Another Hobby Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

BJP January

My BJP mandala for January!

Labels: ,

Tuesday Stitchers import: BJP january

My BJP mandala for January!

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chatter: Stray Cat update

Stray Cat spent his first day at the vet's office getting his health assessed. He got aggressive at some of the poking and prodding, so they wanted to put him under sedation so that no one (including him) would get hurt. Sedation was also the perfect time to rid him of the horrible mats in his fur, and this is how he came back after his vet visit:

He makes it pretty obvious how he feels about the situation!

He doesn't get to roam the house for now: I have a pet rabbit whose health takes priority, so the stray cat needs to be kept in quarantine for at least a couple of weeks while we get his ear mites and etc under control. I won't be able to assess his long-term potential in my household until after I find out what his stabilized health status is and whether he causes a problem for my rabbit.
In the meantime, the stray cat happily naps away the days on the heater vent.

Labels: ,

TAST- wk 4, CQJP-Jan, and BJP-Jan progress

Week 4 of TAST featured the Cretan stitch. I wasn't sure I'd be able to make enough variations on this stitch to make a postcard interesting, but I surprised myself!

The line at the top I started out just varying the length and compression of the stitches, and then realized that it was reminding me of an EKG or a seismograph reading, so I played around with that idea a little, trying to get it to be more accurate. (This stitch also reminds me of fish bones or snake vertebrae.) I can see that it has great potential as a filling stitch, but didn't really want to play with that idea very much this week-- other things had ahold of my time.

Which brings me to CQJP! I definitely put myself at a disadvantage by waiting until January started to start piecing together my block(s). I've only had about a week so far to stitch (instead of four weeks), and I feel like I need at least a week more. My stitching time during that single week was also impacted by the snowstorm, power outage, and stray cat, so I really should be surprised and pleased at what did get accomplished!

This wedge shape is a difficult one to photograph efficiently. I have to settle for a large photo in which you can get a general idea but can't see detail and then supplemental detail photos.

Since the stray cat impacted my life and schedule so much this month, I decided to commemorate him with a decorative patch. I used a scrap of the light green silk that I had used for piecing the blocks together. I inked the design on with a rubber stamp that I found at a thrift store and a "Stazon" brand ink pad. Then I used single-strand silk floss reclaimed from an old silk sweater and hand-dyed to the color I wanted to outline his features and add some fur. His whiskers are DMC metallic gold- single strand doubled over in the needle, and the brown of his eyes is DMC floss. When I finished stitching the cat, I traced an oval around him, used a heavy-weight thread (handquilting cotton) to stitch a running stitch line over the oval tracing, and then turned the edge over and buttonholed it a stitch at a time to keep it in place. When the buttonhole stitching was complete I trimmed the excess allowances, and I ended up with an applique that was very easy to handle. I blind-stitched it to the block using the same thread I'd used for the buttonholing-- which I believe was a fine Perle cotton marketed for tatting.
Again, the stray cat takes most of my stitching time! Ack! ;)

I used several of this month's TAST stitches to further accentuate this block. I decided that I did not want to limit myself to only using the featured TAST stitches of the month, so you will also find bullion stitches, chain stitch, and other explorations with thread and needle, but I definitely did find ways to incorporate feather, buttonhole, and Cretan in the stitching I've done so far. I still want to add some fly stitch, and I have plenty of room still to do that.
I will still be adding to this block for the remaining three days of the month! (counting today).
I will be leaving the bottom patches of this wedge blank because that is where the peacock's body will overlap the tail fan, obscuring any stitching that I do there.

(You can click on the pictures to see the detail better, and use <"ctrl"> <+> to zoom in -- at least on my browser that works.)

Because of the wedge shaped blocks, I decided to stitch all of my blocks together before beginning embellishment. This makes transitions between blocks easier, but makes the thing as a whole more cumbersome. I also decided that because of the wedge-fan shape I would start from the center of the fan and work outward. This will help keep embellishments and beads from previous months from snagging threads as I continue to work each month. I hope that these decisions will make the project as a whole a little bit easier!

