Slow Craft: the tale of the perpetually patched pants

In the third installment of the ongoing saga that is patching my well-worn and heavily-mended Lucy and Yak dungarees (here would be part one and part two)…

I squatted down to adjust the height of the lawnmower and the entire butt of my pants split right out! Down the middle and to the side in the shape of a crooked “Y” – I wasn’t mad, I look forward to big mends like this.

EK standing outside showing off a new patch on the seat of her pants

I used a pocket from a retired pair of light blue linen pants that belonged to my husband and a handful of colors of linen thread. The pocket was a nice upgrade from a regular fabric patch; now I have a good place to tuck my gardening gloves in a pinch.

I loosely reinforced the edge of the hole with running stitches before pinning the pocket over top, edges folded under and pinned flat. I worked the perimeter of the pocket with hand-stitching until satisfied. Simple enough!

Close up of a blue pocket patched on to the seat of EK’s overalls with colorful hand-stitching

Below is a recent picture of the original knee patches after about a million washes and rough wears…

EK’s legs clothed in patched pants outstretched next to her dog Stevie, a half full glass of apple juice rests precariously on her shins

On an average day I’m wearing an outfit like this: heavily patched pants, long sleeves to protect my arms from the sun, no-frills Casio watch, wool socks with sandals or boots (depending on the tasks of the day) and a me-made wool sun protection hat. It doesn’t get more “me” than this look right here. 🙂

EK posing outside in mended overalls and a large floppy wool hat

These pants have developed a spirit of their own. I can’t head out into the yard to work, or pack my bag for a camping trip without them saying, “Hey! I want to play, too!”

And who am I to deny them the rigors and grit they so crave?

Shucks… a pair of pants after my own heart ❤

With love! ~ EK

Slow Craft: the perfect sun protection hat

My primary interests this spring put me outside for long stretches of time, subsequently exposing my skin to the sun more than I’d like: hiking, camping, landscape photography, fishing, gardening, etc.

EK sitting on concrete steps surrounded by overgrown grass, trees and chicken wire fence

I wanted to create a custom-fit sun protection hat for myself that ticked all of my “must have” boxes:

  • 100% natural domestic wool with natural lanolin retained to increase the inherent moisture-repellent properties of minimally processed wool
  • Comfortable custom-fit cap intended to wear over a thin scarf or bandana for added sun protection of ears and neck
  • Dense, totally opaque fabric to maximize sun protection and reduce the risk of picking up ticks in my hair while in heavily forested areas
  • Secure/heavy enough to not blow away in the wind without being overly warm
  • Extra wide, semi-firm brim extending wide enough to protect my neck, ears, and entire face from the full noontime sun
  • Cute, homey, forest-dwelling-mushroom-spirit-vibe
  • Inspired by my own previous design for this felted wool cloche
  • Designed to felt naturally with wear over time

Crocheting is old hat for me (har har! I’ll never pass up a good pun) – I picked up some of my favorite wool yarn and a hook, threw a few stitches into a magic ring, and an hour later we had the start of something promising…

Close-up of a ring of crocheted stitches and a light green crochet hook
A hat in progress, a mug of tea, and yarn on a coffee table
EK’s crossed legs in denim pants, encircling the start of a crocheted wool sun hat

Once I was satisfied with the fit of the cap portion, I moved on to the brim with the intention to try the hat on every few rounds until I was satisfied with the width of the brim and the amount of sun protection coverage for my face and neck.

An unfinished crocheted hat and a ball of yarn in a wooden bowl on a coffee table

My goal was to finish the hat completely in time to bring it with me on a weekend camping trip.

I finished just before bed the night before we left and snapped a window-lit selfie as the sun went down to commemorate.

EK posing in front of a window wearing a newly finished hat

This hat is a delight! Truly one of the best things I’ve ever made, all crafts considered.

It fits my outdoor needs exactly, which means I will treasure it and wear it for years to come.

