Garden Goods

I have joked in the past that gardening and canning are some of my zombocalypse skills. Should the worst come to pass, I, theoretically, will still be able to feed myself and a few others. Of course, that widely exaggerates my skills. I don’t collect seeds and start from seedlings. I grow a selection of plants that I am interested in and not necessarily plants that’ll get someone the full complement of vitamins, minerals, etc. that a person might need. Even though I have a collection of recipes in a notebook that I have tried and made notes on, I almost never cook out of that book. I seem to prefer checking my pinterest boards. (Also, that notebook is in storage right now, so I couldn’t even update it if I wanted to without having to go through the hassle of retrieving it from an unknown box in my storage pod.) But, it is a nice story to tell myself. Especially after weeks in which I both foraged, harvested and canned.

First, it turns out there are elderberries growing wild at my parents’ house. What a delight to discover that. So, I collected the tiny berries (they’re little plants, so they have little berries) and then I made a syrup. I’m pretty proud of that.

Cooper helped destem the berries

Then, I added some farmers’ market cayenne peppers to my own harvest along with some ground mustard seed, and garlic to a brine. I am currently fermenting my own hot sauce. So. Excited. About. That!

It looks horrifying but it will be delicious. Unless you don’t like spicy things, in which case it’ll be horrifying

Finally, I tried again to make cherry chili jam. This time with a jalapeño. (I had previously tried using a single cayenne pepper. It did not have the kick I was hoping for.) You can definitely taste the chili this time around. I had it with butter on an english muffin earlier. It was so good. Just what the doctor ordered. (The doctor being me. I’m a doctor. Wow, that still hasn’t snuck in.)

Cherry, jalapeño, and lime jam with butter on an english muffin

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But now what?

Last week, I discussed a project that I have been working on that I was thinking about unraveling and starting again. As I wrote the post, I realized that was the right thing to do. It’s beautiful wool and its a beautiful pattern and I owe both of them to do them right. This has left me projectless. Do I start the same project again? But, what about everything already queued up to do this year? Including The Tullameen Mystery Knit-along by Sweet Georgia which begins next week. So, I have a week to start a project that’ll hopefully be finished by the time I start the MKAL so that it doesn’t languish on my needles while I try to keep up with the mystery piece.

Ideally, this new knit should also either involve yarn that I purchased or spun in July and a pattern I already have. Matching yarns and patterns is sometimes harder than you’d think. Plus, I’d really like to knit a shawl. But, I don’t have time to finish a shawl this week and I’ll be starting a shawl next week. So, I cycled through scarves, then hats. I finally landed on mitts.

I’ve had the pattern for Liliom Mitts since the days of the Badass Women’s Yarn Club (which, thankfully, wasn’t that long ago. Only 2016. I was worried it was 2013.) I’m using some of the yarn that I bought from the Tits Out Collective dyers. It isn’t the dk weight that the pattern calls for, but I think I can make it work. I’m making a bigger size than I normally would have. I think they’ll be a beautiful pair of mitts for fall.

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Consistently a Day Late

I meant for this post to be a WIP Wednesday, but somehow Wednesday got away from me. I’ve picked up this old WIP that I found when I was cleaning out my storage unit at the end of June. It was exciting to find the project. I like both the pattern and the wool. The wool is natural, undyed Shetland wool that was spun into a lace weight two-ply. My friend Joy Killjoy, the ’52 Spitfire spun it for me. The pattern is Dark Passenger by Oblivious Knits.

I’m not sure about finishing this project, though. There is a hole near the top that will have to be darned, so it’ll always be a little off. And, I think I misread the pattern at some point earlier on in the project, so I don’t think when its blocked it will look quite right.

I’ve finished another repeat on it, but I’m still unsure. What would you do in this situation? Carry on or frog it and try again?

Dark Passenger by Oblvious Knits in handspun Shetland wool

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Drafting

One of the best and worst things about long term projects is that you revisit the same materials over and over again. It is the best because when you revisit something, you get a chance to see it differently. This allows you to gain new insights and make new progress. But, it is the worst because you see everything that you did wrong or would do differently and you know that, for some of it, there is nothing you can do about it.

