First Harvest and Other Things

The first tomato

I have harvested my first tomato of the season. I was so excited about it and so happy with how big this grape tomato got! There are other tomatoes that are starting to turn red and it is very exciting. There are few things as good as a fresh, ripe tomato.

The other two tomato plants are doing well, but still haven’t flowered. I hope they do, though, so that I can be harvesting tomatoes all the way to the first hard frost.

The first chili right next to the second chili

I’ve got one chili almost ready and a second on its way. I noticed that cherries are in season at the grocery store this week and I think I am going to use these first chilies in a cherry chili jam. It has been two years since I’ve put up any jam and even longer since I’ve done a fruit and heat jam. It should be fun.

This cucumber is growing like its on a mission

I’m also really excited about how fast the first cucumber is growing. I was so surprised when I first found it and now I can’t believe I missed it. I have no plans for it, but it will still be some time before its ready. But, even more exciting, I’m sure there are one or two more cucumbers on their way. It is such a delight to go and water them every day.

A Cucumberling

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All Progress is Slow Progress

I’ve been working on job applications this week. In particular, one for a job that isn’t really in my wheelhouse, but is in my area of interest and training. Plus, it aligns really well with both my short and long term goals, so I decided to give it a shot. They asked that I submit a syllabus and I didn’t have any handy that were in line with I’d be expected to teach so I worked on one. I figured, at the very least, it would be useful for thinking about the position and what kind of work I would be committed to doing.

I always underestimate how long things are going to take. I shouldn’t, but I do. Writing the syllabus was no exception. I set aside a 4-hour chunk on Tuesday morning for it and an hour in I realized there were a lot of things I still wanted to think about for course prep. (Of course, some of that can be saved for later, if I get the job as there are particulars that the school itself will want me to adjust.) Four wasn’t going to be enough.

I had a bit of an epiphany while I was working on the syllabus, though. I am not using my time in the right way to meet some of my longer term goals. It just occurred to me. But, doing that work on Tuesday morning helped me think about progress and how it is incremental. I did slow work, but the work I did was solid, and even if I don’t get the job is useful because not only do I have another syllabus and another course I’ve thought through, I have reminded myself of the importance of putting the time in. And, the importance of using my time thoughtfully.

So, now I’ve set aside time (likely not enough) to think through how to better structure my time. Or, to better make use of my time. It’s nice to have apps like forest, which help keep me from getting distracted. But, I think I have to do more work around my goals and really thinking about where I want to be headed and how to get there.

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I thought when you got older, you didn’t have to worry about acne and pores and such

I’ve been trying a few new skin products out, because I like to try new things. And, because I thought when you got older that you grew out of things like acne and enlarged pores. That was silly of me. The products I’ve been trying are all targeted to reducing pore size. It did occur to me, as I was trying these products, that I probably should have only done one pore treatment at a time. That would have made more sense, if I wanted to see how one individual thing helped my skin.

Alas.

The first product I tried was Skinfood’s egg white mask. I had a sample of the egg white cleanser from ipsy, and it was amazing. I loved it. So, I was excited to try the mask. The mask does leave your face feeling smoother and maybe a little less redder (it is billed as being anti-inflammatory). I guess my pores also seem refined. I do like the mask, though, even if its not shrinking my pores.

Skinfood’s egg white pore mask

Then, I tried two products out of Skinfood’s peach sake line: the emulsion and the pore serum. They both smell so awesome. I’m in love with the smell. The pore serum is wonderful, but I can only use it as a targeted serum in my t-zone. I do think its helping shrink my pores. And, its definitely mattifying, so its great to wear during the day.

Peach Sake Pore Serum

The emulsion is a really nice weight, but its the wrong product for my skin. I have still been using it, just not on my face. It is a nice light moisturizer. (And, did I mention the smell? It is so, so lovely!)

All in all, I’m pretty happy with these face-product experiments. I’d never used an emulsion before, and I’m happy with the weight of it. It is nice and lightweight, which is what I was hoping for for the summer. I have my eye on another skinfood product that is an emulsion that I might try before the summer is out.

What is your favorite summer moisturizer?

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Tour de Fleece: Rest Day

I started the tour with a plan for only two of the roving selections I have. And, I’m pretty excited about both of them. One of them is going to be a fractal-spun yarn and the other is going to be a gradient yarn.

Fractal-spun yarns vary the colors in a “fractal” way. So, in a three-ply, you go through the repeat of the colors exactly once in the entire thread for the first ply, two times for the second ply and three times for the third ply. I thought about doing a fractal ply with this specific colorway when I took Felicia Lo’s craftsy class when I was new to spinning. (It’s been at least five years. Maybe six.) I didn’t buy any of the roving and just set the idea aside. I was lucky to have so many good local producers of roving that I didn’t feel like I could justify ordering from someone so far away. And, then, a couple of years ago I picked up two braids of it when someone I follow on instagram destashed. So, this has been a long, long time coming.

This is from Sweet Georgia Yarns. I can’t wait to fractal spin this puppy!

