Post #3207: Mostly wet, a few spots of sun

I think the photo at the head of this might be the last of my cheery autumn sun photos for the year. I took this on a walk last Sunday – a cold but brilliant day – and shortly afterwards the clouds rolled in.

Food: Just when you think you are done with processing food for the season, someone comes along with a whole lot of hot peppers and then the hazelnuts are also ready! This week I was pickling peppers for a market gardening friend, when I decided to also try fermenting hot sauce for the first time – so now I have 21 tiny jars of pickled peppers and 1 quart jar of fermenting peppers on my kitchen counter. Two kilos of hazelnuts came from one of the farms up the road, and are drying in my pantry until the time when I get cracking! In our house, hazelnuts are used as flour meal and in bliss balls, so my tendency is to shell and freeze for ease of use.

As per my previous weekly posts, cooking and baking are my autumn obsessions at the moment. I’ve recently switched to using fresh-ground flour for my bread (Vancouver Island wheat and the ground in the vita-mix right before mixing), bought an air fryer which has been all sorts of useful, and have been working on expanding my cooking repertoire through extensive use of the New York Times cooking site. The food has been very good around here lately.

Textiles: Got nothing this week on the textile front except the fact that I’ve finished knitting the main body of the Drifter pattern I’m working on. Now for the neckline, the edges, the buttons and buttonholes – another month most likely until I get it done. I’ve just ordered some flannelette fabric to make the new Oversized Shirt pattern by Assembly Line which I’ve feel a strong calling to make even though oversized isn’t usually my style choice. We’ll see how it turns out.

Work: Every once and while I get a union case that doesn’t sit right with me for some reason or other, and I’ve got one right now that just feels off. It’s been preoccupying me this week – and so work has suffered a bit. I made up for it yesterday by going through my inbox and making a bit long task list of all the things that need to get done – and so now I’m sitting here with a daunting list on a Friday morning.

Fitness: This week I unlocked two new fitness achievements. On Sunday it was longest run (ever) at 6 km, which I accomplished with a hangover (I am often foggy after Saturday nights!) I started out in my normal fashion but then decided to run up the really steep/long hill near my house and into a whole different neighbourhood in an attempt to hit 5 km. I overshot a bit, and now I have a new lifetime distance record to build from. Then on Tuesday, a friend who I walk with asked if I wanted to run instead. Running with someone else intimidates me, but I told her that as long as I could set the pace I would try. Turned out to be a blast and we did 5 km, chatting most of the way. Somehow I feel like running with other people makes me a real runner, even if I do slow them down.

Notable: Things are going down with my aging parents these days and I have been on the phone talking to people about home care this week. They don’t need much at the moment – but a little housekeeping and food prep would sure help my mom out these days. We’re going down to Victoria for an overnight visit tomorrow and taking a cake and a lasagna for her birthday. After this weekend I expect we will be very limited to the island for a long time since the pandemic regulations are increasing in the province and I expect that Vancouver Island will get lockdown orders sooner rather than later.

In mycology news – my oyster mushrooms have sprouted! They poked their heads out yesterday, and already today they look more like real mushrooms:

It’s really stormy here this morning, which seems to be a theme this month. I’m hoping the rain lets up for a mid-morning run but I’m not counting on it. November really is a difficult month on the coast with the increasingly dark days and socked in weather – but at least the gym here is still open and I can always work the kinks out there 🙂

Post 3206: The perfect autumn stew (Instant pot)

This is a recipe that I sought out in order to use up some ingredients in my kitchen. Specifically, the lamb, pumpkin, and miso. (While miso has no best-before date, I somehow managed to purchase two containers of it in a row.) The original recipe is on an Australian site but I adapted it for a couple of additional ingredients and also turned it into an Instant Pot recipe (the original requires 2 and a half hours of cooktime, whereas the Instant Pot version can be made in under an hour). This turned out a great success, warming on many levels, and an interesting take on lamb stew. It’s a keeper in my kitchen going forward.

Lamb Stew with Barley, Pumpkin and Miso - Instant Pot

  • Servings: 4
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A lamb and barley stew with a twist


  • olive oil
  • 1.5 lb. lamb shoulder cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 red chile, deseeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup of sake (1/3 of a cup for recipe, a bit more for deglazing)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup red miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 cinammon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 2/3 cup barley (I used 1/3 pearl and 1/3 purple)
  • 2 cups of pumpkin cut into 1 inch pieces
  • scallions for serving
  • lime juice for serving


  1. Turn Instant Pot onto saute function. Add olive oil and brown the lamb for 4-6 minutes. Transfer meat to a bowl.
  2. Using a splash of sake, deglaze the Instant Pot, and then add onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir and cook until softened.
  3. Add sake, water, miso, vinegar, honey, cinnamon, star anise, barley and cooked lamb. Set pressure to high for 15 minutes. Quick release when done.
  4. Stir in pumpkin, set pressure to high for 15 minutes. Quick release when finished.
  5. Sprinkle with lime juice and sliced scallions when serving.

