Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday snippets

progress on the applique project - the wolves are all stitched down as are corner motifs, once the silvery thread border is couched down they will be finished and can be sent on to their future home

waiting for the picklepot to warm up, and this evening's soldering... lots of little half and whole loops need fitted, 'tis picky work, but soonest done, soonest finished, and I can go on to something new...

Yesterday a half grown raccoon almost walked right up to me while I was sitting at the bus stop. Came right up over the top of the cliff embankment and then noticed that there was a human there. I didn't have my camera accessible, unfortunately. Raccoons are a little bit scarey (big nasty teeth) but this one was not yet adult; oddly too, it had almost no tail - for a moment it wasn't immediately recognisable. Need to make particularly certain that my hens are tucked up safely, as before long the young raccoons will be looking for their own territories.

Made this jam tart yesterday for M's birthday tea, using a large jar of strawberry-rhubarb-redcurrant-vanilla jam; it was beautiful, smelled heavenly, and was eagerly eaten. Since there is rather a pantryfull of jam here, jam tart will probably be show up for future potluck events as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

another touchstone

Marge Piercy has been a favorite writer of mine for decades, particulary for her poetry, though I have enjoyed her novels as well, but there are gems in her poetry that shine like navigable starmaps in my mind, that keep me on course...

here is a fragment from  the longer poem "Living in the open":

No more lovers, no more husbands,
no masters or mistresses, contracts, no affairs,
only friends.
No more trade-ins or betrayals,
only the slow accretion of community,
hand on hand.

Help me to be clear and useful.
Help me to help you.
You are not my insurance, not my vacation,
not my romance, not my job, not my garden.
You wear your own flags and colors and your own names.
I will never have you.
I am a friend who loves you.

and another favorite: "A new constellation"

We go intertwined, him and you
and me, her and him, you and her,
each the center of our own circle
of attraction and compulsion and gravity
What a constellation we make: I call it
the Matrix. I call it the dancing
family. I call it wheels inside wheels.
Ezekiel did not know he was seeing
the pattern for enduring relationship
in the late twentieth century.

All the rings shine gold as wedding bands
but they are the hoops magicians use
that seem solid and unbroken, yet can slip
into chains of other rings and out.
They are strong enough to hang houses on,
strong enough to serve as cranes, yet
they are open. We fall through each other,
we catch each other, we cling, we flip on.

No one is at the center, but each
is her own center, no one controls
the jangling swing and bounce and merry-
go-round lurching intertangle of this mobile.
We pass through each other trembling
and we pass through each other shrieking
and we pass through each other shimmering.
the circle is neither unbroken
nor broken but living, a molecule attracting
atoms that wants to be a protein,
complex, mortal, able to sustain life,
able to reproduce itself inexactly,
learn and grow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday tidbits

Time to shift to a larger project... My new handwork for transit time is two symmetrical embellished and appliqued panels, inspired by the small wolf motif in the lower left corner of this Scythian repousse piece.

The applique is cut from ultrasuede, so as to allow tiny pierced holes that suggest the texture of the original work (meant to convey wolf fur) without fraying with wear or washing. Though tacked in place with heat-n-bond, it will need stitched all around the outside edge for permanence.

Hopefully there are some hand sewing glover's needles in my box of leatherworking tools. Glover's needles have a tip that is triangular in cross-section, so that it slices through material, rather than passing through like regular cylindrical needles do. Only suitable for sewing leather, they make the task so much easier to do. Still, a thimble will be my friend, as hand sewing leather always requires more effort than fabric alone.

The panels will be used for decoration on garments for the current An Tir royalty; though my SCA activity has waned recently, it is not through lack of interest, and this is a way for me to still participate, in the time and with the resources available.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Another good animated feature comes to town, this one is by the same folks that did "The Triplets of Belleville" It opens tomorrow downtown, and though my weekend is pretty busy, I plan on going to see it in the next week or two...

"The Illusionist"

well that was fun!

