Sunday, February 27, 2011

Microwave experiments

This is not, I repeat not, about dying yarn. This is about cooking food.
I have never learned how to properly use a microwave oven. I heat water, melt butter, warm leftovers, thaw last minute meats but I have never really maximized the Microwave Oven. So to that fact, we have the smallest microwave they make, hidden in the pantry.
But, a couple of weeks ago, a knitting friend told me about something remarkable that you can make in a microwave and I have been wanting to try it since she mentioned it. I just was having difficulty finding all the ingredients and making the time. I needed $2 worth of stuff and 2 1/2 minutes. Well, actually, the first time takes a little longer, but after that 4 minutes will do it.
This is what it is - Microwave Chocolate Cake. Really, a cake. And it is a single, low fat, low calorie serving.
It starts with a box of Angel Food cake mix. And a box of Devil's food cake mix. Put them together is a large mixing bowl and whisk them with a dry whisk until they are well blended. I am unable to leave a good recipe alone so I added 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Measure out 1/2 cup of the dry ingredients into a microwave safe bowl that can hold about 1 1/2 cups. Add 1/3 cup of water and stir with a fork until really smooth- about a minute. Remove the fork- don't cover the top- stick the bowl in the microwave for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes (depends on how powerful your machine is). Cake is done. Don't burn yourself eating it.
Put the rest of the mix in a zipper bag for later.
This is great, really. I like a piece of cake once and awhile, but not a whole cake. Not 24 cup cakes. Not a store bought piece of cake for $3 with 4 ounces of frosting. Just a plain and simple piece of cake. Now I can have my cake and eat it, too. And make a new piece next week or next month.
So why did it take so long? Well, I had to find an Angel food cake mix. My local store was down to three boxes and they were $4 each. I didn't want to pay that much, because I believed it was a rip off for a cake mix. So I eventually went to a different store and they had them for $1- I bought 3. One mix was for a party I was going to so it didn't count. The other 2 were for this experiment.
You see, my friend was a bit lax on the details of this cake thing. She said. " You mix them together, then measure out some, and mix it with some water and cook it in the microwave." So, like, well, how much cake mix, how much water, and how long? She is one of those cook by sight and feel people. She doesn't measure stuff, or time stuff, she just knows. I, on the other hand, am clueless about mixes and microwaves. I cook almost everything from scratch and measure most of it. I like details. SO, I had to wing it, and mixed this based on a rough estimate of what the box measures would have been in the smaller quantities. Then I had to cook it based on pure luck and the spring back test. At two minutes in my machine, I tested and it was a bit sticky on the top, so I added 15 seconds and tested again. Then one more time and it looked and felt right. So on my low watt, weak and underpowered little tiny microwave- 2 1/2 minutes. IF you have one of the big, honken, power guzzling microwaves- maybe 1 1/2 minutes. You will need to test for yourself.
Well, so much for my kitchen fun. Not much mess to clean up. Not lots of cake to hide or freeze. Just time to make some dinner. At this house, cake is uncertain so we eat dessert first.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Experiment 3- fail

Today was dye day with the Lichen and puff ball brew. The lichen in one jar and the puff ball in another, were each soaked and brewed for 30 days in ammonia water. They each created a pale russet to pink colored fluid. I performed the dye ritual at low heat on a selection of pre-mordanted yarns and I got- zip. Nada. No color- not even pale yellow. A total waste of good ammonia- well not total waste as it went to the compost heap to be fertilizer, but a total waste of time. The lichen remaining in the collection bag was then simmered in plain water for about an hour (low heat) and the dye ritual was repeated on fresh yarn- golden-ish color across the board. We have wash fast, and there is a chance of light fast. Definitely more compost material. Puff ball was the same as the lichen in ammonia- nothing.
So a recap of the experiment to date suggests that Tea Tree is a winner, yellow mushroom was very golden and kind of stinky, the eucalyptus bark was very rust colored, and all the others were pale and washed out looking.
Then there was the Indigo dye class- blue, very blue, very messy, very expensive. A good education in social misfits and antiquated colorants.
Sometimes you need to do things you know are not what you want to re-enforce your understanding of why you want what you want in the first place. I want simple, easy, predictable, permanent, convenient, reasonably priced dye products that don't stink, pollute the water ways, or dye my hands blue when I rinse them out. Yo! I am un-natural.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kitchen Experiment- 2