Post #3205: OMG, This Week

The picture at the head of this post is what it looks like when I am cooking, baking, and watching CNN at the same time (I am mesmerized by CNN’s magic wall, and I can’t believe the commentators have been at it since Tuesday – it’s insane). Here’s hoping there is an answer to the question today as we close out a week of anxiety for so many people – though I’m not sure I’m less anxious knowing that 49% of people who live right next door voted for fascism.

Food: This week was pretty average on the food front – Brian was away for work so the meal plan included leftovers, pressure canned beans, yams, and veggie burgers (comfort food). Last night, however, I made a lamb stew with miso/ginger flavours and it knocked us out of the park. I adapted it from another recipe so I could make it in the Instant Pot and plan to share it here once I type it up. Definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten in ages.

One thing I’ve been digging lately is the air fryer we bought in October. While I’m not sure it can really be called a fryer (more like a countertop convection oven), I’ve used it almost every day for something. We got one with a rotisserie basket which turns out is fantastic for roasting vegetables, and making french fries. Yesterday I used it with just the light on (no heat) to rise my sourdough starter more quickly than it would on the cold countertop. As we have a propane stove/oven, I am all for reducing the amount we heat up the whole oven for jobs that can be handled by a smaller device. With just two people to feed most of the time, we don’t need an oven that can cook a whole turkey, we just want to do a few veggies on the side or make some quick oven fries – an air fryer can do that with a fraction of the energy use.

Bodysuit with jeans. Love the high neck on this version.

Textiles: I mentioned my desire for bodysuits last week and this week I made my first Rowan bodysuit which I am totally in love with (wearing as we speak). The Rowan can be made as a shirt or a bodysuit, has three necklines and three sleeve choices – so it’s really a great pattern if you like a form-fitting tee. But beware that your fabric has enough stretch! In one iteration I made with 100% cotton, the tee was so tight because I hadn’t factored the stretch requirements in when pulling the fabric out of my stash.

Speaking of t-shirts, the other thing I’ve done this week is made four everyday shirts with 3/4 length sleeves in different colours since I needed something more than t-shirts and tank tops in the wardrobe as we move towards winter.

Besides the obsessive making of shirts, nothing else got done in the studio this week.

Work: Work has continued to be very work-y except now I’m also starting to panic about deadlines in March that can’t possibly be met. I did start a new project manager reporting to me this week, which means I have help in sorting out the mess that is to come. I also met some major milestones on the competitive process I am running (which in the federal government is as bureaucratic as you can imagine it is) – so that continues with the goal of getting it wrapped up by xmas. I am now hiring for a total of nine positions, some of which have staff in them in “term” positions and some which are vacant – that is a crazy amount of paperwork to come….

Fitness: It’s been happening but without any real inspiration. I’ve run a couple of times, I’ve worked out at the gym on schedule – though I haven’t been getting much yoga in. Right now I am in the mode of just showing up which is the key to long-term success. I’ve also been thinking about a shift in mindset I read about earlier this week which is to stop thinking about exercise as something I “do” but think of myself as “someone who exercises” (being vs. doing). Apparently that is one of the differences between people who stick with it over a lifetime and people who don’t – and I would love it if my brain would just make that shift so I could dispense with the resistance I feel when it’s time to go to the gym. I’m always glad to be there and to get through a hard workout, but getting there is such an effort some days!

Notable: This week I started growing mushrooms in my studio shower stall. As mentioned in last week’s post, I bought kits for Oyster and Reishi mushrooms from Grow Mushrooms Canada (who are located really close by, in Sayward BC) and set them up with humidity covers in the shower. It’s an ideal spot as it never gets used, has good drainage, and gets lots of indirect (but no direct) natural light. At the moment there is not much to look at (set up is pictured below), but I will share more if I actually get some growth happening in there.

It’s really blowy here as I write, and I expect some visitors later today. We don’t have a ton of people coming through due to Covid, but when we do we’re fortunate to have enough space for separate bathrooms to use and some distancing while sharing the same space. I expect a lot of outdoor visiting tomorrow as we have some other friends coming to look at a house for sale on the island, so we’ll be setting up the propane fire ring and sandwiches outside!

Post #3204: In-Between Week

This week feels in-between because we just had a provincial election on Saturday (with a favourable outcome from my perspective) but we are still waiting for the big scary election down south on Tuesday. Also, virus numbers continue to climb which makes every activity feel like a big question. But even so, over here at Birdsong, working from home, my schedule continues pretty much as it always does: work, gym/walk, dinner, studio. Yesterday I threw in a trip to the grocery store just to make things really exciting.

Food: As you can see from the above stack of books, I am thinking a lot about food-related things right now as is my autumn habit. I just got the Koji book on top and I plan to experiment with both koji and indoor mushroom growing a part of my late fall/winter fun. In addition to learning all about miso, I plan to grow oyster mushrooms and a reishi mushroom (from a kit) in the guest room that is largely going unused these days. Both of these projects have a potential to turn into inedible mould so we’ll see how it goes.

Last weekend I went for the last mushroom forage of the season with my friend Jenn (who is obsessed which was great encouragement to hunt), and found a few lobster mushrooms and some huge white chanterelles. The lobsters are now dehydrated, and the chanterelles were turned into risotto which I paired with some salmon fillets with a bit of coulis made from evergreen huckleberries that I pocketed in the same foraging session.

