Friday, October 30, 2009


Well, I have come to the end of this round of dyeing with one last fling. A fruit fling, no less. I decided that my Big Bin o' Natural Dye Yarn needed some pink, so after poking through my books, I decided to try raspberries.

Now, I know that there are other tried-and-true methods of getting pink: cochineal and brazilwood. I worked with cochineal this Summer and it does give pink, but what I got was a more mauve-y/lavender-y pink. Brazilwood apparently gives a truer pink, but it has become very hard to get. As much as I'd like to try it, I am a bit nervous at the thought of using it and contributing to the loss of trees. I don't know if it has been overharvested or if it has become collateral damage from rainforest deforestation, but without more research into ecological correctness the matter, I am hanging back. Dharma Trading Company has none for sale and I count that as a dubious sign.

One of my dyeing books, however, has an easy recipe for dyeing with blackberries. That got me thinking about using other berries, such as raspberries. I had one skein of Lamb's Pride left from last weekend that was ready to dye (I mordanted it with alum), so I figured why not try raspberries?

I bought two packages of frozen berries from Safeway. I got the organic kind mostly because the berries were frozen without sugar or any other additives. I dumped both packages in warm water and mushed them up with my hands as they thawed out to crush them. I then simmered for a hour or so, and steeped for an additional hour. I strained and crushed the remains. I added the yarn and simmered for about an hour and a half. I then let it sit another hour. When I checked, it seemed the right shade, so I took it out--no overnight this time. This is what resulted:

Raspberry yarn:

This skein was rinsed until the water was clear. I added a little soap in the first rinse to make sure it was really clear. PINK!

The raspberries were a bit spendy, so I got a skein of Cascade Eco Wool and with exhaust dye it this weekend and try and really get my money's worth from the dyepot. I also like that pink color, so that last rationalization is my story and I am sticking to it!

This experiment has got me thinking about next season. My mom has two plum trees--a Satsuma and a Santa Rosa--and both give very red juice. She usually has more plums than she knows what to do with, so I will likely try plums as a dyestuff, if I can time a trip right.

This will likely be my last dye batch for a couple weeks at least. I am starting to think up projects for this yarn and I need to get my dyebook started to keep track of what I've done before I forget any more than I already have. The weather is turning here, and now the season for cozy fires, good books, fun movies and handwork projects is almost here. Time to knit what was dyed!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looks Like Lavender, Smells Like Cabbage

Dye-jinks, part Infinity. I am plowing through the yarn I bought last Saturday. I alum mordanted all the skeins at once and have them wetted and ready to dye. Last night, I decided to try red cabbage.

I used two heads of red cabbage, that I grated in my cusinart. I added water to cover and boiled an hour or so.Then I steeped off heat, strained and proceeded to dye both skeins. The skeins were cooked at a simmer about 1.5 hours and then left overnight to cool and steep. The dye pot was BRIGHT purple and I was hoping the color might stay. Rinsing the first skein, though mean most of the bright color came out. Still, the resulting yarn is a lovely, dusty lavender--not an unexpected this time, but still I am very pleased. The second skein got rinsed a bit and then a quick bath with a glug of clear ammonia, then rinsed thoroughly. It turned a nifty dusty teal green, again not so unexpected. All in all, a pretty good outcome!

Ammonia created teal on the left, untreated on the right:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Double Double, Toil and Trouble

Well, really, no trouble, but certainly a boiling cauldron!

Our story so far:

Rabbit has a problem; she can't quit dyeing yarn. She clips backyard plants and boils them up and steeps yarn and weird things happen...

As I posted earlier, my latest dyeing experiment was made using Abutilon blossoms. That's 'flowering maple' to those out there who don't live and breathe by their 'Sunset Western Garden Book' or some similar plant geek reference guide. As the child of an extended family of truly certifiable plant geeks, we tend to bandy Latin genus and species names with reckless abandon. But I digress.

