Monday, July 16, 2012

Makaio's Tooth Fairy Pillow

My nephew, Makaio, just lost his first tooth! What a big boy! Can you believe I hadn't even made him a tooth fairy pillow yet? What kinda auntie am I anyhow??

He was a little uneasy with the idea of someone coming into his room while he slept, so that bought me a little time.  But now I have redeemed myself and he can carry on losing those teeth.  It's actually not a pillow at all - this design fits better under his pillow. Or maybe I should have made one that hangs on the doorknob.... oh, well.

Remember this one I made for Malia? 

Here's the front:

The back (aka where you cash in).  I made it nice and roomy so the tooth fairy can fit packs of gum, hotwheels cars, or large wads of cash (inflation, y'all):

I hope he loves it!

Minty Lip Balms

The lip balm factory was open again today.  This time, mostly because I had a surplus of Altoids Smalls tins (addict?) and also because I was inspired by the excess wax comb from my neighbor's bee hive.  I didn't end up using that comb because it smelled like smoke, and nobody wants a hickory-flavored kisser.  So I used regular wax...intended for such things as lip balms. 

I used this recipe again, which I love because it's simple and I had all the ingredients on hand.  Aaand, it's a pretty great lip balm.  I used a jar in the microwave this time instead of a double-boiler and it was A) much quicker, B) much less messy, and C) now I have a container to hold the leftovers until next time.

If you try this recipe in Altoid tins, be careful not to fill the tin past the hinge as your lip balm will leak out the back (which I learned the hard way). And for this reason, you might not want to keep this in your purse, in case it heats up too much (like, if you left it in a hot car or something) and leaks all over your very expensive purse.  This is best kept in a bedside table or medicine cabinet. 

But isn't it so cute?!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Wild" Blackberry & Rosewater Jam

To those of you who aren't familiar with Oakland, you might be surprised to know that there are wild blackberry brambles in several parts of the city (we also have a serious deer problem, which I may or may not have told you about... more on that later).  

On one of our walks recently, D and I noticed a very prolific patch of them and made a mental note to return when they ripen. So yesterday, we marched right down there with our bucket (and ladder, maybe) and got to pickin'.  In half an hour, we picked about seven cups of beautifully wild blackberries!  (I think the movement is called "foraging," and while very trendy a term, it still sounds like "scrounging" to I say "wild")

 These guys were a little fuzzier than regular blackberries, but after a good soaking, the fuzzies came right off. 


For a little added interest, I put about one teaspoon of rosewater in the jam.  You can find rosewater among the Middle Eastern or Indian products in specialty/ethnic stores.  It's not expensive, but it is potent.  A little goes a long way! D was worried that even the little tiny teaspoon I did add was too much, but it's actually just right.


Look how gorgeous and deep the color is!

And now it's officially summer, now that we've canned something.  Sidenote: This is my all-time favorite size/shape/brand of jar, in case anyone cares. Simple design (no cornucopias embossed on the other side), not too big, not too little, nice and wide, easy to pour into, easy to get jam out.

Oh, yeah. Fruits of our labor. 

Wild/Foraged/Scrounged/Organic Oakland Blackberry and Rosewater Jam

Monday, July 09, 2012

Every Herb Pesto

Oh, yeah.  You're gonna like this one.

This is some good stuff. 

Here we have my adaptation of this pesto recipe (p.s. She's my new favorite. Also, when I say "adaptation" it mostly means I forgot something or I tinkered with the instructions. But I'm a glass-half-full kinda gal, so I use words like "adaptation" to make it seem like I did it on purpose and from a place of creativity when mostly it came from a place of haste or lack-of-planning), made with basil, parsley, cilantro, and spinach. I used pine nuts, because I didn't have almonds, but I think it tastes more decadent that way. Also, I forgot to add lemon, but I like it just way it is.  Next time I'll actually follow the recipe (something I'm notorious for NOT doing).

Anyhow, I was totally excited to make this for dinner and tell you all about it, but something even better happened - we just got invited for Persian food at the neighbors!  And I do not pass up Persian food with the neighbors.  So, the pesto will have to wait another night, but I can tell you that it was delicious right off the spatula.  Late for dinner - see ya!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Maile's Birthday Blankie

Maile turns 5 today! What better a place to celebrate this little wahine than in Hawaii!

While she probably won't need this while we're here, I was too excited to give it to her. Her own fuzzy little blankie.

I made Malia one for Christmas and they all fight over it. So each child needs their own (I brought a belated birthday blankie for Makaio too - show you later).

