Friday, July 31, 2009

Yes we CAN! Tutorial - Peach Preserves

WARNING - This demo involves canning. If you have never canned anything please read up on it a little, improper canning leads to food poisoning.

Nom nom nom! It's cooking time again! I got a helluva deal on bump-n-dent peaches at the Farmers Market last weekend. 15 or so lbs. for $12. Too much however to eat and make peach pie for a week, so I ran off to the hardware store for a flat of jelly jars and two packs of pectin.
Actually, first before I did anything I cut up the dented-est half of the peaches and put them in the fridge. Best not to feed the fruit flies.
Then we pile them in a sauce pan. 6 cups chunked fruit packed tight, 3 cups sugar. A splash of lemon. Stir and stir until its nice and mushy, if I had a food mill I would have used it, but a little chunky won't hurt. Add a tablespoon of butter, the pack of pectin and turn off the heat. Keep stirring until it thickens a little.

Mean while you want to have the jars and lids (but not bands!) heating slowly in a pan of water. You never want glass to undergo a big temperature swing (says the girl who had a glass pitcher literally explode while making iced tea...oops). If you aren't using brand new bands you'll need to use paraffin too (see warning above).

Fill the jars carefully, I used an ice-cream scoop. Clean off the top of the jar and carefully place the hot lid on it. Tighten the band lightly, then back off. You will tighen it fully later. The preserve should still be quite hot when you do this. Now place them in a pan to boil for ten minutes. (my pan could only hold three at a time)

Also note that it is very difficult to do a double batch and have it set properly, just do it twice eh?

There we have it, pretty little rows of fresh peaches put up for the winter. I did a second batch, and added ginger (ooh!) Heck, is any of this going to last through the winter? It's sooo good!

The tool sitting next to the jars is a jar lifter. Not neccessary, but very useful. Also good for pulling corn out of boiling water.

Lastly let you jars cool slowly and without much disturbance for 12 or more hours. Check the vacuum (the lid should not move up and down when pressed gently) and tighten the bands fully. If the lids aren't on right re-boil or refrigerate.

Bake bread, make toast, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dragon Boat Festival

This weekend was busy for me, After the farmers market I spent Sunday afternoon at the Dragon Boat Festival at Sloan's Lake.
Dragon boat racing is actually considered a real sport in Asia with totally competitive teams and tournaments and the like. It dates back more than 2000 years and it's creation story involves the death of a chinese poet. Humble beginnings. The two ladies in front are beating out a rhythm on the drum for the paddlers to follow.

But this is also an Asian cultural fest. Here we have a Thai woman bringing the internet to life as she practices an ancient art form. Must be nice having beautiful ladies bring you delicately carved fruit all day... oh to be king of Siam.

The theme this year was Hawaii to celebrate 50 years of statehood as our foreign-country-that-you-don't-need-a-passport-for. With traditional dance and music.
And these awesome traditional costumes. Best thing about "Asian-American" fest? White kids get to play too!
The finale of the evening was the Mudras Dance ensamble, Indian style and music, fabulous bright shimmering costumes, like a Bollywood Movie with out the cumbersome plot. These dancers were truly great, and the only small time dance group I've ever seen where everyone was smiling... really enjoying themselves dancing! The guy on the side of the stage is a Taiko drummer who joined them for the number, cultural exchange and all that...
Then the Taiko group got their spotlight, full of energy and loud! The group is all young, mostly san and yonsei (third and forth generation abroad) Japanese. There's even two girls! EIYA!
It rained and was windy, but a good time nonetheless. Still haven't tried a Boba tea though...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Out of the Kiln and into The Farmers Market

I got two sets of ceramics out of the kiln Friday night, just in time to go to the Longmont Farmers Market yesterday morning. Both had been mostly finished, the outsides done, for some time. But the lovely textured lavender glaze I wanted to use was out of stock...for months!

Boy am I glad I waited! Many times I thought about using a plain-jane low fire purple, but I finally want down to Mile Hi Ceramics and got Texture Plum. Wow!!!

