Skip to content

Summer 2013

August 13, 2013

This summer has gone somewhere, though I’m not entirely sure where. I can tell by my hands that I’ve been working. A few of my fingertips are so cut and calloused that my fingerprint swirls seem to be changing direction, accommodating these new scars. There are burns on my knuckles and even a stretch of skin healing where I swiped myself with a rotary cutter blade. The inside edge of my right index finger, no matter how hard I scrub, is etched with soil from a summer spent with my hands in our garden or my fingers wrapped around weeds in our front yard. And my nails. Well, I’ve just started putting my hands in my pockets most of the time.

All this to say, my hands tell a story of work, but I don’t have much to weave a story around. My bee and butterfly garden is still taking root and filling out, but it’s nothing impressive. There have been a few bees bumbling around and we’ve had visits from some butterflies, but none have taken up residence as I’d hoped. This swallowtail caterpillar greeted us when we got back from vacation a few weeks ago. A buddy of his was a few feet down, devouring another of our dill host plants. I took pictures, felt giddy, celebrated what I saw as my success and planned to watch them morph into butterflies. But by the next morning they were both gone, having only stopped by briefly to eat our dill before moving on (or before getting eaten by a bird).

swallotail

dill

Our tomatoes are in a permanent state of arrested development; they have not grown or ripened for over a month despite my encouragement, but our Brussels Sprouts are turning into something delicious. And I’ve managed to fend off multiple attacks by cabbage worms keeping these sprouting plants safe. These are by far my favorite veggie, but I won’t eat them if grown conventionally and so the precious few stalks in our garden will be my fix for the year.

brussels sprouts

We’ve also learned some lessons on growing cauliflower. I now understand how to tie up the heads to blanch them and understand why it  makes a difference. Really, it makes a difference. I’m sure you can tell the good from the bad.

bad cauliflower

good cauliflower

And then there are the butterfly-attracting plants that I’m falling in love with. They may not have lured the butterflies yet, but they’ve got my full attention. From far away they are lovely, but closeup their shapes and colors astound me. The white flowers of the butterfly bush turn from compact squares into delicate flowers. The magenta star-shaped buds of the milkweed plant erupt into orange claws. Every night I find myself out in the garden, crawling around and discovering something new.

butterfly bush

mikweed buds

Milkweed

So, not much to tell, but that’s been summer for me. What about you? Show me or tell me of yours.

Maple Syrup Lemonade

May 28, 2013

It was recently Lemonade Day  in Indianapolis, and as I went about my Saturday I saw stands everywhere with kids selling drinks to groups of people supporting these young entrepreneurs. I really wanted to go support them too, but I still haven’t reintroduced anything to my diet that I don’t make myself. It’s totally possible that these kids used fresh-squeezed lemons and a natural sweetener to make their tasty lemonade, but I wasn’t about to be the middle-aged woman questioning these poor children about the quality of their ingredients. I know my limits, guys.

After spending the day out and about, amongst lemonade stands, we spent the rest of the weekend working outside in the searing sun. As we worked away on the yard, water just wasn’t quenching my thirst. I kept dreaming of lemonade and, luckily, I had a bag full of lemons in the refrigerator. Six lemons and a few tablespoons of maple syrup later we had the perfect drink for a weekend afternoon full of yard work. It’s softly sweet, not too tangy or tart. It’s just the way I like it.

Maple Syrup Lemonade
makes 48 ounces

  • 6 freshly squeezed lemons (about 9 Tablespoons of lemon juice)
  • 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 7.25 cups water

Mix all together in a pitcher and serve over ice.

bowl of lemons

New Look Skirt 6899

May 21, 2013

I have entirely too many skirts, but I didn’t come to this realization before I cut into my most recent project: New Look Skirt 6899. I used Anna Maria Horner’s Little Folks collection in Village Path, Berry. It has such a great, light weight to it and the hand is so silky. It’s a big step up in the fabric I typically use for skirts. Also, I’m digging that I finally got around to making a skirt with pockets and a properly installed invisible zipper. I know I really should be well past marveling at simple things like zippers and pockets, but I take such long breaks between projects that I start over a little each time I sew.

