Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hannukah & Christmas & New Year's Eve Mash-Up

This year, Hannukah overlapped with both Christmas & New Year's, so I attended hybrid dinner parties on those evenings. There was a lot of delicious food (including homemade matzo ball soup, latkes, & applesauce). 

And, of course, the candle lighting:

There was also this somewhat alarming light-up spinning dreidel:

All in all, the two parties have made nice, social bookends for the holiday week--and a fun change to routine.

Happy New Year's Eve...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December in Review

And somehow, here we are at the end of December, already...

This month, I visited a friend at the USC Game Innovation Lab, & got to wander around while wearing a Hololens. Very cool!

While there, I got to use a snazzy mug that came with a custom-fit cozy (jealous...):

A coworker gave me this fun Christmas card that holds cookies, which I thought was very creative:

I experimented with making a mug brownie (verdict: not bad, as long as you include mini chocolate chips):

It was chilly, so I've also started crocheting a blanket while I re-watch some of my favorite Sci Fi & cooking videos. It keeps my lap warm, & helps me feel like I'm being creative again (& as a bonus: it's using up most of my random leftover skeins of yarn from other projects...)

Hope you enjoy the last week of December...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 (Embroidery)

I've spent the last two Thanksgivings with a couple friends & their relatives. My friend's mom has this nice tradition of inviting guests to sign the Thanksgiving/Fall tablecloth. Then she embroiders the names onto the tablecloth. What a cool tradition...

I also thought this transcribed note was funny (the food WAS good!):

Friday, September 9, 2016

Walking (Small Steps)

I feel like it has been very hard to concentrate on (& define) my personal goals lately. And I struggle to be consistent with things I need or want to do in my personal life.

But there is one thing that I have been doing consistently since February: I have been walking a little bit every day.

Sometimes I only walk about 1/2 a mile at work. Some days I walk around my neighborhood and use my phone to take photos for my Instagram account or hack an Ingress portal or catch a Pokemon. Other days I just walk and listen to music and pretend I am in a music video. On rare occasions, I will leave my phone at home and just enjoy the breezes and the flowers along my route. Occasionally a friend or two will join me.

I have found that tracking an approximate distance walked each day, & writing that down on a steadily growing paper log, gives me a small but valuable sense of accomplishment. Maybe I didn't get to "X" and "Y," and maybe I only walked 1 mile, and yes, it would probably be better if I could get myself to walk a little farther...but I did get outside, I got some fresh air and a little sunshine, and if I was lucky I met a cat. And I added another day to my current walking streak.

I think it has really helped me to have a small goal. It doesn't matter how far I walk, as long as I get outside, even if only for a few blocks. If I want to add a couple more blocks for an extra half mile (or an extra Pokestop): Great!  If my feet hurt and I just turn around at the half mile mark: Still Good! I only went outside because I had cabin fever? Still counts!

It seemed like such a big deal to hit 100 days of walking in a row. And then suddenly I realized that I was about to reach 200 days, and I hadn't even noticed I had gotten that far...

Today will be 220!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Star Trek Turns 50!

I can't believe that Star Trek (The Original Series) aired 50 years ago today!

Star Trek was a huge part of my childhood. I started watching TNG (the Next Generation) in middle school--it was the one show I was allowed to go off & watch during dinner--& branched out to all of the other series from there. I would buy old TOS novels at neighborhood rummage sales, & they were always better (and cheaper) than the Star Trek novels I could find in bookstores. Most of my exposure to the original series & that crew was actually through those books. I would imagine conversations where I tried to explain Human idiosyncrasies & culture to Spock. And I was very sad that I could not apply to Starfleet for college...

I dug out a couple photos from the "Star Trek: The Exhibition" that toured around California in 2008, complete with set pieces & a simulated shuttle ride. Here I am in the command seat on the bridge of the Enterprise:

I think it's so cool that Star Trek continues to reinvent itself in movies, & TV shows, & fan projects. I am excited to see how the upcoming series will compare.

