Garden Update : The First of 2014

Liesl Made : Morning Glory
Liesl Made : Ginger + Lilac Shadow

Winter stuck around so long and I’m a bit behind schedule this year. Inside, I’m still nurturing a lot of little green babies. Most are for this summer’s dye adventures, including opal basil, jet black hollyhock and bronze fennel. While some are just for sentimentality and the challenge of saving from seed, like morning glory (seen above) and Rose of Sharon. I’m also attempting to re-grow celery and ginger (seen above) again this year.

Outside not much is going on besides growth coming up of its own accord, just reaching for the sun, excited about the warmth and the new season. The garlic I planted and the parsley I over-wintered are emerging from under their blanket of leaves. The rhubarb bed is changing everyday, growing a bit taller, more colorful. The pot of bunching onions I threw in the barn last fall (and never cleaned out) decided to start growing again.

However, my brother and I planted four elderberry bushes. It’ll take a couple of years before they start producing fruit. (Good things come to those who wait, right?) In the meantime, I can still forage at my Aunt’s house for the flowers–which are a favorite of ours.

Since my Dad died, lot of people have asked if I am still doing the garden, or more specifically, asked if I am still doing the whole garden. Our garden is rather large and probably intimidating to most people. But honestly, I hadn’t really thought about not planting the whole garden. My Dad always did the tilling and he and I tackled the big jobs together, like putting up tomato cages, planting and sowing. But I did most of the weeding and considered myself the “manual labor,” happy to do the grunt work if it meant we could grow some of our own food. He had even said that it was becoming more and more like mygarden. I’m not saying the weeds never got away from me or that I’ve never felt overwhelmed, but I’m curious to see just how much I can handle by myself. And this might be the year to do it. Besides, we already have the seeds and once the soil gets tilled up, we’ll have the space. I won’t go crazy with plants–instead of twenty four red cabbage plants, I’ll probably just get six. And I’m not really doing it alone. My Mom is great help and a lot of friends and family said they’d come over and work in exchange for some bounty. I’ve even been flirting with the idea of a small scale CSA in the future, just for close family and friends who don’t have the space or time for gardening.

One thing I hope to do differently is companion planting. In past years, the garden layout was done in what you might call chronological order. We started at one end of the garden and planted things as they were ready to plant. This year, I plan to think things through more and put beneficial vegetables, herbs and flowers near each other. And pointers or favorite resources would be greatly appreciated. I borrowed Carrots Love Tomatoes from our local library and found this page and this page helpful.

3 Questions : Vibeke

3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.

Liesl Made : 3 Questions : Vibeke
If you are having a particularly stressful day, grab a cup of tea and head over to Vibeke’s corner of the internet. Even if you just scan through her photos, you’ll find some peace there. But I do recommend you read her words: they are filled with such gratitude, grace and quiet joy. She is Norwegian woman who finds beauty in the everyday and celebrates and shares it on her blog. She knits and drinks tea and will introduce you to some amazing people through the conversations and interviews she features on her blog. I’m honored to feature her here.
How many pair of shoes do you own?
I didn’t have a clue, I have a tendency to use the same few favourite pairs all the time, so I was curious to get to know how many pairs I actually had. Including boots I have 12 pairs. Thanks to your question I am now going to get rid of four of them, completely new ones that I never use (and had forgotten about) so now they are put in a bag that I collect things for giving away to the local charity shop. I am relieved that the question wasn’t about how many skeins of yarn that I have, I would have been ashamed of the answer (*laughing)…
What daily activity bores you?
Some years back I got an illness that made me unable to do many of those daily things that we usually take for granted. Despite that I am better now I am still unable to do a lot of these daily things and because of that I have had a change in what I see as boring or not. I don’t mean to say that I find for example things like cleaning the house as a super exciting activity in itself but on days that I am actually well enough to do some simple cleaning I get so filled with gratitude and happiness over being able to do some of it that the boring aspect of it isn’t at all something that I am thinking about. Isn’t it funny how the most boring activities that we know of can change into something that we instead feel deeply grateful for when it is not something that we take for granted anymore.
What songs makes you want to get up and dance?
Almost anything from the late 80′s has that effect on me, I was in my teenage years at that time and danced a lot to the music from that period. Now, if I am listening to the radio and one of these songs plays I always end up singing a long and sometimes YES: I actually do a little dance. If I should pick one of the get up and dance favourites of mine from the 80′s songs I think it would be the “Girls Just Want To have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. There are of course a lot of new songs too, lately when I have heard the song “Diamonds” by The Boxer Rebellion from my player it has made me feel like getting up and dance too.

Be sure to check out Vibeke’s blog.

Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.

