Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lessons Learned

I've had a couple really good learning experiences in the garden this year.  This is honestly just a nice way of saying that I killed a lot of plants.

To start with, the community garden was fed by a drip irrigation system;  the first mistake that I made was to assume that this irrigation system was efficient enough to reach every corner of my raised bed.

It wasn't. As a result, some of the corn I planted didn't germinate because I had shoved them into the corner.

In addition to this assumption, I completely forgot to check to see where the irrigation system was actually dripping.  So, I had some plants that struggled with being over-watered and some that were under-watered.

I also assumed that the soil wouldn't have as much clay as typical Utah soil.  My thought process was that if I was constructing a bunch of raised beds I would use the Lasagna method to build up the soil with plenty of organic matter.  However, I think that the administrators of the garden simply bought some topsoil and filled the beds with it.

This assumption was a problem for me because when I planted transplants, a few of them drowned in their own soil, while water pooled around them and wouldn't diffuse into the surrounding clay.  In fact, I wasn't able to get the cantaloupe going at all, because of this issue.

These two problems of mine lead to a rather spotty and sad looking garden with only a few living plants.

If you remember, I was really excited about using an altered version of the three sisters method in my garden.  I planted peas as soon as I planted the corn and the pepper transplants.  This meant that the peas sprouted before the larger plants were established, and most of them didn't grow up their supports at all.

I guess I just got too excited.

I also used substandard seed and transplants,  which I'm sure only added to the problem, since everyone else's plants seem to be much bigger than mine.

Next year, I'll add organic matter to the bed immediately.  I'll also play more attention to the micro-environments in my little plot, and put things where they would be watered the proper amount.  I'll also do things in the right time-frame and get better starts.

In other news, I was able to get one good handful of sugar snap peas from my garden last week. I'm really happy about this.

Honestly, it was barely enough for a snack for myself but I'm still really pleased.

I grew these!
My goal for the season was to grow some of my own food, and I've officially done just that. Of course, I still have the peppers and the corn to go, so maybe I'll even get up to a single pound of food for myself and my husband.

Maybe in a few years I'll be up to a hundred pounds, or a thousand.

I'm not very good at this yet, but I like gardening, and the idea of sustainability way too much not to be good at this someday.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Garden Update

I'm really good at growing weeds...
The seedlings were doing pretty well up until two weeks ago, when finals happened and I got pretty sick.

Now there are four left.

Two of them are little bitty bell pepper plants,  one is a cantaloupe seedling and the last is a moonflower.  I don't think the peppers were started early enough to go into the garden but maybe I'll stick them in pots on my patio as a consolation prize.

I also finally got to work in my little garden plot today.  I've changed up my plans a little bit since I last blathered about it, in order to incorporate some of what I've learned about gardening in the last month.

I've read this book as well as a couple others on permaculture which were really exciting.  It's all about how through proper gardening techniques you can contribute to the health of the soil, provide a proper habitat, and nurture yourself from your landscape. 

They mainly deal with perennial plants but some of the same principles can still be applied to my more temporary situation.

So, instead of having homogenized blocks of plants I'll be doing a variation on the "three sisters" tradition.

As I'm sure many of you know, the "three sisters" refers to the Native American practice of planting corn, beans, and squash together.   The attributes of these three types of plants work together to provide themselves a better growing environment.  The Legumes are nitrogen fixers, making the soil healthier for the other plants.  The corn acts a trellis for the legumes and provides some shade to the more delicate plants.   The squash is a good ground cover and inhibits the growth of weeds, as well as conserving water.

This is a system that has proven itself over thousands of years and works by providing the needs of some plants through the natural qualities of others.

I'm going to mess with it and hope that it still works.

As you can see, I'm letting the weeds mulch in place.
The main change that I'll be making is to the squash.  I don't specifically remember ever trying squash and I don't really want to plant a lot of something that I wouldn't know what to do with.  Instead I'll be using cantaloupe which is actually a relative of squash, so I think that It should work just fine.

The second change I'll be making is to use pepper plants in half the plots, instead of corn.  Although not quite as tall as the original component, I think that the peppers should provide a good trellis for the legumes.

For the legumes I'm using sugar snap peas, mostly because they're a variety I recognize.

Although, it occurs to me that I should check to make sure that they're a vining variety rather than a bush type.

Yesterday I planted the corn, peas and cantaloupe seeds in little round mounds.  Although I'm not entirely certain that they will be enough time for the cantaloupe to produce fruit and ripen properly.

Is there such a thing as cantaloupe starts?

I'll wait another week or so before putting the peppers in,  mostly because I will have the money to buy the starts then.