My BJP seems to have wandered, and apparently I didn't think to photograph it right when I finished it, so I will have to add that update in a supplemental post. :P

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday Stitchers import: Tast wk 4 and CQJP progress

I did not think about today being our last group reveal for the month! I was thinking that I had another three days of stitching before the month is over, and I feel like I still need it! Considering my late start, the stray cat, the snow, and the power outage, I got quite a lot accomplished and am feeling pretty well about my progress overall so far. I am not ahead of schedule by any means, but I guess I'm not too far behind schedule either.
My BJP has wandered, so I will need to add a supplemental post for that once I locate it again.
One disadvantage to my wedge-shaped blocks is that they are difficult to photograph. :P Small price to pay, though, as I am loving this project so far!

Those who have been checking in on my main blog (another-hobby) know that my life was disrupted by the intrusions of a stray cat. He was so very skinny that I couldn't put him back outside in the snow to freeze to death, so for now he is in my bathroom making himself comfortable. He cannot have range of the house yet because I have a pet rabbit, and his health is my higher priority- so the stray cat is in quarantine for now while he gets nursed back into better health and non-contagion.
I decided to commemorate the stray cat by adding an applique patch to this month's wedge:

I used a rubber stamp and a "Stazon" ink pad to put a cat image on a scrap of the sea-green silk that I used for piecing my wedges. Then I used a strand of silk reclaimed from an old sweater and newly dyed to the color I wanted to outline the image and add furry details. I used DMC floss for his eye color and DMC metallic (doubled over through the needle) to make his whiskers. Then I traced an oval around him and used buttonhole stitch (tailor's knotted variety) to turn the edges under to create a nice applique. I trimmed excess allowances after the buttonholing was complete, and blind-stitched the patch to my block using the same thread I'd used for the buttonholing. That took a surprising amount of time, but I am happy that I did it-- I think he turned out pretty cool, and I learned a lot in the process that I am sure to use again!

I used this month's TAST stitches to embellish the block further, but did not want to limit myself to just using one month's worth of TAST stitches because I felt that it would create a discord over the course of the project if each month only featured that month's TAST stitches, so you will also find bullions and chain and tatting and other stitches and techniques in the embellishment of this block.

(You'll probably need to click on the picture for a larger version in order to see any of the detail, and maybe even use the <"ctrl"> <+> command to zoom in.)

The bottom two patches of color are going to remain without embellishment for now-- the peacock's body is going to overlap them, so any stitching that I do there will mostly be covered up. I will wait until I am close to assembly to add final details in that area, when I am certain how much will be seen around the edges of the body.

That still leaves a lot of undeveloped space on this block-- I confess I was depending upon the final three days of the month do finish up the stitching-- I wasn't thinking about today being our final group reveal of the month! I will probably need to add a supplemental post on the last day of the month. Hopefully I will get the rest of the stitching done!-- I do not do much pre-planning to my stitchwork; it develops itself as I go, much like doodling, so I am not entirely sure what more will/ needs to be done on this block.

Feedback is welcome! suggestions and critiques are also welcome from all viewers. :)

The whole wedge looks like this:

I plan to add some more stitching to the purple rays at the top of the wedge, at the minimum. I will also be leaving space for the addition of my BJP mandala to be added just above the heart. I will probably wait until the end of the year before adding the mandalas for a couple of reasons: 1- the weight of the beads would be very cumbersome as I continue to stitch the wedges, and 2- I might decide to place the mandalas onto different blocks based on aesthetic reasons rather than keeping each month's mandala with that month's wedge.

Surprisingly, I did get my TAST homework for the week done as well!

The postcard size makes it very transportable, and the sampler mentality makes it easy for me to stitch upon under chaotic circumstances that would be unfavorable for my peacock.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chatter: Life Will Conspire to Keep You From Working

One of the things that I (and many other Artists that I know of) constantly battle is the tendency for Life, or our own habits, to get in the way of our creative productivity.

