Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

endless experiments with small things that bring joy to life


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Scarf/shawl for autumn

The frequency of posting on this blog has been slowed compared to before.  Part of the reason is that some of the cards or knitted items I made is meant for friends with later birthdays.  It would be otherwise ruining surprises ahead of time.

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This scarf/shawl is called Saroyan, inspired by Dr. Camille Saroyan in Bones, a popular American TV series.  I was attracted to the leaf edging in the pattern and thought it would be a great accessory for Marianne because of her love for nature.  Her favorite season is autumn, so on the yarn color choice I have selected something bright and autumnal.  The yarn here is worsted Merino by Malabrigo in a color called Snow Bird.  When I first saw the color, it immediately reminded me of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Firebird suite.  I thought the color fits the pattern well; the yarn color also adds a sense of brightness and joy in the gloomy winter.

The yarn is soft to touch and slightly felted and I absolutely enjoy the process of knitting, especially seeing the making of each leaf, feeling like burgeoning of a bud.

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Leaf close up

It is very obvious that I prefer multicolor yarn, especially when all colors come together harmoniously not to mention that Malabrigo is famed for its kettle dyed yarn and each batch is produced in Mal Abrigo in Uruguay.

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Love the striation.  Does not it looking at it alone bring a sense of warmth to your heart?

This scarf is now on its way to Marianne.  I hope she will like it as much as I enjoy the process!

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It is one of those days

2013-09-23

Probably to make up for the time I have not blogged here, I spent most of the time in the kitchen this past Saturday.

Here is what I have made:

1.  Labneh:  it is a vegetable yogurt dip, topped with olive oil.  Because the yogurt is strained, it tastes extra tangy, couple nicely with diced golden radish.  The recipe actually asks for radishes, but I find it a bit too spicy; hence substitute them with radish.  The original recipe can be found here.

2.  Hummus:  Usually I made hummus with canned garbanzo beans (or chick peas), but this time I made it with dried variety.  The beans are first rehydrated by soaking overnight then slowly simmered until cooked.  The hummus tastes less salty and more fresh.  I also used a new recipe for hummus, which can be found here.

3.  Blood orange marmalade:  I have been in a jam-making mode recently, thanks to all the fall produce that is saying hi.  The delicate and fresh taste of blood orange is unforgettable, so what is the best way to capture it besides canning?  If you are interested, the recipe can be found here.

4.  Passion fruit curd with sponge cake:  this creation is based on two recipes.  The curd is taken from Marianne’s cookies filled with passion fruit curd and the sponge cake recipe is the one mentioned in one of my previous posts.  This Franken cake turns out a lot better than I expected.  Originally I thought the curd might be overcooked so I did not add it to the cake until the cake is half baked.  The slight tanginess and fragrance of the passion fruit pair with a moist cake, I am surprised that I did not eat the whole cake in one sitting!

How is your weekend?


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Rhubarb Adventure

Ever since I read about Marianne’s rhubarb obsession, I was determine to try it out.  I have heard about rhubarb and how it complements the flavor of strawberry, but I have never tasted it.  My dilemma was that most rhubarbs were sold by bunch at the farmers’ market, how about if I did not like them?  A very friendly vendor  offered me one stalk of rhubarb free of charge, so I went home and made a simple compote out of it.  While the rhubarb was being boiled, I was very puzzled as to how people liked it.  It smelled earthy and it looked like a stalk of celery with the exception of the red root.  This mystery was solved once I tasted it; the refreshing tartness with a hint of earthiness.  I topped the compote on vanilla ice cream and it was amazing on how the tartness of the rhubarb transformed the sweetness of the vanilla into something airy and light.

For sure the adventure did not stop right here.  I thought of incorporating rhubarb into a baked good, but could not determine which pastry I craved.  The solution came shortly after some mental debate:  sponge cake!  The twist to the recipe is that it will be a layered cake, which I have not attempted because the cake is usually devoured shortly after it came out of the oven.  In order for the rhubarb/strawberry layer to stay, generally gelatin is added to keep the mixture together, but in this attempt, I use the pectin from my jammaking to thicken it.  It turned out a lot better than I expected.  The moisture of the cake with the sweet aroma of strawberry.  Rhubarb changes the acidity from the strawberry into a delightful tartness with a hint of earthiness and it adds a bit of texture to the mixture.  

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Strawberry rhubarb compote.  Yes, the mixture is scarlet red, the photo is not edited.

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Strawberry rhubarb compote with my favorite sponge cake

Strawberry rhubarb filling

  • 3 cups of fruit (1:1 ratio of strawberry to rhubarb)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon pectin
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of calcium water (helps with gelling)
1.  Thoroughly wash strawberry, remove the hulls and cut into small pieces.  Do the same to the rhubarb.
2.  Over medium-low heat, add the fruit mixture and calcium water.  Stir constantly.
3.  Combine sugar and pectin and incorporate both thoroughly.
4.  Add the pectin/sugar combination to a slowly bubbled fruit mixture, and give it good stir.
5.  Once the compote is boiling, remove from heat.


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Cathartic Therapy

I have been going through couple rough patches in June, and these obstacles leave me a bit restless.  Instead of ranting to friends incessantly, it might be better to diffuse the sense of frustration through my so-called cathartic therapy.  Though I am less than an accomplished artist (my magnum opus has been stick figures), the brainstorming and creating processes help calm the nerve and refresh minds.

Several media are used to create the following cards:  metallic ink, watercolor, fountain pen ink, and pencil.  Stickers and washi tapes help remedy my less than perfect drawing abilities.

