Thursday, July 30, 2009



We are not among the fortunate who have air conditioning. It's hot outside. Hot inside. Just plain hot. I'm getting cranky. Goodbye.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another Pair in Progress

olive green pants

So I had it all planned out. Olive green fabric for the pants, this funky Paula Prass fabric for the casing, and khaki thread to tie it all together. Then I got to my machine and the orange thread was still in there from my last project. There was this feeling that was a combination of "eh, I'm too lazy to change the thread" and "I haven't had enough of the orange yet." So despite my well-laid plans, orange thread it is.

My favorite thing about reading blogs is the aspect of looking over other people's shoulders as they work. I love that. Sometimes I don't even read the words. Pictures really do it for me. Thought you might like to look over my shoulder. Here I'm making butt darts. Butt darts are awesome. They really should be a fashion feature, don't you think? Instead of obscuring mine, I've topstitched them so that they really stand out. They are so special.

butt dart

The most special thing about them is the nice pooling effect at the bottom. Love that! :(

Let's just slap a pocket on top, shall we?
butt dart covered

I'm hoping to steal a few moments tonight to sew that pocket on and finish these pants up. The heat is sweltering today. My computer is hot and slow. I'd better sign off. Happy butt darts to you!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Salad

I've had a couple of people ask me how the CSA is going, and I've gotta say: I LOVE IT!!! We're on week four over here, and doing a great job of eating up our veggies before the next box comes. Usually I get something that I don't know what to do with. This time it's the dandelion greens. I'll figure it out... I like the challenge of eating new-to-me vegetables and being surprised when the box comes. I get it in the late afternoon and it's fun to come up with a recipe that night by using what I have in the fridge and pantry (since by then it's rush hour and too late to go shopping for ingredients).

Here's my most recent bounty:

csa week 4

I combined some red leaf lettuce from the box with mesclun and basil from my garden, topped it with blueberries from our picking expedition the day before, and tossed in some flax seed meal (Omega-3s and fiber, baby!!!) and the nasturtiums, which are just for show, b/c no one actually ate them. I drizzled the whole thing w/sweet poppyseed dressing, put some grilled chicken on the side and called it a meal.

salad tonight

I love summer. Sigh...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

summer shorts

grommet detail

pocket detail

shorts detail


Truth be told, the topstitching made this project take twice as long, but I think I'll wear them twice as much because of it.

pattern: my own
fabric: bottomweight cotton from JoAnn
casing fabric: CX3738_MultiSprockets by Michael Miller
cording: shoelace from Daiso

Monday, July 20, 2009


topstitched filtered

Wow, if you never want to be bored when you're sewing, try topstitching. Like, all over. Try it late at night, say midnight, when you're tired. Try it with a single needle when you should probably use a double--that way your heart will really pump when you've already sewn one line and the line you're working on must be absolutely parallel or else glaringly obvious. Try it in tight spaces, like on the outer or inner side of a pant leg where the body of the pants have already been sewn into shape. It's seriously exciting.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This post...

is aimed at moms with boys who live in the Seattle area. If you want to:

1) give your boys perma-grins
2) hear, "mommy, this is the best day of my life!"
3) hear, "feel my heartbeat, it's going so fast!"

then reserve a Friday night to drive out to Monroe to watch the junky cars (stock cars) race at the Evergreen Speedway. You can go on Saturdays too (but have to pay for tickets). If you go on Friday, you walk right in and watch them practice for free. You even get to touch the cars and talk to the drivers.

The Raceway

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On Organic Gardening...

Who needs pesticide when you've got this?

Caterpickle tickle

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pantalones for me


I'm looking for an easy go-to pattern for casual pants that fit me well and don't look like I've made them myself. I haven't found it yet. Most pants patterns that I've come across are too high in the waist for me. Yes, I'm a mom, but I'm not into wearing mom-jeans. Thanks, anyway.

belt loop

I've been working on a pants pattern for myself. This pair is a rough draft (made out of an on-sale IKEA curtain panel). I'm envisioning a little more flare in the leg and a little more give in the front. Other than that, I think I'm there. I have 2 pairs of summer pants that I wear relentlessly. They cost a little more than I care to spend on clothes, so I'm glad that I'm almost to the point of being able to give them the old heave-ho.

peek inside

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Redirect

I'm guest blogging over at my sister's blog. Check it out if you're interested in using the invisible ladder stitch to bind a quilt.

But don't go there until you've looked at this first:

dave in pants

Seeeeeeee? He's wearing 'em! Perfect for when you get lucky and you end up first in line on the ferry, and you need something warm to pull up over your shorts. Heh heh.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Clean Dirt on Beekeeping

bee keeping

O Sting, Where Is Thy Death?

