Frozen

…burritos.

So I bought a toaster oven for work so I could bring some things in and have a hot meal at lunch. I don’t use microwaves, I don’t feel like getting into a debate as to why, I just don’t.

Anyway, so the easiest thing to pop in is frozen burritos. Which will fall into one of two categories: arguably healthy and tasty but expensive as hell, or cheap and kinda gross and lacking even the redemption of a golden, flaky, deep-fried tortilla crust.

After a couple weeks I thought to myself: surely I can do better than this.

My favorite had been the Organic Southwest Chicken Burrito (brand withheld for fear of being sued)
Here’s a general breakdown of the nutrition:
Calories: 340, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 700mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein 17g

Not bad, makes for a filling lunch when paired with salad, and a good source of protein. But costs like 4-5 bucks.

Okay, so I bought a pack of organic tortillas ($3), can of organic black beans ($1.29), organic diced tomatoes ($1.29), organic onions (from my CSA), and organic cremini mushrooms (3-something a pound, I used maybe two ounces?). Add some Tabasco sauce for flavor/heat, or substitute salsa for the tomatoes.  Let’s say about 7-8 bucks worth of food.

Chopped the onions and mushrooms, mixed with one can black beans and half can of diced tomatoes, wrapped in a skillet softened tortilla, then wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the freezer. The above made 7 burritos, so that comes out to right around $1 each.

Here’s how mine stacks up against the store brand:

Bought: Calories: 340, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 700mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein 17g
Homemade: Calories: 230, Fat: 3g, Sodium: 350g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 10g.

So the store beats me on protein, but I come out on top in every other category: price, nutrition, and flavor! And vegetarian, even, so if that’s a consideration, you’re good!  Even visually, they look pretty much identical (so, mildly unappealing until you taste it).  The store-bought has a bit tighter folds, but that’s just because I over stuffed mine a tad.  Really, the hardest part of the whole process is stuffing the insides into the burrito without it escaping out the ends while folding it all up.

And I can certainly add chicken for more protein. In fact, when I run the numbers again assuming I’m adding a pound of chicken total to the recipe, which obviously a pound is then going to make more burritos, so assuming a final count of 10 instead of 7, that gives the following:

Calories: 258, Fat: 4.5g, Sodium: 375g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 18g.

So if I add half a serving of chicken to each burrito that’s only about 50 cents each.  And now I beat the store-bought on protein!  About 80 calories less, half the fat and sodium, same fiber, and still less than half the cost.  Pretty much the only thing this isn’t is gluten-free.  It’s so quick to make, so easy to take to work and pop in the toaster oven.  And I can make a whole week’s worth in about 15 minutes on the weekend.

What’s not to love about making frozen burritos at home!?   You know exactly every single ingredient that’s going into it, no mystery “flavors” or “preservatives”.  And if you have kids, you can totally trick them into thinking they’re getting not super healthy food. 😉  Or if you have sudden guests show up, you can whip out a batch of burritos from the freezer and pair with some rice and salad, some salsa and guacamole, and have a great meal on the table in the 45 minutes it takes to reheat the burrito.

And for the super recycling conscious people, the plastic wrapper from the store-bought burrito isn’t recyclable, but the aluminum foil from home made is 😀

Norse Runes

I want to learn Norse. The precursor to such languages as Danish, Icelandic, and Swedish.  The two main dialects had diverged by around 1300AD or so into two main groups,  East Norse and West Norse.  East is the Danish/Swedish version and West is the Icelandic/Norwegian.

No matter which way you slice it, I’m pretty much Norse.  My mother’s side is Swedish, my Dad’s side is Scottish, but further back is Dutch, and all those came ultimately from the Norse, so I suppose if I’m going to decide to get obsessive about anything, Norse would be the most logical.

I’m hardly being obsessive for its own sake, though.  I’m trying to develop my Norse personae for the SCA, and in doing that I decided I wanted a better understanding of the language.  There are pages all over the internet where you can find the Norse “alphabet”, called the Futhark (so named after the first six letters of the language.)  This is further split into Elder Futhark and Younger Futhark, and I’m going for the Elder as it has more letters/sounds available.