New Look Skirt Pocket

[above] Detail of the waistband and pocket.

New Look skirt seam

[above] Detail of the hem and seams, which I actually took the time to finish.

Even though I like this skirt I’m not in love with it. I have this problem a lot. I fall in love with busy fabric, search for the perfect project, and then realize that there isn’t a perfect project because I don’t wear busy fabric well. So then I end up making a skirt with it so that the pattern is far away from my face. I guess I could always use my busy fabric to make some harem pants or something, but for the sake of my pride and marriage I won’t. I’ll just stick to skirts.

So, now I have a new skirt that I like but don’t love, and clearly I don’t have a shirt that pairs well with it. My question to you is: What would you wear with this skirt? I need some help on this.

New Look skirt

Coconut Rasberry Cheesecake

May 8, 2013

Whelp. I have good news and bad news (and really, the bad news is just for me. This post is all delicious goodness for you guys).

I discovered an amazing dessert recipe (It’s on the autoimmune protocol diet too! More on why I’m temporarily following this diet here). And even though coconuts are fairly benign and most people don’t have reactions to them, it turns out that I apparently do not react to them well. So, even though I’ll not be eating this yummy thing ever again, I want to make sure you get a chance to try it, regardless of whether you are following a special diet or not. It’s just that good.

This Coconut Raspberry Cheesecake by Mickey Trescott, featured here on The Paleo Mom blog, uses dates, coconut oil, coconut flour and shredded coconut in the dense cake-like crust. The filling is made from creamed coconut, coconut oil, honey, raspberries and tapioca starch.

The crust might look a little funny before it’s baked, but I couldn’t stop eating it raw. So good. Baked up the crust is just as delicious and makes a nice shell to pour the startlingly pink raspberry coconut concoction into.

And voila! After it sets you have something amazing and decadent.

coconut raspberry cheesecake

We found that setting it up in the freezer and keeping it frozen gave it the nicest, most cheesecake-like consistency. It’s quick to make if you have a high-powered blender or a food processor, which is what I used. The worst part about the recipe is that it takes 12 hours to set and it was kind of hard to wait that long to try it.

If you ever have some extra cash lying around to buy all the coconut products, you might want to give it a try. I think it holds up next to “real” desserts just fine. In fact, I even had other people try it, just to make sure that I wasn’t making things up since I haven’t had sweets for so long. But all the reviews were in favor of this recipe. I mean, how could they not be? The color alone makes it a winner.

Garden in Bloom

May 5, 2013

This is the first year we haven’t turned to my in-law’s established yard to thin their perennials and cart them back to our in-progress yard. Mostly it’s because 17 inches of snow fell in Illinois when we headed over for our annual spring visit this year, but our yard is also finally filling in a little bit on its own.

The small trees and shrubs we started a few years ago are finally ready to be moved from their containers to the ground. The lilac bush that looked like two leafless twigs jutting out of the ground in its first few years now has leaves and flowers. Our irises are multiplying so much that soon we’re going to have to start thinning them and sharing with others instead of just filling in empty space in our yard.

There’s still so much more to do, as you can see by the potted plants lining our raised bed garden below, but our patience is finally paying off. This is good because I’m a relatively impatient person.

Are we just slow at creating what we want, or is your yard a work in progress too?

poppy

unfurling shrub

lilac

columbine

pygmy barberry

irises

 

Just the Basics

April 15, 2013

If you visit my site regularly or pay any attention to my Flickr feed, you may have noticed lots of pictures of food cropping up on the right. Not images of luscious cupcakes or steaming loaves of bread. Not styled images of fine dining or carefully crafted cocktails made to please my palate. Just straight up shots of really basic food.

blog

I’ve always been one to experiment with food. Well. No. Not always. I grew up at summer camp where everything was served out of tin cans. Sloppy Joes seemed to be the norm and I ate what I was served. In college I enjoyed bagels and baked ziti with the gusto of a college student and after college I ate what I could afford, which happened to be the free pizza I brought home after my shift waiting tables at California Pizza Kitchen. I was a generally healthy and fairly slim person so I didn’t think too much about what I was eating.

