Thursday, March 31, 2011

Music I Love: Free in March

I have been trying to post every other day, but today I got inspired by all of the free music I have come across lately and I wanted to share it with you right now. I also love google's changes to Blogger this morning, so check out the link to the fun new features at the bottom.

Sleeping at Last is a band doing something a little different, advertising by word of mouth mostly on facebook (which is how I found them, so I guess it's working), offering a lot of free songs, and not coming out with 10 song feature albums. Instead they have a project they are calling "Yearbook" where they are releasing a 3 song EP each month. Their songs are mostly soft and some sound a bit sad, but all are perfectly poetic and laced with hope. The free sampler includes one of my very favorite songs, the upbeat "Next To Me". Another of my favorites (not on the sampler) is January White which you can listen to on their facebook page, where they share three more free songs. The also release each month's EP for streaming on Relevant, complete with the beautiful watercolor cover. Their January EP is bedecked with a narwhal, so how could you not be a fan?

When You Grow Up --Priscilla Ahn

I discovered Priscilla Ahn one day because her album, A Good Day, was on sale on itunes and I bought it on impulse because I liked the cover and the song previews. It soon became one of my favorite albums; it is full of word pictures to exercise my imagination. She will be releasing her next album, When You Grow Up, in May, but the EP is free on her website for a limited time to help us anticipate happily.

Winter Night

You've probably heard (and seen) Little and Ashley on the kindle commercials, either on TV or when I posted them. Since Amazon featured them, they also have been offering those songs for free on amazon. Right now the one from the Holiday ad is free, which is seems like strange timing to me, but I'll just save it in my Christmas playlist and appreciate the generosity.
(*All album pictures are from the linked sources.*)

Other Artists you might want to check out on NoiseTrade:
Katie HerzigHannah Miller, Andrew Ripp, and Seth Slay.

Finally, the new Blogger feature is called Views. Try it out the 5 views on Harmless Color!
(To change the view use the blue button on the top right.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hurray for Rain!

Today is a rainy day. Finally.
Nathanael and I have been hoping for rain for a while now. For weeks there have only been slight sprinkles mixed in with the ever increasing temperatures (in the 80Fs lately). 

So, a week ago Saturday (the 19th) we tried our best to provide water to the garden during our visit, though the soil dries into white concrete right before your eyes. Up to that point the germination had been disappointingly low.

Last Saturday the beets were one of the only things looking ok.

And most things that had germinated (except the beets) were being devoured by fire ants and their little aphid friends. Including me, incidentally...though not by aphids...I do move more quickly than that.

 We decided to start our Solanums (Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, etc.) in trays, so they could receive more constant moisture and better soil in which to start life.

So they are looking rather sprightly, and will probably be ahead of the game (weeds and ants) when we plant them in a week or two.

Much to our elation, after watering throughly a few times last week, things were looking much better when we returned this past Saturday (the 26th).

 More bonus points* to the person who guesses what these little plants are....they're one of the ones I am the most excited about. (Reference our display of seed packets for a hint.)

We had previously picked a little bit of mustard greens and dwarf pak choy

A Chinese Chicken and Pak Choy I made for a quick dinner.

but this time we we able to pick more of each of those, thin the beets (and take the lovely beet greens), and also harvest lots of lettuce and spinach.

I think beet greens are so beautiful.

Their color is even more brilliant when they are sauted,


but we prefer them raw, mixed with our lettuces and spinach for a big colorful salad.

On Sunday we returned to finish planting all of the Cucurbits (Melons, Pumpkins, Squash, Gourds, Cucumbers, etc.), and many of the plants had grown buy 1/2 or more since the previous day! All of that watering paid off, so hopefully the current torrential downpour will also encourage our little plants to flourish rather than wash away.

It is so strange to not only be gardening in March, but to be harvesting too!

Are you planning a garden, planting seeds, or anticipating particular produce at the farmer's market?

*The mystery seeds on Monday were Black Mustard, Fennel, and Urad Dal. Congratulations Melissa for guessing two out of three. You've earned two bonus points and have been rewarded with a button for your shop in my side bar.*

Monday, March 28, 2011

Golden: Orange Goings On

Between last week and the beginning of this one there has been a bit of orange here and there. 
We devoured a perfectly ripe cantaloupe (after it was refrigerated to optimum coolness), and yesterday finished planting our three varieties of cantaloupe in our garden...I hope they are as tasty as this one was.