My own habits are often to blame: maybe it's that my studio isn't clean or organized, and I can't find the pair of scissors that I need, or the fabric I intended to use, or the pattern I wanted to work from; maybe I just don't feel like working, so I fritter away the day with little unproductive distractions; maybe I do feel like working, but I'm up against a creative block and I just don't know how to break through it....the list goes on.

Most of the reasons we artists don't get things accomplished is, truly, our own doing. We over-schedule ourselves, we procrastinate, we wait for inspiration, we insist on perfection, we harbor unrealistic expectations, we overestimate our skill set or underestimate a learning curve... in short, we undermine ourselves at every opportunity.
Eventually, we learn how to curb these habits and apply ourselves with regular effort to achieve brilliant results of which we never could have dreamed ourselves capable. And we get to ride on that comfortable and exhilarating little wave of "I am ON A ROLL!!" (ah, how we look forward to that feeling!)

And that is the moment when Life steps in to undermine us since we dropped the ball on undermining ourselves. Life: that chaotic process that surrounds us and confounds us and even nourishes and inspires us -- that chaotic process with which we are inevitably intertwined for better or worse, which will be our steadfast companion to the day that we die.
For the most part, Life is well-behaved- and by well-behaved, I mean predictable. Gravity works predictably with astonishing regularity, as I am always dismayed to reconfirm when carrying just one too many items on a slippery walkway. I generally reconfirm the solidity of objects in the middle of the night with my little toe.
But overall we like predictability. It gives us a sense of security and comfort. It allows us to adapt ourselves to circumstances we don't feel able to change (e.g. Stockholm Syndrome), or to adapt our environments in ways that suit us (e.g. deforestation). We do this for better (an ergonomic office chair to bring comfort to the hours we spend in front of our computers), and we do this for worse (aforementioned deforestation, possibly as a tangential result of the production of our ergonomic office chair).

But now and then Life is not so predictable.
Of course, Life is extraordinarily complex, and perhaps if we had access to all the data all at once (assuming we even recognized what "all the data" would be!), we might be able to discover that Life is, indeed, thoroughly predictable, and the butterfly in Suriname does, in fact, cause the tsunami in Anchorage.
But in the meantime, snowstorms, floods, and power outages still catch us by surprise (as does, occasionally, gravity and the density of solid objects).

Life throws us curve balls to see whether we can retain our composure. Last week it was snow and a power outage. Last night it was this fellow:

He's a scraggly, undernourished, bone-thin, matted, beleaguered stray cat.
He walked right into my house yesterday.
When I picked him up to put him back outside, I felt how thin he was.
It's still cold outside.
I'm not sure how he would stay warm.
And he hasn't had enough to eat for a while.
But he's very pleasant and well-mannered (or maybe he's just too exhausted to be opinionated).
He's also intelligent.
He purrs a lot.
I mean constantly.
I couldn't put him back outside in the cold.

I opened up a can of chicken and fed him about half of it. I even squished it all up so that if he had problems chewing or swallowing, he wouldn't choke.
Then I gave him space in our bathroom for the night. It's warm and it's dry- perfect for a good night's sleep.

Today I took him in to the vet for a diagnostic.

Apparently he is not so well-mannered when he disagrees with what's happening to him.

The price for the diagnostic doubled.
(They need to administer a sedative for everyone's safety, and want to do all the tests while he is safely sedated instead of spread out a test at a time over several visits).