Then I started paying attention to how the world – particularly America – grows food, how we process food and how the body can react to food and so my husband and I started to slowly change our diet. Over the past eight years or so we’ve had runs of vegetarianism, high protein, slow carb and no sugar diets. With each eating experiment we’ve honed in on when we felt good and when we didn’t, and tried to adjust our diets accordingly. I like to think we now eat pretty well, but for the occasional beer and burger or pizza, but there is always room for improvement, right?

So, while my diet is pretty wholesome and I’m pretty healthy, I’ve managed to develop some strange skin allergies. My Dr. insists it’s anxiety, but I refuse to believe that there’s not something more than me fretting that causes head-to-toe hives and my skin to flush bright red, especially when I’m feeling 100% content and happy. It doesn’t happen often, but I’m not one to let something go without explanation, even if it is an infrequent occurrence. And I’m definitely not one to take prescription drugs to fix something, particularly if it’s just a Dr.s’ hunch that the prescription will solve it. So that’s where the food images come into play.

I’m following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet to determine what in my current diet, if anything, might be causing my skin to misbehave. Both allergies and anxiety are categorized as things connected to autoimmune problems and so it seemed like this experiment would be the perfect way to see if I can fix what ales me, whatever it might be.

Paleo Autoimmune Protocol goes like this:

What’s Allowed:

Meats, vegetables and fruits

What’s not:

Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants)
Spices that contain nightshades or seeds (black pepper is out, too)
No grains
No eggs, no dairy
No legumes
No nuts, no seeds, no beans

Not even coffee!

No alcohol
No added sugars
No NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs)

And absolutely no processed foods.

There you have it. That’s the protocol. You follow it exactly for 30 to 60 days, then gradually add in one restricted food at a time, recording the way your body reacts to it. If there is a reaction, it’s out. If there’s no reaction, move along and continue eating it happily. Like I said, it may or may not answer my questions about what’s causing my body to malfunction, but I thought it worth trying.

It’s a strict  way to eat and I worried going into it that my dreams would be filled with hearty bowls of pasta, slabs of buttered bread and mugs of steaming coffee turning almost white with cream. But that hasn’t been the case (except for this weekend when my friend was in town and I really wanted to grab a drink at the comedy show we went to, and wanted to eat my way through the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market the next morning. There are no words for how enticing that market is.).

Luckily my husband is eating as I am this month (but for the occasional egg or pepper), otherwise I’m not sure it would be as comfortable as it has been. The biggest change it has created for us is the time spent in the kitchen, preparing lunches for the week, making fresh dinners and washing a never-ending assortment of pans. It seems our dehydrator is almost always running, and if not the dehydrator, the crock pot is going or the stove top is sizzling. Also, making everything from whole foods is also pretty darn expensive. We always focus on organic, local and sustainable produce and meats, but without grains and dairy as filler we have to buy a lot more food to keep us full. Otherwise it’s life as normal. We just feel a little clearer and more alert. And that is a pretty good way to feel.

I’m only a few weeks in so who knows if there will be any more heath benefits to report, but if there is anything to report, I will.

For anyone considering Paleo Autoimmune Protocol but can’t envision eating a restricted diet for such a long period of time you can see everything I eat with a brief description of the meal here: Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Flickr Set. And that really is a record of all the food I’ve eaten — every meal and every snack since April 1. Drinks aren’t pictured because water and water with apple cider vinegar in them are pretty boring to photograph. So is hot peppermint tea.

Anyway, that’s the scoop. I’m not endorsing this method of eating or even saying it’s right for me at this point,  I’m just letting you know why there are so many pictures of food popping up in my Flickr feed these days.

If you have ever considered doing an elimination diet, here are some resources I leaned on when getting started:

Robb Wolf

The Paleo Mom

Update: I followed this diet strictly for 2.5 months. Once I added all foods back in I learned that coconut is not my friend, which is funny because now that I think about it some of my problems began when I began incorporating coconut oil into more of my food. While most people are not allergic to coconut and it is considered fairly benign, it makes my skin break out and makes my stomach ache. Other than coconut, coffee makes me kind of sneezy, but I can have it in small portions. Overall my skin cleared up a lot, I felt great, had more energy and lost 10 lbs (5 of which I’ve gained back over the past 1.5 months as I started testing my limits and including grain again (grains, while delicious also make me sneeze and make me gain crazy water weight so I’m doing my best to avoid those as well).

