Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not just a baby doll

I only remember having one doll as a kid.

My black baby doll

She originally belonged to my cousin but my aunt gave her to me after I cried like a brat as we were getting ready to leave. I was probably four years old but I still remember the day I sat crying in the backseat, hugging the doll like it was the end of the world until my aunt said I could have her.

I never really gave it much thought that I had a non-white baby doll.  After all, I was a Hispanic kid in a Caucasian family, color just wasn't something I saw.

It turns out there's a bit of interesting history behind this doll.  She was created in 1972 by Shindana Toys, believed to be the first company to mass-produce ethnically correct African-American dolls.  After some research, it looks like her name is Zuri.

Shindana was a division of Operation Bootstrap, Inc., an offshoot of the civil rights movement founded two months after the Watts riots of 1965.  Based in South Central LA, Shindana's goal was to create black consciousness and positive self image among African-American children and foster love by producing dolls and board games that children of all colors could relate to. They eventually produced Asian, American-Indian, Caucasian and Hispanic dolls before operations were ceased in the early 1980's.

Thanks to Shindana's profitability, other spin-offs such as The Honeycomb Child Development Center were created, where children of the neighborhood were cared for and given an educational head start. Shindana played a significant role in Operation Bootstrap by spreading profits and The Dream throughout the community.

She's more than just a doll, she's more like a bit of civil rights history.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


That feeling you get when the stench of cat poop strikes your sinuses, then you realize your cat was running around the house because a turd was stuck on her and not because she was excited that she took a poop. No, you make a mental note, this is the wrong cat, this cat doesn't get excited about pooping.

And then you realize the poop is sitting right next to you on the carpet. As you clean up, you realize you have to check the rest of the house because you would rather not repeat the experience of a turd surprise when you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Dyeing fiber with real acid dyes

After my recent foray into dying yarn with food coloring, I decided to take a yarn dyeing class with acid dyes at the Eugene Textile Center.  I can't believe I've never been to this place!  They have a large dyeing kitchen and tons of spinning wheels and looms.  I don't spin or weave but if I did, this is where I'd go.

By the way, if you're thinking, eek, acid dyes!  Acids!  Don't worry, it's not acid you see in the movies that eats through your glove, then your fingers and now you're stuck in a contaminated room that bursts into a billion degree fire just to clean up the contaminates that could kill all of earthkind. Nope, it's vinegar.  Sure, there's some chemicals involved and you should still use gloves, but it's not the mad scientist kind of thing.  Or is it? Hm.

I didn't take many photos or any notes because I was too excited and thrilled to be in an artsy atmosphere.  It made me feel like my old self again.  I'm thinking maybe I should start tapping into that.  Anyway, Janis gave us several fibers; some silk, yarn, roving, some sort of animal somethingorother, we picked a color, put it in a kettle and then on the burner for a while. That's the short version.

Roving, fabric, silk and some other stuff

This is how mine turned out. The point of this experiment was to show us how each type of fiber takes up dye differently.  For example, the silk (as seen in the middle with a kind of seafoam coloration) didn't get to soak up as much dye as everything else.

The yarn turned out darker because it was a natural brown to begin with and the silk has a tinge of green because it was cream colored.  I'm sure the fact that the starting color affects the end color is a no-brainer but it's still interesting to see the end results for ourselves.

Everyone at my table chose similar colors

Everyone at my table chose some sort of blue.  We didn't realize that until we spread them all out.

Yarn, silk, and various rovings drying in the sun

Our roving and yarn spread out to dry. After a few minutes on the spin cycle in the washing machine, it only took about 5 minutes for it to dry in the sun.

Next we got two different types of roving and some sort of yarn. I'm pretty vague about these because I know nothing about roving and because this yarn didn't come with a label on it, I'm totally out of my element. I just now it came from a sheep.

Our yarn and roving drying

Those are my three in the front on the right. My roving turned out darker than I expected, probably because I was a bit heavy on the dye. Interesting note, all our fibers were heat set in the same pot together and yet nothing was contaminated by another dye!

Dyed yarn and roving

Anyway, this is how it turned out.  It was fun and I'm glad I took the class.  I don't want to spill the details on how we dyed everything because I'd like to encourage you to take the class. The Eugene Textile Center is a great place and deserves your business.

As always, the arts are the first to go when there are financial troubles and we all know how the economy is going.  If you're not in the Eugene area, check out your community and see what type of opportunities you  might have to support a local artisan.  If you're not into dyeing, I'm sure there's something out there you would enjoy.

And now I must go as there is a bit of a cat poop situation brewing.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


This last spring we went to the Saturday Market where I bought fresh figs.  For some reason, it never occurred to me we could get them fresh here.  To be honest, I didn't even know what a fig looked like.  I've only seen them in cookie format.

Intrigued, I did a little research. We all know figs are high in fiber, but did you know they can help control or lower blood pressure and cholesterol? They can also lower insulin for insulin injection dependent diabetics.  They're high in calcium, iron, vitamin C and antioxidants...this was enough to make me go out and buy my own fig tree.

