Monday, October 5, 2015

Visitation from a Late Welcome Guest

I found the guest in question when I went out to cut parsley for pasta e fagiole, right there on the pot of parsley, tucking in.  Very late in the season for him, so I hope he makes it.  I left some parsley in place for him anyway.

This is not a pest!  this is a lovely dusky swallowtail butterfly caterpillar.  They are specific feeders, usually parsley being their food of choice.  

Many years ago when I had a large house and an even larger garden and a very large vegetable garden, I noticed that my entire row of parsley, about 25 feet of it, was nibbled down to the ground and covered in these black and green critters.  But, since no other crops were touched, I concluded that these little guys were not doing me much harm, and what's a bit of parsley between friends, after all.

Ages later I found out that they were my favorite butterfly's caterpillar, so I was even happier that I'd left them in peace.  I've had the current little pot of parsley all season, with no guests at all, so I guess they gave me a good run at it before deciding it was theirs.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last Backsplash! This or Any Stage! 6WS

The Backsplash Caper is Done.  Handsome Son and I installed one in his kitchen, which pleased him a lot, and we are now officially out of the backsplash business.  It looks really good, and he benefited from all the learning I did on mine.  

 Finishing touches in process.

Took about three hours. As always, it was the final fittings and tweaks and curses that took the longest.  Now I have two sheets to return for a refund, yay.  Took four sheets total to do both kitchens.  And HS has all the leftover bits to make art with.

And on the high tech front, I have installed and almost got the hang of Skype, or perhaps it's got the hang of me.  Anyway, I know to look into the camera now, and not mutter dementedly at the keyboard when I'm looking for the commands.. 

My entire directory at this point is Handsome Son, because even though we live close, recent winters have cut us off from one another, what with snow, high winds, downed trees and other efforts of Ma Nature. I wanted to be able to have near to a real conversation if we can't get to each other's home.  Also as the landlady, I need to know if anything happens for which I need to call in help.

Meanwhile, the stories of Joaquin ravaging our fair state were greatly exaggerated, just a whole lot of rain which we needed, no winds at all, really cold temps -- cats glued one to either side of me whenever I stop moving -- and no drama at all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Backsplash! Done!

So it's done!  the backsplash is now up, and looking fine, and the kitchen is completed. I have more backsplash material and if my tenant at the condo likes it, I'll do another one over there, now that I know how.  Two views. As you see, I did the entire wall, figuring that would be better than just one section. And it does look nice and finished and continuous.  I should have put the oven light on, too, to show you how the panel glows in the light.

I started off adhering it, but then realized it was just as good to use panel tacks and tap them in at intervals, this being a 2 x 4 foot lightweight sheet cut to fit, rather than individual tiles.  In fact they were not panel tacks, but the kind of small nails you use for basket making, since they came from Mittens, and I'm guessing that was their previous use?  worked fine in lieu of the panel tacks I couldn't find. 

I learned about cutting out to allow the outlets to work, and all that, and matching tile patterns, not obvious even though this was an all-direction design with square motifs. 

I painted the outlets and covers, and will give them another coat, using liquid acrylic, since I found that in practice leaving them to match the walls looked a bit jarring.  I painted, then sponged.  But I can fiddle about with this at will, now that the main job is done.
Took about three plus hours. I do like to do my own work! and it's a big improvement over the old glum wall it covered. Also I covered up the old landline phone jack,  out of use for years.

So now I'll just wait, hot and tired and smug, for all the cheering and stamping and whistles...well, I can dream.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Of pasta and kitchens and plants and friends

Handsome Son and I went to the annual Italian American Festival at the local park on Saturday, no pix, since all the photogenic aspects were missing this year. No lovely streets laid out with the historic Burg street signs (well, one, lost in a mass of fast food booths), no children's puppet theater, no in person acts interesting to watch, few crafts.  Mainly it was about fast food, and a big midway, with the really good food sort of shoehorned in.  So next year we may rethink this.

However, undaunted by chilly and windy weather, we forged on to find dinner, and had some excellent sausage sandwich, funnel cake, pasta e fagioli, aka pasta fazool, and old fashioned soft icecream with sprinkles distributed by an antique original soda fountain sprinkling machine.  And the best funnel cake I ever had.

The crowds were as happy and nice as ever, despite crowding, and big families with not a single crying kid,  and the family who were leaving as we arrived to eat wiped off the whole picnic table surface for us, since as the grandfather said, my kids were here!  so when we left, we did likewise for our successors.

