8.31.2013

gardening in a jar

alfalfa sprouts in thrifted vintage Pyrex sprouter, Day 3

Like my new garden? Actually, by now this batch has all been eaten on cheese and pita sandwiches, all those little baby plants gobbled up, and another batch already started. (I felt more of a killer this week than I normally do when eating.)

Jeff had found a vintage Pyrex Sprout Farm in its original box at Goodwill for four dollars recently and said, "We're growing some at your place." So we did. He bought organic alfalfa seeds at People's Co-op and followed random directions found online since somebody had lost the box returned to him that contained the instruction manual.

It's amazing how complicated some try to make the sprouting process. People offer classes for this stuff, which is crazy since, by definition, seeds want to grow. It's unnecessary to scout eBay or Etsy for a vintage Pyrex sprouter or buy some large tray contraption unless you plan on becoming a sprout seller at your local farmers market or have a Catholic- or Mormon-sized family. Just use a wide-mouth canning jar you probably already have and buy a fine metal screen or a plastic-mesh lid found at any natural foods store. Depending on how much you plan to use sprouts in your diet, keep as many jars-with-screens in rotation as you'll need, knowing that start-to-finish sprouts take about six days to mature.

Easy Alfalfa Sprouts
  1. Rinse 1-2 T. of seeds in a wide-mouth glass canning jar secured by a fine mesh screen.*
  2. Soak them in lukewarm water overnight in the same container.
  3. Drain, rinse, and drain them again, and then lay them on their side in a dark cupboard.
  4. Twice daily, continue rinsing, draining, and keeping them prone until the sprouts start showing leaves, at which point they can be un-banished from the cupboard and kept out on a counter in indirect sunlight. 
  5. Continue rinsing and draining twice daily until maturation (when the tiny leaves turn from yellow to dark green).
  6. When the seeds have matured, skim off the hulls in a bowl of cool water, if desired, or if you're like me, ignore the hulls and just stick the jar(s) in the fridge, using the sprouts as needed and rinsing and draining if the sprouts go a bit dry. And that's it.

alfalfa sprouts at Day 3 in vintage Pyrex Sprout Farm

The sprouts in the photos are at Day 3, and, impatient, we started eating them at Day 4 when Jeff came over to drill more hooks for me. I have the contraption upside down according to the Pyrex box because I wanted the sprouts to have air circulating. The cool thing about the Pyrex sprouter, though, is that sprouting times are printed up the sides of the jar for different kinds of seeds. Alfalfa is just the beginning of the sprouter's alphabet. Try (organic) radish, mung bean, chick peas, or broccoli seeds—virtually anything in the leafy greens, legume, brassica, or grain families—and find a favorite.


*Note: The pictures show sprouts from one tablespoon of seeds. Also, if using a plastic mesh lid, be sure to keep the lid secured with your fingers while rinsing to avoid the water pressure popping the lid off and dumping the poor little baby sprouts out into the sink. (Ahem.)
 

8.17.2013

how to skip makeup

my small vintage earring collection

Having lived in Portland for almost six years now, I'd long wondered and only lately figured out how women here—and I'm talking many, many women, more than in any other place I've lived or traveled, outside of Walloon Belgium—get away with wearing no makeup. And I'm not talking about what some call the French way of wearing makeup—"Le No Makeup Look"—so it only looks like you haven't graffitied yourself every morning. I'm talking zero makeup, nada. That's what I see most often in Portland among women of all ages. And I'm also not talking about the McMansioned, SUV-loving, no-way-in-hell-I'd-walk-all-the-way-from-the-edge-of-the-parking-lot-into-Costco suburbanites who buy their makeup in bulk at the mall but residents of Portland proper, best city for cyclists in America.

Is Portland particularly feminist compared to the rest of the West coast or East coast? I doubt it. The Northwest is known to attract granola types more comfortable on their road bikes than in high heels, but the same is true for much of the West, so that can't explain why I see so little makeup here other than perhaps the locals getting tired of looking like raccoons after the rain washes it off.

Frankly, all these fresh, clean faces humble and shame me as I unzip my eyeliner and mascara from my bag in the bathroom at work at a quarter to eight each morning, like someone about to load up with drugs, having saved myself those five precious minutes at home in the rush out the door to the bus. I don't wear much makeup compared to many women, certainly not a full face, and I use natural products rather than those laden with bunny-blinding chemicals but would still rather not wear any. It's extra time, expense, and effort, with that not-so-subtle implication that one is far less attractive and acceptable in bare face. But the biggest reason for chucking the whole practice is that men, other than drag queens and rock stars, don't wear it. For the record, I wear eyeliner and mascara because when I don't, people ask if I'm sick. Plus, I have low-grade environmental allergies that make my eyes continually bloodshot, so the warpaint helps me look less like I have pinkeye.

