Monday, August 31, 2009

Project #218 - Chocolate Milk Mix

The local fancy-schmancy grocery store is only good for one thing: really, really good chocolate milk. Even Mormon missionaries can't resist when I offer them some*. However, today I made a special trip only to find that the store only had regular milk and regular milk sucks. I prefer to get my calcium only with added flavorings.

However, it is possible that I can do my own flavor magic and step up the chocolate milk to butter-rum chocolate milk. I could have just used real butter and rum, but I have these flavorings and they're going to get used for something, dammit.

Here is the secret to hot chocolate mixes: they are essentially half sugar and half cocoa. That is all you need to know. *If anyone knocks on my door in order to evangelize, it is always my policy to offer them something to drink, no matter what religion they are selling. No one has ever taken me up on my offer unless chocolate milk was on the table. BONUS: people tend to leave faster for some reason, hopefully not because they think I'm going to poison them and put them on top of the stack of Jehovah's Witnesses in the basement.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/31/2009 08:46:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Project #217 - Metal Barrettes

Continuing my new found love of epoxy, I made some barrettes out of metal stampings that I bought waaay back in February during MLK weekend. I had plans to make one really complex thing out of all of my leaves, but I couldn't figure it out aesthetically. I guess that leaves me free to make lots of little things.

To test out the strength of my new favorite glue I wore this barrette to the water park. It survived six water slides, three rounds of the wave pool and one frantic lazy river swim and went home intact.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/30/2009 09:32:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Project #216 - Test Tube Bud Vases

I like being able to put flowers in unexpected places.

I used some science surplus test tubes and neodymium disc magnets to make my bud vases. Whatever magnets you use will need to be strong, so rare earth magnets are a good place to start. I also used some epoxy to hold the two pieces together.

The brand I used had minimal fumes, so I felt comfortable mixing it in small quantities indoors. I also scuffed up the test tubes with a little sandpaper to give the glue a rougher surface to adhere to.

My test tubes are narrow enough so that the water tension doesn't break when we open the dishwasher. However, we do have to water the flowers at least once a day because even if we fill it to the top, it's still just a few mL of water.

This kind of arrangement might work for simple wedding or shower decorations. The vases could be attached to a magnetic picture frame or stuck to a metal container holding candles or pens and paper. People could even take them home as party favors.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/29/2009 05:38:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Friday, August 28, 2009

Project #215 - Toadstool Cake Toppers

I've had a few recent encounters with mushrooms in the park and in the backyard. There's something really fascinating about how they seem to just appear overnight and don't bother to blend in with the scenery most of the time. On the one hand, they're delicious, and on the other they can kill you in pretty horrible ways (liver and kidney failure, for example).

I'm just starting to learn how to identify wild mushrooms. I can usually identify ones that I think are edible, but I lack the confidence to actually pluck, cook and eat ones I find in the wild.

Still, mushrooms are the cutest members of the fungi kingdom. Certainly, they're one of the few poisonous things I'd consider putting on a wedding cake.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/28/2009 05:27:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Project #214 - Fall/Winter Fabric Palettes

I've spent hours going through my (embarrassingly ample) fabric stash to assemble my fall wardrobe this year. I'm already going to enter a wardrobe contest, and I have one palette assembled, but that would only cover part of my fall sewing. It's ridiculous, but true. Really, I just like to sit on the floor of the living room stacking and re-stacking my favorites in little piles, trying to build a 'color story' for what I'm going to wear.

Okay, 'color story' sounds a little nuts, but trust me, it's like the pleasure of organizing all of the crayons in a crayon box into perfect 'ROY G. BIV' color order. It's soothing. Plus, it's good to have clothes that coordinate, especially if you're going to take the time to make them yourself.

I came up with two palettes that will cover my fall/winter wardrobe.

I like mixing intermediate colors together, and these greens and purples combine to make the think of a shady grove. There are at least three corduroys packed into this palette, so I think most of the clothes will be business casual and 'play' clothes. I also have a beautiful dupioni silk and some lovely silk shangtung that I'll use to make the dresses for some of my formal occasions this fall and Christmas.

