Saturday, March 14, 2015

Queen ALICE Doll

The nice person who purchased my MAd Alice doll commissioned me to make her a companion doll. I have been itching to make another Alice, all I needed was this fresh kick in the pants to actually do it. She suggested I make Queen Alice from 'Through the Looking Glass'. I picked fabric and trims that evoke a playing card, chess game feel but that didn't scream it. I wanted her crown to be too big for her, for her eyes to be piercing like a cat, but not obvious cat eyes.
This doll went through a couple of major changes before she finished up looking like this. First she had platinum blonde hair in a very uptight up-do twist.  She also has a full length gown. She looked very royal, very much a queen. But she wasn't playful or childlike in any way. So, I took off the fancy hair and went with a crazy bright curly head instead. That did the trick. Immediately she became younger and much more fun. After the adventure Alice goes through to reach the other side of the chess board she should be at least a little messy.
Next to go was the gown. I cut it to tea length to show off stripy leg warmers and a flash of ruffled bloomer. I was pretty happy with her at this point. I thought she was finished.
Then my daughter mentioned how Alice shook The Red Queen into the black kitten at the end of the story. I added the kitten. It adds to the story, but doesn't interfere with the look of the doll.

`And as for you,' she went on, turning fiercly upon the Red Queen, who she considered as the cause of all the mischief -- but the Queen was no longer at her side -- she had suddenly dwindled down to the size of a little doll, and was now on the table, merrily running round and round after her own shawl, which was trailing behind her.
At any other time, Alice would have felt surprised at this, but she was far too much excited to be surprised at anything now. `As for you,' she repeated, catching hold of the little creature in the very act of jumping over a bottle which had just lighted upon the table, `I'll shake you into a kitten, that I will!'
She took her off the table as she spoke, and shook her backwards and forwards with all her might.
The Red Queen made no resistance whatever; only her face grew very small, and her eyes got large and green: and still, as Alice went on shaking her, she kept on growing shorter -- and fatter -- and softer -- and rounder -- and --

-- and it really was a kitten, after all.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring is coming!!

Last week we went down by the Hudson River to take a walk. The water was frozen and was sticking up in sharp slabs almost onto the land. It was amazing. You could actually walk on the river, a river of large green pointed vertical slabs of ice. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me. I have been thinking about how amazing it was and waiting for a day when I could return to take pictures. Today was that day. We were free, the sun was shining, so we went back down to the river with a winter picnic. 

But, when we got to the river's edge the ice was gone. What ice that was left was swiftly floating downstream. Instead of feeling disappointed that I wouldn't see that ice again until next year I was excited because Spring is coming!

 "The world is a beautiful book, but of little use to him who cannot read it." 
- Carlo Goldini, 1757

Friday, February 27, 2015

Who Are You?

When I made the switch from commuting designer to homeschooling housewife I jumped right into ladies groups, kid groups, floral aprons and regular dusting. None of those things have ever appealed to me, so why did I do them? Why do we put ourselves into molds that don’t fit?
I am not a floral apron. I am a stained lab coat with burn marks and a few rodent hairs. But I can still make you a mean scone if you want it.
My point? If you’re feeling trapped maybe you need to figure out who you are.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

prayer hat

A good friend of mine is fighting an aggressive cancer. A couple of weeks ago she was telling me how she was going to start very strong chemo and her hair was most likely going to fall out. In the two decades that I have known her I have always been struck by two things when she walks into a room: her long-legged height and her thick long brown hair. When she told me about her hair I tried to not let my face react the way my heart felt. I know that in the grand scheme of things hair does not matter. But, it is the needle on the haystack of a series of already unbearable things.

As soon as she said she would lose her hair this exact hat popped into my mind. The style, the color, the fit. It was all there. I knew I had to make it. Four days later I was sending it off to her. It also happened to be her birthday. 

She called me yesterday. She has been feeling lousy from the chemo and yes, she did lose her hair. She loves the hat, it's the hat she has been looking for. She found one on etsy but it wasn't right. She said she never takes if off because her wig looks bad without it. I feel like this hat was a gift from God to my friend. I just had to follow a path that was already laid. 

I  prayed for healing through every stitch I knit. 
Would you please say a prayer for my friend? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Measuring Spoons

This is what they look like. Bent up and jumbled, but I still use them. If you have a sink disposal maybe you have some that look like this too. When my Mother in Law visits she often says "You need new spoons". I tell her it will just keep happening so why bother? She gave me a set that she used when my husband was little. I refused them because I don't want to ruin them.There are so many things in a house that are a bit off, like a chipped teacup.  Somehow the imperfect things become more homey to me. 