On the anxiety front, the last panic attack I had was right before I embarked on the diet. My energy is much more even and my moods more stable. Even my husband has commented on how great my moods have been (no more acting like a cranky toddler!). All in all, I’m so glad I tried this diet and learned the things I did about how my body interacts with food. Plus, it was a fun exercise in will power. Now I just need to find another project that utilizes the same will power and commitment — making myself run or write or sew clothing on a regular basis have all been floating around in my head.

Towards the Sun

April 8, 2013

Lately I’ve been feeling down about the state of farming in America. And down is an understatement.

Our reliance on big agriculture, lack of crop diversity, our acceptance and support of GMOs (check out the recently signed Farmer’s Assurance Act) and the disappearing bees and butterflies all make me feel pretty helpless. Normally this would be the point at which I get heart palpitations and start subsisting on only the volunteer heirloom organic sprouts that are cropping up in our back bed instead of visiting the grocery store, but the world is bigger than I am and I have to learn to live within it.

But while I learn to live within it without anxiety, I want to do something — even if it’s small. So this is what my south-facing window sill looks like:

towards the sun

Actually, this is what our south-facing window sill looks like every season. The difference this year is that we’re focusing more on the pollinators this year as we garden. The little sprouts that are reaching for the sun and filling our window sill — and soon our garden — will be for us, but they’ll mostly be for the butterflies and bees. Along with the herbs that are sprouting, nectar flowers and host plants are starting to make their way into our yard as well. We’re creating our own little haven for these pollinators in the front yard and back.

If big farming is going to fill so much of our land with pesticide-filled crops that crowd out and kill those diverse plants that allow these pollinators to feed and reproduce, we should rethink our yards and give the bees and the butterflies a fighting chance. I know lots of people are doing much bigger things to try to fix these problems. My bee and butterfly gardening efforts alone aren’t going to impact the state of things, but at least making pesticide-free habitable yards, full of nectar flowers, host plants like milkweed, fennel and lupine, and water sources is something everyone can do.

Don’t have a yard? Fill some planters with some nectar flowers. Get your kids on board by helping them build a mini-butterfly and bee garden of their very own, making it a family affair. Start lots of extra seedlings or buy some extra host and nectar plants to share with your neighbors so that these butterfly and bee attracting plants make their way into yards around yours and maybe encourage your neighbors to do the same, creating a viable area for these pollinators to do their thing.

Like I said, nothing earth shattering , but  it’s something small enough for me to focus on so I don’t go crazy thinking about all the other things I can’t change. Are you with me?

Helpful links for creating a space for bees and butterflies in your yard:

Attracting Butterflies, Hummingbirds and Other Pollinators

Make a Bee and Butterfly Garden for a Better Harvest

Plants in the Pollinator Pathway

Box Bag Tutorial

April 2, 2013

One of my best friends just had baby number two. Baby number one is no longer a baby, but is still young enough to be a bit confused by all the change going on around her and so I wanted to make something special for her. She is into organizing, stacking and carrying things with her, and so I created a little purse just the right size for a three-year-old embarking on the adventure of being a new big sister.

Evey bag full

This box bag is pretty simple to whip up. In my haste to make it, I didn’t take a picture each step of the way, but I think these instructions should help you if you’d like to make a similar bag.

The finished product is approximately 5 inches tall, 8 inches wide and 4 inches deep. To make the above bag, I created the pattern below which measures 14″ long and 11″ inches tall with a 3″ by 3″ square cut from each corner.

Evey pattern

Materials:

  • 9 inch zipper
  • about 1/3 yard for the lining
  • about 1/3 yard exterior fabric for bag bottom and handles
  • about 1/3 yard exterior fabric for bag top
  • coordinating thread

Cutting in out:

1. Using the full pattern piece, you’ll cut two pieces – one from the lining fabric and one from the bottom exterior fabric.