I expanded on my last primary colors palette to add three festive polka dot fabrics that will help make this collection of fabrics look a little less serious. I have some knits for t-shirts and light cotton fabrics to keep me covered up, but not stifle me in the more conservative parts around the Nile.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/27/2009 09:35:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Project #213 - Japanese-Style Beet Salad

Clark and I stayed with a friend in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan last fall. She served us the beet salad every morning for breakfast during our stay. While it might sound to some people that beet salad would make for a pretty miserable breakfast, it was actually one of the culinary highlights of our trip. The beets themselves were even grown with love in her own rooftop garden.

Stupidly, I forgot all about that wonderful treat until I purchased a carton of beets from the farmer's market yesterday. Clark and I had to scrape our respective memories in order to reconstruct the recipe, but I think we did a reasonable job.


  • 1-2 pounds of beets (~10 small ones)
  • 2 tbsp dried wakame
  • 1/8 cup chopped chives
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp Ponzu

I scrubbed the dirt off of each beet, chopped them into smaller pieces and placed them on a cookie sheet. I baked them at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until they were nice and soft and then let them cool enough to be handled. Finally, I rubbed off the remaining skin on each beet slice and then diced them into even smaller pieces.

I then added about 1/2 of water to the wakame in a separate bowl and gave it 15 minutes to hydrate.

While waiting on the seaweed I roasted my sesame seeds. I placed them in a thin layer at the bottom of a small pan and ran it over my stove flame on high until the seeds started to turn brown and crackle. You'll want to keep the pan covered, because the seeds will pop just like pop corn and get all over the kitchen. Shake the pan so that everything cooks uniformly; it will only take about 20-30 seconds to roast them to a golden brown.

I then crushed the roasted seeds into a powder using my mortar and pestle.

The beet salad can be made in a big bowl and dished out in individual portions if you're feeding more than one person. Otherwise, I like to keep the ingredients separate until I want a bowl for a snack or with dinner. They'll keep by themselves, covered, for up to a week. Just mix them together at the desired proportions and enjoy.

This is one of the tastiest 'healthy' dishes I've ever eaten. It's one of Clark's favorites and I've been giving him stern warnings not to eat it all.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/26/2009 09:49:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Project #212 - Flower Arrangement

Oh boy. Oh boy. Today. Today, I deserve a drink. Sadly, it is difficult to do my job and drink at the same time, so I'm settling for the $5 variety bouquet at the Farmer's market as my pick-me-up. Just carrying the flowers around the market and to my car did a little to lift my spirits.

When I take a new bouquet of flowers home I always prepare them immediately. First, I cut the stem of each flower at an angle underwater so they can easily take in moisture. I keep the cut stems initially in a holding container full of cold water until I'm ready to arrange them. Next, I remove any leaves or buds from the lower part of the stem; they'll rot underwater. After that, I'll mix one part Sprite or 7-up with four parts water and pour that into my vase. Finally, I'll arrange the flowers in the vase starting with the tallest and working my way to the lowest stems, clipping as necessary. The tallest stems are in the middle of the neck of the vase and the shortest ones will be around the rim.

I try to put flowers of the same variety at different levels, and keep the most prominent ones to odd numbers, this makes the arrangement look a little less artificial and more natural and spontaneous.

It's embarrassing that spending a little money at the market can make me feel better.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/25/2009 09:47:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Project #211- 10 Minute fence

Our old backyard fence was never very good. I never really took a picture of it, it was supposed to be temporary, so I had to collect an image of it from one of my video clips. It was far too short and the chickens technically could have flown over it months ago, but chicken psychology being what it is, they never cared to test that boundary until we started pasturing them on the other side. Once they spent a few days grazing from the comfort of their mobile pen, their territory magically expanded to include the land on both sides of the fence and suddenly they realized that they could come and go to either side as they pleased.

Chickens are perfectly legal in Pittsburgh, except when they are "fowl-at-large". That is, fowl unencumbered by a barrier, free to go where they like. Our chickens never cared to leave our yard, but the fence-hopping had to be curbed immediately.

