Meandering down a path of Creativity

Archive for April, 2012

Falling down on the job!

So I don’t have my own recipe to share with you this week. I had grand plans, but life happened. So, instead of giving you one of my own recipes, I am going to direct you to a recipe on a friend’s blog:

Nicole’s Visions- Tomato Ketchup

(You might recognize her name from that gorgeous nature photo I posted a couple of months back, with the lake and the stone bench.)

She tried the recipe for ketchup and gave it a good review, and I am planning on making it in the coming weeks, using some of the tomato paste I canned during last summer’s tomato glut. I’ll be turning the paste into ketchup, and then turning the ketchup into homemade BBQ sauce!

And if y’all are reeeeal nice, I might just share my Sweet n Sassy BBQ Sauce recipe with you at some point in the future! Hope you’re having a great week!

**edited to make the link actually show up!

Growing Things: Lilacs

I love the flowers of springtime… the little bits of color that begin peeping out from recently dormant earth really just brings a smile to my face. At this point the crocuses have come and gone, the hyacinths and daffodils are on their way out, but the tulips are in full bloom! My bearded irises are just showing those gorgeous blade-type leaves, and my lilacs have little clusters that have begun to change from green and will soon be bursting into those lovely, sweet smelling, teeny-tiny flowers!

Yes, I adore lilacs!

The problem with our lilacs is that we have a narrow driveway that leads to the main parking area behind the house, and there are 2 very old, very large lilac bushes (trees?) between the house and the driveway. That means that we really need to keep up on the pruning, to ensure that a car can make it into the parking area without having to duke it out with a lilac branch. For the most part, this is not a problem. However, there is one piece of information with which a person should be armed before beginning to prune a lilac tree- its flowering habit!

Lilacs only bloom on the previous year’s new growth!

That means, should you decide to be zealous in your pruning this year, there is a chance you will not have any blooms next year! For that reason, I tend to prune mine around this time of year. It’s easy to distinguish between the new growth and old at this point, but soon it won’t be as stems of the new springs turn from green to brown, and then shortly thereafter, begin to develop bark.

The other technique I try to employ is to alternate my focus between inner branches and outer branches, annually. This allows me to do some zealous pruning without completely annihilating all of the new growth that will bring those wonderful little flowers and their heady fragrance!

Once they bloom, maybe I’ll update this post with a nice photo! 

Recipe: Quick & Easy Teriyaki Sauce

Hello there! This is going to just be a quick recipe post, as it’s a very busy week for me.

Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients on the sauces, marinades & dressings that you can buy at the grocery store? I have, and… ugh, all those chemicals! I don’t like eating stuff that I can’t pronounce! Some of the sauces that we buy are so easy to make and so much less expensive than buying them that it really doesn’t make sense to me to buy them!

Teriyaki sauce is one example of this. The stuff I use for mine is all regular pantry staples, and I think it just tastes better than the store bought stuff. So, without further ado, here is the super easy recipe:

Teriyaki Sauce

ingredients:

1/2 c orange juice

1/2 c gluten-free tamari sauce (you can use soy sauce, if that’s what you prefer)

1/4 c honey

1 tablespoon each fresh ginger and fresh garlic, minced or grated (if using powdered, I’d guess a scant teaspoon of each should do it)

1 tablespoon sesame oil (or olive oil)

optional: a tablespoon or 2 of sliced scallion and/or dried minced onion

put everything in a bowl, mix it up, cover and refrigerate. Let it sit for a half hour or so, then give it a taste and adjust the flavors to suit your preference. Use as you would use the store bought stuff.

See, now isn’t that easy?

On Fire for Handmade, featured blog of the week

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Garden Project: Seed Paper (aka Seed Tape)

So the weather has broken and the ground has begun to thaw, and my thoughts are on the garden! The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds have been started in the little trays, and now it’s time to get the parsnips and carrots in the ground!

The problem with parsnip seeds is that they are tiny, flat and lightweight; they’re very aerodynamic! Trying to place them, with accurate spacing, directly into the ground is not as easy as one might expect, especially as breezy as it tends to be around here at this time of year! And carrot seeds, though they’re not flat & prone to flying off like the parsnip seeds do, are just tiny and a bit awkward.

One solution to make life easier is to go buy seed tape. This is a strip of paper-type stuff that has the seeds embedded in it. You bury the strip at the proper depth, and only have to worry about the row spacing because the seeds are already spaced in the ‘tape’. The ‘tape’ dissolves once it’s been planted. It’s a great concept, but it can be expensive, and you’re stuck with whatever varieties of seeds the companies offer.

I’m a bit of a cheapskate, and a foodie, to boot. The commercially available seed tape just doesn’t do it for me. I decided to make my own. It’s easy, and can be done with stuff pretty much anyone has around the house. It also makes the garden set up a lot easier on your back!

What you’ll need:

seeds of your choosing

paper

flour paste (instructions given below)

Tools: scissors; some way of getting a drop of glue onto the paper (I use an eyedropper, but if you don’t have one, you can use a stick, a cheap, fine paint brush, or even a toothpick); some way of measuring; a clean workspace; a cloth or paper towels for wiping up stray glue drips. If you are really particular about exact placement, toothpicks are useful for moving the seeds & glue.

