Sunday, August 31, 2008

Studio Saga

This week I:
painted the studio
added molding to studio
moved back into studio
turned down marriage proposal
spent a day with cousins in Philadelphia
watched history in the making
bought a new printer
planned a bbq

This week I did not:
finish my syllabus.

This week has been very busy. I gave myself a deadline that all major house work projects would need to be finished by Sept. 1st, or they would have to be tabled until after my show. The doorway will be tabled. The painting of the studio, adding molding, and hanging a tack board needed to happen now.
Once again, I was amazed at how much a simple coat of bright white glossy paint cleans things up. The windows were really quite gross, but I slapped some paint on and it cleaned everything up. Jacques was very unhappy at being kicked out of the painting area, but I didn't need him to jump up on the ledges, and sit on the wet paint. He would have looked like a reverse skunk. And the molding. So much easier in a completely empty room. It did a lovely job of hiding all of my drips from painting the baseboards. :)In my studio, I need something to tack things to - such as a bulletin board. I went to Home Depot on Saturday and ordered some hemasote (homosote? - sound proofing board) board and had them delivered, along with a lot of topsoil for the garden. The nice man, Wayne, who was delivering all of it, kindly hauled all of the dirt to the back of the yard for me. :) When he brought the hemosote into he house, he looked around and asked,
"You doing all of this yourself?" indicating my stellar demolition of the doorway.
I said, "Yeah!".
He said, "You want to get married?"
I said, "No."
He said, "Why not? I could use a woman like you!"
I thought, Hmm, great, what's in this for me? and stuck with my "no" answer. On Thursday morning I was wide awake at 4am, so I finished up the studio/guestroom. Blow up mattresses really are the way to go, I tell ya. I'm also thrilled with my giant Ikea lantern. :)

My cousins came to visit from all over the country on Thursday and it was really great to see them and hang out with them. First I took them to the Mutter Museum. This place is always worth a look. The Museum has the worlds largest colon, the soap lady, the mask of a woman with a horn growing out of her forehead - any medical anomally - they've got it. Right now they have some books bound in human skin on display. Eew. After a thorough grossing out there we went to my place of employment. Our library director very kindly pulled a few of our treasures out. Here we are looking at the hand written draft of the constitution:
Rosanna is teaching the Declaration of Independence to her students this year and she was very excited to see that as well. We also saw the Emancipation Proclamation and Rosanna said that I am somehow a decendent of Lincoln! Dad? Do you know about this?
I feel fortunate that they came because I also got to experience something I wouldn't have done on my own. Joy was hell-bent on seeing Obama's acceptance speech. Rosanna's friend Holly found out that it would be on a screen at the Visitors Center, right next to the Liberty Bell. So that evening we went out there and with another 1000 people (?) watched the speech. I don't care where you stand politically - it is a momentous occasion. I am proud to be part of a generation of people where this could happen. Thanks Joy - for being here and needing to see the speech - I'm glad I was there.

The family left on Friday, sadly. Carol and her husband live just outside of DC. I hope they will be visiting soon.

Friday evening was an adventure. Christopher and Yann moved my guillotine from my storage unit into my studio.
It looks so little and innocent. Nope. I can't believe they got it in. It is so darn heavy. Let's hope I like it there because I bet it's not moving. Ever. They also helped me hang the hemosote. It's really great to have such a big blank wall for pinning stuff to. I spent most of Saturday moving boxes back into the studio from the kitchen, the bathroom and the hallway. Setting up studio begins this week. :) I'm really excited now to get in there and do some work.

And finally: a better picture of Fred perking along: I tell ya, those people who send images into must have FANTASTIC cameras because I'm have a dickens of a time getting a good shot. Humph.

Monday, August 25, 2008


My Dad agrees that I need to prioritize. Said so on the phone tonight. And he's right.
So… tonight I painted the window trim in the studio; that will need one more coat. Then tomorrow I will paint the last wall in there. This was the room with the horrible army green walls. I was planning on knocking that wall down all along, I just didn't realize I wouldn't be knocking the whole thing down. So half way through painting the walls I stopped painting it. Now it needs two more layers of primer to cover up the rest of the blasted color. I should also get out the reciprocating saw and clean up the edges of the door, even though the door is a lower priority than getting the molding in (it's already painted and ready to go), so that I can move my furniture into the space. That's all.

