Still Workin’

Some days things take longer than others. You know those times, when the internet lags, but all the work you need to do is online with approaching deadlines and then the power goes out. Yep, that’s how these days can feel. Some folks complain about the weather being too hot. Some folks give their opinions over politics. Some of us just keep on truckin’. I find that I’m still working on some ideas and projects that never seem to end. 2020 holds that theme of never-ending. When will Covid-19 “end”? When will the political banter “end”?

The Neverending Story

Perhaps we all need a winsome Luck Dragon like Falkor to take us away from all the woes of the world. OR maybe we can use some creative outlets to break the tension, anxiety and uncertainties. Then, those outlets might allow us to think more clearly and solve the quandaries of today with less quarrel. I allow my creative outlets to produce results that hopefully inspire our readers. Whether in the garden, kitchen, studio, or makerspace, it is my goal to keep us positively motivated. We are all in this time together. Let’s make the best of it!

Seize the Season

One way to make the best of life is to use that which is at hand. BLUEBERRIES are now at hand, or should I say in season at this very moment. I made a beeline to Peek-a-Blueberry Farm in Bath, NY to get my hands full of these azure colored gems. Since our most local berry farm in town is closed due to Covid-19, I had to do some research. If you have never picked your own fruit, promise that you will put this on your bucket list. That sweet farm I found even provides a picking bucket and I overfilled it. With all that abundance I tested a scrumptious Blueberry Lemon Loaf recipe from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you are local to the Southern Tier Library System, please check out the book for all the vegan inspiration. If you are a reader from a far-off universe, test this recipe from V is for Vegetables. This recipe far surpasses the old adage of making lemonade from life’s lemons.

Masks are Lemons

If you read Work with Whatcha Got, this mask was in progress. It certainly has become a Lemony Snicket! I wanted to test a different pattern in an extra large size to compare it to our Face Mask Pattern and Tutorial. I wanted a slouchy effect that felt more like a bandana tied around my head than a close-fitting face mask. This tutorial is one of the most popular on YouTube, so I wanted to give it a whirl. The pattern size is slightly larger than the one Tangled Hangers provided, but after a few tweaks and retries, I struggle with the design. It’s just too big on my face. Dastardly Device! Luckily, the majority of my Work with Whatcha Got ensemble is complete and ready to reveal.

The headband I created out of the excess fabric from the skirt hem. It fits very well and holds down those stray hairs on a hot day. To make a similar one, follow this tutorial and share your creation in the comments. I wanted to accent the tank top with some fabric from the skirt to tie the two together. There was a sheet of paper towel closest at hand, so it became my pattern paper. I creased the paper in the seam gap on the shoulder strap and cut out an abstract shape. The pattern was traced onto the fabric, then pinned in place on the shirt. I decided to alter the shape just before the final application.

Tell me what you think of my work. I enjoy this comfortably cool “new” addition to my wardrobe as much as I enjoyed the journey of upcycling the “lemons” from my closet. Although some parts of the project took longer than expected, it feels great to meet my goal. While we can’t control what comes at us tomorrow, we can Keep Calm and Create.

I’m still working on creating new programs for the (dare I say) Fall season. In the meantime, I have to return to this free (until August 31) Anti-racism Training. There is a lot of work ahead of us. The work begins with you. The work begins with me.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

Work with Whatcha Got!

Working with What I Have

As a special #SeWednesday treat, we’ve been working with Jesse Beardslee, owner of Themis and Thread . Jesse’s sewing expertise has been guiding our audience on how to Work with Whatcha Got on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel. I decided to take some of the lessons and put them to use by working with what I have in my home.

Work with Whatcha Got- Upcycled Skirt

Using my creative license, I roughly followed the tutorials. The outfit I assembled needed more alterations to even fit or wear correctly. I worked in reverse order of these tutorials. First, I began with the skirt of my outfit. The skirt is actually the last of our #SeWednesday tutorial series. I invite you to the Premiere of Work with Whatcha Got- Upcycled Skirt on Wednesday, July 30 at 6pm.

