sit down and write out directions so that anyone who is interested can create some little whatnots of their own.

Late spring I snagged several stools from Jeannie's Consignment shop here in town (amazing place, really amazing, prices unbelievable 35. for 4 wood stools, perfect condition) and  I've really wanted to cover them in something soft, so that they were comfortable while working on projects. I have a friend who is interested in holding Zentangle classes in my studio and I'm pretty sure they would appreciate something cushiony under their tush while they are drawing and creating little magic tiles of art. Really looking forward to having the classes here in my studio.

So I mentioned the other day about a conversation that I had with my husband whilst we drove down to the SF bay area.

Sunday October 5th

Knitting in the car, listening to Sirius Radio, Frank Sinatra crooning in the background. Then I was asked "How would you like to listen to the ball game?"

Small inward sigh, "Okay but only because it's your birthday weekend." What a good wife I am becoming after 35 years of practice.

He, I swear almost did a skippy dance trying to drive at the same time, he of course manages to locate the sports station rather quickly, I suspect it's programed for moments like this.

"What?" Unfortunately, he thought it was 1:30 PM, but it's only 12:30 PM, drats another hour of Frank I'm sure he's thinking.

I smile and say "Well you can chat to me for the next hour instead." He does look glum, but manages to ask "Don't you have to count?" That must be in reference to my knitting, or as in this case crocheting. Meanwhile he reaches over and has Mr. Sinatra entertain me.

The rice paddies are fully ripe and brown, more than ready to be harvested I think soon.

After a while he finally gets through his glumness and asks "So what are you making?"

I respond "A stool cover."

He smiles, okay he smirks, then says "A cover for a stool, oh poop." Huge grin on his face. How very clever of him, so smug with his own joke.

Got to love manly conversations waiting for the ball game to begin. Men can be so foreign sometimes. Can't wait to get to 4th Street, Cafe Rouge and I get to order a glass of wine.

Once we arrived I ordered 2 dozen oysters, I felt good again. The oysters were divine.

For his birthday dinner we went to Bocanova. Excellent meal, always something new that must be tried on the menu and we did try some new things. We ordered Platanos Maduros, Potted Smoked Black Cod, Fried Peppers, Shrimp Creole, Caesar Salad and Seasoned Papas Fritas. Absolutely stuffed. I must go on a diet post haste.
Sunday evening
Monday Morning

Whur's the pool boy?

Mr. Poop patiently waiting for breakfast vitals

I must say I have never seen Jack London Square so busy in all the years we have stayed at The Waterfront Hotel.

But a new business (I think it's called M Plank) that is a family oriented business has bust into town and it's amazing, so many happy folk, families all enjoying themselves. Bocci Ball, Bowling Alley, Firepits, wonderful venue for many and it was lively.

Two women who were leaving the area as we walked towards the restaurant, stopped us to tell us how happy they were that this happened in their town. Great and good vibes for the Jack London Square area in downtown Oakland. Congratulations to the JLS and the City for putting in a venue that encourages an evening out. I have always felt safe walking around here, it's quiet and the views over to SF wonderful. The ferry is very close by, walking distance and you can pop over the bay without the fuss of the traffic on the Bay Bridge..

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Back to my roots

Not a bad thing I suppose, been asked by a couple of good friends over the last few months to join them in business, and I said oh no I'm doing something online, been working on it for ages. But as it turns out. It didn't turn out. Disappointed a little, but it's today, here and now.

Moving on,  I have a couple of other sites since starting on Etsy back in the day, way back like 2007 where I have sold some of my creations. On Etsy the first couple of years they were fabulous I sold paintings hand over fist and was really chuffed. Opened another shop and sold a product called Seed Keeper Kit ..... couldn't keep up with the orders. In fact this was how I managed to help family without delving into our savings too much. That and the Twig Letters I made. It does take a huge amount of time to produce items as an individual, but due to how much time needs to be allocated to being responsive and on top of orders, I finally stopped and began to enjoy my garden more.

