Compared to how long it normally takes me to finish articles of clothing for my kids, this is relatively quick turnaround. I finished the car shirt (using Oliver + S’s sketchbook shirt pattern):
sketchbook shirt

Spiky hasn’t worn it yet, though I put it on him to see fit. He seems to like it (and why wouldn’t he with all the cars on it), which is good :). A few nit-picky things though. I could have done a better job of hemming it — could do with a lesson on how to properly achieve this with my machine. And I would like to find a better way to finish the edges (inside) — the way I currently do it feels a bit bulky. Otherwise pretty pleased with the outcome. Doubly so as this is the first time I’ve actually used the ladder/hidden stitch to invisibly finish an edge (instead of cheating and just edge-stitching); despite the manual labor involved it didn’t take too much time and I’m pleased with how much better the inside part of the collar turned out.
Perhaps I should start considering Halloween costumes now (unless the costumes from last year still fit and they would still wear them 🙂 ) …

One of my friends, after seeing some of my pictures, asked if I was intending to start a blog called “the determined urban gardener” :P. Since I do already have a blog and I have traditionally made mention of it in past years but have not yet done so, here’s a overview of what this year’s garden looks like.
Back in early April, I started some corn, acorn squash, swiss chard, and beets from seeds. I also acquired two types of cherry tomatoes, some beans and snow pea plants, as well as a pumpkin plant, and a small flat of swiss chard. To this, I added dwarf gray peas, painted lady pole beans, more beets (which I failed to properly transplant), music box sunflowers, bush yellow scallop squash as seed starts in early May. And then 🙂 … I also added two varieties of carrots (from seed), some lettuce plants, cauliflower (from seeds), as well as radish (from seeds) :D. Oh — and I decided to continue doing potatoes since I had some from last year, but decided to expand and get a secondary variety (different colors — I like colorful edibles).
While this all seems like a lot (which I suppose it sort of is), we’ve only really harvested some strawberry:
strawbeerries
snow peas:
snow peas
chard, lettuce, blueberries:
blueberries
and a couple of radishes:
radishes
so far. A lesson learned (since I moved where I tried planting lettuce this year from previous years): even though online sources say that lettuce will grow in the shade this isn’t completely true. Sure — it’ll grow. But it’s spindly and gangly and not very productive, so poo for that :(. I had such high hopes.
I suppose the thing that’s exciting for me is that the garden in the back currently looks like this:
backyard garden
with blueberries starting to ripen, acorn squash growing, potato plants starting to flower, cherry tomatoes forming, and the painted lady scarlet beans (as well as the normal kind of beans) are starting to bud! The front “garden” is not doing that shoddy either. The corn looks like there might actually be corn developing, I have a few orange blossoms (but given the previous experience of them blooming, I am not exactly expecting fruit … still smells super nice though!), Chops might actually get to have some little pumpkins as she requested :), and I’m hoping that the carrots planted will be bigger than the carrots I planted late last fall as a stab at “fall planting” which I unearthed prepping this year’s garden.
It’s fun having a vegetable/fruit garden! I think it encourages me to have our family eat more meals at home … and healthier ones at that to incorporate the harvest.

