Monday, October 25, 2010

Denver Botanic Gardens

I had the opportunity to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens during a conference focusing on plant collections management.  This garden, in the mile high city, aims to connect people with plants and focuses on plants in the Rocky Mountain region.
Henry Moore sculpture in the Ornamental Grass Garden
Ornamental Grass Garden
DBG's famous Rock Alpine Garden
Japanese Garden
Porter Plains Garden
Alpine Trough Gardens
Henry Moore Sculpture in the Water Garden
Bismarckia nobilis in the Tropical Conservatory
Petrea volubilis in the Tropical Conservatory
Mordecai Children's Garden

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sewing Lessons for a Friend and an Easy Tote Bag

My friend Jenny just inherited a Bernina sewing machine and needed a tutorial on how to get started with sewing.  I was super excited to try the machine out and I love helping people develop their sewing skills.  We decided to start with an easy tote bag.  At the fabric store, Jenny chose two cute fabrics and I helped her buy a few essential sewing notions before we got to work.  Jenny also has a nice fancy camera that she let me play with, so the photos will be better than my usual blog posts.  Thanks Jenny!
Jenny with her cute fabric choices, a black and white polka dot and a coordinating large floral print with fun primary colors.
We chose the floral fabric for the outside of the bag and the polka dots for the lining.  We started with two 14x16" blocks each of fabric, sewing them rights sides together on three sides (leave one short side open).  We left  a 4" gap in one of the long sides in the lining fabric- this is used when you flip the bag inside out at the end.
Pinning the blocks together
Gap left in one long side of the lining
Flip the lining right side out and insert into the outside of the bag.  Right sides should be together.
Inserting lining into outside of bag.
We created straps by using the lining fabric and 1" belting material.
17" lengths of 3" wide strips of lining material and 1" belting material.
The lining material was folded in half and sewn along the long side.  Then the resulting tube was turned with a pair if scissors.  Jenny and I both agreed that this was our least favorite part of the bag making process.  Jenny thinks she got carpel tunnel syndrome from all of the turning.  I would suggest coming up with a better way to do it next time or not using bulky scissors.  Any suggestions?
Turning the lining material
The fabric tubes were sewn to the belting material (the seam was hidden under the belting material).  We thought we would like the look of the lining peeking out of the belting material, but since we were using a contrasting red thread, it turns out that we liked showing off the polka dots a little more, so we pinned it so that the belting material would sit against your shoulder when wearing the bag.  The straps were then tucked in-between the lining and outside layers and pinned in place.
Pinning the straps to the bag and tucking them between the layers.
We sewed around the top of the bag, securing the lining, outside, and straps together.
Sewing lining and outside layers together
The bag was then flipped inside out through the 4" hole in the lining fabric.  Then the 4" hole was stitched closed.
Flipping the bag through the 4" gap in the lining seam- supervised by a small giraffe.

The lining was tucked inside and the top of the bag was ironed and we sewed around the top at about 1/2" from the top seam.
Finished quick and easy lined tote bag!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

100 Year Old Seeds

Well, they aren't actually 100 years old yet, but that is the plan...

During a recent trip to Denver, Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit the National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation.  They are routinely preserving plant germplasm of both agricultural and wild plants as well as animal samples that could be used to reproduce our agricultural crops and livestock if needed and to ensure that genetic diversity is maintained.  They store samples in cold storage (-18 degrees Celsius cooler), in liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees Celsius), and in tissue culture.  The plant germplasm is stored as seeds, vegetative growth, or as dormant buds.  They are currently storing over 850,000 accessions and they get between 20,000 and 100,000 new specimens each year.  The public is permitted to submit seed for storage and institutions around the world are able to request samples of the seed for research.

As we walked around the (chilly) building, I felt like I was witnessing history in the making.  Most of the seeds preserved today will not be used for 100+ years.   The USDA is saving them for an unknown disaster in the future.  Already, they saved apple diversity in the North East when an apple blight threatened most of the US apple production.  They were able to thaw out some of their dormant apple buds and provide them to growers to increase the diversity of their crops, which will help the apples fight off diseases better.
Seeds and dormant buds are stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen
Storage tubes inside of the liquid nitrogen tanks- these will be filled with seeds and buds in plastic containers
Wheat seed stored in tubes that will be placed in liquid nitrogen tanks
Dormant apple buds in tubes that will be placed in liquid nitrogen tanks
Seeds are stored in a -18 degree Celsius room
Animal tissue is stored in stems (straws) and placed in tanks of liquid nitrogen