My flowering maple shrubs (there are two) are pale orange and very pretty. Fortunately for me, they are still blooming profusely in this late October--pretty much the only flowering plant with any oomph left this year. (Even the white clematis has mostly pooped out, unlike last year)Abutilon blooms are very graceful, frilly bell-like blossoms:

Flowering maple blossoms:

Much as I like seeing a shrub full of blooms, the potential for a dyeing experiment is too tempting, so I took all the open blooms. There are also quite a few buds, so there should be a new crop of blossoms in a few days. My harvest yielded about 1/3 of a potful:

Pot of blossoms:

I filled the pot to about 2/3 full with tap water and brought to a boil. I then simmered the blooms about an hour and let them steep another full hour. The final blooms yielded a pale peachy colored tea and looked drained of pigment. As a note to others, they also became somewhat unpleasantly slimy, so I didn't really squeeze them out much.

Anemic abutilon post-steeping:

I was, frankly, expecting a pale tan-yellow, so imaging my surprise when I dropped my alum mordanted skein of yarn in and got this:

Purple? Yes, VERY purple. The yarn is good old Lamb's Pride--a full 4 oz. skein. I simmered and hour and kept checking. The yarn was taking color, but not A bright, light artichoke green. I let the skein sit in the dyepot overnight and today, I rinsed it and got what you see in the picture. Well, much like the previous Mexican marigold dyepot, this didn't turn out as I expected, but I like it!

A very un-brown green!

As usual, you can't tell what you'll get from the dyepot until the fiber is done. Stayed tuned for more dye-jinks!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dyeing for Fiber

Well, it's Saturday. I am resting post-cold, and woke up with a migraine today, no less. Lovely. Still, I am pilled and mostly pain free now, thankfully and almost have a speaking voice back. Really I should be resting, and maybe doing some much needed light housework. However, my naughty dyeing self is working up to a run to Fortuna and the much-loved Generations yarn store (and beauty shop--let's not forget that!) They carry TONS of meat-and-potatoes yarn, including my preferred Lamb's Pride.

The bulk of my dyeing has been done using Lamb's Pride by Brown Sheep Wool company. It is 85% wool/15% mohair lopi style single ply, and somehow it just seems to take the dye better than anything else I have worked with. I have a binful already, but I can't stop playing.

I do have a couple of solid knitting projects in mind, and have now got the yarn for both, but more colors is better in my mind and I want to get a bit more dyeing in before the weather turns crappy for real. I do have my covered breezeway and solarium to work in, but when it gets too cold, it will be uncomfortable and I anticipate the damp will make it difficult to dry the resulting yarn. Dyeing season is really coming to a close.

Still, I have things in the works. My friend Q in Corvallis has access to elderberries that she says she'll freeze for me, and lives on a large ot with access to madrona trees; the bark is supposed to work well. I plan also to tap my aunt and uncle for some walnut hulls, since they have an english walnut orchard and I am sure would be happy to save some for me.

In m own yard, there is the abutilon flowering I mentioned earlier--my first goal. There is also an apple tree covered with lichen. I have no plans to move, or anything, in the near future, but somehow, I feel a sense of urgency about seeing some of these things through. Nervous, I guess.

So, I am making hay, so to speak. Strike while the iron is hot!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dyer's Addendum

So I dyed my last skein of prepped yarn. It was a large skein: 7.4 oz of yarn. I almost split it in two because it was so big, but trying to reskein wet wool is a drag, so I ran with it.

As I said in my previous post, I planned to use Mexican marigold (Tagetes spp.) leaves. I showed a picture of yarn dyed with the flowers--2 skeins of buttery yellow, one slightly darker because it sat in the dyebath longer.

My previous experience with leaves includes horsetail and fennel. The horsetail yielded a soft buffy yellow, and the fennel, a greenish yellow--both colors subtle and gentle. I used both young and old leaves of the Tagetes, cutting off whole canes, since the plant needs serious pruning, and stripping off all the leaves from the stems until I had a decent potful. I covered them with water and simmered for a good while (at least an hour), until the leaves looked dull and the water was very green. As a test, I dunked a bit of white paper towel in to test. It came out green, so I thought, "OK. The yarn will likely be greeny yellow.". I was hesitant because I wasn't sure about a big skein of nondescript color, but decided to go with it. What the heck, right?