We built our new one out of wire fencing and metal fence posts, the kind usually used to keep deer out of vegetable patches. The posts can be installed in a few minutes with the application of a shoe to the the flanges and pushing the lower part of the post a foot into the soil. The fencing then be strung across and held in place by built-in hooks on the posts, and finally, cut to size.

I installed our fence using my dainty hands and feet in less than ten minutes. We have plans for a gate, but for now we just unhook and rehook the fencing when we need to get through.


BTW, I never made a formal announcement of it, but our two ducks are now back living at the farm from where we purchased them and the chickens. Their persistent ability to wake up our entire block with loud, echoing quacks everyday precisely at 6:00 am, weekends included, lead us to our decision. This farm is run by someone who won't eat fowl of any kind and we like to think they are happier now and have lots of boyfriends.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/23/2009 09:46:00 PM : (1) comments : splink

Clark's Projects - Zuchinni with Ground Lamb

A few days ago we received an email from my brother-in-law, Jon, with the subject title "Best. Dinner. Ever." It included the following recipe:

1 large zucchini – cut about 1/3 off of top (lengthwise) and scooped out seeds until there was only about ½ and inch of flesh all the way around. Sprinkled garlic salt and pepper and some cayenne on the inside of that

Sautéed 3 cloves garlic chopped, about ¼ cup of onion and ¼ cup of green pepper in olive oil for about 4 minutes until cooked, but not soggy. Put in a bowl

In same pan, I browned ½ lb of ground lamb. Drained and seasoned with thyme, paprika, pepper, salt and added sautéed veggies. Cooked for another 3 minutes.

Stuffed inside hollowed zucchini and kind of heaped it up on top.

Baked at 375 for 35 minutes, covered loosely with tin foil.

Removed and sprinkled gorgonzola cheese over the top and baked for another 5-10 mins uncovered.

LET COOL for 5 mins.


Of course, we had to try it for ourselves. As usual, Jon managed to hit foodie gold. The tastes and textures of this dish seem really complex, but after eating a few bites it starts to feel like comfort food, high-class comfort food, but still warm and cozy.

Clark was a little worried that I wouldn't want to try it because he has been operating under the mistaken notion for years that I dislike lamb. It's quite the opposite; lamb is one of my favorite meats and I would be happy to add it to the regular dinner rotation. In fact, I don't think I've ever met a terrestrial meat animal that I didn't enjoy in one way or another.

I was also pleased that we finally had a use for my caveman-club-sized zucchini. I think this is the first time we've used a whole one in one sitting.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/23/2009 09:36:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Friday, August 21, 2009

Project #210 - Picnic Dinner

Today was a good day. I spend most of my days working from home silent and alone. I love being by myself, but I do find myself anticipating the arrival of my husband home from work starting in the early evening. I was kind of climbing the walls from not leaving the house much this week, so as soon as Clark got home I packed a dinner and dragged him back out of the door almost immediately. I wanted to go somewhere with trees and a place to swim outside of the city limits. South Park fits that description and has a wave pool open until the late hour of 7:30 pm.

We arrived at the wave pool just 30 minutes before closing. Because there was just one wave cycle left we got in for free! I love teenagers who just don't care that much about enforcing the rules! This was absolutely the best way this scenario could have worked out for my black, cheapskate heart. The pool was huge and nearly empty so I was able to wear myself out diving and swimming around. Clark is still trying to find a way feel comfortable swimming in the deep end, especially when the waves are churning, so I waved a lot to him from the 8' section. He always seems amazed at how long I can swim without resting, which is funny because I can't run anywhere near as far as he can. Though it does make me feel like deep down I'm an aquatic mammal.

I'm always ravenous after a good swim.

I packed tomatoes, salami, really good prosciutto, plantain chips, a peach, soft cheese, cuban crackers, baklava, almonds, a bottle of water, and a nice bottle of cherry soda.

I like eating outside.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/21/2009 11:54:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Japanese Fabric Finds: Otsukaya, Part 2

More from one of the greatest fabric stores on the planet:

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/21/2009 09:04:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Project #209 - Equation Fabric

Okay, one last design before the deadline!