Live Long & Prosper!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"To Kill A Mockingbird"--Houses As Characters (Book To Art)

It's Spring again, which means it's time for another "Book to Art" project!  As you may remember, "Book to Art" is a global club that encourages individual readers and library clubs to take literature that they have found to be meaningful or inspiring and to reinterpret those books or exerpts as creative art pieces.  Feel free to check out my previous "Book to Art" project on Elizabeth Gaskell's "Cranford" here.

In honor of Harper Lee's recent passing, I decided to do a "Book to Art" project on "To Kill A Mockingbird," a book that has been a pivotal school text for many people around my age (**Major Spoilers Below!**).  If you have read the book, you know that nearly every character and situation that we are introduced to by siblings Scout and Jem Finch has to be re-evaluated as new information comes to light over the course of the novel.  The children (and we as readers) are frequently reminded, through the experiences of various citizens of Maycomb, Alabama, and through talks with their father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, of how important it is to reserve judgment instead of jumping to passionate conclusions, to walk in someone else's shoes and examine the other sides of every situation, rather than just choosing the easy or self-serving explanation, and to pick fights we know we can't win if we deem the cause or injustice important enough (and to control our tempers and refrain from boasting while acting like intelligent and courteous ladies and gentlemen whenever possible).

I went about this project backwards.  I drew the homes of 3 of the characters in the novel, before I went back and re-read the passages that described their neighborhoods and actual houses. As a result of this reversed process, I did make a few small mistakes (the Radley place is surrounded by oak trees that keep out the sun, and Mrs. Dubose actually sits in a wheelchair, not a rocking chair), but I am overall very pleased with how closely the images in my memory paralleled the houses described in the book.

In my mind, each "abandoned" homestead serves as a visual symbol of a family and its status and level of (non-)integration into the tightly-knit community of Maycomb County.  The Radley family keeps themselves apart, and basically pretends that their son Arthur Radley, whom they have hidden away in their house, has never existed. Mrs. Dubose is a house-bound elderly lady, due to her illness and drug addiction, but retains a tenuous connection with the community by sitting on her porch and observing and calling out to her neighbors until her death.  The black members of the community work in Maycomb proper, but live out beyond the dump and nurture their own smaller community.  Tom and Helen Robinson are a part of and supporeted by this sub-community, but are each further ostracized and isolated from a large portion of the white community when Tom is arrested and falsely accused of having raped neighbor Mayella Ewell.

Below, I present each sketched homestead, paired with passages from the novel that describe the house and its setting.

"The Radley Place" (Arthur "Boo" Radley & family)
"The Radley Place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house. Walking south, one faced its porch; the sidewalk turned and ran beside the lot. The house was low, was once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the color of the slate-grey yard around it. Rain-rotted shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda; oak trees kept the sun away. The remains of a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard--a "swept" yard that was never swept--where johnson grass and rabbit-tobacco grew in abundance...The Radleys, welcome anywhere in town, kept to themselves, a predilection unforgivable in Maycomb...Nobody knew what form of intimidation Mr. Radley employed to keep Boo out of sight...My memory came alive to see Mrs. Radley occasionally open the front door, walk to the edge of the porch, and pour water on her cannas. But every day Jem and I would see Mr. Radley walking to and from town."

"The neighborhood thought when Mr. Radley went under Boo would come out, but it had another think coming: Boo's elder brother returned from Pensacola and took Mr. Radley's place. The only difference between him and his father was their ages...Mr. Nathan would speak to us, however, when we said good morning, and sometimes we saw him coming from town with a magazine in his hand." --Chapter 1

Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
"Cecil Jacobs, who lived at the far end of our street next door to the post office, walked a total of one mile per school day to avoid the Radley Place and old Mrs. Heny Lafayette Dubose. Mrs. Dubose lived two doors up the street from us; neighborhood opinion was unanimous that Mrs. Dubose was the meanest old woman who ever lived. Jem wouldn't go by her place without Atticus beside him." --Chapter 4

"Mrs. Dubose lived alone except for a Negro girl in constant attendance, two doors up the street from us in a house with steep front steps and a dog-trot hall. She was very old; she spent most of each day in bed and the rest of it in a wheelchair. It was rumored that she kept a CSA pistol concealed among her numerous shawls and wraps."