Well, wow. The yarn hit the dyebath and WHOOSH!! The water turned BRIGHT yellow and went from clear to opaque. I simmer for about an hour and a half and then let it sit covered overnight with the heat off. It wasn't green, it was YELLOW, yellow, bordering on orange. Would it stay that way after rinsing? Well...'

electric yellow orange--yeehaw!

P's comment when he saw it was, 'Wow. It looks like the color of Kraft macaroni and cheese.". And it does, really. The skein you see has been not only rinsed thoroughly, but washed with mild soap. It could do with a little more rinsing, but it was pretty much stay that color. What a knockout. After the subtle tans, peaches, greens and yellows I have gotten of late to get this INTENSE yellow-orange was a treat. I wouldn't have predicted this color outcome, but I love it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 Headlong to the End

I've been down with a cold this week. This has given me a lot of time to look at my surroundings and mentally take stock, at least. I also slipped in some easy yarn dyeing, since I had already mordanted and prepped my wool before the cold bug took me down.

I have been saving flower heads from my farm bouquets--mostly dahlias. I also have also had my eye on plants in my backyard. The most rampant growing is a Mexican marigold (Tagetes spp.). So, in my bored, cold-ridden state, I started in on the yarn.

Mexican marigold taken in my backyard:

Dahlias were first, and I boiled them and, whatever flowers we in the most recent bouquet, up into a nice tea. A quick 10 minute dunk gave a light sunny yellow. Longer gave a chartreuse green. I also overdyed some of my nettle and sumac dyed batches and got more greens.

My last farm bouquet, once lovely, became part of a dye bath when faded:

I then cooked up all the fresh Tagetes flowers I could lay hold of and this gave a WONDERFUL clear yellow. I overdyed some of the yarn from all the previous batches and got some cross yellows and yellow-greens. Good fun!!

Yellows and yellow greens from dyer's madness:

I have one more skein of yarn ready. I am boiling up some tea from the Mexican marigold leaves. I want to redunk some sumac and nettle yarns to test. If I like what I see, I'll throw in the last skein. Otherwise, I will make up a bath this weekend using some orange flowering maple. There are two bushes in full bloom in the yard right now.

Flowering maple (Abutilon spp.):

I figure I have to act fast. I heard my first skein of Aleutian geese a few minutes ago, which means Winter is not so very far away. They overwinter here in the thousands, and October is almost over. Furthermore, the Japanese maple in the yard is starting to show it's Fall color.

The first hint of the red to come:

Orangey hints of the more radioactive red the tree will soon show. Plants are rolling it up for the season and that also means the dyeing season is rolling up--at least for the fresh stuff. So, make dye while the sun shines!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

All Over the Place

The title of this post says it all. I am, indeed, all over the place. I have managed to get something done on my frighteningly long craft to-do list. I dyed some yarn all by my little self! I am very proud of this. I actually DID something I set out to do; the autistic component of my personality won out over the ADD component for once.

On a recent visit to my dear M-I-L in upstate Washington, I, in my typical BIG IDEA fashion, culled some plant material from her yard. I got a grocery bag of stinging nettle and also a bag of bloom/berry candles from her sumac tree. I realize I could have gotten the nettles at home, but BIG IDEAS cannot be held back, so I went with it.

On the way up, hubby and I stopped in Crescent City because I needed a tiny crochet hook, and Sylvia's Attic was a) open, and b) had them cheap, and I needed it. Needless to say, I bought several in various sizes. I also found and bought a stockpot for $5, expressly to use for dyeing. So now, I had a pot. I had yarn that needed dyeing. Ready to go right? Well, sort of.

We ended up staying in Coupeville longer than planned due to car issues, but that was OK. Hanging with MIL is always a good time! It also gave me a chance to think about dyeing, which is possibly dangerous. I realized that I needed to just go for it and the plants were my excuse. I dutifully stuffed my bags into the overfull trunk of the car and hoped the plants wouldn't rot on the slow drive home. (Yes, I do know that fresher is better, but I embraced my novice ignorance and took the plunge.)