I also might try to find some nasturtium seeds, which is a type of edible flower that I'm interested in trying.   If I understand it correctly it's also another type of ground cover which should also attract insects.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Free Food and Bad Ideas

When Josh and I went to pay our gardening fee last Friday, the lovely woman in charge pulled out two giant bags full of donated seeds and told us to take what we wanted.

I made off with basil seeds, a couple varieties of bell pepper, cantaloupe, and plenty of lettuce for our balcony.  I think it's technecholy too late to start seeds but I thought I'd give it a try just in case.

I made paper cups out of spare notebook paper, and then filled them with soil from the bottom of our stairs.

I'm sure you know this, but every gardening source ever will tell you not to use garden dirt when starting seeds, or in containers in general.

It has dormant seeds, germs,  and the soil settles differently in the container.  In addition to this the soil I used felt like it had altogether too much clay in it.

Here's the thing;  it was free dirt.

The seeds were free, and the paper was free, and the water will be free, and I just didn't feel like paying for planting medium this time around.

If this works then it'll be awesome, and if it doesn't, then I budgeted to get plants from the nursery anyways. 

I also put a couple seeds from each variety in plastic bags with damp toilet paper.  I usually prefer to do things this way, as I like seeing the seeds germinate.

Who knows, maybe by the time these babies wake up I'll feel like buying some planting medium for them after all.

The cantaloupe and the basil plants should be poking through with in a week.  The bell peppers should follow the week after.

Here's hoping for the best!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Prospective Gardens

In twenty years, I want to have a beautiful, sprawling garden.

There will be bounteous fruit trees, berry bushes and raised vegetable patches that help sustain my family and beautify our backyard.  We'll to  contribute to the health of the soil by gardening organically using the some of the concepts of permaculture.

As part of this system we would have a few chickens, and maybe bees if we're feeling adventurous enough.

So,  secretly I'm a little hippie.

Of course,  I don't know how to run a garden like that,  I don't know how to grow anything really, and I'm told raising chickens is way harder than the books make it seem like. 

Of course, I have twenty years to get to that point. So I think I can manage it.

As my first real baby step, I'm going to be a part of the local community garden this year.*  My goal is mainly just to try gardening for real this time.

The space I have is somewhat small, only about 3 1/2  feet by 10 feet, so I'm going to focus on a few key plants that I love eating and that I think will be interesting to grow.

<- north
We'll mainly have bell pepper plants, and then strawberries interlaced with basil.  Although I might throw a cantaloupe plant in there as well.  

I don't get these delicious fruits too often because they tend to be slightly more expensive, which is why I'm growing strawberries and bell peppers instead of a ton of potatoes and parsnips.

At the same time I think I'll try to grow some salad greens on my balcony, where it's going to be nice and shady.

What interesting things are you doing this summer?

*really this time, we paid the fee and everything.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Thought Experiment in Bread

Since Josh and I have been married, I have cooked all the bread in our house from scratch.

It's not actually as impressive as it sounds,  seeing as how my coverage as been spotty at best, and I think that we've only had bread twice in the last month or so.

On top of that, I'm using the whitest of the white bread recipes, so it's not even healthier than the store bought stuff.

The problem is that we eat about a loaf or two day once it's fresh out of the oven, but our desire to eat it slacks off exponentially once it's cooled down.

So, I've been making about three or four loafs occasionally and either running out too quickly or throwing some of it away. It was starting to feel like a wasteful chore.

So, on wednesday I made enough bread dough for six smallish loaves.  I cooked one to eat that day, and one to give my sister-in-law, then I put the rest in the freezer.

Every night since I've taken a loaf out and put it in the fridge. Then in the morning, I cook it as part of breakfast.  Or alternatively, to be breakfast as I run out the door.

So, far it's turned out to be a pretty good program for our bread needs.  It doesnt take too long to bake a loaf of bread,  my kitchen is ruined only once a week,  and we can experience some portion control.

The only real problem so far is that I planned my first real day of making bread on Easter Sunday.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ovarian Cysts

Two days before my wedding, I woke up with a very slight pain in the crook of my left hip.  At first I brushed it off as nothing and figured it would go away soon enough, but after a couple hours it intensified and I developed a fever and severe nausea.

Josh and I had been staying at my mother-in-law's house for a couple weeks by this point so I camped out on her couch and read a book as I tried to ignore my body.  There were still plans to be made and a little bit of moving left but I couldn't quite process how we were going to do them.

Josh was wonderful. He brought me anti-nausea medication and held back my hair when I threw up. I laid in his lap and he scratched my back as we talked.

