Sunday, January 31, 2016

another mystery solved


With the help of our stalwart electron pals, our plucky heroine has discovered the name, and a bit of information about, the unusual plant currently in neighbor Carla's front yard....
Edgeworthia chrysantha, which I first noticed back when the flower buds were coated with ice earlier this year, has begun blooming in the last few days (along with the snowdrops in my front yard)...supposedly has very fragrant flowers once they are fully in bloom, and the bark is used in making high quality handmade oriental paper.
:::

Had a pleasant Crafternoon today. Freydis and Lawrence came over early, and worked on various projects. We heat set the silk painting he did at Midwinters, and then I gave him an embroidery needle for additional work on a future "heraldic luggage tag" for his armor bag. She worked on Roman style beaded bracelets interspersed with occasional music interludes on her new tin whistle. My friends keep surprising me with their hidden talents. While I can recognise music, I have no great ability in that realm, and certainly have never been able to simply pull recognisable tunes out of midair!

A bit later on in the day, Tullia and Drusa came by. Tullia dropped off some of the supplies for the pieced quilted wall hangings I will be making for her treatment room, and we went over the details for the first one, a large yin yang in two shades of green. Once that was clear, she then went on to turn a log shaped dog toy into a toy for her young Maine Coon "Felix" who has taken to dragging things out of the pantry to kill. (like a bag of flour for example) The hope is that the larger heavier toy, appropriately catnip scented, will prove a suitable substitute for dry goods. Drusa didn't bring a project, but let us know that we can come over to her workroom and pick out suitable veneer for the future tablet weaving cards she will be making. I let her know that there will be a possible shared merchanting space available at Egils, and that some card sets might be good to try out there...(our plucky heroine will be also putting together an assortment of useful trinkets as well)
:::

As far as SMART goals so far this year, now that we are at the end of January, there has been excellent progress on the things made, less on the things fixed, and nowhere near enough on the things discarded. Fortunately I now have two years experience with the process, so know that over the course of a twelvemonth, the various columns mostly balance out

Saturday, January 30, 2016

ruach... spirit... wind...


...in which our plucky heroine continues the process: my plan is to clear out various areas of dysfunction, clean, declutter, and organise the spaces to add peace and functionality to life here at Acorn Cottage

This corner of the kitchen is a problem, and in the ten years I've lived here, no good solution has become apparent.

Former Owner did an odd remodel of the countertop that caused problems: The upper cupboard is inaccessible without climbing on the counter. The lower cupboard requires nimble floor level contortions to access.  And the countertop itself is sort of a dead zone where objects stagnate. In a feng sui sort of mode, the qi gets stuck there and goes nowhere

So, I cleared it all out, washed the counter and the lazy susan, and only put back things that get used in the food prep area: breakfast components and food seasonings. Cleverly, the various spices and herbs, which were formerly stashed under the windowsill on the other side of the room, now have a better home on the top level of the lazy susan, with the various vinegars in the center, and nuts, dried fruit and other dry condiments on the lower level. This is the sort of functional beauty that I want for my whole house.


January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers bag to Goodwill
2 two felt mice compression straps bag to Goodwill
3 heraldic enamel bench hook bag to Goodwill
4 Laurel pendant kitchen corner cleared -
5 black/brown pinafore - -
6 horses print block - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Thursday, January 28, 2016

insomnia


in which our plucky heroine finds a productive silver lining...

Last night I couldn't sleep, and instead of just fretting horizontally, went back to the workroom and spent some more time carving away on my first linoleum block. Got a good deal of the background cut away, since that required careful effort but not the focused detailing that remains to be done around the horses legs and tail.
One thing I was able to do was to repair the lefthand horses far ear (tiny triangle), which cracked away when I used slightly too much pressure in carving. I read online that wood glue was a good adhesive for linoleum block, and so stuck it back in place and let it dry overnight... Hopefully the repair will hold up to the stress of actual printing!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday musings and music


in which our plucky heroine considers the concept of slowness... I always say that there are only two things I want to be fast in this world, one being my sewing machines and the other being my internet connection...