"If she was on the porch when we passed, we would be raked by her wrathful gaze, subjected to ruthless interrogation regarding our behavior, and given a melancholy prediction on what we would amount to when we grew up, which was always nothing. We had long given up the idea of walking past her house on the opposite side of the street; that only made her raise her voice and let the whole neighborhood in on it." --Chapter 11

"The Negro Cabins" (Tom & Helen Robinson)

"A dirt road ran from the highway past the dump, down to a small Negro settlement some five hundred yards beyond the Ewells'. It was necessary either to back out to the highway or go the full length of the road and turn around; most people turned around in the Negroes' front yards. In the frosty December dusk, their cabins looked neat and snug with pale blue smoke rising from the chimneys and doorways glowing amber from the fires inside. There were delicious smells about: chicken, bacon frying crisp as twilight air. Jem and I detected squirrel cooking, but it took a real country man like Atticus to identify possum and rabbit, aromas that vanished when we rode back past the Ewell residence." --Chapter 17

"They turned off the highway, rode slowly by the dump and past the Ewell residence, down the narrow lane to the Negro cabins." --Chapter 25

It was only after I had sketched the above 3 "abandoned" houses that I realized that I had been drawn to 3 characters that I felt were incompletely integrated into Maycomb's small town life.  I felt that it was important to add a fourth sketch for the Ewell family, the "lowest" status white family in Maycomb, and the source of a lot of the drama and unrest that takes place in the book.

The Ewells (& Mayella Ewell)
"Maycomb’s Ewells lived behind the town garbage dump in what was once a Negro cabin. The cabin’s plank walls were supplemented with sheets of corrugated iron, its roof shingled with tin cans hammered flat, so only its general shape suggested its original design: square, with four tiny rooms opening onto a shotgun hall, the cabin rested uneasily upon four irregular lumps of limestone. Its windows were merely open spaces in the walls, which in the summertime were covered with greasy strips of cheesecloth to keep out the varmints that feasted on Maycomb’s refuse."
"The varmints had a lean time of it, for the Ewells gave the dump a thorough gleaning every day, and the fruits of their industry (those that were not eaten) made the plot of ground around the cabin look like the playhouse of an insane child: what passed for a fence was bits of tree-limbs, broomsticks and tool shafts, all tipped with rusty hammer-heads, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes and grubbing hoes, held on with pieces of barbed wire. Enclosed by this barricade was a dirty yard containing the remains of a Model-T Ford (on blocks), a discarded dentist's chair, an ancient icebox, plus lesser items: old shoes, worn-out table radios, picture frames, and fruit jars, under which scrawny orange chickens pecked hopefully. "
"One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell's." 
"Nobody had occasion to pass by except at Christmas, when the mayor of Maycomb asked us to please help the garbage collector by dumping our own trees and trash." --Chapter 17

This project became a lot more symbolic and layered as I worked on it. In the beginning, I was only drawing interesting houses that belonged to colorful supporting characters! I highly recommend trying an art project like this with a book you enjoy.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy "Rounded Pi Day!"

Every year, my friends & I like to mark "Pi Day" by eating pie, if at all possible. We try to make or buy pie, and sometimes attend a local annual "Pie Day" event.

"Pi," or π, you may remember, is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, which comes out to an irrational number that is roughly rounded to"3.14159265359..." so nerds like us round that out to 3-14, or March 14th.

This year is a little unusual, in that you can also include the year to make "Rounded Pi Day"--when you round Pi to 6 digits, you get 3-14-16.

We nerds will take any excuse to eat pie & make puns!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It's Super Tuesday!

Did you know that only ONE THIRD of registered voters actually go out and vote in a given election? That statistic always boggles my mind.

If you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, or Wyoming (or American Samoa), today your state is having presidential primary elections and/or caucuses.

Go out & vote!  Let's hear it for civic participation!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day

Today marks one of the corrective features of the Gregorian calendar: February 29th is "Leap Day," which also means that this is a "Leap Year."

