2.26.2019

not quite ruined for life...

i was talking to mom on Sunday.

mom: what are you doing?
me: nothing much. just sitting here, watching the falling snow.
mom: it's snowing again? every time i talk to you it's snowing. 
me: oh, it's even better than that. we went from rain to freezing rain to hail to snow, then briefly back to freezing rain, and now back to snow... and that was all in the past hour alone.
mom: wow!
me: indeed.

to give you a sense of just how crazy this Winter has been, the city of Montreal exceeded their snow-removal budget... several weeks ago! meanwhile, we have another month (or two) of deep-Winter weather to look forward to.

so... yeh... i am officially done with all the cold.

i had planned on wrapping up my week of daily posts with a meal of homemade pork-and-vegetable dumplings on Saturday. then we changed our plan for the day, and we ended up being out-and-about until late into the evening—which sounds far more exciting that it actually was, trust me.

so, homemade dumplings became our main meal on a meteorologically mixed-up Sunday afternoon.

we do a lot of dumpling eating around here. they sell a wide variety of frozen (uncooked) dumplings at our local Asian grocery store, and we usually have a bag or two of them in the freezer ready for a quick and tasty meal.

it is still nice to make a batch from scratch every now and then (although i did cheat a bit this time around, which will become evident shortly).

how i we make lazy homemade pork-vegetable dumplings:

1. charge the camera battery.

2. gather an assortment of veggies.


3. chop/grate them as needed.


4. place the ground pork in a mixing bowl.


5. add the assorted veggies. we also added a splash of flavoring (soy sauce, ground black pepper, etc) at this point.


6. combine thoroughly.


here comes the cheating bit...

7. grab the frozen dumpling wrappers you purchased at the Asian market. these particular wrappers contain a bit of pumpkin, hence the color.


8 and 9. dip your fingers into water, then apply a daub of water around the edge of the wrapper to aid sealing. add a small portion of the meat mixture to the middle of the wrapper.


10. begin sealing at one end, using a pleating technique (if that is part of your culinary skill set).


ta da!!! congratulations. you just made a dumpling.


now repeat that as many times as is needed. this was the first half of our batch. they went into the freezer on a lined cookie sheet and were left to freeze completely. they were then placed into a ziploc bag and returned to the freezer for some future lazy-day dumpling eating.


the second half of the batch became our meal.

we filled both layers of the larger bamboo steamer, but there were still two leftover dumplings, so he went digging in the back of the Cupboard of Requirement (which is a standard feature in most kitchens) to find the mini bamboo steamers. so intensely cute.


all that was left to do was to place the steamers over pans of boiling water.. and wait. i used a wok for the larger steamer and a small frying pan for the smaller one, and i added a splash of hot water from the kettle when either one was in danger of running dry.


i also made a dipping sauce while the dumplings cooked.


i really like the flavor the bits of ginger and green onions add to the sauce.


finally the dumplings were done. so steamy. i love it.


we designated these two as our sampling dumplings.
 

this was my first time using the pumpkin wrapper. i did not detect a pumpkin flavor, but i like the color, which became even more pumpkiny after cooking.



we then placed the double-stacked steamer onto a plate, grabbed some chopsticks and the bowl of dipping sauce, and went off to enjoy our meal.


i should point out that we had the same conversation we usually having when cooking most things these days. what if it turns out to be even more delicious than the dumplings we get from the market or from any of the restaurants in the area? then we will be ruined for life, because we could never go back to eating dumplings that we did not make ourselves.

it sounds a bit crazy (and borderline obnoxious), i know, but we have already had that happen regarding quite a few of our favorite takeout food items. and it usually leads to the same conversation. take, for example, the tom yum soup which he has absolutely perfected over the course of the past year or so.

me: wow. that is amazing. it is better than the soup at [our go-to Thai restaurant].
him: i know.
me: so now i can never order that again because i know you can make even better tom yum soup.
him: i know. we are ruined for life.
me: i almost want to take a bowl of it over there to make them taste it, but they will probably ban us from ever ordering food again.
him: i know.

so, just how good were those dumplings? let me put it this way. we are not quite ruined for life. not just yet. the key to making that happen would be to make the wrapper dough from scratch next time around. i like the convenience of purchasing frozen wrappers, but they have nothing on freshly-made dumpling wrappers.

problem is, that tends to be a bit time consuming, which is why dumpling making is something i do once every couple-few years. kneading dough, then rolling out many little wrappers, then making the filling, then stuffing all those bits of dough is a bit much for me. however, i did make a recent discovery that should make it a bit easier the next time around.

turns out, he is actually quite useful when it comes to filling and sealing dumplings. i did have to give him a crash-course on how to make those little pleats, but he got the hang of it soon enough. i am not going to point out who made which dumplings (but if you squint a bit, you may see some subtle difference between them).


the best part of the thing was that we had a whole lot of fun... and the weather had undergone a few more changes and was back to snowing (again) by the time we were done. not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

2.22.2019

deep in the heart of Ironforge...

where was i? oh, yes... that lovely storage case. i bought this mainly because i fell in love with the closure. yes, i am very easily swayed.


open this one to reveal... a hot mess of random bits. clearly my OCD was on hiatus that when i packed this case. the kitty is looking away in utter disgust. 


this one houses assorted spools of wire, a small selection of thread for beading, and an assortment of clasps, crimp beads, bead caps, and other random metal bits (all of those tiny metal parts are collectively referred to as "findings").


it also houses (most of) my collection of wire cutters and pliers...