For several weeks I have been experimenting with paper clay, one little disaster after another. Which ended up challenging me, and I was down to winning the battle. I found a good solution, and the results are very pleasing. The little sculptures have a thickness and weight that make them substantial rather than blow away in the wind weight.

This weekend we were down in the San Francisco Bay Area, and went to one of my most favourite places to visit The Gardener on 4th Street in Berkeley. I checked out their air plants, whew mighty pricey, the one I picked up that fit in my hand was a whooping 45. I did put it back with a sniffle. It would have looked wonderful in one of my sculptures. Not to worry I shall find a solution I always do.

I also have another project that I am working on Rainbows and Raindrops ..... drift/bleached river wood from The Feather River ...... I think will be rather lovely with my danglers.

I finally finished developing a pattern for stool covers, there is another story behind this and I shall post in a few days the conversation between me and my man driving down the I-70 Highway over this last weekend .... Quite funny. So once I write down the pattern I shall post for downloading. I used roving from Turkey and it's strong and thick enough to be put over a form on a stool. Rather pleased with the results. Watch for the new post with the pattern and story.

On a final note, I gathered the seed pods from my Naked Ladies, they resemble little globs of pink pearls. I keep dividing the bulbs and this year I decided to collect the seed pods. These are wonderful plants which I never realised were Amaryllis Belladonna. What a beautiful name for a wonderful plant. In spring the leaves heave up out of the earth, rather like the Lillies of the Nile plant. Then early summer the leaves all die, seriously die back to nothing. Late August all of a sudden into September these wonderful spears or thick stems bolt skyward. The end result is a most wonderful flower, hardly needs water, no care that I can think of either. I pretty much forget I have them until the cycle happens, and I clear up the dead leaves.  These pink pearls, little gifts I think coming for the holidays to share with special folk I know.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I blinked, and when I slowly opened my eyes

Sam, Son Rey, and Jerry
Mary & Maude (95 years old)

September has almost disappeared. But we managed to squeeze in a special evening "Sam Sings Supper" lovely group of musicians comprised of Son Rey Garcia, Sam and Jerry.
Sun setting, fairy lights coming on

David, Cathy, Sharon and Jerry
I think this has been the fastest September ever. I really don't know where it went, but I am now looking at October, and the hubbie's birthday is looming. I'm not worried though, in our town we have a wonderful festival every year at the same time, which of course is usually on my husband's birthday or close enough to it.

Paradise Blues and Brews, all afternoon into the evening, laying on the grass at the old Railroad Depot Museum park. Lovely spot in town, and the music along with the local brews wonderful. We do have a big brewery down the hill from us Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. But I must admit some of the very small breweries win my heart and taste in spades.
Karen doing a sniff over
my Nocino concoction

For example The Feather River Brewery located in Magalia, has some of the most tasty brews especially their dark brew, reminds me of Scotland.

Full plate of summer bounty

Nuts and nibbles
Good neighbours
Ted, Michael and Kim
Evening silhouettes
The music in the park begins around 1:00 and ends at 9:00 in the evening. I plan on bring a picnic, lawn chairs and some blankets. I hope BeBe is okay, but I suspect she will be better with us rather than staying at home and wondering what the heck is up.

Wendy, woman extraordinaire race car driver, artist, 
and award winning California floral designer
We had a lovely get together last weekend at our little spot on earth, lovely friends and good laughs for sure. The band was a group of fellows and it was called Sam Sings Supper, and I must admit he/they did more than that. Lovely music, talent and voices.

I made a Nicoise Salad (thank you Julia Child, a most wonderful recipe, especially the dressing) Kale & Apple salad, Mediterranean Bean salad, cold cuts, loads of good bread, artichokes & olives and hummus.

Loads of wine, beer, soft drinks, sun tea and water. I did enjoy myself to be honest, always fun to have good humoured folk over to share, natter and enjoy a warm, late summer evening. I must do it again next year. Same time, most special.

Photographs were all taken by Janet Weidel, a most gifted artist and photographer, I highly recommend her work, and hope you click on the link to view her work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don't Worry

if you are making waves

simply by being yourself.

The moon does it all the time.

