Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wishful Wednesday - leafy longings

Autumn is my very favorite season, always has been. When I planted the garlic earlier this month, I added all the compost from the leaves I raked up last autumn, just barely enough to add some needed nutrients to the little 3 x 3 garlic bed. I'd dearly love to generate more leafy compost than that for next year... so, since this is the season that some folks have waaay more leafage than they need... if anyone out there has extra bags of leaves and would like to send them my way, (instead of paying to have them taken away as yard debris) I'd be very grateful, and so would my garden beds...

Monday, October 26, 2009 and sound + teaparty

Saturday was a loooong day of travel home, starting with getting up at 4AM EST; needless to say, by the time I finally touched down here in Portland I was loopy from lack of sleep. My sleep wake cycle is still a bit off kilter; as good as it is to travel and visit loved ones, there is much to be said for coming home and sleeping in my own bed, in my own house...
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It was a good visit. I spent most of the time with my parents, but also spent the first weekend with my brothers family. I had a chance to get to know my little nephew Ben a bit; the last time I visited he was an infant, now he is six... The more I get to know my sister-in-law Barbara, the more I like her, we both wish that travel between the coasts was easier and cheaper...

Of course, it wouldn't be like me to not do handwork projects wherever I go... Barbara had the nifty idea that we could decorate "Team Fine" T-shirts to wear to support my brother in his marathon, so we spent Saturday afternoon having fun creating a set of freezer paper stenciled shirts with a flying footprint logo. It was a group effort, I did the drawing, Barbara and I cut the designs and ironed them onto the shirts, and Ben helped with the painting.
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I had hoped to see the leaf color at the height of the season, but was about a week early. There were still many trees that hadn't turned at all, but some had...
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A trip on Thursday to the Peabody Essex Museum was an unexpected highlight. I hadn't seen the museum in decades, and the new-to-me building is a spectacularly well designed house for their collections and exhibitions. I really enjoyed the "Trash Menagerie" exhibition, of artist-made animal sculptures both static and kinetic.
"Sweater Dogs", Kitty Wales, 2006, 24 x 14 x 36 inches each

In central outdoor courtyard is "Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house outside China". There are various furnishings and objects inside the house, large carp swimming around in the two rectangular fish ponds under the sky well, and it is easy to imagine the house peopled with those who once lived there.
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The willow switch, no bigger than my thumb, that I remember my mother poking into the ground in the backyard now towers almost five stories, far larger than the house. (the main trunk of the willow looks to be at least 5 feet in diameter)

Walking in the swampy woodland behind my parents house is both familiar and unfamiliar, the ghost of the young girl I was forty years ago almost visible as I clambered over fallen trees and dodged brushy clutter. Only when I suddenly go ankle deep into cold deep mud hidden under the fallen leaves, my shoes pulled clear off my feet by the sticky black ooze, am I unceremoniously yanked totally back into the present day again; I am no longer fourteen, and my dear mother is on the far side of seventy-five, and wondering why I am yet again coming home with muddy feet...
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Advance notice...Teaparty here at Acorn Cottage this Sunday November 1st...all the usual...questions or directions, just ask...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

hidden treasure revealed

It was as raw an October day as ever in memory, heavy cold rain and wind, and barely hitting 40F at the warmest. My younger brother ran his first marathon, and completed a course that a third of the runners dropped out. Driving home, it started to snow, and snowed all evening. Overnight, the snow turned to rain, and the rest of the week will be warmer. Never during my growing up did we have snow this early.

On blustery days, baking is appealing, warming the kitchen and filling the house with good smells...I've been looking for this recipe for years; on previous trips to visit my parents I looked through notebooks and file folders of recipe clippings and yellowed notecards in various handwriting. Today, in my mother's kitchen, I opened her copy of the Joy of Cooking and an ancient index card fell out...

