Seasoning with Thriftiness – Alaska Gomashio

 

I love gomashio — it’s a Japanese seasoning made with sesame seeds “goma” and salt “shio.” For years, I’ve used Eden Foods Organic Seaweed Gomasio which also has a few sea vegetables in it for flavor. But commercial gomashio is expensive, and I’ve been thinking about making my own for a while. Recently, I found I could get 5 pounds of hulled organic sesame seeds for cheap on Amazon.com, and I have plenty of sea salt. I’ve been wanting to harvest local seaweed here around Juneau for some time, but I haven’t made forays into that particular kind of foraging yet. What I do have right now is a jar full of dried nettles that I picked this spring. Nettles have a tons of vitamins, and a nice flavor that is slightly seaweedy. So I looked at my empty bottle of Gomasio for guidance on a ratio of sesame seeds to salt. I discovered today that Wikipedia says the range is between 5:1 and 15:1. Mine is about 1:16, and it is still pleasantly salty.

Alaska Gomashio

1 cup hulled sesame seeds
1 loose handful of dried nettle leaves
3 1/2 t. sea salt

Toast the sesame seeds for 2-3 minutes in a dry pan on the stove top until they start to turn golden and smell fragrant. Allow to cool.

In food processor, mix toasted sesame seeds, nettle leaves, and sea salt.

Blend until nettle leaves are crumbled. Store in an airtight container, and freeze what you won’t use up quickly.

You can sprinkle gomashio on just about anything. I love it in stir fry, on rice, and last night, I used it on salmon.

 

 

Behind the scenes of Swink!

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When the Knitty surprise came out last week with my newest pattern, Swink!, I was in the wilds of rural Alaska getting ready to go on a 4-day rafting trip with my daughter Selma. We had a little bit of Internet, enough for me to acknowledge the pattern on Facebook, but now that I’m home, I wanted to take a little time to chat some more about it and show you a few photos that didn’t end up in Knitty.

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Swink! is my favorite type of pattern–it’s calculator-style, meaning instead of guessing on which size will fit you best, you use your own measurements to make the Swink! fit you perfectly. In the pattern, I walk you step-by-step through some simple calculations that make it so the sweater zooms along without much thought or worry–no keeping track of row counts or particular sizes.

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We shot Swink! in Juneau with my daughter’s friend Skye as the model. Swink! looked great on Skye and we had a great time running around the city looking for places to take photos.

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Crocheting Swink! was a joy because the yarn was so pleasant to work with. It’s a hand-dye from right here in Juneau by A Tree Hugger’s Wife. Best of the Worsted is a round high-twist yarn that’s got great bounce. I wanted Swink! to also have nice drape and not be a close-fitting sweater, so I crocheted it at a larger than usual gauge. The result is a sweater that’s quick to make.

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Because Swink! is crocheted from the neck-down, there’s lots of room for crocheters to make adjustments and change the pattern to fit their preferences on body and sleeve length–if you make a Swink! I’d love to see it. Please put a link here in the comments!

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Modular Crochet Returns…

Astute commenter “ddkayton” tracked down an old post of mine today from 2006 (!) to let me know that Judith Copeland’s wonderful 1978 book “Modular Crochet” is back in print. When I started designing, I began to accumulate a small collection of inspirational crochet books from the 70s, and Modular Crochet is one of my favorites.

Like Barbara Walker and Elizabeth Zimmerman with their knitting, Judith Copeland was interested in teaching crocheters how to invent their own things in addition to being able follow patterns. The result is a book full of beautiful photos, schematics, and very little text or line-by-line instructions. I love this. It’s easy to follow and it stirs creativity.

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Pearl, looking slightly startled to be photographed so early in the morning, is wearing the Cozy Turtleneck from Crochet for Bears to Wear

Modular crochet is a method, and one that I’ve used a lot over the years in my own designs. It’s unique in that it begins at the center of the garment and works outward in both directions. It takes advantage of turning crochet stitches on their side to maximize stretchiness, and it leaves lots of room for interpretation. Here are a few of my patterns where you can try modular crochet.

Dusk, from Interweave Crochet

Dusk is a design I did for Interweave Crochet in 2008. It’s not straight-up modular technique but incorporates many of the ideas from the book.

Ribs and Mesh

Ribs and Mesh is worked in a luxurious silk and wool yarn from Tilli Tomas, but would look beautiful in any DK yarn. This sweater follows the basic modular technique, but changes up the stitch patterns adding lace and beads.

Babydoll Dress

This Babydoll Dress uses classic modular technique for the bodice, and then adds a skirt worked in the round. The pattern is available only in the book “Crochet Me: Designs to Fuel the Crochet Revolution,” edited by Kim Werker. I will be so pleased if this re-issue means we’re headed towards a resurgence in modular designs.

