Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When the going gets tough, the tough turn to their stash (their fabric stash)

I'm signing on to the Wardrobe ReFashion challenge for the next four months. The part of the pledge that is important to me is this: I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will create or craft items of clothing for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. You would not think that this is something I would have difficulty with.

I really do need some new clothing. Buying clothing is not an option, the money isn't there, and since my size and shape are not well served by readymade clothing (I’m short and “full figured” with narrow shoulders - I hate having the armhole halfway down my arm), over the years I have gradually increased the percentage of my garments that I make for myself. I've a whole shelf wall of fabric waiting to be cut out and sewed.

I'm feeling discouraged that I've gained weight and my tried and true sewing patterns are all for the body I had 30 pounds ago. I can barely stand the thought of doing that work over again to re-adapt the patterns, and I need to do something soon, I'm down to three jumpers, a few blouses, and one pair of overalls, all seriously wearing thin. My favorite jumper just came out of the laundry with the whole under armhole area shredded away to nothing, the fabric just wore out. I need to just put on my big girl panties and start sewing, but can't seem to get motivated. Sewing was more fun when I wasn't so spherical, I hope this will help me generate some much needed impetus to actually sew.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

R.I.P. Henrietta

Sometime last night we became a one hen household. I was asleep, Smokey was asleep, and my hens were asleep. But out there in the urban wilderness, a raccoon was not asleep. And my big Buff Orpington hen is now buried at the foot of my apple tree. She did not get the quick death that I had intended for her, eventually. This morning there was a trail of feathers from the henhouse to behind the shed, and HennyPenny was all upset, running up and down in the chicken yard. Fearing the worst, I looked in the narrow space around the shed and found the body. I don't blame the raccoon, they are just creatures living their lives. I'm trying not to thrash myself, though I apparently forgot to shut the chickenhouse door last night, so can rightfully blame no one else. We live in a world where we are not the only predator, and my moment of irresponsibility had fatal results. Thankfully, my friend Rois was home, and offered to come and help me, since I was not sure how best to remove the "evidence" (a number of the neighbor children like to walk down the alley and watch the chickens) Rois was able to wiggle between the fence and the shed, while I had dug a deep hole at the foot of the espalier apple for Henrietta. We found a large flat green rock in the backyard to place atop her grave. I shall certainly be more careful about making lockdown the chickens a part of the evening routine, and I may move the henhouse closer to the house, when I enclose the side of the backyard for a new chicken run.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

just for fun... house numerology

I unwind by reading design and house-repair blogs. Found a post on one about the concept of numerology as applied to houses. Take your house number, and add up the digits, then add up those digits, till it is reduced to a single digit. By this method I came up with "3" for Acorn Cottage
House Number 3
This house is one of the happiest ones with a welcome sign on the door. This is the social house. It is a house that is very creative and suites creative tenants. With its unusual design it is the perfect house for entertaining both indoors and outdoors.If you like quiet, do not live next to a three house. For this is a house filled with noise, laughter and extravagant expression. People who live in a three house like to invest within the decorating causing a cluttered and odd style within it's interior. Positive Colour Suggestions: Mauve, Lilac, calming blues and violets.

I found this result to be delightfully silly and strange, since compared to all the other possible digits, this is actually the best match for my house.
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Smokey is showing some small signs of improvement. This morning she came over to greet me when she could tell I was awake, well actually just barely awake, but the sensation of large dog head and wet dog nose on my outstretched hand was something that had been missing for far too long. (She does the morning and bedtime greeting thing, where she comes over to the bed and either rests her head on the edge, or nudges your outstretched hand) And when I gave a big yawn and stretch before getting up, she responded with the classic canine play bow. We're not out of the woods yet, she is still having "plumbing problems" but it is great to see her acting less geriatric.
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Must go outside and get some more of the yard hacked back, now that I've figured out how to add more string to the weed wacker. You apparently wind it on just like a sewing machine bobbin made large...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a great moderate relief

Smokey and I walked to the animal hospital this morning before breakfast, I all a-worry and she simply un-eager to walk so far. By the end of our visit the results were that she currently has quite the bladder infection. (The technician let me look through the binocular microscope at the slide with all the bacteria rods, which reminded me of high school science lab) The good news is that she does not have diabetes, and that her spine and legs seem to be in very good shape, with no apparent neurological problems. This veterinarian did not yell at me for not cleaning her teeth, while he mentioned that she does have quite a bit of tartar, he also told me that her mouth and gums are healthy, with no signs of periodiontal issues. So we now have two prescriptions, one for antibiotics and one for an estrogen supplement. Apparently old spayed female dogs can get estrogen deficient (who knew?) which can make bladder troubles more likely. The small lump on her "breast #6" the vet said is 95% likely to be a cyst, and suggested we wait to deal with that until after the infection is under control. So, it looks like Her Own Darling Self will be around for a while yet, and hopefully will be feeling a bit perkier in a day or two. Yay!