Banana Nut Bread - the recipe from my childhood
2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 c dry milk
1/2 t salt
1/3 c softened butter
2/3 c/sugar
1 egg
1/3 c water
1 t vinegar
1 c mashed banana
1/2 c chopped nuts

9x5x3 loaf pan
350 F
Grease the loaf pan.
Sift together dry ingredients.
Mix together butter, sugar and egg.
Add liquid ingredients slowly,
blend well.
Add dry ingredients all at once,
mixing in quickly.
Stir in chopped nuts.
Bake on center rack for 60 minutes.
Let cool before slicing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Busy day today

picked the last of the eggplant, and will be pan roasting it with olive oil and garlic and a bit of parsley for dinner, along with some sausage from New Seasons. Soon it will be too cold to ride my bike to the store, already my fingers get numb, even through my gloves.

finished setting the heraldic enamels, and will be mailing them out to their new homes tomorrow. I also finished setting the other enamels that are completed.

planted garlic, which entailed digging scraping out some of the minuscule amount of compost from last year to add to some dirt from one of the garden beds. I put the seed garlic into a small bed near the espalier apple. Not a lot, but at least with luck I will have some homegrown garlic next year.

pulled all the potatoes, and found that there were still three small peppers left on the forgotten pepper plants.

roasted cherry tomatoes, and decided that one cherry tomato plant next year will be plenty - they cook down to just about nothing. I want Roma tomatoes, they are my favorites, and this year my one plant had all kinds of problems due to my being a bad tomato mother. (will do my best to make a happy new tomato home for next year, properly amending the soil, and setting up some kind of water system for them...)

freezer-paper stenciled a little Star Wars T-shirt, for my nephew Ben to wear to kindergarten. I think that this kind of stenciling would be really fun to do as a teaparty activity - it is pretty fast and looks great - not limited to using on t-shirts, you can use for anything fabric that is ironable. I'm wondering about some Halloween banners....

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p.s. In honor of my 100th post, everyone who comments before October 25 will be in a prize drawing. Please leave a comment, with your name and how to contact you. I'll pick a random number on the 25th and one lucky person will receive a surprise package of Acorn Cottage crafty goodness...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The laws of physics are implacable, and other tidbits

I recently finished knitting a new scarf-headband "Quant", knit in entrelac, and designed by Star (who worked at the Olympia Food Coop when I was there, but now works at Twisted here in Portland, and as a knitting designer) I had knit it a bit too long, so decided to felt it gently. The Taos yarn is really quick-felting, and the surface went from being highly textured to being smooth, which really shows off the color variations. It is the perfect little head-warming thing to wear around the house, and will be very welcome as the autumn fades and winter sets in. Acorn Cottage is rather drafty...
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Sometimes lack of forethought bites you in the butt, or in my case, the elbow. Was a sunny day, so I put the clothing out on the clothesline to dry. Except the clothesline broke, since the wet clothing was heavy, and the cord was old. Did I cleverly take all the clothing off before trying to re-tie it? I tied the broken cord together and then heaved mightily on the end of that old worn out clothesline to lift the wet clothing back up to where I could tie off the end of the line. Did I think about what a year of being out in the sun and rain meant for that cordage? When the ancient fibers parted, flinging clean laundry everywhere, tossing the bucket of clothespins into the garden bed, and turning all that potential energy into kinetic energy, did I acrobatically do a backwards somersault and land on my feet?... NO. I went down backwards on the concrete walkway, fortunately my bottom hit first, but my elbow was a close second. Hopefully in the future I will think before doing, or at least not hang up the laundry before breakfast. Ice, Arnica, and Hypericum are my friends...
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propane - runnin' all round my brain... Wednesday was intended as a smoothly planned working day involving lots and lots of soldering, and a bit of visiting with my dear friend Viki. Well, it ended up with the two of us spending most of the day driving around in her car instead. The folks over at Amerigas are starting to recognise me, I was there earlier this year to see if they could figure out what was going on with my Orca torch; it turns out that the problem was in my tank and not in the torch head at all, since there were suddenly similar problems with my sturdy old reliable Bernzomatic. SO, we dropped the old tank off to be dealt with, and I decided that I needed to get a new back-up tank. I wanted a little tank (smaller than 5 gallon). After much searching, we ended up at Bi-Mart, and I was able to get a tiny one-gallon tank. Now mind you, a one gallon tank will last me the better part of a year, soldering doesn't use anywhere near as much fuel as cooking.
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My friend Kat brought me some snowdrop bulbs from her yard; they will be planted in the memorial garden. I look forward to seeing them blooming early next spring. She also brought me some autumn-flowering cyclamen, tiny and pink. I was hoping to put them in the ground near the sage in the front yard, but the ground there is rock hard and not very welcoming. I'm thinking instead of putting them in a planter-pot for now, and then planting them in the ground after the autumn rains have softened the soil and I can do some digging
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I was surprised to see that this is my 100th post - doesn't seem like I've been writing that much, but there you have it... As seems a bit "traditional" in blogland, I'm going to offer a surprise giveaway to celebrate the occasion. One lucky reader will receive a surprise package of Acorn Cottage crafty goodness. Please leave a comment, with your name and how to contact you. I'll be drawing a random number on October 25.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