All of the equations in the above fabric are from actual science and math applications. There are a few permutation and factorial equations, which I use a lot. You might also recognize the Ideal gas law, which was known as "Piv Nert" or "Pimp Nerd" in my high school and appropriated as a nickname by one of my classmates. Fun times.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/20/2009 11:40:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Project #208 - Coffee Fabric

This is another one for free swatch day. It's a fabric design for people who really, really like coffee.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/19/2009 11:39:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Project #207 - Office Supply Fabric

Honestly, my dream job would be to be a fabric designer. I've spent plenty of my time screen printing my own proofs, but now with the advent of custom fabric printing at Spoonflower a lot of the drudgery has been removed. I don't even have to worry about registering prints or reducing designs to one or two colors.

Spoonflower will be having a free sample day tomorrow. Customers will be able to order up to two test swatches of fabric for free and have an option to donate to Heifer International.

I'll be playing pretend fabric tycoon for the next day or two while I try to beat the free swatch deadline.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/19/2009 09:37:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Project #206 - Fall Wardrobe Plan

I used to be that the end of summer meant back to school shopping and new clothes. In my younger days that meant angst and boredom at the department store. As I got older I gradually grew an interest in clothes, although, mind you, it was years after most other young ladies my age began to care about what they wore. Still, I developed my own shopping system. I would look at the Sunday circulars for items I liked, circle them and then try to assemble a wardrobe under the dollar amount set by my mother. Other times of year I shopped where-ever for what-ever with friends, but fall always had a plan and a mission.

Now, instead of perusing circulars and catalogs, I'm looking through pattern books and my fabric stash. This is my second year of making all of my own clothes, or at least my second year of attempting not to buy clothes I am capable of making myself. The magic of having this kind of goal is that it's suddenly made me impervious to impulse. I can slide through a entire rack of clothes thinking "...I can make that...I can make that...that is hideous...I can make that..." Now I can walk out of stores empty handed when it used to be guaranteed that I would drop at least $50. It's a nice feeling. In fact, it's been months since I so much as purchased a pair of socks.

I'll be joining the wardrobe contest over at to give me limits and structure for my fall clothes. There's just something about having rules that makes it easier to make a plan and get started. I'll be making most of my stuff with a future trip abroad in mind, so there will definitely be some pieces that are more conservative than my usual style.

I've been waiting for it to finally get cool enough to sew. It's not fun to be buried under piles of fabric when it's 85 degrees in the house. I'm excited to start again.

A larger version of my wardrobe plan can be found here.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/18/2009 07:41:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Monday, August 17, 2009

Project #205 - Gazpacho

It is really freakin' hot in my house and there is no way that I am going to turn on my oven. Still, I have mountains of fresh vegetables from the garden and only so much I can do with them without heat.

Curious, I looked up some recipes for gazpacho, the famous chilled tomato-based soup, and I was relieved to see that not only did it not require any heating, but that all of ingredients needed to make my own were in the garden or the fridge.

I pulled my ingredients, mixed them according to this recipe and left them to chill in the fridge overnight.

I had a bowl with dinner and as I sipped it I just felt wrong. It tasted just fine, but like a room temperature glass of milk or an uncooked but apple from a warm room, it just felt weird in my mouth. I really wanted to warm the soup on the stove.

Okay, so maybe cold soups are not for me. I do like dips and this would probably go well with a bowl of tortilla chips. I'll stick to popsicles if I feel hot.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/17/2009 01:43:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Project #204 - Stereo Fabric

There is one really, really good stereo store in the suburbs outside of Pittsburgh. Clark loves to listen to high-end stereo equipment, and was really exited about taking a trip out there try out what they have.

The storefront is crammed with dozens of stereo components that ranged from prices I would expect to ones that were kind of scary. One of the stereo set-ups in the store literally costs more than our house. I really mean literally, as in $$$ for stereo > $$$ for house. I couldn't listen to it for more than a few minutes without feeling overstimulated and sick, but Clark was happy to sit in a chair directly in front of the speakers and listen to music for nearly half an hour.