This feeling; this is whole point of slow craft. ❤


As it turns out, an unintended benefit of my new wool sun hat is that it helps me hid from neighbors and sip my tea in peace…

EK sipping tea in a chair outside, face is hidden by a sun hat

Anti-social sun protection…

But as always, my anti-social inclinations are betrayed by a big grin and friendly disposition. 🙂

My new hat even matches my favorite self-drafted knit shawl.

This look is giving me amateur mycologist, forest dwelling Carmen Sandiego vibes and I love it.

EK in the same chair with tea but looking at the camera smiling

*singing to myself* – “Where in the woods is, EK Sandiego?”

hehehe 😉

‘Til we chat again, EK

*SOLD OUT* February Slow-Craft Care Packages

February Self-care care packages are now listed in my shop. A short video detailing what all is included in this month’s care package can be found below.

Bette sits on a black couch in front of a tan wall, talking about the contents of the February Care Package

I might do these monthly or seasonally as I have time and resources, and depending on the response.

All the best, Bette

Fancified Instant Ramen with Poached Salmon and Half-boiled Ajitama

I eat instant ramen and I won’t hesitate to admit it. In high school I dabbled briefly in the snack food fad that was: uncooked Top Ramen noodles crunched up in the package and sprinkled with the provided seasoning dust. I don’t have a defense for my juvenile lapse in good sense besides it honestly tastes pretty good.

Through the lean times and the abundant, I have always eaten ramen. I’ve had the pleasure of eating legitimate ramen many times and as a result, I’ve refined my home ramen making techniques to meet my heightened expectations. In a pinch, instant ramen noodles can be quickly finessed and improved with the addition of a few seasonings–in this case substituting the provided seasonings completely–and various prepared toppings.

Raw salmon steaks surrounded by onion and seaweed in a pan of shallow brown liquid

Last night I thawed two locally sourced salmon steaks, massaged them with sesame oil, and sprinkled them with black pepper. Then I poached the salmon steaks skin side down atop a layer of green onions in a mixture of water, mirin, and tamari, and seasoned the liquid with sliced white onion, sliced shallots, more green onion, black peppercorns, garlic, lemongrass, ginger root, raw jalapeño and some seaweed.

Poached salmon steaks simmering in poaching liquid

I poached the salmon over low heat in a large pan covered with a glass lid–occasionally lifting the lid to spoon the liquid over the salmon. This allowed the salmon to cook slowly, gently releasing fat and flavor into the poaching liquid. Next I set the cooked salmon aside to keep warm on a plate, covered, and set the pan of poaching liquid aside while I boiled the noodles in a medium-sized pot.

A rectangular cake of uncooked ramen noodles being held by chopsticks over a pot of boiling water

Once cooked, I drained the boiled noodles and set them aside in a large bowl of cool water while finishing the broth.

Cooked onions and jalapeños in a mesh strainer resting over a pot of brown broth

I strained the poaching liquid into the pot I used to boil the noodles and added more water, then seasoned it further with more tamari, mirin, sesame oil, red miso paste, fish sauce, and fermented red chili paste. I brought the broth up to a boil before immediately turning the heat down to low and simmering 5 minutes.

A bowl of ramen on a kitchen counter next to an unopened package of ramen noodles from Public Goods

I drained and placed a serving of noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladled the hot broth generously over the cooked noodles, then topped it with large flakes of warm poached salmon, half-boiled ajitama egg made earlier in the day, fresh scallions, a couple of roasted garlic cloves, and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Close up of a bowl of ramen noodles in a rich brown broth, topped with poached salmon, half-boiled seasoned egg and scallions. Next to the bowl on the table is a yellow cloth napkin and a set of white porcelain chopsticks decorated with blue dragons

While it might not be entirely traditional, this bowl of ramen was complex and satisfying; a damn fine interpretation using things I had on hand.

Now, who’s hungry for noodles?

Bette

Easy Like Sunday Morning – Classic French Croissants and a New Book

I finally did it. I followed the recipe in Le Creuset Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes From Our French Table and made French Croissants from scratch.