The first kitchen experiment dealt with Mordanting and some yellow mushrooms from Jack in The Box. There was also some interesting play with my Tea Tree bush and the Macadamia nut tree.
Now that I have some yarn pre-mordanted, I am ready to play again. Eduard and I went on a field trip and collected- Pussy willow flowers, dried wild buckwheat, bark from eucalyptus trees, puff ball fungus, shelf fungus, and lichen.
Today, in the kitchen, I brewed some pussywillow by boiling/simmering it for 1 hour, straining the broth, then simmering a collection of pre-mordanted yarns for 30 minutes. Nice outcome. Didn't smell awful. Not hard to do. Washfast. I will check for light fast when we get some sunshine.
Next, some wild buckwheat. It is brewing as we speak. But I have also started some other brews. Some of the lichen is soaking in a jar with ammonia added. Same for some of the puff balls. Different brewing techniques create different results, just like different mordants. Now some of the buckwheat is also brewing in ammonia.
I haven't decided what to do with the shelf fungus. It needs to be pounded to break it up, soaked in something, and probably boiled outside. Some of these things are a bit stinky to work with. So I thought I would see if ammonia works with the puff balls before I try another fungus.
This is the type of play I like to do when I am at home sorting through papers and feeling crushed by the weight of "stuff".
But in my defense, I will say that last night I spent two hours tossing and sorting. A full paper grocery bag of paper trash went out, and an equal size one is by the fire place waiting to burn. Two boxes of Office supply stuff got sorted, more things got into the donation box, and 10 inches of stuff got put into the file cabinet. I vacuumed more of the room and can actually see that the moving of the file cabinets will in fact happen this week.
So that is why I allowed myself a bit of time in the kitchen to play. I have tagged all my sample yarns from my experiments and am proceeding to write up my notes.
Unfortunately, the house does not look any better for all the sorting and tossing. Except for the shower, which I cleaned yesterday.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Catharsis- It just may not be all it is cracked up to be. There is supposed to be some sense of purification, cleanliness, and new found freedom associated with Catharsis. But that is not what I am feeling. Maybe I will feel it later, when the process is completed, but at the moment it is a gut wrenching, fatiguing, time consuming, exhausting feeliing.
We are cleaning out the "office". And since the garage is full, most of it is getting burned, tossed, donated, recycled, and composted. Eduard has moved the bulk of his large pieces into his new, separate office. I have moved my computer and chair. We are wired and functioning. But the stuff still in the room is daunting. I have tossed or burned about a two foot tall stack of papers this last week. I have gathered another foot tall stack to donate to a school. Eduard has been sorting and tossing also. So far, the amount of stuff coming out of the closet piles up faster than we can dispose of it. Where did all this shit come from before it went into the closet?
And every piece has to be examined and judged- trash or burn, keep and file or toss, is this picture really worth saving? Will I miss it in 10 years? Will I just let my children dispose of everything? (I know you are out there breathing a sigh of relief right now, knowing that I am doing this so that you don't have to.)
Eduard and I have not yet had a fight over any of the work or the speed with which we approach this job. We are both committed to this project. Yet,..pause.. I feel like this purging process is making my entire body react. The dust is making me sneeze and cough. The lifting is fatiguing. The sorting is dredging up old memories and stirring old emotions. And there is a little bit of fear because I actually can't remember where I got some of this stuff. AND worst of all, there is so much stuff I would rather be doing. I feel that I am missing out on lots of fun because I am busy filling the landfill.
I am sure, when the purging is done, I will feel better, cleaner, and worthy of the new organization. But the process is ugly and time consuming. So there is some history here that can be contributed to this process.
In my childhood, we never moved from the house my parents bought in 1956. And things would accumulate, like at all houses. We had an annual cleaning that involved moving the furniture around in the room to try new positions and to clean the old spots. In this process, all old stuff was tossed or packaged to be stored. I did something similar with my children's rooms right before Christmas every year. But the biggest purge came when we moved. There was the moving truck and the donation truck and often they both got full. I have done this several times.
Eduard and I don't want to move, but we never really got moved in when we married. The moving van came to his house, but not the donation truck. He also does not have the annual purge history so things pile up for years. I have been trying to continue the annual cleaning/sorting thing, but I have been lax. More comes in than goes out. I have been cleaning out my closet and drawers regularly. I got rid of books when the new bookcase was done. I have also come to know that I am not going to sit around and wait for Ebay sales or garage sales to get rid of stuff- it is the donation truck for me. This year we purged the Christmas stuff from the garage (all my stuff). We purged books (mostly mine). I have worked down stuff from the kitchen (mostly my stuff). We got Sara moved into the dorm and had her sort out all her stuff. I have cleaned out old towels and sheets, kitchen linens, table linens. I have sawed up most of the wood around the house that we wanted to burn.
We have been purging for a really long time and it seems that it will go on forever. The office purge is not the end, either. We still have to approach the garage.
As I clean and clear, I am developing a resolve to avoid shopping. I know this does not bode well for the economic recovery, but I just don't think I want to do this again- and I definitely don't want my children to have to deal with my mess. No more buying in bulk. No more saving something because it might be useful some day. No more stockpile, hoard, and re-purpose. I want to do the projects I already have and not start a bunch of new ones.
There! I am beaten down by the purging process. I only want to plod through the rest of the job to the end and collapse in a pile on the clean floor of an empty room. Stuff 1- Jeri 0