The pasta e f. was so good I decided to learn to make it.  And since I had the Plethora of Potatoes to deal with, and had made several hundred gnocchi, you can't make a few gnocchi, I had two large bags of them in the freezer (only freezable potato recipe I found), so here was a chance to use some of it up.

So yesterday I got to work,  already had the tomatoes in the freezer, the parsley growing fresh on the patio, the Italian seasoning in the house, courtesy of dear Karen, red pepper seeds, chicken stock in the house, only needed the white beans.  

While I was cooking friend G. showed up to put up the plant hangers he'd promised me to do this morning before he vanishes for three weeks, leaving me to watch his plants.  And commented several times on how good the soup smelled, what was it, etc.  

So after he helped create this lovely effect in my kitchen as seen from the living room, through the pass through

he had the honor of hanging the first plant, since I grew it from cuttings I'd swiped, I mean pruned, from his plant long ago.  Then he packed up his tools, and we processed to his house, he with all the tools, me with a bowl of soup and a hunk of homemade bread for him for later. 

He eats dinner close to midnight, so he saved it for then.  And this morning gave it a good review.  So much so that I think he was putting his name down for the next time I make it..

and here's the soup: Sunday's lunch for me

and Monday's lunch, for the fridge, and it is very good on the second day as well.  

Definitely a good home for the gnocchi. New mantra: when life hands you potatoes, make gnocchi!

Later, just when I was watching The Aristocrats on my tablet, another friend came by, bearing a lovely dish of Indian food she'd just cooked and wanted to share.  She admired the paint job in the kitchen, and said how she'd like to learn about plants, or rather she wants her husband to learn it, and would I show him how to get started.  They're about the age of Handsome Son and are developing into honorary kids to me!

Well, of course I will help him, he's a sweet guy, and her agenda is to get him more among Americans and their ways of talking (yes, I see the irony here) and a little bit more away from Indian groups.  He will be job hunting, and they would like him to move into an American firm if he can, rather than the paternalistic Indian company he's at now.  

But he needs to be a little bit more outspoken and assertive, and I guess she thinks he can develop that around me, learning how to pot up plants!  Or something!  anyway, whatever transpires, I'll be happy to work with him on learning cuttings and planting and developing an indoor garden.  First use, for me, of gardening as a learning tool for assimilation.  I already worked with them on their front area, helping with planting and dividing and identifying what to weed, and he does love it and can tolerate me.

Little did I know what painting the kitchen might unleash.  Next I will be doing the backsplash wall with a faux copper sheet deal, and I hope I won't end up working with a tinsmith on making soup..

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From painting art to painting kitchens

As planned, the Painting of the Kitchen went forward this morning.  A couple of secrets about this:  I move everything the previous night, including stirring the paint.  I'll stir again before using, but it gets my mojo mojoing.  And I set out the old painting clothes and the various tools I'll use.  That's Secret One.  

Secret Two is that I never plan to paint more than one wall per session.  If there's paint in the tray, I use that up, but don't refill.  And I wrap my trusty roller up tight and don't wash it at all.  At the end of the room, I toss the roller sleeve.  

And you know to slide the tray into a garbage bag, which you shape around the tray and pour the paint on top of it? that way when it's used, you reverse the bag over the tray and toss that.  No cleaning of trays.  The only washing I do is the small brush I use to cut in at ceiling and floor and around awkward corners.  

I don't tape, either. I have a steady hand, and that and my trusty damp cloth at the ready takes care of any stray splashes on the cabinets.  And I don't throw sheets over the other furniture.  In fact I have a very lazy way of  proceeding.  Also cheap -- did I mention that the paint was a full unused gallon of this nice spring green color left at the dumpster?  probably somebody bought more than they needed. It looks quite a bit greener in rl, and very cheery. The previous paint had gone more grey than green and was looking a bit downhearted.

I also scored a gallon of white enamel, which will probably go into the laundry area.  So here's today's effort.

As you see, I didn't even take down the hanging plant, since it was out of the line of fire. I did take the clock off the wall I was painting, though, big concession.

here, where you can see the ceiling is not yet cut in, that  was to use up a bit of paint while I was up there anyway.  