The talisman pendant is finished, to the best that my ability and tools can do. I shan't eagerly point out all the things that I could have done better*, but will, instead, rejoice that I was able to come so close to my initial vision. It is both delicate and quite sturdy (appropriately) and will give me great pleasure to wear. The prong setting was not as difficult to do as I'd feared, and seems to hold the crystal securely.

prongs are bent to fit the contour of the crystal, holding it securely in place

a slightly foreshortened view of the finished talisman pendant

Strung temporarily on a piece of blue ribbon,
so I can still wear it whilst waiting for inspiration (for the necklace portion)

My initial idea, to use braided or woven cord to hang the pendant from, did not work with any of the cordage currently in my textile stash. Neither did any of my uncommitted plain or beaded necklaces. This piece is so light that it needs a suitably flexible complement; it may be necessary to make a new bit of round-braid that will be appropriate. So for now, since I want to wear this, it is strung on a bit blue silk ribbon tied to a vintage Thai silver S-clasp. It wants to be shorter than my usual necklaces, which drop over my head without needing a clasp at all; this one wants to be just longer than choker length, to rest in that space between the collarbone and the cleavage. 'Twill be fun, also, to see the final iteration, once the necklace inspiration comes clear, but that will have to wait on the muse...

* It took me many years to get over this particular self-deprecating impulse, which is not really useful. It is not like my knowledge of what could have been done better will disappear if not shared; the useful thing is to figure out how to use that information to improve future work. When folks admire the work of hands, the appropriate response is "thank you" (not a recitation of flaws)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

further progress

It sure is different working on something with only an idea of how it might go together, a modicum of technical skills, and no real experience or useful book detail for the "how to do it" part. Feels good, feels like stretching me...

front: prongs soldered in, details engraved and stamped

back: details engraved, back of prongs visible

whew! the crystal still fits (between the prongs)

This little talisman is about half done at this point. The pendant is only 1¼" in the longest dimension. The next steps, cleaning up the metal, polishing, and setting the crystal, will take at least as long. The prongs will be cut to fit the stone neatly once they are bent into place. Cleanup and polishing is my very least favorite part, and since I don't really know what I'm doing, the actual prong setting will be rather an anxious task. Still, no way to learn this 'xept by doing, just like lots of other really worthwhile activities.

The metal is currently at a 600 grit finish, but there are several areas of unevenness that need worked on, and then the whole thing can be either polished with the flex-shaft, and/or put in the tumbler for a while to be burnished. These 3M radial bristle discs make the cleanup/polishing a bit easier, as the option learned when I was a girl was to use various polishing compounds, which are abrasives in a greasy/tallow-like base, requiring intensive scrubbing with ammonia and soap between each change of grit; how much preferable to simply use the bristle discs, and simply rinse off between each one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

progress report

Spent two and a half hours last night filing the metal base for the pendant, to fit it to the crystal in size and shape was/is really difficult. I'm wondering if there are any clever studio tips-n-tricks for suchlike? (the fitting that is, filing just plain takes time, no problem with that) there is rather a lot more to do, but this is a good beginning.

My goal for the year is to continue studio work, despite very little in the way of commissioned pieces, and to use what scraps and supplies I have, since the metal market is sky-high right now, with no relief in sight (sigh) This piece will use a small scrap of silver, and the best of the crystals that J and I dug up years decades ago on a trip through Herkimer (breaking rocks in the hot sun) I'm pretty excited to be trying new techniques for the first time in a quite a while. More pictures as progress happens, tomorrow is "soldering day"...

Got the opening to a pretty good fit, with the crystal set fairly deeply into the metal:

cross-section, showing how the crystal is will be set through the metal

the setting will allow light to pass through the stone

Monday, January 24, 2011

beyond the bezel

Going to try something new-to-me, and do a non-bezel setting. Never done one before, as bezels are good for enamels, they protect the fragile edges. This design, inspired by a song written by a friend, will have an inset "Herkimer diamond" (a naturally double terminated quartz crystal, from upstate New York).

The irregular formation (of the crystal) does not lend itself to my usual techniques, and after several many days of thinking about it, this is my plan: to first cut away a shaped and bevelled opening in the metal, that the lower part of the crystal will fit into, and then solder wire prongs in four spots around the perimeter, that will be able to hold the stone in place. Wish me luck...

media monday - Leonard Cohen

in 1976...

and in 2008...

(wishing that I'd been able to see his show here in Portland last year)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

sunday snippets which our plucky heroine gets high - on a ladder that is...

