Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspirations: The Incas

I recently read 'Turn Right at Machu Picchu' by Mark Adams, a journalist for Adventure magazine who retraced the steps of the most famous explorer of that site, Hiram Bingham (Indiana Jones is thought to be loosely based on him). The descriptions of the precisely cut, titanic sized stones of the Inca sites filled my mind with images of brightly colored textures and designs. Even in Idaho I noticed an alpaca farm about a mile from my house! They're so dang cute!

Inca design seems to be less featured in fashion than, say, Navajo or Aztec, here's a fantastic example - it looks almost european in the face but the patterns are clearly unique. 

I love native design but it does always bring up the ethical dilemma of using traditional patterns from a culture that is not my own and whether that is disrespectful or plagiarism. Personally, I think the more ethnic patterns are featured in fashion the more support native handicrafts will be supported - who doesn't want a real Navajo blanket after seeing these Pendleton for opening ceremony shorts!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big Box Orchid Score!

I live pretty close to a Lowe's an I go there maybe once a month to check out the clearance plants. Though the big box stores don't tend to have high quality orchid in terms of root systems sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes it's worth the 5$ if you get a month of flowers and the plant still dies. So I was doing my usual routine when I found this GREAT Oncidium (Onc. 'Howard's Dream') for $12! It has like 12 pseudobulbs on it, most of them 6 inches high, only slightly wrinkled. The roots looked dry but ok, not growing profusely though. Yay orchids :)

Orvieto lace - amazing antique laces

I've been looking into crochet lace - it seems I am determined to make myself go blind by crocheting and being fascinated by microscopic things. The ladies of the Orvieto school of lace in italy have perfected this amazing style characterized by TINY thread, stylized patterns and 3D 'bumps' that are ironed into the fabric with textured irons. Here's a wonderful example:
Beautiful example of the ironed 3D elements

I can't imagine how small the crochet hooks they used were O.O

Monday, August 27, 2012

Helmut lang crochet thingie

I saw this great helmut lang top and I am completely in love with the texture. I think the bobbles are beads but I wanted to reproduce the texture in crochet. Here's a half-organized attempt from today:

A day in the life of a medical student

I wrote this HILARIOUS story about a young lady who was in labor and didn't realize she was even pregnant. Oh california, how you confirm the stereotypes. Take a read of my rough draft. I hope to submit this to a publication but no idea where it should go. This story is 100% true.

here is an exerpt, please see link for full story:

A young woman was lying in bed with her boyfriend and an older woman, possibly the boyfriend’s mother. She was fair with a shock of maraschino red hair with brunette roots cut like Betty Paige. And really, really pregnant. Her torso was like an isosceles triangle (like your arithmetic teacher always told you - as wide as it is tall).  She looked vaguely but not exceedingly perplexed. As the hubbub of preparations began around her and the fetal heart monitor starting ticking at a happy 140, our attending doctor announced, “You’re pregnant.” This was met with very a minimal ripple of perceivable reaction. The soon-to-be-mom seemed to chew over the idea for a moment and said, “I’m pregnant?! So that's what that was … Is it a boy or a girl?”.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Photo shoot 1

I don't claim to know anything about photography but trying to get my husband to take pictures of me is a whole 'nother level of coordination. I have new earrings on my Etsy site and here are some of the great photos that didn't make it on and the process:

Does Hermes want to help?

Too blurry for the etsy site but cool nonetheless!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The other side of Sichuan cooking - Recipe for lotus root soup

Sichuan province (or szechuan) has a long, venerable history as a mecca for arts, leisure and culture in China. The mild (read: often overcast) weather makes for lush vegetation, easy farming and lots of time for pleasurable pursuits such as gourmet cooking. UNESCO named Chengdu a city of gastronomy in 2011 (there are only three such cities named worldwide:! It's also the home of pandas.

Most people associate sichuan, or more specifically chengdu food with being blazingly spicy but there is another side of traditional sichuanese fare. My grandfather was an eastern medicine doctor and had a strict dietary regimen for himself, never eating spicy, excessively oily or salty food - I bet his coronaries were clean as a whistle! There is a tradition of subtle, gentle recipes in sichuan, often balancing the salty, sizzling flavors found in iconic dishes such as Mapo tofu. This tradition includes light, clear soups that don't use meat or vegetable stock as a base, but rather the fresh flavors of veggies with minimal spices. Even in boise I can find ingredients in the saturday asian market to make some comforting simple dishes of my childhood. This weekend I happened to find some lotus root, a delicious veggie with a sweet, almost floral fragrance when cooked and a starchy/crunchy texture like a stir-fried potato. It also does something magical when boiled with meat - it tenderizes it and gives it a very sweet and clean taste. It's another veggie-heavy recipe that my husband adores though he's a rabid carnivore. Here's a recipe for a delicious, simple and super duper healthy lotus root soup:

- fresh lotus root - 4-5 sections
- sichuan peppercorn
- pork (ideally a marbled cut such as boneless rib) cut into 2 inch sections, about 1-1.5 lbs. The proportion of meat to veggies aren't really important you can vary it as you like.