and my favorite wire-working tool, a mini anvil and hammer set. i like to imagine myself deep in the heart of Ironforge when i am using this thing. perhaps i have said too much.


there are also several tubes and baggies of seed beads in a relatively tame assortment of colors.


this bag of beads came from a necklace that i purchased for a buck from our local Salvation Army. unfortunately, the necklace broke shortly after i got it home, and i had to scramble to collect as may of the tiny beads as i could. i probably lost half of them to the vacuum cleaner.


there were also a few projects i had completely forgotten about.

this necklace features a large number of small beads and even smaller quartz chips that had to be individually wired before assembling the piece. i wanted to add a tiny pop of color to the smoky-grey palette, so i included a couple red faceted quarts beads in the body of the necklace, and i echoed that with a single red bead that is meant to dangle at the back of the neck. i have never worn this thing.


then there are the other projects in various stages of doneness.

i intended to add some different shaped/colored beads to this bracelet, but i never go around to it. it also needs a clasp, as it is being held shut by a small piece of wire.


this necklace also needs a proper clasp, but that has not stopped me from wearing it a few times.


this simple necklace has an adjustable hook and chain closure. however, i cannot bring myself to wear the thing as it is a little too rosary-like for my personal taste. i will have to give it a tweak one of these days... maybe.


oh, and i made that adorable s-shaped hook myself from a short length of wire, and i got to use my tiny anvil to give it a few thwacks to help harden the metal, so it does not get bent out of shape easily. i really enjoy that part of the craft.
 

my most frustrating project to date involves a lot of little plastic beads that were repurposed from another Salvation Army find.


i spent many hours wiring them up in little groups of two or three beads.


the plan was to arrange all of those little groups into some sort of necklace. i tried out a few designs, but i was not especially excited about any of them. if all else fails, i can string all the little loops onto a length of leather or hemp cord, and wear it like that.


my most-worn project to date has to be these earrings. they are my go-to accessory in the Summer.


i also have a few simple bracelets, which i do wear every once in a blue moon.


i made this one back when i was attempting to give myself a crash-course in wire-weaving. it is currently being held closed by a twist tie i found in the bottom of a kitchen drawer, but he expressed some interest in it, so i may add a proper clasp and pass it along to him.


there is also this silver and blue necklace, which is another go-to Summer favorite.


and they all rotate between being buried in the box or hanging on the nifty little jewelry display/storage mannequin. it was a gift from my mom. thanks again, mom.


sorting through all of that has left me eager to get back to making pretty things... which will most likely end up being stashed away in a storage container, never to see the light of day.

2.21.2019

constellation of distractions...

it would appear that my attempt at public-shaming from two nights ago had the right effect... on the wrong person.

him: i did not realize you had that many projects on the go at once.
me: oh, i'm sure i missed a couple-few. i didn't feel like digging around in the back of the yarn closet.
him: hopefully looking at all of them in one place will motivate you to get them done.
me: you'd think so, wouldn't you? meanwhile, i want to cast on a million new things.
him: what if i say that you can't buy anymore yarn until you finish those projects?
me: uhm... good luck with that one. that's what i say.

the worst part is that it is not just new projects, but entire new crafts that are calling to me at present.

it is almost lambing season in the Northern hemisphere, which is followed by fleece-shearing season. i usually spend weeks in deep contemplation (not to mention lots of harassment of sheep -breeders) while i decide what sort of fleece i might want to purchase. mind you, i still have the two fleeces from last year waiting to be spun, so that is one definite distraction from getting my WIPs and UFOs completed.

then there is the other distraction.

i have been watching a whole lot of beading and jewelry-making videos on the You Tubes of late, so now i want to drop everything and make jewelry. worst part is, i already have more than enough stuff on hand to make that happen.

see these two storage-type devices? they are filled with all the bits and pieces from an earlier obsession of mine.


there are about a dozen of these black-and-white boxes scattered around our place, most of which contain fragments of the constellation of distractions that keeps me sane.

oh, and speaking of constellations, we had a few nights recently where the skies were so clear that we could see Orion. we were on the sofa one night, and i looked out the window, and there it was... Orion. and it was there the next two nights. then we went back to near-constant overcast skies and snow, so is has not been seen since. but that is not the point of this thing. where was i? oh, yes... boxes of distractions.

be forewarned: when i get interested in a thing... i tend to go all the way.

this box contains...


many little plastic organizers filled with assorted beads and other such things.


this is one of the areas where my OCD goes into overdrive. buried into each of those sections is a small piece of paper which bears the type and size of bead.


you may have noticed that a few of those beads have been embellished with metal bits.


these particular beads were intended to become part of a space-inspired bracelet. [fun fact: i really wanted to be an astronaut when i was a kid.]


i was teaching myself to wrap wire around beads, and the effect on these cracked-glass beads looked totally cosmic to me. so pretty.


these are my two favorite bead containers.


this one is double-sided, so you can flip it over and store even more things.


and this one has three layers that stack together like one of those nifty multi-layered lunchboxes.


one of those layers houses lovely bits for making earrings.


and yes, there are more labels here. i take my OCD very seriously.


i also have four plastic containers, each of which holds an assortment of jump rings and head pins in four different colors (dark-grey, bright-silver, silver, and copper).


this is when the Little One showed up... and she refused to move.


that object she is examining is part of bracelet i started to construct when i was attempting to teach myself a bit of chain weaving.


and i recently purchased some hemp cord that i hope to get around to experimenting with in the near future.


oh, and i have some of those bits for making cords for glasses... which i promise you will be a near-future project of hilarious proportions.


then there is this awesome case... but i will save that one for tomorrow.