Yesterdays task was dealing with the hidden gutter (the one between the workroom roof and the carport roof) Until this year it had no issues, but suddenly in the last rainstorms, there was water dripping from the join between the roofs, and not much from the downspout; obviously it was clogged. A borrowed extension ladder gave me the height needed, but how to remove the debris? The carport roof is nowhere near sturdy enough to carry the weight of a person, and the gutter is around twenty feet long.

My first attempt, with a swively mop head, was useless (too short and wobbly). The next idea was to acquire an extendible pole, and some kind of implements to attach to the end, but that would be both spendy, and take up a big chunk of the sunshiney day that made ladder work relatively safe. Then my eye noticed the can full of framework poles from the dayshade that broke (saved because metal poles are garden-useful)...

Since the dayshade poles fit together to form longer lengths, it was possible to kludge together an almost ten feet long span. What to attach to the end was more challenging, as the small diameter and somewhat flimsy jointing made using something like a garden fork (my first idea) too large and heavy. Finally, one of my two pairs of forked kitchen tongs gave their life for the cause; the sheet metal was thin enough to bend into a contorted shape that would serve.

A truly yucky task nonetheless, scooping cold partially composted leaf goo from the gutter, one handfull at a time, and dropping it to the ground below. Curses on the head of whichever former owner put up the carport without dealing with removing the gutter first, and creating a proper water overhang from the roof. Ah well, 'tis done for now...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

My creative self, always a wayward beast, has decided that rather than the drawing that I'd like to be doing, it will write poems instead. Four new written bits in the last two weeks, more than in the last several years...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Two weeks 'till the next Artisan Crafternoon (February 6th), as that is quite near Chinese New Year, I'm thinking that would be a great theme to riff on. Asian snacks, red things maybe, and since it is the year of the rabbit that gives an additional option. I just noticed that New Seasons has Cheddar Bunnies crackers on sale, I'll pick up some in my next shopping trip, just to be prepared...

Was a naughty girl and skipped out on this afternoons chores to go see My Dog Tulip. It was definitely worth seeing. The animation was very well done, I loved the watercolor style, and found it fascinating that it was "the first animated feature to be entirely hand-drawn and painted utilizing paperless computer technology." An interesting blend of the old technology and the new. I'd not read anything by J.R. Ackerley, and it certainly is a quirky tale of the love between man and dog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

an old touchstone still valid

Short useful word bits are my touchstones, amazingly helpful reminders to self about aspects and points of view that would otherwise be easily lost when the going gets difficult or weird. When down visiting family, they found my reliance on "sayings" amusing, we ended up calling them the Platitudes of St Fjorlief (inappropriate in so many ways to be sure, but it was funny at the time)

For complicated reasons, an old, long, quote was niggling at the back of my mind on the trip home. My memory gave me the first two lines, and the last two, but the sandwich filling in the middle was missing; remembered to be Very Useful, but occluded by the cloudy waters of years passing. Internet searches were not helpful, and today, while up on the ladder de-gunking the back door guttering, a flash of insight sent me (once indoors and washed) to look in my old journals.

Copied out, to keep for always, in the little green book (September 1982 to August 1984) that starts just before the wonderful cross-country Green Tortoise trip and ends just before my ill-starred return to Boston, and John, and living on the street...

Let me see if I can explain it -
I love you but I'm not "in love".
That means I see you as you are,
not through a fog of romantic fantasies.
That means I don't need anything from you,
my love is independent of the things you do or say.
I love just who you are,
and there is nothing you can do,
(or fail to do) to lose my love.
It means I take delight in you and like to be with you,
but feel no painful yearning in the times when we're apart.
I'm smiling when I think of you,
but I don't need you presence to exist.
It is a pleasure to do things for you,
but I don't feel compelled to earn your love that way.
I want for you that you feel strong and self-sufficient,
that you don't feel dependent in any way on me.
I hope that I can be there for you when you need me,
but if I can't help you, I will not feel guilty.
It also means that I can never doubt your love for me,
it does not have to equal mine;
I understand that you love me from the place where you are now.
I am not threatened by your growth,
but rather will rejoice to see you more and more alive.
Because I love you I cannot permit you to be less than what you are,
and will do everything I can to help you get there,
even if that means that I must stay away from you.
"I love you" means that you are not my love,
but you're my friend.

