Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dinner with Handsome Son Returns, after Hiatus

Between my being under the weather, and Handsome Son's work hours being unaccommodating, it's been weeks since we had a meal together.  So Friday we resumed, and it went over well.

Chicken drumsticks, roasted with thyme, then layered with baby bella mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil and butter, garlic salt and red wine, and a can, sorry, it's the season, no fresh tomatoes yet, of unsalted diced tomatoes.  All layered together,  medium oven.  Brown jasmine rice, cooked with crushed walnuts and golden raisins.  This was a pretty easy meal in some ways and went down well.  Glass of the same red wine used in the mushrooms, nice Italian.  Banana bread with crushed walnuts (noting a theme here?) and big pot of tea. And it leaves enough for a couple of meals for me over the weekend.  

So dinner was good, and after HS had been forced to tour all the new windows, admiring them at length, very patiently, he picked out some of my glass collection for himself.  When I had to reorganize before the windows were done, I put away all my glass collection for safety, and decided after weeks of not seeing it, that I probably only needed to hold onto a few pieces.  So Handsome Son was very happy to take away several nice pieces for his own use.  

This leaves a few I can take to the thriftie on my next trip there.  HS always gets first refusal on anything I find at the thriftie, or anything I'm planning to take there.  He's very good about selecting only what he wants, resisting the collecting temptation pretty well.  Partly this is because his condo is small and fills up easily! 

All my neighbors are resigned to having a tour of the windows if they stop in.  I think I may need to curb my enthusiasm a bit..
More strawberries today, and I got half a dozen nice basil starts, which are now potted up on the patio.  I need rosemary then I'm set.  Other herbs came through the winter fine, oregano, mints, sage, Thai basil, if the squirrel's rampage hasn't stopped it in its tracks.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Windows, Finally Done for This Lifetime

Positively the Last Big Thing I'm doing for this house.  Windows are now done, curtains reorganized and working nicely.  Contractor neighbor who installed the rods for me now decided to get a new patio door at his own house across the street, very impressed with mine.

Footnote to this bedroom pic: the two plants you see on stools I started from scratch. One from a single leaf from a bigger begonia, took ages to start, and is now pretty impressive.  The one on the right I started from a single leaf of snake plant, one of the many sansevierias, which I cut up and rooted in sections.  

Did you know the sections of this plant know their north-south orientation?  unless you plant the sections of the leaf in the same direction of their original growth, they will not root.  So I had to be careful to keep them organized when I cut up the leaf.  And all of the parts rooted. Several years' growth there, very slow plant.  I never bother with rooting hormone, just shove them into potting soil and leave them alone.  That usually works fine.

So all is done and I can just stop thinking about the fabric of the house and get on to more interesting stuff. In fact I do love my surroundings, and would far rather be there than anywhere, drag myself out when I need to be with friends, enjoy their company a lot, glad to get home again!

The only little drawback to the new windows is that the glass is so clean that I've had a few bird collisions with it, against the patio door. It's huge, and they see the plants inside, including the ficus tree, and I guess plan on flying into it to perch, then discover the glass.  Up to now no fatalities, just annoyed birds.  

Once in a while I get a redtail hawk colliding, thinking she can fly right through, if the front door is open.  Looks to a bird like a passage between trees.  Redtails are so powerful that when that happens it's like a minor explosion, bird unharmed, flies away pretending it never happened.

So you will be pleased to know that the Saga of the Windows is now complete.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Suddenly, roses

Suddenly I noticed that the climbing roses are out.  And what's left of the iris on the patio after the renovation. 

Foreground is the wildflower, not yet out, sansevieria virginiana, little three-petalled purple flower.  Planted herself last year, and recovered after the winter. I expect she has a common name, but I don't know it.  Hence the fancy Latin!

In front of the house needs some work.  Neighbor promised to help yank out the dead pachysandra, paths worn by contractors, and heavy stuff being left on it.  But on the good side, I can plant something else there instead.  Thinking about a couple of decorative grasses, maybe.  Maybe finally a peony, but I think that's for Fall planting and I'm impatient to put something in.  Trip to the nursery has to happen.  Once my energy finally returns, that is.  Still getting there.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Windows Upload, no, the real kind. And Strawberries Are In!