I had several to choose from, so I picked the one that seemed would best fit someone who had no idea what she was doing:  the Lattarula, also known as the Italian Honey. The tree is only about six feet tall and since it's so young, I wasn't expecting it to produce anything.  But a few weeks ago we noticed little tiny figs growing on it.


With temperatures dipping into the 30's, I'm not sure if the seven baby figs on the tree will have a chance to ripen, but I sure hope so. Anyone know if these little guys have a chance?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unscientific food coloring experiment

About a year ago, I bought a skein of now discontinued KnitPicks Bare Donegal yarn.  Most yarn sits in my stash for a while until I decide It Is Time and I sacrifice the yarn to a project, but I couldn't find the right project for this one.  And frankly, the longer I looked at it the more I didn't like it.  I didn't originally intend to dye this yarn but since I didn't like it naked, I decided to experiment and dye it.  But, what color?

Picking out a color was time consuming (I can't help myself) and I spent a couple weeks obsessing about the color choice.  After all, if I dyed it red, then the yellow and blue flecks would show and that didn't sound pretty.  Choose blue and the red and yellow flecks would be prominent.  Yellow and...well you know.  But then I thought, wait.  Green.  Green with red, yellow and blue...looks like a Christmas tree!  So there it was.  Phew, color obsessing out of the way.

Since I never dyed yarn, I did some research online about my dye options. Acid dyes are toxic and you have to wear gloves, a mask and can never cook with that pot again.  Food coloring is safe, it is something you eat. I am accident prone and lazy, I decided to go with food coloring.

Food dye used to dye yarn

I saw a picture online of someone's yarn soaking in a jar, so grabbed my yarn and stuffed it in a jar.  I didn't realize how big the skein really was!  It looked ridiculous but I decided it would still work, so I added some water, a shot of Dawn dish detergent and a glug of vinegar (to make the dye "stick") and let it soak overnight.  Then let it soak two more nights because remember I told you, I am lazy.

Yarn ready to soak in water/vinegar

I finally got my act together and pulled the yarn out of the yarn and into a strainer to drain excess water.  It seemed a little slimy but I wasn't sure if that was just my imagination.  I decided that since I didn't see anything growing, it was fine. (I later learned that a little mold never hurt anyone's dye job, I forgot to ask about slime though.)

Yarn draining excess water

I started some water simmering in a pot, dumped in another glug of vinegar because that seemed like a good idea and dripped in some green food coloring. I also added a few drops of red to neutralize the green a bit and then some black because the green looked frighteningly Shrekish.  I didn't know if that was the right decision, but when I dipped a bit of paper towel in the water, it looked good to me.

The yarn is mostly immersed, soaking up the dye.

It only took a couple minutes of simmering before the yarn had soaked up all the dye and the water ran clear.  I was shocked!  Unfortunately the yarn was still pretty light and I noticed a problem.  There were a lot of areas that were still white.  The next five minutes were spent with me alternating between adding more green and yellow and being shocked every time I realized the water was clear; consequently I ran out of green food color.  So I pulled the yarn aside with my whisk (hey, it was handy) and dripped in some blue and yellow.  (You can see this whole process was very unscientific.)  The yarn started to develop a lot of different tints of green, it was even better than I had hoped for!

I heard you can felt the yarn if you're not careful, so I gently moved the yarn around to check for light spots (most of them were around the ties that held the yarn in the hank, they were a bit tight) and dripped yellow right in those areas. Eventually everything had some color on it and it looked perfect.

Finally, every bit of yarn has at least some dye on it

I let it simmer a bit longer, turned off the heat and let it cool.  Then I carefully submerged it in a bowl and rinsed it out several times.  Once cool, I rolled it in a towel to squeeze out the water and then draped it over another towel to dry. I was a bit concerned it might be a mess of tangles (see above) but it only took me a few minutes to sort out a few obnoxious strands and it looked all organized once again.

I gave it a few days to make sure it was really dry before I twisted it up into a hank.  There's so many different color layers, I just love it!  And the areas where I dripped yellow showed as yellow/green, adding to the variety of green tints.

Christmas tree yarn!

Finally, this yarn has the perfect project waiting for it - Christmas tree socks for Mom!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I love tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of my favorite snacks and ingredient for winter recipes so every year I try to grow and can as many as possible.  I'm not an advanced gardener and though some people may think I have a green thumb, I figure it's as easy as fertilized dirt and plenty of water every day.  With that in mind, I always grow a cherry tomato plant for me, Apollo usually picks out a Big Beef tomato plant (which always fails miserably but he hasn't given up yet) for himself and any other type that catches my fancy for canning.

As an experiment, this summer I decided to grow a heap of Roma's just for canning.  When I say heap, I mean ten plants.  I had grand ambitions!  I had no idea they were such late producers and unfortunately, our summer was short and long in getting here.  So that means few ripe tomatoes with tons of green tomatoes on the bush and our summer days are drawing to an end.