Anyway, so while I can find the Runic alphabet plastered far and wide, that does nothing to understand the language itself.  So I went looking to see if there was any place to actually learn *Norse* on the internet.  Turns out, there is!  Very basic, of course.  I won’t be composing scientific dissertations in it anytime soon, but as a very rudimentary yet eloquent introduction to the language, I could hardly ask for better.

Of course, I’ve also been trying to memorize the Elder Futhark as well, which isn’t too difficult.  Many of the letters are similar enough to roman letters that it’s easy to make the association.  And I’m finding that reading them in a transliterative style isn’t all that difficult.  In fact, today during a meeting I was trying not to fall asleep in, I ended up making the following doodle:

 

list

…that’s my shopping list.

It says…

Shopping list
_____________
toothpaste
(v)inegar  [there’s actually no ‘v’ in Norse, so I used the ‘w’ instead]
dishsoap
bleach
===========
fabric dye
mustard
deep blue

It doesn’t say these things in actual Norse, of course, merely transliterating English into Norse runes.   But they say the best way to learn a new language is to make it as immersive as possible, and while I can’t exactly pack up and head to Sweden to find someone to chat Norse with me, I can practice reading and writing the letters. 🙂

I’m also doing more hand sewing again, and have sewn a populace badge for my local shire to wear on my belt.  (The SCA branches are split into several types of “chapters”, the smallest ( or one of the smallest) is called a shire. Populace badges are basically heraldry that says “I’m from here”.  Think of it as traveling to another state or country and displaying your home state/country flag as an indication of where you’re from, and that’s the general use of a populace badge in the SCA.)

It so happens that the Shire of Midhaven falls within the mundane county of Skagit in Washington State.  Among other things, we are quite well known for our tulips.  Like, we rival Holland.  Our populace badge for the Shire is, therefore, a tulip.  The tulip itself is white, on a blue background, and bordered on both sides by a white stripe then a black stripe.   I dusted off my applique skills and decided to sew up my badge.

I’m extremely proud to say that every last stitch was done by hand, and the back has a loop for passing my belt through.

Shire of Midhaven populace badge

Shire of Midhaven populace badge

Now that I’ve finished mine, I’m making two more for two of my friends who live here as well.  The second tulip looks much better than this one (it isn’t leaning) so getting better with even the small amount of practice.  The third should be just about perfect at this rate 😀

And in the grand tradition of collecting hobbies, I’m also going to be attempting scribal and illumination arts soon.  I want to take some of my more ‘medievally flavored’ poems and songs and put them onto illuminated scrolls, so more artwork and painting will be in my future, as well as learning calligraphy.  I already have a pen and ink set, so I just need to practice drawing the shapes of the letters.

For those who can’t quite picture what I’m talking about…

This was an award given me by the Baron and Baroness of Dragons Laire (a somewhat larger branch than a shire, and located not too far away.)  The date of AS 41 equates to 2006.  AS stands for ‘anno societatis’ or ‘Year of the Society’ and counts from the beginning of the SCA.

Yep.  I certainly do like collecting hobbies. 😀

What’s That Smell?

I decided to make incense.  Sort of like how I woke up one morning and decided to make paper, I decided to go around the house and pick yummy smelling things like rosemary, lemon balm, cedar, and lavender flowers and grind them up into incense.

Fresh ingredients: rosemary, lemon balm, cedar, lavender flowers

It wasn’t entirely spontaneous, I had been looking up websites for two days how to do it.   That’s not to say I exactly *followed* most of the instructions, but I did look them up.  The most helpful site (and the one I actually followed closest) was this one, but mostly I just got my mortar and pestle (I’ve always, always wanted a green marble mortar and pestle set, and I finally found one at the thrift store!  And since I don’t know what ever may have been ground it in before, I’ll use it for apothecary endeavors!)

