dine out for japan

Tonight, a city near you may be participating in this fundraiser for relief efforts in Japan. A bunch of local restaurants here in Portland are participating in Dine Out for Japan (click link for a list of locales). I am trying to cornswaggle some of my friends into joining me, perhaps for some tacos at Porque No? or a delicious Tasty and Sons burger. Mmmm, burgers. Considering that I flew back into Portland last night at midnight and had to be at work today by 7, I am too tuckered to cook. It's either participate in a good cause or pb&j for me!


A Night with Jane Eyre

For her honors project, one of my freshmen read and submitted an essay to Multnomah County Library sponsored contest for the Focus Features 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre. She read the novel, wrote a draft, revised, submitted, and was selected as one of the winners. As a result, she and four guests were invited to attend "An Evening with Jane Eyre," and she chose a 9th grade friend, her mother, her brother, and me to accompany her.

First, we went to the Heathman Hotel, where we supped on Stilton cheese, cucumber sandwiches, and other delicacies that Jane and Mr. Rochester might have enjoyed back in that era of wind-swept moors and gothic romances. Then the author Chelsea Cain read to us the opening of Charlotte Bronte's novel, and I was reminded of how much I've coveted having a window seat to hide away in and read ever since reading that particular passage of the book. The two freshmen girls and I all took home a brand new, free copy of the book, which was perfect, because I was sitting there thinking, "I am definitely going to want to re-read this (for the 3rd time!) after tonight." I had such a good time with these young minds, so excited and passionate, lovers of books and learning! Both girls agreed that the fact that they'd won a free copy of a book had made their entire night! Their entire week! I concurred!

And I do want to re-read it! Especially after the film. I've rarely seen such chemistry between two people on screen. There was so much tension in their unquenched desire; there were whole scenes during which I didn't move or breathe. Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska were so well casted in these roles and the cinematography was so stunning; I want to wander on the dusky, wind-swept moors in a cape and return home to my brooding lover. Or, maybe just revisit my two favorite Bronte novels, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights while curled up in a window seat.


Cupcake fever

Here are some ideas in the works for my sister's shower.
{via: Allen Heberger and oh! cupcakes}
I am on the prowl for cupcake mastery and creativity for the cupcake tower!
This cupcake suits me. I like the little green ribbon and apparently simple design incorporating the edible flower. I've thought from the beginning that edible flowers would be a sweet touch. Pansies, especially, since they're one of my favorite spring flowers. My cousin is also making chocolate covered strawberries, so those might be a nice addition to the tower or may be beautifully arranged on their own.

{via Kelli Boyles at My Garden Diary}


the story of the little lost bee: a hero's journey

On Sunday night, a bee flew from one of our shoulders or knees or arms or somewhere up to the light in the kitchen. On Monday, we found the same bee, exhausted, near the kitchen sink, drinking from almost invisible little drops of water. Since it was already after dark, Brian and I fed the bee some honey, dropping little droplets nearby so that she could suck them up (like the bees are doing in the above photo, cleaning the mess I made). She ate hungrily, enough to make me wonder how a little bee could eat so much honey. Eventually, she got full and left the rest of the honey behind. Yesterday, we could not find little bee. Our hope was to catch her during daylight hours and return her to the hive, but instead, we feared she'd died of exhaustion.

But no! Today, when I got home, she flew up and buzzed at me! I gently brushed her into a jar and walked her out to the hive, rather fearing that she could no longer really fly. But as I walked her out, she climbed out of the jar, so that by the time I got her to her home, she was ready to fly out and quickly return.

This is the little bee's hero's tale, of leaving her home, facing obstacles, falling into the abyss (the kitchen drain from which we rescued her), and then finding her way back home again.


how to filter honey from a top-bar hive

First, you want to carefully brush the bees from the honey comb back into the hive. Then, place the bars over a bucket or cut the comb into a bucket. Placing the combs is maybe better, since you may lessen the amount of bees that end up getting stuck in the honey. You can brush them off later but brush off as many as possible immediately. Make sure that your bars are clearly marked and your false back is ready for when you want to close the hive.
When you have the honeycomb ready, you need to remove all of the bees. If the bees have died a vainglorious death, drowning in their honey or staying heroically with the comb, remove them. Then, with your hands or with a potato masher or some other tool, crush the comb and honey. I prefer hands, since it rather forces me to check for bees or other foreign ickies that I might want to remove.
Do so until you have a paste-like substance.
Now, here's the part that takes a wee bit of planning. You need to have a bucket with a spigot or, in our case, a conical fermentor that you can filter the honey into. You will also need a 5-gallon paint-filter bag (aprox. $2.00 for 2 at Lowes) and then some way to attach the bag, be it a giant sieve or the top of a bucket after it's been cut in half with binder clips or clamps.
We used a busted conical fermentor, a giant sieve, and a paint-filter bag. I dumped the crushed wax and honey into the bag that was carefully placed in the sieve and then into the conical fermentor.
And now it sits and filters.

We have aprox. 1 quart of honey. Harvested more today. The bees were on the defensive, poor girls. I have 5 stings and still standing, barely.
The rosemary is in bloom. This is good early season food for them.


First Honey Harvest!

Today, I went outside to find an active hive, hundreds of bees on missions, returning with pollen baskets full of orange pollen. So I spent some time reading about swarm cells, mites, hive management, and so forth, and then I decided I had to go into the messy, messy hive with horribly crooked comb. I knew it wouldn't be pretty, and it wasn't.