The messed up can be more endearing, like our new gerbil with the broken tail. I gifted my boyfriend (now husband) a baby ball python for his birthday 23 years ago and we still have her. Over the years my husband has fed her over 200 gerbils/rats. This is the first critter that has been pardoned by love. My daughter fell hard for this little guy with his broken off tail. She said "He's so kind. He's my buddy, how can I do that to my buddy?" Of course we couldn't do that to her buddy either. Maxwell Spock is proving himself to be a very sweet pet.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fermenting Frenzy

I have been devoting much of my time to fermenting these days. Most of the time actually went into researching how to do it. The real fermenting takes place all by itself.  The good bacteria work their magic to transform simple (and cheap!) foods into healthy probiotic, super tasty treats that cost quite a pretty penny in the health food stores. 

 I devour Sandor Katz books and watch The Healthy Home Economist videos. I found their instructions very easy to grasp and execute. Especially Sandor. He leaves a lot up to your own taste and imagination. He encourages experimentation. There is no one perfect no fail recipe. There are many factors, the heat and climate of your house, the food itself, what you prefer the finish to taste like. My first fermentation experience was with sourdough starter. My starter has been going strong for about six months now. 

I made this starter with equal parts flour and water. I have seen recipes that use commercial yeast, but I didn't find it necessary. Left alone for a couple of days it caught the wild yeast it needed right out of the air. This stuff is free for the taking! It is very cold in my house right now so I don't have to feed it as much as I did a couple of months ago. Only about twice a week. I always feed it right before using it. Make sure those microbes are happy and alive, doing their thing. I should mention that even though I have a triple filter on my tap I boil the water that I will use for any fermenting to get rid of the chlorine. Chlorine kills bacteria so I don't want it to interfere or slow down the progress of the beneficial bacteria I am trying to cultivate. After using my sourdough starter I always add more flour and water to replace what I took. I keep my starter at a consistency of pancake batter.  I find it easier to feed and use this way, especially since I use it for pancakes and crepes.

My next fermented project was Kimchi. I have been eating kimchi regularly for over 20 years. My family loves it too. Unfortunately most commercial kimchis have sorbitol or msg in them. Sorbitol is a preservative, if kimchi is fermented it IS preserved. So, why sorbitol?
 I started buying only health food store kimchi. (as opposed to Korean market) That proved to be quite expensive as my family can go through a jar a week.

 I tried my  first batches with whey. Disaster every time. I don't know what I did wrong, but they were bad. Then I discovered Sandor Katz. "Why use whey?" he said, when you can make a delicious kimchi (or kraut) without it. I tried his method and it worked first time! One head of cabbage makes 2 quarts, now that is economical. I also made saurkraut and it also came out great. So addictive in fact that my daughter wanted more when it was gone so she just made her own 2 quart batch. She is tearing through it and needs to start an new batch soon. 
There are many sources detailing the process, but it is as simple as cutting, salting and washing cabbage, pushing into a jar and waiting for those happy microbes to come and transform your cabbage into something fantastic. I know I am oversimplifying, but this is basically what it's all about. The recipes always say you need to put a weight on top of your cabbage to make sure it is always submerged under 1" of water to prevent decay.  I don't have a suitable weight so I have been doing something else and it has been working out fine. I cut 2 rounds of waxed paper to fit on top of the cabbage. I pour salted water on top of that, it makes a good seal and I haven't have any spoil yet.

I moved on to a fermented soda beverage made with whey. I made 2 quarts of fresh lemonade and added 1/4 cup whey and left it alone to ferment. After 2 days I put it into one of those flip top beer bottles with the rubber gasket. As the bacteria eat up the sugar they produce carbon dioxide and this type of bottle creates a fizzy fun drink that we love.  
The only drawback was that I had to wait for the whey to form (from leaving out my raw milk). That could be 2-3 days. To get to the finished soda it could take 6-7 days all together.

 I moved on to water kefir. I purchased my grains from Lifetime Kefir. Now I can't keep up with drinking the soda. Every 2 days my grains produce a new batch of kefir water.  At that point I flavor and bottle it for 2 days for soda or mix it with tea for ice tea. So far my favorite soda flavorings have been lemon, ginger and vanilla. 

Be careful with kefir soda! I am scared to open it. My kids love to so I let them do that part. I've had a couple of real explosive bottles that I let ferment a bit too long.  A vapor so thick it looked like smoke came out and then VOLCANO eruption! We lost 1/2 the bottle on that one, it even blew the rubber gasket off the bottle. I advise always opening them the sink with a towel nearby.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Family Sweater

 I finished knitting this sweater and it came out much smaller than I had anticipated. I decided that after I sewed up the seams I would give it to whoever it fit best. Much like Cinderella with the glass slipper or the Three Bears. Which of us would be "just right"?

The big girl tried it.

The little girl tried it.
And I tried it...

"Who gets the sweater?", I asked. 
Big girl answered, "It's a family sweater."
So it is now a family sweater even though it really does look best on her.