Last year February I made Idonia an embroidered needlebook, but somehow one thing or another came in the way of my actually remembering to pack it, finally delivered it to her at this most recent Midwinters... So the snail on the strawberries is not only a favorite of hers but perhaps a symbol of how it took almost a year to get from from my brain to her hands...
:::

There was no chance last Saturday for either some block printing of my own, or time for carving a block, during Marya's class for which I was an assistant, but it really whetted my desire to try some block printing of my own in a historically inspired style. This motif, from a 8th century Central Asian textile, is my inspiration.

In order to safely carve the linoleum block, which is much harder than the soft SafeTCut rubber I have used in the past, constructing a bench hook tool is the first step. The bench hook allows for cutting away material from the block with significantly less danger of also cutting away material from my hands. There is a fair amount of information online about bench hook construction and use, but as I am not a woodworker, I'd not run across it before. A bit of work with the japanese saw, some dabs of glue and deploying the C-clamps was all it took...

The linoleum block is hard, and I will be taking my time to gradually carve away the background, so as to not cause harm to my shoulder or wrists. This motif (the confronted horses and foliage) will be centered inside another printed roundel, and a smaller interstitial motif between the larger roundels, to create an overall printed fabric design. My goal is to have printed my own yardage to use for a piece of SCA clothing, by next 12th Night or before.
:::


another old favorite slow and sweet..
:::

January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers bag to Goodwill
2 two felt mice compression straps bag to Goodwill
3 heraldic enamel bench hook bag to Goodwill
4 Laurel pendant - -
5 black/brown pinafore - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday fragments


in which our plucky heroine has managed to grab bootstraps...

Going to fill in as a class assistant for a workshop on textile printing with linocut blocks. While this is certainly not my specialty, I have assisted some more expert friends in such activity, and expect to learn quite a bit while being a helper. In case there is time for it, I decided to prep a block for myself to carve.

Since the readymade blocks only come in certain sizes, which don't match the class project, I asked the instructor how best to cut the larger block to size. It turns out that hand tools work just fine; a bit of scrap wood protects the linoleum surface, a C-clamp hold everything steady, and a japanese pull saw cut through the entire thing with no trouble at all...
:::

I figured out why I now only get one egg from the chicken house each day... Nanny Ogg is molting! In the middle of the winter no less. I had noticed a few feathers and then some more today, and when I looked at her, she was noticeably missing head feathers and had instead the quills of new feathers growing in. Well dang. Winter is not the ideal time for losing one's down jacket, and she isn't even a year old yet. Usual average I've read for first molt is 18 months. At least this means that she will likely be done by the time Boneclaw Mother starts, but if I was breeding my hens, she would probably go to freezer camp instead...
:::

Some really small cord locks and some paracord to make four horizontal compression cords, and then this setup for vertical compression, as a way to condense my homemade memory foam camping mat into a smaller configuration, which will be very handy for travel packing. Still need to make a protective travel-bag, since it didn't come with a stuff sack like the rest of my camping gear
:::

January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers bag to Goodwill
2 two felt mice compression straps bag to Goodwill
3 heraldic enamel - bag to Goodwill
4 Laurel pendant - -
5 black/brown pinafore - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -
:::

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

cancerversary


Four years... four years ago I was in hospital, just out of surgery, wishing I could eat dinner, and watching Firefly on the DVD player. Here's hoping for a lot more than another four years...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

sunday snippets of SWAP progress


...in which our plucky heroine transforms a dress into a pinafore...

Combining the rectangular constructed bodice and the gored skirt didn't work out, so I recut the bodice into a pinafore top... this ended up with the stenciled design forming a nice border along the vee neckline. My initial concept of multiple bands of trim on the hemline seemed too "fussy", so just the black corduroy bias edgebinding. Having transformed the dress into a pinafore will necessitate changing my SWAP plans, as the color balance is shifted. I am glad I didn't waste the entire dresslength of fabric though.