2. After cutting these first two pieces, you’ll fold the paper pattern in half where the pattern is marked in the image above, then add a 1/2 inch to the folded edge.  The half inch extension will act as the seam allowance when sewing in the zipper. With this folded pattern piece, cut two pieces in the lining fabric and two pieces in the exterior fabric that you are using for the top of the bag.

3. Once the body and lining of the bag are cut, cut out the handles. For this you’ll cut two strips that are 15″ by 4″.

Sewing it up:

1. First the handles. Make the first handle by ironing it in half length ways, wrong sides of fabric facing in. Unfold, then press each raw edge inward, meeting at the center crease you created. Press. The handle should now measure 15″ by 1″ and no raw edges should be visible. Top stitch along each side. Make the second handle in the same way and set both handles aside.

2. Now for the body of the bag. Sew the zipper to the two exterior fabric pieces you created using the folded pattern piece.

3. Once the zipper is sew in place, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, stitch the remainder of the top pieces together, from the end of the zipper to the edge of the fabric.

4. Attach the handles to the top of the bag by pinning the bottom ends of each handle along the 8 inch edge, two inches in from the edge of the fabric. Make sure the handles are parallel to one another. Stop pinning after three inches.

After inserting the zipper and pinning the handles in place, your piece should look similar to the image below. (Your handles, however, should be even with the edge of the fabric, not hanging over as mine are. I simply made mine too long to begin with.)

Evey bag flat

5. Now you want to stitch the handle straps in place. You’ll want to repeat the following step four times, once for each place the handle straps attach to the bag. When attaching the first strap, stitch from the edge of the fabric towards the zipper three inches. Put the needle down, swivel fabric 90 degrees and stitch straight across to the other side of the handle strap, put the pin down, swivel fabric 90 degrees, then stitch back down to the edge of the fabric. Do this for the remaining handle straps.

6. Once the handle straps in are in place, take your your exterior bottom fabric pattern piece and place it on the piece you just created, wrong sides facing. First stitch along both of the 8″ lengths, then along the 5″ lengths. Do not sew the 3″ by 3″ cut outs yet. You will stitch those a different direction.

7. Once you have completed the step above, you’ll now want to make your bag into a cube by pulling the top and the bottom fabrics apart, pinning each corner together perpendicular to the seams you just sewed. When pinning each squared corner together, make sure to match the seams.

Below is a closeup of what the previous three steps should look like when the bag is turned right side out. At this point the exterior of the bag should be complete. Now for the lining.

Evey bag closeup

8. To make the lining of the bag, take the two lining pieces that go on either side of the zipper and place them right sides together. On the longest side, using a 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch 2.5″  from each edge, reinforcing at both ends and leaving a 9″ opening for the zipper between. Unfold and press the seams open, ironing a 1/2″ crease along both sides. What you have just created will be stitched along the zipper on the interior of the bag in a later step.

9. Follow steps 6 & 7 above to sew the lining top to the lining bottom.

The lining of the bag should look like the purple dot fabric in the image below.

Evey bag interior set

10. Turn the lining of the bag right side out and turn the exterior of the bag inside out, setting it inside the lining as in the image below. Pin the folded edges of the lining along the zipper.

Evey bag interior pinned

11. Hand stitch in place using the stitch of your choice.

Evey bag whip stitch

Once the zipper is stitched in place, turn the bag right side out and give it to your favorite toddler (or keep it for yourself).

Also, thanks for reading if you made it this far. This post was kind of tedious.

Evey bag zipper

Vitamin C Serum

March 19, 2013

I come from a long line of soft-skinned, creamy-complected women. As a kid I used to sit on the arm of my great grandmother’s cushioned chair, my body curled along her left side and head rested on her shoulder as I listened to her read to me. I’d absentmindedly play with the silky skin that hung from the back of her arms while I faded happily in and out whatever story she was telling. I’m not so sure that I’d be so patient and loving if someone was playing with my arm fat, but somehow she let it slide. Add patience and kindness to the list of traits owned by those women who came before me.

