Sunday, May 31, 2009

Update, part the second - success, and (partial) fail?

Two other projects from the last two weeks were inspired by online tutorials. The first was my contribution for TuesdayFamilyPotluck, where the theme was "hippie food" ...
Theme: this upcoming Tuesday happens to be Sophia's birthday, so Sophia decided on a theme of "hippy food"... so when pressed what that means, she was envisioning food in rainbow colors, though she hastens to point out that she doesn't care for tofu (which is really a fine exemplar of a "hippy food". So I'll leave it to your fine imaginations as to what direction to go with that.

Upon reading this I knew exactly what I wanted to make, the Rainbow Cake from Omnomicon. Looking very much like streetfair tyedye, with the added delight of the surprise factor, I knew this would be a fun birthday cake. Fortunately, I had a box of gelpaste food coloring in my baking cupboard already; I ended up using about a third of each little jar to get the desired intensity of color. Rather than the peculiar chemical-filled diet frosting suggested, I made a basic vanilla buttercream. My final touch was a cake topper with rainbow colored letters "have a groovy birthday" in the balloon lettering popular when I was a hippie back in the day.The cake came out even better than I had hoped it would, and was received very well by all; the birthday girl was quite happy.

~ : ♥ : ~

The other online inspired project that I have tried was not so successful. On several "green living" sites I had seen instructions for making your own liquid handwashing soap by dissolving bar soap in water. I much prefer to use liquid soap at the sink, since it is possible to turn on the faucet and pump out soap using the back of the wrist if your hands have come in contact with some kind of germ factory. And since Doctor Bronners is between 35 to 50 dollars or more a gallon, I was very interested in a more frugal DIY option. I followed the directions I found here, and was surprised... Although the instructions say you should fill a pump dispenser with the resulting liquid soap, what resulted was a gallon jar of the most amazing blob of soap-slime, so oddly slippery and stretchy that I could not remove a smaller quantity from the jar to put into a smaller container to use next to my sink.

Looked online for what to do to salvage this project, and one source suggested melting it with more water. I tipped the "blob" into my largest soup kettle and added another half gallon of water and heated it gently on the stove, after an hour it had dissolved and looked more like liquid soap, and could be dipped out with a ladle without stretching back into the pan. Unfortunately, as it cooled, the liquid changed back to a blob of gel. The soap that I put in my pump dispenser is very difficult to pump out, and then a long string of soap gel stretches away from the spout. Obviously there is more to soap chemistry and technology than the chirpy online articles would have you believe. I wonder if any of the writers have actually tried their recipes? (it is telling that there are no pictures of the finished product, just pretty still life images of the ingredients) I now have a gallon and a half of slug slime soap.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

partial update...