Despite a brief period of cold, creeping self-doubt around the third touch and go, dicey repeat of “roll dough out into a 8″x12″ rectangle and fold into thirds like a business letter” I feel this bake went extremely well.

Croissants cooling on a parchment sheet lined wire rack

I started the dough on Friday afternoon which required overnight refrigeration. I worked the dough throughout the morning Saturday, alternating between rolling, folding, and chilling again and again. Next came cutting rolling, forming, then leaving to rise until doubled in size. Lastly this recipe called for brushing the top of each croissant with a wash of whole milk and egg yolk just before baking, resulting in the distinctively shiny, golden exterior classic croissants are known for.

I baked the croissants late Saturday afternoon and woke up this morning, Sunday, excited to make myself a small breakfast and tuck into a new book for a couple of hours.

Close up of a croissant torn in half showing its flaky internal layers

I’ve just started reading the book Real Life, a novel by Brandon Taylor which was a finalist for the 2020 Booker Prize and is so far bright, relatable, and poetically descriptive.

Pictured is a small table covered in white cotton cloth. In the middle of the table is a small, round orange plate. On the plate is a freshly baked croissant, a spoonful of cherry jam, a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and half an avocado with a fork resting in it. Also on the table surrounding the plate: half a banana, a lit candle in a brown tin, a mug of coffee that says “eliminate girl hate” in plain white letters inside a red heart, the book Real Life by Brandon Taylor, and a white hand-knit napkin featuring a cable knit leaf motif.

This is my ideal Sunday morning: bundled against the chill in a warm blanket, feet decked in colorful hand-knit wool socks, good candles burning, jazz records playing softly in the background, pecking at a tasty spread while reading a good book–unaffected by the snow falling gently outside.

I hope you are currently spending your Sunday nestled someplace equally cozy xx Bette

Hand-mending and an iced lemon loaf cake

This morning I began a massive mending feat: stitching two large Sashiko-inspired patches on to the knees of my well-loved, worn-nearly-into-the-ground Lucy and Yak organic cotton twill Dungarees.

Sashiko is the traditional Japanese method of decoratively mending or reinforcing textiles with cotton fabric and white or indigo-dyed thread. Sashiko is an expression of the traditional Japanese aesthetic Wabi-sabi, which is characterized by the appreciation of “imperfect beauty” and impermanence.

Faded black cotton pants slung across a coffee table with two large brown patches over the knees tacked down with several metal T-pins

I plan to sew each patch down by hand in a grid pattern of small stitches using linen thread in a few different natural tones that remind me of wildflowers… the resulting mend should reinforce the knees and lower legs for at least another year of abruptly kneeling in dirt to spot cool bugs, and scooting across the living room rug while “playing dogs” with… the dog. Don’t ask, I’m an adult and this is just how I live my life.

I’ve had this same pair of dungarees since the early days of Lucy and Yak, and I have worn them more times than I could possibly count. I envision them 10 years from now, held together entirely by clever little hand-stitches and assorted patches cut from long-since-retired-yester-clothes.

Close up of a freshly baked lemon loaf cake cooling on top of a piece of parchment paper on a wire rack

In current food news ‘round these parts: I baked a lemon loaf cake today using this recipe and it turned out great, really great. My only deviation from Maria’s recipe was that I opted for a quick vanilla bean icing to douse the top instead of the suggested lemon glaze. Smash hit. Well done on the recipe, Maria. 🙂

Close up of the cut end of the lemon loaf cake. The cake is moist and yellow inside with a golden brown edge, encased in a thin layer of vanilla icing

I’ll continue to share the process of mending the knees of my dungarees as I go.

What was the last piece of clothing you brought back to life with a thoughtful mend? I’d love to continue the discussion in the comments below.