Happy birthday to the sweetest, friendliest, most clever 5 year-old I know!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

St. George Sprits

Buddha's Hand Citron infused Vodka

Being a Californian, I've been wine-tasting a bunch of times.  With Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River Valley about an hour away, it's a fairly easy outing for us.  But, for the first time this week, D and I went for a spirit-tasting!  D had "scouted" this place out a few weeks ago and recommended we go.  My brother recently landed a job at a distillery, so we were just doing a little "research" on the competition (wink).

We went to St. George Spirits on Alameda Island (even closer than Napa - only a 10 minute drive!) home of Hangar 1 vodka. What a cool place!!  It's in an old airplane (or blimp?) hangar and it sits right on the NW tip of Alameda with a great view of San Francisco.  The distillery itself looks a little Willy Wonka-esque with shiny copper stills and pipes and barrels everywhere. Only windows separate the tasting area from the distilling area. 

We tasted vodka, eaux de vies, gin, whiskey, bourbon, liqueur, and absinthe. They teach you how to taste spirits (differently than winei) and we learned so much about different kinds of spirits, it felt a little like liquor school. You can pack a lunch and eat at the picnic tables out front to blunt the effects of the tasting :)

I'm not super into liquor (or wine, for that matter), but it was so fun to do something other than wine taste! So, whether you're a local, visiting from out of town, or a local hosting out-of-towners, this is one cool experience that you should definitely check out - even if you're not a "liquor drinker." You'll feel super-hip.  But make an appointment if you want a tour or if you plan on going on the weekend. 

Ok, now I sound like a drunk...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Have you heard of Harissa?  It's a hot, North African chili paste and it's my new favorite condiment. It's salty and spicy and garlicky and awesome...if you're into that kind of thing.  I first tried harissa in a breakfast sandwich from Vesta Flatbread food truck at the Oakland Farmer's Market. Hooked!  Immediately!

Now, I'm no taste bud adrenaline-seeker, but this stuff is good (And pretty spicy! A little goes a long way) - and you can make it at home fairly easily!  This is the second jar I've made. I use a recipe similar to this one.  Instead, I only add a little cumin in place of the caraway and coriander seeds.  I suppose the spices used depend on which region's recipe you're following (Tunisia vs. Morocco vs. Algeria, etc.)  Also, I used only arbol chilies, which are fairly small and hot, even though I did seed them.

Ok, so how to use this stuff? Probably any way you like! I primarily eat my harissa with eggs and avocado for breakfast. The avocado cuts the heat a little.  Honestly, I eat this almost every single morning - it's so good!  Vesta uses it with chicken and even on top of potatoes, but you could use it whenever you need a little heat.

I dare you to try it. I'll bet you get hooked too.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Teeny Zucchini

Did I tell you that we moved to the sweetest little street in Oakland (that is not an oxymoron)?  Last August, we left the fog of San Francisco and headed to the Sunny Side of the Bay.  We absolutely love it!  We have sun and space and neighbors we know!

One of my most favorite things about our new neighborhood is that we have a community garden, just for the people on our little cul de sac.  We've planted tomatoes (lots!), zucchini, corn, squash, basil, beets, carrots, eggplant, radishes, beans, and peppers. The tomatoes seem to be doing well, but we'll see what else the soil allows.

This is our first little harvest.  Teeny zucchini!  I thought they would get bigger, and maybe they will, but for now, this is it.

I also spied an almost red tomato, which tickles me the most because I started those babies from seed! I am one proud tomato mama.

Oh, and this cocktail? Well, that's basil (in the form of a gimlet) from our garden. And I have the best husband/mixologist on the block to make them for me! I haven't told the neighbors of his cocktailing talents just yet...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

All Grown Up

I know you've seen these guys before, but I like to think I'm expanding my repertoire a little.

My nephew is 7! *sniff*  He's become such a smart, funny, energetic, sweet guy!  Since he was learning tick marks in school recently, I thought this would be appropriate.

And while adults seldom broadcast their age, my sister-in-law expressed some interest in displaying her name on a shirt, and, well.... I jumped on that!  Thirty-one is her lucky number and this happens to be her golden year!  Happy (SUPER BELATED) birthday, Jess!  And so I made her a birthday shirt too, but little more subtle...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I'm Back with Some Bread. Forgive?

Well, if I haven't completely let you down, maybe there's still an ounce of forgiveness inside of you for my lack-of-bloggingness.  It's not that I don't have things to blog about, au contraire (I studied Spanish, not French), I've just been so busy lazy about uploading photos.  Let's see if this new summer schedule will help me turn over a new leaf...again.