 

Oh, Stella…

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I have a new crush. I haven’t been talking about her because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (Ukuleles can be so sensitive!). Her name is Stella, and while we’ve been living together for a few months, we’re just finally getting to know each other.

New love can hurt a bit! I have sore finger tips because I’m unaccustomed to steel strings, and my head aches from learning new chord shapes, but I’m having a wonderful time.

Stella is about nine years older than me, and she’s come through her 52 years relatively unscathed.

We met a couple of years ago, when my friend John found her hanging around the thrift store, and brought her home for a song.

He gave her some attention and TLC, and even hand made her a leather jacket to go over her original case.

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Then John found another 4-string, a hefty Brazilian quatro that fit his playing style better. Stella languished at home, alone. I had nearly forgotten about her when he mentioned in April that he’d be taking her to the Folk Fest music swap. I saved him the trouble and bought this sweet tenor guitar for his asking price. If I practice, maybe someday we’ll make beautiful music together!

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UPDATE: Guess who else played a Stella Tenor Guitar?

The King and his H929TG (Stella Tenor Guitar)

Worm’s-Eye View

WORMS EYE VIEW

Worm’s-Eye View

“Things are changing too fast,”
says the grandmother, 73.

“She doesn’t have to use the new things,”
says the daughter, 15, digital native,
born in the third month of a new millennium.

The Thinkers say we’ve progressed
as much in last 15 years
as we did in the previous one hundred.

The great-grandmother, 98, sends an email.

The Thinkers say that by 2025, they’ll be out of a job.

The brains they are building out of zeros and ones
will be as good, and then better than theirs.

What will be the literature of the Next Intelligence?

Will they be poets, preferring the obsessive forms?

Will they possess a creativity so advanced
it’s unrecognizable?

Art, as pleasing to us, as ours is to an earthworm.

 

(National Poetry Month Challenge, Day 5. Thanks to Tim Urban for getting me thinking about artificial intelligence.)

Broken Pastry

Broken Pastry

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Broken Pastry

My grandmother’s pie crusts were perfect.
Fragile containers holding the sweet fruits
of her small hands’ hard work.

My own crusts were hard and tough
as I experimented and strayed
from tradition. Until someone taught me
a method I could master.

Cold fat.
Hot water.
Emulsify.

Science and uncertainty.
Instinct of spice and smell
mixed with precision
of volume and temperature.

Preheat.
Wait.
The proof is in the breaking.

 

(Poem #1 in the National Poetry Month Challenge. I was challenged by Don Rearden. Last year I got to about day 12. We’ll see what happens this time!)

Hanging in there…

Hanging in there…

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The last couple weeks I got some stuff done (like I had an article published an article in the Capital City Weekly), and made progress on other stuff, but not without the obligatory productive procrastinating.

For instance, I finally made use of the instrument hanging hack I learned from my friend Rhonda. If you’re like me, and you’re house is filled with stringed music makers that are safer off the ground, you may want to try this too. I made two in less than five minutes (after thinking and procrastinating and collecting the right materials for weeks). The first two I hung are Jay’s guitar and baritone uke, and now, voilà! They’re still within his arms reach, and won’t get accidentally kicked over.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sturdy picture hangars
  • A scrap of heavy leather
  • Scissors
  • A hammer

Hang the picture hangar where you’d like your instrument to rest.

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Cut a piece of leather about  1.5″ wide and 4″ long. Then cut it in half but only 2/3 of the way, making two ends. Then fold and snip a hole in each end big enough for a tuning peg to fit though.

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Slide each end over a tuning peg. (I chose the lower peg so the strap itself won’t show on the wall).

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Hang your instrument on the wall. That’s it!

 

Fire and Fiber Break the Ice

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For the month of March, my students from my latest artist in the schools residency at Juneau Douglas High School are exhibiting their work in the gift shop at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

The lovely folks at the JACC let us transform a portion of their lobby gift shop with the twelve collaborative ceramic and felt pieces the students made.

The residency was an unusual collaboration. I taught wet felting to beginning ceramics students, and in the same two weeks they learned the basics of working with clay, while they made and glazed beads to go on their felted pieces.

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Heather Ridgway, the ceramics teacher, and I wanted to create a mixed media exploration of social pressures and communication. The students began the semester with a visit from members of the Sources of Strength suicide prevention program. The Sources of Strength exercises ignited thinking and conversation about the power of diverse relationships.

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The classes created felted fabric and ceramic beads, designing and assembling their pieces collaboratively while reflecting on the artistic concepts of unity, emphasis, and juxtaposition. As we had hoped,  their pieces demonstrate how the fragility and strength of wool echo the fragility and strength of human connection.