Skirt Alteration

The purple skirt I chose from my pile of items to be mended needed nine inches of fabric removed and a hem to make it more comfortable. I am short and long skirts make me feel shorter. In order to wear this skirt with confidence, I put it on and placed a pin at the length I preferred. To give a visual idea of the full length of the skirt, I let my trusty assistant (dress form), “Laverne” try it on. Once I cut off the excess fabric, I also cut the lining and prepared it for a hem. The lining was hemmed 2 inches shorter than the outer fabric, to avoid seeing it. My trusty machine, ‘Nina offered a decorative hem stitch to the outer fabric. The skirt now falls just below my knees and feels much more my style!

Stitched Tank

A tank top I purchased last summer was torn after I washed it! I was inclined to return it to the store, but the time and cost to do so never calculated correctly in my mind. I am frugal. I knew that my time combined with the fossil fuels I would burn to drive 30 minutes in 2 directions cost much more than the value of this shirt. I also knew that my sewing skills could handle this problem lickety-split! I did not know how nervous I was to sew knit fabrics. As Jesse coaches us in the Work with Whatcha Got series, don’t fret knits! Just use a zigzag setting on your sewing machine on a long stitch and go slow. This stitch fix can also be done by hand sewing, but I like to make machines do the hard work. —-Nina is fine with that 🙂

Accessorize

Accessories are key to any outfit. Last week’s #SeWednesday tutorials guided you how to create an Upcycled Belt . I saved the excess skirt fabric to do just that, but also had enough to make a headband, belt, and this newly required, yet fabulous accessory we never anticipated to be required in our lives! Can you guess what I’m making to finish off my style? That’s right, it’s a face mask. We must accept these fashion features in our lives for an uncertain amount of time. Just like scarves, earrings, and hats, face masks are part of our ensembles. Why not have them coordinate? I only used the outer skirt fabric, because it is cotton. We only want to use natural fabrics to breathe through. The polyester lining will be used in the future to make a handbag or cosmetic pouch.

Upcycled Flower Pin

In the last tutorial of the Work with Whatcha Got series, we also learn how to make a fabric flower. Taking the extra skirt fabric and sewing notions, I whipped up an accessory to my outfit. I decided to finish the back with a pin and reinforced backing fabric. Now, I can wear the pin whenever I choose.

Hair Flowers

I had “sew” much fun making that flower, that I found another alternative. By adding a bit of bias tape sewn as a loop, then stitched to the backing fabric, I created a hair accessory. Bobby pins or barrettes will fit in the looped bias tape, holding the fabric flower to your hair style. Check back next week when I reveal my entire ensemble.

Yoga in the Parks

If you missed the news, we have a LIVE AND IN PERSON Yoga in the Parks series this summer. Join Elizabeth Moses of Crystal Heart Yoga every Saturday at 9am for a fresh start to your weekend! The schedule is as follows:

August 1
Caton Park, 1180 Riff Rd, Corning, NY 14830

August 15 and August 22
Hornby Park, Kerrick Hollow Road, Corning, NY 14830

August 29 and September 5
Lindley Little League Ballfield, 9136 Presho School Rd, Painted Post, NY 14870

Top Secret!

As we aim to stay active and creative, I’ve been exploring our region. Treasure awaits you! There is a secret I am developing. This might be a clue. I dare you to guess. You might want to register in the game now, before it’s released at the end of August…

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

e’Scape Plan

My escape plan each evening tends to lead to my garden. Warm weather leaves me craving fresh air and birdsong. A mindful gardener is always at the ready to harvest and process their bounty in preparation of the pending seasons of cold.

It is by virtue of living in the Finger Lakes (#FLX) region that I discovered the delicacy we will discuss today. This type of tinkering is far from the electronic tech stuff we explore in our maker space, Creation Station, but I dare you not to geek out on the genetic code of garlic. It’s a super food and I told myself I’d marry it one day. (Ha!) I believe I’ve achieved that marital status, as the crop is the easiest to maintain and provides two harvests per planting. Garlic is the double duty power plant you need in your homestead (and when I say homestead, that’s anything you call your dwelling—my first “homestead” gardens were in pots and tin cans on a curbside in Philadelphia). Space is not a major concern for this allium. Give a clove a six inch dirt covering to rest inside in the fall and it will show its gratitude as the first green shoot to pop out of the ground in spring.