A Coop Raising

Liesl Made : A Coop Raising
Liesl Made : A Coop Raising
Liesl Made : A Coop Raising
Liesl Made : Coop Raising
Liesl Made : Coop Raising
Liesl Made : A Coop Raising
Liesl Made : Coop Raising

Back in the day, here in rural America, a “barn raising” was a pretty common thing. It’s actually still common among the Amish and Mennonite. Simply put, it’s when the local community bands together to help a farmer build a barn. Traditionally the men did the construction and the women cooked and served the food. Over the weekend, we here had a bit of what you could call a “coop raising.”

I mentioned in a recent post that my Dad had finally agreed to let me get chickens. I’ve wanted them for at least three years now. Since he was out of work and looking for more home-based projects, he finally said yes. (Though, it might have had more to do with the fact that over the last year or so, we always seemed to be out of eggs.) In the beginning, I envisioned myself with about a dozen chickens but my father wasn’t known for doing things small. He said that if we were going to raise one dozen, we might as well raise three dozen and make it count. When it was all said and done, we were scheduled to get 42 chicks a few days before my birthday. After my Dad passed, many people asked if I was still going to get the chickens. I said no because I was still reeling from the shock of losing him. Besides, we hadn’t even built the coop yet. But things settled and friends and family with big hearts extended offers of help and encouragement.

On both Saturday and Sunday, a handful of kindhearted people showed up and built a seriously impressive coop and run. There was so much food and laughter and hard work. Above are some sneak peeks of what has been completed so far. There are still some things to finish up but we have a good month before my little flock arrives. The first year’s operation has been scaled back. I am now scheduled to get 16 chicks—9 layers and 6 meat birds (plus the one exotic they throw in the order, who has already been dubbed Chuck, regardless of its sex.) If things go well this year, I can get more birds next year.

The only word I can think of to describe this whole experience is bittersweet. The Bitter: I really thought I’d be going through this process with my Dad, learning from him. The Sweet: It’s something I’ve dreamed of for a while and now it’s finally happening, thanks to so many amazing people.

You readers here on the blog better get ready for an overload of cute chick photos next month! In the meantime, do you keep chickens? Any tips or stories to share?

Hat Twelve of Twelve – A Knitting Challenge

Liesl Made : Stack of Hats
Liesl Made : Hat 12 of 12

I can’t believe a whole year has gone by since I joined in this challenge. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure why I joined, considering I never saw myself a much of “hat person.” There was just something about the monthly challenge—not too frequent to stress me out but not too spaced out to make me lose interest. It really is doable to fit a hat in every month. And at the end of the year, you have twelve hand knit hats for yourself and others. Give it a try!

I wasn’t sure how the daisy stitch pattern would translate in a solid yarn. (A lot of projects used a variegated yarn which gave the hats a joyful, starburst-y look.) The resulting textural bands are quite nice. This was my first time doing the daisy stitch. Overall, it’s a great pattern. (And free!) But If I made it again, I’d probably make it a bit taller by added another repeat since it fits me more like a beanie than a slouchy hat.

Pattern: Gin & Tonic
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Superwash (hand dyed with black walnuts)
Needles: sz 8
More details and notes at it’s Ravelry project link

Liesl Made : Hand Knit Hats
Liesl Made : Hand Knit Hats

The Twelve Hats in One Year Challenge is being run by two lovely French ladies: Melody of Mandarine’s and Charlotte of Fille d’hiver. You can join in and share your creations at the Facebook Page.

12 Hats 1 Year

Harmony Art Organic Fabric Giveaway

Liesl Made : Harmony Art Organic Fabric Giveaway

As I said last week, I still have the privilege of giving away this yard of Harmony Art Organic Fabric. Something you may not know about a lot of Harmony Art fabric is that they are an extra wide width. 110″ to be exact. So you are getting over 2 times the square footage of fabric per yard! Plus it opens up more options, like sheeting, quilt backing and other large craft projects without having to seam. This particular piece is the Stornetta design in the blue colorway. And silky smooth and organic. It really doesn’t get better.

Rules and fine print about entering the giveaway:

  • To enter to win one yard of Harmony Art Organic cotton sateen in blue Stornetta, simply leave a comment below mentioning what you might make with this yard. (Required.)
  • To earn an extra entry, like Harmony Art on Facebook and leave an extra comment here stating you did so. (Optional.)
  • Only one required and one optional entry per person.
  • Open to residents worldwide.
  • Giveaway will close on Sunday April 20th, sometime in the evening US Eastern time.
  • The wining comment will be drawn randomly and announced here.
  • Be sure to use a valid email as that is how I will be contacting the winner.
  • Do not leave your email address in the comment box. There is a designated spot for it. (Putting it in the comment may cause your comment to be eaten up by my spam filter.)
  • If the winner does not respond by Wednesday the 23rd, a new winner will be drawn.