Since trying out gelato a number of years ago, I’ve always wanted to try and make it at home. My first attempt at it a few years back was rather unsuccessful though I’m not sure why. As a result, I’ve been hesitant to try again. BUT … this past Christmas, we got an ice-cream maker (this one) for Christmas and I had gotten The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto: Bold, Fresh Flavors to Make at Home (since I liked their Key Lime Graham Gelato Squares I found at the grocery store).
Given that the weather lately has been fairly hot (for Western WA), I decided to give the ice-cream maker a whirl … or two as the case was. The first recipe I tried was the pistachio gelato recipe.
pistachio gelato
I think I accidentally added just a touch too much almond extract (as it seemed to me to be on the verge of overpowering the signature flavor of pistachios) and I purposely left out the whole pistachios that it says to add at the end (since I’m not a big fan of nut chunks in my frozen treats). It turned out pretty well — even my husband who was skeptical about the flavor seems to be enjoying it.
One lesson I learned since the last time I made gelato is that it should be served at a slightly warmer temperature than traditional ice cream. This time, I made sure to pull it out of the freezer and let it sit for a few minutes before attempt to scoop and serve. This made it not only easier to scoop, but the texture more closely approximated the texture of gelato most recently tasted at a gelato place near where I work.
Then, because my husband requested a more “traditional” flavor and because we had a bunch of strawberries from the garden from last year sitting in the freezer, I decided to make some strawberry gelato as well. Plus, I had also decided to acquire these cute ice cream tubs and wanted to try them out :). The sugar content probably could have been reduced even further, but everyone in the family really enjoyed it as it was. Here it is in all its pretty pinkness, fresh out of the machine:
strawberry gelato
So glad to know that gelato making isn’t as intimidating as I feared and looking forward to trying out more gelato recipes and also maybe also some “regular” ice cream and sorbet/sorbetto recipes. Excited!! 🙂 🙂

Not only has it been quite long since the last time I posted a blog entry, but it’s also been a while since my last sewing project (which was an attempt at making a Hello Kitty pajama top for Chops for Christmas; unfortunately made it about 5 sizes too large it seems).
My newest project is the Oliver + S Sketchbook Shirt. I did things a little differently this time. Instead of tracing the pattern from pattern paper to non-pattern paper before cutting out and using that as guide for cutting fabric pieces, I photo-copied the pieces. This wound up saving me a lot of time. I’ve worked on this on three separate nights so far, though the nights have been spaced apart. The first night of sewing yielded this:
progress1
After the second night, the collar was attached:
collar attached
And the state that it is in now:
nearly finished
I “just” need to finish the seams, hem the bottom and the sleeves and add buttons and buttonholes and then I’ll be done! I hope Spiky likes this!!

This year’s pear yield was nothing to sneeze at. Now that I know how much two trees can produce without any fertilization, I’ll have to make sure to prune, thin, and fertilize in the future for even better yield (from perspective of size and quality). This is the amount of pears we had harvested in our house at one point (with some fruit remaining in the trees):
pears
That was with consuming some, and making a small batch of pear cider:
pear cider
and pear sauce:
pear sauce
I’m really glad that the kids seem to enjoy eating pears, both fresh and as “sauce”. This was the first time I undertook canning. It wasn’t until after I made the cider, and first two batches of pear sauce that I decided to look up what people do with “extra” pears. It’s rather unfortunate that I didn’t find the recipe for pear jelly until this time. I went ahead and made a third batch of pear sauce and followed this recipe for making pear jelly utilizing the peel and cores (the first two batches of pear “sauce” actually had skins attached). I really love the amber color of the end product:
pear jelly
There is still a goodly quantity of fresh pears, in addition to two pints + 12 half-pints of canned pear sauce, plus nine 4-oz containers of canned vanilla pear jelly. Hooray for pears!!

We’ve been getting quite a few beans and squash lately. In fact, we’ve already consumed two previous batches of similar size. I’m intending to transplant the blueberry bushes into the ground instead of keeping them in pots next year. Will also have to put netting around them so that I can enjoy more than about three berries. Here’s what was recently harvested:
harvest
Also, I discovered that we have a plum tree. I need to learn more about getting larger, better fruits from fruiting trees (and also keep it highly productive). We had our trees pruned last year in the fall and I think that helped the fruit trees decide to bear more fruit. Maybe a lesson to be had here? We need “pruning” if we want to bear more fruit …
Plums in plum tree (that are out of reach):
plums

Pronounced “zhu ni sheng ri kuai le“. We have recently had two birthdays in the family.
First, a certain little boy turned one not too long ago!
birthday boy

We had friends over. “Little friends”
little friends

as well as big friends
big friends

There was pizza and salad for dinner, followed up with birthday cake/cupcake, and assorted other snacks/desserts (like mochi brownie and fluff that friends made):
cake!