To review my summary from Presidents Day, the Gregorian, "Western," or "Christian" calendar is based on a solar cycle of approximately 365 days, and is a modification of the Julian calendar, which was based on lunar cycles.  With the Gregorian calendar, the holiday Easter occurs closer to the point in the seasonal year that the holiday occurred when implemented and celebrated by early Christians (near the March equinox).  This was achieved by adding an extra day to February every 4 years (sort of--the Gregorian calendar also has to be corrected every 400-year "Leap Cycle" by leaving out 3 leap years).

Another interesting result is that in most consecutive years, the day of the week that a given date occurs advance by 1 each year.  On a Leap Year, the day advances by 2.  To quote Wikipedia: "For example, Christmas fell on Tuesday in 2001, Wednesday in 2002, and Thursday in 2003 but then 'leapt' over Friday to fall on a Saturday in 2004."

Various traditions, like "Bachelor's Day," have been a part of Leap Day lore (and even law) in the past.  These days, it seems like the main impact of this holiday tends to be felt by people who were born on Leap Day.  While their bodies are 4 or 8 or 24 years old, many people joke that these people are really toddlers, because they have only celebrated 1, 2, or 6 official birthdays...

A recent Leap Day "tradition" that caught my attention and made me laugh was Neil Gaiman's "Take A Writer to Dinner" post.  This whimsical practice makes as much sense as any other Leap Day behavior I've seen.  And it encourages writing, creativity, socializing, and altruism!  And eating!

Happy Leap Day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ROW80 Update (July-February)

Let's see.  This is sort of a summary of the last 8 months.

Last April, I switched my type of ROW80 goal-making.  Instead of having a dozen specific goals in multiple categories, which just stressed me out and/or got ignored, I made 1 general goal for each category.  I wanted to be satisfied when I met a goal, rather than disappointed or ashamed when I hadn't addressed something several weeks in a row:
 I did something a little different with this block...Instead of focusing on numerous, specific goals, many of which felt like chores to be avoided, I chose the 2 categories I'd given the most attention and interest to during the Jan-March block, and I assigned a frequency to them.  Instead of "3 sets of 3 exercises 3 days in a row, and get outside" I settled on "Exercise/get outside 5 times a week."  Blog, sketch, and crafting-related goals merged into "Do something creative 5 times a week." 
[X] 1) Do something creative: 5x a week. 
[X] 2) Stretch, exercise, or get outside: 5x a week. 
[   ] 3) Do something towards a futuristic goal: 2x a week. 
[X!] 4) Hit 100th blog post for the blog's 2-year marker on May 3rd!
I also finished and published a whole ABCs sketch series on my blog in April (see my Hedgehog series, above)!

So, how have the last 8 months gone?

Future Goal/Planning:
I have recently been doing a lot of research into some online classes and programs, and it's time to make some tougher decisions. I am looking at a spring intro class in a program field I have been researching, to see if I feel suited to that type of work and willing to invest the time.

Apart from some days where I get an extra spurt of energy, I have largely been sticking to my earlier "3 sets of 3 exercises at least 3 days a week" mantra.  I still hope to keep that up, and maybe increase it to 4 or 5 exercises per active day.  But, I am happy to say, I am currently on Day 20 of a walking streak (with only a few days missed the 2 weeks preceding), and I have been slooowly increasing the distance.  I discovered that I am much more eager to walk if I have generalized cabin fever or anxiety paired with a wish to see refreshing blue skies and sunlight, a chatty walking companion, or musical accompaniment (the 3 days I walked by myself without any music, I felt like I was walking against an invisible barrier).  Perhaps I will be able to turn this into a regular habit, after all!  However, here in Southern  California, we have already had a few weeks of 85 degree weather...So I have already had to play around with my walking time, and I may have to start supplementing my walking with swimming again, just to survive the oncoming heat (in March!  I know!).