We got home and a meeting with my local Spinning/Weaving guild put me in touch with my dyeing instructor, who told me where to get alum. I bought some plastic bins and buckets from the local hardware store and went for it. It took two weekends due to a lack of pots--soak overnight Friday, mordant Saturday, then dye Sunday. The nettles were old--one small rotted bit--but still OK to use. I got a camel tan not yellow, but it was pretty so it's OK.

Nettle dyed yarns. 30 and 90 minutes. I steeped some overnight, but they only got a little darker and duller.

Today, I am finishing up the sumac. I broke it up, removed the stems, simmered about an hour, and steeped it overnight before using. The skein here was dyed for 45 minutes and has an alum mordant. I have two more skeins soaking, but I doubt they will get much darker. I also bought some ferrous sulfate to treat the yarn with, but I won't do that today.

Sumac dyed yarn

I am mostly feeling perky because I actually DID something I had set out to do. My projects are currently very scattered and disorganized. I can't find pieces to finish at least three knitting projects that I want to work on and that is truly frustrating. The fact that I cleared the craft slate of something is especially rewarding because of the other roadblocks I have run into.

Our trip through Oregon and Washington was also a lot of fun and a much needed vacation. I will post more about it in the next few days, especially since P has done his pictures. Good times!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Invisible Blogger

Holy cow. Almost two months since my last post? Bad Facebook! No biscuit!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chaos Theory

Well, actually the blog title is a misnomer. There is nothing theoretical about the chaos that currently abounds in our snug little house. I am surrounded in my nest area with project flotsam: things waiting to be mended, things waiting to be finished, yarn ready to start. Nothing is at hand that I can just pick up and knit except the Dragon Shawl. Everywhere I look there is stuff that is complicated. (Let's not count the dishes and the laundry right now, OK?)

Ah, the Dragon Shawl! This is the shawl that I signed on to make for the Shawl Contest at Northcoast Knittery. Well, I truly bit off a choke-worthy bite there! I finally got it going, and so far I am pleased, but it is so utterly complicated that there is no way I can finish it in time. I could try to knit something else, but that would mean unpicking what I have done and finding another suitable project. I am too distracted to do the latter and I will walk off the North Jetty before I do the former. It took me too long to start. This means I am out of the race for the Shawl Contest. Oh well. Better get out my check book--got some yarn to pay for.

In the mean time, I had good news about my contest scarf I made last Spring. I entered it into the Humboldt County Fair and the scarf got a blue ribbon for it's category! Yay! I admit I was not expecting ANY prize so this was a treat and a surprise. I can only liken it to the time I picked up a Microbiology midterm in college--the one I thought I hadn't done well on--only to find that I got 100%. The TA asked me if there was anything wrong when he saw the look on my face and I could only stammer, "Uh, no, I guess not!" Am I unhappy about my ribbon? Uh, no, I guess not! Here is the lovely scarfie in situ:

The fair was fun--hubby and I looking at the art and the beasties. There was one really odd phenomenon. Some of the sheared sheep were dressed in spandex unitards--sheepitards, really. I am sure there is a reason and the more knowledgeable folks out there know why, but they looked like sheep aerobics instructors, or in this case like a Lucha Libre (Lucha Sheepre??) wrestler:

Maybe when I finally do some spinning and learn more about fleeces, sheep costumes will make more sense. Until then, it is a curiosity. Yet another thing to look into in Humboldt County!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In Case of Emergency...Cast On!!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Inside my knitting bag, I have an emergency project. This particular project functions much like an earthquake preparedness kit or a car emergency kit. I have needles, pattern, yarn and notions for a project that is not too taxing to start or work on. Why do I have this? Well, my knitting bag goes with me practically everywhere. This means that there is a likelihood it will be with me if I ever get stuck somewhere--trapped in an elevator, stranded on a side road in a car on a side road waiting for a tow truck, idling in an airport waiting for someone.