 

Green marble mortar and pestle with dried hibiscus flowers

 

I’m making non-combustible incense (sometimes referred to as incense of the ancients) which means it isn’t shaped into sticks or cones, you can’t just light it and have it smoke.  It’s the pulverized blending of various woods and herbs and left in a semi-powdered form so it must be added to something to make it burn.  You can do this in a variety of ways, either get some incense charcoal disks, put it in an incense warmer, or sprinkle it into a fire (though the fire’s own scent will likely overpower any small amount or mild fragrance so it would take a very strong scent or a lot of it to get this method to work.)

From my beading days, I still have a handful of little sealable bags, so I can store my newly pounded, ground, pounded, ground, pounded and ground herbs, flowers, and woods.  And believe me, it takes a lot of pounding and grinding, especially the cedar bark, to get to a mostly powdered final product.  I may be developing some blisters on my hands, and no doubt my shoulder will remind me of this tomorrow.

Most of the instructions say to blend your ingredients and then wait at least two weeks before burning it for best results, so I won’t – alas – get to test the fruits of my labors for a few more weeks.

Fresh pulverized lavender flowers

 

Along with the fresh ingredients I had around the house, I also have a host of already dried herbs – such as white sage, chamomile, and green tea – or other fresh ingredients – like clover or dandelion – that I’d like to try as well.  But that will have to wait.  My hands are a little raw and I want to heal before I go pounding and grinding and pounding and grinding again.

Lavender, hibiscus, cedar, and rosemary, ready to be stored, tagged with the contents and date of bagging for future reference.

I’ll have to experiment quite a bit between the raw smells and the burning scents they produce, as they aren’t always exactly similar.  I’ll also have to do some experiments with which burn well together, and what ratios I should use, though I suppose if I were smart I’d follow the already tried-and-true recipes found on the internet.  But I like finding these things out for myself!  Besides, there’s too many things I want to try that I don’t think anyone has before.

Or they did try and it failed miserably, which is why you don’t find things like green tea and hibiscus incense.  But I’m going to make it anyway!  I can’t wait!  I hope it turns out okay…

Hand made gifts, part two

So here is my second half of the Christmas crafting creations!

First, for my nephew who is constantly carting around an armload of books, DS, games and other stuff where ever he goes, I sewed him a Avatar: The Last Airbender themed messenger bag.  The back has a pocket with embroidered patches of the 4 element symbols.

Avatar bag: back pocket

Avatar bag: back pocket

Here is the front flap with the arrow.

Avatar bag, front flap

Avatar bag, front flap

And I lined it with a wonderful wool-feeling fabric. Not sure what it really is, I picked it up at a thrift store, but it’s very soft.  I was prepared for it to be a “eh, cool.” but not really interesting to an 11 yr old, so I was rather delighted when he actually took his other gifts and stuffed them inside.  He *used* it, so that was close enough to liking it in my book!  Especially since I was up until 2 AM Christmas morning finishing it! (I ended up having to use my sister’s sewing machine, I flat ran out of time and some of the seams would have been too thick to reasonably hand sew.)

Avatar bag: inside lining

Avatar bag: inside lining

Of course, now my mom wants one, too!  And I’ll likely end up making one for my sister as well, and I really want one myself!  So I have several more projects pending, and nope, not burnt out on them yet!

For my sister and her hubby’s new house, I made them a Dream Catcher as a house warming/Christmas present.  I snipped some branches from their new willow tree and steamed them on the stove until they were nice and pliable, then wound a few into hoops.  Picking the one I liked best, I used my yarn and wove the center pattern, adding a couple of beads, then a tuft of kitty fur (one of my cats is half brother to hers.)

I also snuck out to her horses and got some of Cayenne’s mane, then bound both it and some turkey feathers with leather strips.  Added a few more beads, some shells, and a bit of bison fleece and was able to present them with this.  They were both delighted which of course made me delighted as well!