Eventually, I admitted to myself that the pain I was experiencing wouldn't go away on it's own, and was probably important.  I told Josh about it, and he went to talk to his mom.

From my descriptions and Rebecca's experience, we figured out that I probably had an ovarian cyst.

According the various internet sources ovarian cysts usually go away on their own, and doctors only get involved when surgery needs to be done.  I thought about waiting my body out, as had been my plan from the beginning, but I couldn't quite cope with the idea that nothing could be done for me.

We went to the emergency room.

There they gave me fluids and then tested my urine.  This allowed them to factor out the idea of a kidney stone.  Then they performed a slightly awkward ultra sound and told us that I had two cysts on my left ovary.

The doctor told us exactly what we had learned from our own research and then sent us away with high grade nausea and pain medications.

If I wasn't better by the third day* then I needed to come back in and we would discuss our options.

I spent that day--and the next--somewhat delirious.  I couldn't keep the medications down reliably, and I was having just as much trouble eating or drinking.
It held up surprisingly well.

My reception was the next night.

I had been planning on wearing my wedding dress to the reception, but instead I ended up camped out on the couch in my pajamas.  The room swelled with my friends and family, and I tried to focus on how awesome and beautiful everything was.

It was a uphill battle, and I ended up giving up and going to sleep in the basement after half an hour.

I didn't look at the food, and we didn't cut my beautiful cake until several weeks later.

It was miserable, I  haven't gained the weight back, we're still paying back the hospital bill, and my hormones are uncharacteristically out of wack when my still-irregular period rears its head.

Still, I'm sincerely grateful for this experience.

Being this sick allowed others to care for me, and to reassure me.  In my head I knew that my new relatives loved me, but it was something altogether different to feel it so drastically.

Up until that point, even though we had been staying in the same house for a little while, Josh and I had been sleeping in different rooms on different floors** but when I was sick I slept on the couch and he slept on the ground near me.

He was there when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep because of the pain.  He helped me to the bathroom when I didn't think I could walk all that way myself.  He distracted me with talk when I took my meds and had to fight my body to keep them down.

He was there the night before we got married and we were able to talk quietly in the dark about how nervous and excited we were.

It was a really precious experience to me.

I'm also grateful for the timing of my illness; it was slightly inconvenient, but the fact of the matter is that if it had started to hurt a day later, then I would have had a very hard time getting married.  And if I managed that little detail, we wouldn't have been able to go on our non-refundable cruise.

The lingering bad things will fad and this experience will turn into an interesting story to tell our kids. And I'll always be grateful for those precious experiences, and for the fact that my wedding wasn't actually ruined.

*the first day of our cruise

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Video Weekend

This past weekend Josh filmed his application to the film program.  It was a little last minute but a lot of fun.

One of the many wonderful things about being married is that we get to share in eachother's creativity.  I really enjoy watching as Josh has inspiration for an idea, and then expands it to tell a story.  It's happened several times but the most applicable is in this video.

I had left my wedding ring box in an old purse that I wanted to use, so I took the box out and set it on the table.*

When I got home Josh mentioned that it was a striking image.

Over the next weeks I saw him create a story that ended with this image.  We spent evenings discussing the ins and outs of the tale, and it was a lot of fun.

I think that I'm going to find any movie he makes 150% more touching than anyone else. 

*the result of moving sometime in the last couple months. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

All the Exciting Things!

I got the Job!

It's as awesome as I thought it would be. The work is super fun and everyone I work with is really nice. I'm really grateful for the opportunity, and I hope to prove myself  as a worthy employee there.

There a ton of exciting things going on around me right now. Here are some of the more exciting ones.

My sister in law had her second baby last Thursday.

I haven't been able to meet her yet because it's flu season and I haven't had my shot yet, but I'm truly eager to.

Mike and Rachel are amazing people, they're some of my role models for what a good marriage should look like.  I'm so happy for them, and I'm prepared to bask in awe as they go on this new adventure together.  When it's our turn to have kids I hope to do as well as they have.

Elizabeth has this really neat project going on that you can read about here. The jist of it is that she's collecting works by kids for kids.  She's going to take these works and compile them into a book for children in hospitals. I really hope it works out, because I think it's an incredible idea

My darling husband has his own really neat project that he's working on right now.  He's hosting a summer workshop for high school students who are interested in all aspects of movie making.  During this workshop the students will be able to work with professional grade equipment and make two short films.  It's a really great opportunity for the students and for us.