I broke into my project this week. I am at my wit's end, knittingwise. I have a bad case of knitpotence right now; I have a contest shawl to knit and I am having a hard time with it. I kept bringing to knitting group and was repeatedly asked "Is that all you've done, yet?" Well, yes and no. (we're talking a cast-on row and that's all). What doesn't show is that I have cast the stupid thing 5 TIMES. I get it going and find an egregious mistake, so I rip it out and start again. and again, and again...

I needed to reboot my brain something awful, so I broke out the Emergency Project--another lace smoke ring. I have made three and I practically don't need to look at the chart anymore. I can recharge my needle confidence at work with the smaller, easier project. I am feeling both low and militant and even a wee bit dire right now. I have a complicated shawl to knit and have lost half the contest time just trying to get it started. I know I can do it, but do I have the time? I am not so sure anymore.

Still, Hubby is out of town as of this morning. This means I am on my own for a few days. Despite the nice weather I am staying in with the DVD player and KNITTING. I am blogging this to "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" on DVD while I eat Hawaiian BBQ. This is my lunch break. I started the shawl with the first LOTR movie, took a break and then will continue through "Return of the King" today and then a new long series tomorrow. I have laid in food and treats. My plan is to get some inroads on the shawl and maybe the project will start to take off as these things often do.

Time will tell if this weekend will be productive or an ice-cream-filled Lost Weekend ending in knitting despair. Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cats + Knitting = ARRRRGH!

Cappuccino decided my felted bag made a nice bed. My guy took this pic of her with her typical "yeah--what." expression.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Farmtown is Evil--Just Add Hallucinogens!

I must own up to a recent addiction. There is a game on Facebook called Farmtown and I can't quit playing it. It is much like SimCity in tone. You start with a plot of land and a self-decorated avatar that represents you as the farmer. You plant and harvest crops, which gains you money. You cultivate neighbors within your coterie of Facebook friends, and send each other gifts that you use to decorate your farm. You can also meet other Facebook folks who are also Farmtownees and add them as work buddies.

I have been working on my ever increasing plot assiduously and carefully building on it. I now have a house, a barn, a corral for my beasts (cows, horses, goats, pigs, etc.), a poultry pen, a windmill, and a few other goodies. I am saving up for a big pond and a greenhouse. I arrange everything to my liking, trying to maximize space and arrange things both practically and aesthetically.

Over the last few weeks, I have had this creeping feeling of deja vu regarding Farmtown. This feeling began when a long time buddy of mine observed once while we were playing, "Wow! Look at this--those avatars are US!". Well, I have finally realized what the cold grue was for me: I am living the novel "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" by Philip K. Dick. Minus the Can-D and Chew-Z, fortunately.

I read this novel when I was a freshman in college and it has been one of those books that has stuck with me all these years. It is chock full of twisted PKD weirdness--odd, surreal images and a picture of future civilization as a very disturbing place. In this case, 21st Century life focuses on living recreational life through dolls Perky Pat and her boyfriend Walt--and-ins for Barbie and Ken), and spending money on "layouts"--elaborate dollhouses with detailed accessories. Through hallucinogenic drugs, you become Pat or Walt and live the beautiful life, which is a diversion from the fact the the world (or in this case worlds, since there are various plantary colonies)is a wretched, messed up place.

OK, maybe I am overstating this whole concept a bit, but I see my avatar that represents me in her little purple overalls, my tidy farm, and plan for sowings and harvests, I start to wonder. Am I living through the hallucinogenic experience of the internet, nurturing this fake farm, interacting with other farmers across the globe? I once harvested the fields of a person claiming to be a Filipina living in Dubai. It was a surreal moment--me at 6 PM home from work on Farmtown and her at 5 AM before work on Farmtown 8000 miles away from where I was. It was weird, but I played on anyway.