All the best ~

Bette

A Recent Culinary Experiment: Curing Egg Yolks

Close up of cured egg yolks coated in kosher salt flakes on a bright blue plate

I recently experimented with curing egg yolks following the directions provided in the recipe for Asparagus with Cured Egg Yolk in the Le Creuset cookbook.

Close up of the cover of Le Creuset: A Collection of Recipes From Our French Table on a brown countertop

The Le Creuset directions for cured egg yolks call for 6 egg yolks, a mixture of sugar and kosher salt, and time.

Bette’s hand lowering an egg yolk into a round glass baking dish full of salt

Yolks were deposited carefully by hand into round indentations made with the back of a wooden spoon, sprinkled with salt mixture until just covered, then covered completely with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerated for 5 days until firm.

Close up of cured egg yolks coated in kosher salt flakes on a bright blue plate

Resulting yolks were indescribable but I will try my best: salty complex umami flavor when grated over bitter salad greens with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, luxuriously silk and rich when grated over warm buttered toast with avocado – some delicious sort of witchcraft takes place when grated over hot buttered noodles… forgive me, I’m drooling now.

Bette’s hand holding a clear 8oz jam jar to the light containing 6 cured egg yolks separated by small squares of parchment paper

Good for 30 days in the fridge which was the perfect amount of time for me to use the whole batch testing out various applications. I think for the right foodie recipient, a nicely labeled jar of cured egg yolks would make a fantastic holiday gift. Maybe with a microplane (aka a rasp grater, and FYI every kitchen needs one), a loaf fresh bread, and a wedge of good cheese?

You can tell what my priorities are (eating good food)!

Best, Bette

Lemon-Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Round shortbread cookies with scalloped edges on a dark purple plate next to a mug of coffee in the middle of a messy desk covered in colorful knitting and embroidery projects in progress

Shortbread cookies are hands-down my favorite kind of cookie when I’m feeling cozy and nostalgic, namely Walkers shortbread which I used to scrimp and pinch my pennies as a child to buy from World Market.

I’ve never been to Scotland – I can’t speak to the authenticity of this shortbread recipe but the resulting cookies are tasty and beautiful, and tick all of the necessary boxes for me so I will call them “shortbread cookies” and sleep just fine tonight.

Lemon and lavender cut through the richness of the butter (use the highest quality butter you can find for this recipe because you will taste it) and waltz the tastebuds effortlessly between tart and floral, tart and floral, tart and floral… mmm… butter… *Homer Simpson voice* mmm donuts… I mean cookies! I mean biscuits!?

I digress…


Close up of Bette’s fingers holding a Lemon-Lavender Shortbread Cookie in the foreground, colorful knitting out of focus in the background

The recipe

  • 1 cup (208g) good quality salted butter, softened/room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a butter knife
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups (180g) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon food grade lavender buds, finely ground in a spice grinder or by hand with mortar and pestle (my method of choice)
  • zest from one lemon that has been soaked in a 1:1 water to white vinegar solution to remove surface residues, rinsed, and dried

Some tips to consider before starting

  • I find that weighing my butter and flour first yeilds a more predictable outcome as opposed to scooping or eyeballing my way along and wondering why they don’t turn out quite right. You will find the weighed ingredients in the recipe prescribed in cups and grams – if you don’t yet have a food scale for baking, now is a fine time to get one!
  • It is critical to let the butter come all the way up to room temperature to soften, which will take some time – maybe even several hours depending on the temperature of your home. Be patient and know that the butter and sugar will cream together much more uniformly resulting in a better cookie overall. If I know I’m going to bake cookies on say, a chilly Saturday afternoon in late October, I’ll weigh out my butter when I first wake up and leave it on the counter with plenty of time to soften up, then make my dough after lunch.
  • If you don’t have powdered sugar on hand, it is easy enough to make with regular granulated sugar and a blender or food processor. I usually make a batch in my blender using organic cane sugar granules so I always have a bit around on hand for recipes like this.
  • Feel free to omit the ground lavender and lemon zest if you don’t have them or if you’re going for that classic buttery shortbread taste, or experiment with adding other dry flavorings. Chai powder is delicious, and finely ground rose petal are just plain ol’ lovely.