I'm supposed to have better hearing than Clark, but frankly, I couldn't tell the difference between any of it. The $1000 speakers sounded the same as the $5000 speakers, and those sounded the same as the $30,000+ speakers. He listened to several songs all of them and compared them to sitting in different spots a concert hall. I just felt overwhelmed by the sound and couldn't wait to drive home in our silent car.

To pass the time while Clark listened I pulled out my notebook and drew quick sketches of the faces of most of the stereos in the store. It was interesting to note that most of the components did the same three or four jobs, but no two had the same button configuration.

I turned my sketches into a fabric that I printed on Spoonflower. Our second anniversary is coming soon, and the traditional gift is cotton. I think this will fit the bill.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/15/2009 01:39:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Friday, August 14, 2009

Project #203 - Ms. Giraffe

Holy crap. I cannot draw animal feet to save my life. Are there life drawing classes out there where people just sit around drawing feet all day?

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/14/2009 01:45:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Project #202 - Copic Marker Drawings

When I was younger I was convinced that I was a genius and without hesitation I would be able to pick up any musical instrument and play perfectly without hesitation. I would look at a piano or an violin and imagine myself playing them, my hands moving expertly. However, in reality, every time I touched a musical instrument nothing but screechy noise came out.

However, if there ever was ever an instrument built that I could pick up and play without any prior would be a marker.

I've been watching demos of Copic markers on youtube and drooling over what they can do. They're like watercolors in a pen, capable of blending and layering color in ways that ordinary markers cannot. Both of the illustrations above were done by a single marker. I'm in love.

These markers are super pricey, so I only purchased a few for this initial trial. The cheapest ones in Pittsburgh, cheaper than on the internet, even, can be found at the CMU art store.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/13/2009 01:44:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Project #201 - Ground Cherry Tarts

I didn't know it a few weeks ago, but there are still fruits left in this country that I have yet to try. There was a peculiar berry at the farmer's market I attended in Columbus last week. They were about the size of a marble and ranged in color from lime green to cantaloupe orange. They tasted at first like pineapples, but the aftertaste resembled a strong vanilla. Most distinctly, each came covered in a papery husk, like a tomatillo, and with the same kind of seeds.

Those were ground cherries I was eating. A close relative of the tomatillo and tomato, the fruits look like mini versions of their close cousins, but have a taste on a whole other level.

I saved some seeds from a few of the better fruits a few days ago, a super-benefit of buying organic occasionally. They're supposed to be able to grow anywhere tomatoes grow, so I hope I have a backyard full of them by next year.

By some miracle I managed to keep myself from devouring my whole carton of ground cherries and save enough to make dessert for my friends. The crust for this recipe is the same as the one for my mixed berry tarts.


  • 1.5 cups husked, halved ground cherries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp tapioca pearls
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of chilled, diced, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of chilled water
Combine the fruit, sugar and tapioca. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Mix the dry ingredients and use a fork to cut in the butter until the mixture looks like graham cracker crumbles and there are no pieces of butter bigger than a pea remaining. Add the water slowly and while rolling up the dough into a ball. Separate into six pieces and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll the dough into 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick disks touching them as little as possible with your hands. Working quickly, Place each disk on a cookie sheet and add 2 tablespoons of the fruit mixture into the center of the circle and fold up the sides to form a boat.

Put the tarts in the fridge for another hour. Preheat and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Top each with a little fresh cream or butter and serve.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/12/2009 11:49:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Project #200 - Garden Dinner

Every year that I've had a garden I've thrown some sort of a dinner party so that my friends could have an opportunity to share in the bounty. The first year, I was just able to contribute herbs for omelettes, but this year I'm trying to make most of the dishes with 50% or more ingredients from the yard.

We made chilled cucumber soup, bruschetta, scalloped tomatoes and grilled chicken (with garden herbs).

The chilled cucumber soup, sadly, was not a hit. I think most Americans aren't very familiar with chilled soups (myself included), and it feels a little odd to be gulping down a bowl of vegetables and cream. I desperately wanted to find a carrot of bag of chips to dip into my soup instead of drinking it. I usually love Martha Stewart Recipes, but this is one I probably won't be making again.