During the fall, I made a couple baby shower plushies (dragons), and  discovered that one of my more popular plushie designs online was actually my bat.  Maybe because they are a more specialized animal?  I also started designing fabric ornaments as Christmas approached.  I am particularly pleased with the 2 flower ornament designs that I came up with, especially because flower ornaments can be kept on display throughout the year.  I would like to experiment with these designs a little more, as well as post tutorials for the original 2 designs on the blog.

I can definitely trace when I was busy with "real life" by when I stopped writing up longer blogs last winter.  But I got another spurt of writing energy in February.

I've been mulling over the notion (hah) that I should re-visit a sketch series idea that I had last year involving sewing and textile notions (the little gadgets and tools that make different kinds of textile crafting possible).  The challenge, I think, is that quite a lot of notions start with the same letter, or fall under the same category (for example, "quilting supplies," "quilting awl," "quilting tape," etc.).  So should I limit each letter to a single notion?  Or try to address them all?  Additionally, would this be a sketch series?  Or a writing series?  Not all of these notions may be familiar to the amateur sewer, who could benefit from a short description.  But I definitely slowed down production of my ABC sketch series last year as I got further into the alphabet.  I started out with a couple weeks scheduled, and by the last few letters, I was publishing the day's sketch the night before or even the same day.

Other Creativity:
I am continuing to Instagram my walks and my crafting, and my experiments with baking.  The cooking definitely ebbs and flows, depending on budget and season.  I also altered thrift store and personal clothing into 2 costumes for costume events --a steampunk Lady in Red (in my bridesmaid gown with a handmade satchel and a tiny handmade steampunk hat!), and a Browncoat/Space Rebel.  And I have 2 or 3 dozen sketches that I have not posted anywhere.  But there have definitely been many weeks where I felt tired and uninspired to create anything.  And that can feel very discouraging.

[X?] 1) Do something creative: Every week (Bonus: writing & crafting).
[X] 2) Stretch, exercise, or get outside: 5x a week (Bonus: 3 KINDS/day).
[X] 3) Publish blog post: Every month (Bonus: 2-4x a month).
[ ~] 4) Do something towards a futuristic goal: Every week.

It sure looks like you've done a lot when you only summarize it a couple times a year!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Some Trivia About Presidents Day

Okay, so I'm trying to use this not-very-accurate sketch of Mount Rushmore (which in no way captures the original, grave, far-seeing, "Leaders-of-a-Nation" stone rendition of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, completed 1941), as a reference to United States Presidents and yesterday's holiday.  President Roosevelt is clearly wondering, "who is the gentleman that has replaced President Lincoln?"  But let us proceed.

Presidents Day (which is actually the federal holiday known as "Washington's Birthday," but is usually called "Presidents' Day" or "Presidents Day") is another one of our holidays that has evolved over the years.  The third Monday in February, Presidents Day originally marked the birthday of our first President, George Washington.  It has since come to represent, for many states, a conglomeration of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays (both of whom were born in February), George Washington and Thomas Jefferson's birthdays, or "U.S. Presidents" in general.

The holiday is furthered complicated by the fact (thanks, Wikipedia!) that the United States marks presidential birthdays by the Gregorian calendar, even though some of our presidents were born under (and lived during) a time period when "the colonies" and the newly-formed United States of America were actually still using the Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar).  The Gregorian/Western/Christian calendar is a solar calendar that fixes Easter closer to the time period of the year in which the holiday occurred when implemented by early Christians (Christians had previously used a lunar cycle, and the date for Easter had a lot more drift during the 19-year Julian cycle, if I am summarizing this correctly.  See the related Wikipedia articles, or visit your local library, for more information).

President's Day is also treated by many as a holiday honoring veterans.  George Washington is frequently referred to as the "Founding Father of our Country," and a "unanimously-elected president."  But he was also a military general.  He is credited with creating a medal of merit for common soldiers, and it is his face that is featured on the Purple Heart medal which is awarded to soldiers injured in battle.

Washington and Lincoln's birthdays used to be separately marked as federal holidays.  These days, dependent on the state, many people do not have to go to work or school on the third Monday in February that is known variously as "President's Day," "Presidents' Day," or "Presidents Day," while some students get the entire week between Washington and Lincoln's birthdays as a mini-vacation from school.  For many of us, the day also represents one of our multiple long weekends marked by outdoor barbecues with friends and family, and heavily-marketed blowout sales.  Political figures give speeches, and it is up to us to individually decide what the holiday means in terms of our community and civic identity.