Friday, April 17, 2009


My beloved Smokey has been slowing down, and I had been attributing it to her advanced age, 14 being old for Akitas. Yesterday it seemed really obvious that she wasn't just sleeping more 'cos of getting older; she wasn't particularly enthusiastic about saying hello to Rois and Sol who are usually some of her favorite Portland peoples. She is pretty unenthusiastic about going for walks the last few days, every house or two she would stop and look back at Acorn Cottage. She has started drinking more water and sometimes peeing while asleep. And this afternoon when I was petting her, I found a small lump in her belly. I've made an appointment for her on Tuesday at the animal hospital (the one around the corner, so I can walk her there and home again). I'm worried that she is sick, or worse... and (as awful as it sounds) I'm also worried about how I'll find the money to pay her vet bills, if this is not something simple.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Teaparty Tidbits

Corrie has a chocolate bunny. (well really it is old Playmobil and has been in my box of odd bits for years now, but it is perfect for her.)
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One of the things that I did last week was make some more* candied peel. The frugal thing about candied peel is that you eat the tasty citrus first, and since citrus peels compost very poorly, using them as an ingredient is a good thing. I've decided that grapefruit peel is the best; it has a lovely texture when candied, the contrast between the sugary crust and the tender, slightly bitter inside is something that I find delectable. I'll post later this week about the process, (if anyone is interested). It is easy, but a bit tedious.
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What I did with some of this peel was decorate the cupcakes for today's teaparty. I doubled my usual cake recipe (in lemon, without poppyseeds) and baked it as cupcakes. Atop a simple white-lemon butter frosting, the cut bits of candied peel looked quite glittery, and the wee cakes were well received.
Today my friend Z showed up, as well as the most of the teaparty regulars, save those who were away at various events. Z brought me an amazingly huge book, a memory gift from the estate of David of Moffat, all in French, of "Emaux de Moyen Age Occidental" which I think, based on the lovely pictures, is "Enamels of the European Middle Ages. I will think of David every time I look at the pictures refer to the book; he was a generous patron of the arts and an incredibly talented artist in his own right as well. In addition, My friend Sam brought some wood hyacinth bulbs for Acorn Cottage. I am blessed with thoughtful and generous friends.
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Last week I ran off for an afternoon with my dear friends at Hrafinstaad; I always return home to Acorn Cottage, after visiting them, inspired and energised. They are turning their Beaverton yard into a more sustainable homeplace, and there is a wonderfully quirky colorful and artistic sensibility that pervades their home. I never know what new project they'll have been working on since my last visit...I got to see their hay bale garden beds, and the new (decorative and edible) plantings in the front yard, and the folding fence-hung clothesline. That last one I'm figuring out how to modify for my own back yard... Rois has a true eye for making a home that is beautiful, comfortable and full of intriguing artifacts and vignettes, without ever feeling cluttered. She sent me home with a vintage doll dress for Coriander. The dress is probably a Madame Alexander or Ginny doll dress from the late 50's, and is in remarkably good shape. Stylishly striped, with an attached cotton petticoat, it reminds me of the kind of dresses that I wore back then, although as a child I much preferred coveralls to skirts.

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* I had sent all the candied peel I made off to my father as a (belated) holiday birthday gift, and since I hope to make fruitcake next wintertime holiday season, which is certainly months away and since I adore candied peel at any time, it seemed the thing to do while citrus is still in season and relatively cheap.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

my thyme it is all gone

The season turns and it is warmer outside. Indoors the dank cold of winter still lurks; would that I could save some to dole out one cold breath at a time during the triple digit heat of August. My front yard fills with pink snowflakes, the windblown petals fall from the ornamental plum trees, and I open the windows to let sweet springtime air inside. Walking Smokey late at night, I can tell when I pass a yard full of hyacinth, then different, the smaller sweeter grape hyacinth, and my favorite - daphne. Someday I want that one in my own front yard, it is a temperamental and expensive plant though, and I can enjoy it while walking about. The star magnolia glows in the night yard, each year just a bit bigger, with more lovely glow-white blossoms. Still no taller than my waist, it has doubled in size since I planted it three years ago.