1. Get yourself some lotus root: It should smell clean, fresh and be a light beige with freckles. Don't buy any segments with mushy/dark brown/dented areas or that smell of mold or anything else bad. Another tip I picked up recently is to buy the shorter fat segments rather than long tapered ones - these tend to be less stringy. 

2. Get some sichuan/flower peppercorn. This is the quintessential sichuanese ingredient. It's used heavily in sichuan cooking, also nepalese and tibetan, but not anywhere else. It has a beautiful citrusy fragrance, it makes your tongue tingle and cools you off in hot muggy weather. It can be purchased in many places including online. The best packaging is vacuum sealed and ideally opaque. I keep mine in the freezer which keeps the volatile oils (the source of the smell and spiciness) keep for as long as possible. A good sniff should tell you if the pepper is still pungent or has gone off. The peppercorn adds a teeny tiny bit of spice to this dish but mostly serves to bring all the flavors together and enhance fragrance.

3. Buy some pork, I usually use about 1-1.5 lbs. I usually buy country style rib because it has a nice amount of fat marbling the meat, not a ton and is relatively affordable. Cut the meat into even chunks, about 2 inches wide. I use the 'rolling' technique of cutting: you cut the food at an angle, not straight up and down or horizontal, turn or roll the food over onto that cut surface, and cut at an angle again. It results in more angular (aka not a cube) slices that cook more evenly and, according to chinese to aesthetics, is much more pleasant and natural to that eye than cubes. I was planning to take pictures of this but cooked the pork before I remembered! See the lotus below for results. If this sounds too confusing, 2-inch cubes are fine.

4. Peel your lotus root - a sharp knife or peeler both work fine. Cut off the hard ends and slice, as above, into 2-3 inch segments. Again, I usually use the 'rolling' technique but 1-inch slices cut in half are also fine.

5. Put your meat into a large pot, cover well with water and bring to boil. When the meat has turned all grey on the outside, about 2-3 minutes on boil, turn the heat off and rinse your meat in cold water. I usually rinse 3-4 times. The point of this step is to get that stringy/foamy crud off the meat - this saves you the traditional french cooking step of degreasing your soup after it's cooked.

6. Add your chopped lotus root and fill with enough water to just cover. Throw in about a dozen peppercorns, put the lid on. Turn to low/medium or whatever 'simmer' temperature is on your range and kick back. Check the soup in about half an hour to see if the meat is tender - it should be melt in your mouth, super soft, and the lotus should be tender but still a little bit crunchy. The lotus might have some 'string' to it when you bite into it and that's normal - you'll understand what I mean if you try this recipe. If not tender get, keep cooking for another 10-15 minutes, taste intermittently.

If you really do try this recipe, I love how this soup fills my house with the smells of lotus roots, it's a very sweet, fresh clean scent. It's very low in sodium. Also, drink the soup! I have trouble staying hydrated and light soups like this are one of the few liquids I can drink a ton of. This recipe is just as delicious without the meat for your vegetarians out there - it's the root that tenderizes and flavors the meat, not the other way around. Last thing: I wouldn't eat the peppercorns, just pick them out or avoid them when eating this dish.

Let me know how it goes :). Enjoy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shark Week - elegant hammerheads

Well, it looks like I'm not alone in geeking out hard on shark week. I did a shark dive a few years ago with galapagos sharks in Hawai'i as well as a night manta ray dive (AMAZING) which were mindblowing, both. It seems people are fascinated with the ocean just like me, it makes me hopeful that we don't know or control everything and that gives me comfort that there's still magic left in the world.

On NPR they featured mr. Dan Barber's rant on sustainable fishing which was adorably framed as his love affairs with two very different fish - on 'sustainably' farmed aka on a fish farm fed on chicken pellets, the other farmed on a bird sanctuary/wildlife refuge. Everyone should check it out:

There's an image from shark week that sticks out in my mind - it's of a diver sinking to the bottom and filming a group of hammerheads from below. They sleek bodies are contrasted again the hazy-bright sky and they look purposeful but perfectly serene. It's a beautiful image. Maybe I'll turn it into a sketch if I feel in the mood today.

Friday, August 17, 2012

another item in the shop! The moon jelly.

Yay! I've finally made another item for the etsy shop! Is it cheating that I'm using the same silver chain for the pictures and assuming I won't get 4 orders for necklaces in at once?

This cream jelly necklace is just killer I think - both sweet and modern, simple enough to dress up or down.

In other news, I've made a few more little crochet balls. I really don't like how the flattish ones look asymmetrical on the bottom. I just can't get the stitches tight enough not to expose the stuffing either. BLARG! This pictures actually makes it look more even than in real life. Or maybe I'm just OCD.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Somewhere beyond the sea...

