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February 25, 2014

On being a maker

I think I started making friendship bracelets when I was 6 or 7 years old. Before that it was paper mache-ing Halloween costumes, writing and illustrating paper books, and drawing murals. Since then I’ve dabbled in beading; crocheted my way through skein after skein of yarn; built computers; joined set crew and learned how to use various power tools; learned how to bake bread and grow my own sourdough starters; taught myself to knit; canned produce (some of which I grew myself); started taking apart a motorcycle engine (I’m coming for you, Triumph!); and built compost bins and garden beds.

multicolored yarn

My joy comes from figuring out how to do something with my hands and then growing that skill. I am a maker. This is what ultimately led me from studying physics to practicing engineering. And what drives me to look for what’s next.

homemade canned rhubarb jam

I mentioned recently my desire to own property, partially to indulge my house decorating dreams. But it’s more than decorating. I’m clamoring to learn the skills necessary to do the up-dating as well.  I’ll probably bite off way more than I can chew and have to call in experts more times than I like. But it’s all worth the feeling of finishing a project I’m proud of, and being able to point to something and say “I made that.”

newly built raised garden bed

And hey, practice makes perfect, right?

In the mean time, here are a couple blogs and books that have inspired me to keep making, and to keep learning new skills to add to my making arsenal.

Enjoy it – A personal blog by Elise Blaha Cripe.  Elise loves projects, and has been making and crafting and sharing for years.  I discovered her about a year ago, and find her to be simply lovely.

SouleMama - Amanda Blake-Soule sews, knits, and farms in Maine with her family.  I discovered her just in the past month or so, and am smitten with her ability to knit sweaters so quickly while managing so many other roles.

Amory Lovins – Mr. Lovins is the Chairman and Chief Scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute.  This is a short talk on integrative design that I find to be so inspirational.

Wikihouse – a project combining 3D printing and structure building, harkening back to the days of Sears-Roebuck prefab houses.

Design Like You Give A DamnDesign Like You Give A Damn 2, and Beyond Shelter are 3 books I’ve been reading about the role of architects and designers in the design and building of housing in humanitarian and disaster zone settings.

Note: Amazon links are part of the amazon affiliates program. 

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February 13, 2014

On Swimming Pregnant

I might be the only 8 month pregnant lady that hates swimming.

It’s frustrating, because I actually love swimming. I’ve loved it since I was a kid taking swimming lessons at our local YMCA or splashing around in the park pool or at the lake.

race1_2013

These days, my joy in swimming comes from working out in the water. Namely, swimming laps for training and racing in triathlons. I was happy to keep up my lap swimming during the first 6 months of pregnancy, and have been lucky that for much of the time my growing belly did not impede with my movements. But then I took a break at Christmas, mostly because the pool I swim in is across the street from work and I had 2 weeks off.

When I got back in the pool last month I was disappointed. Instead of feeling light and taking the pressure off my pelvis and back, I felt large and slow and awkward. Have you ever tried doing a flip turn with a 20+ lb. watermelon attached to your stomach? Your legs don’t go where they are supposed to and you come off the wall funny. And throw streamline position out the window. Baby bellies are not aerodynamic.

So I’ve taken a break from swimming. I look forward to getting back to it in a month or so when there is no longer a baby in the way of where my limbs are supposed to move. But for now, swimming is not for this pregnant lady.

 

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January 27, 2014

Today’s Links

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January 10, 2014

Around here

I’ve switched to using a standing desk at work for most of the day to help prevent back pain.

I’ve relied on the kindness of others more than once to help get my car unstuck from the brutal snow banks on the side streets of Midtown.

Husby is working 2nd and 3rd shift in the ER most days. The most I get to see of him is in the clean stack of dishes, the unpacked stroller, the dug out car in the morning, and the rearranged bedroom furniture. He’s the best.

I’ve been working a lot more greens and fruit into my diet to recover from the richness (and carb-laden-ness) of the holidays.

I have 3 different yarn projects in process.

I’m dedicating the weekend to cleaning and organizing the apartment, because yeesh. All this stuff has got to go somewhere before baby comes. (Nesting? probably)

We’re thinking a lot about “what comes next” in many different ways.