My poor Roma's

We didn't even get to pick any of them until last week but when we  did, we got a nice basket full. Oh, and I kind of let the weeds take over this year.  One of my good friends is all about organic gardening and I kind of went with it.  In my book, organic = awesome! if you would rather do something like knit a sock, read a book or pet a kitty after you do your part by stepping on a few snails first.

Apollo and our first batch of tomatoes

Apollo even helped pick tomatoes, even though football was on.  He's a good man!  He's especially helpful since most of them will be going into meatloaf and chili.

Tomatoes canned in their own juice

Half way through canning my first batch, I realized I was using lime juice, not lemon.  Hopefully that won't be a problem.  (Note to self, if you're reading this in September 2013, do not use the "packed in own juices" method.  The solids separate and I don't like that, right?  I was much more successful with the "packed in water" method last year.)  I didn't get a lot but this is from my first night of canning so hopefully I'll get more before my plants give up.

When I was a kid, I was disgusted by canned tomatoes.  I don't think it helped that my toothless grandpa ate them like candy.  I knew they were slimy and the idea that he was gumming them down somehow turned me off. I still remember him looking at me with bug eyes, gumming his slimy canned tomato while his chin almost touched his nose with each bite.

First batch of tomato sauce

I realized I'm not going to get a lot of tomatoes this year, so I this weekend I decided to just go for it and use what little we have at the moment to try canning tomato sauce.  There are several recipes in my canning book but after I got all the seeds separated from the flesh, I decided to wing it and throw in some herbs and garlic and call it good.

BTW, winging it is usually what gets people like me in trouble, so we'll see how this works out.  I figured you can't get in too much trouble with herbs and garlic though, right?  It's not like I decided to take a last minute diversion off Highway 101 to Highway 1 a couple hours before sunset so Aimee and I could watch the beautiful sunset, with less than half a tank, not realizing how foggy it would be in unknown territory and that six hours later I would have to drive 20 miles an hour all night due to lack of visibility and pee outside our car doors at 2AM because we were too afraid to go any further and would finally end up sleeping in the car outside a gas station somewhere north of San Francisco.  Nope, just herbs and garlic. Just herbs and garlic.

First batch of tomato sauce

After cooking down the rather thin sauce, this is what I got.  Four pints!  Ha!  That's so cute, four pints!  Well, I'm sure it will be delicious and it seems to be pretty thick, so I'm happy with it.  If I get more tomatoes, I'll definitely make more.

Next year I'm thinking of making tomato paste but I'm pretty sure I'll need earlier producing tomatoes.  Or 20 Roma plants. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Storm Watch 2011

Here we sit on the even of The Great Storm. Everyone is a flutter about the snow and freaking out. The city is on alert, plow schedules are published, schools ready to close at the sign of an inch of snow....we are ready.

Apollo bought a pizza from Costco in the event we're snowed in by a few inches of the regions worst, most horrifying white stuff. We have leftover spaghetti to last us through the weekend. Our tanks are full of gas and cell phones set to text each other at the first sign of school closure.

Apollo is ready to build a snow man, even if that means rolling each piece of the snowman up and down the street until he gets enough to build to his inner child's content.

Yep, you can tell we don't get much snow. Meanwhile, states like Louisiana and Texas are getting heaps of snow. We've felt robbed for quite a while. We want our snow! And if that means overpreparing and letting our working ourselves into a frenzy, we'll do it!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I gave her a knife sharpener for Christmas

*70s happy elevator music plays on my phone*

Me: Hi Mom, how's it going?

Mom: Well I just got done feeding the calf and he tried to buck me blah blah blah blah blah it has been so cold! I'm freezing my hiney off blah blahblah blah blah blah and that dumb red chicken got out again and I swear it is one step away from getting butchered and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah oh how was Aimee's first day of classes?

Me: *watching tv* She's here, she said everything went great.

Mom: So I talked to Rose and blah blah blah we made spaghetti sandwiches for dinner tonight blah blah blah blah blah blah blah my thyroid turned out to be normal! The doctor said I have high cholesterol! !! He wants me to lose weight AND exercise! Blah blah blah blah blah blah I don't know why I'm not losing weight blah blah blah.

Me: uh huh *whispering* hey Apollo, can you pause the movie?

Mom: Did I tell you about the yearling elk that got tangled in the fence? Blah blah blah I went to the dentist today. My molar hurt when you tapped it, you know like blah blah blah blah blah and then they cleaned my teeth and now I don't have any more pain! Did you KNOW you can get plaque between your gums and your teeth? Blah blah blah blah.

Me: You should try out one of those Sonicare toothbrushes like Aimee has. You would be amazed at how well it cleans your teeth. She got me one for Christmas, I don't think my teeth have ever been so clean with so little effort on my part.


Me: It's OK Mom! I'm just saying, it's a nice toothbrush! *wondering how many minutes I have left on my cell phone* Maybe your dentist can recommend something to you to help fight plaque?

Mom: Anyway blah blah blah and I told her, I use a butcher knife to get plaque off my teeth. She just looked at me and said, don't scratch your teeth too much!

Me: *stunned*