Dream Catcher

Dream Catcher

For my sister and brother-in-law’s individual gifts, I wove hand-spun yarn into bracelets and added a shell as clasp, and their two shells are halves of the same, so they fit together as a pair.  This one is his, and it’s laying on his gift bag, which he loved.  He asked if I’d make some more bags for him, their tribe gifts them to certain people at ceremonies or for doing a favor for the family or some such thing.  So I’m going to make several for him, and embroider a Lummi eagle onto each one, or some other notable Lummi animal art figure (like a frog or whale or some such).

woven bracelet with shell

woven bracelet with shell

Here is my sister’s, again the shell is the mate to the above, but I made her colors a little brighter, though there are many of the same colors in both, her base warp was white yarn, and his was a blueish gray.

woven bracelet with shell

woven bracelet with shell

All in all, everyone loved their gifts and I’m so glad I had a chance to do hand-made this year!

Barely a week to go

And I still have so much to do!  I can’t post any of my sister’s presents here as she knows about this place and while she may not check between now and then, she might and I’d hate to ruin the surprise!

But I’ll show you all the rest of what I’ve been working on these last weeks.

My cousin’s daughter has started getting into sewing with her grandma so I made her a little needlebook/sewing kit with felt pages, a pocket for buttons and things, and a little case and embroidery scissors:

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My nephew is into things like Avatar, the last airbender.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m making him a messenger bag to hold books and his DS and other things that he hauls around with him.  Here’s the pocket that I’ll put on either the back or the front under the flap, the four elements and their symbols from the cartoon.

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My dear friend got me into using gift bags instead of wrapping paper.  Quite beautiful and reusable.

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And my mother’s gift, a choker using my hand-spun/hand-woven yarn, with a cross pendant, some beads, and a celtic knot button closure in the back.  I’m so delighted with the colors!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll post the rest probably after Christmas.

I hope you all have a very warm and bright holiday season.

Spinning and Weaving

Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, life took a left turn when I wasn’t paying attention.  But I come bearing crafties!  I’ve discovered and am working furiously to perfect my Navajo ply, a three-ply style that plies the thread with itself as you go (rather than needing two other threads to ply with or trying to roll the spun thread into a ball and plying the ends together.)

I can’t explain it so I’ll show you a video I found.  Thing is, watching the video, I was convinced I would need four hands to pull this off because she’s using a spinning wheel and I only have spindles and you need two hands to work the thread and then one to work the plying spindle and another to keep the source spindle from getting tangled.

Well, I figured out how to do it using two spindles and yet only two hands!  And… I am utterly failing at trying to explain how so I’ve drawn really bad diagrams to help:A: start by making a small loop or slipknot in the end of your thread to anchor it to the plying spindle.  Draw a length of thread from your source spindle and pull it through the loop.

B: hook the length of thread you pulled through the loop back over the shaft of your first spindle, holding the original loop open with your fingers (keep the yarn from plying that loop closed or you’ll be fighting it the whole way.)  This will keep all your thread under enough tension so it won’t knot on itself.  As you turn your source spindle, the set up will act like a pulley system, as you unwind the thread it will run through the loop, around the shaft and to the second spindle.

C: when you’ve drawn out as much as you want, use the hand holding  your first spindle to pinch the three portions of thread about an inch or two out from your first spindle and then use the second spindle to ply the lengths.  Wind the yarn onto your plying spindle, then carefully unhook the loop from around your first spindle shaft.  This becomes the new loop in figure A, draw a new length of thread through and start all over.

This is so simple and quick and such a beautiful result!  Wanna see?

Navajo plied wools

Navajo plied alpaca

Navajo plied silk

 

Navajo plied cotton

Oh yeah… I spun cotton!  IT WAS HARD!  The staple length is so terribly short you have to be *really* careful how you draft it or you’ll lose it.  But I have my first ever tiny little batch of cotton yarn now!  And so fluffy white and ready to play with vegetable dying 🙂  I have some beet root that I think will make an excellent first try.

So now that I’m just blowing through the spinning and plying, I have lots of fiber to use for (drum roll, please) WEAVING!  I don’t have a full loom set up, yet, but I’ve started making bookmarks on my bead loom.

These were my trial runs, so I didn’t want to use my ‘valuable’ handspun yarns yet, but I did use some for the purple accent on the top one. The bottom has beaded accent rows.

The upper was entirely hand-spun. The lower used hand-spun warp and ribbon weft.

