28 July 2009

So, about those apricots…

I mentioned on the list of what I did with the apricots that I made an apricot banana bread. It was good. Really good. But it kind of just tasted like regular banana bread. I had used my usual recipe, but substituted half of the banana for mashed apricot. The thing about apricots, is that they don’t have a very strong flavor to them. Not like peaches (which I also really want to try in this recipe). But the subtle flavor that they do have, is delicious, and I knew I could alter the recipe even more to bring out that delicious flavor. So I did. On Saturday afternoon, I headed back to my neighbor's to pick the rest of the apricots that had ripened since my first trip. I also picked a bunch of sour cherries from the tree in his backyard (though not too many--I did restrain myself knowing that we're going out of town again this weekend and I wouldn't have that much time to deal with pounds upon pounds of cherries).

I owed a friend some serious baked goods love (and will pretty much be indebted to her in that way for quite a while, though if you ask me, I’m fine with having yet another excuse to bake), so on Saturday evening, after I had picked a whole other batch of apricots, I got to recipe testing. This is really just a further alteration of the banana bread recipe. And, if I do say so myself, I think it turned out pretty damn good. (The Uniform-Studio crew thinks so too, so I feel a little more validated in my recipe creation). I made this both as a bread, and as muffins, and I think they turned out equally delicious in both forms.

Apricot Bread/Muffins
Note: I came up with the idea for this recipe when I was “steam blanching” some apricots for dehydrating and some of them got a little too steam blanched (i.e. they turned to mush). So, to make them mushy just cut them in half, pit, and steam for about 15 minutes and then mash with a fork if necessary. Also, the apricots I have are teeny tiny, so if you’re using larger ones, you may have to cut them up more, or steam for longer.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbl. ground flax seed
1/3 cup oatmilk (or any nondairy milk like soy, rice, etc.)
1 cup mushy apricots (see above for instructions on the mushying process)


1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

cinnamon-sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan or muffin tin. If you haven't already, wash, pit, and steam apricots. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a medium mixing bowl, cream margarine and brown sugar. Add flax seed, oatmilk, and apricot. Mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine. If you like, add in chocolate chips and/or nuts. Pour into loaf pan or muffin tin. Top with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. For muffins, bake 15 minutes. For bread, bake 55 minutes. {Use toothpick to test doneness}.

...And now, I'm going to take that cherry cobbler out of the oven...

25 July 2009


Hi everyone! Just wanted to pop in this morning and say that I hope you're all having a great start to your weekend. I know I am. Yesterday, we had staff appreciation at work, which involved all kinds of snacks and ice cream. What is it about food that just kind of makes a whole workday a wash? Who knows, but I left at 1:30 and went home to take a one and a half hour nap. It was great. I spent the rest of the evening working on the quilt (almost finished with the top!) and then Jared and I went out for a late dinner of black bean burgers.

This morning, I woke up early (must have been that nap!) and we had waffles and smoothies for breakfast. I watered my garden, and picked my first full-sized tomato of the year! Now we're off to the farmer's market and the thrift shop and then back home to continue our lazy day (and possibly some more apricot picking). Tomorrow, there's talk of sailing (we just discovered yesterday that our friends have a sailboat!). I hope you're all having just as great a weekend as we are.

Even though I'm having such a great weekend so far, I kind of wish I could be here too. If you're in Portland, get on over to Abby's house! And give her a big hug from me!

22 July 2009

Putting it by {part 4}: Apricots OR The kindness of neighbors

Last Thursday, I picked 23 lbs of apricots. From my neighbor Jeff. He lives across the street from me and for the past week I had been walking by his house with Freddie and I kept noticing lots and lots of little bitty apricots in his driveway. I had never met this neighbor, so I felt a little awkward about walking up into his driveway and stealing his apricots (especially after being on the other side of similar exchanges with our raspberries). So I tried knocking on the door a few times, to no avail. Finally I left him a note, saying that I just happened to notice that he had an apricot tree, and that it seemed like he wasn’t picking them and did he mind if I did. You know, since it seemed such a shame to let them go to waste. A few hours later, the phone rang and he told me to come on over. So I toted my ladder, and a couple of bags, across the street and got to picking. An hour, and many funny looks from passers-by, later, I had about 23 lbs of the most tasty little apricots.

So there I was, with 23 lbs of apricots. And here’s what I did with them... We ate some, gave some to friends (including one that Freddie grabbed out of a friend’s hand- I swear that dog could live on fruit if he had to), and then the preserving started…

-apricot butter
-apricot syrup
-apricot/raspberry jam
-frozen apricots
-dried apricots
-and one loaf of apricot banana bread (which really just tastes like banana bread)

Seriously people, it’s been a little ridiculous. In the best way possible. For one, I got to meet a new neighbor (who will most definitely be receiving more than one jar of something from that list above). For two, I got a shit-ton of apricots, which would otherwise have been left for the birds or thrown out. For three, I’m once again filled with that warm fuzzy feeling that urban farming continues to bring me.