A few of the things we’ve learned about our little one so far in one short year:

  • though he is often serious in a new situation/environment, he is actually exuberantly happy once he’s gotten the lay of the land
  • he loves engaging with other people and especially enjoys playing and interacting with his older sister. they often jabber and giggle with each other in the backseat while we’re driving from place to place
  • he is very laidback. This caused some concern for me initially (didn’t crawl until 10+ months, and even then, it was a funky manuever).
  • he loves to be held and it generally doesn’t matter who it is, but (unlike his older sister) isn’t as big on reciprocating shows of physical affection
  • says “mamamamama!” without crying/fussing (which his older sister did at similar age), and also says “bao bao” (or something close enough to it that I’ll give him credit for it)
  • kind of a picky eater and will squirrel away food and pull out items he doesn’t like from his mouth (such as beans, peas, tofu). Like Chops, he seems to enjoy his starches ( 🙂 anyone say bread?! )

We also celebrated my mom’s birthday recently. As the weather was nice, we decided to enjoy the nearby state park. Here are some of us at the beginning of the “hike”:
a-gong with Spiky
Most of us were tired from our excusion and managed a nap in the afternoon. We followed up our family nap-time with some grilling (skewers, hotdogs and hamburgers):
dinner

cake:
cake

and a board game.

Thankful for family close by, for the blessing of good weather especially during birthday celebrations, and all the blessings in our family with the passage of an additional year! Here’s to many more!

Excuse the pun, but I’m enjoying our strawberries. This is the first time in my life where I feel like we can go without buying strawberries from the store, at least for the time being. It’s great fun to be able to go in the backyard and pick a few strawberries for immediate consumption and so very gratifying to know that we grew it ourselves. All the strawberries below were just “harvested” tonight.
Part of me wants to propagate the plants and get even more next year … 🙂
strawberries
Looking forward to our (still meager) blueberries. And considering more strongly some raspberry canes!

The flowers in our yard are starting to bloom. I love it! This fall, I added some tulips, crocuses, ranunculus, and irises. We’ll have to wait and see how many of the irises and ranunculus will come up, but a quick photo tour of existing flower show at our house right now.
First, the plum blossom trees
plum blossom tree

and cherry blossom trees
cherry blossom trees

flowered a bit ago. It’s always so pretty, even when the petals start dropping:
carpet of pink

I suspect that squirrels or rabbits did something to the majority of the crocuses since I’ve only seen one so far and I know I planted more than just one, and the kind I ordered actually look different. But it is/was pretty nonetheless:
crocus

The tulips are finally starting to bloom. This is probably a Viridiflora Tulip China Town:
first tulip

And finally, some grape hyacinths, though not the ones I planted (these were from previous home-owners. I ordered and planted some white and pink ones, but those ones are still in the process of blooming). I apologize for the lack of proper focus in this photo — was holding/carrying a certain Sir Spiky:
grape hyacinths

And there you have it! Spring!! 🙂 We’re planning on visiting the Tulip Festival and seeing even more tulips. Hopefully it’ll be great and traffic and weather will cooperate :).

I’ve always admired prettily frosted cupcakes and believed it to be beyond my capabilities. In the past when I’ve made cupcakes and frosted them, I would just apply it with a butter knife and call it good. For Dan’s birthday this year, I didn’t get around to making the 4-layer coconut cake I have always made for him as his birthday cake since we’ve been married. Instead, I wimped out and made coconut cupcakes instead, but decided to learn how to make them look fancy. Apparently, all it takes is a decorator tip and a semi-steady hand. Viola:
cupcakes

Another thing I’ve been wanting to try for a few years now and never got around to is the making of macarons. Through lots of online perusing, it always sounds like a finicky task. I should not have tried the first time running on little sleep, post-midnight, etc. But I’ve sampled and they taste like they’re supposed to, even if their appearance leaves a little to be desired.
macarons

Will have to try again, hopefully with more success :), but I would like to try my hand at making these meyer lemon and sour-cream donuts too in the near future. Oh, what should I do (other than not undertaking either and getting some much needed sleep)?