Garlic in May, before the Scapes Soar

While I’m busy prepping and planting my remaining garden beds in spring, Garlic is growing and showing off. By late June, the flower stem begins to develop and curl. That is the scape. Once the scape curls, I harvest it by cutting it off of the plant a few inches above the leaves, which allows for more nutrients to go directly to the bulb.

More than 2.5 Pounds of Garlic Scapes to Process

Once washed and dried, I weighed my bounty to assess just how much I could make of each recipe I found in this video. I really love the Garlic Scape Powder recommendation, but Pesto and Pickled Scapes are a favorite in our home, so garlic powder will wait until I harvest the rest of the plant in a few weeks. I decided to put up a batch of pickled scapes to eat throughout the year and process a couple cups of Garlic Scape Pesto to enjoy now.

Fresh Garlic Scape Pesto Process

I used the New York Times recipe for this batch of garlic pesto, but there are many options to choose. You can omit the cheese to keep this recipe vegan. The flavor is still wonderful. What I also love about this recipe is using inexpensive sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts. I have replaced pine nuts for walnuts in pesto recipes previously , but am aware that practice is not safe for nut-free homes.

Check out that fresh basil in the lower middle frame above. THAT basil is from a hydroponic plant I got at the grocery store in April. Remember when we made Chunky Knit Planters? Recall that plant in the final product?? Yep, that’s the one! Harvesting from my kitchen table is incredible.

Prepping the Pickles

In order to can the garlic scapes for pickling, I cut off the tips of the harvested end and the flower. Some people prefer to cut their scapes to straight lines for ease of packing, but I prefer to preserve the spiral. We think the curl is the most unique feature of this delicacy, so a little more time in preparation makes for a beautiful presentation.

Steamy Stockpot of Sterilized Jars

Before I start preparing the garlic scapes to be canned, I sterilized the jars in a stockpot with at least an inch of water covering them. I learned from a rustic homesteader that a rack is not required under the jars to protect the glass, so I go rogue. You might choose to follow more strict processing rules at the Ball Jar website. Once the water comes to a boil, I know the jars are sterilized and safe for use. I take them from the water bath to dry and fill each one like it is a work of art.

Filling the Jars

Using a chopstick that I sterilized in the hot water bath, I gently push down each garlicky curl. I work to keep the flower end of each curl up, so that it acts as a handle for the person who grabs it. I ensure no curls are tangled and continue to fill the jar, leaving a half inch of head space. Any straight portions of scape get stuffed in the center to completely pack the jar.

Scapes and Scraps

The bounty of scapes I harvested equaled 6 pints for pickling after making the pesto. The bowl of scraps will go to the compost bin for fertilizing the new crop this fall. Once the jars were filled, I made the brine. This Pickled Garlic Scapes recipe from Home in the Finger Lakes was very helpful and the first recipe I tried several years ago. If you don’t have pickling spice mix in your cupboard, use approximately 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of dill per pint. If you are a pickling guru, you may have a favorite brine recipe to share in the comments. I put the spices into each jar for equal proportions, then pour the brine over everything, allowing a 1/2 inch of headspace per jar.

Chopsticks help keep down the Scapes

As the brine fills the jar, the scapes tend to also rise, so I use the chopstick as a stopper. I hold down the scapes for a few seconds and watch them blanch into a vibrant bright green. At that moment, they seem to back down from the rise, which allows me to wipe the jar rim and place the lids on top for sealing.

Sealing it Up

We learned in our Homesteading Series at Bluebird Trail Farm in 2019 that the best way to seal your jars is to hold down the lid with one finger, while applying the screw ring with the other hand and twist to close. Then grab a towel to hold the hot jar and tighten the lid with the other hand.

Spicy Pickles

Two jars were reserved as spicy pickles. I added 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper to each jar, then realized I needed a way to mark these separate from the rest of the batch. Using chunks of fresh garlic, I used this as my marking system, which worked better than labeling the jars with marker that could contaminate the water bath.

Get in the Bath!

Each jar was then gently placed into the bubbling water bath and processed for 10 minutes. This gave me time to clean up the kitchen and prepare a pasta meal with pesto and fresh veggies. After the jars boil for 10 minutes, they can be removed from the pot of water and allowed to rest for 24 hours, undisturbed. The best part of the whole process is hearing that distinct “pop” of a lid sealing properly outside of the water bath. It’s like perfect science.