Monday's dinner represented the forage and the hunt. Chanterelles, huckleberry coulis, and venison stock all hunted/gathered/processed by us. Sockeye salmon from the supermarket.

Textiles: This week I threw away the blouse I was working on. Just threw it in the garbage! Not only was the fabric turning out to be something I wouldn’t wear (a vintage rayon that was a bit too scratchy and floral for my liking), but I made a couple of major errors, and the fact of it on my sewing project pile was blocking me from starting anything else. I almost never garbage things I’m sewing without finishing them (even if I don’t wear something it can go to thrift) but this was becoming a misery to work on.

Once that was out of the way I pulled out some wide-wale corduroy that I’ve had in the stash for two years and made myself a new York Pinafore which I finished last night and am wearing today. I’ve made the York previously, in a stiff denim. I still wear it, but it’s a bit big for me now and I needed something a bit closer to my size. I decided to go with the kangaroo pocket in front, even though I wasn’t sure if it would be flattering or not, and I’m really happy I did! Between that and the corduroy, this feels like a make right out of my seventies childhood.

York pinafore pattern by Helen’s closet. A quick make to get myself on with sewing a new autumn/winter wardrobe.

Work: Work has been very work-y this week. I screened fifty resumes for two different job application streams, filled out the requisite reports, had a bunch of meetings, and am now finishing up work writing the tests for the job competition. There is nothing exciting about any of this, but I was very productive!

Fitness: This week was solid on the fitness front except the part where I made myself so dehydrated on Tuesday (between running 4.25 km and walking 7 km) that I felt like I was coming down with the flu on Wednesday. I also think I might be running up against my B12 deficiency again because I’ve been fighting insane exhaustion and brain fog some days. More water and supplements for me! This week I’ve run three times (4.7 km, 4.25 km, 4.5 km); I’m hoping that this weekend I can push myself to 5 km but we’ll see. On the weight-lifting front, I’m still in a maintenance phase which I think I’ll stay in for the next few weeks – I’m feeling strong but I have to really re-set my brain in order to start pushing upwards again.

New prescription glasses with red metal frames!

Notable: I got new glasses this week! Mine were more than two years old, and scratched all to hell – so I got myself an eye exam early in the month and ordered some glasses last week. This was my first time ordering from which I decided on because my prescription for progressive lenses is so expensive (two years ago I paid just over $600 at my local eyewear shop) – I figured even saving $50 would be worth it. As it is, my new eyewear came in at $500 so I saved at least $100. Now that my prescription is in the system, I can easily order prescription sunglasses when it comes to be the season. I hate to admit how much I buy everything (that I can’t get secondhand) online these days, but given that I live on a small island with limited retail and no selection, and the virus (which makes me nervous to shop in the larger community close by), that’s where I’m at.

Post #3203: Pandemic winter is coming

The province announced new health orders yesterday, limits on gatherings indoors specifically, and I realized that we really are back in this thing. It’s not as though I would have many people into my home these days in any case, but the formalizing of that into a mandatory order changes the weight of things. At the same time, the weather has suddenly gotten very cold and although it is just October it feels very wintery which I wasn’t ready for. While things are always quiet on these islands by this time of year, it’s feeling exceptionally so with no weekly open mic, no restaurants to pop into for some socializing, no impromptu gatherings of friends. At least we live in a place with a lot of outdoors and a few of our friends have covered firepits, so chats around a fire, long walks in the woods, and the occasional bright day kayak are all possible realms of social interaction as we head into these darker months.

My intention/word for 2020 was “rooted” by which I meant grounding down in the place where I live and really making my focus here instead of elsewhere. When I chose that word back in December, I had no idea how bound by place, very specifically my home and neighbourhood, I would be in 2020.

On the plus side, all this quietude is good for re-finding time to sew and weave. Last night I did some winding of warp chain which is always a meditative way to spend an hour in the studio. I’m winding on my longest warp ever (13 metres) for these Jane Stafford tea towels. I never buy weaving kits, but I was taken by these and I’m curious about weaving off thirteen different patterns from a single warp so I’m going to put these towels in the small loom and they will be my winter project.

As for the bigger loom I bought not so long ago, I’m waiting for a piece of equipment that will make it easier to warp on a sectional beam (the AVL warping wheel). If that doesn’t show up soon though I think I’ll just put a warp for a bathmat on it so I can play around some more. I have been threading white and black beads on the treadle cords, and the next step is to find 10 long knitting needles at the thrift store. These are used for something known as the Vavstuga tie-up system and I’ve found this system does make tying up a countermarch loom much easier. (Tying up is the process by which you attach the food pedals (treadles) to the shafts (the part that holds the threads in place and moves up and down) to produce the shed (the opening that passes the shuttle through in weaving cloth).

Given the need to settle in for awhile longer, I’m glad to have projects to focus on in addition to some household organizing I want to get done over the next couple of months. I can’t say I feel “inspired” exactly. Resolved might more accurately describe my mood. Not feeling negative, just a bit flat as I look out onto the grey horizon that I know will be my primary view for sometime to come.

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