Another sunny day. Grateful I am for the new front porch, since it is over 80°F in the shade here. I may be able to avoid covering my living room windows this summer (for the past several years they have spent the summer covered with mylar bubblepack insulation, which keeps the house about ten degrees cooler, but adds a certain peculiar ambiance to both the interior and the exterior). I forsee a fabric shade for the south side, until I can get hop starts planted, which I hope should flourish in that sunny location
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The hot weather totally saps my energy, and I collapsed for a nap after riding my bike to do errands this morning. After riding to the local post office, which I'd forgotten was closed on Saturdays, I decided to hop on the MAX to the grocery store, where I was unable to resist temptation and bought a six pack - of lacinato kale starts. Since I have not had a chance to get to a real plant nursery, and hence have no chard, at least I will have a nice variety of kale for the fall and winter (I already have two other kinds of kale starts). Have finally cleared the terribly weedy garden beds and plants are mostly tucked in. Grass is the worst offender, sending incredibly long rhizomes into the more soft fertile soil. I have heard that if you call a tree service, they will leave you a deposit of wood chips, which if layered over thick newspaper or cardboard, will discourage the revenge of the lawn.
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Awoke from my nap to the sound of loud rattley-bangs coming from the street... the van with the flat tire, which has been parked across the street for so long it has plants growing under it, is getting worked on, and having newer air-holding tires attached.
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My week long visit with my mom was great. She enjoyed meeting some of my local friends at the teaparty, and my friend Sharon (from high school) came down to visit one day with her daughter my friend Heather and Heather's one year old Elencia. A trip out to the Edgefield for lunch and garden-viewing was a treat as well. Besides the social visiting, we had time to do mother-daughter sewing and crafting...I may have encouraged my mom into a new hobby of beadwork jewelry. My mom decided to rent a car for the week, and I must say that having a car is like having running water - really easy to get used to. Errands take a very short time, compared to bussing it or biking it. With the rental car, we were able to get outside of Portland as well. One day we drove a loop to the coast, which I really enjoyed, (except for the personal challenge part) We had decided to go to Cape Disapointment, on the Washington side of the mouth of the Columbia. I knew there was a bridge involved, but somehow hadn't thought about what sort of bridge it was likely to be. I have had a driving-over-water phobia for decades, and my worst nightmares are those with that theme. To say that I was pleased to drive straight up in the air, then hang a left onto a high bridge then swoop down to a causeway barely above the water than onto another bridge would be a lie. But I did it. Knowing that I would need to do it yet again, or take an Inappropriately Long Detour to get home. I do not take kindly to my own foolishness, and there were a lot of some bad words, and some "I refuse to stand in my own way, I can do this" The park was worth the drive though, I only wish that we had had more time. On the way back, we found the fish and chips boat in Astoria, but they were closed that day (sigh). Ah well, more fun things for another trip. The sweetest thing was that my Dad called every morning to talk to her. They have been married for fifty-five years and are still in love.
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I've started using my serger and I am delighted with it. Since I've signed up for the 4-month Wardrobe ReFashion challenge this will come in very handy, there is yardage in my bins o' fabric that will be much easier to deal with now. I'm considering making some fun Fair clothing; I know that buried in my stash is some blue rayon velvet, and various bits and bobs of printed rayon that would be really happy to go to the Oregon Country Fair. For now, I've taken an assortment of indigo scraps and made a stripey patchwork travel vest for my Mom.
The Akita t-shirt that I made four years ago (for a different online challenge) was something I rarely wore, despite the fun graphic, Not sure what I had been thinking, I just don't like regular t-shirts; their neckline is too high and the sleeves are too short to look at all attractive IMHO. So, I hacked up another black and blue flower knit top, extended the sleeves to ¾ length, and recut the neckline and bordered it with more of the flowered knit.
Much more wearable now. My current refashion project is to turn my former denim overalls into an overall jumper. I'm thinking workwear/playclothes, with added gores and extra pockets, and the patchwork flounce from another worn-out denim jumper; 'twill be pretty funky, but if I can get another season of wear out of them that will be good.
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I'd best be away back to my weekend projects...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

coexistence? (NOT)

My morning routine is get up and get dressed, let the chicken(s) out, empty the dog, make breakfast , then start my day of work and projects and art...This morning I was preparing breakfast for Smokey, when I heard an awful ruckus coming from the backyard; a raccoon was chasing Henny Penny round the yard. I'm not sure what the neighbors thought of my hollering NO YOU QUIT THAT RIGHT NOW! as my one remaining hen ran for my back door and I ran out yelling and chased the raccoon off. Gorram cheeky little bandit. There are feathers aplenty on the ground, but Henny Penny seems uninjured. I think this afternoons task is to make a more secure hen shelter, if the raccoons are coming out in broad daylight looking for trouble prey.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

made in the shade

a long held dream becomes reality... Acorn Cottage gets a front porch roof.

The big living room window faces west, prey to all the windblown rain of winter and the heat gain of late afternoon summer sunlight. Former owners built a tiny deck beside the front door, but neglected to roof it over. For several summers I have been shading the window with my old SCA canvas camping dayshade, held up with ropes and wooden poles, and tied to the house and walkway with heavy cordage. But from the first, I had a vision of the front porch roofed over, turning it into an actual space; and creating a transitional zone between the house and the outside world. In Christopher Alexanders A Pattern Language the relevant pattern is #112 "entrance transition"

My friend Bill came down from Olympia and spent the last two days turning the piles of salvaged materials, along with two truckloads of additional supplies, into a stoutly built roof, which totally transforms the front of Acorn Cottage.

The construction process was fascinating, and the finished roof and railing is rather charmingly reminiscent of the booths at Oregon Country Fair. (appropriately enough, since we met there years ago). I suggested cutting the roof lintel ends into a decorative curve... and Bill also cut the roof to wall flashing in the same curve made smaller, so the design is echoed on two sides of the implied space.