What we did figure out before he got too rough to handle: he is a geriatric, neutered male with ear mites and a slight heart murmur, and no microchip to track down a previous family of origin.
Oh great.
What am I doing?
This is NOT in the plan!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 3 progress: TAST and CQJP

Well, the snow and power outage put a bit of a crimp in my progress, but before it did so I got a lot done this week!
I spent most of the week putting together my "naked blocks" for the CQJP (Crazy Quilt Journal Project). Originally I had thought that I would make each block (wedge) in the month that I needed it, but for a variety of reasons I changed my mind and decided that I wanted all of the wedges completed so that I could see how they would work together. It took most of my work hours this week, but I got it done:

and I started my stitchwork on one of the wedges:

Of course, it was also week 3 of TAST (Take A Stitch Tuesday): Featherstitch.
TAST (Take A Stitch Tuesday)

In keeping with past weeks, I made another postcard (4 x 6 inches) featuring experimentations with featherstitch:

I experimented with changing the angles of the lines, with overlapping, with using the stitch on curves, with closed varieties and open, and with knotted varieties.

I also found a moment to add a moment to add a buttonhole ring and a string of buttonhole loops to my week 2 postcard:

So all-in-all it was a productive week, even with the snowstorm. :) I'm a little worried, though- next week I have to finish up this first CQJP wedge, a new TAST postcard, and my BJP mandala!

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday Stitchers import: Tast wk 3- featherstitch

Wow. It has been quite a week for me! I spent the first half of the week locked away in my studio, stitching away like mad to get my CQJP naked blocks stitched up and ready:\

Fortunately, I finished that work on Wednesday, because on Thursday morning we lost power due to a snow-and-ice storm that took down tree limbs. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to post my update on time because there are/were a LOT of areas without power: 300,000+ homes, and the power outage might have stretched on for days. As it was, we were without power from Thursday morning to Friday night, and the power flickered back on just ten seconds before my husband got our new generator to roar to life. Ah, timing is everything.

So I'd been hoping to do a lot more embroidery this week, what with getting my wedges done on Wednesday, I thought that I'd have lots of time! ... but the power outage changed that and I ended up trying to stay warm all day on Thursday and Friday instead.

Somehow, tucked in here and there throughout the week I did manage to get some embroidery done, just not as much as I'd hoped. I started work on one of my CQJP wedges:

and I experimented with TAST wk 3: featherstitch on another postcard:

All things considered, it was a pretty productive week. :)

Added on Jan 23: detail of the "palmtree" top:

You can see from the darker purple featherstitch lines that it took me a few attempts before I figured out how to make them look like palm fronds.

Labels: , ,

Urban Skiers, or Why I Don't Drive in Snow.

Well, the snow started falling a week ago Sunday. It let up a bit on Monday, and Tuesday wasn't bad--the streets were even clear by evening, but the forecast called for another snowstorm Tuesday night, and sure enough, by Wednesday we had more snow. On Wednesday I was working in my studio and took this picture out the window:

Yep, skiers. Right down the middle of the road. Because, let's face it, NObody in the Seattle region drives when it snows. Okay, that's not entirely true, but pretty close. People who live in regions that get a lot of snow like to snicker behind our backs, or point and laugh to our faces about that little quirk of ours which they see as unreasonable timidity. But that's not the full story. Here's the heart of the matter:
We get snow maybe once a year, usually in February or March.
It is usually followed very soon by rain that melts the snow and washes it away.
So we don't have a whole fleet of snowplows on hand for those few times that the snow sticks around for several days.
Because it only rains once or twice in a year and generally melts pretty quickly, we don't get a lot of practice with the whole driving-on-snow skill. Some of us go up into the mountains and keep our skills honed on the snowy passes, but most Seattlites stay in the lowlands throughout winter.
We don't tend to put snow tires on our vehicles, because--hey, we just don't get snow that often.
Our streets have a lot of curves and a lot of hills.
Our streets, especially in the hilly downtown Seattle area, have heated pipes running underneath the streets.
The heat underneath the streets melts lingering snow from underneath, and when nighttime temperatures plummet below freezing, that melted layer turns into ice.
Ice hidden beneath snow.
The rain that sometimes sprinkles across the top of the snow does the same thing-- turns to ice.
We don't have SNOW to drive on! we have ice. It's a little different.
Then we have a bunch of people, either transplants who think they know how to drive in the snow because they drove in the snow back in their hometowns-- they're usually pretty smart about it: they figure out quickly what type of not-really-snow conditions they're driving in and they draw upon their years worth of blizzard-braving, ice-storm-enduring finely-honed survival skills -- or locals and non-snow transplants who believe they can drive in the snow because "how hard can it be?" -- they're the dangerous ones.
The how-hard-can-it-be crowd often base their idea that they can drive in the snow on the basis that they own a four-wheel drive vehicle. There seems to be a blind spot to the realization that snow and ice can make all four wheels spin just as easily as it can make two wheels spin. Four-wheel drive means that if any one of the four tires is on a nice surface with traction, you can probably get the vehicle to move, but if all four tires are on ice, well... Heh.
Long story short ("Too late!")...
By the third day of lingering snow, all of the bravado-puffed how-hard-can-it-be types have put their cars into ditches (or streetlamps, or parked cars, or moving cars, or heaven forbid what else), and the streets are relatively safe to drive again.
And by then the snow has generally melted anyway.
So there are a bunch of us Seattlite types who honor the snow in our own very particular "quirky" way: we stay inside, try to keep warm, and shake our heads slowly at the skidding vehicles:

