Wednesday, September 29, 2010

OMG Broc-O-Lee

So Robb and I grow lots of things in our garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, that kind of stuff. But for some reason, there are some items that you find in the produce aisle of your grocery store that you never think you'll see growing in your backyard. For me, broccoli is one of those things.

Last winter, on a whim, I ordered up some broccoli seeds from the seed catalog. (I know, I'm 80 years old and I order seeds from a catalog, I get it.) We were getting our usual haul of goodies to plant and I thought, why not? I'll throw some dirt in a cup and see what happens. (OK, tangential question: where on earth does a broccoli "seed" come from? Is it, like, in its little nubs?) Either which way, the seed germinated and out came this leggy, sad little shoot. When you look at a thing like that, it's hard to imagine that it might someday grow up to be a strong, robust, fibrous broccoli plant. And at the time, I had NO IDEA what a broccoli plant might even look like. Is it big? Does it grow underground like a pineapple? I had no clue.

Basically, it's supposed to be a springtime cool-weather veg, and nothing really happened with my sad leggy little pod between February and May. So we just planted a couple of them in the ground and sort of figured they'd die. I know! It's terrible. But it's true. We had no faith in this plant AT ALL.

And then sometime around August, it started to become...a plant! It was right next to the "weed patch" (as shown below) so at first I thought it might just be wild foliage or some heinous orchid. And started to grow these little nubs that looked like...can it be...broccoli!?

In the last month, it's grown to be an actual vegetable in its trademark broccoli shape. I like to think of their heads as many little afros that come together to form one large afro.

A word on the practicality of growing broccoli: this has got to be the dumbest plant for a home gardener to grow. And by dumb, I mean impractical. Look at how much room it takes up! And for just that one little head of broccoli!? (Granted, it could grow more heads...this could just be a puny or malnourished broccoli plant.) Also, it took EIGHT MONTHS to grow? That is nearly as long as it takes for a human to grow a, a cognizant creature with nerve endings and motor skills and "feelings" and all of that. It just seems a little silly that broccoli would need so long to grow. AGAIN, this could just be that we got it in the ground too late, and it barely held on through the heat all summer, and now what we're seeing is a "miracle broccoli plant" that happened to produce after all of its hardships. What I'm trying to say is, I do accept some responsibility for the silliness of this plant's performance.

One thing I know for sure: it's going to be very hard to eat this thing. I mean, we've only got one! Do we just eat it raw? Steam it and eat it with salt and butter? Do we put it in a stir fry, or maybe smother it with cheese sauce? Do we invite guests over so every one can have a nibble, or do we savor each bit for ourselves? It's turned into a very stressful situation as you can see.

Wow, I never knew I had so much to say about broccoli.

Do let me know if you have any suggestions! Both for how we should eat it and what I did wrong when growing it. So much to learn and ponder!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Emergency T-Shirt!

So, foolish me, I thought it was fall. I mean, wasn't yesterday actually technically the first day of fall? Because I was thinking about things like crisp apples and crunchy leaves, I dressed myself in a smart white button-up shirt with a light brown corduroy blazer and wore it with jeans and boots. Well, I knew something was wrong when I walked to work and ordered an iced coffee instead of a hot coffee whilst sweat beaded my forehead. And I knew something was really wrong when even the air-conditioning in the office wasn't enough to keep me cool. By 4pm, I'd come to accept that it was actually about 90 degrees out. AND, I had to go to a party after work. A big, sweaty party. It was 6pm when inspiration born of desperation (and fear of perspiration?) suddenly hit: I will make a t-shirt!
I rifled through a cabinet at work where I stashed a bunch of shirts that Robb had put in the "give-away" pile at home. (Literally, a pile of shirts on our bedroom floor.) I brought them to work thinking I'd donate them to a thrift store in the neighborhood some day, but...well...six months later and that hasn't happened. And thank God! Because yesterday I was soooo grateful to find a t-shirt to whack to bits which I could then wear to a party.

You may be wondering, Liana, do you have a sewing machine at your office? The answer is, no! But I do have scissors. That said, I introduce to you the first ever no-sew emergency t-shirt.

Because Robb wears t-shirts that fit, I had a fairly reasonable size to work with (meaning I didn't need to change the bottom at all). Otherwise, here's all you have to do to make your own no-sew emergency t-shirt:

Whack off the sleeves right along the seam. Cut out the collar, too, while you're at it. Then cut across the seam at each shoulder. Each of the four tank straps get folded into thirds (like you're folding a letter to put in an envelope). Then cut little notches through all three layers about 1/2" from each strap end. To make a cord to loop through the holes, I just cut off the seam from the discarded sleeve since it's sturdy and already hemmed (nice and neat, right?). Weave those puppies through the holes on the front and back straps, making sure the straps are even (this required a trip to the loo with scissors...if you're at work, try not to let anyone see you do this as it's never easy to explain why you're taking scissors into the bathroom.) Tie the ends of the cords in double knots, and voila! You're done.

Here it is from the side. You can tell I can't keep from staring at the hypnotizing red blinking light of PhotoBooth. (It has a zombie effect on me.)

And here it is from the back. Which is sort of nothing special.