progress report: better

After much work, I was able to correct the shifted wire. Yay! only took about four hours, as opposed to the time it would have taken me to re-do the entire enamel. The pair of enamels looks wonderfully heraldic, and will soon be on their way to their new homes, once I complete the settings. Progress is slowly but surely happening on my small backlog, as my wrist continues to improve and I can work for longer at a time without having to stop and ice it.
corrected vs uncorrected, actual size is about 1/16"
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I've had additional chances to ride my bike, autumn is the best for that...I am still so happy that I thought well enough ahead to chose a home that is so close to the necessary stores, in a neighborhood that is mostly flat; hopping on the bike to pick up last minute groceries feels like fun. I was never one of those teenagers who couldn't wait to get a license, I put off learning till I was eighteen, and while I am a competent driver, I never found driving a car to be at all enjoyable, terribly terribly useful mind you, just not fun...
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Slowly making a bit more progress as well on my personal health improvement challenge. My goal this month is to be better about going to sleep at a reasonable hour, 'specially in wintertime, being kind to the poor overworked immune system seems like a good idea. (the downside of not using the personal auto is that riding public transit is a lot more germ-y)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Media Monday and musings

Doesn't this animation (from the Parisian design studio Mathematic) seem to be inspired by the psychedelic style of Yellow Submarine? In 1968 I was a freshman in High School; I don't remember the reason for our family trip to NYC, but I have a vivid memory of going to a movie theater to see Yellow Submarine on the "big screen" in the middle of the day, and the dislocation when we came back out of the darkened theater into midtown Manhattan...
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Decided that what to do with 7# of cherry tomatoes was to start the process of cooking them down. Since half were yellow, and half red, it worked out very well - I actually have two bitsy crockpots. So each batch is cooking up separately, and making the kitchen smell all wonderfully tomato-y. I haven't decided what to make yet, maybe a variation on my favorite plum sauce, sweet and spicy and sour all in one. I've also been tempted by some online recipes for "tomato jam"; doesn't a gingered golden tomato jam sound delightful?
Bah!... turns out that cooking cherry tomatoes and then running them through the food mill to remove seeds and skins is a BAD idea. Instead of flavorful goodness you get horridly bitter tomato glop. Who knew? I guess the step of peeling tomatoes before stewing is important, though several sites suggested the food mill option. I would have been better served to follow my friend Maeve's suggestion and pan roast them. Ah well, live and learn...
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Yesterday afternoon was a perfect autumn day, and riding my bike was just like being ten again; riding over to visit with my new friend Jen and her spouse was just what I needed...they live only a bit over a mile away from Acorn Cottage, as I found out. A good visit, and a chance to have a walk with their dogs to the nearby park. The bike-riding and visit helped clear out the cobwebs in my head, and I have a clear idea of the next steps in my studio work... speaking of which, time to step away from the electronic hearth and get busy

