Thursday, November 18, 2010


I learned how to clone on Monday!
Of course, it's not for an entire organism, but I learned how to insert a gene from one organism into another and have it make copies of the inserted gene.
The basic idea is this:
insert a gene region into a plasmid vector, insert the vector into bacterial (E.coli) cells, incubate the bacteria and as the bacterial colonies grow, each one will have a copy of the inserted gene region.
There's a lot more to it...but that's the quick version.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adam's Birthday

Adam turns 28 this week....Happy Birthday! Woooohoooo!
We had friends over for a big Ethiopian food feast
Matt and Amber (with baby!)
and Adam made bananas foster with our Caribbean rum!
Bartek and Cydney
Bartek and Jola

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shibori lesson #1b - Mokume

More shibori woodgrain (mokume) this time in black walnut with iron mordant. Black walnut is an aggressive dye, in this sample, it nearly wiped out the design after only ten seconds in the dyebath.
There are a few good sections I can use.
Next time, I will quickly dip or paint the dye on the folds instead of soaking.

Important Side Note:
This chicken chili was delicious and fed the hungry husband

and these peanut butter-nutella brownies were just what we were hankering for
I'm thinking of making these granola bars, but haven't yet.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black walnut dye 2 ways

As mentioned here, I was thrilled to acquired some buckets of fermenting black walnut (Juglans nigra) hulls.
I finally got around to dyeing some wool with the liquid, here's a little "how to" and my results:
-Ferment walnut hulls in water 1 week
-strain liquid through finely woven cloth bag to remove grit (very hard to get it out of the yarn later....)
-Add fiber (I used an alpaca lace weight and Icelandic Lopi as well as a few squares of cotton cloth for shibori). I didn't use a mordant, black walnut has enough tannins to act as a mordant.
-Heat slowly and keep warm/simmer about 20 min.
-Let fiber soak in dye 2 days.
-Rinse and dry. Each fiber took slightly different shades of brown.

I read that iron mordant will give a dark brown/black color. After I was finished with unmordanted dyeing, I dissolved iron mordant (you could use nails, pieces of iron, etc) in hot water and added it to the dye bath. I then soaked the fiber, photos coming soon....

The potency, abundance, ease of dyeing, and especially the shades of orange-browns and black-browns make me think Black Walnut would be ideal for batik tree skirts. I wish I had the time to sew up a bunch of linen skirts, wax and dye them using my extra two buckets of ready to go dye.....alas.

At least Black Walnut is easy to find and could be a predictable Fall dye for next year's projects :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

too many knitting projects

I got some new yarn!
It's rainbow lace weight and after about 200 hours of work, will be a soft, finely knit rainbow scarf.
-I am dyeing some yarn in black walnut! (test swatch above)

-I have piles of already dyed yarn

-I have three hats partially knit, here is one:

-And socks that need knitting

-Actually two different sock projects (and I haven't even knit socks before....)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Death by Matsutake

I went matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) hunting this morning at 6:30 AM. I had to be back in Seattle before 12-noon, and I am happy to say I had a successful hunt and made it back in time, too.

The drive to Lake Kachess, about an hour East via I-90, was beautiful at that hour. It was dark when I started. The moon was a tiny sliver, low in the sky and I drove into the sunrise. Here is Lake Kachess with rising morning fog:
I found so many matsutake! The name is Japanese for Pine Mushroom because they grow in association with Pines and have a spicy pine/radish/cinnamon odor and taste. They are very distinct, I don't think you can confuse it with any other mushroom if you combine the distinct odor with a few characteristics such as:
manly white mushroom with brown fibrils on cap, a squat appearance, thick cottony veil:
that is often fully intact:
tapered/rooting stem with brown scales:

Matsutake often completely develop under "duff," leaf and needle litter on the forest floor. You see puffed up, bulging areas of dirt and if you excavate further, you find this:
a nearly missed matsutake.
Here is an older fruit body. The cap has alredy turned upward and the gills have turned pink with age:
The odor/taste is strange. I actually like it, but I'm the type that sniffs every mushroom I see (I'm trying to learn all the mushroom odors - there are thousands). It was really satisfying to collect matsutake and get a "stamp of correct i.d."