This time around, we had two snowstorms in a row and then an icestorm before the snow had melted away. We almost never get that combination of weather patterns, and what it meant was that a lot of the snow-and-ice laden tree branches couldn't carry the weight and splintered, taking out powerlines.

Okay, so the picture's not of a tree, it's an azalea bush, and it isn't exactly menacing any powerlines. Think of it as a scale model that I found not too far outside my own front door.
Or I could show you this one:

See the tree branches of the evergreen in the background? Those are head-height branches weighed down by the snow and ice until they drag on the ground.

We lost our power on Thursday morning, and didn't get it back until Friday night. We consider ourselves lucky that it was restored so quickly. :) It sure is nice to be warm again! and to have access to my internet, and lights to sew and read by!

On the plus side, I had a fireplace to cuddle up near on Thursday, so I didn't turn into an ice cube. :)

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tuesday Stitchers import: Tast wk 2 buttonhole

I spent most of my time this week stitching together my CQ wedges, but they still need a few hours' work before they are complete and ready to start stitching on, and I don't have pictures of them yet.

Despite that, I did find some time to stitch buttonhole experiments for TAST on a spare CQ fabric postcard. :)

I've used simple buttonhole with differences in leg spacing, crossed buttonhole, knotted buttonhole, detatched buttonhole with beads, detatched buttonhole cup encasing a plastic gem, buttonhole on a curved line, buttonhole to outline picture elements in one of the fabrics, tailor's knotted buttonhole as a buttonhole, buttonhole to couch on a lace flower applique, buttonhole wheels with legs pointing in and with legs pointing out, and buttonhole with crossed legs.

My favorite is the beaded buttonhole edging. I will definitely use that approach again!

I can't help but feel that if I hadn't been spending so much time putting my wedges together, I might have had more time for stitching! ha! But next week I should be able to finish up the wedges and then I will not lose that much time in any of the following months! (I'll probably lose the time to something else, but hey. That's life.)

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 13, 2012

TAST wk 2: Buttonhole/Blanket stitch

This week's TAST progress so far! Nothing but buttonhole stitch. Even the crosses are buttonhole stitch-- spokes radiating out from a tiny little hub. The little flower is cut from a lace trim and attached with buttonhole stitch. The little jewel is held in place by a buttonhole cup. I'll have to try to get a better detail picture of it somehow.

I've been spending most of my time stitching up my CQ blocks for the CQJP. In retrospect, I should have finished putting my blocks together in December so that I could be focusing on embroidery and embellishment these past couple of weeks instead. Ah well- live and learn.