- Scott Stabile

Friday, September 12, 2014

Here a fig, there a fig, any fig is nectar of the gods and goddesses

Kadota Fig Tree
Nectar of the Gods, well that's how figs seem to me. I have four trees, and am about to order some more. Each one is different, I have Brown Turkey, Kadota, Black Mission, Mission.  I have made figs in syrup, fig preserves, fig jam, but this first recipe is the bees knees, in fact it might be the only one I make next year.

Fig Marmalade
2 1/2 pounds figs,I used a combination of dark figs
1 pound (2 cups) sugar 
The grated zest of an organic lemon 
3 tablespoons scotch
Prep Time: 750 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes, add minutes if you are above sea level, I cooked for 60 minutes, because I'm located at 2000'
Wash and remove stems from figs, smash them open and add the sugar and mix well in a bowl.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap or tin foil,  and let figs rest overnight or at least eight hours. 

Next day pour mixture into a pot and heat them over moderate heat, stir often so figs don't scorch, until they come to a boil. 

Add lemon zest and scotch, reduce the heat, and simmer, skim away foam occasionally, until the mixture sets. 

Overnight melding
Pour marmalade into sterile jars, seal them (10 minutes in canning kettle + 5 minutes if above 2000'), sterilize them, and when they have cooled transfer them to your pantry.

Yield: 6 - 8 ounce jars, or 3 - 16 ounce jars.

I found and adapted the recipe from this recipe by Kyle Phillips

Fig Jam Simple Recipe

Fig Jam using Kadota Figs
3 pounds fresh figs, washed, remove stems
2 cups sugar
Juice and grated zest of one lemon
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1.5 hours

In a large saucepan, combine the figs, sugar, and lemon juice and zest. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring often. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. When the mixture gets quite thick, begin to stir constantly to keep from scorching.

Test to see if the mixture is a firm gel, not runny.

Whilst figs are cooking, prepare the jars and lids. 

Fill the jars with the hot fig jam mixture, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims to ensure good seal. Place lids on jar.

Place jars into the hot water in the canner. Make sure you have about 1 to 2 inches of water above the jars. Bring to a boil  and time jars for 10 minutes.

Makes approximately 4 half-pint jars.

Fig Preserves
Fig Preserves
8 cups firm fresh figs
8 cups boiling water
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 lemon, unpeeled, seeded and thinly sliced

Combine figs and boiling water in steel bowl. Cover and let stand a room temperature for 15 minutes, transfer to sieve and drain. rinse with cold water and drain again.

In large steel pot, combine sugar, 4 cups of water and lemon slices. Bring to boil over high heat, dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using slotted spoon, remove and discard lemon. Turn down heat to medium high, and boil syrup. Add 2 cups of the figs and boil until they are translucent, remove with slotted spoon and place in a shallow pan (as shown in photo). Work in 2 cup batches, until all figs are poached. Boil the syrup until thickened then pour over figs in pan. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours, best overnight.

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

In large stainless steel pan bring fig mixture to boil over medium high heat, stir frequently. Remove from heat.

Ladle preserves into hot jars allow 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim. Centre lid on jar. Screw down band.

Place jars in canner, bring to boil and process for 10 minutes (add minutes depending on altitude), remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes then remove jars, cool and store.

Adapted from Ball Home Preserving 2006

Monday, September 8, 2014

Winding down, gearing up and silently changing

I don't suppose I ever really wind down, I attempt to sometimes but then get thoroughly bored with the effort, sounds strange. So I might as well stay wound up but not too tightly. I do plan to include more calm into my daily hours, and really make and remember to do so, practice, practice.

I have found myself more often just sitting down, consciously muting out the self conversations muttering around in my head. The sound of the wind in the high pines and enormous oaks transport me to the beach, a soothing sound and most helpful tool from nature.

Something new I learnt this summer, was not to have conversations with myself. That this invariably lead to arguing in my head, and sometimes it would get really loud in there. I need peace and quiet, I need to take care of myself and not allow myself to be caught up in dramas.