Fresh and Fermenting

I usually take the pot off of the hot burner and allow everything to cool overnight. Once I’m ready to put them up, each jar will be labeled with the ingredients, so we know what’s inside. These jars make perfect gifts during the holidays and are a great addition to any barbecue or pot luck meal. A recent study found that consumption of fermented foods are linked to low Covid-19 mortality. Pickles could be the perfect food, after all.

Zoom on Saturday

Pivoting from the e’Scape plan, let’s talk about future things. There are still a few hours to register for Photo Fun with Dan Gallagher. This class will guide you through using an interchangeable lens camera or SLR. The Southeast Steuben County Library hosted a similar class last summer and all attendees proved better portfolios and family photos with credit to Dan’s excellent teaching.

Work with Whatcha Got

Check out this video, in case you missed the first of a three part series for #SeWednesday. Jesse Bearsdlee guides viewers on how to upcycle or repurpose old clothes into a new ensemble. We learned how to make a bodice in part one. Follow this link to join us for part two on July 22 at 6pm EST. Learn how to Work with Whatcha Got, Upcycled Dress Waistband or Separate Belt.” This video series is made possible in part by the QuickARTS grant program administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and funded by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll catch you on the flip side!

Chunky Knit Planters

Chunky Knit Planters

New Home for Fresh Basil

I found this Chunky Knit Planters tutorial a few years ago and stewed on the idea until now. There are a few items you will need to produce this project. Polymer clay is the star of the show. For the sample you see above, Sculpey is the medium of success. Tin cans or oven-safe vessels are the base of this project. If you do not have Sculpey in your toolbox, follow this simple recipe to make a Natural Polymer Clay Substitute. Making this recipe was the first step in my journey to creating this tutorial.

Mix Ingredients into a Pot and Mix

Using 2 cups each of baking soda and cornstarch and adding 1.25 cups of cold water to a saucepan over low to medium heat, depending upon your stove, mix the ingredients until they combine. The numbered photos give you a visual of the changes in consistency.

Add Oil and Food Coloring

Once the homemade ingredients were cool enough to handle, I mixed in 1-2 tablespoons of oil. To keep this project an easy kitchen sourced creation, I used canola oil, but you can use vegetable glycerine to make this smooth. If you wish to make a colored clay, form a pancake with the clay, poke holes in sections and drop food color into the holes. Knead the clay until the color mixes to a solid shade. Less kneading reveals a tie-dye effect.

Lavender Blob

The process to make this chunky knit look is to make coils with the clay, then twist those coils and align them alongside each other on the outside surface of your vessel, attaching the clay at the top and bottom and pressing to adhere all elements together. A faux knitted stitch is revealed by laying each twisted coil side by side, giving your vessel a little blanket hug.

Make the Coils, Twist the Coils, Cover the Can

Take a peak at my video tutorial of this project over on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel. You will see the full process of each clay I used and the results. This project can take a full day if you let it, so be prepared to have fun. Save the clean up for another time!

Preview of the Samples

I loved working with both of these clays for several different reasons. Making my own clay from natural ingredients was rewarding and very inexpensive. The batch of dough made twice the amount of planters than did the polymer clay. The polymer clay was easier and quicker to work with and made the most durable final product. Sadly, the homemade version saw some sad ending.

Not All Endings are Happy

For some reason, or several, the natural polymer clay substitute did not hold up well after baking. The surface of the colored version was uneven, dried out in spots, but was still very soft after an extra 15 minutes of cooking time. Perhaps the coils were too thick for the cooking suggestion of a 250-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. This was my glass test vessel you will see in the video. The hope was to have the glass vessel pop out and leave only a clay planter in which to put fairy lights or a candle. Sadly, my experiment failed and the whole thing fell apart. The lip on the white version broke off in transport to my studio. I believe I could have scored both the base and coil to make a better seal, but I would have to do another test to know for sure.

Try it Out!

Perhaps this tutorial recap and complimenting video provide you some inspiration. Don’t be shy! If you make this project, share your examples in the comments. Now is the time to refresh your houseplants and give your decor a little sprucing. Be well and Keep Crafting. ❤

Earth Day 2020

be kind

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. That is the prevailing message that resides with me during this healing time for Earth’s homo sapiens. I admit I miss my regular pizza haunt for my daily slice. I love seeing the speed of service, the art of the sale. As I took a stroll down Market Street to check on the art mural at Volo, the creative message above struck me as golden.