- Lee Price

Friday, January 21, 2011

there and back again

Finally at home again from a trip to California, to be visiting with my parents at my sisters home in Rancho Palos Verdes. A day and a half journey, from Union Station in Portland, by train all the way down to Union Station in Los Angeles...

Even in this weary faded end of the age of rail travel, there is something so very civilised to travel safely, smoothly, in spacious seating. There area only two things in life that I want to be fast - my sewing machine, and my internet connection. If the instantaneous transport of science fiction dreams is not available, then let travel be a bit slower, a bit more of a journey, a transition between there and back again.
Coming down from Paso Robles (the Pass of the Oaks) to San Luis Obispo, we wind back and forth, through rolling hills descending, through contours green and soft as the Green Lady herself. What if, instead of our world turning all to profit, we had decided instead to choose harmony and beauty? What if the patina on the land was one of careful use and healing care?
It was good to visit, as my last trip there was almost ten years ago. My young nephews are now men. Probably the best thing was getting a chance to connect with my sister G more deeply. Though we were estranged for a good chunk of my younger years, we have been developing a solid friendship as adults, in spite of the differences in our chosen lifestyles. On this visit, we worked together on two small re-upholstery projects for her house, and were so pleased with the results that we signed the bottom of the ottoman.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

The trip home allowed me to see the prettiest landscapes that the Coast Starlight travels through (heading south they were all after nightfall).
. .
The coach seats are large and they are set far enough apart that I could only reach the folding tray table and footrest by sitting on the edge of the seat. There are electric outlets at all the seats, and at the tables in the lounge car; with my notebook and sketchpad, I felt like an anachronism surrounded by laptops and other electronica. There were folks of all sorts on the train, an entire spectrum of age and race, and reasons for travelling that way; I was fortunate to have a double seat all to myself, so was able to curl up mostly horizontal and nap for parts of the nighttime. Really the trip was much less grueling than I'd feared, and had there been funds for a roomette, (rather than travelling coach), my only small hardship would have been erased.

As we gradually made our way towards Portland, there was no reason to change my reply to my brother-in-law, who asked me if I'd ever travel by train again - I'd choose rail travel again in a heartbeat. The woman I spoke to in the dining car put it well, this way the traveling is part of the vacation...

so glad to be returning ...

... to the clouded skies of home

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I don't know why, she swallowed a fly...

"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around"
~ E. L. Konigsburg

If, as Ursula LeGuin writes, "true journey is return" then this short bit of animated recursion is a creation story I'd not heard before...

Saw "Inception" last night... interesting in both the idea and the execution. The story-lines were comprehensible, though the execution was rather a bit more in the bloody/violent mode than my personal preference*, and to my great relief the ending was satisfying. "Twas also my first movie seen in HD, which was rather a bit more dizzying than expected. (perhaps a film where local gravity did not shift as much would have been an easier start)

*give me a good old fashioned Dan O'Neill Odd Bodkins any day...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

tuesday tidbits

The current awesome sauce is very dark, and much thinner than the previous batch, but tastes delicious. I mixed it with some shrimps from the grocery store, and a bit of parmesan mixed with a spoonful of mayonnaise, and baked it in a little dish. With steamed bok choy it was a toothsome dinner.

There is a double batch of candied citrus peel cooling on the top of the chest freezer.

The ground outside is covered in a thin layer of crunch - probably the tiny icedrops that were earlier rattling on the metal awnings have not yet melted away.

I wrote a poem today, for the first time in several years, and had several online chats with dear friends, in between work and errands and housey things. Truly this electronic world, for all the distraction it provides, also allow the maintenance of connection.

something not usually thought of as pixelated...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday snippets, slide through to Monday

What is different in this picture... The outlet is no longer directly behind the faucet. Yes, the former owners did some very very odd things to Acorn Cottage, things that will take years to discover and correct. (remember the sink plumbing held together with putty?) For some reason they also placed the bathroom outlet literally directly behind the faucet at sink level, which seemed really unsafe (water+electricity= bad idea)...

I'd opened up the wall a while ago, when dealing with the soggy bathtub trim, and enlarged the opening to see if the outlet could be shifted. Not only did they leave no slack in the wiring, but the protective box had the entire back sliced off and was wedged between the sheetrock and the black iron vent pipe. (now I'm not an electrican, but somehow that strikes me as completely wrong!). At the time, all that was possible was to carefully tape up all the connections and seal it off behind a piece of plexiglass to create a water barrier...