What IS special is that I got to go out last night and feel comfortable and happy and smart. Not only that, but several people even commented on the shirt! Granted, they mostly commented because they liked the bicycle. (This is, incidentally, a shirt designed by our friend Jen in San Francisco who has an awesome line called Nooworks. Hi Jen!) But it was still fun to explain that I made a shirt at my desk. Who knew this was even possible? Well, now we all do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Superstar Crafty Mom

So I was thinking the other day, what's the first thing I ever "crafted"? The answer is actually hanging in my bedroom (in what I like to think of as the "ultra-girly corner" of an otherwise nice, grown-up bedroom). This mirror is my first memory of trash-to-treasure crafting, and it's something that I made with my mom. Or, more precisely, my mom made while I looked over her shoulder and begged to help.

I'm going to guess that I was about five or six years old when we made this. The mirror originally had a bronze floral frame, and even my five-year-old self knew it was kind of gaudy. Mom took it outside, laid newspaper over the mirror itself and tucked it in under the frame, which I recall thinking was very smart. Then she spray-painted the whole bronze floral latticework white.

When the white paint had dried, the two of us sat down in the living room and painted all of the flowers--some white, some blue. I seem to recall that I was in charge of painting the yellow centers. And I imagine that we did this while watching One Life to Live (our favorite soap opera at the time.) And voila! We had a flowery mirror fit for a little girl's bedroom. (Or...ahem, a grown-up person's bedroom.) To be honest with you, I am completely incapable of knowing if this mirror is atrociously tacky or outrageously beautiful and hip. It's one of those items that has sort of merged with my identity and the story of who I am, and as long as I don't break it in a move some day, I will likely have it for the rest of my life.

At this point--if you didn't get it already from my lead-in--I'd like to state, for the record, that my mom has been my crafty inspiration my entire life. She let me destroy the kitchen with adolescent candle-making, sewed our dresses when Erin and I were in the musical Oklahoma!. And she is basically the brainchild of our family tradition of having "crappy craft Christmases" on years when we're all feeling a little broke. To be honest, those Christmases, where virtually everything wrapped under the tree is some sort of handmade wonder (or catastrophe), are all of our favorites. This painting above, in fact, was a gift from my mom on one of our crappy craft Christmases! Not so crappy, in my opinion!

And so were these vases, which she decoupaged using her secret decoupage technique! (You can see I've put the vases to other crafty uses, storing my various crappy crafting supplies.)

She's pretty good though, right?

And in recent years, she's even started selling her handmade decoupaged pendants online like a total rockstar. Go mom! She's been killing it over at Ebay for some time now, but just last week she expanded onto Etsy to open up her own online shop.

I was so proud of her that I had to gush to the online universe. I guess you could say I'm a pretty big fan of her work.

Oh, and special shout-out to my sister who taught me how to embed links this week. Thanks, Erin!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Crotch Shots Part Deux

So remember back in April when I was the smarty-pants who figured out how to repair a rip in the crotch of her jeans by ironing a patch onto the inside of them? Well, guess what. That didn't work. I mean it did, sort of. Like, until I WASHED them. And then the patch started to peel away from the jeans, and this stiff, gluey patch fabric was then poking my inner thigh every time I walked until it managed to work its way through the hole in the jeans, hanging out of the flap like a little crotch flag. Did this keep me from wearing the jeans? Hell no! They are my favorite pair of jeans, after all. Consequently, the tear got worse. And not only that...another rip was forming on the other side! It was a triage situation, clearly. And so the time came to present to you...Crotch Shots Part Deux: the second crotch repair.

This time I wasn't gonna mess around. This time, the fix was gonna last. So instead of going with some cheesy iron-on denim, I reached for heavyweight khaki fabric to make a pair of long-lasting crotch patches.

It is imperative to note the origin of these crotch patches. They came from none other than the "seahorse pants"--an amazing discovery in cousin-in-law Tara's giveaway clothing pile years ago. I was going through her old clothes, which were a goldmine of awesome finds, when I stumbled upon these pants and proceeded to laugh for the next three months. Tara couldn't quite explain how these pants came into her possession and swears she never wore them. (The tags are still on the pants to prove it.) I took the pants thinking someday, somehow, I will want to include an embroidered seahorse motif on something. I'm thinking it will be on the back of a denim jacket...when I'm in the "seahorse gang" (or something). In the meantime, the khaki was used for crotch patches.

I sewed those puppies on around all of the edges using a zigzag stitch, which allows the fabric to stretch a little without tearing the stitches. And for a person who insists on quoting Sally O'Mally about once a week, flexibility is a must. ("I can KICK, I can STREEEETCH....and I'm 50!")

I then turned the jeans right side out and did another zigzag stitch right along the rip, going back and forth a few times, so now the two sides of the tear are bonded together by the strength of a wide zigzag!

Around this time I realized I probably shouldn't have used brown thread. In my defense, I didn't have any blue thread laying around and the notions shop is just too far away. I know, I know, it was a beautiful day and I should have rode my bike, but I didn't. Instead...I opted to use a blue pen and color in the stitches. Trashy, I know! First, I colored in the faded spots and patch fabric with a light blue marker.

Then I went over the brown stitches with a blue ball-point pen. This will probably fade completely the next time I throw the jeans in the washer, and at that point I'll either buy a sharpie or decide I don't care.

When it was all said and done, I must say, I was quite impressed with the crotch repair. And as long as the patches don't fall out, rip, or otherwise fail, I don't think anyone will even notice them!

Unless you're looking at me from this angle. Which you shouldn't.