Still, it was satisfying to harvest two 1/2 cup measures of herbs without denting my total supply.

The tomato topping for the bruschetta was a super simple mixture of diced tomatoes, basil leaves, and a pinch of salt. The bread was a loaf of my favorite, the daily baguette.

I also roasted half a peeled garlic bulb in the toaster oven for 15 minutes, or until the cloves were translucent. I mooshed the cloves with a fork into a paste and had guests treat it as a spread. I should have made more because the dish of garlic was scoured clean after less than 30 minutes of serving as an appetizer.

I should probably get the recipes for the remaining food from Clark, as he made the scalloped tomatoes and grilled chicken. The scalloped tomatoes are especially beloved in our household and it's worth getting the actual recipes correct from the beginning.

Sadly, we ran out of time to grill the giant zucchini. I pulled it out of the garden this morning, but now it's going to have to spend some time in the fridge taking up most of the veggie drawer.

It's so big that it's an appropriate size for a vegetarian version of 'Lamb to the Slaughter'. You know, I could bludgeon someone to death with it and then feed it to the detectives investigating the murder. I'm going to keep that one in my back pocket...just in case.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/12/2009 10:30:00 PM : (2) comments : splink

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Project #199 - Seed Envelopes

I stopped by the art store today to take a look some new markers. What I wanted wasn't in stock, so the manager gave me a catalog. It's a catalog I have no intention on using because the whole point of going to the art store was to try out the markers before buying them.

Now, I have a catalog with pretty, glossy paper. It will be much more useful reused as something else or recycled, rather than something that sits on my coffee table and entices me to spend money. Anyway, I don't think I've ordered anything out of a catalog since the advent of online shopping.

When I was in high school my girlfriends and I would rip pages out of fashion magazines and fold them into envelopes for sending letters through the mail. This catalog has the same kind of shiny paper with colorful images, so I could use the pages for the same thing. However, since I don't mail letters very often anymore it would be more useful to have envelopes suited for another task, namely seed collection out in the garden.

To make my own seed saving envelopes, I first made a template out of card stock. The template is based on what I wanted the final size of the envelopes to be (about 2" by 3"), plus a little extra on the sides for folding, and a flap on one end. I ripped out my favorite pages from the catalog and traced my template onto each. I then cut them out and folded the flaps over, taping them in place.

Lastly, I added some labels so that I could keep track of what was what and when it was collected.

Now I have no excuses for not collecting and sharing seeds this year.

Labels: , ,

posted by Alison 8/11/2009 01:43:00 PM : (2) comments : splink

Monday, August 10, 2009

Project #198 - Quick Yellow Tomato Dip

Today I am going to sulk at home. I'm going to sulk and eat and entire loaf of bread. I'm going to sulk, eat a loaf of bread covered in sauce, and watch trashy TV shows that I'm embarrassed to watch when my husband is home.

This has been a day.

Let's make some sauce.


  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • ~1.5 cups of chopped yellow pear tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil

Fry the garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until brown. While the garlic is cooking toss the chopped tomatoes (seeds & skins intact*) in the balsamic vinegar and salt. Stir the tomatoes mixture into the olive oil and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally. Add the basil and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

*I've noticed that the seeds and skins of yellow pear tomatoes are the most flavorful part. They're tiny tomatoes, anyway so it's a ridiculous amount of work and you'll be discarding 75% of each fruit.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/10/2009 01:46:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Project #197 - Scissors Fabric Design

I'm a big fan of Spoonflower, it's a company that allows internet users to design and print their own fabrics. At first, prints were limited to 100% cotton fabrics, but they've been slowly adding more options. I'm very excited about the release of their new cotton-linen blend, so I made designed my own print in anticipation.

I don't have the time or skills to do the illustrations for my fabric by hand, so I decided to do a print that involved photographs of a collection of everyday objects, namely something that I would have a lot of. Of course, I have few dozen pairs of scissors floating around the living room alone.

