Category Archives: hobbies

Some Things I Inherited From My Mother

NOTE: I hope to take pictures of some of my mom’s vast doily output and the crocheted tablecloth I made one of these days, after which I’ll post them.

My mom left any formal education behind early and spent much of her life working on the family farm in Yugoslavia near the Romanian border. Her family raised chickens and pigs and grew various vegetables and grapes. Besides working in the field alongside her parents, in the growing season, and helping out in the kitchen year round, she spent the winter months knitting and crocheting. There weren’t any pattern books to follow but samples were shared among the women she knew and copied.

Crocheting … I never really saw the attraction of most of the items my mom crocheted. One can only have so many doilies, regardless of the patterns. I DID like the afghans she made though. They were lovely and warm to wrap around oneself when the weather got nippy to keep you warm, while reading a good book. The rugs were pleasant to step on when you walked into the tiled bath room in your bare feet. Though she DID make slippers as well from odds end ends of yarn. They wore out quickly from the heavy use and I miss them.

Salmon Shawl

Afghan – You can just see one of the few doilies I still use under the lamp

I have no idea what this piece of crocheting was for. Maybe to be attached to something as a decorative finish.

Knitting … Sweaters and scarves were always useful. I remember making myself a pair of mittens. They were a bit misshapen, to be honest, but they fit and they were warm. Buying them as I have for the last 40yrs seems like cheating, somehow, but I’ve never had the urge to make myself another pair since. I found this gray sweater that my mom made for my dad, when I was clearing out their cottage, and brought it home. It fits so I wear it.

Macrame … When I was about 20, my mom got it into her head that she wanted to learn to macrame so I bought a bunch of pattern books. Since she didn’t really read English very well and translating the instructions was hard even for me, it took a while to translate the instructions into Romanian for my mom. Especially since I didn’t have the Romanian vocabulatry to really explain what to do. But we managed and she made some pretty impressive pieces. I use one of my mom’s smaller macrame projects every day. It’s an ugly looking brown toothpaste (I put my comb in the sleeve instead) and toothbrush caddy and still hangs on a hook next to my sink. I give it a quick hand wash every 5 yrs or so. The big plant holders she made were relegated to the attic, when we moved into our current home. There just wasn’t any place to hang them.

Looms and knitting needles – I can’t remember what was made on those looms. I think it was flowers on the round ones. I should really donate everything.

Along with these tangibles, I’ve inherited my frugal nature, my ability to be happy with what I have rather than what I DON’T have, my fondness for savoury rather than sweet, and my tendency to put on weight regardless of what I eat. Three out of four isn’t bad, right?

Shiso (Perilla) and Mitsuba Seeds

This post features my first attempts to germinate shiso and mitsuba seeds … the timing isn’t the best but I think I learned a lot for next spring.

As a fan of Japanese dishes, especially sushi, I’ve heard of shiso, also known as perilla, and its various uses in both its green and red forms.

Most simply the green version can be included in hand rolls or as an edible garnish under sashimi. The red form is most famously used for coloring pickled plum, or umeboshi. I happened to whine express my culinary interest in acquiring some in correspondence with a blogging Swiss friend and she offered to send me some seeds from her plants. I emailed her my snail mail addy, and as it was almost the end of summer, thought I’d have something to look forward to in the spring. I was pleasantly surprised to find an envelope in the mail in almost no time as well as detailed growing instructions and the assurance that more seeds would come for spring planting.

So, with nothing to lose, I gave it a shot.

The shiso seeds are small and round, similar to basil seeds in size. And like with basil seeds, you get the first embryonic leaves peeking through a light covering of soil about 4-5 days after planting. Wait until the first TRUE leaves appear and the stalk is about an inch in height before thinning and transplanting the seedlings into larger pots. I planted 10 seeds and got 5 germinating.

Shiso seeds were planted in the back row … you can see the first 3 seedlings.

D-shaped embryonic leaves with more normal oval shaped leaves in the middle.

Shiso leaves have their 2nd and 3rd set of ‘true’ leaves. Only one of the mitsuba seedling has its first set of ‘true’ leaves. They were planted at the same time.

Also included in the package were seeds for mitsuba, also known as Japanese parsley, which is said to have a celery like flavour with a number of uses, including as a garnish in soups and as a sushi ingredient.

Mitsuba seeds are long, thin and black, similar to cumin seeds. I attempted to germinate about 10-12 seeds but only 3 sprouted. The embryonic leaves reminded me of leaves of grass so I wondered if I had actually managed to sprout one when the first hint of green peeked through the soil. Only the husk of the seed coat, which was still attached let me know I had succeeded.

At first I thought only one seed had germinated but over the course of the next 10 days, a second and then finally a third sprout was seen. It took almost 3 weeks for the first ‘true’ leaf to appear.

And even longer before I felt confident enough to transplant them into pots. Parsley like ‘true’ leaves.

ETA: 10/10/2016 Since I was having so much trouble with the mitsuba germination, I tried a method suggested by the friend who sent me the seeds to germinate the shiso – on damp cottonballs misted with water daily after 2 days of refrigerating.

It took a bit over 3 weeks but 2 out of the 11 seeds germinated… so far. I covered 6 of the seeds with a damp paper towel as well, as a test.