And really, what can I say? I LIKE Farmtown and I'll likely play on--that is, until I start seeing characters with robotic hands and steel teeth. Gotta go--my onions are ready to harvest!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fit to be Dyed

My! It's been a month since my last post. I have not been idle during that time and I have plenty to post about. Since I have procrastinated about posting through most of June (read this as "I wasted a lot of time goofing off on Facebook"), I realize the the logical way to approach the pile of material I want to blog about is to work backwards and see how far I get.

Last Saturday, July 11th, I attended my first hand-dyeing workshop. This was VERY exciting for me for a number of reasons. I had never done hand dyeing before and I have wanted to try my hand at this for literally for 18-19 years--almost as long as I have been knitting. I got a book in the early '90's called "A Passion for Color" by Sarah Burnett which really is the seed of my desire to learn dyecraft. In this particular book, Ms. Burnett shows some basics about dyeing yarns with natural materials, and follows this with some of her own designs. The yarns she works with are GORGEOUS. (As a sidebar, however, some of the designs and photo styling for this book are hilariously '80's of the "You Knit WHAT?!" variety. Check them out for a eye-rolling belly laugh sometime.) I was thoroughly intrigued by the dyeing information. When I unearthed the book a while back from the box it had been packed away in during my various moves over the last few years, I found it still had the bookstore receipt. My excitement over the whole dyeing concept is illustrated on this receipt that shows that I actually paid FULL PRICE for the book. Those who know my bargain hunting ways will see that my enthusiasm won over my cheapskatedness.

I have been picking up old books on fabric and yarn dyeing here and there over the years at used bookstores, squirrelling away information, reading, learning. Always, though I have been intimidated about giving this process a try. The equipment, the materials, the techniques--there is an outlay of time and money to get set up and I was hesitant about spending money only to find I was in over my head. I mean, given my background--16 years of biochemistry laboratory experience , a seriously plant-mad family, and fearless cooking skills--I had the raw tools to do this. What can I say? I also had stage fright.

I know I wax rhapsodic in these posts about Northcoast Knittery, and yet again, I feel so blessed to have this resource so close by. It was through the Knittery that I signed up for the class I took. The teacher was a wonderful woman named Linda Hartshorn, who has some mad-fine dyeing skills, let me tell you! The class took place on a grey but temperate Saturday. We were set to dye 6 different colors with natural dyes of logwood (purple), magenta (cochineal), red (mungeet/cochineal), orange (madder), yellow (marigold) and green (fennel/iron).

So, less text, more pictures:

Here are some of the dyeing materials in raw form. soaked woodchips or roots, dried marigold heads, powdered alum, and others:

Some raw yarn that was skeined for the dyepots and very necessary rubber gloves. Next time I will read the glove package better and get a size that FITS. (I got size small. Rats.)

The pots were cooked/steeped on an outdoor propane camp stove and strained to yield the dye.

Prepping fennel for the dyepot. Who knew such a common roadside plant could be so craftable!

Fennel tea for 100? No...DYE!

Marigolds. Pretty flowers here steeping to yield pretty fiber.

Cooked and strained logwood chips.

Some of our efforts on the dry rack. It was interesting to see how a little bit more or less time in the dyepots yielded different results.

The greens are very striking! I left my skein in the fennel pot and iron bath a good long while and got a robust olive green, second from the left.

My final 6 skeins, alternately described by some Facebooks friends as my handyed Pride yarn or George Clinton's hair (I am cool with that! Bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay!)

So the result? I got some rockin' cool yarn, had a blast, learned many new things, am now very much wanting to explore more about hand dyeing yarn. In fact, there is another class at the beginning of August in town at Ink People, so if you are looking for me that weekend, I am booked, baby!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Today is the two week mark for P and me and our South Beach Diet. We made it through Phase 1! What's more, I LOST FOUR POUNDS. Not epic, but frankly, a slower loss rate bodes well for keeping it off.

Still, today was throw-down day. Festival. The Red Hour. Get outta the way Landru, I needs me some CARBS. Tomorrow is back to it. We are back to Phase 1, but fresh fruit in moderation is back on the menu. Fruit has been my weakness, my lustful focus. OK, I have whined incessantly about the baked goods that have paraded through Radiation Oncology the last two weeks. I admit it freely. And it has been trying: Ramone's pastries, eclairs, coffee cake, cookies, cookies, cookies, cookies (all on different days), home made blackberry and cherry pies. Yes, really. And I have tasted NONE of it.