3 Questions : Harmony

3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.

Liesl Made : 3 Questions : Harmony

When I first asked Harmony if she wanted to take part in this little series, she responded that she isn’t technically a blogger. This got me thinking that she is probably more of do-er than a document-er. Harmony is a passionate organic fabric designer who was into fresh, modern prints before “organic fabric” was cool. Back when I was sewing more regularly, I would often go on and on here about Harmony Art fabrics. Still to this day, they are the best fabrics I’ve ever worked with. Perhaps is has to do with the fact that there is so much heart behind Harmony Art Organic Designs–I’ve always been so impressed by her drive, passion, sincerity, and that fact that she really is an honest, kindhearted person making a change in the world in a beautiful way.

If your life had a soundtrack, what would your “theme song” be?
This took some consideration but I think the Two Little Feet performed by Karen Savoca would have to be the one. 
When was the last time you had to speak in public?
I didn’t realize when I started Harmony Art it would lead to public speaking. I have had the pleasure of speaking at several locations over the last 9 years. The latest was to the Diablo Valley Quilters June 19, 2013. I find speaking at least a couple of times a year reminds me of why I started my company and reinvigorates me to keep at it.

How would your friends describe you to someone who hasn’t met you?
I cheated and sent an email to 6 of my friends and asked them this question…wow…what a gift to do this exercise. Thank you Liesl…I tried to look for the things that came up repeatedly…
joyous, thoughtful, conscientious, caring, selfless, creative, loving, fun
I loved it that not one actually described what I look like but rather the qualities I express. :)

Like I said, Harmony doesn’t consider herself much of a blogger but you can still check out her blog here, as well as her hiking blog and be sure to visit her site and Facebook page as well.

Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.

Butternut and Tofu Ravioli

Liesl Made : Butternut Tofu Ravioli
Liesl Made : Butternut Tofu Ravioli
Liesl Made : Butternut Tofu Ravioli

I can’t remember how inspiration struck for these but I got it in my head that butternut and tofu filled ravioli would be delicious. After playing around in the kitchen, it turns out they kind of are. Apart from the dough, I didn’t follow any sort of recipe. Intuitive cooking is something I’m trying to nurture. Second guessing myself and always leaning on a perfectly laid out recipe to guide me, means I’ll never learn. So, with that said, I’m hesitant to call this a recipe. It’s more of a documentation on how I made them. You could easily substitute ricotta in for the tofu, use a gluten-free dough recipe, slather them with tomato sauce instead of onions, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or add the sautéed onions in the filling. And mushrooms too, while you’re at it. Go ahead and be creative with your batch.

I used the recipe from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, which I’m paraphrasing below:
2 to 21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup water
2 eggs and 1 yolk (I did 1 egg and two yolks)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

In a mixing bowl, on low-speed, beat together 1 cup of the flour and the remaining dough ingredients for about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add more flour, in 1/4 cup increments until you get a decent dough consistency. Knead the dough with your hands or an electric mixer equipped with a bread hook, for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Cover (so it doesn’t dry out) and set aside.

1 lb tofu (drained and pressed) or 1 lb ricotta
1 c butternut squash* purée
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

*any of the winter squashes will do–technically mine was a ‘jumbo pink banana squash,’ so you could also use acorn, Hubbard, pumpkin, etc. You could also use canned pumpkin purée–just don’t use pumpkin pie filling.

While the dough is resting, make the filling. In a bowl, I crumbled and smooshed up the drained/pressed tofu until it had the consistency of ricotta cheese. (Or, if soy isn’t your thing, just use ricotta.) Add the remaining ingredients and stir them until well incorporated.

To make the ravioli, start by cutting your dough into quarters. The specifics of this section depend on what tools you have to work with. If you don’t have any pasta making tools, no worries. Just do a few stretches because there will be some elbow grease required. If you have a pasta roller, lucky you! I might invest in one if I want to keep making homemade pasta. I was able to borrow a tray that shapes and cuts the ravioli nicely so that part was easier but the rolling I did the old-fashioned way, with a pin. Below I’ll explain how it’d be done sans any special tools.

Roll two pieces of the dough until they are nice and thin (as thin as you can get them without them tearing) and roughly the same size, a rectangle that is about 4 or so inches wide would be great. On one of them, drop a teaspoon size amount of the filling every inch or so, making a bit of grid and being sure to leave enough room around the mounds to seal the ravioli. With your finger, run a bit of water in a square around the filling, this wets the dough and creates a “glue.” Lay the second piece of dough on top, being careful to remove air bubbles and press firmly around the little mounds, where you put the water to seal the individual ravioli. Cut the ravioli with a pizza cutter or knife. 