This unintended pinafore works with some of the clothing I already have, that I made several years ago, so I could technically say that I now have a complete 3PAC: brown/black pinafore (bottom) black polkadot dress (2010) (dress) and black floral peplum blouse (2013) (top). If I end up with enough time at the end, I can fill these spaces (dress + top) with additional newly sewn garments, but just in case my sewing remains so slow, it is good to have this option

I also learned a clever trick for getting the binding to lay nicely flat around an inside corner, by sewing a sort of tiny sideways diamond shaped dart. Solving this particular difficulty will come in very useful, since my preferred edge treatment is self-made bias binding. Am wondering about putting together a workshop on edge binding, and if there would be any interest in that...
:::
 
January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers bag to Goodwill
2 two felt mice - bag to Goodwill
3 heraldic enamel - -
4 Laurel pendant - -
5 black/brown pinafore - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday music and musings


in which our plucky heroine continues making slow but steady progress...

I started decluttering at the beginning of 2014 as part of my Rising 60 challenge, and by the end of the year, had met my goal of letting go of at least 60 grocery sacks full of things not needed. In 2015, I surpassed that number, and over 74 items/bags/bundles were sent to either the trash, recycling, or a thrift shop. My goal is to get to the end of the major declutter by the end of 2016, so that my efforts and the bulk of my energy can go towards new creative efforts.

This month and until it is improved, I am focusing on the largest room in the house, the converted garage space that I use as a workroom. Since towards the end of last year I was finally able to get the carpet out of the two bedrooms and the laminate flooring installed, unfortunately all the random boxes that were stacked up in the bedroom were migrated into the workroom. And I don't want to simply take the boxes and stack them all up in the bedroom again, I am enjoying having the bedroom be uncluttered. 

There isn't yet an uncluttered space or surface anywhere in the room, which serves as a combined laundry room and pantry as well as workshop space. It was a sad day in 2007 when the necessary demolition after flooding required removing all the lovely built in cupboards that surrounded the laundry and pantry and water heater, knowing that there was no budget to replace them. Still, our plucky heroine has been rather clever about finding workarounds, though all that missing storage shelving would really be quite useful...

So far I have managed to uncover most of the top of the washer and dryer. Another evening of effort will find homes for most of what remains atop the washer, and hopefully a tidy basket to store the laundry powder and liquids now temporarily corralled in a box lid on the dryer...
.
slowly making progress from total disorder to slightly more tidy...
:::

 
“The stars look very different today.”(The New Yorker, bonus daily cartoon, by Benjamin Schwartz)
:::

I didn't manage to finish putting together a calendar for 2016, and while that is still on my agenda, I really wanted something to hang on the wall next to my desk for planning. I'd had this 18 month planner in my Etsy favorites list for a long time; the uncluttered design feels both visually restful and highly functional to my eyes. It only took seven days from when the order was shipped from Berlin to when it arrived on my doorstep here at Acorn Cottage, and it is just as pleasing in person. The paper is a little thicker than what is common here as "copier paper", and the metal clamp/clip/binder is a delightful bit of Italian engineered manufacturing, which, just as described, is a handy place to also rest a writing stick. I call this a win!
:::


Something a little different, maybe not to everyone's taste, but I like it...

:::
January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers bag to Goodwill
2 two felt mice - bag to Goodwill
3 heraldic enamel - -
4 Laurel pendant - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Sunday, January 10, 2016

shopwork for regalia


...in which our plucky heroine keeps body and soul together...

All the last week most of my time was spent in the workshop, as I'd two different pieces of regalia on order for delivery this weekend. Part of the challenge was that in the middle of all this my kiln (Mr Hot) had a structural reversal, and one of the two springs that counter-load the heavy door, snapped. There was no place in all the city to acquire a replacement; much to my dismay. (note: on a query to the manufacturer, I found that I can order replacement springs at a reasonable price, even though the kiln itself is about twenty years old) I did manage a workaround, and got my work completed in a timely if stressful way.

One of the two pieces was a small 1" diameter heraldic medallion, to be given as a token of affiliation. My client sent me a drawing of her badge, which I then used to create a cloisonné enamel with the agreed upon golden yellow background.

This is what a not quite finished basic setting looks like, before being polished and having the enamel set... simple serrated bezel made to the size of the enamel, with a single bail and soldered jump ring. In this case I decided to use some twist wire for the jump ring. The simple setting is a good frame for the heraldic badge enamel. This is an example of the kind of custom work I love making for people
.