I’ve been working on a few drafts of things and it has been both heartwarming and cringeworthy. It has been heartwarming because I am enormously proud of the work I’ve done in the past three years. Some of it is undeniably the best work I’ve ever done. And, it is cringeworthy because even as the best work I’ve ever done, it is still flawed in places. That’s hard because I don’t just want it to be my best work, I want it to be recognized by others as good work. Also, part of me wants it to be perfect. Of course, research and writing are never perfect and I can’t let this desire get in my way of completing that.

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Still in Bloom

It is very hard to share space with people. Especially when you share space with people who do not communicate the way you do. I’ve run up against the wall a few times this week trying to accommodate other people’s communication styles and other needs and feeling like I’m not getting that back in return. Mercury Retrograde, amirite? It is hard to feel like you said what you needed as clearly as possible to find out someone else wasn’t listening. Or, to say something, make note of having said it, only to be told later by the person you were speaking to, “You didn’t say that.” But, while that has been a frustration this week, I have had the comfort of sharing space with my plants and my cat Cooper. It has been a good week for working and reading outside and I’ve really enjoyed being in the open space.

Summer skies always astound me. The sky really is that blue. It blows my mind

My plants have been doing really well. We’ve gotten some rain and some heat and I think that’s doing them good. I’ve gotten more tomatoes off of my grape tomato plant and there is a new tomato coming in on one of the other tomato plants.

This tomato plant was the smallest tomato plant and the slowest to really start growing. I am so proud of its work


The cayenne pepper plant is still doing well and one of the other pepper plants is starting to fruit.

I got this pepper plant from the library. The librarian said, “Free to a good home. It’s… maybe jalapeño?” So, we’ll see!

The third one is starting to bloom.

Gypsy Pepper in bloom

I am happy to say that the eggplant is also flowering again. I don’t know if I’ll get another eggplant, but the blooms are still lovely to see.

I was trying to be artsy with the picture. I think I only succeeded in crowding the frame with leaves


I have my last deadline of graduate school this week; the revisions to my dissertation are due to the graduate school. It is nice to be able to spend time working on those revisions in the garden.

Cooper, supervising my work over my shoulder. Also, if we start a band, this might be our album cover

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I Like Blending My Own Tea

Another lifetime ago, I thought I would take an introductory course on herbalism and how to be a herbalist. It was part of a series that was a training course. It was right after I had finished my Masters. I was looking for jobs and applying to PhD programs and because I can’t very well help myself when it comes to learning, I thought I’d try it out. It was something that I was interested in; I very much like plants. My then fiancé was working toward a film certification; that was his dream. He didn’t have the money for a screen-writing course. Herbalism was an interest, not a dream, so he took his course and I didn’t. I don’t regret that decision. He and I had very different upbringings and I was sure there would be another opportunity for me to explore this interest. I’d take the class another time. But, he scraped by for everything and it was nice to be able to give him that without him having to break himself trying to get the money for the class. For him, being able to pursue his dream was… well, a dream come true. I don’t think it was something he had really thought was possible. I’m not glad about a lot things about that relationship, but I am glad that I was able to give him that.

Anyway, now I’ve finished my PhD and I’m looking for jobs and thinking about what to do next. The Herbal Academy has announced its offering a mini-course on becoming a herbalist for free. It would seem that it is time.

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Tour de Fleece Wrap Up

What a ride! It was such a delight to get back to spinning and to also watch the first Welsh man to win the Yellow Jersey! Well done, Geraint Thomas!

I went in to this tour hoping to remind myself what I loved about spinning my own yarn and to spin up some things that I’ve had plans for. I was reminded about how much I love spinning, I was less successful at picking up projects I already had outlined plans for. I am so easily distracted. Especially when it comes to roving.

I started spinning some roving that I have been in the middle of for…a year. I can’t believe I didn’t spin anything the first half of 2018 and the last few months of 2017. It was a lovely blue, a tropical sea blue, with greens throughout.

The blues and greens of a tropical sea

This was then either spun, Andean style, back on itself or was plied with some natural brown Shetland wool.

