Monday, June 29, 2015

Classical Architecture in Helsinki

Hello Followers! I'm currently traveling in Finland, enjoying the great food, beautiful nature, and fantastic hospitality of the Northlands. First, of course - Helsinki!

The capital of Finland is not, in fact, a terribly old city. It was built up in the 17th-18th centuries first by Swedish nobles, then by Russian merchants. The old grandeur of the city is still visible, mostly in the grand churches, but also in the little details on the most mundane buildings.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Embroidered Offering - Balance

The wheel of the year keeps turning, so that all thing remain in balance! I recently took an Oath in my spiritual path, and promised an offering. My oath was very much based on the theme of balance, so I thought my offering ought to be too!

It was a smallish piece, just one hoop's worth of stitching. I started out by divvying up the linen into quarters. I've learned that pencil lines wear off rather quickly, so I used regular sewing thread to baste in marker lines.

I did trees for the four seasons. (This is a favorite of mine!) complete with an appropriate amount of foliage - from little buds to nothing! 

 Next, faces! I had never done faces in stitchery before, if is a very interesting challenge. I have a masculine and feminine face, and I tried to make one old and one young. (They both look a bit old, hazards of hard shadows.) I'm fairly happy with how they turned out, but most importantly, the camera thought it was a person!

The final touches were some weather. Sunshine for the spring and summer, rain and snow for the fall and winter. All the things in their own time. Everything in balance.
We had a good bonfire for midsummer, and offerings were made. Welcome to the warm times! But, the days are now getting shorter, good news to keep us from getting too hot. Also good news for us travelers - I'm writing this in Iceland, the sun only set for about 3 hours last night, and it never got dark. I'm loving it in many ways, but sleep is also good! Here's to Balance!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Finds - Blessed Bees

Summer has finally appeared in earnest, the mosquitos are thriving after months of rains, the slugs are eagerly attempting to eat as much as they can before they dry up, earwigs are hiding in every blossom. But there is one thriving insect that I am always happy to see more of, the Bees!

The Bees are happily at work in the peas and the sage, waiting patiently for the catnip and lemon balm to bloom. But they can brighten your house year round - lovely watercolor from TheTastyPainter.
Or, a tile for an outdoor space. Perhaps to encourage them to hang around a bit. Handmade tile from Gianar, who also has several other colorways to choose from!
If you have an indoor garden, perhaps sized for a fae's allotment, it need not be without its own skep! HelloLittleCloud has this dainty little hive to bring honey to the wee folks, perfect for the diminutive gardener in your life...
When enjoying the garden in the morning, and letting those hard workers inspire you to jump-start your day, how about a handmade mug? This stamped pottery with wonderfully flowing glaze from LeslieFreemanDesigns could bring that garden memory back year-round.
For us crafty folks, you can bring the Bee friends into the house with your own needle and thread! (Well, actually that comes with the kit, but you get the idea.) This kit from SarahHomfray is ready to become an easy crewel bee, and that hexagon mount is super sweet.
If you want a bit more freedom in your creative endeavours, this amazing art yarn should spark your fingers to make something awesome! Spun by YarnWench, let those little bees become something strange and wonderful.

We owe so much to the bees, the assistance in pollination, and the honey to boot! I'm always happy to see them finding a chemical-free, flower-filled, sanctuary in my yard!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wormwood - Poison, or Healing Herb?

The Green Fairy 
The absinthe craze of the previous centuries has given Wormwood a rather large, and fearsome, reputation. Poets would claim it gave them visions, authorities would claim it poisoned drinkers. Some folks still claim it has properties, both magical and psychoactive. But this silvery leaf, "bitterest of herbs" is more mundane than we realize (I do not mean that as an insult!)

I discovered, some time ago, that the fragrant, soft-leaved plant growing next to my shrine is a member of the Artemisia family, most likely A. absinthium - wormwood. It makes a robust tea that causes the lips to tingle. But, isn't it dangerous? In the 19th c. there was great concern about the dangerous wormwood, supposedly laced with toxic wormwood in great quantities and causing madness in those who consumed it. 

However, it is far more likely that unscrupulous makers were attempting to get that prized "fairy green" color, and using toxic additives for color, including mercury compounds. And of course, Absinthe is a strong drink, perhaps in attempting to obtain an exciting high from the Thujone, people were simply becoming drunk!
A "dangerous" plant, looking rather innocent.
Modern testing to determine the usefulness of wormwood as a drug have shown that the Thujone content can vary wildly, growing conditions and strains can impact the concentrations in a variety of ways. But even the strongest plants had very small amounts, hardly enough to "get high". Similarly, the alcohols made from Wormwood (Which include Pernod, vermouth, and chartreuse) very in thujone concentrations, but are never very strong. (Let's be clear, they are strong in booz-ocity!)

But, as an herb it has many uses besides summoning hallucinations! It's soothing on the stomach, improves circulation, brings on the menses, and as the name suggest, it helps to expel parasites.  In fact, some people suggest its use around the house to repel insects! It can, however, if taken in vast quantities damage the kidneys. Then again, so can black tea.

