Friday, April 27, 2012

38 Things: Get a dog!

This, by far, is the most exciting and fabulous thing on my list of 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39.  This is Oskar.  He is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi and he is 10 weeks old.  I used to really want a Dachshund but after about a year of my pining for one, Trevor admitted he didn't really like them.  So then I suggested a Corgi.  I grew up with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and loved her but after doing some research decided a Cardigan was a little more in line with what we want in a dog.  Less needy and greedy, more companionable and friendly. Love that tail and those short legs!
 It's our first dog as adults and we are trying to do this correctly.  We don't want a dog with anxiety or one that tears things up or bites children.  We are working on crate training him.  He slept through the night last night without any accidents but peed on the tile in the bathroom today right after drinking a sip of water.  And right now we are trying to work up to 10 minutes at a time alone in the bathroom with a baby gate blocking it off and he just started barking.  But I have to ignore him or he will learn how to manipulate us.   OK, I just went and "shushed" him and said "no bark" and now he is just whining a little.  Tiny progresses, yay!  I also gave him a little Kong with some peanut butter in it before walking off when I first put him in to help provide a distraction. 
The cats have very different reactions to him.  One cat, Vincent, comes up to him all the time.  Sack will walk into the room with him but leaves quickly.  Moneypenny has avoided him since he's been here.  I think the first couple of weeks are going to be tough, but I am really looking forward to having him in our lives!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Thirst Quencher

 My favorite thing right now is to drink soda water with a few dashes of bitters.  Bitters are flavorings used in cocktails to add that something special that makes a Manhattan a Manhattan, and an Old Fashion an Old Fashion.  Many of the bitters out there such as the Aromatic and Peychaud's bitters contain alcohol.  Some, like the Fee Brothers flavored bitters such as rhubarb or celery, do not.  Even the ones with alcohol add such a teeny amount of alcohol (1/2 teaspoon at most!) to a glass, I don't feel bad about making this in the afternoon on a warm, sunny day such as today. 
This one, however, just has the non-alcoholic rhubarb bitters in it.

Fill a glass with ice.  Pour soda water over the ice (I make my own with our SodaStream) and add a few dashes to taste of your preferred bitters.  Stir.  I like to add a squeeze of lime too. 
I also like to drink these when we are out and I am the designated driver for the evening.  Feels like a cocktail, but it's not!  Bonus that it is calorie free! 

I am trying to expand my catalog of bitters but it is hard to find the quirky ones locally so I have to buy them online.  I like grapefruit bitters and really want to try the celery.  I just purchased a book about bitters with recipes in it.  Will let you know how they turn out!

38 Things: Make a Coffee Table (A Bowling Pin Coffee Table)

We have desperately needed a coffee table since we moved into our house nearly 6 months ago. (can you believe it?  Six months?  Wow, time goes by fast!)  Instead of buying something, I decided on my list of 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39 that I should make something.  I don't like having a house full of furniture that looks like a showroom.  I know I can't make it all, but I like to have funky, one of a kind character pieces in my house to liven things up.
First, I sourced the butcher block top from a piece of IKEA furniture we bought for the kitchen.  We combined 2 island tables together with one large counter and this small one was left over.  Next, I realized I had a whole bunch of bowling pins collecting space in the garage and thought they would be perfect for legs.  Then I didn't do anything about it for 2 months until I convinced my friend Patrick to help me with attachments.

We cut 5/16th steel all-thread from Home Depot into 5 inch lengths.  Then we used a drill press (OK, Patrick used the drill press; I watched) to drill approx 2" through the top layer of plastic and into interior made of wood.  Next we threaded the all-thread into the bowling pins.  We did this by screwing on 2 nuts on one end of the all thread and then using a wrench to twist it into the pins.  Then I cut the all-thread lengths to 1 1/2"--that was enough to go through the block and washer and have enough room to be screwed tightly with the decorative brass nuts.  A very helpful man at Ace Hardware helped me to figure out the best hardware to use.  Finally, I worked out what pattern I wanted the bowling pins to be, drilled the holes and then assembled the whole thing! 
It only took a couple of hours.  The pins are a tiny bit wobbly and so we might make a triangular base for each end to stabilize them.  But I needed it finished since I was hosting my book club last night and it worked great to hold our books and drinks!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sewing on Felt

 My latest experiment with felting.  I am wet felting out the designs and then machine sewing over the top of them.  I have added stabilizer fabric to the back to keep it from bunching up. 
So far, I like this look.  Getting the tension right on the sewing machine is hard and I also can't do free motion sewing on my machine so it is a little rough.  I will keep playing with this.  I think this could look neat as a clutch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I Ate: Vegan North African Soup

OK, ok, this started out vegan but then I added yogurt and a cream swirl.  And a grilled cheese sandwich.  This soup is a North African soup with lentils, potatoes, carrots, ginger, onions, and garbanzo beans as the main ingredients.  Saute onions in oil.  Add carrots, ginger, celery, garlic, spices of your choice.  Then add vegetable broth, 1 peeled and chopped potato and 1/2 cup of lentils.  After about 20 minutes, add garbanzos.  Cook until potatoes are done.  Garnish with cilantro and yogurt.

It was supposed to be more stew like but I gave it a whirl with the immersion blender.   It's like your whole day's worth of veggies in one bowl of soup!