The comb was not, as I knew, built along the top bars. Here's a summary of what happened: I went to a class and was told that the first year, you leave the hive alone. There's no management. You may harvest some honey in September. This was not great advice. My bees went renegade, and I made the executive decision, late summer, that it was too late to fix the situation. I would leave them alone until spring.
Well, when I saw them returning home with such a bounty of pollen, I decided that today was spring, and I went in, armed with a chicken tail feather, a bread knife, my bee suit, a large bowl, and a bucket. I started removing bars, brushing away bees with the feather, and cutting out comb; it was all honey and nectar or bare comb. I worked until they were in an absolute tizzy. I don't know how many times I got stung. I noticed that I don't really feel stings until later. I believe maybe three times, as I noticed something on the back of my left calf and on my left arm near the elbow and maybe one other spot. I'm not done. There's still crooked comb, but they were having a conniption, poor girls. I had to relieve them. Today, I didn't use any smoke, but next time, I believe I will have to. Especially since I believe that it would be better if I went in and finished the job tomorrow.
In the meanwhile, I have honey to process and comb to melt into wax. I removed as many bees as I could from the honey. After harvesting comb, a few fly back onto the combs. I really did my best to brush as many off as possible. I might try to melt the wax tonight. I read something about doing it in water and that it would float. Need to read up a bit more. I will be sure to take photos and blog about the processes as I figure them out and try them. So excited to have honey.
 A big day for the chickens as well. The hens went into their dome and clucked away, and I took the little halflings and put them into the outdoor coop. It was the longest they've been outside. I'm not sure how big of a deal scent is with chickens, but the shared territory might be of service later when I have to introduce the younger two to the big mammas. Eventually, I moved them back (babies to basement and hens to coop) because the americauna started squawking like she wanted to lay an egg.

I think I'd like to plant some peas and maybe some kale tomorrow as well as continue the beekeeping mission. Camillas, crocus, and daffodils have all been in bloom for a couple of weeks. Dandelions also starting to appear.


A winter in images

I'm sitting here drinking an amazing chocolate porter that tastes like coffee initially until the chocolate finish that Brian and Kris brewed a few weeks ago, reminiscing while I look at photos long overdue for my blog. So here are some highlights and summaries.
We had an amazing weekend of friendship, dancing, rain, hot-tubbing, and feasting for my birthday in mid-January at Arch Cape.
In February, we harvested our Plymouth barred rock. Rather the bully of the bunch, the alpha-hen, we decided we would live up to our word and harvest and feast on our first chicken.
Brian was really good at the slaughter, very calm and fast and sure. We did make some rookie mistakes, however. For one, we cut off the feet right away, a huge mistake as you want to tie the bird up and let it hang and rest for as long as a day. Then, even more careless, we buried the feet with the head. I would've liked to have used the feet to make broth.
I used my Riverside cookbook, and we slowly roasted the bird in white wine, water, fresh herbs, and vegetables. The book's directions were also helpful in the actual butchering of the meat. The meat tasted fresh and a bit like turkey, perhaps because it was roasted. It was more tender than I expected, and the flavor was strong, delicious. We had friends over and played music and drank delicious wines from Spain and Italy.
We also bought, on the same day, two new chicks; the one on the left is a black austrolorpe, a record layer, and the one on the right is also known for its egg-laying, a Rhode Island Red. Unlike last year, these chicks live in our basement.
In the past two days (including today), we've gotten four eggs! Which means that the Speckled Sussex and the Americauna are both now laying. The Sussex has been laying sporadically for a month or so now, but to get four eggs in two days is a lot for us! Crepes! Cookies! Scrambles! Frittatas! Quiche!


shower inspiration

As the date of my sister's bridal shower nears, I am finally finding some inspiration on the internet. Here are some of the images that are making me ooooh and ahhh.

All of these images are from The Sweetest Occasion, a blog I plan to spend much time exploring between now and March 26. Already, I have ideas for fabrics, crepe paper garlands, cupcake paper garlands, flowers in tea cups and mason jars, etc. etc. I want to create a lovely lovely little party.


book fervor

After much hesitating, I finally went ahead and read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I saw the movie and was not impressed. I was more impressed with the book, although I wouldn't rave about it to anyone as great literature. Looking for a good story that will make you cry? Read this book. Looking for great literature? Skip it. The writing was sometimes painful (obnoxious similes), and some of the characters were mechanical. As I read, I knew they were characters. I didn't believe in them (e.g. Gomez). But here's what I liked: the allusion to The Odyssey and the allegorical nature of the novel, representing how people manage (or don't manage) stress, the danger of getting stuck in the past, and the struggle to overcome loss.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat (love that name!) is a beautiful but sad, difficult book about a young Haitian girl who immigrates to the U.S. to live with her mother. She learns that her mother conceived her through a brutal rape, and her mother still suffers from the trauma. The mother and daughter's relationship derails, and it takes all of their strength and will to come back together again. I wouldn't recommend this book to many; it's saturated with pain, poverty, abuse, and death. However, it's well written with strong, believable, and often fierce characters.

P.S. My 11th graders (7 out of 10 of them will tell you they do not like to read at all) and I are enjoying reading aloud A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. If you haven't read it, do so now! Then watch the film version starring Sidney Poitier.