But MAN. Walk me though any grocery produce section and I had apple envy. Banana yen. Cherry lust. My one instance (OK, TWO instances) of cheating came when we got a bag of fresh strawberries from our CSA Redwood Roots--I had 3 berries two weeks ago and four a week ago. I dutifully topped and froze the rest. P got the Laser Eyes of Death when he quietly suggested that I actually NOT TAKE the strawbs (like that would ever happen).

So now those red frozen hunks of sweet berry goodness are being churned into home made ice cream. P and I had a pre-agreement that today, the two week mark day, we could have treats. This was good because one of the docs brought in lunch of Chinese food today, and I could actually EAT CHINESE FOOD. I was good--a little of each in moderation, TINY portion of rice, no carrots, no seconds.

Still tonight was the Big Feed. We had Star Burger and fries and onions rings. I had a cider, P a beer. Home made ice cream to follow. Tasty!!! Still, my taste buds have changed. I globbed out a dollop of Heinz Ketchup and it was AWFUL! It tasted like tomato syrup. I, who NEVER waste food, allowed the remainder to be pitched. If I can find some good ketchup that doesn't taste like corn syrup, I'll buy it. Otherwise, me and Ketchup are DONE until I make my own.

So now the part of this post I was leading up to: STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM.

Here is a pictorial process:

Berries macerating in sugar:

Berries, cream,eggs, sugar, etc:


The finished product. Verdict? YUMMY!:

The pictures say it best. I ate the bowl. It was yummy. I am a happy camper! Tomorrow, I am a Phase 1 girl all the way!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Now Where Am I, Again?

The Humboldt Bay Area is well-known--no, FAMOUS for it's fog. Sunshiny days right on the bay are infrequent enough that EVERYBODY comments on the weather. The early part of last week was very grey and drizzly, so when Saturday dawned calm and clear, it was an easy decision to go OUT and DO something. P had his camera with and he got some great snaps, which I am borrowing for this blog.

I had a college buddy over, so she, me and P all piled into the car and went for a sojourn. We headed out to Ferndale and browsed in the shops for a good while--nice antiques, great buttons at Foggy Bottoms Yarn, The Blacksmith's Shop (always a fun place to browse), and Golden Gait Mercantile. Good times!

We then headed out to Centerville Beach, where the waves were uncharacteristically flat. T-shirt weather at a north coast beach! Wow! And tiny waves? we don't baby surf like this very often.

Surf's NOT up!:

After Centerville Beach, we popped into Loleta Cheese and tormented ourselves looking at goodies that are not South Beach approved. Still, we got an eyeful of what was there and we will be able to add back some richer cheeses in the not too distant future.

After leaving Loleta, we took the backroads out to the South Jetty. I admit, I have never seen it so calm! Even the North Jetty was almost like glass; usually it gets the brunt of the waves coming into the mouth of the bay. Saturday, there was nothing. Often a walk to the very end of the Jetty is intimidating because the waves can actually break over the walkway. Not Saturday--a stroll out seemed like a must.

South Jetty, no waves:

'rie and me, strolling along:

It was calm enough to get right down to the edge:

There were a lot of critters right down at the edge on the bay side of the jetty: starfish of all colors were everywhere--purple, red and orange. There were dozens of starfish and they were scattered all over the rocks, and tended to cluster around clumps of mussels, that abounded. Some were above the waterlinne, some below. The tide was pretty low, so we really got an eyeful!

Starfish herds:

There were other critters, as well. The water was shallow enough that we could see down to the kelp leaves, which reflected a bluish iridescence. There are several forms of seaweed, some eelgrass, and the really find-- agumboot chiton! I have seen them on the beach, all dried out, so this was my first live one. It was a quite bright red--almost startling.