Purchased yarn warp with hand-spun weft

Purchased cotton. This was produced on a makeshift 12″ loom to get a longer bookmark, so again I went back to store-bought to make my first practice piece.

And then I decided to do a little longer piece and made it a choker:

Woven choker necklace with beads

Celtic knot button closure

Final result

I’ll be making bracelets for my sister and brother-in-law as well.  Oh, there’s another story.  Okay, so my sister took me out to lunch/dinner the other day to this place she raves about but I’d never had the opportunity to try, Boundary Bay up in Bellingham.  It was quite good!

My sister had steamers (clams) and I got a to-go box and took home her shells.  They scrubbed up beautifully and then I used my uncle’s drill to put a couple of holes in them.  Voila!  I now have pretty clam-shell bead, pendant, button, whatever!  So I picked out what I felt was the prettiest shell and the two halves will go on their bracelets as a matching pair.

So this is what I’ve been up to, lately.  I’m laughably behind on NaNoWriMo.  Ah well, there’s always the whole rest of the year. 😉

Spinning and Weaving, Pt II

Sorry for the delay, Sonja!   Here is the weaving at last!

I got my inkle loom at my reenactment event after taking a class using one.  I was very lucky to find one that was very affordable not long after in order to facilitate my continuing addiction to fiber.

What I love most about them is they create very functional pieces in a very short amount of time with very little work.  Being highly portable helps as well, I can be weaving while camping, in a car (that I’m not driving…), sitting on the couch watching TV, or even when I’m hanging at my computer.

Inkle looms – highly portable, usable at my computer!

Inkle loom

There are many different styles of inkle loom, but the basic idea is the same.  They produce long, narrow strips great for trim, draw strings, straps, even shoe laces or jewelry (think bracelet or choker necklace.)  The many pegs provide much greater option for the length of the piece, so depending on how you warp the loom you can end up with anywhere from about three to six feet or more.

Though the design naturally produces a pattern which repeats every other row, so depending on how you arrange your warp threads, you can get things such as checkerboard patterns, stripes (vertical or horizontal) dashes (like below) but the restriction is every other row will always repeat.

White and blue wool bracelet

More advanced techniques can be used to create very elaborate patterns; these involve pick-ups (think of the game pick-up sticks, they came from creating weaving patterns!) and brocade work.

I’ve given pick-up work a try.  It’s definitely tricky and requires a lot more thought on both the warping and weaving end of the work, but the finished product is very beautiful.

White hand spun bamboo and orange hand-spun goat

You can see on the left side the alterations in the pattern where I practiced doing various kinds of pick-up patterning between the white and orange.  It’s pretty rough, this was my first attempt at doing anything like it and I was mostly playing around with the possibilities, but this certainly shows off what can be done!

This piece comes in just over six feet long and was made using orange dyed goat hair and white undyed bamboo.  The bamboo is very soft, almost like silk, but can be a little tricky to work with.  It feels lovely, though, and creates a strong yarn.White hand spun bamboo and orange hand-spun goat

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to use this piece for.  Might end up as the handle on a bag I keep meaning to sew up.

Here is another piece of trim I worked on, you can again see the repeating pattern of yellow/black/yellow/black with an edge of solid red:

Red, black and yellow hand-spun wool

And another piece I did using a mottled dyed green wool with color gradations from black to bits of white.  The result is a very lovely effect, I think!

Mottled green hand-spun wool

In fact, this piece ended up replacing the shoulder strap on my purse!

Purse shoulder strap

So not just pretty, but functional!

Burgundy and ivory wool/silk blend

This is the piece I quickly warped up and wove when Sonja asked me to show off my weaving.  It didn’t take very long, but I kept getting interrupted, so this entry got delayed until I could show it off as finished 🙂

And just like the first entry mentioned, it’s amazing how much you can feel connected to others throughout time and across geography when you get involved in these kinds of arts and crafts!

Also: more spinning, because I forgot to add this picture to the last journal.

Hand-spun goat hair (top) and hand-spun undyed silk (bottom)