It was all fun and games until the bees nearly killed my husband.

In the late-winter rush of planning out our urban microfarm, getting more bees made a lot of sense. The family had already gotten one hive a year earlier, the result of my husband’s early eccentric attachment to self-enclosed mini-worlds like ant farms, HO train sets, and SimCity.

Bees are such a great metaphor for so many things, which is presumably why they keep showing up in literature and why the Mormons adopted them as their role model a century ago. And there’s that whole yin-yang thing of simultaneously providing us with the prospect of sweet honey while chalking up painful stings.

Jack’s hive had yielded an impressive amount of honey and beeswax in its first year. With a few more hives, we figured we’d have more than enough for our household and friends, and could perhaps sell some of the surplus at the local health food stores and farmers’ markets.

But there were other reasons. Some of Jack’s attachment to the bees had rubbed off on all of us. He could go out and spend long minutes contentedly sitting next to his hive, watching the industrious little bugs flying out and back with nectar and pollen. I envied his absorption into the whole thing, and wanted to try it out myself. Plus, it fit right into my ideals of sustainability and growing locally. Bees are vitally important for so many of our foods and ornamentals. It’s estimated that honeybees are responsible for the pollination of between 15 and 30% of all of the food that U.S. consumers eat. Honeybees are the major pollinator for most nuts, fruits and about anything that grows on a vine. Entomologists tell us that without honeybees, two-thirds of citrus and nearly all of the watermelons, pecans, almonds, beans, and strawberries would disappear.

The alarming thing is that honeybees are in trouble. No one knows why populations are dying off. It’s probably a combination of things, from mites and diseases to stress, pesticides and fertilizers. With this in mind, it seemed like the perfect time to learn to do it myself — to tend hives in my own backyard; to keep bees that wouldn’t get moved around like commercial hives, or be subjected to massive amounts of chemical sprays.


I sent away for hives and accessories from Dadant, the oldest, biggest bee-supplies merchant in America and spent a long evening inspecting all the cool specialized stuff that came--tools, bee-proof veils, a smoker--and nailing together the hive, frames, and sheets of patterned beeswax that are designed to get the bees to build their combs in straight patterns to make it easy to harvest the honey with a minimum of damage to the hive and its inhabitants. Not too content with the basic white of my husband’s hives, I picked out a pollen-colored paint that was light enough to reflect the heat of the sun while adding a little color to the bee-and-chicken yard.

I got the bee spirit and I couldn’t wait to begin, but it was too early. This was February in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spring was only beginning to blossom. Even though Jack’s bees were already out and busy, I discovered that buying bees from a bee supplier in northern California couldn’t happen until the end of March. Hives don’t grow strong enough to produce extra queens until the rainy season is over in mid-Spring.


Finally, by April 1st, I got my new bees. After acclimating them to their new hive, we settled into a routine of checking in on them, watching for mites and disease, and harvesting honey. We learned a lot that first year, including the fact that Jack is deathly allergic to bee stings. The effects accumulate in his body. The first sting of the season may make his arm swell. The second will make him itch all over. The third sting will send him into systemic shock. The hospital has made me promise never, never, never to drive him to the hospital myself again. Even though we live just a few miles from the closest hospital, frantically running red lights while hysterically screaming about his status to the 9-1-1 dispatcher through my cell phone didn’t quite work out. Jack stopped breathing. The dispatcher tracked my cell phone using GPS satellites, and the EMTs found us a mile away from the ER. Several hours of adrenaline and antihistamines later, he survived, but it was a close call.

Jack spent three weeks thinking about his risks and whether he wanted to get rid of his hives. He surprised and worried our family and friends by deciding to keep them. But, I understood and respected his decision. He couldn’t give them up. Not so much for any altruistic reason but because of a spiritual need. Bees are awesome creatures to watch and to tend. It’s believed that individual bees will look at you and memorize your face. If treated gently and not overly worked, many beekeepers can tend them without protective gear and rarely get stung. They are mostly gentle and always beautiful. In our busy, chaotic lives, working our (now four) beehives has become an act of meditation in motion.

Here’s more buzz on bees:

• Bees have a great sense of navigation, finding their way several miles to a particular stand of flowers and back home again. On their first midday flights, they make exploratory flights in ever-widening circles as a way to memorize the way home. Not long after, they’re flying up to three or four miles away from home, using the sun and a keen sense of smell to keep track of where they’re going and how to get back. If they find a great cache of blooms, they can communicate the general direction, distance, and scent to other bees using what’s called the “waggle dance.”

