Self watering planters!

We built a pair of self watering planters! We followed this plan. The planters are 3’x6′, with 12″ soil depth. I used the square foot gardening mix of 1/3 each vermiculite, peat moss, and compost.


Dutch baby

I made a Dutch Baby (aka German pancake) last weekend:

Dutch baby

A friend asked for the recipe, so here it is:

pan size butter eggs milk flour …… I suggest this amount of gluten free flour to sub for the regular flour to the left
2-3 quart 1/4 c 3 3/4 c 3/4 c …… 1 c
3-4 quart 1/3 c 4 1 c 1 c …… 1.25 c
4-4.5 quart 1/2 c 5 1.25 c 1.25 c …… 1.5 c
4.5-5 quart 1/2 c 6 1.5 c 1.5 c …… 1.75 c


Put the butter in an oven-safe skillet (like a cast iron skillet), and put this in the oven. Turn the oven on to 450F. While the oven heats and the butter melts, mix the batter ingredients in a blender (this operation will not actually take long enough to melt the butter, so I putz around a bit first). Whirl eggs at high speed for one minute. With the blender motor running, add the milk and then slowly add the flour. Whirl for 30 sec. Remove the pan from the oven and pour in the batter, then return the pan to the oven, Bake until puffy and well browned, 20-25 minutes. Serve at once with syrup, powdered sugar, fruit, lemon, applesauce, etc.
I made mind gluten free. Because of the high egg content (which provides a lot of structural stability to the baked good), I suspect the recipe is pretty flexible to flour substitutions, but I found it did need a bit more flour (gluten free flour doesn’t seem to be able to absorb as much liquid as wheat), so I increased the flour amount by 1/4 cup. I used flour from this batch:

  • rice flour, 1.5 c
  • tapioca starch, 1.75 c
  • millet flour, 2.25 c

And I included 1 tsp of psyllium husk, which is my favorite “binder” (you could use an equal amount of xanthan gum, guar gum, or possibly ground flax seed).

Remote music server!

I made a remote control music server with another raspberry pi! I discovered that many of the problems that people (including me) have with strange pi behavior is a lack of power. The pi uses 500mA for itself and can supply only 100mA per USB port (there are two). Hooking up a bunch of devices, like a hoggy old Apple keyboard, USB wifi dongle, mouse, and touchscreen are a real drag and the pi bogs or freezes, or drops wifi.

I picked up some nice Belkin powered USB hubs, and I was able to get wifi working. I had to rename the name the pi has, since all pis identify themselves to the local network as raspberrypi, and I already have one on the local network. I need to be able to ssh into them and prefer to use a name rather than the IP (which changes for the wifi one using DHCP).

I installed the program Music Player Demon, usually referred to as mpd on the pi, so it can serve up the music. Then I installed a remote client which lets me control the mpd over wifi. I installed Theremin on my desktop and MPoD on my iphone.

At first it wasn’t all working, but then I realized the problem was that while I thought I had mounted the network drive with all our music, that mount point was empty, so mpd had an empty database. I re-mounted, confirmed that I could see all the folders with my mp3s, and it worked!!!

Now I can play music on the pi and control it with my phone!!! It’s so awesome! The sound is a bit weak with the built in audio, so I might look into another sound card. I am also thinking about a full media server so I could also stream videos, but I don’t have a lot of digital video so that’s not as big of a priority. But I would like to have a little Netflix ‘station’ in the utility room once we move it downstairs and I do my ironing down there. So I will look into using a pi for that.

Raspi success!

I finally took my raspberry pi out of it’s “punishment corner” and started working on it. When I bought it and a pair of touchscreens last winter, I immediately ran into trouble getting anything working. I tried 4 or 5 different operating system images on 6 different SD cards. They would all boot but then freeze up within about 5 minutes. I was so mad that I just put everything in a box and hid it under my desk.

Last week I pulled it all back out and downloaded a new (updated) image of raspbian, the official Debian release for the pi. I dumped it onto an SD card and everything worked fine! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Hooking up the touchscreen was also ridiculously easy (plug in a handful of connectors). The light sensor is a bit strange, and keeps the screen too dim, so I will probably replace it with a 10k pot. It’s also kind of laggy, so not really the interface I want to use while setting everything up, and the USB keyboard I had handy doesn’t play well with the pi (it’s an antique Apple keyboard with that hideous squishy key action and some kind of key release problem leading to hundreds of repeated letters).

I suspect my problem was firmware related: there was a change in RAM chips that had a firmware conflict.

Sooooo, I’m installing nx server!!!! I’m following this tutorial, planning to make this addition. I had trouble with the second patch step for freenx server, so I had to add the –ignore-whitespace flag, as per this post. It’s all installed, but now I’m unable to connect with it (I can connect, but then I get kicked out instantly after starting a new session with an I/O error). My google fu is weak, so after 3 hours of trying I haven’t been able to figure this out. I think it’s some kind of client-server mismatch, but I don’t know. I threw tightvnc on it and was up and running in about 3 minutes.

I have installed the Gourmet recipe program  and put the database on our networked disk so that I can add recipes from other computers (with nice keyboards). We will build a case and mount the touchscreen system in the kitchen! I can access the database directly from my regular computers! For now, the pi is downstairs hanging off the router as a headless computer.

Now that I have the whole pi up and running, I’m pretty impressed. For a $35 computer, it’s pretty impressive. It runs a full desktop environment almost as fast as my laptop!



Making pasta

I made pasta last night for the second time. I sort of followed Gluten Free Girl’s recipe, but weighed the eggs (on my awesome triple beam balance) so I could use the 5:3 flour:egg ratio that is the base for all pasta. The dough was way, way too wet (thought I was going to burn out the food processor’s motor), so I squelched it out onto my silicone mat and kept adding tapioca starch until the consistency seemed right. This being my second time, ever, making pasta, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for, but once I saw it I knew immediately it was right!