Sunday, October 4, 2009

asi - asi

I'm beginning to think that 2009 is just one of those years. Seems like far too many friends, both two legged and four legged have passed over the rainbow bridge. Folks on this side mostly struggling to keep afloat. I get by, but this has been a year of things going sideways in the workshop, in a nibbled to death by mice kind of way.

Currently, this is driving me bugfuck not so good -
detail of a small portion of 1"x.75" enamel

Hard to tell from the picture {{why}}, but part of the wire shifted under the enamel, and when I ground down to the finished level, ends that should be aligned were offset by about 1/64". I think that the simplest thing is to re-do the entire piece, though I may try grinding away the enamel on both sides of the wire for enough distance to allow me to attempt to detach it, move it back into place, and rebuild the enamel. Either way, about six hours of work is not up to my standards wasted. Perhaps I need to make a shrine to the divinities of the fire arts. Sometimes I love my job.*
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On the other hand, look at this pretty thing... while riding the bus this week, I knit an oak leaf! I have great plans to knit a new winter hat, and my crazy idea is to take this oakleaf and acorn Aran cable and make it small. The leaf as knit here in fingering yarn is just about 2" long, so I should be able to get five repeats of the vining oak leaf and acorn patttern around the crown of the hat.
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I picked all the cherry tomatos, since we keep getting repeated forecasts for frost, and the plants all have late blight anyway. Over seven pounds of them, mixed reds and yellows, certainly more than I can eat. I wonder if you can make sauce from them??
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* well actually I have four jobs, making things with enameling is one of them. The other three are custom sewing, teaching artisanry, and cleaning houses.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

busy autumn

When you are very tired, but still working, you just might forget that there is a jar full of enamel powder sitting on top of the kiln. The top of the kiln gets very very rather hot, and my storage jars are made of plastic; this is what I found:

Fortunately no enamels were harmed to make this artifact, and the contents of the jar was equally unharmed...
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It seems like October came in with a whoomp "hey, now it is autumn", I've been wearing a few of my new woolly scarves, and wondering about sewing some warm leggings. Acorn Cottage goes from being too warm to being alarmingly cold cool in a flash, and I'm not quite ready for the season. Time to get busy with the sewing machine, and I predict that my new-this-year serger will be getting a good workout in the next few months.
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I'm starting to be able to tell the new hens apart, their combs are each shaped a bit differently: Speckledys is more flat, Sparkelys is a wee bit pointed, and Spot is the smallest hen of all. They are starting to look more mature, and I'm wondering if I may start getting eggs before next spring... That would be great, since store eggs have much less flavor. Still haven't built the new henhouse, I've been working in the studio instead.
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Once I complete the regalia that I am working on, my next priority will be the garden - pull up all the warm weather plants, harvest the remaining tomatoes, dig up the potatos and get ready for the rainy season. I have kale in, and some baby chard, and will be able to add some compost and leaf mold that I brought home earlier in the year. I think there is some worm compost too, and my pet kitchen worms have been busy. I'm going to try to do a "green manure" on the rest of the garden bed space this year. It is time to plant the garlic soon, I was able to find a few heads of "Music", which is the longest keeping garlic that I grew before, so that will be what I plant for next year. Last year I somehow didn't plant garlic, and it has been sorely missed - no tasty garlic scapes in the summer, and no heads of garlic cheerfully waiting to season the winter food. Ah well, I keep learning, next year will be better, and this autumn will be about more canning, I have tomatoes and fruit in the freezer waiting their turn. I prefer to wait till cooler weather makes cooking and warming the kitchen a pleasure to do those chores.
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Back to work, the enamels are calling me