Monday, January 09, 2012

TAST wk 1: Fly stitch continued

I found my postcard! It was hiding beneath my embroidery stitch reference book, of all things. Doh!
I did a little more work on it to finish it up:

I still need to bind the edges before I can truly call it finished, but all the embellishing is done, I think.
Can you believe I used only fly stitch for this one? I'm always amazed at the possibilities for variation just one stitch can hold!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 08, 2012

TAST wk 1: Fly Stitch

For my Fly Stitch exploration, I worked on a crazy quilt fabric postcard. I played around with varying the length of each of the three legs, and with the angles of the legs. I played a little with spacing and overlapping... and then after snapping this photo, I put it down somewhere and forgot where I put it. Argh!! I'd like to do more work on it, but I may just have to wait until it resurfaces again. I'm sure it's somewhere reasonable. I probably set it down when I went to change my laundry over and now it's buried under the socks. Or maybe I had it in my hand when the phone rang and now it's hiding behind the notepad. It'll show up when it shows up. .. or maybe the house gremlins hid it from me. That happens too, you know.

Labels: ,

Tuesday Stitchers import: TAST wk 1- Fly stitch and CQJP progress

For my TAST fly stitch exploration, I worked on a CQ fabric postcard:

But far and away the majority of my time this week went into my CQJP planning. I had some nagging concerns about my plan, and I decided that the best way to figure out if and where the concept needed adjustment was by making a small-scale mock-up:

I made the mock-up in my assortment of quilting cottons, and overall it feels like a complete success, so now I get to start on the larger version. I'm going to try making the larger version in silks instead of cottons, and I hope that the modifications I make along the way turn out as fabulous as this quirky little fellow is!
Here's my new fabric palette for the larger version:

I kinda wish I had a wider selection of teals and greens.... but I'm going to go with what I've got and count on the stitching and embellishments to introduce variety of color and texture.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 06, 2012

irrelevant chatter: I know it's borscht because it tastes better with sour cream

The thing I hate about cooking for myself (which is what happens any time I knowingly or inadvertently cook something my husband won't eat. My husband won't eat soup. I don't understand it, but aside from those times where the quickest way to heat up a decent dinner is to drop it all into the same pot together, I don't mind. We all have quirks, and being a choosy eater is a quirk I can live with.)... oops, that was a long interjection! .. okay, the thing I hate about cooking for myself is that when I cook up a decent sized pot of something (which happens anytime you've got more than three vegetables in the ingredient list) I end up eating it over and over and over again for a week or more.
So today I'm eating Excessively Orange Borscht. It was Flaming Fuschia Chicken Soup a couple of days ago, but that was before I'd given up on my denial about the power of beets. Now that the denial has given way to resignation, I'm calling it Borscht because of the beets. That's all it takes to make borscht, right? A couple of beets in the soup pot? and any time you put beets in the soup pot that makes it borscht, right? Now I don't speak much Russian, but I'm pretty sure that if you take the word "borscht" to its etymological roots, it must translate as "Oh great, it's pink. Now what do I do?"
And I wasn't in the mood for Flaming Fuschia Borscht two days ago, and I decided to play around with the color a bit. Silly me, I thought somehow that I'd be able to conquer the Flaming Fuschia. I added cumin and a little bit of yellow food coloring, and tipped the balance into the orange zone. Frankly, it looks like I started applying photo manipulation filters and forgot when to stop. Now orange is a nice enough color, but cumin is a very bright, intense yellow in its own right, and when paired up with the beet juice, I'm pretty sure this resulting orange could be worn as a safety vest. (Which I just might do if I accidentally tip the bowl into my lap while eating and typing at the same time. Still, better my lap than the almost-white carpet at my feet. Better yet, it should stay in the bowl.) Now "Safety Vest Orange Chicken Soup" didn't quite roll off the the tongue, but "Excessively Orange Borscht" is a name I can live with. It's a name that almost makes the bowl's contents endearing even on this third day after creation (with half the pot left for the next three days).
As you might have guessed by now, I am not much of a recipe person. I *can* follow a recipe, and in fact I have a small handful of sacred recipes that I don't mess with: lemon meringue pie, butterscotch-chip cookies, peanut-chicken soup, pancakes from scratch. Those select few recipes are the ones for which I go back to my recipe card every single time and follow it faithfully. Pretty much everything else is subject to whim and experimentation. I have about a 98 percent success rate with my experimentations and whims, which means that only about 2 dishes out of 100 are so unredeemable that I won't eat them (and while I'm not exactly as choosy as my husband, there is definitely a well-defined zone of "edible"). The other 98 run the spectrum from "it'll do, but I hope the leftovers don't last too long" all the way up to "OMG! I *HAVE* to have that recipe!" (which is a real "Doh!" moment because I don't keep notes as I cook, and back-engineering the recipe is never quite as successful as I'd hoped.) I have learned to treat every meal that comes out of my kitchen as a one-off, a fluke event, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy this specific dish because it will never again be seen nor tasted on this Earth (excepting the 7 days of leftovers, of course).
Excessively Orange Borscht is one of those rare dishes, like a good curry, that seems to get better the second or third day out. Maybe it's because the flavors are blending, or maybe it's because the initial shock and distrust are wearing off, but EOB is inching its way up the scale into "Hmm... I might make this again if I'd kept notes... except I might leave the beet juice out next time."
Some of my most brilliant experiments come from desperation, one of those "Oh no, I need to eat again and I haven't gone to the store in the past few days" occasions. EOB was one of those. I was feeling a little sick and lethargic, and what I wanted was a good, honest, therapeutic chicken soup. I was off to a great start: I had a refrigerator full of leftovers I didn't want to eat, and I figured that the worst thing that could happen if they all ended up in a pot together is that I still wouldn't want to eat them, and if my experiment turned out to be one of those 2-%ers, I'd have a good excuse not to. :)