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tiny Treat Bags

For the Philly Modern Quilt Guild October challenge, we made Itty Bitty Poochie Bags.  This pattern was originally posted on the Moda Bakeshop Blog.  These bags were super fast and fun to make.  We all packed them with treats in the Halloween spirit and did a blind swap at our meeting.
Materials for one bag
For each bag, I cut out two 5"x10" blocks of floral material (for bag body and lining), two 2.5"x8" blocks of a contrasting fabric (for pockets), and two 15" lengths of ribbon for the straps.  Each of the blocks was folded in half and ironed.  The large blocks were opened up (the iron line serves as a guide and will be the top of the bag).  Pockets were centered at the bottom of one end and ribbon was placed around the raw edges of the pocket.
Treat bags pinned and ready to be assembled
Then I sewed along both sides of the ribbon, very close to the edge.  I sewed up one side, stopped at the fold line of the larger block, and turned to sew down the other side of the ribbon.  Repeat with the other side of the bag.
Ribbon sewn on- this secured both the ribbon handle and the pocket material.
The two sides were sewn, right sides together, and a 3" gap was left at the top of the block.
Pinning the two sides together (I made two bags and used alternating fabrics for the main bag and pockets so that is why this shows the polka dot fabric).
After sewing the edges, the bag was flipped inside out through the 3" gap that was left at the top of the bag.  Then the gap was sewn shut and the lining was tucked inside the bag.
Treat bags ready to be stuffed with goodies!
Voila!  These little bags were super quick and easy.  The original instructions can be found here:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Greenroof Garden at Temple Ambler

Recently, I made a trip up to the Temple Ambler Greenroof with a student who is studying them for his thesis at Cornell University.  I thought I would share a few photos since the public is not permitted access to the greenroof which is located on top of our 3 story Athletic Building.
Cornell student, Jeremy Jungles, taking photos on the roof

Sedum growing in the rocks on the roof
Blooming sedum

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Picking and Making Apple Butter

One of the fun Fall activities that I can now take part in since I'm living in the north is apple picking.  Amy and I visited Solebury Orchards in New Hope, PA.  We picked stayman winesap, melrose, and pinata apples.  We also bought apple cider and delicious cider doughnuts.
Amy and Grace at Solebury Orchards
Amy picking our first apple, a Stayman Winesap.
Stayman Winesap Apples on the tree
Pinata Apples
Melrose Apples
Cider, Doughnuts, and Pumpkins
Amy with her favorite pumpkin
Grace with a pumpkin... yes we were the only adults playing in the pumpkin patch
We plan to eat the melrose and pinata apples for snacks, but the Stayman Winesap apples are supposed to be good for cooking, so we decided to make apple butter and can it!  When I find a new hobby, I get obsessed with it, so for a while, everything will be going into jars.

Apple Butter
6 pounds apples (cored, peeled, and chopped)
2 cups apple cider (ours was purchased at Solebury Orchards)
1.5 cups honey
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves

Cook the apples and apple cider for about 2 hours.  Blend in batches and add back to the pot.  Add the honey and spices. Cook for another half hour or so.  Can in prepared jars.

Apples peeled with Amy's apple corer/peeler
Apple butter cooking down after it was processed in the blender
Apple Butter!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green Pepper Jelly

Yes, you read that title correctly- Green Pepper Jelly.  I must say, I wasn't too sure about this when I read the recipe, but I'm glad I went for it!  The inspiration for this strange jelly came from the 25 green peppers that have been sitting in a bowl on my counter and the other 15 peppers in my freezer.  Yes, my green pepper plants were more than prolific this summer, so I'm trying to use them as much as I can.  This recipe took care of 6 of the peppers, a pizza that I made last night used 2 peppers, so I need more green pepper recipes!  Feel free to send them along if you can help me out!

Savory jellies can be served with cheese, as a condiment, or as a glaze for meats.  I remember one of my roommates, who was from Peru, devouring pepper jelly in college.  I must say, I never joined in, but considering that Jose usually had a pretty good culinary compass, I thought it was another good reason to jump into the world of the pepper jelly.  Again, I used a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Green Pepper Jelly
4 green peppers, stemmed and seeded (I used 6 because mine were a little small)
2 jalapeno peppers (I didn't have these so I used canned whole green chili peppers, juice drained)
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 package (1.75 oz) regular powdered fruit pectin
3 2/3 cups granulated sugar
4-5 drops green food coloring

After sterilizing my jars, I pureed the green peppers, green chili peppers, and garlic in a food processor.  Then I let the mixture drain over a strainer lined with cheesecloth for 30 minutes.  I was trying to get 1.5 cups of pepper liquid.  After 30 minutes I only had about a cup, so I added a few tablespoons of water at a time to the puree while mixing and squeezing out the liquid until I had 1.5 cups.
Pepper puree draining over cheesecloth
Green pepper juice... I was pretty weirded-out at this point in the jelly making process.  It looks more like ecto-cooler than something I want to eat with cheese and crackers
I heated the green pepper juice with the white vinegar, lemon juice, and powdered fruit pectin, letting it boil for about a minute before I poured it into the hot jars.  I noticed this started to solidify much more quickly than the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  Also, the recipe said it would make 7 jars, but it actually made 9.  So, I have 9 jars of Green Pepper Jelly... what on earth will I do with 9 jars of Green Pepper Jelly?  If you are a member of my family or one of my friends, start thinking of ways to use this because you will more than likely be getting a jar for the holidays!
Green Pepper Jelly
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