Ah the banister, :), it's coming along nicely now with the correct stripper. I wonder if Citristrip doesn't have some oil in it which helps the wood. It is such a difference from the other stuff which left the wood dry and parched looking. I cleaned up the last of the bits with steel wool and the wood is a rich chestnut color, wiped it down with odorless Mineral Spirits and it gleams. It's coming along - and now that I have the right stuff, I can slap it on and walk away for a while, complete a job and then get back to the banister. Makes multi-tasking much more efficient.

Fred Update: He's still in a chrysalis (isn't that a lovely word? chrysalis) hasn't fallen off the branch and yours truly has gotten herself, 800 speed film for closeups. If my eyes weren't joking with me, I was actually able to focus on ol' Fred properly. Will take ton's of pics and dedicate a whole blog to that process. Promise.

Look at Fred!

Look at Fred this morning! He's gone! - How did he do that? Sorry about the bad photo - the one last night must have been a fluke. I have a heckuva time focusing on him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finishing Odds and Ends

I have to learn to finish one job before I start the next. At the moment, pressing projects include: painting the studio, walls and trim, adding molding, finishing up the doorway, putting everything back in there. Other projects include, finishing the banister, installing a sliding screen for the back door, and continue dealing with the yard! I've decided that I need to live with certain things - such as the doorway in the studio. That will probably not get done now until after my show in November. Too bad, it looks pretty raw. One job which needs to get done sooner than later is the banister because of Henry Sanding Floor. I started stripping with Citristrip - this stuff is great! It took three layers to get all of the previous layers off, it's ready to strip in half an hour up to 24hrs, and it comes off beautifully with steel wool. Then I ran out. I used this other stuff that is ready to strip in 15 minutes, has some nasty fumes, and gave me a few chemical burns as well. Also, when it says ready to strip in 15 minutes, that's it. There is no cushion. The stuff starts to dry and is useless. The Citristrip is much better for the multi-tasker. I could run outside, paint the molding, work on digging up a root - realize an hour had gone by, run into the banister and scrap some more paint off. Then add another layer of stripper, paint the baseboards in the studio, spackle the walls, talk to Jacques, realize another hour and a half had gone by, pull some more paint off. With the second stuff, I had to drop everything hop off the ladder where I was painting the windows and run to strip the paint. Hmph. I was sweaty and stinky and didn't feel like dressing up for Home Depot (we've discussed this - it helps, trust me), so the banister has been tabled. I hope that my favorite hardware store on 10th has Citristrip. I'm stocking up.

Mike said to try to use my landscape mode on my digital camera photograph Fred. Here is the result on that. Not great. The camera keeps focusing on the reflections on the glass, not on what I want it to focus on. I'll be gettin' that there 35mm film tomorrow. Fred is definitely turning into something. He hasn't moved but every once in a while he twitches.
(10 hours later) Well, I take it back, I put the camera on portrait and used the flash and here's what I got! A fantastic shot of Fred. I just took this image, the one above is from this morning. Look how much further he is from the branch. That bright shiny thread is what is holding him up. I'm so desperately afraid I'm going to knock him off the branch by accidentally knocking the table or something, but so far so good.
To recap: (this is really for me - so I feel productive) today I watered the yard and pulled some roots, tried to install a sliding screen for the back door so I could leave it open (not successful), stripped the banister, painted the molding, spackled the window sills, stripped the banister, painted the baseboards, stripped the banister, second coat of paint on molding, stripped the banister, second coat of paint on the baseboards, started painting the windows, gave up on the banister tried to clean a bit. Came upstairs, took a bath. Retrieved molding from front porch, bagged four garbage bags of yard debris, collected various other trash items, put them on the curb. Made chicken tacos for dinner, and got a bit further on the bootee for Nodin. I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