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December 11, 2013

Gluten free and the holidays

This is my first holiday season being gluten free.  Most of the time I have no problem eating gluten free, I love so many foods that are naturally GF that I don’t really have to think about it most of the time. And I’ve adjusted my shopping habits where necessary – GF pasta for the occasional bowl of mac and cheese, and GF oatmeal for breakfast. Easy peasy for the most part.

But now it’s holiday time, and as we all know, with the holidays come ample sweets. And there are only so many pies and cookies a girl can look at and resist (especially when she’s 28 weeks pregnant and her fetus seems to have a strong sweet tooth). So I’ve been starting to experiment more with gluten free baking.  Especially adapting holiday favorites to deliciousness that’s not going to make my stomache and intestines hate me for the next 3 days.

I certainly am no expert yet, but I’m starting to find some recipes that are just as good, capture the flavors of the season, and are GF friendly.

For Thanksgiving I tackled adapting the Pioneer Woman’s cranberry Nantucket pie, Smitten Kitchen’s apple tart with salted caramel glaze, and a pumpkin pie, again using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for pumpkin pie filling.

I had read good review’s of Pamela’s gluten free flour blends, and picked up a bag of the pancake and baking blend to experiment with, trying out my adapted desserts a couple weeks before Thanksgiving to make sure things were going to work out.

Gluten Free Nantucket Pie:

I used Pamela’s baking blend in place of flour for the topping of the Nantucket pie, and followed the rest of the recipe as written. After baking for about 20-25 minutes I noticed that the topping was browning quite a bit, and didn’t think it was going to make it the total 45 minutes without burning.  I’m guessing, since the flour mix has powdered milk in it, that this may have caused the premature browning?  Also, the batter topping looked much softer and less cake like than with regular flour, it was bubbling pretty well too.  I pulled the pie out of the oven and let it set, and the batter topping did become a beautiful caramel-ly colored topping for the pie. However, with only using half the baking time, the cranberries hadn’t fully burst and the sugar in the filling was still grainy instead of making a jelly with the cranberries.

When it came time to make the pie for Thanksgiving I mixed together the cranberries, sugar and pecans and baked them for 25 minutes. Then I added the batter topping and finished the pie off with another 25 minutes of baking.  It worked great! The batter topping with Pamela’s baking blend is definitely less cake like and makes more of a chewy caramel-ly cookie top crust.  A little different than the traditional Nantucket Pie I’ve been making for the past few years, but a delicious dish none the less.

Gluten Free Apple Tart:

I might be crazy, but I attempted (and was reasonably successful!) making a gluten free puff pastry from scratch.  I used Pamela’s baking blend in place of the flour mixture called for in this recipe from Tartlette. And things worked out generally good.  Not quite as “puff” of a pastry as I would like, but not bad by any means. I think next time I attempt a puff pastry I will either follow Tartlette’s flour blend, or try with an all purpose blend rather than a pancake and baking blend though.  I think puff pastry could benefit from a bit more protein for elasticity in the flour blend.

Otherwise, I followed the Smitten Kitchen recipe as written, and everyone enjoyed the apple tart.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie:

For the pumpkin pie I made a this pecan crust from Elana’s Paleo Pantry.  I pre-baked the crust for about 15-20 minutes at 350 before putting the filling in and baking per the Smitten Kitchen instructions.

The crust isn’t bad, I’ve used it before for a tart and liked it, but in the future for pumpkin pie I think I’d prefer a more traditional pie crust.  I did notice that this pie and crust got better with age – I baked two pies the night before Thanksgiving.  Husby and I taste tested the first one on Wednesday night and thought the crust and pie combo was meh, but the next day, as we ate the pie for dessert, I thought the flavors had definitely improved.  I’ve heard that this is common in general with gluten free or “paleo” baking – that it tends to be better the next day than fresh out of the oven.

Just one more note on gluten free baking.  The best gf chocolate chip cookies I’ve had yet I made following the recipe on the Pamela’s pancake and baking blend flour bag.  I’m ready to try other gf flour blends, but I will definitely be using this as my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe.  And yes, I have tried the Alton Brown cookie recipe.  Both husby and I thought these cookies were loads better.

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