The other major thing I learnt this summer was about anger and what it means, and more importantly how to not get angry. Here is the link that helped me "How to control anger"

No winding down is suddenly the realisation that summer is coming to it's end, and this year I managed to weather (no pun intended) the heat much better than before. I do think it was a tad cooler this summer, at least the heat didn't last longer than three continuous weeks, and of course there have been no major fires around us, another blessing. The drought though does continue and we are now into our third year, this one we had to reduce our water usage 25%, and we let two lawns just wither.  But that has been a new opportunity to turn them into more growing opportunities that are not grass.

Gearing up for a party to celebrate the equinox has been my focus for the last few days. We have a dear friend, a musician who has a brain tumour, he is losing his hearing along with some other not pleasant things. He has decided to do another evening of music at our home prior to the surgery scheduled early October. We are so happy to have him play again at our home. I shall do my part, food and good surroundings along with inviting folk to listen, natter and enjoy each others company.

Change enters our lives silently

We all see things about ourselves, relationships, and world that we want to change. Often, without any big to-do,  change happens, without us.

We lose track of time. We may worry about a seedling in a pot with our constant attention and watering for several weeks only to find ourselves enjoying the blooms it offers and wondering when that happened, and how we didn'’t notice it.

Nature, on the other hand, has infinite patience and stays with a thing all the way through its life. This doesn’'t mean that our efforts play no part in the miracle of change —they do. It’'s just that they are one small part of the picture that finally results in the flowering of a plant, the shifting of a relationship, the softening of our hearts.

The same laws that govern the growth of plants oversee our own internal and external changes. We observe, consider, work, and wonder, tilling the soil of our lives, planting seeds, and tending them. Sometimes the hard part is knowing when to stop and let go, handing it over to the universe.

Usually this happens by way of distraction or disruption, our attention being called away to other more pressing concerns. And it is often at these times, when we are not looking, in the silence of nature’s embrace, that the miracle of change happens.  (the Daily OM extract)

Today, changed happened when talking to my daughter and I was explaining a circumstance that had happened whilst she was on holiday. As we spoke and I listened I heard about being authentic, and having authentic connections. Simple things that I knew like 'hugging a friend or family member' 'randomly calling a friend' that we missed each other. The best advice was "stopping myself to respond" to things that just wind me up. I love my daughter and intelligence, her love and caring. Now there is an authentic soul. oxoxoxo love your mum (who will silently change for her better).

It's June, and I should be over the moon

Good grief, it's been ages since I hung out with myself. I have so neglected my little alter-ego. Why?  Well I got sucked into the Facebook dramas, the unicorns, sunlight shinning out of one's arse looking for tomorrow. GMO, war, destruction, murder and mayhem. Combine that with Pinterest gluttony is a recipe for time sucking voids.

I threw it in on the longest day of the year, along with a personal melt down and a resolve that things must change.

I shall inhabit my life with gusto, I shall no longer ignore or ask more than once for quiet harmony in my life. I shall inhabit myself because I must to endure happiness (sounds like a horribly lovely thing, endure happiness).

Early Sunday afternoon I trolled through recipes books for canning inspiration, and came upon the neatest little recipe from a book called Small Batch Canning. I did not have many plums this year in fact, the ones I had were badly scarred from hail, well let's just say you'd not find my plums in any grocery store. They were in fact perfect. I made Asian Plum Sauce slightly modified for my gluten free lifestyle.

But before this my neighbours Kim and Mike finally relieved my art studio of my mother in law's things, like dining room table and chairs, china hutch, a chest of drawers from the 50's, and an odd assortment of other things that just jangled my nerves every time I walked into my art/creative space. Terrible how all this stuff was deposited in my creative domain. Most have gone, though I have seen some smaller items lurking. Mike is making me the most wonderful art table from aged wood we got a few years ago, and he is putting wheels on the bottom so that I can roll this beast around in my new found space. Photos will arrive soon along with his phone number if you wish to have your own awesome table.

The sink is in, not I need to thin out some more things, and I shall be set for the cooler weather in my Tin Roof bolt hole.