And, then, instead starting in on one of the things I had a plan for, I picked up something that I’ve had for awhile that just looked so lovely, I couldn’t help myself. I’m happy with how it turned out, though.

This is the colorway Briar Rose from the Critter Ranch.

After that, I moved onto some mystery roving. I remember buying this fiber at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival. The idea that they had this roving, all ready to go, the lone leftover or lost bit for a batch that was processed, just tickled me. Mystery fiber. Unknown cross breed. Sign me up. I didn’t have a plan for it when I started, but I do now. It is destined to be knit into something beautiful.

IT IS UNKNOWN. A MYSTERY.

I didn’t finish the mystery fiber. In the last week, I switched it up and started on some goat wool that is dyed to be a gradient and seamlessly transition from one color into another. I have ideas for what I want to knit this up into.

The purples are killing me

All in all, I’m pretty proud of all the things I’ve spun this month. I have three new yarns and two in progress. I’d say this is a good tour.

Three recently spun yarns, two yarns on a bobbin, a cat and a cup of tea!

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Cannelloni from the Garden

My relationship with my Italian Grandmother was complicated. Suffice it to say that she wasn’t really the kind of woman to invite children into her kitchen to help her cook. But, I love Italian food and I loved my Grandmother, even when it was hard. So, I really enjoy finding chances to try something and honor that part of my heritage. (Although, thats complicated, too, since what want to cook isn’t always from the part of Italy we’re from. But, you know. You do what you do.)

I had dinner with a friend when I was back in Buffalo a month ago. He introduced me to the website Pasta Grannies. It came up because we talked about my garden and how productive my chard and kale plants have been. The recipe he mentioned at dinner I haven’t found yet. The website is an epic stroll through home culinary traditions on the Italian peninsula. I’ve watched so many of the videos and gotten so many ideas. The website is amazing, if you have some time and want to go down a rabbit hole, I highly recommend this one. I bookmarked a recipe for cannelloni, because I knew that would be a nice way to use a bunch of chard and kale at once.

Kale, swiss chard and the second grape tomato harvest

And, then, despite the fact the website is called pasta grannies and it includes the recipe for an egg pasta, I totally punted the ball and used store bought pasta and not even the pasta that the recipe called for me to make. I used lasagna noodles and made rolls.

The filling of ricotta, parmagiana, pecorino romano, chard, kale, marjoram, nutmeg, and salt and pepper


But, long rolls, so they look a little like cannelloni.

Fake cannellonis all rolled up in a pan

Then, Carla Tomasi’s recipe calls for a light bechamel with lemon and mint. It was on the heat 35 seconds longer than it needed to be, and I’m pretty bummed about that. I got it just right, napping to the spoon (is that how you use that cooking term?). Then, I looked away for a second. The sauce still tastes lovely. Lemon zest is probably going to feature in all sauces for the rest of the summer.

Covered in bechamel and butter, ready for the oven

I’m so thrilled that its been cool enough that the oven can be on. It didn’t get as brown as I would have liked it, but I didn’t want to dry it out leaving it in too long.

Baked cannelloni in a lemon bechamel sauce. It did get a little golden around the edges, which is good. But, I was hoping for my golden brown on the top

I served it with a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes and red onion with a vinaigrette.

A cannelloni? Cannellono? and a small salad with vinaigrette served on the good china

There is nothing quite like home cooking.

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Making Space in the Classroom, Online, Everywhere