And eagle eyed blogistas who can spot antiques and collectibles will see a few choice items in the kitchen...on the counter and the top shelf.  Try naming them!  fun quiz.  Prize is smugness at knowing your onions and your collectibles.  Clue: five nations represented.

Back to painting: I still have to do one full wall, the one you see started where the plant is, then one bitty one with the passthrough cut out of it, and cabinets everywhere.  Then there's the fascia above the cabinets, and that will be done. 

So happy that after last winter's illnesses and weakness for ages, that I'm really back and able to do this, yay.  This whole deal to date took half an hour of organizing last night, and about an hour and a half of painting today.  And I laundered the curtains, might as well seize the day, then when I put them back up, they'll fit the ambiance of new and clean.

I have two plant hangers coming, to suspend those begonias above the window, and off a needed surface, which is why I started on the window wall, so it would be ready.

I'm out tonight, so later this afternoon, I'm moving stuff around to get at the next wall.  The island is on casters, easy, the freezer a bit more tricky, and I have to unhook the aprons!  not too strenuous a prep.  And pushing back the shelves I moved out to paint today won't be too tough.  I do it without moving anything off them...has worked fine so far.

Now I'm going to sit and drink tea and read A Few Green Leaves, a Pym I scored at the used bookstore the other day.  An actual book not a CD this time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Decisions about farmshare, and dieffenbachia gives me a surprise

So this year's farmshare has not lived up to the excitement of previous years.  The farmers have made various decisions about crops and choices, and since I've been going to farmers' markets this year, too, I'm thinking about switching my budget next year to shop more at farmers' markets, just going to the farmshare farm for fruit, which is the best.

Mainly this year there has been only one farmshare location -- previous years they've switched to the other side of the farm with different crops for the second part of the season, and that's when the zinnias were part of the adventure, and a wider variety, it seemed to me, of fruit.

This year one location only, and I think fewer shares of fruit, no flowers, many fewer free add ons, smaller variety of vegetables, and a large amount of potatoes, way too many even for this potato lover.  I'm two weeks behind in my potato consumption, even sharing with Handsome Son, and there's another couple of pounds in this week's share. 

I spoke with the farmer today when I picked up, about this, and she, lifelong farmhouse dweller, and thrilled with their bumper spud crop,  seemed to be quite amazed to hear that there are homes in this town (most of them, in fact) without the capacity to store potatoes. 

I explained no garage, no basement, no cool upstairs rooms, and she said, well keep them on the patio, at which point I gave up, since bylaws flatly forbid keeping food on the patio because of squirrel and rat populations.  We can't even put out birdseed!  and speaking as a squirrel ridden homeowner, I'm in favor of the ban.  She ended by saying, well eat potatoes every day. No use explaining I'm already doing that, and I'm still swamped!

I can, and do, give away my surplus to friends and neighbors, but I can't afford to give half my share, no point in the membership then. Sooooo, thinking, thinking.  I was fair to her, though, pointing out that the imbalance didn't suit this customer.  If they announce any changes for next year I'll be in.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try making gnocchi  to freeze and see if that's a good solution to the Plethora of Potatoes, since I love gnocchi and have never made them.  Had wonderful ones long ago in France.

But I still think I might switch my allegiance next year to farm markets.  It's been fun, but maybe it's time.  And going to the farm market is a great morning out anyway, much more food variety and all kinds of interesting people.

So look for pix of gnocchi in process!  This month's Bite Club cook is Nigella Lawson, and I love the way she writes, very readable and honest, and I hate the photographs of herself, very cheesy, supposed to be ironic, but come off silly and a bit cheap, throughout the book. If I were to buy this one, I'd cut out all the pix of her and just keep the food!  

Last month I made, from the 123 book, by  Rozane Gold, her maple walnut bars, and they were just lovely.  They were made in the late afternoon, polished off at the club meeting, and no pix are available, sorry. Maple walnut is a favorite flavor, dating back to historic times which I'll talk about another time, not wishing you all to nod off today...

And, back in the living room, the dieffenbachia gave me a heck of a surprise, by putting out five new flowers, in the house.  I was surprised enough when she did it last year out of doors, in excellent light, but I guess she's got the hang of it now, and see her latest effort.  Since there are few insects indoors to pollinate her, she's going to be disappointed.  

They are hermaphroditic -- first part of the bloom is male, I think then that fades and what appears is female, or it may be the other way around. The interval for insects to fertilize is only a matter of hours or days, so these are finely engineered plants.  