After reading Martha’s recent post, I realized that I’d forgotten to tell you all about Fresh, which Jared and I recently saw (at a screening a new community garden, no less). It was a wonderful movie. Not that I needed convincing on any of those issues, but there was so much good information about our food systems, and what farmers have to deal with. One of my favorite parts was how it gave the perspective of farmers who are NOT using organic or sustainable methods. How many of them feel trapped and unable to change their ways, even though they might know that what they’re doing is not the best. It’s hard to take that leap when corporations, and the government are so supportive of producing cheap, genetically modified, pesticide-ridden, corn and soy. Corn. And. Soy. And not even corn and soy to feed people, it’s all about feeding animals (who shouldn’t even be eating that stuff anyways) and making ethanol.

Okay, I’ll end my tirade now and just tell you to see the movie. And pay special attention to Will Allen, from Milwaukee. This man is a
mazing. I had heard of him prior to seeing the film, but after that (and his recent feature in the NY Times Magazine) I REALLY want to go to Wisconsin and take one of his workshops. For Reals. This man is the epitome of urban farming and it’s so inspiring. To know that I can live in the middle of this city, on a crazy busy, loud, three lane street that leads straight into downtown, and pick 23 lbs of apricots from my neighbor.

This life. Well, it’s pretty much awesome.

16 July 2009

a wedding quilt: the beginnings

Hi Everyone! Sorry, I didn't mean to leave you all hanging like that for a whole week. I had big plans of popping in here on Wednesday last week to at least let you know that I was going to be away. But then, I just had one of those days where I was trying to do far too much in far too little time (leading to me literally starting to make a wedding card five minutes before we were walking out the door to the aiport. I am completely serious).

So yeah, we were at a wedding. One of my best friends' weddings, in fact. It was lovely. It was fun, crazy, stressful, beautiful, and about a million other things, all wrapped up into a four day trip. I have about a million photos to share, and they are slowly being uploaded into this flickr set, but in the meantime I want to tell you about the wedding present. Because this blog is in fact supposed to have at least some craft content, and it has been quite a while since I've shared any of that with you. There has been a good deal of behind-the-scenes craftiness going on, including one big project that I can't share just yet. But this one, I can share. It's still very much in progress, but you don't mind, do you?

Since Liz is one of my best friends, I knew I wanted to make her and Tony something really really special for their wedding present. For some reason, it seemed obvious that the something really special would be a quilt. Isn't that just what you make people for their wedding? I don't know, but I knew that's what I wanted to do. I wasn't quite sure what pattern I would use, not being a very experienced quilter. After a little bit of thought, I decided to go with a more simple quilt top pattern, but to hand-quilt it. Most people thought I was insane for suggesting that, I think because it was April and they thought I was planning on finishing it by the July 12 wedding (I wasn't planning on finishing it by the wedding, and I obviously didn't). Around the time I was making plans for this, I came across this pattern on the Purl Bee, aptly named "The Wedding Quilt." It was perfect.

In addition to getting married this summer, and preparing to start law school in the fall, Liz and Tony just moved across the country from San Francisco to Tony's home state of Maine. I feel kind of lucky that I didn't have to worry about matching the colors of the quilt to their bedroom, since they didn't even have a bedroom when I chose the colors. Now they'll just have to design their bedroom around the quilt! I chose a chocolate brown Kona Cotton for the base color with a gradient of blue to yellow to green for the zig-zag color pattern. Once I decided on the color scheme, I realized that I really didn't have as much of a variety of fabric in my stash as I thought I did. I mean, don't get me wrong, I have a pretty big stash, but I guess it's lacking in some key color areas. I guess I'll have to keep that in mind for future fabric purchases. I'm not yet sure what I'll choose for the back, maybe a medium blue? And I think I'll do some kind of blue or green (or combination of the two) for the binding. I really like this color combination and I think it's perfect for them.

The pattern is very easy to make- it's basically just a series of rectangles that you sew into strips, and sew the strips together. So far I've finished making all of the strips and have sewn 1/3 of them together. I'm hoping to have the quilt top finished in the next week or so. Even though the wedding was last weekend, I'm not feeling uber rushed to get this done (I have a year, right?). But I don't want it to drag on too long, especially since I'm feeling really energized about this project right now, I figure I should capitalize on that energy before I lose steam.

So my goal is to have it finished by the time it's cold enough to need a quilt. That's totally do-able, right? I know that hand-quilting takes a long time, but I think I can do it in a couple of months. Although this may require re-starting our Netflix subscription, which we had temporarily put on hold, after not watching a single movie for over three months. Also, I just told Liz that I'd have it done by the time they needed it, and she was so excited about that, she said they wouldn't buy another comforter. I guess I kind of have to stick to my word then, huh?