A Bird with a Mohawk

 I am ramping up to start my final project in my Fiber Arts program and am making lots of tests.  This latest bird is needle felted wool over polyester over a wire armature.  I used fabric stiffener on the outside layer to try and protect the surface.
He's about 9" tall.  I like that the stiffener doesn't change how the piece looks but I am still not sure if I am going to use it on my final.   The eyes are taxidermy bird eyes that I ordered online.  I love how they look!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Making the Kanafe

Yesterday part of our family got together for breakfast at a diner fairly close to our house so we decided to walk.  It was lovely out and I just love the feel of Spring.  Anyways, we were walking home when we remembered there was this tiny little International Market & Deli we have been meaning to go to for the last 4 months right next to where we had breakfast.

We popped on it and were not disappointed.  It says International but they mainly specialize in Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean food.  They sell gyros at lunch time but have a little grocery section as well.  I was so excited to find Pomegranate Molasses less than a mile from my home!

But the most exciting part of the trip was that they carried all the ingredients to make Kanafe, a traditional Palestinian dessert.  The three ingredients in the center are crucial to Kanafe: Akkawi, a white brined cheese (Nabulsi cheese can also be used), food coloring, and shredded pastry dough. 

Basically the shredded pastry dough is mixed with melted butter.  The recipe I had called for clarified butter but I skipped that part since it wasn't cooking at an overly high temperature I didn't see the need.  Then you press part of that mixture into the bottom of a buttered baking dish prepped with the food coloring.  I think this would look and taste just fine without the food coloring; next time I might just skip it.  Next you put a layer of the crumbled Akkawi cheese blended with shredded mozzarella and a touch of sugar and orange blossom water. You are supposed to use rose water too, but I realized too late I don't have any but the orange blossom gave it plenty of flavor.  Finally you top it with more of the shredded pastry/butter mixture.  You bake it and then invert it onto a plate, drizzle copious amounts of orange blossom simple syrup over top, sprinkle with pistachios and there you have it!  It's rich but not too sweet (I cut way back on the amount of syrup and butter they said to use and thought it tasted just grand).
The gentleman at the shop looked totally shocked when I told him I was making Kanafe.  "How do you know the Kanafe?" he asked.  I can't wait to go back and tell him how well it turned out.  Also, the Akkawi cheese is going to be a staple in our fridge from now on.  I crumbled it over a salad last night and it is very similar to mozzarella so I want to try it on flat bread as well.  Even just slices of it paired up with a crisp apple sounds delicious. 

We ate this last year when we were at the Global Shopping Village in Dubai.  I know my version bends some rules of the traditional, but that's how I roll: I am unburdened by culinary rules!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Needle Felted Taxidermy

The third and final quarter of my Certificate of Fiber Arts is under way and I am creating a big faux taxidermy piece for my final project.  But I have a lot of thing to work out first before I can start to work on the final.  Like how it will hang on the wall and how will I make it to the correct scale and how I will finish the wool after it is needle felted.

So I am making studies on a much smaller scale to start to work out my process.  I figure I will have to do 5-6 small critters to work out all the kinks.   This little rabbit was actually going to be made into a jackalope but I like how he looks now.  I may make another one with horns.  Next I am thinking to make a cat or bird head.  I ordered some glass taxidermy eyes to try and make them even a little spookier.  How to hang them is my biggest issue.  Do I build in a wire that is hidden or do I mount them on a trophy base?  That's where the prototypes come in. 
I have a lot of work ahead of me!

Spring has Sprung

The one decision about our new yard was that I wasn't going to do anything to it this first year.  It has lots of mature plantings and I don't know what a lot of them will look like in bloom nor where any bulbs are planted.  I was sad about leaving my big herb garden at the old house so as a teeny tiny concession, I decided I needed to buy some herbs and start a little herb garden on the upper deck right outside the kitchen.

So far I just planted oregano, rosemary, and mint.  I still need chives, lavender, and thyme.   Grow, grow, grow.

It's fun watching bulbs come up and trees bloom.  These colors are just out of this world.  

We had a twig of a Magnolia at the old house that was only a few year old and would get about 10 blossoms a year if we are lucky.  This Magnolia in the front yard is deliciously full of pink buds.

And is this a Star Magnolia?  Not sure, but it sure looks awesome!  Unfortunately it is being horribly stunted by a pruned to death Douglas Fir that will have to come down.  Maybe I will be able to coax it into something resembling a real tree.  
We finally broke down and bought a lawn mower yesterday.  The weather is so lovely now, it makes all the rain worth it to get all these blooms and color!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

38 Things: Pay toll for vehicle behind me next time I drive on the Narrows Bridge

What exactly is this post about, you ask?  The Hunger Games or my 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39?  Both, I say.  Both.

To get to the Galaxy VIP, we have to cross the Narrows bridge to get to Gig Harbor.  We ate dinner first at Fondi's Wood Fire Pizza and then we saw Hunger Games in Galaxy's VIP theater (which means 21 and over only and they bring popcorn and wine to your seat which means awesome) and then we drove back over the bridge and we paid the toll for the car behind us. 
I have read the Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins) trilogy more times than I would like to admit.  My husband had not read the series so I thought it would be a good perspective for us both to go and see whether the movie touched on the correct angles of the story.  Would I be satisfied? Would he even get it? The resounding answer is yes.

I loved these books because Suzanne Collins writes about children in the middle of war and she doesn't dumb it down.  She doesn't make it glamorous.  She doesn't make it easy to swallow.  I don't want to write a long winded review here.  All I want to say is that as a fan that loved the stories I felt that the movie worked hard to get in all the exposition along with the emotional points.  And if it leaves a little out, maybe it will make viewers want to read the books to get more background.  My husband is now eyeballing my Kindle and wondering if it is worth it to wait until I am not reading something (not likely) or whether he should just buy his own copies.

Seeing a good movie made it even more satisfying to pay the toll for the car behind us.  After all, they might have been at the Hunger Games as well!