Sunday Morning; Studio floors finished, Fred on his way

Good Morning -
It's another beautiful day in Philadelphia. This August has been incredible, I haven't used my air conditioner once. This is highly unusual. Last year, I had the air on for two weeks straight.
The first thing we did this morning, Jacques and I, was to inspect our new studio floors. Three layers of polyurethane later … it's incredible! I don't want to move anything in there, just want to look at the floors!
When Henry first came he said there were some damaged spots and he might need to repair the floor with wood from some place inconspicuous such as a closet. But he was able to fix all of the existing wood.
One of the comments that always comes up is, why would anyone paint over these beautiful floors? put carpeting down?! Mr. El had a good point, "Be glad they did, it protected them, now you have beautiful floors. If they didn't the floors would have been worn away."
Had one little scare; the heating vent had to be removed to do the floors. When I went upstairs to get my camera, I didn't pay attention to where Jacques went. The vent hole is plenty large enough for my kitty to get in there. I called and called and couldn't tell where he was. Just when I was really started to get concerned, he poked his head around a door and sort of looked at me as if you say, "what do you want?" I put the screen over the hole until I can wash the grate off. It's filthy.
Thought some of you might like a better image of the fireplace now that the stuff is not covering it up. It's really just a heating vent now.
Fred might have started making his chrysalis. He hasn't moved since last night, and there are little silken threads holding him to the branch.
This is the first time my digital camera has let me down. I can't take pictures of Fred through the glass, the camera won't focus on him. I think it's time to get the old SLR out of the box, dust it off, buy some film, and start taking pictures. This maybe the last you see of Fred for a while. I just started thinking about how inconvenient for blogging that will be! I even have to wait for the film to be developed. Do they still do that?

What to do today? Oh, there is so much I want to do. I wanted to go out to Berlin Flea Market and pick up a sink. I looked online, and it's definitely much cheaper if I get it there. I also want to finish digging up roots in the back yard, some laundry, start putting the molding in the studio, painting the baseboards in the studio, definitely painting the window moldings (they are disgusting), get film for the camera before too much happens to Fred and I miss it, fix the tires of my road bike (both flat), must work on that syllabus, and move back into my studio. If I were Hermione, the syllabus would be finished already - that goes without saying - the paintbrushes would be doing their thing, the roots would be pulling themselves, the heating vent would have cleaned itself and put itself away, and I'd be knitting booties which is what I really want to be doing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Banister, etc.

The banister needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. I was saving this as an easy job, but since I decided not to do the construction in the house and instead get the third floor ready to rent, I decided that Henry Sanding Floor needed to come back as soon as possible to do the floors in the stairwell. It takes 24hrs for the polyurethane to dry, and so I will be relegated to the first floor for three days. That's okay, It will be worth it. My studio is beautiful.
Before pictures of the banister:Jacques kindly started stripping the paint off of this part. So we have this lovely brick red, followed by the mint green. yulch. Tight Roper Jacques on the banister in this view:

I am not the neatest crafts person when it comes to this kind of thing. I decided to strip the banisters tonight because I don't really care if the stripped paint falls on the horrible linoleum. It's coming up anyway. I will probably have to repaint the white thingies, (I cannot remember what they are called!), but that is different. I am actually a neat painter.
In excavating I discovered at least four layers of paint. Some genius decided that the beautiful original mahogany banisters needed to be covered in white paint. Then of course someone realized how silly this was and painted the banisters brown. ?!, this was followed by the mint green choice and sealed up with a coat of the brick red.
I've only applied three layers of citrus strip, but I'm already down to the original wood and it is be-yond me as to why anyone would cover this stuff up! It's beautiful! Tomorrow's intermittent project will be to put stuff back in the studio, and work on this banister. Now I'm excited to get it revealed. :) Sorry about the goofy angle of this image. I took it at a bad angle and am too tired to do a good photoshop job on it. You get the idea anyway. While I was waiting for for the solvent to do its work, I finally started on my syllabus. I start teaching in less than two weeks and I've been in complete denial about this. So between applying layers of stuff tomorrow, hopefully painting the molding and installing that in the studio, then moving stuff back in to said studio, I will work some more on my syllabus and get that issue off my back.
Jacques will be guarding the kitchen from the mice which are apparently living under my stove.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