The other piece I worked on this past week was another small (1" diameter) enamel, this is a tiny Laurel medallion, which was given as a gift from her friends to the newly elevated Prudence Goodheart, at An Tir 12th Night on Saturday morning. This setting has a modest elaboration of a pendant freshwater pearl, inspired by various Renaissance jewels that also use both simple and complex pearl and gemstone pendants to decorate their settings.
:::
January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers -
2 two felt mice - -
3 heraldic enamel - -
4 Laurel pendant - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

one mouse two mouse red mouse blue mouse



in which our plucky heroine makes 12th Night gifts for two little girls...

When I saw these little mice, I knew that they would be a delightful treat for my two special girls, who are coming to visit this weekend for 12th Night, along with their assorted adults (aka Blue Cedar House). Ann Wood's tutorial and pattern are excellent, as is not surprising, since she is an inspired artist and a talented patternmaker.

When I printed out the PDF, I made an error and my pattern came out scaled about a third smaller than intended, but I decided that the cute factor would be even moreso with extra tiny pocket sized mice... (they are supposed to be about 3" tall, which would make the stitching and assembly a bit easier)
.

The other thing I did differently was to add whiskers. I use single strands of horsehair, lockstitched in place, and I find the whiskers add a certain combination of kawaii appeal and vermisillitude...

:::

January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers -
2 two felt mice - -
3 -
- -
4 - - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday musings and music


in which our plucky heroine makes slow steady progress forward...

This morning the backyard is ice, crunchy where there is undisturbed snow, and slick solid ice where the snow was walked on yesterday. Chicken house has icicles. Penguin walk was my friend, and when I go back outside it will be YakTrax for certain. Chickens threw the faux egg outside when I opened the door, I suspect there will be no egglaying for a while. Life here at Acorn Cottage goes on just slightly weird as usual. Considering sprinkling wood shavings on the ice, wondering if that would give better traction or just make it more slippery...

ice coats the flower buds of the mystery plant in Carla's yard
:::

Concept drawing of a teacher-pinafore for Jen, using two different coordinated fabrics. This garment has a lot of my favorite features, like a bias front bodice, and capacious inset pockets. Here I'll combine the two fabrics she had me use last year, in a way that will take advantage of how the colors and prints work together and also show off the style lines of the design.

:::

while decluttering I found the wee iPod that has a lot of my favorite songs on it, that I'd not seen in three years (back when I was listening to it when I was just starting to recover from my cancer surgery and spending a lot of time in bed...) Wishing that there was some way to listen to the music without blocking my hearing with earphones, and remembering that I'd seen at Goodwill, in the electronic department, things you can plug one into to both recharge it and play the music out through speakers like a radio... I splurged, spent the $7, and now can have tunes in the workroom! (Just call Acorn Cottage the home of outdated tech... I don't care, it works!)
:::

Further progress on the slippers for Dad. After being run through the washer four times*, they have shrunk and felted to a more appropriate size. Once they are dry, I can attach the older knitted portion to turn them into slipper-socks, and a layer of non-slip to the bottoms.

* front loading washers are great for laundry and not so great for felting. In this as in much else, patience is a virtue. This is a project being completed in the fragments of spare time between other more intensive tasks
:::

This brought tears to my eyes, for so many reasons...

:::

January SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 sekrit santa gift iPod speakers -
2 - - -
3 -
- -
4 - - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

Sunday, January 3, 2016

snow day


... in which our plucky heroine makes an unwelcome discovery...

Woke up this morning to find that light snow has been coming down for some time. If it was rain, this would be drizzle. (I love the rain, you never have to shovel the rain...) Nonetheless, the chooks are appalled, and loath to come out of their house, even for fresh food and water.


Happened to be looking out the bedroom window later, and saw Boneclaw Mother consider a very brief foray outside the henhouse...

... well maybe trying to get some breakfast might be worthwhile...

... nope nope nope... heading back inside!

:::

I am getting softhearted; I made up a warm mash of mixed up chook food and rolled oats, and put it in the henhouse, and set their water dispenser inside as well... and I'll be checking on them several times today.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goal posts for 2016


... in which our plucky heroine takes an annual look at the distance a year makes...