This week, what with recovering from the flu, took ages longer than it spozed to, and the endless drama out of Washington, stress nobody needs, suddenly the window installers showed up at the door on Monday.  Could I get my installation done next day?

After having to bring endless pressure just to get them to respond for the last three months, I was not about to send them away.  And I'd cancelled my housecleaners anyway for next day, not up to going out for a couple of hours. Urgent text to son to come over and help move stuff away from windows in every room, take down curtains, and various things I didn't have the strength to do.  Which he did, cheerfully, good guy.

So after a couple of days of intense noise, stress, much shouting in Russian, good thing I don't speak Russian, at least any of the terms the crew was using, all the windows are now replaced. Beautiful new ones,  many times better than their predecessors, great insulation value, both weather and sound.  Now paid for.  Done. All worked lovely.  Bp now reducing nicely.

 Old windows waiting to leave

 Spencer prepping the empty space while I keep an eye on cats

 Upstairs, new window in place

 And here the big one, the eight foot, 600 lb patio door replacement, in progress, no sound effects added here

 Bedroom window, same width as patio door, lovely framing of tree

Here, Marigold feigns total oblivion.  We Burmese are Royal, We Do Not Fuss When Our House Is Under Siege.  We took a brief trip out of doors, but it was too noisy and hot and We came back in. 
Duncan not so lucky, ran to hide under my bedclothes when the crew came up to the bedroom window, got trapped there, daren't come out and exit.
Excellent crew, total focus on work, really good craftsmanship.  Expensive but worth it. The value of my house now considerably better than three days ago.  And the neighbors, having hung back until I got through it, so brave, are interested in maybe doing likewise while the contractors are around working on the renovations.   Especially when they saw the pristine state of affairs with the installation complete.

Then today, caught up on vital errands, stamps, lantana for hummingbirds, wine, I saw the sign up at the farm: Strawberries!

 Scoop of yogurt. Perfect.  Happy camper here now.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Return to Life, with apologies to Ch. Dickens

Long hiatus here recently, owing to having been totally out of action for over a week with the neighborhood flu, just now getting back to sort of better.  

The indictments coming down today in DC, together with FBI search warrants being executed on the GOP fund raising group also raised my spirits, in the hope that this is the start of the end of the current regime.  Watergate is still a bitter memory, and then we wondered why small potatoes went first, before it became a landslide ending with the regime change. So I am hopeful.

Anyway, my new supply of watercolor pencils arrived while I was out of it, and today I finally felt up to trying them out. I managed to do a couple of little tries before my strength was all used up.

They're Caran dAche, the cadillac of pencils, soft watercolor pencils, thinking about using them for plein air work this year. You can move the color about with a wet brush, etc., so you have a range of choices.

And I may even get back into a spot of knitting, that lovely hand dyed yarn from Shepherd Susie. Haven't even been able to hold up needles lately.

Good thing Handsome Son did some urgent errands for me, such as delivering promised artworks to a benefit Popup Gallery, for Homefront, very good cause. Luckily the artworks were already completed, framed, labeled and priced and all the preliminary paperwork done before I got sick.

The opening, at 19 Hulfish Street in Princeton, is Friday evening, May 19th, so locals are encouraged to come, enjoy, buy original art from established artists, and support Homefront at the same time.

HS also did some grocery shopping, in case I ever felt like eating again.  Still no word on installing windows, probably a good thing for the moment since I doubt I could have got things ready for them anyway.  It involves moving stuff and rehoming plants etc. 

So that's where we are, hopeful once again that we will live to fight another day!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Journal and barley biscuits

So today, I was looking at a twitter feed which had a pic of the writer's current day, in her planner, complete with drawings, plans, thoughts, rather typically wordy as in writer.  And I thought, self, you haven't done an illustrated journal in yay these many months, why not give yourself one of the books you made, just a little one will do, and make an entry?

No sooner said than done.  And I have little fear that anyone can actually read this, my writing having once been described by my boss, an Egyptologist, as reminding him of Minoan Linear B.  That's one of the writings that has still not been deciphered.

 I should interrupt myself here to say that a neighbor moving out left one of those plastic three drawer storage things at the dumpster. Perfect timing, just as I was unloading the crates from my recent workshops and general bookmaking materials.  All stuffed in any old way, not good.  