Growing up I thought I could just rely on genetics and minimal care to get my skin to age gracefully. I have always embraced sunblock and washed my face (almost) every night, but moisturizing, steaming or other skin care regimes are not anything I’ve been very good about maintaining.  It doesn’t help that I steer clear of most products due to chemicals and am usually too lazy to find a natural replacement. And I didn’t really think anything of my lack of skin discipline or its impact on my appearance until last winter when I looked at my face and thought, “You are aging horribly.”

Really, I’m not really aging all that horribly, but for a few stray grey hairs and wrinkles that have popped up in  my 30s. It’s just that hyperbole, particularly as it relates to weight and appearance, is largely embraced by my family. You’ll probably never meet a group of such average looking folks who think they have as many physical flaws as they do. This is not one of the traits I embrace being passed down to me.

But I digress. Back to skin. I’ve been refining a vitamin C serum that works for my skin for a while. It’s a simple little solution that really refreshes my face and keeps it looking bright and even. This recipe utilizes ascorbic acid powder, distilled water and vegetable glycerin.

vitamin c serum

Vitamin C Serum

• Blue or brown glass bottle
• 1/2 ounce distilled water
• 1/2 teaspoon Vitamin C Crystals (ascorbic acid)
• 4 drops vegetable glycerin

Mix together the water and the vitamin C in the bottle until fully dissolved (using a funnel in this step will make it much easier). Add the drops of vegetable glycerin and swirl together.

Store in a cool, dry place and apply with your fingertips at night.

Notes: I only use the serum at night because I like to play it safe. Vitamin C can be phototoxic, which means it can render the skin sensitive to sunlight.

This solution also oxidizes rapidly due to the interaction of the vitamin C with water so only make very small portions and store in a tinted glass bottle to slow oxidation. This recipe has a shelf life of about 7 days. Do not use when the serum turns yellow. If it has yellowed it means that it has oxidized and it not beneficial for your skin; in fact it can be harmful to your skin and may promote free radical formation.

For those with sensitive skin, the amount of ascorbic acid may be too much and may need to be watered down. For me, this ratio of ascorbic acid to water stings lightly for a few seconds after applying, but does not burn. I’ve had to play a lot with the vegetable glycerine amount in order to create some moisturizing effects without making my skin sticky or cause it to break out. As with all recipes, it’s fun to customize to your specific needs. However, you should always buy good quality ingredients and be aware of each ingredient’s purpose, the shelf life and potential interactions ingredients might have with other elements.

Now that I’ve issued only warnings and not touted all the glowing properties of vitamin C (antioxidant, free-radical fighter, essential to the synthesis of collagen), I’m sure you are eager to dive in.

Amy Butler Cosmo Bag

February 22, 2013

February is a busy time. It’s full of grant deadlines and collection deadlines. And the flu. February is also filled with the flu. So I’ve been quiet here, but wanted to pop in to post the bag I made for Indianapolis International Film Festival’s silent auction and Oscar viewing party this Sunday, February 24th at Ralston’s DraftHouse. Indy Film Fest brings so much to the city. They are young, hip, accessible and, most importantly, know good film. For this reason I’m always happy to help them out, whether doing some in-kind grant writing, guest blogging for the Festival or sewing up something special for them in the hopes someone (anyone) will bid on it. The people who run this great Fest are some of the most dedicated I know, building something that adds to arts and culture in Indianapolis  in such a tremendous way and doing it all without pay.

Cosmo bag full

This giant hobo uses Amy Butler’s Cosmo Bag pattern from her book Style Stitches. I’ve mentioned before how Amy Butler patterns make me want to scream, yet I make them anyway. It seemed like a better option than me making up a pattern and failing miserably. It all came together fairly well and has some sweet little details that hopefully will make someone happy.

Cosmo bag side

The bag has two exterior side pockets that have a nice contrast band at the top.

Cosmo bag interior

The interior is made with reinforced shot cotton, a cloth that uses differently dyed strands for the warp and the weft, which creates a nice depth and mirrors the exterior linen nicely. It also has a roomy interior pocket.

Cosmo bag button

And it fastens with a button closure.

It’s sweet, simple and will carry more stuff than one should reasonably carry with her. But big bags are in, right?