Thanks to help and some supplies from my dear friend B, there is a tidy junction box holding conduit that extends wiring to the edge of the stud beside the sink area, a much more appropriate location, and a GFCI outlet encased in a proper housing. Now, it will be possible to seal off the area between the sink and the medicine cabinet, hmmm, mosaic tile might be a pretty option, must think further on the desired effect...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

As there were organic "Cherry Bomb" peppers at the store Saturday, a new batch of Awesome Sauce is in the works. My supposedly brilliant new idea was to put it all in the crockpot to cook overnight. Cook it certainly did, but not cook down - the lid being on precluded any evaporation, so currently there is a deep red-brown savory/sweet sauce that is thin as syrup. Not sure whether simply cooking it down would be best, or adding in more peeled diced tomato. Decided that adding in additional ingredients would be the best option for a save, so another 400g peeled chopped tomato, more ginger, more garlic, about three T lime juice, and another cupful of sugar. Cooked down properly on the stovetop, but it still is thinner than the last batch - 'tis okay, it is a condiment, and need not be precisely the same each time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

letting go of perfection + getting into hot water

Finished the first giveaway hat, and have started the second one. More icy weather is on the way, and my knitting is not speedy, so I'll not wait till all 12 are finished to donate them. T'would be more impressive to come in with a pile of hats, but this way they can go out to be used when they will actually be helpful, which is, after all, the point! Ah the small ways that wanting to be perfect creeps in, reality does not need to match the vision in my mind's eye, sometimes yes, but not necessary in this instance... (or in the insulating of windows)

This weekend the windows will get a layer of clear bubblepack, it's not much, but will help somewhat. The eventual plan is to make light wooden frames that fit inside the window openings that can have clear or mylar bubblepack as needed, or be removed to allow the windows to open, but even a single layer, adhered with surface tension, makes a difference. Some new additional inner curtains will help too, but must wait for inner curtain rods.

Same thing with adding weatherblocking to the doors here - in one house that we lived in, written on the sheetrock in the garage was "we want some of what the carpenters were smoking..." I've no idea what the former owners did recreationally; though I'm not a construction worker, (don't even play one on teevee), I've lived with enough competent folks to know that there are reasons that things like doorframe moldings are supposed to not let the wind through. It has taken a while for me to figure out what to do about the gappy places, since regular weatherstripping won't cover them. If small wooden battens are added around the inside door surround, there is a way to cover the gaps and add some sort of foam gasket-ish stuff, and that will seal up some of the drafty places. This will be another of the winter infrastructure projects

Eventually sealing up the workroom ceiling holes will make a big difference too, but that one has not yet been figured out. None of my trusted helpful friends are sound enough to do overhead sheetrock. Damn you Demolition Boy to the coldest outer circles of hell, with insufficient clothing to keep warm. It has been several years since the demolition left me with various errors to correct, and each winter I vow to deal with this, and don't. What is really needed is to do some brainstorming...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

But on a more cheerful note: This new showerhead/combo arrived today, A thoughtful gift from K, so my infrastructure project of the day was to install it... Not terribly difficult to remove the current one. The new diverter is not actually necessary, since there is no shower-head per se to divert, and since chrome plated plastic was too delicate to actually tighten with a wrench, the simpler option is to connect the hose directly to the shower line. Adding the handpiece to the other end was almost as easy, and amazingly, with the handle switch turned to off, no water drips from the shower line or the handpiece.