To Prepare

Close up of room-temperature butter chunks and sifted powdered sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl

In a stand mixer affixed with paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with sturdy spoon or hand mixer, add butter and powdered sugar (sift in the sugar to prevent lumps) and cream together until uniform.

Gently incorporate the vanilla and lemon zest into the creamed butter/sugar mixture until combined. Sift ground lavender into bowl and discard the few reedy bits that were too large to sift through (these will add an unpleasant texture to the cookie and too much floral flavoring).

Sift flour into bowl to prevent lumps in dough and work together with stand mixer on low speed, scraping the sides down occasionally as you go, or mixing by hand with a stiff spoon or hand mixer until combined.

Dough should be fragrant and uniform in texture, sticking to itself at this point.

Bette’s hand holding the paddle attachment of a stand mixer which is covered in cookie dough

Shape into a tidy ball in the center of the bowl and cover. Refrigerate covered dough in bowl for an hour.

Bette’s hand holding a 2-inch round cookie cutter

Roll dough out roughly 1/4″ thick on to a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured 2″ round cookie/biscuit cutter, proceed to carefully cut cookies, placing them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or large plate as you go, and re-rolling remaining dough as needed until you have 24 total cookies.

Shape any remaining dough scraps into free form shapes of roughly the same size as the cut cookies (so they take roughly the same amount of time to bake) or feel free to eat remaining cookie dough scraps raw as it is eggless.

I have also been known to chop up the scraps into cookie dough “bits”, freeze them in a single layer on parchment paper, then fold them into homemade vanilla ice cream with heaps of finely grated dark chocolate for a slow food interpretation of cookie dough ice cream. Yuh… it’s goooooood.

Refrigerate unbaked cookies uncovered for an additional hour.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Close up of cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet after being sprinkled with lavender buds and sugar

Working in batches of no more than 12 cookies at a time, transfer chilled, unbaked cookies to a room temperature baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each cookie carefully with a few whole lavender buds for color and a small sprinkling of granulated sugar. Proceed to bake for 8-12 minutes, until the bottoms are just starting to turn a light golden brown – visible when the edge of the parchment paper is gently lifted up from the baking sheet for a quick peek.

Cookies will seem fragile and are likely to crumble if picked up at this point. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow cookies to rest on the hot baking sheet an additional 5 minutes, then transfer them very carefully using a flat spatula to a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.

Close up texture shot of a baked and cooled cookie which looks crunchy and buttery

Once cooled, the cookies with firm up nicely with a gentle crunch and hold up impressively against repeated dunks in hot coffee. Store in an airtight container in a single layer or stacked in layers and separated by pieces of parchment paper. These cookies will keep on the kitchen counter for several days, in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for a month.

Bette’s hand dunking a cookie into a mug of coffee with a ball of wool yarn in the background

Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy thoroughly .

Best, Bette

DCOTD (dish cloth of the day): Ricochet Lace

I’ve taken to knitting cotton dish cloths again in a continuing effort to eliminate paper towels from my home, and as a way to grow my toolbox of knitted textures, cables, and stitch motifs.

The pattern is Richochet Lace Dishcloth by Hannah Maier, which features the Baby Fern Lace Stitch and is available as a free download via KnitPicks.

Yarn is good old affordable (US grown, Canadian spun) Lily Sugar’n Cream in the color Tangerine.

Dish cloth? Wash cloth? Face cloth? Cotton scrubby? Trivet? Doily? These decorative, machine washable workhorses go by many names and serve a thousand various functions in my house.

I say “dishcloth of the day” in jest – although they are quick projects and the idea of knitting 365 cotton dishcloths in a year isn’t totally unrealistic for me, I won’t be posting a new hand knit dishcloth daily. Let’s shoot for weekly? we’ll see…

Until next time xx Bette