• In a single trip, a bee will visit dozens of blooms, all within the same species. This benefits the plants more than the bees in that it makes sure that the pollen that sticks to the bee goes to other blooms that can actually use it. The bees most often collect a frustratingly small amount of nectar from each bloom, but also sometimes pollen, which acts as a protein-rich food for the hive’s brood larva. The pollen goes into sacs on the bee’s legs; the nectar, into a first stomach that is used only for carrying, not digesting. At the hive, most of the nectar gets regurgitated from that stomach into honeycomb cells; if hungry, the bee can transfer some of the nectar into its second stomach, which actually digests it.


• In the beginning, though, after spending three weeks in egg and larval stage, the bees emerge as adults, ready to go to work. For their first eight days, they take care of the eggs and larva before graduating to gathering pollen and nectar as field bees. While they can live for several months during the winter, worker bees pretty much work themselves to death during the honey flow of spring and summer, living a work-filled life of about six weeks. (The queen bee, who spends her summers laying a thousand eggs a day, can live for years.) A healthy hive can typically contain 20,000bees during the winter, bulking up to perhaps 80,000 in the summer.

• The combs are made from a wax that flakes off the bodies of the bees. Worker bees collect the wax and form it into hexagonal cells just big enough for them to get their bodies into. Those cells are useful not only for honey storage, but also for storing pollen. Furthermore, they are the right size for larva, sealed up in the cells by their nurses to develop to full size. Finally, they’re also the right size for adult bees to take a snooze in. They crawl in head forward, their backsides barely protruding from the cell opening, and later emerge refreshed and ready to get back to work.

• In the hive, evaporation condenses the nectar into honey and then the bees seal it up into the comb with more wax. Some of that will be used during the winter when there are not many blooms available and it’s often too cold and rainy for the bees to leave the hive, but much of it is surplus that people can take without hurting the hive. A good colony can collect more than a hundred pounds of surplus honey per season, but a single bee, working tirelessly, might collect only a tablespoonful of honey as its total lifetime achievement.


• Worker bees are sexually undeveloped, but all of them initially had the potential to have become a queen. When a queen is failing, or a hive is getting overcrowded and considering dividing into two, brood workers start creating peanut-sized queen cells. They select a developing larva and seal it into the larger cell with a generous dollop of royal jelly, a secretion from glands in the heads of the worker bees. Royal jelly speeds the larva’s development--in 15 days, a larger, sexually-developed princess bee emerges. She stings any rival princesses to death before they can emerge from their cells and then flies, mates with as many drones as she can, and then returns to the hive. If the present queen is failing, the newly-mated princess will hunt her down and kill her, taking her place as queen. If the problem is that the hive is too small, the new queen will attract several thousand bees and split off with them to find a new hive. These are the swarms that you sometimes see, usually in the spring. Although they look scary, they are actually just looking for a new home and almost never attack people or sting.

• Honeybees almost never sting when they’re away from their hive. Unlike most stinging insects, stinging kills the individual honeybee--it actually rips their hind end off their bodies--so they do it as a last resort only when they believe the hive is in danger. So, unless you’re actually molesting their hive, they will usually leave you alone.” In fact, many beekeepers “work” their hives without protective clothing, figuring the occasional sting now and again won’t do them any harm. Life-threatening honeybee allergies are actually quite rare, resulting in about 20-50 deaths in an average year; except when magnified by fear, the actual pain of a bee sting is relatively minor, comparable to getting a shot or a blood test.

To learn more about these wonderful creatures, or to start your own hive, check out the following sites, or contact me at

erin info

Monday, July 06, 2009

Thai Fisherman's Pants

thai fisherman's pants

Made for my husband. Modeled by me (because when does he have time to model pants, I ask you?).

I based these on a pair of pants he bought when he was in Thailand before we were married. He loves his beach pants, but they were getting a little raggedy, and I've been promising him for years that I'd make him a new pair. I used a painter's drop cloth for these because that's what I had on hand, but next time I'm going to use fabric that's a little less stringy--the hemming and french seams were a little bit of a pain due to the ravelling.

Even though they're a bit big for me, I like 'em. I'd like a pair for myself too. Should have had some of these when I was pregnant. These are the ultimate adjustable waist. By the way, they really look much better on him. He has the knack for tying them so they're not quite so bunchy in the front.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I'm oh so happy

I'm so happy. We just joined a CSA, which for us means a medium sized box of organic, locally-grown fruits and veggies in the kitchen once a week. If I can't be a farmer, at least the farm can come to me. Woo hoo! Yesterday we got our first box. The kids tore it open as soon as we got it onto our front porch. It was like Christmas.
csa box 1

What to make with all this goodness?

dinner in progress

I made my variation on a Dutch dish of potatoes and carrots, boiled and mashed (hutsput). I topped it with pork sausage fried up with kale. We usually serve it with butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you really want to be fancy, drizzle it with balsamic vinegar. Heaven.