Growing up, we had one pair of good scissors in the house that lived in a kitchen drawer. I suppose the number one thing I was scolded on was taking the house scissors and not putting them back. Now, as an adult, I have a policy of keeping so many pairs that it doesn't matter if someone takes one and walks away, there will still be a few pairs within arm's reach. No one needs to yell if any of them end up in another room.

I rounded up every pair of scissors I could find in the house, placed each on a piece of green paper and snapped snapped a picture. I used two table lamps placed at 90 degree angles to minimize shadows.

I used my Photoshop skills to separate out each pair from the background and arrange them in a pattern.

I'm saving my money so that I can order a few yards when when I get chance.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/09/2009 01:42:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Farm Trip

We spent part of this weekend visiting the town of Emlenton in Venango county. Friends have a farm there and raise turkeys and chickens.

When I pick up my chickens they feel light and I can usually feel their ribs. These chickens, however, feel solid and thick, like little meaty bowling balls.

They spend most of their time in the barn sitting around. Few of them took any interest in us.

The turkeys live on the second floor of the barn and display a little more personality.

They like keep watch out of their window. There were little turkey eyes constantly tracking our activities in the yard.

We collected eggs from the free-range laying flock and ripe blueberries from the bushes. These eggs are what inspired me to raise my own chickens. They taste so much better than store eggs and make the best poached eggs ever.

My friend David bought a defunct antique shop in downtown Emlenton. He's going to use the building as his residence, so he'll probably cut you a deal on all the junk left behind.

I'm kind of jealous. It's like he's living in a library.


posted by Alison 8/08/2009 01:52:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Project #196 - Spelt Wheat Bread

I purchased a small bag of spelt wheat flour on a whim at a farmer's market a few weeks ago. I've used whole spelt wheat berries as a snack in the past, but I had no idea that they could be used for baking. The seeds always had a nutty, wholesome flavor to them and those are things I like in a bread.

I tested the flour using my daily baguette recipe, replacing the bread flour with spelt flour.

I don't know if all spelt wheat is like this, but the meal seemed to be a lot coarser than regular bread flour. I don't know if that is due to old timey griding on the part of the producer, or if it's just due the seed itself. The dough itself reminded me of the texture of cornbread batter, though it was a lot springier than most rising bread doughs.

I had a big hunk with dinner. The verdict: I liked it, husband not so much. It's kind of a coarse tasting bread, traditional peasant fare, but it's good with butter and tasty morsels. However, next time, I'll try using the little bit of flour left in a recipe where cornmeal would be used.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/08/2009 01:51:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Friday, August 07, 2009

Project #195 - Sit Upon

We're going to another bonfire in the woods! I like nature, but I do not like sitting on the ground or on dirty benches. When I was a girl scout about *mumble* *mumble* years ago we would make these things called 'sit-upons' so that we wouldn't have to get our precious fannies wet or muddy in the wilderness. The first one I ever made consisted of a few laminated layers of newspaper and didn't last too long. Now it's time for a sturdier, more grown up version.

My sit-upon is made of a layer of quilt batting sandwiched between two layers of vinyl. It will be waterproof, comfy, and easy to roll up and carry.

First, I sewed the two vinyl pieces together on three sides, right sides together. I then turned to vinyl and inserted the batting. I sewed the open end shut, tucking in the edges, and topstitched on two ends for extra waterproofiness.

Rolled up and ready for campfire time!

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/07/2009 01:53:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Project #194 - Farm Animal Designs

Today I woke up at 4am to finish something for testing this morning. I'd worked a full day and a little more by lunch time. I'm kind of sick of these days where I'm too tired to actually rest and spend most of the day zombied in front of the TV or on the internet. I need to do things while my work schedule is flexible. I need to go and see things outside of my house.

So, I went to the county fair, the county fair three counties away. I went to the Fayette County Fair. I'd never been to a real county fair, one with livestock and blue ribbons. My hometown only seemed to have fairs that were related to civil war reenactments.

There were so many things on display in competition. I never knew that fairs gave out prizes for best hay.

Holy crap, there was a lot of livestock.

I took a special interest in the rabbit & poultry pavilion.