A few years ago, I made a move to try and make space in my classroom for more of the gender spectrum. I want students to feel safe in my classroom so that they can get the most out of my classes. I want them to be comfortable so they feel they can share what they’ve learned, answer questions, ask questions. When we do practical work, I want them to feel like they can get something wrong and try again. So, after reading a bunch online, the first day of the semester when I had students introduce themselves I also had them share their preferred pronouns. (I always have students introduce themselves so we all know exactly who everyone is and how to say their names. I then insist that everyone get everyone else’s name right.) It was on the disastrous side. I was nervous about it, being the first time I had done it, and the students could tell. They also all knew each other from the program they were in and didn’t understand why this new instructor was asking them to share information they all already knew and that felt completely obvious to them. I fumbled through the explanation but I don’t think I did a great job at it. I hope that I didn’t cause any damage to any not-out transgender students. I tried this once more and it worked better but I’ve changed my approach after reading a few every well written pleas not to do things like this because you may put a student in a position where they feel like they have to out themselves when they are not ready. It was on tumblr and I wish I had bookmarked it but I didn’t. My new strategy is to give my preferred pronouns when I introduce myself so that students know that is an option but not to ask it of anyone. This is still a learning process for me but what is important here is that students get the idea that the classroom is for them. It is their space to learn. And, it is my job to do everything I can to make that known.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, making space so that other people have space. I’ve been thinking about it because I’ve been watching various horror stories unfold in online spaces. LGBTQIA+ people having to make their social media private because they are being targeted with hate speech. Black women being silenced, often by white women who claim to be allies, while they try to process the death of Nia Wilson at the hands of a white supremacist. It is important that people have that space. Space to process, space to live their lives, space to feel safe. And, its important that those of us with privilege listen to what others are telling us about their needs. We should be able to make that space. We should be able to defend that space so that they don’t have to defend it by themselves.

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Happy National Lipstick Day!

When I was younger, my relationships with makeup and things I considered feminine were fraught. First, I was a fat kid and a fat teen, so it was hard to find clothing that appropriately captured my sense of style and also fit my body. This led me to wearing a lot of baggy clothing and t-shirts. I’m not really a fan of the t-shirt and jeans look, but I didn’t know what else to do. For awhile, I consoled myself by being into hair and makeup. Maybe if I dyed my hair the right color (as close to eggplant as possible) and I wore the right makeup, I could still count as pretty.

Second, because I grew up internalizing a lot of misogynistic ideas that traditionally feminine activities were frivolous and stupid and not-something-you-wasted-your-time-on-if-you-were-a-thoughtful-person. And, that was hard. I was interested in “girly things”. I wanted to wear dresses and play with makeup and color and style. Those things seemed fun. But, I also wanted to be thought of as smart and I wanted the nerds, particularly the nerdy boys, to think I was good enough for their time. So, I walked this line where I appeared to not care about my interests and also appeared to not care what other people thought of me. It is a lot of work to affect that much disinterest, especially when I really did care about both. I am lucky in that I did find people and my performance was accepted. But, I did occupy a space that wasn’t particularly feminine and it was made very clear to me that I wasn’t attractive. I was fun to hang out with. I was invited to play Vampire: The Masquerade and DnD. But, most of those kids didn’t really get a chance to know me. I didn’t let them. I didn’t even let me get to know myself.

It hurts to think about that. I was so ashamed of my body, and therefore who I am because to be fat was to be stupid and lazy and not worth anyone’s time, that the thought that anything, even something small that might somehow mitigate those things was something I latched onto with desperate hope. (Not coincidentally, and like a lot of nerds I suppose, I read a lot and worked very hard to appear like I just effortlessly knew everything. And, when it became apparent that none of my efforts did the trick, I pretended like I didn’t care and spectacularly crashed and burned. But, that’s another post for another day.)

My relationship to makeup, like my relationship to my body, has changed. I think I consciously started to try and love my fat and (as I thought) unattractive and unruly body in 2009. I went to Re/Dress with my sister when it was still in Brooklyn for the first time that Spring and I bought so many clothes. A friend of mine was a friend of the sales lady (sales femme?) and tweeted at her to take good care of me and my sister. It was a wholly uplifting experience, maybe the first one I had ever had a clothing store. At least, the first one in a clothing store that wasn’t the result of weeks of dieting. It was certainly the first time I’d ever had the experience of feeling supported and seen for who I was now and not who I would be in 20 pounds in a fitting a room. I still have some of those clothes and I still wear them. When Re/Dress re-opened in Cleveland, I drove there from Buffalo with some friends. I definitely still have and wear those clothes. I bought a Size Queen dress that weekend that I couldn’t afford but that just fit so well. I makes my boobs look good, it makes my waist look good, I feel lively and fun it. It’s a great dress.
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