(My old handheld shower had issues, the shutoff valve did not actually shut the water off, it dripped from the diverter and the switch on the handle sometimes fell out completely, and always sprayed water out the side, even with replacement of the o-rings... Now mind you, it's about ten years old, but it started failing at least four years ago, and my attempts at repair were not really successful.)
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Perhaps this spring there will be some cultural activity of a new and different sort; my friend L sent me a link to "Music For All" and there are many interesting performances. Hopefully some of the most delectable will have seats/tickets available, and the rules allow me to purchase two tickets, so if a friend wants to come with, that is an option. There is only one other similar program in the US, and in fact, this one here in Portland is inspired by a similar program in the UK.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

wishful Wednesday

Today ended up being an unexpected sewing day, and not for me. V realised that her son, (who I've known since he was a bump inside mama) had outgrown all his event clothing; with 12th Night being this coming weekend, I volunteered to stitch up a new tunic for him. He's almost as big as his dad these days. So last night out to Hillsboro to have dinner with my old friends and take some measurements, pick up a couple of yards of black linen, this morning was all about cut and stitch and serge, and this afternoon back to Hillsboro on the MAX. Two years ago was my last 12th Night, but as mentioned to another friend, spending the money on a new washer makes a lot more sense than spending it on a weekend of socialising, as much as I miss going to SCA events and seeing my friends...

Though the sunshine is now gone away, the somewhat warmer grey weather is really welcome. More transit knitting today, and about halfway through the first of a dozen knitted hats... spoke to someone at p:ear this morning, they can get them to folks who can use them. V gave me another two balls of yarn for the project, so the next hat will be "Svava pink".

There are many choices as to how best to allocate my limited resources (see washer vs event above), but I truly miss being able to go see wonderful live music, which was so much a part of my young adult life, when we all had so much more disposable income ready cash. There were many memorable concerts in large halls and small coffeehouses. Through the magic of this electron world and the clever Music Genome Project at Pandora, there have been a number of new-to-me artists that have become favorites. If it were possible, the Jonathan Coulton concert would be on my list of events for next month. His quirky views and catchy tunes delight my sense of whimsey, and this one celebrates a favorite place of mine:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

tuesday thoughts + accordion gusset

I wrote this up last night, for a query on the Stitcher's Guild message board... Okay, to explain what I call the "accordion gusset", which is used on the back armscye of motorcycle jackets to allow the riders arms to move freely in a forward direction, which as you can imagine is vital...

Now obviously this sketch is not to any particular scale, and (if your pattern does not have these gussets as drafted pieces) you might want to do some experimental mockups to determine the best width to allow your arm to move freely. This will not affect the armsceye seam or your sleeve, just the back of the jacket. If you have a back yoke, the gusset will need to rise as far as the shoulder seam.

There are two layers to the gusset, which is stitched together to form a kind of accordion pleat between the back and the sleeve. In leather, to make sewing the shoulder and side seam less difficult and lumpy, the under-layer of the gusset (which attaches to the sleeve) is cut wider than the upper-layer (which attaches to the back) and is offset by at least the width of the seam allowance (so as to not have several layered seams all needing to be stitched into one place). It can be offset more as a design element.

The edge/seam allowance/contour of the under gusset needs to be the same as the original armscye edge, with the other piece drafted to be further in towards the jacket body. I would probably sew the upper gusset to the back, turn and topstitch, then sew the under gusset to the upper gusset. From that point you can simply sew as usual, as the back of the jacket is now the same size as the original pattern.

I also used this concept for a wedding dress made for a friend, who wanted complete range of arm motion combined with a fitted set in sleeve. I did not offset the gusset at all, since the silk fabric was much thinner that riding leathers. By experimentation, we determined that extending the gusset under the arm, and gradually curving it away to nothing in the front armscye, would both leave the front of the bodice entirely undisturbed and allow her to move her arms freely both forward and directly overhead. When her arms were down, the gusset folded up neatly and unobtrusively.

This is a Useful Technique and (as far as I know) is not often seen other than on riding leathers...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

The cold weather continues to be wearying. Last night saw me falling asleep while still wearing my wooly fingerless mitts, they work well for bedtime reading and somehow just never made it to the nightstand till the middle of the night. The hen's waterers need swapped out every day, as they freeze solid, and the speckeldy chooks gravitate to whatever corner of the yard seems the brightest. While this is not excessive for those who live where this kind of cold is either usual or would be considered balmy, my preference is for the usually moderate misty moisty wintertime that is mostly common here. Give me a good grey rainy day over a bittercold bluesky one anytime.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

For the last few years I've been growing on green onions by planting the remnant ends from bunches bought at the grocery, and that has worked rather well. Apparently the same thing can be done with celery! While reading the latest post from The Cottage Smallholder, she mentioned the possibility, written about here, and with details here. As true celery is notably difficult to grow, this might be an easier way to grow small amounts, obviously would not be practical on a commercial scale, but for the home garden...? When the weather warms, there will be another garden experiment here at Acorn Cottage.