So the storage unit is now cleaned up, and filled with my raw materials, organized for the first time.  In the course of doing which I found more finished books I'd forgotten about making, as well as the makings for some others, which may become this summer's plein air paper carrying things. And I have a large empty crate which may go out.  Before it gets all filled up again.

Here's one of the small books I forgot. 

Very simple, just a greeting card filled with good paper, pamphlet stitched, edges rounded, small for putting in purse.  And the small page is about as far as I felt like going. 

Not a journal keeper usually, I sometimes do a few days or more in a journal with drawings and ideas, then I lie down and the mood passes.  But it's an occasional fun thing to do.

As is baking the last of my barley flour (on the subject of crazes, readers might remember the frenzy of flour-making using my coffee grinder?  I do grind spices etc in it, but made flour from walnuts, almonds, chickpeas, lentils, barley, oatmeal and probably other things I've forgotten.)  Anyway, I had this barley flour left over, just pearl barley ground up, and finally put it to use making a batch of hot biscuits; the flour was half and half barley and unbleached ap.

Barley flour doesn't take up the liquid like other flours, so you have quite a wet dough, best baked as one big biscuit then cut with a pizza cutter once finished.  It's a nice flavored, sort of grainy textured flour, browns nicely. Also needs 12 minutes rather than 10 because of the relative wetness of the dough.  But it does come out light.   And it works with jam or with your breakfast egg, or with practically anything that requires a bready accompaniment.  Which for me is practically anything.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mayday, Mayday!

Today, I put my vague plan about painting the tiny downstairs bathroom into action, which first entailed removing a ton of small art from the parts I needed to paint.  Then remembering what tools I needed. A roller is too awkward for this small space, so I use those big square pads you sort of brush down the wall, and can cut in pretty well.  Touch up with a sponge brush, done. And finally I was wondering where my painting clothes are.

So I did get this show going, and painted the lower half of the wall in the same color as the staircase. It looks almost white in the can, but lovely caramel on the wall.  And finally the place where the grab bar was installed just looks like part of the wall instead of a replacement.  Note the towels on the grab bar.

The paint job spiffs up the room quite a bit, since it's always the lower half that gets the traffic and thumps.  The contrast with the pink is very happy, a bit like a strawberry/ French vanilla icecream.

And the white rabbit for May 1 had to wait to make his entrance until Kate H reminded me it was indeed May 1 and not April 31, as I had sort of been thinking.  So here he is, midst greenery, wishing you a good May Day.

But I celebrated the Workers' Day by working, so that was okay.  And mayday mayday did come to mind a time or two in the painting process.

Next the loose moraine of artworks on the dining table need to make their way back to the walls of the bathroom, those that are going back, that is.  

I may change my mind about some of them, always a possibility.

I will recoup my failing energy with a couple of paleo cookies, recipe suggested by Carol H and tried out yesterday, and a pot of tea.  They're Elizabeth Barbone's paleo cookies. 

 I guess paleo doesn't actually mean cavemen ate them, though they were missing a good thing, but the ingredients have no gluten, maybe that's it.

Four ingredients: almond flour, a no brainer around here, vanilla essence, baking powder, dark maple syrup.  I had no maple syrup so I subbed jaggery.  In fact I subbed half and half honey and molasses which itself is a sub for jaggery.  

Anyway, it made fewer cookies than the recipe said, probably because of this change, but they went down dramatically well with Handsome Son who stopped over to do a thing or two for me yesterday and get a cup of tea while he was here.  Hot biscuits with either mango or blueberry jam, plate of paleo cookies.  Not bad.  He wants me to make them again.  So this is good. 

And my house wall painting is under way for another season.  In fact this is thrilling, that I can do it with no ill effects other than feeling a bit tired.  Shoulder totally well now, yay.  So other walls now call.

I have enough of the staircase color to paint the inner wall of the stairwell, the one you don't see unless you live here, so maybe that will be next.  It always looks better when the stair tread sides, there's a name for them which escapes me, please supply if you know it, are newly painted. Not treads, not risers, the zigzag bit that goes up the side and is the devil to paint without getting the rug involved. Stringer?  when I built miniatures I used to know all these technical terms, muntins, fascia boards, soffits, all that, but this one has left me. 

So that's where May Day finds us!  St Joseph the Worker, whose feast we celebrated it as kids, would be proud.