06 July 2009

Putting it by {part 3}: Raspberries

If you've been around these parts for more than a year, you'll recall that we have extremely generous landladies who planted a whole slew of raspberries in the backyard, and have pretty much declared them to be the property of the tenants (not to mention that our landladies have been living in Costa Rica for the past two years, so even if they wanted any raspberries, it'd be a bit of a trek!).

I've taken on the role of raspberry caretaker, and have made the executive decision not to cut them back, or discourage their takeover of the yard and driveway at all. Of course, this has led us to be known among all the neighborhood kids as the free, local, pick-your-own. Yeah, I had to have a little chat with one little girl who kept showing up with a bowl (I just told her not to take too many, but that she could still have some- just so you don't think I'm a total bitch).

Anyways, in previous years, my way of preserving the raspberries--because there are far too many to eat them all fresh--has been making jam, and freezing them (which I've already done a little bit of, though I'm sure there will be more of both over the next few weeks). This year, I'm also going to try some raspberry syrup (for those sodas I talked about) and raspberry vinegar. I've been reading a little about the health benefits of vinegar, and think I want to try to incorporate it into our diets some more. I've got some chive blossom vinegar brewing at the moment and am excited to use that for salad dressings.

Do any of you have any more suggestions for how to preserve raspberries? I'm all ears!

PS: after my last post, many of you over on flickr expressed an interest in learning how to make jam- it's embarrassingly easy. Really! This is my standard raspberry jam recipe. I was thinking if there was any interest, I could put together some kind of tutorial, or a short list of good books on preserving. Let me know!

03 July 2009

a manifesto for summer


In looking back at last year's manifesto, I realized that I didn't do so many of the things I had hoped to. You may recall that Jared ended up spending almost the entire summer in California working, and this really put a damper on my summer as I was not nearly as motivated to get out and do things on my own as I wish I had been. In contrast, this summer has already been a major improvement over last year. But I'm still not feeling like I want to make such concrete goals anymore. Have you all read Andrea's manifesto? No? Well get over there right now and read it. It makes me want to fly. Really, go on. I'll be here when you get back.

Okay, welcome back. Wasn't that amazing? Sometimes I wish I was that good of a writer. But I'm not. Back in the spring, when Jared got a new job, a job that's allowing him to be here this summer, and to have regular, working person hours, and be home at night and on the weekends, and to not be broke, a job that, despite all it's benefits, kind of thwarted some incredibly exciting plans that we had started to make. Back then, I declared this to be the summer o' fun. I think I'm doing a pretty decent job so far.
We're taking walks with the dog. I'm biking almost everyday. We're eating dinner outside. I'm getting my hands dirty in the garden. And am starting to eat the fruits of those hands in the dirt. I'm preserving food for the winter. I'm visiting new parks and exploring the city and going on plant walks. We will watch movies outside in the park. We will go camping and hiking. We will swim in the Ocean (that's right, the Ocean) while on our two trips to Maine, and in the lakes, while at home. We will bike to our friends' houses and just hang out in the backyard with the dogs and some beers. We will research getting a bike trailer for the dog. We will look at houses. We will have quiet nights at home with early dinners and music on the stereo and working on projects.

This summer, I will make a dent in my polaroid stash. I will lay on a blanket in the backyard and read a book. And write letters. Drinking rhubarb soda. Eating raspberries straight off the bush. This summer, we will enjoy the life we have. Because we have it. And that's reason enough to celebrate.

02 July 2009

shop update

I know that I wrote a few weeks ago about having a shop update. Well, life just seem to have gotten the better of me. In a good way (don't worry!). Well, here we are, finally updating the little old shop.

I've posted a few summer patchwork scarves that are perfect for those summer nights with just a hint of a chill (or more than a hint if you're around these parts- or New England!). This small collection features a lot more vintage fabric than the previous batches of fall and winter scarves, as I discovered a little pile of vintage patterns stuffed away in my stash as I was making these. It's always fun to have those discoveries!

I've also posted a number of notecards. I find that summertime is so great for letter writing (have you seen Heather's summer is series over at echoes? It's so great) and hopefully some of these little cards will inspire you do write a little note to someone far away. As always, you can buy four cards, and get a fifth one for free!

So head on over to the shop, hopefully you'll find a little something you like. Don't forget that I still have a number of items in the sale section. And, in celebration of summer (though it doesn't feel all that summery at the moment, I might have to throw on one of those scarves!), if you type in "summer09" in the notes to seller section when you make your purchase, I'll take 10% any purchases from now until July 13. (I'll either refund the difference through paypal, or you can wait for a revised invoice).

Also, hop on over to Abby's space to read some exciting news. If any of you have a few extra dollars to spare, consider helping Abby get to Second Storie in the fall! I know she and Shanna will make a great team. {To be honest, her news has gotten me all looking up trains to Rochester too!}. I'll be back tomorrow with my summer manifesto, finally!