  • 236 g eggs (2 whole XL eggs plus 6 XL yolks)
  • about 425 g flour. It was supposed to be 354 g (150 g tapioca starch, 104 g quinoa flour, 100 g millet flour) but I added about 75 g more tapioca (so, 225 g total tapioca)
  • 2.5 tsp psyllium husk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 shakes of ground nutmeg
  • 2 TB water
  • 2 TB olive oil

I cut the dough into 8 wedges and rolled each one as thin as I could. Then I just quickly swiped at them with my pizza cutter to make little trapezia which I then boiled for 2-3 minutes. Topping was a Betty Crocker crockpot Hungarian Goulash (free registration required).

I was amazed at how well the dough handled! It was by far my most pleasing GF dough experience, which is hilarious to me since I know nothing about making pasta, having never even tried gluten pasta!

Little dough wedges ready to be rolled out

Little dough wedges ready to be rolled out

Rolling out the dough

Rolling out the dough

Trapezoids of pasta!

Trapezia of pasta!

The whole meal

The whole meal

“nobody” uses Google Reader

Google announced last night that they are killing off their RSS reader (Google Reader) because not enough people use it. Hilariously, all the alternative sites are so swamped with new users today that they are going down and suspending free accounts!

I hate it when people who provide me a service for free decide to stop providing it. I’m kidding. I do grumble, but then I laugh at myself for being so whiny/greedy! In all seriousness, though, I never really did get over the demise of delicious. I just can’t seem to find another available-everywhere, tagged bookmarking system that works for me. Suggestions welcome.

Some knitting success, finally!

I’ve knit “5” sweaters in the last 2 years. I have one to show for it. Two of them were just straight up failures, another one I knit the first half of 3 times (so, actually 1.5 sweaters…) before admitting I didn’t have enough yarn to finish, even with my modifications. I finally had a success, though, and I am very happy with it!

I present to you the Pumpkin Pie Sweater. Yum! Freija pattern from twistcollective (and on my Ravelry), knit with Briar Rose Glory Days in a yummy pumpkin pie colorway. I had some trouble with the buttons (bad choice, still hard to find the buttonholes, and a sleeve mod caused the neck buttons to wander off to the back of my neck instead of staying in the front!), but the sweater fits great, is super warm and soft and squishy and I just adore it!

I also made a hat for my partner. Well, I made him two hats. One that wasn’t so great (too loose, not very warm, and flared like a hat for a woman) knit in two color brioche with Noro sock (Rav link):

IMG_0263 IMG_0267

And one that turned out awesome (Rav link)! Super warm and a nice dark, manly colorway. I stranded Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere with Lola Handpaint so there would be an entire layer of cashmere on the inside (the floats), so it’s very warm and very soft!

IMG_0273 IMG_0269


Aaaaannnnnd, I finally finished the August pattern from the Knitspot Fall in Full Color 2011 knitting club. Yep, 16 months later, I knit a scarf. A not-so-great before-blocking photo (Rav link):



Pillow cookies!


Possibly the best gluten free cookies I’ve ever eaten. I had no idea a bit of pumpkin purée could transform a crumbly little cookie into a pillow of soft, cohesive, delicious cookieness! Wow! There will be experiments in other recipes!
From Betty Crocker.

Geeking out

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Google Nexus 7 tablet. I have an iPad2, which is a fabulous tablet, but I find it’s a little heavy (and slippery!) to hold in one hand. I’ve also never had an android device and, being tri-OS-sual (win/mac/linux), I like to explore all the platforms. I guess I’m quad-OS now, with iOS.

I also recently stumbled across the Raspberry Pi, a complete computer in a credit card sized footprint. For $35!!!! I have a thing about cute tiny things, like my cast iron skillet spoonrest (that I use as a stand for my pepper grinder, to contain the peppery dribbles), and this little computer has caught my eye. In addition to wanting an android tablet, I was also trying to find a linux tablet (or figure out if I could root out a droid one and install linux). I hadn’t found anything, but earlier this week I came across people who are turning Pis into tablets: here and here. I went kind of nuts in my head!! I don’t know why I’m so excited about this idea. I guess I think it’s a cool project. I know it won’t really be any lighter or more convenient than an iPad (there are 10″ and 7″ touchscreen screens), but WOW! How nerdy-cool is it to build your own computer! We built a desktop system last summer, and I’ve been trying to figure out if one can build a laptop (basically, not really. Mostly due to lack of standardization of parts). I could see dragging this around as a computer, hopefully with a custom built enclosure! I could also see mounting one in the kitchen to use as an online cookbook.

Fall colors!

We went on a little drive yesterday to see the fall colors. We drove up to St. Croix Falls, where I took a few mediocre photos of the stunning colors!

I am obsessed with the backlit leaves; the color just seems so incredible! I’ve been trying to figure out how to recreate the effect in an interior artwork. Possibly backlit stained glass?

My garden is, surprisingly, still at it. The beans are all died off, but the tomatoes are still ripening away! I have 8 butternut squash and 2 pie (sugar) pumpkins also moving towards ripe, and a couple of woody basil plants to pluck and dry. I kind of buried the basil in the tomatoes this year, so it kept flowering on me and turned pretty tough. Not so great for caprese salad, but then I couldn’t find mozzarella di bufala either (but I didn’t look very hard). Next year I’m going to display the basil prominently so I can keep an eye on it. And I want to try a bunch of beans–garbonzo, black, black-eyed-peas. I’ve never had them fresh and am dying to see what they’re like! It’s nice to end the growing season on an optimistic note after a successful end to a summer that got off slowly and not-very-impressively!