I do this a lot. I have an idea, and then I talk myself out of it. Then, I get another chance at it. I get so excited about, set myself up to do it…and, then, I wait. For no good reason. Or, because halfway through the project or before I get a chance to embark on it, I get excited by something else and I set the first project aside. I’ve had down time in the past few years where I could have cleared my head with a creative project like this. But, I didn’t come back to it. So, its just been sitting there. Simmering. Waiting for its day.

And, I’m doing it again. In the post where I discussed prepping to do the Tour de Fleece, I mentioned both the gradient yarn plan and the fractal spun yarn plan. I just had to finish up what I was already in the middle of spinning. Then, in the middle of finishing that, I thought it would be pretty to ply it with some natural brown shetland wool, which, of course, would also need to be spun.

I do really like this blue (I think bluefaced leceister?) and shetland wool. This picture is from an instagram story

Its a little underplied, but I’ve already started and then frogged a hat with it. (The pattern I picked wasn’t right). But, I love how it came together. And, I have some two-ply of just the blue because I had more of the blue than I did of the brown. Then, I made a dk/worsted yarn out of a lovely bit of falkland wool. I used a plying technique that allowed me to keep the stripes separate, so this is a nice self-striping yarn. Now, I just have to find a pattern for it.

And, now I’m spinning bag of an unknown-sheep breed. I love this mystery bag and I’m excited about the creamy white color. It’s great and I have ideas for it. But, it’s not what I set out to spin.

This is from a mystery breed of sheep. It’s been a dream to spin

This should rest a bit before I ply it, so when I’m done with it maybe I’ll move onto the fractal spinning or the gradient yarn.

Or, maybe I’ll get distracted halfway through and start something completely different and unexpected.

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In Which I Find a Hidden Vegetable

The spaghetti squash plant is trying so hard.

When we brought the plants home from the gardening store where we bought them, we made a sudden stop at a stop light and the plants pitched forward in the backseat where they were. The spaghetti squash and cucumbers fell off the seat and some of their vines broke. It was quite hard on the squash. But, I planted them in hopes that they’d be able to recover.

We’re now 6 weeks into the growing season, and while I’ve gotten a lot of blooms, they’ve all wilted and fallen off the plant and not turned into fruit. Since squash need the full growing season, this has been a little sad. I thought it might be a pollinator issue; I’ve not seen a lot of pollinators in the backyard where the plants are. But, when I went out to try hand pollination (with the help of q-tip), I found the spaghetti squash has a little beetle friend.

Hello, beetle buddy

So, now I think that maybe the trauma of the quick stop isn’t something my spaghetti squash plant can overcome. I was checking on my plants and doing a little weeding, lamenting the lack of squash and wondering if I’d get any cucumbers this season, either. That’s when I noticed, quietly growing under several large leaves, a cucumber.

my first cucumber!

I am so proud of this little guy, doing its own thing without any attention. This little cucumber was just growing, silently, while I watered and weeded and didn’t notice. It is nice to be reminded that if you just keep doing your thing, you can grow and make progress on whatever you’re working on.

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How I Use Productivity

On A Playful Day‘s instagram the other week, she had a discussion about structured play and how some kids (and adults!) do better with a little structure. It was such a lovely conversation and it got me thinking about my own relationship to structure and how I still struggle with it. I was well into adulthood before I realized that I thrived with structure and that I floundered in less structured environments. This isn’t to say that I can’t deal with unstructured time or work environments, but it is to say that I need to bring my own structure to situations and better manage myself so that I don’t let situations overwhelm me or feed my anxiety or tear at my self-esteem. I’ve spent a lot of time, especially in the last few years, building structure that I can work within. So, this insta-stories conversation really resonated with me. I’ve talked about the various productivity apps and programs that I use, but I don’t really use them to be productive, I really use them to build scaffolding in my life so that I can get things done.

Sometimes, it seems like the older I get the more my life is like being in a kindergarten classroom. I work a lot from home, and the areas at home where are work are different than the areas where I recreate, and I work on different kinds of work in different spaces (like having stations!). I build in rest times, using the forest app and the pomodoro technique (I also like to read and knit or spin after lunch for a bit if I can). I have snack time. Sometimes it amazes me that I ever devalued or avoided doing these simple things that take care of me. How did I ever get the idea that these things weren’t useful or valuable?

So, when I’m being “productive” and using the forest app, its not just keeping my off my phone but its helping me to work and to relax. (It also helps me track my work time, although, there are other ways I do that.) I use asana to keep an eye on the things I need to accomplish in a given time period. Sometimes, you don’t know what to do next and having a list already made saves me the time (and the frustration) of having to look. I am proud of myself for building this structure in my life, even if I’m both a little annoyed that I have to and a little annoyed that it took me so long to realize that I needed it.

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The doldrums of shawl knitting

I’ve reached the part of shawl knitting where nothing new and exciting is happening but the shawl is not done. I love wearing shawls and I love lace knitting. There is something really soothing about doing a pattern with a repeat. But, once you get into a pattern, it is a lot of the same thing over and over again.