This evening I moved a rhubarb from the side yard into the front yard next to the driveway. I had thought that the south-facing side yard would be a good spot, but it was not a happy rhubarb place... that rhubarb, a gift from my friends in Olympia, has lovely deep red stalks. I want it to be happy and grow, so there will be enough stalks to pick some, enough to make deep pink strawberry rhubarb jam. Last year it had three pitiful leaves and then died back. I thought it was gone, but it came back this year. So now it is where I will see it every day, and where it will get more sunlight and warmth. It is next to my lovage, which is springing up with new growth an amazing red color. I imagine that the lovage will turn green as it matures, but I was happy to see it. The idea is that it (the lovage) will provide a celery-like flavoring without the difficulty of conventional celery, an herbal flavoring as it were, for soups and suchlike...I wanted to move the thyme to the front yard also, but when I looked for it, the monster rosemary had engulfed and devoured it...I shall need to get another start of thyme, that is a favored perennial herb, its tiny leaves a favorite with lamb, but good in most savory and even some sweet dishes

The rosemary is about to have some serious modification. There are a lot of winterkilled branches
and it is an enormous floppy mess, three feet high and between five and six feet across. I intend to cut away everything dead, and look for ways to encourage it to grow more upright. It is a good plant in totally the wrong spot, it should be possible to prune and shape it into some kind of more tidy form, my friend sharonsbirds is suggesting an informal version of the "ball on a stick" topiary aka a childs' glyph for tree. I will also check the branch tips to see if any are already rooted and suitable to plant in a pot. Given how little I use rosemary in cooking, a small potted one would be plenty. To me, the scent of rosemary always brings to mind the hair oil that certain of my hippy friends would use, I smell it and I am twenty again, watching Andy Mapel combing his long carrot red hair. Rosemary doesn't smell like food to me, in the same way, I imagine, that my friends who do not like rosewater in their food must feel...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday tidbits

I'm now back to my regularly scheduled life, having finished with the taxes for the year... Lots of catching up to do here at Acorn Cottage
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This Sunday will be my monthly Craft-Tea party. As usual, noon till whenever, potluck snackage, all handcrafts welcome including just chatting. (Contact me if you need directions) Next month the Tea-party will be on Sunday the 17th. My mom will be here for a week in May, visiting from the East Coast. So if you are in town, come meet her and see where I inherited my craftiness from...
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I have had a number of inquiries in response to my Tax-time Sale. Not sure if any will turn into actual commissions, but it sure feels good to know that there are still folks out there that are interested in my work. So as a way of doing an online "happy-dance", I'll share this oldie-but-goodie of a video. When I am feeling down this one always makes me smile:

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Last week my friend elfrida came over to borrow my green velveteen Italian gown, and kindly offered to give me a vehicular errand run, As well as a trip to the local Costco, we went to the Rebuilding Center, where I was quite lucky and found seven tall metal wire-fence posts (perfect for extending the hen yard) and also a four foot long piece of copper pipe...
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The first time that my friend cathaus visited Acorn Cottage, she suggested that I use copper pipe (instead of the grey metal curtain rods) in the living room to coordinate with the sculptural curtain-rod finials. I made the finials from old roofing copper when I was living in the rose bedroom at FjordsEnd years ago, and have found a home for them in every place I've lived since. The copper pipe is not only a visual improvement, but since it is one-piece instead of an adjustable rod, the curtains slide more easily. I still need a 8 1/2 foot piece for the front window, but that will wait for another lucky find... It gives me such delight to find good uses for salvaged things, as any who know me will attest.
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Found a 4th adjustable office chair for my studio workshop space. Since there is a nearby Goodwill, I check in there almost every day, and eventually sometimes things I need show up. I sure was glad it wasn't raining yesterday, as I rolled the new chair down the streets to my studio. Now if I have four students in a workshop, they will all have their own adjustable chair on wheels, much better than old kitchen chairs.
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I've finally started on giving poor bald Coriander some hair. I tried making her a wig, but at such a small size I wasn't too successful, making something that actually would stay on her head without extra glue or stickytape. So, I decided to try actually "rooting" hair. Another trip to the Goodwill was successful in finding a hairpiece that included a long braid, which, cut into shorter pieces is being gradually attached in little really tiny plugs through her scalp. I haven't taken any pictures of the process, since it makes me feel a little queasy to keep pushing needles through her head. (I know I have too much imagination, but I keep remembering the scene in Serenity where River is in the lab before Simon rescues her...) If anyone wants info about rooting doll hair, I've been using this tutorial.
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Now, you will have to excuse me, I have a date with Mr Lawnmower and Mr Weedwacker. It is a nice warm dry day, and the front lawn is looking rather shaggy...