You only need one plant to propagate flowers, no need to worry about a partner.  What you see here is the first bloom of the cluster, to be replaced by a different appearance to the same spike.Can't name her, unless I choose a gender neutral name.  Dana the Dieffenbachia, or Tracy, or Evelyn or something.

All this activity in here today is treading water while I get up the gumption to start painting my kitchen that the Big Insulation is done, little last bits all complete and working fine, and the dress I made into a coat thing is all finished and ready to wear, and the plants are indoors, and I can't think of any other household chores to use to postpone the Painting of the Walls, I'm for it.  One wall per session is my mantra.

Hardest part is getting out the can of paint and stirring.  After that it usually goes pretty well.  I'm thinking of tiling the backsplash wall, too with copper tiles.  Or possibly farming that job out, but I'd rather do it myself.  Anyway, that wall won't be painted.  

The kitchen is awkward, not that many square feet, but a lot of stuff to move around and climb over and reach behind.  I have a nice gallon of lovely fresh green paint, free from the dumpster, so that's a small investment..and I already removed the phone jack from the sink wall, dating back to when I had a landline, easy to remove, and the hole will vanish under the tiles.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Festival Weekend followed by Recovery Sunday

Sunday was a quiet, sunny day perfect for all kinds of things from bread baking, finally the weather allowed it, to a stroll by the river, an icecream in the sunshine and a walk down a historical street.  And since I was pictured and crowded and musicked and noised out, I decided just to do it, not to take pictures.  The pic here of Brainerd Lake in Cranbury was my only concession, so as to give you a nice general image of the day.

So I had a peaceful time just watching the sparkles on the river and the reflections of the water under the leaves of the pin oak leaning over the water, then a stroll past historical houses and their gardens, in the last flush of flower and fruit of the summer before Fall starts officially.  A stop for peach icecream, then a duck into the used bookstore, where I scored a Pym I don't own, though I've read it a lot, a Few Green Leaves, and home to rest from all this exertion, reading Pym on the patio.  Just focusing on being there, not on framing up pix of it and transmitting it all.

To see why this was vital, and why after an exciting day on Saturday, I needed down time from people, however wonderful, for a little while, go here

 And, since I heard of Jackie Collins, a writer I'd never read, not my taste I thought, having died, I thought I'd do a bit of tribute reading, and I put Hollywood Wives on my library list!  I could have got it on CD but I thought having that prose read over my goldwork stitching wasn't very congruous, so I'll read it in an actual book, with a cup of tea.

Speaking of reading, and of CDs, since I'm always busy doing stuff and can't be reading paper books at the same time, I've done quite a bit of CD reading, and highly recommend Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins, just brilliant.  And Philippa Gregory The King's Curse.
Currently I've finally got my hands on Shirley Jackson's collection of essays and short stories, some not published before, the collection put together by her children and recently issued, I Want to Tell You.  So far, so excellent. Well, it's Jackson, what did I expect but brill?

And I've been eating and cooking, too, but will get into that in the next day or two, with some dogmatic statements...why are you not surprised?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

DIY Insulation Caper, aka Renovators Without Borders

The problem: the downstairs bathroom, very pretty little place, full of art and art toys, has zero insulation on the outer wall.  This wall backs onto the inside of the outdoor storage place, where the breaker box is housed and various gardening implements used at will by the community.  I never lock it, since who knows when someone urgently needs my stepladder or portable ramp or gardening tool and I'm not there.  And it's in the full blast of the wind, to the point that leaves and debris blow in there all the time no matter how carefully the door is fitted and snug to the threshold.

So the outside wall backing onto the bathroom is, well, it looks like cardboard to me, but I'm told sheetrock, and it clears the floor by a full half inch.  You could slide your fingers completely under it and encounter only the two by four between the elements and the bathroom floor. Hence the screaming wind in the winter.

So I consulted with various authorities, all of whom live in similar places, and we looked into the sort of foamy stuff you can fire into the cavity, but I vetoed that since it only swells and cures on an open wall with oxygen going, but inside this closed cavity would make sludge and no better insulation.  Then I wondered what else might work that is cheap and light and I can do.

So neighbor and handyperson Helen said, wait, I used styrofoam sheets on my indoor closet (different house design, same problem but hers is a coat closet that backs onto the outdoor wall).  And, since I'm very familiar with good old styrofoam in the studio, and decided I could use silicone caulk as a glue, went ahead and ordered up a package of four sheets.