New floors in the Studio

Henry Sanding Floor came today - a day early. Not that I'm complaining because that just means the floors in the studio will be finished a day earlier. I found Henry on Angie's List, and that's how he's listed, Henry Sanding Floor. He is the same one who did the floors in my bedroom. He's good, he's nice, he's reasonable, and I don't have to do it. I like him!Here they are working away. I asked if I could take pictures, and I think he thought I was joking, but no, I wasn't.
I came home to find this:
Those raggedy walls weren't so bad when the floor was awful too - but I think that I will have to tackle that project sooner than expected. I will also have to paint sooner than expected. Ugh. Sorry, to see the "before" picture you will have to go to a previous post - one where I took the wall down.
The to-do list for the studio:
1. paint the walls white. (the second room was a horrible army green. It took four layers of primer to get rid of it. Half way through that project I realized I was taking the wall down, so I didn't finish that wall. Bummer. Now I've got to put at least two more coats of primer on it.)
2. paint the windows and the floor molding glossy white.
4. Go out to L and J Metals, in Reading, PA to see if they have any fabulous cabinets that would hold lots of supplies. This place also sells flat files for about $100! For those of you who don't realize what a big deal this is, new flat files go for about $500. - minimum.
5. Do the molding around the door way. I'd like to put this to a vote: do I paint the molding white to match the walls, trim on the windows, and baseboards? or do I stain it a dark wooden color like the original. Now, I've heard there are a lot of you who are regular readers, who are not commenting, like my cousins? (Rebecca?). I would love it if all of you would weigh in on what you think I should do. :) (Somewhere in the near future, computer keyboards will need to come with a real smiley-face, don't you agree?!)
6. Oh, and somehow in the mean time, move back into the studio, make a bunch of artwork so that I can be ready for my show that opens in November.

Just as an aside: I had to go have my picture taken for the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA). I'm in the fellowship program, and it's with them that I'm doing the show in November. They hired this amazing person to do portraits. A few years ago, he bought a church for $400,000. - !!! He lives in it! It is amazing! The first floor is a gigantic studio, the second floor is his living space. It came with two apartments in the back. He rents those out and that's how he is making a living and is able to be a full time artist! Wow, it was incredible. (sigh)

In other news:
Fred is growing like crazy! Here he is the day I found him,

here he is today. Look at the size of him! The pictures are not a good comparison, because one is closer than the other, but just sort of look at the him on the bowl, and then compare the size of him to the bowl in the next picture. I have to say, Fred is fascinating! I am mesmerized when I watch him eat. He loves parsley. Today I added dill, and he just chomped down on that too. The size of his frass has gotten larger too. eew. But he is a vegetarian, so that's not so bad, I guess. It's really cool to see him in action.

And finally; I may not change my staircase around after all.
Since I have a triplex, I wanted to live in the first two floors and rent out the third. It would be so much easier to live on the top two floors and rent out the first, but, heavy equipment… belongs on the first floor. I really wanted to have a staircase that lead straight up to the third floor, and then have access between the first two floors differently. I think I mentioned this, but I'll just reiterate: I had this great construction guy come in, and he explained to me everything that would need to be done, and it was a lot. I would have to rip up the ceilings on the first floor so that the beams and such would be reinforced etc. It would have been about a $40, 000. - job. :(. (the keyboard needs a frowny-face too). I asked him to come by again today to look at plan B: adding an exterior staircase starting on the porch that would go to the third floor, and plan C: adding a spiral staircase from the studio to the second floor. Hmmph. Neither of these is ideal. So what I think I might do is just rent out the third floor as it is, and live separately from the first and second floors for a year, and see how I like it. But I have to think about it. In the mean time, we discussed having my bathroom redone! oh yeah! He won't be able to do it until November, but I think it will be worth the wait. This contractor is really great to talk with because he explains everything that will happen. I told him I wanted fuchsia tiles for the bathroom floors and he told me I would have to pick them up myself, because he would never be able to live down picking up fuchsia tiles…

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The second generation

This is Sarah. Sarah is 1 and 1/2 and adorable. Some of my friends and I are really good at pointing out "that's why I don't' have kids" when we see screaming children. Well, Sarah is the reason I do want to have kids. She is sweet congenial, happy, and a little sponge. She is incredibly entertaining. And Heidi just grins and says, yup - I have the best child on the planet. Who is Sarah? She is Eric and Heidi Dicus' daughter, great-grand niece of Aunt Martha who passed away this past Saturday. Eric and I were band geeks together in high school. Jane (grandma), Heidi, and Sarah are in town for Aunt Martha's funeral, and it's sad that we don't know when we will see each other again.
After this picture was taken, Sarah desperately wanted to pet Jacques, but he was having none of that- thank you. So she grabbed my hand and we finally figured out she wanted help to pet him. She would walk toward him and he would watch her. When she got within a foot of him, he would run off. Finally I got out the "Greenies" (favorite treat), distracted him with that in the kitchen, and Sarah was able to pet him a bit. She was so gentle and Jacques actually didn't mind. Heidi took lots of pictures, I hope some of them came out. I'd love to see them, and if I can, I will post them on the blog.

Tonight I have to finish cleaning out the studio. I'm obviously procrastinating. Henry Sanding Floor is coming tomorrow to do that. I'm really excited that it will be done sooner than expected, except that it's a day earlier than I'd planned so, let's see how much I get done tonight. He may just have to help move things in the morning, whatever I don't get to tonight.