Here's Josh's website.  Check it out, and then tell everyone you know about these awesome projects.*

*dont tell everyone you know about my job,  that might be weird if they don't know me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Some of My Designs

I've grown to truly love sewing garments over the past couple years.  There's just something magnificent and fulfilling about taking clothe, and making it into more than the sum of its parts.

Unfortunately,  my sewing projects are rather few and far between.

In the meantime I've been scheming  up potential designs.  I hope to make most of these someday, so that I can get better at drafting and sewing.

This design has been kicking around for a while.  It would be a fun coat for me that I didn't have to get out of the kids section.    It  would be grey, with dull metallic buttons and belt buckle.   The skirt portion would have wide pleats in it to add a little bit of fun.  It's the kind of in-style coat that you see everywhere, but with more of me in it.

This is a second coat that I drew in reaction to my first day of wintery weather last fall.  I went outside and was almost in shock about all the dark colors.  Nearly everyone was wearing black, grey, or dark blue.  I honestly thought that something awful had happened and I hadn't gotten the news yet.  This coat would be red, and have an appropriate hood to go with the color.

The front is rather plain,  but the back will have this fun little detail.

More pleats,  because pleats are awesome.  This should come across as a fun mix of a bomber jacket with a flair of militant coats  from the early 1800's.

The only problem with this design is that I would have no idea what color to make the buttons. Contrasting colors just don't look good in my head, while more similar ones just look -blah-.  If you have an idea tell me in the comments.  I would love your feedback.

In December my (then) future sisters in law and I visited the mall while another relative was getting married in the Salt Lake Temple.   We visited the Disney store which provided a remarkable amount of entertainment for our age range. Bethany and Elizabeth both exclaimed on how they would like to have the amazing princess dresses, but in their own size.

These are the resulting designs.

This dress is mainly based off of Bell's princess dress, she's Bethany's favorite princess so I figured it would be a good place to start.   The concept is similar to this dress on pinterest but with brighter colors.  I'm envisioning it in a deep red, but obviously that would be up to Bethany if it ever comes to pass.

I see this dress would be in soft blues and whites and is based off of a Disney play wedding dress*.  It was drawn with Elizabeth in mind since that was the play dress she liked the most.  It's origin is the reason behind the pinned up train on the back.  These are suppose to be outlandish princess dresses after all, there's plenty of room for fun.

Lastly I designed this dress for my friend Stephanie when she told me that she wasn't planning on getting a wedding dress.   Her reason for this being that she didn't really want a dress that she would only wear once, and just couldn't see spending that kind of money.  I figured that if this dress became a reality then we could just remove the second layer after the wedding.  This would transform it from wedding spectacular to "something that she could wear to church".

Of course, I haven't shown any of theses lovely women the dress designs I made with them in mind. As these doodles were were entirely for my own amusment. Meaning that I could be completely off base on what they would like.

Still, if any of you are interested call me.  Mmkay?  You can pay for the fabric and I'll do all the fun parts.

 On a slightly rambly side note I'm thinking about marketing myself as a cheap seamstress around the BYU bubble.   It would be something that I would really enjoy and it would allow the young woman around here to have the approximate wedding or random formal dress of their dreams.   At the same time it would allow me to get better at this awesome talent.

I'm a little nervous about it though because I continue to make small sloppy mistakes** on each project.  I'd hate to do that to someone on their special day. I also wouldn't be able to do any beading which is the big fad right now.

Without putting much thought into it I would probably charge two to three hundred dollars for each formal gown, plus material costs.   This is way cheaper than any wedding dress out there, and incredibly cheap for a custom made dress.  I think it could be a viable idea if I really worked for it.


*which I can no longer find online
**see my previous post

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Red Shirt Woes

I've had this one red shirt hanging out in the back of my closet for as long as I can remember.  The body is inexplicably wide while still managing to have sleeves that are just a little bit too short on me.

I wore it quite a bit when I was younger, but a couple years ago I  put it away with the intent of adjusting it so it would fit me nicely.

you know... later.



That day has finally come.

I used this tutorial online by Carly of Chic Steals which was very clear and made the project seem approachable.

However,  I didn't give myself enough ease of fit so now the shirt is way too tight.

Of course,  I had edited this particular shirt just in time to go to a job interview so I ended up wearing it anyways.

While sitting through the interview I had to pull at the bottom of my shirt to keep the buttons from schrunching together and providing helpful windows into my abdomen.  This is particularly funny when you consider the fact that the listing specifically stated that tight clothes would be inappropriate for this job.

We also spent some time in the interview discussing the same fact.

Still, I'm anxious to try this method out again since I think I just need more practice.*

The rest of the interview went well, and I think I'm a good candidate for the job.  It would really be a blessing to me because the hours are more consistant (and there are more of them) than the job I have now. It's also less heavy lifting for the same amount of pay.