Of course, I have still to prime and paint the new porch, which will further integrate it to the house, and paint allows an additional layer of decorative detail. I'm still cogitating on the possibilities... Bill suggested that stitched canvas noren might be a pleasant addition for the summer, to keep even more of the sun away from the house, and to make the porch space more shady still. They could be easily removed when the weather shifted to autumn. I like the idea of changing the porch clothing with the seasons.

If you want even more pictures of the new porch being built, my flickr pages are the place to look...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Once upon a time...

For guiding my steps, for all the inspiration, for the years of drying my tears and soothing my fears, for your amazing resilience, for your sense of humor, for believing in me before I did, for the challenging and the cherishing... for being my mother...


...may today be as special for you as all the special times you created for me as a child.


Happy Mothers Day

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It drives like a truck...

It is barely lunchtime and I'm completely wiped out. Got up way early, and borrowed the wee Nissan pickup truck to get a yard of leaf mould compost. Portland has a leaf composting facility, where you can get things like leaf mould, and dirt, and other less likely things like crushed asphalt and concrete. It has been years since I drove anything other than Nimblefoot, or more currently, tiny rental cars. Though Mary Ann's Nissan is not a full size pickup, it has the famous pickup truck Arm-Strong steering. That, combined with the the seat stuck in the all the way back position, made driving interesting.

I wish that I'd brought my camera; the windrows of composting leaves were quite impressive, huge and steaming in the early morning chill. I felt like a small child, fascinated by the big machines moving stuff; the huge scoop that dumps the compost into the bed of the truck is longer than the truck, the operator fluffs up the compost first, from a pile that is at least 20 feet tall, then carefully scoops and dumps until the correct amount is ready to be deposited. There is a scale attached to the machine, and they have a range of weight that is appropriate, depending on how wet the compost is. I really had no idea how very large a cubic yard of compost is, and how heavy. Apparently, over 1000 lbs.

And once I returned to Acorn Cottage, I had to shovel and rake all that back out of the pickup bed into a tidy pile on my driveway, to return the truck before noon. I'm knackered. Moving the compost into the backyard will happen a bit slower, one wheelbarrow at a time. Just not today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

sometimes you the windshield, sometimes you the bug

I just figured out how to take pictures at dusk. My favorite time of day. I keep finding things that my camera can do. Haven't figured out the tripod thing yet, but I rested the camera on Nimblefoot's* roof, hence the nifty reflected-in-water look of the picture of my neighbors house. Isn't that just a great Maxfield Parrish sky.
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There is no way I can get all the things done I had hoped to before my mom arrives. Oh well. Most vital to me is the gardening, that is actively time-bound. I may have missed the deadline on some things, but will be playing catch-up none the less. My baby potatoes need to go in the ground NOW. This weekend I will be picking up heirloom pepper and tomato starts from some local folks a few miles west of here. Tomorrow early I will be borrowing a little pickup truck from my kitty-corner neighbors, and getting a load or two of leaf compost for the garden. I've also just finished reading up about chicken tractors (mobile hen housing) and am thinking about constructing a small "summerhouse" for Henny Penny, 'specially since I just scored two double baby gates at the ReBuilding Center, which will make nice strong walls. Rois and Chance may send over one of their older hens to keep HennyPenny company. Hens are really social, she is not happy being a lonely chicken...
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Smokey the Compact Akita is done with her first round of antibiotics - yay! She seems much somewhat perkier, (given her advanced age). She is still having "plumbing" problems though, and there are a few slightly worrisome things that showed up in her urine test. Need to do another test next week...The vet wants to put her on a secondary medication in addition to the estrogen, to see if that will take care of the piddling. (if that doesn't help, other, scarier possible diagnoses are kidney failure or diabetes, I so don't want to even think about that) - sigh
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My thrifting foo is strong this last week. My local Goodwill presented me with a large square shawl, paisley wool in nice dark rich colors perfect for winter, when I need something to keep my shoulders and neck warm. Found another tea mug, white with blue birds and nests and branches, which will be useful at next Sundays Tea Party. My best find was a small steel cabinet with glass sides, door, and shelves, kind of like a cross between a medical and curio cabinet. That one was heavy, I needed to go home and get my wheelie cart, and rolled it back down the street to Acorn Cottage. Not quite sure where it will end up living, but it was too nifty to not bring home
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Today when Stacy and I stopped at Home Despot (she needed some hardware, and I wanted to use the opportunity to bring home the final piece of copper pipe for living room curtain rods) I noticed that one of the pieces of pipe was somewhat shorter than the others. Upon asking the clerk about it, not only was it 50% off, since it was not a full length, but also, at 8 1/2 ft long (rather than 10) was exactly the length I needed - double yay!
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My mom is arriving in a week and a half, on the 15th. There will be a Craft Tea Party here at Acorn Cottage on Sunday the 17th of May; come and say hello to my most early art and craft teacher and inspiration, my mom. She taught me to knit, and sew, and encouraged my artistic adventures all while I was growing up. Tea party is the usual time - noon to fiveish, tasty snacks, friendly chats and handicraft projects welcomed...
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* Nimblefoot is a Saturn station wagon, fifteen years old with over 200,000 miles on the odometer. I ride my bike, walk, and take public transit.