Total cost about $30.  I measured and found the wall is eight feet, which I expected, by three feet, with a gap for the breaker box which requires a bit of extra cutting. And I got a package of four 2 x 4 foot sheets, ripped one down the middle, just using a pencil, a straightedge and a lino knife.  Then installed the halves on top of one another, ripped side concealed behind the doorframe, then the second I attached whole from the floor up, 

and the third I cut across to allow for the breaker box and fitted that in from the ceiling down.

I buttered the back of the foamboards with the silicone caulk, using the highly technical tool you see here.  

Remember this is the renovator who once repaired three broken sashes in double hung windows, the ancient kind with the weight going down into a pocket, weighed a ton, using a steak knife to remove the frame and my tack hammer to set it back after the sashes were repaired. 

They were charging $100 per window if I'd hired someone.  Why the steak knife?  well, for domestic reasons too complicated to go into, all the tools had decamped leaving me with a big house, no money and no tools.  But I was determined to get those windows to open.  Where was I?

Oh yes,  buttering the foamboards.  The reason I had to use a knife and saw open the container is that every time I try to use a caulking gun, the bottom of the container pops off and I have two handfuls of caulking, none of it coming from the nozzle.   And my hands are not strong enough to squeeze it out manually.  So sawing and buttering was the answer, though I doubt if any handyman would recognize the terms.

I was very happy that my measuring resulted in such a snug fit for the top piece that I had to press and squeeze it into place, yay, good stuff.  And I caulked some of the joins.  You will see that there are a couple of bits still to cover, not yet done because of a technical hitch.  I ran out of caulking compound. 

 No problem, I can cut the extras at my leisure and they'll be simple to attach, after a trip to the hardware store.  Meanwhile back inside the bathroom you can not detect any draft at all at the floor level. Last winter it was lifting the rug!  

My next door neighbor and good friend was dying to take over and do this for me, but I knew he would introduce all kinds of sophistication, translation -- complication, into a simple operation, so I sneakily did this this morning while he's away on vacation.  That was starting to sound like a comic riff from G and S..

He was urging that I get a third friend to bring a special power saw to cut the sheets, all very Y chromosome. He wants to do a similar thing to his own storage wall, but he plans on tearing out the entire wall, using manly power tools and so on, and I didn't exactly want that level of attention to the issue.

And if anyone's worrying about outgassing in case of fire, don't.  This is outside the house, in fact outside the firewall, and it's not the exit anyone would be trying to use.   

So it's, almost, done.  The messy blots on the breaker box was done by the original builders, not by your faithful renovator.  Just sayin'

I now have the rest of the third sheet to cut and fit into the final gaps and an entire sheet to play with in the studio.  Always nice to have a backup sheet in case of disastrous mismanagement with one of the others, such as falling on it and breaking it, or cutting in the wrong direction.  Quite a contrast to stitching peacefully on goldwork.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sign of Fall Chez Boud

When I sigh and drag myself out to the deck to start hauling in, cleaning up, and setting up houseplants again in the house.  these are just the ones downstairs, too big to make it up a flight.  Well, this is a sign of Fall.

The one on the right standing proud is doing that because she's tethered to the bookcase!  can't be trusted to hew to the vertical otherwise.

I just got these in before some torrential rain which would have made them weigh a lot more and caused torrential streams of curses from the gardener.  But they look pretty happy here.  The summer outside always causes a rush of growth -- you see the ficus now brushing the eight foot ceiling -- and makes it harder to just put them back where they were in June.  I found a little tiny toad on one of them, and she clung to my thumb when I gently lifted her and carried her to a safer spot, not on a traveling houseplant. Last year I had quite a few hitchhikers, so I'll see if I get any this year.

I have some nifty diy stuff to show you, when I get it under way, this time to do with insulation, always such an exciting topic. But I'm actually quite chuffed about this, since it will make a difference to the lives of all who use our downstairs bathroom, whose back wall has zero insulation as of this writing.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday Puzzle

What pet:

1. comes when called
2. drinks from the toilet
3. plays with a tennis ball
4. runs to greet visitors at the door to insist on petting
5. loves to get wet 
6. likes wrestling with his friends
7. protects Boud from strange men

 A dog, you say?  a black lab, maybe?  nooooooooo, it's Duncan The Wondercat, aka CK Duncan (Chocolate Kitty, because not really black when the sun shines through his fur).