It's also happens to be at a bookstore**, and two minutes away from my house.  Both of  these facts rocket this listing into my hopes and dreams for my near future.

*once I get another button-up shirt
** I'm nearly done with my bachelor's degree and one of my ideal jobs is still working at a bookstore,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bitty Baby Dress Pattern Review

Last weekend I went to my sister -in -law's baby shower.  She's having a baby girl later this month and we're all really happy for her.

I made this dress for the occasion, from my fabric stash.  I bought the red floral cotton forever ago in Portland. The satin lining and piping were left over from my wedding dress.

I think it only took about 1/2  a yard of each, so it was totally doable from what I had already.

Click here for the pattern.

I did add a lining to the skirt as well as the bodice, but that wasn't too hard of a modification.

The pattern was really easy to follow, and it only took an afternoon to make.

The only tricky part was sewing the lining to the curvy part of the bodice, I had a hard time keeping my seam allowances even and following the curve on my machine.  It was the first time I'd done anything free-form so take that into consideration.

I would give the  pattern 5/5 for clarity, and 4/5 for ease. I would recommend it if you're interested.*

*and have an adorable baby to give it to.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Wedding Dress

I got married last month.  Everything about it was awesome, except for the ovarian cysts, but I suppose that's another story.

Josh and I were mainly able to afford our wedding because of the generous donations of our relatives and other loved ones.  I am extremely grateful to them,  they made our beautiful day possible.

We were still on a budget though, and in order to go on a honeymoon we couldn't really afford a wedding dress.

So I made my own!

I started out by going dress shopping with various groups of friends. For some reason this was more awkward than I expected.   The first thing any employee at a wedding dress shop does is ask you what your price range is.  My real life price range was actually about one hundred dollars, but I couldn't actually say that or I would be laughed out of the store.

I settled on the white lie of about 1000 dollars instead.  I felt that my skill range for making my own very special knock off was about equal to a 1000 dollar dress.  It was still a lie, and that on it's own felt kinda weird.

I also browsed the internet on a variety of sites to get ideas.

Here is the design that I came up with. It is largely inspired by this dress from a relatively cheap knock off site.*

I really like this design because it's fun and flirty.  The skirt has the perfect amount of poof to feel special with out drowning me,  the bodice is simple but form fitting, and the neckline wasn't square like every other modest wedding dress in the world.

Josh will tell you that I labeled this design the "ballerina fairy princess dress" in my notebook, which quite effectively gets across what I was trying to do with this permutation. Although I only titled it that because I had already drawn a ballerina dress,  a princess design, and a fairy-esque dress.**

This was my first time making a pattern from scratch so I checked this book out of the library.  I couldn't recommend it highly enough.  This book did ninety percent of the work for me, and all that I had to figure out on my own were little leaps in logic.

The dress itself is made up of a simple bodice from the book, there are no darts or anything even slightly complicated like that. The  underskirt  is exactly the same level of complexity.

The only only interesting bits of the dress are the sleeves and the skirt, both of which were actually really easy once I figured out how I wanted to do them.

Traditional sleeves are shaped like this.  I knew that in order to add a little bit of interest to the otherwise plain bodice that I wanted to gather the outer edge of the sleeve.  To accomplish this I simply inverted the variables of the shoulder curve, so that the seam would be on the outside.

This is a regular sleeve
This will put the seam on the outside. 

To actually do that I simply sliced the pattern in half and then taped it back together the wrong way.

That allowed me to do a gathered seam for the sleeves that turned out way better than I thought they would.

The skirt is actually made up of four layers of tulle, each layer has six panels shaped approximately like this.
The top is 1/5 the size of the Waistline, plus seam allowance

The bottom two layers are the same size, the upper two being progressively shorter.  I put them together using french seams, which I think is my new favorite thing with semi-sheer material.

I cannot recommend designing and sewing your own stuff enough.  The hardest thing about sewing is figuring out what you need to do.

 When you sew your own stuff you can get exactly what you want without having to make any compromises.  Every dress I tried on was floor length,  had capped sleeves, and a square neckline.  My dress didn't have any of those details and I didn't want any of them.   My dress was me,  it was only that way because I made it.

If you are even thinking about this do it! This is the first time I have sewn a zipper.  That should tell you about what skill level I am at.

My dress cost me about two weeks of my time from conception to finish and seventy dollars.  In real life this wouldn't have covered alteration costs, or a knock of dress from China.

*so I suppose you could say that I knocked off a knock off dress.
** Why settle for one?