We'll start with something simple... a little loaf.  Now, I know you've seen my loaves before, so it's nothing new.  Still using my very favorite, easiest bread recipe with a few tweaks. This one has some rye flour (trying to clean out the cabinets) and caraway seeds (ditto), and I always add a bunch more salt.  But I swear, this method never lets me down.  Try it, you'll impress all your friends.  Or if not, impress yourself.

Thank you for your forgiveness. Everyone (my sister) was sick of looking at those lemons. Monica, you're welcome.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Preserved Lemons

I can't say "lemon" without actually thinking "yemon." When my niece was little (yitto), she couldn't say her Ls, so she replaced them with Ys.  So, here we have some preserved yemons.

In any case... I made some this morning with a windfall of meyer lemons (See? You're doing it now too!) from my friend at work.  Ever since I sorely lost a canning competition to someone who made preserved lemons (so original!), and ever since I bought a tagine, I've been wanting to make these. 

I followed this recipe.

Wash the lemons well and then slice off the ends of the lemon like so.  (Then line them up and take a photo, because I just think this is so pretty, I just might hang it on my wall)


Then almost quarter the lemons, leaving the lemon attached at the bottom:


Douse it with kosher or sea salt, making sure to get all surfaces covered with ample amounts of salt. I used a little more than 1 tablespoon of salt per lemon.

Here's a simplified version of the method I used.  First, place the lemon in a sterilized jar, and then squash it down to release the juices that will eventually cover your lemons. 


If you don't have enough juice to cover the lemons, juice an extra lemon or two into the jar or take one wedge out.  Top it all off with a little more salt.


And voila!  Keep them on the counter top for a few days, flipping the jar daily, then move them to the refrigerator.  In about 3 weeks, the rinds will soften and they should be ready to go!  Rinse the lemons before using. 


I've seen the recommendation to add spices, so I threw some cloves in one of them.  Fingers crossed!  I will be making this when my preserved yemons are ready!   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ready for Fall

We've been having such lovely, warm weather here in Oakland (did I mention we moved to Oakland?? More on that later...), that I haven't felt right about decorating for Fall.  Nevermind that these decorations have been up since early September :)  But now that it's cooling off and the leaves on the sycamore out front are changing colors and dropping to the ground, I feel justified. 

Bring on the Trick-or-Treaters!! 

How are you decorating for Fall?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crafty Niece

My niece, Malia, is growing up so fast!  And it warms my heart that she is becoming a very crafty girl.  I wish I could take credit, but my sister (her mom) is pretty creative herself!  Take this cutest little key holder, for instance:

Adorable, no? My sister orchestrated this activity for Malia's Campfire Girls troop's Father's Day gifts (yes, way back in June) and I think they turned out awesome!! Malia chose a bicycle because her dad is a big-time cyclist - smart girl.

I have made these in the past with colored (and non-colored) wire in the shape of a heart, star, or the Golden Gate Bridge, but I think the colored twine gives it a much bolder appearance.

Seriously people, you could hammer (pun intended) one of these out in less than an hour.  So easy, so cute, so functional.  Christmas ideas??

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Brooklyn Baby

The recipient of this quilt is getting a baby brother!  I simply cannot wait to meet him!!

So this quilt shall be called Brooklyn Baby (since they've recently moved from NYC). 

Orange binding and the 2D Zoo I'm in so love with as backing.

Aunt Sara and Uncle D love you already!  We can't wait to meet you in September!

p.s. I've been informed that the quilt has already been hijacked by big brother, Charlie, upon which to host stuffed animal tea parties.  This makes me immensely happy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Max's Blankie

I've got one more baby blanket ready to go for my friend's baby, Max!

If Max is anything like his parents, he will go bananas for the orangeness of this blanket... I just know he will.  I love this 2-D zoo print, and have for a while.  I'm so glad I have an excuse to finally use it!

And my new favorite binding is the faux bois, any color will do.
The other babies are enjoying their quilts, and  I hope Max will too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Muchos Pluses Completo

I've almost finished the top of my Plus (pronounced "ploos") Quilt . :)  And I loove it!  I still need to add borders, which means a potentially dangerous trip to Peapod.

Warning: blurry photo... but you get the idea. 

D said, "I hate to say it, but they're not symmetrical..." Oh, silly D... I think he was kind of kidding, maybe.

The sashing phase of this quilt was tedious, but not too miserable.  I finished it in an evening.  My favorite parts are the couple pieces of off-white linen I sneaked into the sashing.   See that little middle square?   Cute-a!