And, as he says, Better Than a Dog! Cats Rule..


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Holiday weekend in the US

Labor Day weekend, perfect weather, and if my friends and neighbors are anything to judge by, a way of celebrating labor by doing not much!  everyone planning on reading, resting, pottering, no major strenuous plans.  And that's pretty much today for me, too.

One of those days that are not special in events but are full of things to remember.  Trip to the farmer's market, and I met a lovely young Cane Corso  puppy, Luca, already 80 lbs, and probably going to top 100 by maturity.  Only 14 months old yet. Very sweet guy, friendly and happy to be petted.  His owner told me I was the first person ever to identify him correctly!  but then I've known other Italian mastiffs, fearsome looking fellers, and total pushovers for petting.

Yesterday, I taught a little workshop in paper jewelry, and took part of the proceeds to the market for great figs and eggs and farm-made chicken sausage, then off to the other farm for blackberries, peaches, raspberries nearly the end of the season.  And yet more Roma plum tomatoes.

Dessert was a huge fruit salad, figs, blackberries, raspberries, peach, plain yogurt, sprinkle of brown sugar.  Summer in a bowl.  Earnings well placed to support our local farmers, too.

Soon the farmshare will include apples.  This is the year of the apples for me, I think, after that bushel basket I picked from the friend's tree.


And I think I've manage to rehome my extra pool lounger.  I suddenly had too much furniture on the deck, and only needed one, so the other is going across the street to live, as soon as my neighbor carries it over there.  Neighbor K. across the street is thrilled because she was about to buy one anyway.  I didn't mention she was the fourth person I'd offered it to!

Painting daily is going along, to my surprise.  But stitching is also in the mix, or the offing. Too hot for much cooking, more like assembling. Enjoy the weekend, even if it isn't a holiday one for you.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Rose for Oliver

I went out this morning, coffee in hand, to the patio and found that the yellow rose, in bud for weeks, finally bloomed.  And right after that heard that Oliver Sacks died this morning.

A world famous figure, neurologist, writer, all around brilliant man, but also a perennial learner who wasn't above corresponding with the likes of me on a subject he touched on in his book Musicophilia.  When the paperback edition came out, he asked if he could quote me in there, did so, acknowledged me along with much more famous people, and sent me a copy.

What a privilege to be able to touch even briefly on such a life.  I owe him personally, because he took up arms against the notion that people with synaesthesia are in some way lacking, when in fact they are among the super blessed.  Some of my own observations of that phenomenon are what we discussed, and he was among the very few people who did not dismiss them out of hand.

So this rose

and the drawing I made from it today, are for you, Oliver and the work you did, right up to the moment you left us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

DIY goes out and tackles the sun

I've been thinking idly on and off for years about how to deal with the brutal afternoon sun which comes over the roof and beats down mercilessly on the front of the house from an angle.  

I have a curtain set up inside the storm door to draw in the afternoon and keep the brightest light and some of the heat out, but it feels unfriendly to shut people out like that.  So finally I had an idea and here it is in action.

As you come down the street from the mailbox

Three yards of 60inch wide waterproof canvas, I installed a couple of hooks inside here, slung a dowel across between them, these I had already, only had to cut down the dowel to suit, then pinned across, twice per green stripe, vertically, straight pins, to create a rod pocket.

Here's the inside scoop

Then I slid the dowel in and climbed up, yet again, and put it up.  The wind got into the act and I stapled and tacked the drape on each side so it doesn't flap about uselessly against the door.  Simple stuff. One of the neighbors stopped by before it was finished and admired it and thought she might try something like that at her house, too.

Not totally free, this time, had to buy the fabric.  But cheap still, and I like the effect of it blowing in the wind, very nautical.  Or shabby chic, perhaps.  I didn't hem it, just cut to fit after it was hung.  I doubt if waterproof fabric can fray.   

Total time expended, if you don't count the years of musing: about 45 minutes, cursing included, and many trips up and down stairs to assemble tacks, stapler, hammer, saw, stepstool, scissors, fabric.  Total cost about $6 a yard for the fabric.

And my watch cat approves of his new cabana. He likes the color scheme.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wandering about at the Preserve

Nearing summer's end, it seemed like a good day to stop doing stuff and just be there. So I packed a lunch and went off to the Preserve to hike and see whatever was to see, and not draw at all.  Just watch and let stuff happen.