The depth and cascade is just amazing. The color is perfect for the images outside ( the indigo around the rim was supposed to be a medium purple, but it burned out a little). These bowls will be for sale in Pink's Pots tomorrow. And can you believe it's the same glaze on the cups? I cheated a little, there's color underneath the glaze...
When I glazed these the first time, I grabbed a jar of what claimed to be Texture Lavender. Turns out someone filled it with black slip and didn't remove the label. Oops. At least the slip is matte and takes glaze over it easily.
These are another set of the four seasons, wisteria for winter, plum for spring, iris for summer and thistle for fall. I was working out of my book of kimono patterns, and I have several more sets of cups planned. These sold at the fair (good thing I took a picture first!) and now have a happy home with a lovely lady from Longmont.

I also brought out my big platters for the first time. I had been puzzling over how to display them, until I found some book stands intended for large books. My mother hated using them since they were prone to tippage, but a little tweak on the chain length and they were quite sturdy. Besides, I like to live dangerously!

These platters are made from micacious clay, that is it has mica in it. It makes it a crumbly pain in the ass to work with, but it sparkles just slightly! (I'm a sucker for sparkly.) They're about 2 feet across and 3" deep, carved in relief and glazed. Both are Hiroshige images (what else?) of lovely Japanese women. I have enough clay for one more, I think it will be a lady with a lute...

This show I had a six foot table instead of a 5 foot, and a square card table for ceramics. I also went out and bought a folding camp table, and filled it up right away. I'm starting to have waaaay too much inventory, but you can't stop the creative juices.!

Over all it was a good show, not super hot, and as usual I met lot's of cool people. Plus! 15 lbs. of bruised peaches for $12. Preserves lesson to come...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pets in Japan

Today at Kaiwa Club (Japanese Conversation Group) we went through a vocab list about pets, and of course has to discuss the cultural significance of the words. Like, they have a verb - mudaboe suru - Which means "Barking at nothing". Useful yes?

And some words of course translate, but aren't really the same. Like -petto hoteru- literally pet hotel, but somewhat more pampered than a boarding kennel. It seems in fact that people going on trips will board their cats instead of just putting out an extra bowl of food. And other non -kaimeshi- (owners) will come and pay to walk someone elses dog for the excercise...

Then we have places like the neko cafes where people pay to drink coffee in a place with cats just hanging around waiting to be petted. Kawaii Kitties are a hot commodity in a nation with small homes and few yards. I admit I was tempted to go to one in Sunshine City since it had been so long without my kitty!

The most popular pet among teen-age boys in Japan? The Kabutomushi, or Japanese Rhino beetle
You can make them battle with each other, a little like pokémon. No, nothing at all like pokémon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swing Dancing in the modern era...

So Sunday night I went out to the Mercury Cafe for the first time in many years, to partake in some swing dancing and organic foods. Their tag line is "Organic food is your birth right" How cool is that? They started their regular swing nights back during the big revival of the early 1990's, but almost 20 years later they still pack 'em in. I wore my dress made from a 1945 "Hollywood" pattern for authenticity, and danced the night away. There was a gentleman there who was taking notes during the class (notes? pen and paper? during a dance class?) And he swore by using the internet as a resource, and who could pass up gems like this?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Spinning Again

That's right, back to the blissful ticka ticka ticka of the bobbin twirling. I have tons of bats ready to go, and more to be carded still. I took the entire alpaca fleece I bought at the Estes Wool Market and dyed it in several batches. An entire fleece takes up a lot of space, but when it's spun it doesn't make nearly as much as you'ld think...

This colorway was a triumph of kettle dying. The original chunk of alpace came out in a dozen shades from indigo purple to plum to lavender, even red! I blended it with a bit of commercial wool roving in deep plum... and Striped Plum was born. Those two batts only made 140 yards, but it's all bliss!

This piece of alpaca came out an even tone of rich bright blue! So to shake things up I blended in some blue-green sparkles for an ocean-y color. Mermaid is made with pure mermaid tail scales (OK, mylar. But it is magical stuff)

I still have batts of deep green, bright yellow, pale teal... I'll be spinning a while!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dante caught a bird today...