One day, I will show you the completed, non-blurry version of this quilt.  I hope that day is soon.  I may opt to professionally quilt this sucker.  I'm just not in the mood.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Accidental Gee's Bend-ish Quilt

Many moons ago, I started this quilt.  The intention was to make a queen-sized quilt.  But then I got bored and put it away (surprise!).  I picked it up again in efforts to minimize unfinished business before moving, and here's what happened!  I just love it!

I loved how I didn't use any rulers, or rules for that matter, and the lines are a bit squiggly.  I just snipped, stitched, and assembled.  Now it's a fun and easy crib-sized quilt.  I felt like such an original...

...But then I noticed this - sitting right above me on my inspiration board is the very inspiration (albeit subliminal)!

How funny is that?  I swear, I didn't even realize it was there!  Somewhere in the depths of my mind, I must have channeled the Gee's Bend quilters. Wait, what am I saying?? I can't believe I even dared to compare myself to them, because the women of Gee's Bend are waaaaaay more amazing than I'll ever be - true, hard core quilters - using what was available (jeans, mattress ticking, floursacks, old clothing) instead of us modern quilters who take perfectly good pieces of fabric and cut them up only to reassemble them!  So silly, we are....if you really think about it.  I suppose we quilt for art rather than necessity nowadays, but still...

This quilt still needs the perfect backing.  Ideas??  Maybe I'll wait until I have the right recipient in mind.  Can someone please make a baby? JK

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Went With Red

I went with 2 different reds, in fact, and I'm glad I did.  The Liberty of London just threw it all off.  I kept the orange, and although it looks a little rainbow-y, I think I really like it.

Now how to attach them all....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Also, I Want to Make This... fact, I will probably try to replicate this room in the new house. D doesn't know this yet. 

D, I'm going to replicate this room in our new house.

Ok, now he knows.

It's good to have an inspiration though, right?  Then you're not blindly hoping things go together.  This way, you already know! However, the room in mind was newly painted a very nice (different) color, so I'll work with what we've got.  
{image from House Beautiful)

But isn't this quilt great?!  I am in love!

I can probably figure out this quilt pattern, but if someone already has a pattern for this, I would love it!   Anyone interested in a quilt-along? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things ARE Happening Around Here

Well, I know I've been quiet in the posting department, but things are going on around here.  We're actually in the process of buying a house (!), so that's been consuming much of my time, energy, and adrenaline.

In anticipation of having to move (shoot me now!), I thought I would "consolidate" and start using up some of these fabrics.  Some old, some new. Also, it is very like me to embark on a big project when there are one meelion other more important, more pressing action items to tackle.

This is an (as usual) exceptional evening-time photo of what I've been working on (soon there will be good lighting at the new house!).  We'll have some guest beds to make, so I'm going to make this one a twin-size.  Inspired by this a-dor-a-ble quilt, it's mostly blues and greens, but I'm not sure about the orange on mine.  Maybe the orange will look better if I omit the Liberty of London (for Target) print. I need one more color - what do you color theorists out there suggest?  Would a little bit of red work?  Hmm....  I will sash it with white.

These crosses come together really quickly and require very little ruler action. The more un-straight (I refuse to use the word "wonky"... aw, crap. I just did!), the better.  Anyhow, hopefully you'll see a finished product before too long.

And do get back to me on those color recommendations!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shirt Refashioning

I wish I had taken before photos of these, but I am hasty and I get too excited.  I've discovered knit ribbing!  I'm not very good at using it yet, but I decided to sacrifice a few shirts to practice with.  Please do not scrutinize, they are very un-Virgo with lots of flaws. Whatever - I'm learning.

This used to be a turtleneck.  I liked the stripiness of it, but couldn't justify wearing it when the weather was nice (which is has NOT been in like 2 years - boo, San Francisco!).  But anyway, here's how I refashioned it:

This was a rather boring, ill-fitting shirt I got at the GAP for like $5. I had to take in the sides because it was frumpy (schlumpadinka, as we say 'round these parts), but that was a long time ago.  Anyhow, still not loving it, I added this yellow ribbing.  Mucho mejor. The yellow is a bit too lemony for my taste, but really, you can't please me - if it's not too boring it's too exciting.  Though I am pleased with this shirt now and maybe now I'll wear it to places other than the gym.

And this old thing, well, I still wear it to work even though I had to cut the sleeves off (put a hole in it trying to pull up the sleeves).  It worked as a 3/4 length sleeve shirt, but since it was pretty much garbage anyhow, I experimented with some colored cuffs.  I think I just added a couple months to the life of this shirt.  Nevermind that the cuffs are about 1/2" difference in length (awesome me!).  And yes, I wear garbage to work.

And this, folks, is what I do with a surprise day off.