The bench I was aiming for, at the end of a long trail and in need of sitting down, hot day, was gone!  vanished.  Who knows whose idea that was.  So I went on a bit, through the butterfly area, not too many today, just a couple of sightings and blessedly found a nice concrete thing dating back to when the Preserve was a quarry, just right height to sit on and spread out my lunch, and overlook the lake.  In shade, too.

So, listening idly to ducks and watching fish jumping for a while, I heard screams of joy from somewhere and wondered where the playground was.  Then, on my way back, retracing my hike, I found  -- summer program at the Preserve, run by a naturalist --  a doughty band of froghunters!  screaming with joy at finding them and missing them, and splodging about in the shallows, and getting all wet and muddy and happy.  

Wonderful time for them. This stream runs through the beech wood, and is a great place for all kinds of amphibians, rich in salamanders, too, under the fallen logs.  

Those pipes in the picture are the conduits from the lake, or maybe to it, there's running water constantly feeding what is now a lake, was the main quarry.  This side is the safe shallows.  The other side of the path this was taken from has a drop off to several hundred feet of water.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Labyrinth walk and reminders

I walked the labyrinth, mainly for the family of a recently departed friend, but other dear friends got added in as I walked.

Entering the labyrinth
And on the path, as always, there's a significant object to find and carry to the middle of the labyrinth.  This time it was a beautiful carapace from a cicada.  Beautiful, and now empty, it had served its purpose.  

A great reminder to us, when people go on before us.  They're complete now, no further need for their body.  So I carried it to the center and left it as an offering.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Freccycle SOS, see why, what happened 6WS

Nancy, a Freecycler from way back, posted an urgent invitation to come and help with her massive Golden Delicious apple tree which has thousands of apples ripening all at once, a positive tsunami of them.

So I went over with a bushel basket and in no time had about as many as I can use -- they're small, were not pruned out to reduce the crop, but are as their name implies, delicious -- and had plans to spend some time processing them for the freezer.  A winter's worth of crumbles and sauce.  And an invitation to go back and continue if I would like to.  I dug some iris divisions, the purple and white bearded heritage ones, that I'd promised her way back, because her mother used to grow them, so I finally made good and took them over in the same apple quest trip.

Before I cut them up, though (no peeling, way too small and fiddly) I used them as the model for the day's drawing, too tempting, a bushel basket full of apples, how often do I see that.

And after a couple of hours steady washing and  chopping and pushing about and labeling and bagging, while listening to a Peter Wimsey murder mystery, the freezer now has paid its way, since I couldn't have accepted them before having a freezer like this to house them.

That was yesterday's Freecycle bounty. And here's today's picked up from a different town, different direction, it's all go:

In line with my home-decor-without-money theme, I really like the idea of setting up a vignette like this, with the easel, which was the Freecycle item, holding up a charcoal drawing which I had standing on the floor for lack of a home on the wall.  

The two paintings on the wall are my locally dyed works, and one will be in a group show as of next week.  And the easel will house a rotating display of art that I fancy seeing better, or just giving it a turn. You see the Dollivers supervising the whole thing from the vantage point of their apartment in the bookcase.

This month's Bite Club is about Rozane Gold, her three ingredient approach to cooking, never used her books before, so I got the 123 book and plunged in.  Since our fearless leader, Diane, strongly suggested that instead of finding familiar themes to cook, we venture into things we haven't ever made.  

So I ventured totally, and used the current two redskin potatoes to make latkes!  yeah, I know, very familiar to some friends, never encountered by me.  Very very good, fun to make, too.  Quite time consuming but there was no hurry.  I made about half the recipe, I think, judging from the weight of my potatoes.  

I felt very historic doing this one.  See it in the background, cooking, while I show off the dessert

And while I was at it, I went back to an old favorite, to use up some prune plums, and made Marian Burros Plum Torte (Tart in some books), and liked it yet again. 

Dinner looked like this, end of a wildly active and successful day

 One of the latkes is destined for tomorrow's breakfast, just showing you the whole output here. Nice glass of merlot, of course.

Planning on sitting down this evening. After I have a walk, that is.