Monday, May 4, 2009

media Monday

more than 700 individual knitted panels...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

brought to you by the letter B...

As always, life here has been pretty busy. Last weekend I took some time off and headed down to the convention center to check out the big annual Ceramic Showcase event. I have a great appreciation for handmade pottery, and usually end up adding something small and delightful to my home. Last year two wasabi dishes that ended up becoming artwork for the bathroom wall. But this year, nothing in the huge hall of ceramic artistry called to come home with me.

I wandered over to the glass section, where I discovered Highland Beads. Jennifer Millsap is a most talented and creative bead artist. My eye was initially caught by her particularly well-shaped acorn beads, but my heart was captured by the beads with Pacific rim northwest imagery. In this 1 1/4" bead, one side had the image of a flying bird, and the obverse has a snow-covered mountain. (other beads also had our iconic northwest conifers) Jennifer is somehow able to use the thinnest black glass stringers to create images on her beads that have the delicate grace of sumi brush painting.
As I headed home that evening, with my tiny bit of bead art safely tucked away, I realised that I had some beads that would be a perfect complement. The white raku and black matte glass were formerly part of a different piece, created to commemorate and ease a transition in my life years ago. (that necklace had all the white beads on one half, and the dark beads on the other) I've since passed that pendant on to a friend, but the beads, reconfigured, are still symbolic. Now the bright raku, with its spiderwebbing cracks adding to the subtle beauty, is dispersed throughout the necklace, reflecting the beauty that I notice throughout my day. With age comes a kind of internal freedom I never expected.
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In the middle of last week, I was surprised to see Bill arriving on my doorstep! He brought me some 2 x 4's for the soon-to-be-happening porch roof project. And since he was down here with the big pickup truck, I was able to persuade him that a trip to Mr Plywood would be a good thing, and we returned with three sheets of plywood for the porch roof decking. Still figuring out the actual roof configuration, but I'm hoping that before summertime there will be a pleasant shaded place to sit. (almost all the materials have been acquired, I still need the actual "roofing") Bill also took a look at my fruit trees and I've done a good job on their pruning...
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My new dwarf pear tree has the tiniest baby fruit, swelling behind where the blossoms were a few weeks ago. My apple trees still have blossoms, though many were blown away in the big storm we had yesterday. The currant bushes have tiny green baby currants, the tiny blueberry has cream colored flowers, and my persimmon tree is starting to have a few leaves. I dream of the day when there will be tasty fruit here at Acorn Cottage, (if I want tasty veggies I'd best get more busy with my garden beds...)
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I've been looking for someone a friend with an open-back pickup truck; I want to get some soil amendments for my garden, but most of my friends use their trucks for SCA transport, and hence have nicely enclosed trucks or vans, not suitable for dirt and manure and compost. My neighbor Mary Ann and her family have been using their little truck for just this activity, the pickup cap sits on their lawn while their expanded garden is looking much nourished. So I bravely went over and asked if I could borrow their truck one morning to get leaf mold compost. While we were chatting, I asked about the new structure in their backyard...they have just added a beehive! This is great news for the neighborhood. Not only will their family (hopefully) get homegrown honey, but all our gardens will benefit from the added pollination. I love my neighborhood...
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