I got just over 48 2″ ravioli from this–with a bit of filling and dough scraps to spare. You may get more if you roll your dough out thinner than I did. You can freeze the ravioli at this point. Or cook them up. I brought a medium-sized sauce pan of water (and a pinch of salt) to a rolling boiling and cooked for about 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. I only did 12 at a time, so they had enough room to roll around and not got stuck to each other.

Lastly, sauté some onions (and mushrooms, too!) in a mix of butter and olive oil until nicely browned. I added the cooked ravioli to the pan and let them brown a bit too. It’s not necessary but added a new dimension.

Winter 13/14 Video

Here is it, an homage to winter of 2013/2014. I’m still a bit skeptical that the season is really over. It seemed to linger a lot longer than it needed to. Very often, spring would sneak in for a day only to have a bitter, bitter, week-long cold snap follow it. Despite over-staying it’s welcome, I do love the season and hope you enjoy these captures. Though I apologize: During my last two videos, I was using my brother’s lens which has ‘image stabilizing.’ I went back to my own (older) lens for winter and I’m wondering if that contributed to it being so shaky.

Kind and Generous

Liesl Made : Hand Knit Shawl from Tina of Peacefully Knitting
Liesl Made : Mandarine's Leaf Pad
Liesl Made : Homemade Tea Blend
Liesl Made : Wooly Moss Roots Buttons
Liesl Made : Color Swap
Liesl Made : Yarn
Liesl Made : Rowan

In the month of March, I experienced a lot of kindness from people. The help, support and love myself and my family have received after my Dad passed has been…immeasurable. A friend mentioned something about how there is no physical way to cure the sadness of losing someone so close to you, but if there were, it’d probably be in the form of handmade. And so many people have sent handmade comfort my way. The aforementioned friend sent me a care package of homemade coconut oil lotion, cookies, a handmade calming tea blend and good music. Tina sent a hand knit shawl to hug me. Taryn (who was going to take part in the giveaway I mention below) surprised me with a set of handmade wooden buttons.

But even before this loss, I received a touching array of generosity and kindness. Vibeke hosted a color swap a while back and I was paired with a lovely woman from Finland who sent me the most impressive package of gray and blue colored items (teas, chocolates, yarns, post cards.) Andi offered me a skein of yarn. And a surprise package arrived with some Rowan Pure Linen and pattern books from TinaIn the beginning of the month, I was in the process of putting together a big group giveaway and was moved by the generosity of so many crafters and makers (over 20!) who were going to take part. The giveaway was cancelled because I didn’t feel like I could devote enough time and energy to promoting it. A couple of people had already mailed items to me to put in the winner’s package, including Harmony, who sent two yards of her Stornetta organic cotton yarn. She said one was for the giveaway and the other a gift for me. And Melody of Mandarine’s sent one of her hand knit leaf hot pads (which she told me to keep for myself) and she included some heavenly smelling soap and teas for me in her package.

All of this kindness and generosity has inspired me to “pay it forward.” I’m looking for creative, heartfelt ways to give back. Another year-long knitting project might start up–this time knitting solely for others. I’ve already started up a gift for a friend with that orange yarn from Andi. My yard of Harmony Art fabric will hopefully turn into summer dresses for some sweet little girls. And Harmony has given me permission to still give away that yard of Stornetta fabric here (check back next week!) I’m doing a bit of spring cleaning, so there may be a giveaway from me as well. Maybe I’ll aim for another group giveaway this fall. And I’m still very much interested in collaborating with other bloggers and makers this year. If you have any clever ideas for promoting your brand or just collaborating artistically, drop me a line.

Deluxe Tri-Fold Interchangeable Knitting Needle Case Tutorial

Liesl Made : Deluxe Tri-Fold Knitting Needle Case
Liesl Made : Deluxe Tri-Fold Knitting Needle Case

This tri-fold case is designed to hold a set of interchangeable circular needles–the needle tips and cables as well as DPNs and fixed circulars plus a large zippered pocket in the back to hold loose accessories and tools that might otherwise get lost. I am not brave enough to use DPNs myself and only have one 5″ set. The two side panels are 6″ wide so they hold mine perfectly fine. But those of you with the longer DPNs (like 7″) might want to increase the overall width. An easier option would be to sew narrow pockets in the center panel for longer DPNs. Overall, this has been designed to suit the needles and tools I have, so I highly suggest you read the document thoroughly first to see if want to make any changes or modifications.

View, download or print the directions here.