A bright red gumboot chiton. Weird, eh?:

A glance over to the other side of the jetty wall--the seaward side--showed a bit more wave action (but not much) and clumps of sea palms. The palms looked like a strange Dr. Seussian forest of trees with draggly wet hair.

Sea palms:

Anyone see the Lorax?:

The end of the Jetty is all concrete riprap. The riprap is verey cool; it looks alternately like giant jacks tossed together or like some immense concrete crystal structure. P got some really great shots:

Giant jacks?:

Or space alien crystals? You decide!:

At one point, 'rie and I had a harbor seal pop her head up and give us a lazy eye. She lingered a bit and the dove and disappeared. What a time to not have my camera! Still, the biggest thrill was the jellyfish. There were a couple dozen all along the edge. They were coasting and flexing through the current, falsing grey, light blue and lavender as they moved. Some would get caught in an eddy and were pushed into little calm pockets of water, affording really good, close views. I really like the 'shamrock' in the center that would flash and then disappear. It was neat to see them move--they can get around when they want to! They looked to be ranging for 6 inches to a foot in diameter. So cool!

Pink jelly with P's shadow:

Lucky shamrock jelly?:

It was a lovely outing! The whole weekend was great weather. I'll do another post soon about the hike we took Sunday...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Who Says There's No Free Lunch?

P and I are on Day 2 of the South Beach Diet. I have 12 more days to look forward to of the so-called "Phase I". It is going to be Hell, I can already tell, but I made a pinkie promise with P, and a deal's a deal, so I must soldier on.

I am getting my resolve tested at work. Yesterday, one of my coworkers generously brought pastries from Ramone's, a local bakery. I resisted. Then we went to our farm for the first veggie box of the season, which came with strawberries. I caved and ate three. Bad me. No strawbs until Phase I is over.

Today, one of my other coworkers came back from chart rounds bearing chocolate covered eclairs. So cruel! I hovered, watching eclairs I can't eat right now. I am in a tough business to endure for dieters. There is food EVERYWHERE.

In a move to get some exercise along with the diet, P and I headed out to east of Arcata after I got home from work to go for a walk in the Azalea Reserve, which should be in full bloom right now. We forgot our county map, however, and tried to find it from memory and failed. Still, we found a nice road called West End Road, which we decided to follow because it was pretty.

Our little mosey led us to The Mad River Fish Hatchery, which turns out to be open to the public during daylight hours. We parked and started poking around the place. The hatchery grows steelhead, apparently (aka ocean-going rainbow trout). Most of the fish runs were empty, but a few were packed. P had his little cybershot and took some pics.

Whole lotta big fish:

The area above the runs was strung with wire to keep predatory birds out and we soon saw this was for a good reason. There was a large osprey perched on one of the light poles looking down at the fish. I thought to myself "Poor bird. Those fish are like the eclairs I was pining for this afternoon: right there and out of reach."

The osprey is on the light pole, reading the menu:

The smorgasbord is OPEN:

What chance to the fishies have in such close quarters?:

What are YOU lookin' at, eh?:


What wires? Clever Osprey with a finny snack in the center of the frame:

Silly me. Who ever decided that "bird brain" meant "stupid" obviously didn't spend much time around birds. I should have known better. We walked close and got a right sharp bitching out from the osprey and then he flew and started circling. Finally, when we were at the head of the full adult run, he flew around, swooped UNDER the wires, snagged a fish and flew off.

A few minutes later, he was back, but our presence made him hold off. We finally walked to the other end of the run and he recommenced his routine, finally nabbing another trout. Obviously, this bird has has his hunting routine wired. I hope he doesn't get himself in trouble. Still, with that packed run, I don't think I could resist either, if I were an osprey.

Regal and well fed:

Back for more:

"These look nice! I'll have one of these!":

Gotcha! Yum! :

On the way back, we saw another osprey scoping the Mad river for fish the old fashioned way. No easy prey for him! So it goes with the prime nest site. Either the other birds haven't caught on to the hatchery or the one bird chases them off. Perhaps he is setting himself up for a heap of hurt for stealing fish. I hope not. He was a very pretty (and clever) bird!