Last year at this time I wrote: With the changes I worked on this year [2014], the initial small steps were obvious, and could be done in a kaizen fashion. More thought is needed. Action is needed. ... Still cogitating on how best to quantify moving-forward-change in 2015... 
I continue forward at what often feels like a snails pace, reminding self that "incremental progress is still progress" and remembering that four years ago I was waiting for the surgery that would give me a chance to continue being alive...

As far as the eightfold spokes of my life, some progress was made in a few parts, and none at all in others. Last year I wrote: "last year [2014] saw only one of the eight spokes feeling solid, this year there are three in improved condition".

#1 career - I did almost no teaching in 2015. I did complete a major project, the Dragon'sMist coronets. Overall, my economic life took a turn for the worse, as my knee injury took months to recover from, and now precludes my ever returning to housecleaning for pay. In 2016 I will seek more teaching opportunities, and will refurbish my neglected website. In addition, I will remain open-minded about economic opportunities.

#2 health - in 2015 I injured my knee badly in June, which took a long time to recover from. I had useful physical therapy, and acupuncture treatments, and started using the local pool to help in my recovery. I found the water exercise to be surprisingly enjoyable, as well as effective in strengthening and regaining mobility. I lost my pedometer, and recently bought a new one. In 2016 I will eat more vegetables, drink water instead of always milk, continue tracking walking, and continue water exercise.

#3 personal development/education - in 2015 I did make a duct tape body double, which while not suited for a dress form, made apparent how my body is irregular in contour. I made two new pieces of art that were included in an art show at the Azure Fine Arts Gallery in Corvallis in April In 2016 I will complete at least one 6PAC and SWAP 2016, including trying new techniques, and developing a bodice/blouse sloper, and seek out assistance with bodice fitting if needed. I will complete at least one of the online classes I have signed up for. I will explore some way to learn something new in metalwork/enamel. In addition I will prepare at least three or four new artworks for a future show.

#4 family/friends - in 2015, as in 2014, and pretty much always this is the part of my life where I could say: keep on with doing well... In 2016 I will do my best to continue being a good friend and family member.

#5 household/environment - in 2015 the "discard things" column of my SMART goals challenge reached 74 items, and I began working with an online decluttering coach. I also did significant work with the help of Blue Cedar House on various house improvements including installing laminate flooring instead of carpet in both bedrooms. The two new chickens acquired this year provide eggs and amusement and fertilizer. In 2016 I will continue the process and the coaching, and begin to organise my supplies, tools and materials, as well as household goods. My goal is to reach the end of decluttering this year, and transition to maintenance and organisation.

#6 romance/personal relationships In 2015 I still wanted a local companion, still had no clue what small steps to take, where to begin, and felt more hopeless than ever... In 2016 I have no idea what I can do to make any changes in this. 
#7 finances - In 2015 my income dropped as my knee injury made movement difficult and painful. I had to stop cleaning house for a living, which had sustained me economically for more than thirty years. In 2016 I will do the math to figure out what a liveable income would be, which will help me set new goals.

#8 fun/recreation - in 2015 I attended some SCA events, hosted a few gatherings here at Acorn Cottage, saw Steeleye Span in concert, and enjoyed a two week visit from my parents this autumn. In 2016 I will continue to be active socially and also re-start Crafternoon gatherings once a month.

I would say that overall the eight spoke status report shows a slight but definitely positive trend. "Household/environment" showed the most improvement, with the help of my beloved Blue Cedar House pals. "Fun/recreation" had a few out of town trips that were truly a joy, which sort of counterbalanced the not-allowed-to-go-camping all summer. In the aspect of "family/friends" my connections remain solid, and there was even surprise visit from my beloved parents. I'm going to say that "personal development/education" actually showed a little bit of activity, definitely more than the previous year. So where 2014 saw only one of the eight spokes feeling solid, this year there are three in improved condition and one beginning to heal. About the other spokes: career, health, finances, romance/personal relationships...these are aspects of my life that I'd like to pay attention to, but have much less of a no clue as to what handles to grasp and move to change things.  I shall have to call that progress, even if not as much progress as this impatient girl would like.
:::


The ceremonial meal for New Years Day: blackeyed peas in the crock pot with a half a ham hock, and for sides, roasted carrot "coins", Sister Gigi's golden corn pancakes (cooked up as silver dollar size rounds), and the obligate cooked greens... Mmmm tasty sympathetic magical food