You also need to know the size of the space you’ll be putting the seed paper into, so you know how much paper you need to make.

Here’s a photo of everything I used for the carrot seed paper I made yesterday:

Everything you need to make seed paper...

As you can see, I use cheap, single-ply, septic-safe bathroom tissue (referred to as “TP” from here on out) as the paper. It dissolves readily when saturated, which is a good thing, once it’s been planted! I use my fabric cutting mat as my workspace. I like to do it this way because it’s easily cleaned in case of spills, and the measured markings are visible through the thin TP, which makes spacing the seeds a lot easier. You can use pretty much any lightweight paper, though. Paper towels, old newspapers, etc. If you’re not using TP, you’ll just need to cut your paper into strips of anywhere from 1 to  4 inches wide (much wider than 4 inches becomes difficult to work with when planting).

The little bowl that’s to the right of the mat with a fork resting on top of it? That’s my flour paste. I used rice flour, because we don’t actually have wheat flour in the house due to gluten sensitivity, but you could use wheat flour, cornstarch, potato starch… pretty much any really fine powdered starch or flour would work here. To make it, you just put some flour in a bowl, dish, paper cup or whatever, then add some water to make a paste. I would start with 3 parts flour to 1 part water and stir- I started with around 1/4 cup of flour. The amount of water you need will vary a bit, depending on what kind of flour/starch you’re using.  If it’s smooth and combined, and somewhere between the consistency of thick gravy and white glue, you’re good!

If it’s too thick (most likely it will be), add more water, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, and stir, until you’re at the desired consistency. WARNING: There’s a very fine line between too little water and too much. If you make it too thin, just add another spoonful or so of flour and mix well. Oh, and be sure to not let this stuff dry on anything that you can’t let soak in hot water! It can be a real nightmare to get off!

Okay, so now you have all of your materials and supplies ready, let’s get on to the making!

Take a strip of your paper and lay it out at an angle that’s comfortable for you. I used a 4-sheet long strip of TP, because that’s an easy length for me to work with. Check your seed packet to check the recommended spacing for your seeds, and put your seeds on the paper at the recommended intervals:

Now that the seeds are laid out where you want them, give your paste a stir (it usually starts to separate if it’s left to sit for more than a minute or so), and put a drop of paste onto each seed:

Don’t worry if the glue drop isn’t centered just right on each seed; the glue just needs to be touching the seed to hold it in place. If you’re a very detail-oriented person, you can use a toothpick to manipulate the glue and seeds into exactly the right spot, but honestly, it is not necessary.

The next step is to put another strip of paper on top of the one that you just seeded & glued, and gently but firmly pat it down. The glue is going to hold the top piece and bottom piece together, with the seed in between:

Don’t worry if some of the seeds are not laying flat in the glue or if a seed or 2 seems to be poking out of the paper. As long as it’s in the glue, it’ll stay put.

If you are doing a single row of seeds at a time, you can use a single piece of paper. Just place the seeds along one side of the paper, and after applying the glue, fold the other side of the paper over. Personally, I find it’s easier to use 2 sheets, and I use the width of the paper as a way of measuring the row spacing, so I don’t do it that way. You can if you want, though.

Now all that’s left is to let them dry and then get them in the ground!

Once the seed paper has been assembled, I carefully lift them and turn them over, and lay them out flat to dry for a while. In my very, very dry house, with the super lightweight TP, it takes about an hour or 2 for them to dry enough to be gently stacked and put away. I’d advise putting anything on top of them, as the paste most likely won’t dry all the way through for a day or so, and even when it has dried all of the way through, you don’t want to risk crushing the seeds!

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

I hope you’ve found this to be interesting, informative, and helpful! This is my first foray into adding my own photos to the blog, so I hope they were helpful, too. Many thanks go to my mom for jumping in to take some photos of the gluing and patting process!

it’s been too long!

Hello again! I just wanted to say hi and let you all know that I have not forgotten about you!

I have been experiencing technical difficulties with my jewelry & creating for the shop- 2 of my tools broke, and I’m having trouble finding the bits and bobs that I need when I want to find them. When things start going wrong, or not running smoothly, I take that as a sign that I need to re-assess what I’m doing and make sure that I’m on the right track. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I stepped back from the creating and have been taking care of those administrative tasks that creative folks tend to not want to deal with. Got the taxes done… slowly slogging through an inventory of all my supplies, and doing a per-piece cost breakdown while I’m at it (it’s hard to put a fair price on a finished piece when you don’t know how much the materials cost!)… and am working on other stuff. I haven’t been doing much with the food- mainly making stuff that is easy and standard, so nothing new to report there either.

The one area in which I have something new ‘in the works’ is the garden. Yes, the weather has broken and spring has sprung! So I am busily getting things started with that.

Look for a post on how to make seed paper, with stuff you should already have in the house, later today!

For now, here’s a photo of our garden from last year. The tomatoes tried to take over!

Image

Tomato Jungle

Tomato Jungle

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