No, the secret to avoiding makeup as a professional woman—beyond undeservedly good skin, bone structure, and facial symmetry—is . . . great earrings. But they must be striking earrings, preferably sexy, dangly ones: handmade, vintage, estate, I-paid-a-lot-for-these-on-Etsy-and-you-won't-find-them-at-Target earrings. And they should be the right size for your frame and shape for your face. I'm petite, for example, and so can't wear gigantic earrings without looking like I'm playing dress-up. It also helps if you grew up here in the Northwest where your vampiric skin rarely sees sun and is dew-moist eight months of the year, but we all can't hail from Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver.


vintage earring collection

So here are some great places to find virtually one-of-a-kind earrings that may save you from the annoyance and ethical controversies of makeup:
  • your deceased female relatives' jewelry boxes
  • Etsy
  • eBay
  • local antique malls

The places you won't generally find good vintage jewelry unless you're extremely lucky are thrift stores and garage sales. I've tried, and jewelry is the secondhand item I always find least of. So don't bother.

Do take time developing your collection. Mine's small but, like everything else, I'd rather have a few pieces I love and wear often—each with a story—than many I care little about and never use.

(Note: Striking necklaces or head scarves also work for the same purpose if you don't like wearing earrings, but for the head scarves, at least, you'd need a large, nicely shaped skull, a broad forehead, and non-slippery hair, unlike mine.)

8.16.2013

the not-lazy days of summer

watermelon taken to a family reunion that wasn't mine


vintage red Peugeot men's road bike, 3 cm too big for me, requiring resale on Craigslist


Jeff's shop space at Hawthorne Vintage, current iteration

This week, I'm reading Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, whose thesis is essentially that Americans have grown so busy and have been disappointing each other so much we have been seeking the safety and reduced intimacy of technologically mediated communication rather than facing each other in the old ways.

Jeff and I have each been drowning in projects this summer, both shared and individual, and taking it out somewhat on each other. Relationships are hard, even the platonic ones, and take time and effort to nurture. He has helped me so many times in so many ways, big and small. I need to learn to give of my time more graciously to my friends. But I'm also chafing because summer's waning, and I haven't had more than one lazy day on the grass with a book and not a single weekend by the water with sand mounding between my toes, nor one winding hike up a pine mountain, nor one cruise on a bike with my hair streaming behind in the breeze. And summer's almost over.


(Edited 4.16.14 to add: FYI, the mid-century console in the photo above can be seen briefly in Season 4 Episode 5 of Portlandia, the one in which Fred and Carrie hold a garage sale. The set designers had rented it out for a day or so before it later sold.)

8.08.2013

raw kale, carrot, and cranberry salad


kale salad at windowsill

This raw kale salad is my new favorite thing, a recreation of a friend's made-up salad I had about a month ago, which I've already made twice this week. (Thanks, Monica!) Poking around on the Internet, I found many similar versions, the key ingredients being raw kale massaged with lemon juice, dried fruit, nuts, olive oil, a little sugar or honey for balance, and a sharp hard cheese. One could make a vegan version, but, like those who say everything tastes better with bacon, I'd say the same about cheese!

Though I'd known about raw kale salads for years, I was skeptical. Would I be chewing my cud forever on tough leathery leaves as on a hunk of meat? But no. My fears have vanished.

Massaging the torn leaves with the lemon juice alone works well, though some cooks suggest massaging all the dressing into the leaves at once. Lemon juice by itself, though, rinses off hands easily. And the massage isn't as kooky as it sounds, the action more like kneading dough but only for a couple of minutes, the whole point being to soften the leaves a bit. But kale's one tough green: it can take a good rubdown and still stay firm. An extra bonus is the lemon juice turns the leaves from dull to bright green.

And while I don't normally add sweeteners to savory dishes, at least for this salad, it's needed to balance out all the bitter, sour, and salty tastes—just a teaspoon or so.

Now, I'm the only one of my siblings who ever liked vegetables, even before I became a vegetarian. My meat-and-cheese-eating bachelor brothers never eat vegetables, no joke, not even a leaf of iceberg lettuce on a sandwich. One of them was even diagnosed with gout several years back. Yikes! And though my sister's not as extreme as my brothers, even she was told by her doctor that she must eat more vegetables, even if she had to drown them in ranch dressing—in other words, Eat vegetables or die!

Hating dry, flavorless salads, I use that prescription for my own salads but with extra-virgin olive oil. So the oil amount is entirely up to you. I'd pretty much guarantee your glugs of olive oil will be fewer than mine. I'm not saying this salad will turn veggie-haters into veggie-lovers, but it's a darn tasty, colorful salad for those of us who already enjoy stuffing our bellies with leafy greens like good little bunnies.


Raw Kale Salad with Carrot and Cranberry

1 large bunch of kale (I used basic curly kale from the farmers market), washed, spun, and torn
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. dried cranberries 
1/4 c. roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. shredded baby carrot
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 tsp. raw sugar or honey to taste
extra-virgin olive oil to taste
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Massage the lemon juice into the kale for two or three minutes with bare hands. Then toss the leaves with the rest of the ingredients, dressing it to taste. This makes about four cups and keeps for days in the fridge.


kale salad in thrifted Heath Ceramics serving bowl

This salad also makes for excellent packed lunches, stuffed into pint Kerr jars, all ready to go for the rest of the work week. In time, I'll experiment with other raw kale salads, but it's good to know kale is so flexible—not just a healthy, hardy winter green for soups.


packed lunches: kale salad in Kerr canning jars

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