Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gift making...almost there...

My decision to make all of the Christmas gifts I/we are giving this year (and as many as possible out of used materials) has proven to be a challenge. Here are some things I would like to tell the gift making me of next year (and everyone reading, since you should seriously try this next year)...

1. Start before thanksgiving. This year I had ideas throughout the summer and fall, but did not begin making things until...probably about two weeks ago. I will probably be able to complete most gifts if I work really hard, but Nathanael (at least) will not be getting his until sometime in January.

2. Gather materials over a long period of time. There are some supplies that you can't really avoid buying new. Thread and certain specialty fabrics are among them. But for everything else, certain fabrics, button and snap shapes and random materials, collecting over a long period of time as you can find them from relatives and at charity thrift stores allows more flexibility than settling for missing pieces.
3. Work on people's gifts in the order you will give them. (i.e. Micah your presents will not arrive on Christmas...but they'll be neat!)

4. Do something abnormal. This year I have tried a lot of new things, some of which I didn't think I would like, or that I would be good at them, or that the final product would be worthwhile. But, I have been happily surprised with everything. I have been sewing odd shapes and materials, melting things, and learning old fashion trades. Last year I discovered I could paint pretty well, and I doubt that I am the only one out there with hidden gift making talents.

5. Work with someone else if possible. Nathanael has been pretty busy with his research, teaching and classes, but on the occasions he has been able to give me opinions, recommend alternate directions for projects and lend me tools, he has been fantastically helpful.

After Christmas I will post pictures and descriptions of some of my projects...once all of them have been received that is.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


A little while ago Mrs. Long asked me what I would do with an eggplant.
Eggplants are so interesting. We classify them as a vegetable in the grocery store because they are not sweet, but of course botanically speaking they are a fruit. And whichever way you choose to look at them they are completely odd. Eggplants have always reminded me of a dinosaur. They have leathery skin and their sepals (the leaves near the stem) are thick and tough. Inside they are foamy and probably mostly air. So, maybe the dinosaur thing doesn’t go very far. Still, they seem to have little in common with other items we purchase in the produce section.
Growing up my sisters and I were in a 4-H club with our town, and every year the county would have an event called, “International Foods Day”. At this event all of the clubs in the county would represent a country, cook lots of their foods, create a presentation, and share all that they had learned and cooked with the other clubs. The preparatory time with the other club members was always really fun. On different years our club represented Italy, Scotland, Finland, Mexico, Bosnia, and some others. From most of the countries I can still recall the foods we made, and the dances and games we performed onstage. However, the only thing I remember from the year we chose Bosnia is that a few of us were in charge of a food that involved taking strips of roasting eggplant, picking them up, and squeezing them through our hands to separate the eggplant from its skin and seeds. Raw eggplant seems like such a harmless and bland food, but the roasted eggplant was so acidic that it made our hands itch and burn. No one could have known how hard we had worked for that mushy looking dish.
The most recent eggplant recipe I have attempted did not cause any pain, turned out quite delicious, and was actually pretty quick. I will not post it on here because I found it in a library book I highly recommend called “Cooking with my Indian Mother-in law”, which has provided us with Indian food recipes for weeks now. But, if you are really interested in making Aubergine and potato curry, you can either attempt one on your own (which would probably turn out fine), look it up in the library, or email me. I don’t mind sharing other people’s recipes on a person to person basis, I just don’t want to broadcast them to the world when that’s what they wrote their book to do. I will be sending the recipe to Mrs. Long.

*One tip from this recipe that I found really handy was to soak the eggplant pieces in water after you cut them to reduce the bitterness a bit, and the potatoes to keep them from oxidizing. Press the eggplant into the water with a plate because they will float...they are mostly air after all.

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