Friday, August 21, 2015


After a dramatic thunderstorm during the night, which kept on coming back and doing an encore, woke up this morning to find the patio all decked out in diamonds. I  noticed, since the old cherry tree branch was weighted down with water, and I could see into it, that there's a great crop of wild cherries starting.  The birds will love this in fall and winter. Not good for humans, though, too tiny and bitter, all pit no cherry.  Birds and squirrels also eat the thorns on the wild cherry, in the depth of winter when food is at a premium.

So here they are, sparkling, and the houseplants thrilled with their shower.  Click to enjoy better.

I've been realizing that though the patio is not spectacular this year, full of wild flowers and marigolds and various unshowy plants, it's proving to be a much better nature center than when it looked a lot more exciting.  The petunias attract clearwing hummingbird moths, actual hummingbirds, several species of butterfly, all kinds of birds rummaging in there for insects,the herbs are a big bee magnet, and all in all, it's a Good Thing TM.

And because of their visits, the general feeling around it is one of more peace and ease.  I wander out with a cup of coffee in the morning and just enjoy. That's when I often do a daily drawing, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Glorious August! farm lunch

August, now that the heat's abated a bit for now, is amazing.  The mornings are perfect to be outside, everyone's so happy!  and the food's not bad, either.  Also my friend did fix the shower faucet in no time flat, once he'd shopped for the right one, doh, I had not realized I was trying to fit a square handle onto a round faucet, so to speak, very slightly wrong, but enough to not work.  And he gallantly refused even to be reimbursed for the new faucet and the trip and the work.

Here's today's lunch: farmfresh tomato salad, just doused with fresh ground black pepper, together with salt redskin potatoes, a la Deborah Madison, spritz of olive oil, champagne vinegar.  I'd already made inroads on it before remembering to take a pic.

 Dessert is totally ripe cantaloupe chunks with  baharat (see here ) from my Ottolenghi adventures, sprinkled over.  It just gets better in the jar. You open it and the scent is so many layered.  Sprinkle it over practically anything! Or just breathe the scent, for instant calming. Better than lavender.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Plein air at the Turning Basin Park

Today I spent the morning, at least until I got too hot, drawing with me mates in a plein air session. Very small group this week, since the heat's difficult for a lot of people.  We consisted of one watercolorist, one photographer (who took pix of me at work, I believe, and promised to send them!) and moi.

To see the drawings, if you're interested, go here

But to see pix of the actual place, here ya go.

Bridge also seen in drawing on Art the Beautiful, interpreted of course!  bridges over water a favorite subject.

 Elizabeth painting

 Towpath where a lot of walkers and bicyclers pass by and show an interest

 Elizabeth working so intently she's unaware of my sneaking up on her.

Surprise discovery of the day: a fresh sheepskin drying, pegged out at all corners, and we wonder whose project it is.  If any local readers know, please tell us.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Late summer flourish of petunias

I seized the day and went to the garden center to see if there were any petunias to rescue, late in the season, I know, but I tend to have this urge to prolong the flowers.  The petunias I brought home a couple of weeks ago have been very happy, but their neighbors left behind at the center a bit sad looking. I picked out the best looking ones, and got a deal on it, late season.  

And brought them home, stripped off their withered foliage, planted them in new potting soil and they're in place on top of the fence, at least some of them are not yet, since I ran out of steam after a bit.  The established petunias I brought in from the outdoor place, figuring it was time I got to enjoy them, too.  I moved a pot of marigolds and lavender out there instead.

Extreme light contrast defeated my tablet's abilities, but you get the gist. The marigolds and other plants on top of the fence are looking tired and a bit ragged, so I put them down on the ground in honorable retirement, and now the fence looks cheerful again.

I got the natural version of a standing o as I worked on this - while I was still potting up the new petunias, a hummingbird clearwing moth started work busily on them, then once in place on the fence,  a pair of Carolina wrens, a monarch butterfly, a cabbage white and Mrs. Cardinal showed up to play among them.  My nature preserve seems to be doing well.

Since I was on a roll, the antibiotics are kicking in, feeling better, I dashed off a little drawing of the end pot of pink petunias, pilot pen oh, alliteration, on Bristol, and at that point sanity overtook me and I came indoors.
The heat index was nearly 100F.  so it was time to stop and come in to brag about what I did. And to remember that I'm still getting well, not totally there yet, and I should sit and read a good mystery.

My genius handyman artist friend is going to come over later and as he put it, "see what's up" with my shower faucet, meaning probably fix it in about 30 seconds.