Refreshed Mural

The progress of this community art mural is impressive. It was refreshed on Sunday, April 19. Scroll through the images here to see artists in process. Notice the N-95 mask on our central hero. See Covid-19 get Blown Away in the Glory Hole (ironically the name of the last establishment at this address). Can you spy Little Joe? Credit goes out to the artists who started this mural in motion- @kevinarts, @krazinski_b_art, and my friend @aswannamedemily. If you get the itch, go down to fill in the spaces! Gratitude to the Dude behind the idea–and to the Gaffer District for letting him do this for our community.

Mask Maker

Since the CDC recommended wearing face masks in public, and New York State’s face covering mandate, my studio is a Mask Making Factory. I make batches as time allows, but more creative endeavors and outdoor adventures have been calling. Thank goodness we got a reprieve from snow!

Celebrating Planet eARTh

With the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this week, my family took advantage of warm and dry weather to get lost in the woods of the Finger Lakes Forest. We celebrated Mother Earth with a geocaching adventure and found some negative ions along the way. The loot we found in the treasure box was quite an appropriate reminder of how extra important our medical services are at this moment in history.

Get Lost and Geocache

A walk in the woods was the right medicine to refresh my spirit to learn a new skill. I decided take the virtual-library-program-video challenge. Some of our programmers are offering ways to entertain us online with story times and science experiments, but I admit the camera gives me the jitters! Cheers to all the divas and dudes rocking our video instruction and entertainment worlds right now. The challenge is REAL. Facing a still camera, while pretending to speak to a room full of patrons has been a beast I’ve delayed slaying…until NOW.

Earth Day Seed Bombs Premiere on YouTube

Join me on Earth Day, April 22 at 4pm EST on our YouTube channel to learn how to make Seed Bombs and Infused Paper. If you have never made or received seed infused paper, this is a fun tutorial. Most of us have the supplies at home and there is little to no cost to participate. I recycled shredded junk mail and some tissue paper to create lovely paper and handmade gifts. I’m getting excited by the possibilities of these videos. Check in again on Monday, April 27 at 4pm for my Chunky Knit Planter tutorial. If you have any requests, place your video suggestions in the comments for future installments.

Seed Bombs and Infused Paper Samples

While the world is recognizing the requirement to Shelter in Place, all live art events and music festivals are cancelled. Still, artists are finding ways to express themselves on internet platforms. Earth Day Art Model is a telematic art festival where art and technology meet online. This project will begin at 8pm on April 21 (TONIGHT) and run for 24 hours. I am certainly intrigued!

Homemade Suet Bird Feeder

Whether you celebrate Earth Day 2020 by planting trees and seeds or even by feeding seeds to the birds, honor the moment on the only home planet we know. I think this world is quite beautiful. I find it more so when my feathered neighbors flock the feeders to nibble on my homemade suet blocks, filling the yard with color and excitement. Tell me how you choose to cultivate your Mother Earth. Be well, my friends, and Be Kind. ❤

Face Masks Forward

It’s SeWednesday–or is it?! *** Covid-19 is taking over our lives, but I thought another kind of takeover would be more fun. I invited Tangled Hangers Designs to takeover our blog for the day. She’s been busy in her studio sewing face masks for our community, but made time to offer a Face Mask Tutorial. She included a little video and provided the pattern. Her design includes five size options, as well as a pocket to insert a filtration fabric. Reports change daily on the value of a face mask, but a unified stance has risen in the maker community. Supplies will be provided to the front line if they must be stitched in every home in the United States. We are all in this together. Without further ado, let’s get by with a little help from our #FLX friends.

Ha! It’s not Wednesday (or maybe it is??), but watch for more #SeWednesday installments for sewing instruction and exploration. Tell us if you are making face masks or helping #ProtectTheFrontline in other ways. Show us your results if you sew-along with this tutorial. Tune in today at 4pm for a Watch Party on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel to see the creator at work. The video will be available for future reference. ❤ Read Creation Stationary, but don’t be a stationary creator. Get making!