What do you think about them?

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I must be in a dire need of Dexter, a TV show.  “A Slice of Life” is the slogan of it.
The inside of the card says “Savor it to the fullest.  Happy Birthday!”  Watermelon can be an apt theme for a summer birthday, right?
The watercolor I used here is a Pelikan palette, pretty basic, but good for my purpose.

I must be in a dire need of Dexter, a TV show, since “A Slice of Life” is one of the slogans for the show.  The inside of the card says “Savor it to the fullest.  Happy Birthday!”  I guess that redeems me from being a serial killer 😉  I figure watermelon can be an apt theme for a summer birthday, since it has cooling and refresh effects in those hot summer days.
The watercolor I used here is by Pelikan.  It is very basic, but great for my purpose.  For the rind, I blend a bit of Caran d’Ache’s Amazon with the emerald green.

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Close up of the text.  Written with a Brause rose nib, which has become my favorite now.

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My little one’s birthday is coming up, and I have been pretty good about making her a card every year so far.  Let’s hope I can keep up!  The bear is done with pencil and watercolor.  Took me awhile to mix the right color, but the process was quite fun.

Inside of the card, I made a small garland with washi tape and collaged an animal march out of stickers.

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Last is an overdue thank you card for a dear friend.  The image is done by watercolor pencils by Derwent.  The outline is done by Sailor HighAce Neo with Platinum Carbon ink, a waterproof fountain pen ink.  I like how dark and shiny the black is.  The fine point of HighAce Neo is fine enough, which I find as a good substitue to Micron pens.

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Farmers’ Market

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1. I can skip trips to Asian markets, since this Famers’ Market has a good selection of leafy Asian veggies.  2.  Who would not smile when they see these beautiful sunflowers?  This vendor also sells a great variety of lettuces.  Those are equally beautiful.  3.  Besides veggies, fresh plants and flowers are sold here too.  4.  Fresh macadamia nuts.  You sure do not see that everywhere.  5.  I am having difficulty of making choices than too few of them.  6.  The rhubarb guy also sells the best Bird of Paradise I have seen.

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1.  Look at those gorgeous apples and peaches!  Probably the best I have had.  2.  A picture from my very stone fruit vendor.  I can’t believe all the varieties of apricots they have.  3.  Fresh garlic, anyone?  These have more delicate flavors and you probably can’t battle a vampire after eating them.  4.  Fresh bouquets of flowers.  5.  The potato lady has all colors of potatoes you can think of, besides the regular Russet potatoes.


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Coconut Macaroons

One of the predicament often faced by baking fanatics is when a recipe only asks for egg yolks.  What can you do with the egg whites, besides having scrambled eggs sans yolk?  Here is a remedy to the baking dilemma:  coconut macaroons.  They are packed with aroma, yet light and airy.  The coconut provides texture, shape, and a bit of tropical flare to these delectable treat.  This recipe adopted from Bon Appetit.

One of the ingredients that the recipe asks is lime zest, which is easily substituted by lemon zest.  The taste of the zest will not be overpowering; it stays as a subtle undertone.  After shredded coconut is added, the meringue will deflate because it serves as the “glue” that holds the coconut together.  The macaroons will slightly rise during the process of baking because of the meringue as well.  The baking time according to the recipe is 18-22 minutes, but so far, the average time I take is 10 minutes.  Given the power of oven varies, the rule of thumb is once the top and bottom layers of coconut turns brown, it is done.

Enjoy the macaroons!

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Adding coconut flakes to meringue

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Macaroons ready for baking

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Macaroons done.  My favorite part is the browned coconut


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Jamming!

One of the best finds in my neighborhood is the farmers’ market nearby.  It is almost a treat to go there every Sunday because I know that I will find something new to try at one of the stands.  A way to preserve these fresh and beautiful produce is canning.  Some might argue that fresh fruits are best eaten fresh, but I think the jamming process brings out the flavor of the fruits and in some way, intensifies the aroma, and best of all, prolonging the shelf life of these flavors in forms of jam.

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Honey apriocts

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strawberries

I am by no means an expert on jam making, but from several less than perfect attempts, I have gathered some tips that are hopefully helpful to you.

  1. Sterilize the jars and lids.  Before you even prepare the fruit, be sure to sterilize jars and their lids in boiling water.  I place the jars in water and bring it to a boil for a couple minutes, and toss in the lids when water is boiling.  Sterilized jars will ensure the freshness and overall life of preserves or jam.
  2. Read the instructions that come with the pectin closely.  It will tell you the ratio of pectin to fruit. One brand of pectin I used came with calcium powder to help the congealing, but another brand did not.  It is always good to know what is involved before you begin the project!
  3. Use fresh and firm fruits. Make sure there is no bruises on the fruits because any cosmetic damages on fruit accelerates spoiling process.  After all, you want to capture the best taste of the season 🙂  
  4. If it is possible, use a wooden spatula to stir the fruit mixture.  Wooden spatula is easier to clean comparing to silicone one, thus less of a chance to have oil residue which will contaminate the fruit mixture.
  5. Stainless steel cookware is the ideal cooking utensil for cooking the fruit mixture.  The coating on nonstick utensils may react with acid in fruit and may peel.

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Ready to make jam!

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strawberry preserves

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apricot preserves

One thing I like the most about homemade jam is you can control how much sugar to put in; I prefer tart preserves or jam over sweet ones.  Besides the fresher taste and wonderful flavor, these jam can also be great homemade gifts!