I played play dough with a wonderful two year old friend, and while we were making creatures she went into the kitchen to ask her mom for some seeds. Then she crafted this friendly orange snake. (Name those seeds for bonus points!)

 And we also enjoyed carrot pasta sauce, one of our favorite and simplest foods, so I took the opportunity to update last year's recipe post with some fresh new pictures to make you hungry.

And check out Flex Family Arts today, where Amanda likes to blog about etsy shops which haven't had a lot of traffic yet, and today she's featuring Harmless Color with a shop interview!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Golden: Flame Throwing

Don't have time to candy your peels, but still want to put them to use?
With all this talk of citrus lately, I thought I would show you something my Mom showed my sisters and me when we were little (we never played with fire, so it was no danger). Every so often, when we were eating oranges she would get out a candle.


Look at all of that great smelling oil squirting out.
And to think, it would have just gone to waste.

Did your Mom teach you this?

*Attempt at your own risk. Adult supervision recommended 
(But it's about as dangerous as burning a candle in the first place.)*

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Golden: Candied Lemon Peel

I have always loved lemons.
My Mom says it has some correlation to how she always wanted lemons while she was pregnant with me, but I'm not sure which way the lemon love would have been moving; from me to her, or from her to me. A mother's experience during pregnancy has been shown to affect a child's tastes in some ways, like salt preference (read that article, it's so neat!), but I don't think fruit cravings have been researched yet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Links: EcoFriendly Inovations

 Lately I have noticed a few different items I thought were really worth taking a look at.  Obviously we (all of us, but especially Americans) have a lot of steps to take before the majority of consumer decisions are able to be low waste, low energy, and low production input, but each of these products is at least a little friendlier to the environment than its predecessors.

Have you been longing for something a little more beautiful than the typical flourecent bulb? Look out for the plumen. This recent winner of the Brit Insurance Design of the year award for 2011 (the photo source) is coming soon in a 110 volt version (US markets), and already available in a 230 volt version. Visit the plumen website for more pictures and specs. (I discovered this through EcoGeek.)

Bolefloors make the most of trees by using computer programs to decide the best way to cut each log into tightly fitting flooring pieces. Technically it may not "reduce waste", since scraps from typical board making are used to construct particle board, but it would reduce the number of trees necessary per floor, and enable the most beautiful woods to be utilized to their fullest. I think it is also a lovely new design technique; using a modern technology to create something old fashioned and homey looking. I'm a fan. (I also found this through EcoGeek, picture from Bolefloors.)

Last year was a big deal for us composting fans. Why? Because SunChips came out with compostable snackfood packaging. (And compostable in your yard, not just gigantic facilities.) I really liked SunChips even before that, so I was even more excited. Apparently though, some people did not appreciate how loudly the compostable bag crinkled when was pretty loud. So, this year SunChips has released a new bag, still compostable, but quieter because the material they created is a bit more rubbery. Want to learn more? SunChips has it all pretty well documented, and they even have a video so you can hear the crinkle comparisons for yourself.
Unfortunately, they will only be using this bag for the original flavor, and the other flavors will be switching back to plastic because of customer prefrence. Really unfortunate I think.
(I heard about this from the ENN, Environmental News Network. Photo from Our Twenty Minute Kitchen Garden, a fun blog with a nice write up on the whole process/issue.)

I wanted to add a link showing you a compostable toothbrush option, but I am sad to say all of the things I found were astronomically priced and had poor reviews, except for The Environmental Toothbrush (photo theirs). They are only being marketed in Australia, so shipping is a bit pricey, but for $36 plus $12 international shipping you get 12 brushes (in soft, medium, or child soft), or $4 per brush. Not too bad for plastic-free, though I'm not excited about adding world shipping to my toothbrush's footprint.

I would really like to see more options in this market. Toothbrushes come in all kinds of newfangled versions these days, but most of them will do nothing but pile up once we're done with them. Mixing with the soil is a much better option.

Let me know if you have any leads on compostable toothbrushes...or if you plan on visiting me on your way back from a trip to Australia....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Button Pouch Tutorial


For the Button Pouch I made for Lucy, I chose two vintage grain-bag fabrics a friend had given me, and I went back and forth with the purple plaid, and whether I should applique an elephant on the front. 
"Purple elephant or no purple elephant...purple elephant or no purple elephant?" 
In the end I opted for something a little more subtle.

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2011!

 Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, and Happy Birthday to my dear friend, graduate school roommate, and most faithful blog reader, Lucy.