So into the crockpot went:
+ the bones of a rotisserie chicken (from Safeway, I think), with the remaining meat pulled off and set aside for last-minute addition into the soup.
+ a couple of leaves of kale. I like to think that it makes the soup healthier.

After an overnight slow-cook, I pulled out the solids and strained the broth. Then I started adding the stuff that would stay in as part of the soup:
+ chopped carrots
+ chopped celery
+ diced potatoes
+ diced onion (sauteed first)
+ diced bell pepper -- green and orange for festive color
+ a handful of raisins
+ the leftover chicken meat, finely diced
+ salt

The handful of raisins was supposed to have been my exciting "take a chance and see what happens" ingredient. I know that I like raisins in my rice pilaf, so it wasn't even that much of a stretch.

A couple of hours later I got a bit hungry, but the vegetables weren't tender yet, so I made myself an auxiliary snack of potatoes, beets, and kale. Flora, this is where you get to point and laugh, because when I'd been looking through my refrigerator, deciding what to add to the soup, I'd taken one look at those beets and very distinctly thought, "nope. Beets will turn the whole thing pink, and I'm not in the mood for borscht. I'll cook them up on their own in the next couple of days." So naturally when I went looking for an auxiliary lunch, I remembered that I had to cook up the beets anyway, so into the steamer they went along with some potatoes. (The kale I stir-fried)
The beets were delicious. When I tidied up dishes after lunch, I noticed that the beets had sweated a little of their juicy goodness into the steamer's drip tray. I seem to recall a snippet of the train of thought that turned my chicken soup pink, and it went something like this: "Hmm! The drip collector in the steamer has water that's loaded with vitamins from cooking the beets and potatoes. And it's bright pink. I'd better not leave it in the steamer for long or it will turn the white plastic bright pink and I'll have a terrible time getting the stain back out again. Well, I guess I could add it to the soup pot-- it's only a couple of tablespoons: hardly enough to even influence the flavor" and in it went.
+ 2 tablespoons dilute beet juice
It might not have been enough to change the flavor, but it just about instantly dyed every single ingredient in the pot a bright pink (except for the raisins which were dark enough not to show any significant change alongside the fuschia potatoes).
By this time the vegetables were just about tender, so I dished myself up a small bowl to see how the flavoring. It wasn't bad! ...but I just couldn't come to grips with bright pink chicken pieces. Beef is just fine in a borscht. Beef is a rich enough brown on its own that it doesn't suffer from exposure to pink broth. I can't say the same for the chicken.
I felt compelled to change the color somehow.
It occurred to me that cumin has a nice earthy color that might help mute the soup's visual intensity. Cumin is frequently used in chili and has a fairly strong flavor. Since I didn't want to use too much cumin, I supplemented my color adjustment with a couple of drops of yellow food coloring. I also thought the cumin on its own might be an odd flavor to add to the soup, so I balanced it with a dash of cinnamon.
+ cumin
+ cinnamon
The raisins were losing their claim to the title of my "throw caution to the winds" ingredient.
The cumin and cinnamon added an interesting flavor component, but even with the aid of yellow food coloring they couldn't offset the pink.