I found my first matsutake last year (here's the post) and ate it sliced thin in a broth soup. It was pretty good. This year, I found about 15 large matsutake. I gave 4 away so I still had way too many to eat. I decide to try every interesting sounding recipe I found so I could get them all out of my system and not have to worry about mushroom hunting or mushroom taste testing any more this year (the collecting season is over anyway).
Here are my ingredients (I'm really proud of myself for chopping everything before I stared cooking, for the first time in my life):
Here is what I made:
clockwise from top: Matsutake broth, grilled matsutake, Matsutake rice (gohan), and Matsutake sukiyaki (stir-fry noodle soup).
The best one was the sukiyaki, then the rice, then the broth soup. The grilled matsutake were not so good. I think it would have been better on a real BBQ grill, not our panini grill :)
Now, we are sick of matsutake (Death by Matsutake, as Adam said) and our freezer is full of matsutake leftovers. It's funny to think this is one of the most expensive mushrooms. It can be $100 / pound in Japan - though around $15-$25 / pound in U.S. As a reference, one average matsutake is 4-5 ounces. So, 4 mushrooms make one pound.
Here is the log bridge leading to the secret matsutake hunting grounds!

Here are the recipes I consulted:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lobster mushrooms

Lobster mushrooms are actually two kinds of fungi: a white mushroom, usually Russula brevipes, parasitized by the bright orange fungus, Hypomyces lactifluorum.
Hypomyces turn purple with a chemical indicator (see below).

Hypomyces lactifluorum will make a good dye, which is why I care about these funky, contorted, parasitized, stinky, mushrooms.
Some people care about lobster mushrooms as edibles. I've actually never eaten one though I plan to some day.
I care about them for dye...and I must care a lot because I have gone through the most disgusting tasks to get them into the dye pot. Unfortunately, it's mostly my fault.
To illustrate:
I got 2 boxes of past-their-prime lobsters from a mushrooming friend.

They sat outside rotting and collecting flies for 4 days until I had time to cut off the red/orange Hypomyces. This (handling rotting, slippery, raw-meat-like mushrooms pieces) in and of itself was disgusting, but it continues...

Then I boiled them (mistakenly) in our house on our stove. They put off the most horrible chemical rotting smell I have ever experienced. I also dried some of the less rotten parts for winter dyeing.

I put the whole dye pot outside to cool while I aired out the house...for 7 days.
Using a cloth bag (after work, in the dark, wearing a headlamp), I strained the chunks from the liquid and had to throw the straining bag away and wash my hair in the shower (my hair had absorbed the horrible smell).
3 weeks later (last night) I attempted to use the dye. Over the 3 weeks, I had time to plan how to use the dye. Not what to use it on - that's easy - but how to actually get through the dyeing process. I still needed to heat the dyebath and let the wool soak in the warm dye.
My idea: use our car camping propane stove at the nearby neighborhood park, hahahaha!
Ideally, wearing a hazmat suit.

Though Adam and I had a nice night at the park
on the slack line
while the dye pot simmered,
I must say I am bummed to not have gotten the dark purple colors I was hoping for. Many people mention getting cinnamon pink colors, which it probably a fitting description for what I have.
I dipped half of the skein in iron mordant (blue while wet, orange when dry) and the other half was alum mordant.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

more baby sewing

Instead of the other things I should have worked on...I made more baby bibs:

Some have baby terry cloth backing

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Food

We've been eating several kinds of bean chili (one of them - see photo - has cocoa powder)
and other crock pot soups like Portuguese white bean soup (flavored with crushed fennel seeds! yum!)

roasted beets with goat cheese

spicy roasted squash with goat cheese (link)
and I made mustard! (here is the recipe link)
What have you been making? Any good (easy and cheap) recipes or ideas?