He went running behind me this morning, and I caught a glimpse of something gray and fluffy in his mouth...
"Dante...What the hell is that?"
It kicks a few times. It's a little gray bird.
"Take that damn thing the fuck back out on the balcony righ..."
Pooh. He spits it out on the carpet. It's not struggling anymore.
" Oh yes very nice, you killed something. Good kitty. Now take it back out."
He's looking at it waiting for it to move again. He has not yet mastered the don't-kill-it-so-you-can-play-with-it hunting skills. I grab it and toss it off the balcony. He realizes it's gone and starts frantically looking for it. I give him kitty treats to distract him.

Honestly I'm rather impressed. If you had ever watched this white fuzzy dummy chase a fly you'ld think he would starve in the wild. Looks like he might make it, but next time he kills something I'm going to make him eat it...

(I declined to take a pic of the carnage, no reason the scare the kids.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tutorial - Beaded Shawl Pins

That's right kids, time for another Tutorial! Strap yourself in and hold on tight, we're making hardware today! You will need beads (the note on the box dates back to my time in the craft shed and people digging into my stash of supplies), pliers, something round to wrap the wire around for spirals, other shapes would make for more variety, and wire. My wire is just aluminum from the hardware store, but copper or silver would be classy.
First we pick out some colors. I'm making two pins today, for two recently finish projects. Why am I knitting shawls in the summer? Because here in Colorado it can be shawl weather year-round. Make sure your beads fit on the wire...

First I cut a length of wire, and make a double fold in it. The first bend on the tip is crimped down tight so it won't snag on the yarn, then a loop is made where the other end of the wire will catch. Think safety -pin style. You can perfect it later, just make sure you have enough on the end for it.

Start stringing beads. You can twist and bend the wire all over the place to your taste. I was putting a loop in between each bead to keep them put. One could of course draw out a design first, but why mess with spontinaity.?

Arrange your shape and make a loop in the wire. Looks just like a safety-pin remember? This is a good use for the chopstick. Trim the end to length, a little long is better than your brooch popping open and getting lost. File the end smooth and buff out any snags on the wire. Ooops, forgot to say you needed a file, an emery board will do, go run to the bathroom and find one...

Now one could just string beads all in a row, but how boring would that be? Now you can have lovely jeweled shawl closures for all your handmade projects! Plus, you will be hard pressed to break it, if you pit on it just push it back into place!

Ahhhh, like a proper old lady-->

The second one is a little wilder, and it has a rounded top to take up lots of shawl, this one is thicker.

Both of these shawls BTW are Mohair in a bramble stitch, the yellow and green is a ball I bought in Japan, the blue and purple a skein from Grand Junction. When I travel my souviners come from the LYS...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Lotus and the Buddha

Mister Crafty Bitch got a gift today, a table. "Why would you give your loving boyfriend a table?" you may ask, for religous purposes duh! He is making a small shrine to house his buddha and make a nice place to sit and chant, Nichiren style - nam myoho renge kyo - which translates roughly to "it's all about the lotus sutra yo! So I went searching to find what makes lotus so special? The lotus was a sacred symbol in Asia before the spread of Buddism, and to Buddist is represents the enlightened mind rising above, as the flower blooms from the mud.
What better place to start then Origami? Not just any Origami, fabulous yellow and orange chirogami washi lotus hair flower. Swoot! MissManatee has carefully folded this for your hair, then shelaced it for postarity. The first uses of paper when it was invented in Asia was for religious ceremonies, usually folded and sometimes worn. It took a while for someone to think of marking on it, but let's be glad they didn't forget how to fold!

If you fancy candles for you worship, perhaps one of these lotus shaped pure soy wax pieces from LotusSfyn is the one? An awesome candle and awesome use of one of Asia's other treasure, the soybean. But that is a collection for another day... In the mean time light up and chill out!

Take one look at BeadStyle's photo of a blooming lotus and it's not hard to see why the flower was revered in Asia. Glowing pale pink over undulating green, even the spent bud on it's way to seed is a lovely thing. The root of the lotus plant is also edible, called renkon in Japanese, it has holes in it that look much like the pods, as though the tubes run the entire length of the plant.

Nichiren is of course a Japanese school of buddism, so I was looking for very Japanese style depictions of a lotus. This kanzashi made with real chirimen fabrics is both cute and traditional. Petalmix has a number of Japan inspired kanzashi which are the traditional hair acuterments of the Geisha and Maiko. They had a different flower for every month to show the seasons, now that is classy!