Dried bundles for smudging.
Magically, it is connected with the graveyard. It is often used around Samhain for rites and cleansing, and to summon the spirits of the dead. I suppose that's a bit like having visions, but not quite how the romantic poets described it...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Strawberry Lemon Balm Popsicles

 We've had a bumper crop of tasty strawberries this year, the wet weather isn't dragging them down too much! But a really ripe, truly tasty, fresh strawberry (besides being a thing of perfect beauty) is an ephemeral joy. They don't keep long after being picked, and this patch is not the everbearing variety.

There's a number of ways to store such delights, but my recent favorite is in a summertime treat - popsicles! The molds are from IKEA, but they are easy to find in stores this time of year. Ready? Let's make some frozen goodness...

First, I figured out how much my molds would hold using water and the measuring cup. Next I picked out the ripest fruit and filled it to the line. I chopped the fruit, and finely diced fresh Lemon Balm leaf, and added a bit of water and some honey to fill up to two cups. I filled my popsicles and set them in the freezer.... and waited. (Hardest part)
 And so, on the next sunny day, it was ready! I poured a Sloe Gin Fizz (a few months made the magic happen!) and settled down in the yard to enjoy the flavors of spring.
I might need more popsicle makers, I'll want to stock up on these! It extends the season a little bit, but new delights are ripening as we speak. Perhaps peach later in the summer? YUM!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lemon Balm - Lemony and Balmy!

There is one plant that has not minded any of the weather one bit  - Melissa Officinalis. Lemon Balm (Its Latin name refers to its attraction to bees.) is a voracious grower, after only a few seasons in my garden it has staked its claim on a sizable corner. And this year all of last year's bee touched seeds seem to have found homes in the soil. I'm evicting most of them to gift to friends.
 Lemon Balm is good medicine. It's mildly antiseptic, soothing to the stomach and liver, and the scent calms and focuses. It's often used for problems of tenseness and tight muscles and it encourages sleep. Essential oils of Lemon Balm are useful, but the smell is strong enough off the leaf to simply use the fresh stuff! Rubbing a leaf on one's skin discourages insects.
But wait, there's more! It's a tasty plant! The tastes as though one has already added lemon, with a slight zesty bite to it. I also enjoy making syrups (see my how-to post) to use for lemonades and cocktail. A friend has asked that I make large quantities for her wedding, so it must be ok?

In a few weeks the bees will be buzzing around, and I'll be kicking back with a Lemon Balm mojito. Cheers!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Garden Update - It's Stopped Raining! Edition

 Usually, in Colorado, we like it when it rains. We were not, however, prepared for almost 30 straight days of cold wet weather, and it's put a damper on the garden season.

However, many of my crops that I got in early a thriving. The peas are podding, doing well with the sunshine. (Yes those are bindweed behind the pea plants, it's a scaffold for the peas to grow o- Don't Judge me!) The beets and carrots both look better than ever, they haven't much minded the cold, except being slow to come up. I added lots and lots of ash to the soil, hopefully I'll get a good crop of both this year!
The tomatoes, however, have not enjoyed this. In seedling form they were doing great! But the chill and wet caused many deaths in the ground. Let's be clear, I did not let them freeze! I'm not that bad of a plant momma. But 32 seedlings have turned into less than 10 surviving plants. I'm not even going to show the 4 remaining eggplants, or discuss their pepper friends who perished.

Cucumbers came up after three plantings (the first two were washed out by overflowing gutters.) And the ever-present tomatillos... I've potted several to inflict the invasive pest gift to other gardeners.

How does your garden grow?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday WIPs

 It's that time again! Let's review all the projects I still haven't finished...

First and foremost is another four-seasons embroidery. This one is to be an offering piece for Midsummer, so it's got to be done by then! (I've got a good track record of completing this sort of piece on time, the Gods don't like a WIP IOU.)

I'm liking it so much I think I'll make myself a permanent version.
 I've been working through an alpaca fleece that was gifted to me. Actually, it was two fleeces, each is a mixed brown and white. I've separated the locks into brown, white, and mixed. Hopefully after spinning I'll have three tones of alpaca. I'm also trying out the scotch tension on my wheel, which is making a veeeery thin thread!
 I pulled the Laminaria back out, it's on the final color of yarn, and the border of the pattern. It's also about 700 stitches across, so it's a bit of an investment to get involved in a row. Fortunately my moth control measures seem to have prevented any more damage, but I will need to do some complex lace darning before I can even wear it >.<

I did, however, complete one thing! The lopi dickie for my father is done, just in time for hot weather. I love the way the colors came out, I had to switch the dark green for blue halfway through as my LYS ran out of that color. It's just the top of the sweater, enough to keep the shoulders and neck warm while skiing. AKA, this is the fun part of the sweater and no way in hell I'm knitting straight stockinette for 40 inches. Did I mention that this is, in fact, one size BIGGER than the largest size in the pattern book?

There it is, my lousy fiber output for the last two months, enjoy my shame. Fortunately, I expect to be able to do some stash busting on the long plane flights. I will NEED to do some stash busting, as I'm sure I will buy some more yarn over there...

What are you working on?