Galentine's Day 2016

"What's Galentine's Day? Oh, it's only the best day of the year! Every February 13th, my lady friends and I...just come and kick it breakfast-style.  Ladies celebrating ladies. It's like Lilith Fair...minus the frittatas." --Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation

As promised, here are the photos of this year's Galentine's Day.  This year we hosted, and I was able to document a lot more of the food and the decorative themed stations (beautifully arranged by my intrepid co-host).

We had a Chocolate Station next to a table with name cards where guests could leave Galentines for the other guests.  

Our Scone Station.  My friend made berry scones and chocolate chip scones, which were offered with fresh fruit, whipped cream, lemon curd, and passionfruit jam (it was all suuuuper yummy when piled together).

Our seating area featured a beautiful glass and roses theme.  We served food on glass dishes and "crystal" plastic party trays to match the place settings.  In addition to the scones, we offered cucumber sandwiches, lox sandwiches, a caprese salad (fresh mozarella, basil, and tomato drizzled in olive oil), and a cheese plate.

My place setting:

After brunch, we watched "A Tell-Tale Vlog" on YouTube (featuring Edgar Allan Poe, aspiring vlogger, as well as Lady Ghost Lenore, and a random girl scout), while we digested.  

Then it was time to open our Galentines. 

All of the Galentines were super sweet, and some were also funny.

This homemade Galentine features a cut-out of a teacup that functions as a pocket and holds a packet of "Well-Rested Tea"--and a caption with a related play on words:

Another of our friends bought used books and wrapped them in brown paper as her Galentines.  She wrote a different quote on each cover, and added fun stickers.  We each chose a quote that we liked and gained a mystery book:

My mystery book ended up being "The Blind Assassin," by Margaret Atwood:

My beautiful Galentines (complete with a bag of dark chocolate!):

We had a lot of fun, just hanging out and talking about books and catching up.

By the end of the day, I had eaten so much rich food that I was a bit queasy (have I mentioned that I'm lactose-intolerant?)...  My breakfast of leftovers the next day was much more restrained, but still delicious: Lox and tomato on bread, and whipped cream, lemon curd, and passionfruit jam on the penultimate scone (a word I will always remember, thanks to Lemony Snicket!):

So that was our beautiful and tasty brunch!

Already craving scones and looking forward to next year...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Galentine's Day Cards

"Galentine's Day" is a time when ladies get together to have brunch and socialize and show their appreciation for each other.  This unofficial holiday of "ladies celebrating ladies" was started in the  TV show "Parks and Recreation," by the character Leslie Knope (see Leslie's explanation in this helpful YouTube clip).  Galentine's Day is celebrated on February 13th, the day before Valentine's Day (although last year we celebrated it Valentine's Day morning because that morning worked best. So you do you.).

For this year's Galentine-making party, I decided to go with a more retro ocean/space/patchwork theme (you can see last year's card-making blogs here and here).

I started out by cutting out rectangles of cardstock that would fit into my envelopes:

Next, I set up a crafting station with cardstock, fabric, blue, and scissors.  And I knew from last year to have a couple sheets of scrap cardboard to protect the table from glue!

I cut out scraps of paper and fabric and glued them onto my cardstock. I found that by working on multiple cards at once, I could play around with my space-meets-patchwork theme.

I decided to use the polka dots from my rocket ship fabric to add some eyes/satellites to some of my planets (always important to up the cuteness factor...).

I then added scalloping along the sides of the cards, for a little extra flare.

The final products:

In honor of Galentine's Day, I wrote an affirmative quote from one of the "Parks And Rec" ladies on the back of each card:

In Part 2, I'll show you this year's cute Galentine's Day set-up.  Enjoy your Valentine's Day and President's Day Weekend!

Fox says, "Happy Valentine's Day!"

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chinese New Year: Vegetable Dumplings!