It was teeth-vibratingly loud in there as each of the roosters attempted to out do each other.

Blue ribbons only went to the giantest of a particular kind of livestock. This duck was the size of a suitcase.

I couldn't imagine any of my chickens tolerating such a tiny cage for a week. I am raising princesses...or maybe chickens with higher standards.

Still, I took lots of pictures that I'll be able to use later for screen printing or fabric design.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/06/2009 01:55:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Project #193 - Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I'm picking about 2-3 pounds of tomatoes every day and despite copious bruschetta and tomato sandwich eating, the tomatoes are starting to win the battle. It's time to bring out the big guns, the big, saucy guns.


  • 1 small onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of peeled, minced garlic
  • 6-8 medium sized tomatoes, minced
  • Salt, pepper, oregano, basil to taste

  1. 1. Fry an onion in about 3 tbsp of olive oil
  2. 2. Add 2 tbsp of minced garlic once tbe onions start to brown
  3. 3. When the garlic starts to brown throw in the minced tomatoes
  4. 4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. 5. Let the sauce cook down to the desired thickness, stirring about once every 15 minutes
  6. 6. Add oregano and basil to taste about minutes before the sauce is finished cooking, this keeps the taste from completely cooking out of the leaves.

Labels: ,

posted by Alison 8/05/2009 01:56:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Project #192 - Pictograph Map of Pennsylvania

Do you remember the World Book encyclopedias? I think I read through the entire set in my home, from A to WXYZ. One of my favorite parts was the pictograph maps of each state showing the major mining, manufacturing and agricultural products and what area they come from. You know, the ones with tiny cow, hay and fabric icons over their region of production. I thought they were a commonplace teaching tool, but I found it really difficult to find any online and none for Pennsylvania.

I love my adopted state of Pennsylvania. It's not too hot and there are good dairy products available. It deserves a pictograph map made after 1970.

I thought doing the research for this would be a snap. I would just have to look up production records using the magic of the internet, and plop the icon on the corresponding county. Voila! Sadly, this information is really, really hard to come by on the internet. It was even tough to find what I needed at the Pennsylvania Room at the main branch of the city library. What I did find at the library was 15 years old at the most recent. Booo!

I still don't have county-level statistics for aluminum or lime, which are top mining products for the state. Maybe I should take that as a sign that I am taking this waaay too seriously. If the library, the one with the pennsylvania room, doesn't know this stuff, maybe I can be excused.

Featured above are icons for eggs, chicken, pork, dairy, beef, lamb, mushrooms (we're #1, baby!), apples, forest products, coal, uranium, dimension stone, oil, steel, healthcare, financial services, telecommunications.

Larger version is stashed here


posted by Alison 8/04/2009 02:03:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Monday, August 03, 2009

Can't Talk...Resting

I took a few days off, here. I visited some people and just thought less for a little while.

To make up for this breach I have the ultimate elementary school photo:

This isn't some weird picture that I found somewhere in the depths of the internet, it's my brother-in-law! My husband my in-laws found this portrait while sifting through family photos for the wedding a few weeks ago. Mike must have been a weird kid.

There just so many questions to ask about this photo. Why is he crying? Where did that doll come from? And why is it nude? These are questions for the ages, my friends.


posted by Alison 8/03/2009 01:59:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

site feed


Powered by Blogger
This is a Flickr badge showing items in a set called DIY. Make your own badge here.

My Rules for the year:
• Make something new every day.
• Don't buy anything you can make yourself, especially clothes.

Graphics Homework
Email Me

Very Old Flash Homework:
Old Flash Page

I belong to:

Weblogs Written By Nice People:
» Munsoned in the Middle of Nowhere
» Ben Bonetti
» The Rector's Page
» A Dress A Day
» The Point of Babette

Old Versions:
Fall Leaves
Early to Rise

Old Splash Pages:
Old Splash Pages:
»Original Recipe
»Sketch of Clark
»Big Blob
»Another Big Blob
»Digi Charat Bear
»Linoleum Samples


Search WWW

Current Weather in Pittsburgh, PA: The WeatherPixie