As my husband as recently stated, 'You're obsessed with tiny crocheted balls!" Yes, yes I am. I have made the switch to flipping my project inside out this time as well as 'gathering' the bottom more sharply. I surprisingly came out with this button-like shape. With the strings floating out the bottom it looks like a jelly fish cap! I'm not sure what i'll do with it. Cluster? Studs? hrrrrmmm.

Cue bobby darin:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Works in progress

I've had a few projects going on. I love simple wire earrings like the one below by 'by boe'
I wanted to make something like the lampwork glass beads I posted a week ago and the wire earrings above and have been experimenting with how to attach crochet shapes onto a wire form. Here are some results. The earrings are close to done and will be posted on etsy soon. I think i'll finish them with a satin finish to buff out any marks my pliers have made. I have a dear friend who is having a wedding soon maybe I will give these to her as part of her gift. 

and here they are finally shaped. The sparklier wire is hammered out. And by hammered I mean I could only find a monkey wrench and a heavy due set of wire cutters and that's what I hit against each other. It's only hardened it every so slightly. Hardening wire is the bane of my life!

Monday, August 13, 2012

worst hug ever - laughing in retrospect

Since I lost my job I've had a lot of time on my hands. I remembered today, while driving, one of the funniest moments of my life and I want to chronicle it in case I don't think of it for months or years to come. Though I'm only 27 I've been lucky enough to have had many wonderful, challenging, colorful experiences in my life, many related to the pursuit of medicine. I was able to visit Japan as an exchange student during med school and, representing Hawai'i, it was my duty to present the Dean of the School with a flower lei as a sign of our thanks. Usually, especially between people from hawai'i, the universal greeting is a smile, a kiss on the cheek and a hug. The dean was a stately older gentleman, in his early sixties perhaps. He wore a very solemn expression on his face and stood very straight in his neat heather gray suit. As I walked up to him, he bowed forward ever so slightly to graciously accept the lei. This, to my elated, effusive mind, was a big go-ahead. I grinned, grasped him firmly by the shoulders and leaned in for a big kiss. As I began pulling on his shoulder, he firmly resisted and looked at me like, "Are you insane." I ended up giving him an awkward distanced half-hug with a smile frozen on my face. As I eased up, he cleared his throat and said, "In Japan, usually we do not touch each other." Ha! At the time I wanted to sink into a hole and die, but in retrospect I can't help but laugh at myself. I was giggling in my car cruising down the road today and, as often happens when I'm entertaining myself too much, the people passing me probably think I'm a complete nut.

The picture below is of anonymous university staff from Japan. Any one of them could be my dean though none of them are. The grumpiest looking one is the closest to what I got.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Poppy - abstract ring

I finally put together my poppy ring. I had this crocheted poppy sitting around forever as per my last post. I wanted to put it together with gold finishes but I decided the bronze made a nicer contrast of colors. I also finished a gold ring with a sand colored crochet rose. There are teeny weeny wooden beads as the stamen! I found them at a local jewelry shop and couldn't resist them.

almost projects - tiny crocheted items

I've been working on more tiny shapes and ideas. I'm not sure if I want the put the little teardrop guys into a cluster or a row on earrings, a cluster ring or perhaps a garland style necklace. The poppy was inspired by this Chanel collection .

I don't know if I would wear this outfit, but I gotta say SJP rocked it hard . Too many ideas not enough attention span!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mini peps version 2.0

I finally finished the final version of the mini pepper necklace. I wanted the two halves to be a little flatter so it didn't end up looking like a sausage when they came together. I outlined the edge in yellow. The original idea was to color the inside yellow but that ended up looking very messy and disappointing. I think from far away it looks like a macaroon - yum. Someone commented it looked like a bell. It's a charm of many talents.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wall of ash and dust in Idaho

We've been having lots of fires in southwest Idaho, the result of which has been eerie evenings. My husband and I stepped out around 8 pm a few nights ago and there was a low hanging dusty fog in the air. We could see blue sky straight up but the houses across the street were blurry. The air was totally still and I was really waiting for zombies to shamble out of the mist. Still, what we experienced is way better than an ash wall which blacked out highways and entire regions as it passes:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lampwork crochet experimental shapes

I've been doing some experimental crochet. I am fascinated with the idea of creating baubles and jewels with crochet. I stumbled upon the website, which by the way is absolutely gorgeous and if I weren't unemployed I would be draping that goodness on myself. Since this is not the case, I've tried to replicate some of their beautiful lampwork glass shapes with crochet. Here are some in red;

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Graphic/pop art

I used to do a lot of graphic art/drawing/doodling but I haven't had the inspiration in a few years. It seems I always did my best work while in science class in high school - isn't it funny how that works? I wish I could hire a boring teacher to drone in the background so I can be excited about drawing! Here are some examples of various ages. 

 <-- Anyone who can guess what this little guy is is my hero!