This past week at the Pomona College Organic Farm, the food coordinators lead a dumpling workshop for Chinese New Year. College and community participants gathered together to chop veggies and shape dough wrappers for the evening's farm potluck.

Below, see some of the progress shots of the dumpling-making process (the full recipes (and links) that these dumplings were based on can be found at the end of this post).

First, flour and water were mixed together and kneaded to create the dumpling dough. The mixture was then wrapped in a cotton cloth and set aside to rise (we used farm t-shirts).

At the same time, another team of people washed and chopped the onions, garlic, ginger, and assorted vegetables. We were gathered around various tables, chatting and dicing:

Some of the chopped scallion, garlic, and ginger was set aside for the dipping sauce.  The rest was sauteed in several oiled pans at a camp stove station as part of the vegetable filling. The pan of vegetables was sauteed in batches and seasoned:

By this point, the dough was ready to make into wrappers.  Strips of dough were cut off and handed around to volunteers.

Using fingers, rolling pins, and plastic cups (as substitute rolling pins), we shaped little round dumpling wrappers, adding flour as necessary to control the stickiness level of the dough:

As the last of the first  veggie filling was finishing up, we began to assemble our dumplings.

Filling was spooned into a wrapper.  Then the circle of dough was pinched closed (forming a half circle). Dumplings were pinched together in varying degrees of complexity, according to the skill level of the participants (I used a pleated folding technique I had observed in a YouTube video):

The assembled dumplings were placed in a greased pan, where they could be fried and/or covered and steamed:

The delicious, finished product, ready to be served with a dipping sauce!


Cooking Workshop: Dumplings! 2/5/16
Pomona College Organic Farm

Dumpling Dough
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons tepid water

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water to the flour and knead into a smooth dough. This process should take about 10 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for half an hour.

Gluten-free Dumpling Dough
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 cup hot water
1-2 tbsp cold water

Mix all but 1/3 cup of dry ingredients, and then slowly add hot water to the mixture. Knead the dough well, and then add the cold water.

Vegetable Dumplings – makes 20-24
3 tablespoons oil, plus ¼ cup
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1 1/2 cups carrot, finely shredded
1 cup garlic chives (Chinese chives), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoon soy sauce
salt, to taste

In a wok or large skillet over medium high heat, add 3 tablespoons oil and add the ginger. Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions and stir-fry until translucent.
Add the chopped mushrooms and stir-fry for another 3-5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid released by the mushrooms has cooked off.
Add the cabbage and carrots and stir-fry for another 2 minutes, until the veggies are tender and all the liquid released has been cooked off. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.
To the bowl, add the chopped chives, white pepper, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Season with salt to taste (though the soy sauce will usually add enough salt to the filling), and stir in the last 1/4 cup of oil.
To assemble the dumplings, cut the dough into small tablespoon-sized pieces. Roll each out into a circle, and pleat the dumplings. Continue assembling until you've run out of filling and/or dough.
To cook the dumplings, steam them or pan-fry them. To steam, put the dumplings in a steamer lined with a bamboo mat, cabbage leaf, or cheese cloth, and steam for 15-20 minutes.
To pan-fry, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Place the dumplings in the pan and allow to fry for 2 minutes. Pour a thin layer of water into the pan, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow dumplings to steam until the water has evaporated. Remove the cover, increase heat to medium-high and allow to fry for a few more minutes, until the bottoms of the dumplings are golden brown and crisp.

Serve with soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, chili sauce, or other dipping sauce of your choice!

Egg and Green Bean Filling– yields about 30
4 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. toasted Asian sesame oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
green beans
grated/chopped ginger
soy sauce

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
Steam or boil green beans until tender and chop finely.
Heat the vegetable and sesame oils in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
Add the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until large curds form, 30 to 40 seconds. 
Add the scallions and ginger stir to mix evenly. The eggs should be just soft enough to hold the beans together.
Mix eggs with green beans. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Add toasted sesame oil and soy sauce.

Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger, or 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (or both)
1 small scallion, thinly sliced

Mix together.


Happy Chinese New Year!