Through a friend connection, who knew both of us had gotten our undergraduate degrees in Biology, Lucy and I became roommates for the last year-plus of graduate school. And despite the fact we probably both wondered, "What am I getting into?" when we agreed to be roommates, we had the time of our lives despite writing those theses (that really is the plural of thesis, even though it looks so wrong).

We made five varieties of cheesecakes in seven months, and ate them entirely ourselves.
We read the entire Harry Potter series to each other out loud. 
We watched little known films from around the world, and had our creativity inspired by Project Runway, America's Top Model, and Pushing Daisies. (Why they end that show!?) 
We survived Lucy's room being flooded/moldy for five months while the two of us crammed into my tiny bedroom; without any fights! 
We discovered loads of items left behind by previous apartment owners, some strange, and some useful...and many of which still stock my current kitchen.
We discovered the netipot, and that mouse repellent sacks are good for clearing congestion (turns out they were just bags of dried mint).
We composted, even though we lived in an apartment.
We took in a stray cat...for about a day and a half. (But we had big dreams for him.)
 We went sledding, went to a sheep and wool festival, and Lucy even taught me to drive a manual on her own car (a very brave thing to do).
We collected seaweed in all kinds of weather  and all densities of mosquitoes for Lucy's research, and often went out to a big field at midnight to look at the stars and fill a generator with gasoline for my research.
We ate edible wild plants I identified (another brave thing on Lucy's part).
We made batches and batches of jam, and every other food for which we had a whim.
We became huge fans of contra dancing, and went at every opportunity.
And we survived grocery shopping together, even though I am a consider-every-possible-option person, and Lucy is a take-it-and-go person.

So Lucy, today I salute you. I never would have accomplished so many things, and had so much fun while writing my thesis if you hadn't been my roommate.

 And in case you're wondering, this Striped Button Pouch is what I made Lucy for her birthday, reminiscent of our plant biology and hydrology studies with its green and blue. If you're interested in making one, complete with a bound buttonhole, stop by later for the tutorial.

Have you been up to something out of the ordinary lately? For St. Patrick's Day or otherwise?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Golden: Beautiful Bamboo

While I was in graduate school I had some of those handy dandy cutting board sheets, each labeled with the name of the food you should cut upon it. When I was in the store they seemed so clever and practical...but they certainly have their downsides...especially when you set them on the floor and have your strong brothers-in-law take turns cleaving open pumpkins. Additionally, the flexibility of the boards makes them less easy to clean, and causes them to stick together should you accumulate more than one in the sink (or all four, which I would never do of course...only most weeks). And, as with other plastic cutting boards, thick or thin, the places where the knife marks the surface eventually becomes rough and not so fun to run your hand or dishrag across, while wood or bamboo stay smooth.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Links: Things you didn't think you could make

This weekend, I have been thinking seasonal foods.
Nathanael and I spent the day in our garden yesterday, hoping that our produce will step it up and start growing...but alas, it is only March after all.

tiny beets
A neat little pink rock I found in the garden. Completely unrelated to the subject at hand.

But not all seasonal foods are produce.

Last week I saw a couple of girls standing on the side of the road waving posters at cars speeding past, and one of the girls was dressed as a giant cookie. Know what I'm talking about? Somehow the girl scouts in our area never got around to knocking on our door. So, I was thinking of making some of those delicious minty cookies myself, and did a little searching. I have not made them yet, but I figured I should not wait to share with you how to make your own girl scout cookies. Plus, the tutorials and pictures on the website are super (here are two of them).

And with Easter approaching, Marshmallow Peeps are hitting the shelves. 
If you're ok with plain, marshmallows are pretty cheep, but Alisa Burke's blog has pictures which makes homemade ones look special and delicious. But, if you want to go all the way to the peep stage, you might have to choose bunnies or chicks.

With all of this dessert making you might want to make some vanilla. Or start a bunch of it now, and give it as Christmas gifts.

And if you don't have a garden, but are in the mood for some sprouting, why not try tempeh?(And even a tempeh video with relaxing Indonesian music in the background.) Once it's ready, you may even want to season it with some home smoked chipotle peppers....but if you're wanting to use homegrown peppers you're going to have to wait a little bit longer.

And in case you missed them, here are some things you might not have realized you could make from past posts this blog (not necessarily spring foods): YogurtRefrigerator Pickles, Kimchi, and Trail Bars

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