Monday, January 3, 2011

a good start

This morning, a trip to the Lan Su Chinese Garden was an excellent way to start off the year, combining beauty, nourishment and friendship. The temperature in the 20's meant that some of the plantings were under temporary wrappings (in addition to the cloth wrappings on the most tender plants) and most of the pond was covered with ice.

Despite the cold, there was plenty to see, in winter the bones of the garden are visible, and rather astonishing in the cold, there were camellia and wintersweet in bloom.
My friend Z arrived a bit ahead of me, but we still had about three hours to wander the garden, catch up with each other, and visit the Tower of Cosmic Reflections for tea and a small snack.
The two story teahouse has lovely views of the garden and the city beyond the walls, and an extensive and varied menu of tea. My tea-knowledge is limited, but the Snow Dragon green tea was delectable, and the tea egg and turnip cake we ordered for our snack were as beautiful as they were savory.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Sunday, January 2, 2011

tea time tartlets

Are these not the cutest little tartlets? The quincemeat preserves taste just as good as hoped. The pastry is a vegan almond sweet crust, so as to not exclude any guests from enjoying these tidbits; personally I think that a butter crust would add another layer of richness and flavor, but these are quite tasty (had to try one when they were cooled down enough to eat)

The mini-muffin-tins worked quite well, the little pies are about two small bites, which is just right in my humble opinion. My seven pointed star cookie cutter (used to make the toppers) is one that has been re-shaped from an inexpensive discount cutter. It is an easy way to get unusual shapes and not have to deal with soldering or crimping tinned steel; a bit of work with needlenose pliers and voila, a unique cutter for special occasions. A plate of cookies and the matching house-shaped cookie cutter makes a great housewarming gift.

'Twas good as ever to see the friends who made it over here this afternoon for plenty of good chatting and a bit of fiber crafting. To cut out, hole punch, and stamp all the pages for my 2011 planner took a bit of time; still needs the date numbers filled in; a new insert is made each year to fit my tiny japanese aluminum looseleaf binder. After teatime we headed out to Sushi Ichiban, where the discussions continued over delicious fish and rice and veggies. We are all moving towards greater sustainability in various small ways, which seems how any real change could happen, whether with better water gathering techniques, shifting allocation of personal resources, or various other strategies to not just survive, but to live with grace and generosity.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Rob Ryan is a master of beautiful papercut design... enjoy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

moving forward

Having the categorical division of infrastructure, handicraft and kindness seemed to work rather well for me in 2010, though the results were more unbalanced than initially hoped for. The long list of goals in 2009 was inspiring but overwhelming; in truth, most of those are still undone, both the tasks and the treats...

There are many projects here that only require my effort, the materials and knowledge are already available. Less time online and more time in the workroom will improve daily life in innumerable ways. With that in mind, my concept for 2011 is to combine the three categories with some defined behavior changes in each one:

infrastructure: a minimum of half an hour of effort each day
main areas of focus this year: building garden beds, and the associated water systems, and outdoor alternative cooking facilities

handicraft: a minimum of an hour of effort each day
main areas of focus this year: a body of work in metal and enamel, and filling out the necessary clothing

a minimum of one hour walk each morning
main area of focus this year: improvement of personal health
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

So... there is still time tonight for an hour and a half of enjoyable effort, as well as getting ready for tomorrows Crafternoon. Dishes need washed, some vegan quincemeat tartlets need baked, and a start made on the new livingroom curtains.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden is beautiful in all seasons, and for the next eight days, admission is free. Last January it was a delightful and memorable excursion, and being right downtown, easily accessible. Anyone want to go with me?

a pictorial overview of 2010

in the grey northwest winter

friends gathered to celebrate

though it was cold outside

handicraft filled the days

eventually springtime arrived

local farmers markets opened

fragrance drifted in the open windows

embroidery decorated clothing

the damp autumn returned

the pantry filled with preserves

the forest shared its bounty

layered clothing for warmth

and as the earth turns back to light and warmth
my wish for all is a year to come of creative joy and whimsy...
≈ : ♥ : ≈

"I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."
- Emma Goldman