So I added a dash of turmeric.
+ turmeric
I might have added a bit too much turmeric, because my soup turned bright orange: Neon-, flourescent-, safety-cone orange.
It dawned on me that despite my attempts to adjust the color, what I had in my soup-pot was borscht: almost-entirely-beet-free borscht, but borscht nonetheless.
Now, whenever I make borscht (on purpose, at least), I add some beef stew cubes to the pot. My refrigerator, however, illustrating the lack of foresight that my culinary whims had embodied, was distinctly void of beef stew cubes.
It held no leftover pot roast, no fajita steak brought home from a Mexican restaurant, not even a hint of ground beef.
My refrigerator held exactly one beef-containing product: half a package of Ball Park beef hot dogs.
So I added them.
+ Ball Park beef hot dogs
I started to wonder whether the raisins might not have been the tamest decision I'd made.
And then it occurred to me that perhaps the raisins were the tipping point: perhaps the raisins were the culprit that brought the entire string of questionable choices descending down into my soup pot. If I hadn't tossed in the raisins on a whim of curiosity, maybe I wouldn't have tossed in the steamer's beet juice in a moment's indiscretion. If I hadn't added the beet juice, I would have had no reason to add the cumin, the cinnamon, or the turmeric. And beet-juice or no, the cinnamon would never have gone in the pot if the raisins hadn't already been in there.
It just goes to show how one whimsical, off-handed, ill-considered choice can influence an entire string of choices to follow.
Fortunately, it's not bad. It's odd, to be sure, but it's not bad. It's actually kinda yummy. I just had to give up the idea that it was ever "chicken soup" and just accept it on its own merits as one of those kitchen experiments gone awry.
In the words of John Krakauer (author of Into The Wild), "a challenge in which a successful outcome is assured isn't a challenge at all." Or put another way: It wouldn't be called triumph if you knew you could bank on a successful outcome.


CQJP color palette

Originally I thought that I would make my CQJP out of quilting cottons. I have plenty to choose from! And I love making crazy quilts from printed fabrics. ... but in the end I decided that I wanted fabrics that have a more sumptuous shine and feel, so I dug out my fancy fabrics and came up with this colorway:

I guess I have plenty of purples! On the left hand side are my "greens" which are more like teal than green. Ideally I would have a lot more of them,but since I don't, I've come up with a tentative plan that should work... I just hope it's "crazy" enough.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 05, 2012

irrelevant chatter: soup

Note to self: when going to the trouble of buying lots of different colored ingredients for a festive soup (green and orange bell peppers, yellow corn, orange carrots, green celery and beans, etc) don't put beets into the pot! argh. I ended up with a bright fuschia soup. When I added the beets, I'd thought I would get a lovely bright fuschia broth with all sorts of festive vegetables floating around in it, but no! of course not. Beet juice stains everything. All the vegetables ended up some variation of fuschia. I'd have known that if I'd have stopped to think about it. Doh!

For the past couple of weeks I have been focusing my time and energy on getting my sewing space cleaned up and organized. This week I get to focus on putting together my first CQJP "block" (wedge shaped). Yay!