How about a great bag to ride to and from the temple with? This one truly caught my eye, and as you all know I love making things with lots of fabrics and applique. GypsyTree's messenger bag is sleek and petite, just right for small trips around town. Or if you are going for the ascetic minimalism it's just right for a spiritual pilgrimage.

If you don't want any rice paper blowing around, or you just want help holding a scroll open, how about this sweet glass paperweight from LucidOpticLab. The roundness is harmonious, the glass brings clarity, and the look evokes images of old-style hand stamped batiks.

And here we have the lotus and the moon, shimmery glowing moon stone and sterling silver by AnnaArtiste. Like the parable where the moon and the... Ok, I'm making it up, I don't know any buddist parables, but they like parables, so it seems like there ought to be one right?
One more fun fact about the lotus, it's seeds have the longest shelf life of any known plant. Botanist have germinated seeds discovered in caves that had been laying around a few hundred years. The wisdom of the Buddha has been around for 2400 years, so perhaps this is a good comparison ^.^
Here's the link from our visit to the Joenji Temple where they practice this type of Buddism.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Denver Handmade Craft Fair July Success!

Last Saturday dawned cold and gray with a heavy mist hanging over the city, I was not pleased about this when I dragged myself out of bad at 6AM. Nonetheless 18 vendors began to trickle into the park and set up.
Good thing too! By noon the sun was shining and the day heating up, people were making friends, making connections, and making sales. There were some small crisis, broken tables, difficult tents, but we all got our wares set out. In fact, by noon there were enough customers around I was too busy with my booth to take pictures! I made several sales, and a custom alteration, I even sold yarn to another vendor (a sign that they had a good fair!). Great fun was had by all and we are looking forward to the August 9th date.
If you are interested in being a vendor for the August 9th date of the Denver Handmade Craft Fair, e-mail me - - for info.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Five Reasons to Shop Local

This fourth of July weekend many of us are going to be patriots for a little while. We are going to wave flags and watch fireworks and eat hot dogs. But the flags and fireworks come from China, and the Hot dogs, well no one knows where hot dogs come from. What can we do to be patriotic the other 365?

Now, I'm not going to to be xeniphobic, I ate mango this morning, nowhere in the U.S. grows mango commercially. Nor will I tell you that all goods made in the U.S. are better somehow. This is about the importance of shopping local. Not just U.S. local, but right in your own backyard local.

1. Locally made goods support the local economy. When I make something I tend to buy supplies and materials from local sources, and the money I make when I sell is used at local retailers to fufill my needs. Supporting local shops and artisans allows them to support other local enterprises, its a nice cycle.

2. Economic power is political power. We vote with our dollars, it's no secret that politicians listen to everybody, but they listen to those with money more. So when you shop at stores that are not locally owned, or buy goods from far away places, you are sending your dollar there. And your political voice goes with it.

3. Shopping local is environmentally responsible. My materials are gathered on a bike, my goods don't travel far to reach the hands of the consumer. There are no shipping containers, shipping boxes, large plastic packaging, plastic tags and labels, or the paperwork that follows goods around the world. When I ship goods they go in recycled butcher paper. When local people buy directly the can simply carry their goods away.
4. You get to meet the people who made your things. Many of us have friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who are secretly artisans. Get them out of the closet! After buying faceless goods from indifferent retailers, it is a breath of fresh air to see the person who's love and care went into a product. Their excitement and dedication shows you that hey, there are still people in this world who love their jobs. Which leads to the next reason...

5. You get high quality and people who stand behind their goods. What if you bought something from your neighbor? What if it was poorly made and fell apart right away? Your neighbor who sees you everyday has good incentive to make work they can be proud of, because they will have to face the unhappy customer directly if they don't. I offer a lifetime warrenty, because I can. People who buy from me can expect to contact me and have the product repaired, and local producers are more likely to stand behind what they make.

All of the items featured in this post are from artisans who will be attending the Denver Handmade Craft Fair tomorrow. Come on down to City Park between 9AM and 3PM, and check out what these wonderful people have to offer. For this 4th of July do your patriotic duty and support local hand crafters!