By the way, Fred has practically doubled in size. I came home tonight and ALL of the parsley was gone. I just put a new bunch in the jar. We'll see. Will post more pictures soon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jacques Update and so on

Jacques' new plan to scare the crap out of me:except that he doesn't usually sit on the banister, he plays on it; pretends he's a tight rope walker. He usually misses when he jumps up and is struggling to actually get up on the thing. Plus there is at least a 5ft drop on the other side, at most a 10ft. drop. I don't like it. But one has to let them learn these things on their own. He also loves to pretend that's he's just inspecting stuff:
Just FYI - this is my second floor landing. When I moved in it was covered in (stinky) carpet. Two of my fabulous interns, Anni and Ansley, and two of my wonderful friends, Jessica and Mario, ripped it all out and tackled all of the staples etc. It was a great gift. Beneath this horrible tar-adhered linoleum are the same beautiful floors as in the bedroom. When all of the construction is finished they too, will be as beautiful. (someday…) But back to Jacques, I much prefer him spilling out of the basket:

In other news:
*Fred is still alive. Amazing. He's pooping a lot, this is how I know. He's not a very exciting roommate, I must say. Just to prepare the three Amigos - he probably won't hatch until next spring. But I will keep posting updates. Promise.
*All of the ode de anti-bug I slathered myself with on Saturday for yard work- didn't help. I was still the bug smorgasbord. This morning instead of putting lotion on my legs I just slathered them up with anti-itch cream. It was more effective.
*At work I am rebacking three giant books (43.5cm) of the Grand Army of the Republic. All of them have lost their covers and so I need to reattach them. I'm also rebacking them because the spines are too stiff, which is why the covers came off in the first place. Fun stuff.
*My neighbor Miss Mary (Mr. El's wife), and my good friend Mary came for an evening in the back meadow. We had a glass of wine, fresh mozzarella, Jersey tomatoes, and basil from my window box. It was a perfectly beautiful evening.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

An Almost Perfect Summer Saturday

I had an almost perfect Saturday. Almost perfect because of only two downers. I fear this post will be quite long and so I will break it up into Chapters.

Chapter One: The first Downer
I woke up early, which was nice. I usually go for a bike ride early in the morning and so off I went - until I passed the Art Museum. They've been doing a ton of construction in that area, making streets "safer" and revamping bike accessibility. Which is great but for the debris, (rocks) which I promptly rode over. The puncture was so thorough that I could actually hear the air whizzing out of the hole. I had a nice walk back home with my bike, about a mile. Met a sweet orange and white stripped kitty and decided that Jacques needs a friend like that. Now, while I can install a ceiling fan, I loath changing the tube in my bicycle tires. I had every intention of changing it today. Didn't happen.

Chapter Two: The Morning
Got home, made peach pancakes; coffee and two pieces of bacon = perfect breakfast.
Went to Amish farmer to pick up, eggplant, yellow squash, more peaches, collard greens, tomatoes, and pasteurized but not homogenized, whole milk. oh yum. Amish farmer is three blocks away on Saturday mornings. Used to have to drive to pick up provisions, now I walk! I love it. Oh, I forgot, I also get flowers; sunflowers today.

Chapter Three: Find Fred (see previous post)

Chapter Four: Laundry and Yard
After dealing with finding Fred and armed with "ode de anti-bug", I tackled my yard. Time to mow the lawn and see what else I could do. Halfway through mowing, Mr. El poked his head out of his doorway and told me: 1.He'd made a lot of money as a kid pushing a push lawn mower. 2. it was time for me to trim my hedges in the front. and 3. (he'd disappeared for a few minutes)"Here, I don't need these for a while", and he passed me the hedge trimmers over the fence (hint hint?).
So I mowed, raked, watered the zinnias, and then on a whim, decided to attack the weeds surrounding the pine tree. Maybe because I was avoiding doing the front hedges. . . because at 2pm, 40th St is a hip-happenin' place, and I didn't want an audience while I did my hedges. I think it's because there is a subway stop less than 1/2 a block from me. I wouldn't mind doing my hedges at 9am, but at 2pm,…hmm. Even as I was mowing a guy stuck his head over the hedge and offered to do my yard for me for "a little cash", and "are you married? - how come your husband ain't out here mowin' for ya?"
I also did laundry and pulled some weeds from the other end of my bricks. Decided it was high time for me to pull the weeds from around the tree, before it became a real ordeal. Also, there is a pile of bricks hidden somewhere behind all of these weeds, and I'd like to get to them so that I can replace the missing part of the walkway.