Those rows are getting so long

But, look at all the progress I’ve made! For the lace part I’ve been using leftovers but I didn’t really do a good job regularly switching between the leftovers. This is okay; the leftovers go well together and they add to the texture of the piece. I’m not sure I would notice if I didn’t already know that it was more than colorway.

In the progress department, earlier this week I wove the ends in from previous color swaps. So many pieces languish forever in the purgatory of the knitting being finished but the ends not being woven in. (The pussy hat I knit in January 2017 to wear to the women’s march still hasn’t had the ends woven in.)

Ooh! Speaking of weaving in ends, I finished the boneyard shawlette. Cooper did not enjoy modeling it, but he did it anyway.

Boneyard bandana on the lovely Cooper

Anyway, back to the original discussion. I’ve decided to switch colors once a week. So, in the past week, I’ve done seven repeats. I might actually finish this piece this summer! I’ll have a summer-colored shawl in time for fall.

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In which I cook with produce from my garden

The kale, swiss chard and broccoli have all reached a size that I’ve started harvesting it. We’re going to have kale and swiss chard every week until the first hard frost, probably. (And, maybe beyond that if I can figure out how to grown greens indoors.) I am very proud of the my plants. I’ve got an eggplant, tomatoes and chilis coming in. The squash and cucumbers are still blossoming. And, then there are all the greens. With my first kale harvest, I made a white bean, avocado, and kale salad. It had a citrus dressing. (I was going to make the dressing from scratch, but then I remembered that Newman’s own makes a wonderful citrus vinaigrette and so I just bought that.)

Great northern bean, avocado and kale salad

With the first swiss chard harvest, I made a sausage, swiss chard and swiss cheese quiche. It didn’t occur to me that I was making so many “swiss” choices, but I did. The quiches were crustless and probably needed more chard and less sausage. They were still pretty good though.

Chard, sausage, and swiss cheese wuiche

The first broccoli harvest I used to make a pasta salad. I’m pretty proud of this one. To the broccoli I added rotini, shredded cheddar jack cheese, red onion, craisins, candied pecans, halved grape tomatoes, and a bag of broccoli slaw. With this one, I used a white balsamic with honey dressing from my local grocery store. It might be my new favorite dressing. The pasta salad was a big hit.

Broccoli salad. Look how beautiful my little broccoli is!

This might be the summer of quiche because for the second time in a week, I made quiche. I used some leftover chicken with sharp cheddar cheese, and kale sautéd in olive oil with garlic and shallots. The chicken didn’t really add anything to it, but the kale with the garlic and shallots was awesome. This was also crustless; that was just easiest. Crust can be nice but it is a hassle.

Chicken, cheddar and kale quiche

I don’t know what I’m going to make with the kale, chard and broccoli next. I bought some tomatoes, beets, fennel, mint and tomatoes at the farmer’s market and I’ve already made a beet, fennel and mint salad and I have plans to sauté the beet greens and serve them with some potatoes. The plan was to make BLTs (maybe BCTs? or BKTs?) but I think I also might make a cucumber caprese salad with one of the tomatoes. My basil plant is definitely ready for a harvest.

I love this time of year. There is so much bounty on display and it feels like there is time to try new things. At the farmer’s market we saw kohlrabi, purple cauliflower and so many summer squash and zucchini. Oh, do I have some plans.

So, even though I have dissertation edits and I lot of other work on, I’m so thrilled to have this creative outlet. I mean, you gotta eat, right?

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Tour de Fleece: Day 1

I wanted to start off strongly, so for today I set myself a goal of finishing this lovely blue roving.

I started with 4 ounces of it awhile ago and 3 or so ounces of it have already been spun. It has been awhile since I’ve actually broken out my wheel and done some spinning. I don’t think I spun at all last winter and spring. Since most of the four ounces are already spun (there’s just what you see there left), I had a jump on it.

I had planned for it to be a two-ply. I think the plan was to then Andean ply it. This technique allows you to ply two ends of the same single together. But, this technique isn’t great with a whole lot of yarn and 4 ounces of spun single can be a lot. (It is a favorite technique of mine, though.) The video below shows how to make an Andean bracelet, which is the set-up step for the plying technique.

But, while I was spinning, I realized that I had a bobbin with some Shetland spun on it and that the last of roving is also in my to-spin queue. So, I think I might spin the rest of that Shetland and then ply the brown with the tropical sea. I think it might make a nice hat in the end.

This lighter brown at the front I have already started as a single.

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In which I prepare for Tour de Fleece

I sat down to start planning last night for the tour. I have all this roving but I’m not always sure I know what I want to do with it. I know that this blue is going to be a two-ply fingering weight, mostly because I’ve already spun most of it.

And, this is meant to be a gradient from one end of the rainbow to another.

This is goat fiber! I don’t think I’ve ever spun goat before!

This beautiful wool is going to be fractal spun.

This is from Sweet Georgia Yarns. I love it so much.

But, I’m still working on the rest of them. Even if I only manage to get in 15 minutes a day, I bet I can get through at least those three projects. Then, I’ll get to think about what to knit with them. Ah, so fun.

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