Chapter 5: Pulling Weeds
There are the before pictures. I don't know why I decided today was the day to do this. I had plenty of other things I needed to do on my list. But I was sort of on autopilot. I've know for a while that I needed to attack these "weeds". Maybe I was avoiding the hedgeing, who knows? At any rate I started on the weeds. Now, understand that "weeds" out here, in the lush, humid, northeast summer means, things above your head. This is no small job. I started outside at 1:30 and I didn't get back in until 6pm. 6 garbage bags later, I was not even partway through. Here's an after shot - note the satellite dish on the pile of debris I found under the tree (!?)

It was such a beautiful afternoon. I did two loads of laundry and hung that up on the line. (Mr. El stuck his head out the door again and said, "Sun-dried laundry is the best, ain't it?" Oh yeah.) The temperature was really nice, mid-80's and not too humid, really pleasant. Half way through the afternoon someone behind me started a bbq, including soft, retro r&b music on a radio. The kind where you can just barely hear the melody. I love that. When I would stand up to take a break I could see the kids across the street play double-dutch jump rope as I smelled the burning scent of bbq sauce from behind me. It was the kind of day one doesn't want to end. Really perfect.
The thing is, when one is pulling weeds, one's muscles have a different opinion…

Chapter 6: Clean Up
You know you're in trouble when you can actually hear your muscles talking to your brain and they are saying: "uh, excuse us, but you can't really be serious about this much work?"
Even thought the job was not done, I knew it was time to clean up. I started shoving all of the weeds into garbage bags when the little white kitty appeared.
This kitty has no fear. I have watched this kitty from the second floor as it comes and plops itself on the lawn and starts to clean itself in front of the dogs next door. The dogs, of course, go crazy. Here is poor Little Boy who would desperately like to chew on this little white kitty. Mr. El told me the kitty lives behind me and that its owner often comes to look for it. And of course, I had to make an effort to bond with the kitty, and we did. We'll see what sort of issues this creates.
I got all of the weeds into six garbage bags. I also found the possible cesspool of mosquito spawn under the tree. There was an upright bucket under the tree with stagnant water. Ugh. It made me run back into the house for another layer of ode de anti-bug. I also found enough plastic bottles under the tree for their own recycling bag. For those of you (fortunate people in California), not from Philadelphia…we've finally been granted the privilege of putting all of our recycling together into one bag - every other week. Yipee! This is a big step for us!

Chapter Seven: Back up stairs
Well, at 6pm as it happened, I was beat. I climbed the stairs to be greeted by a hungry Jacques. Fed him and decided I needed a bath. Thank goodness the bathtub is in working order, too bad the water heater isn't. I think I need to turn the heat up so that I get a full tub of hot water.
Before I landed in the bath, however, I checked my phone messages… the other downer of the day was waiting for me.

Chapter Eight: Aunt Martha
I received a message from my high school friend's wife. Aunt Martha had died that morning.
To sum up: My friend Eric and I were in Band together. Go Whittier High School Band, the Pride of Whittier High. And as it goes with band geeks, we somehow stay in touch with each other. We understand each other, maybe because we had a great experience of sucess in high school? I don't know. At any rate - I googled Eric a few years ago. Turns out he went to UPenn, (three blocks south of me) and his great Aunt Martha was living in Bryn Mawr, which is not far from Philadelphia. So the long and short of it is, the next time Eric and his wife Heidi were visiting her, they looked me up. It was great to see them, get to know Heidi better and to meet Aunt Martha. Great Aunt Martha's husband had been in the oil business and so Aunt Martha lived in China in the late '30s and '40s. (This is what I remember of the stories). Aunt Martha was a delightful lady, she had great stories to tell and I really enjoyed getting to know her. The second time Eric and Heidi came out to PA, was to show off their new daughter. I offered to show them the collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and they brought Aunt Martha. She was thrilled. The highlight was definitely when I showed them Martha Washington's Cookbook. I said, "…and this is Martha Washington's cook book." There was a moment of silence, and then Aunt Martha said, "No it's not! " in a tone of voice where if she had been 20-years-old she would have said, "Shut -Up!" Priceless. Eric and Heidi told me that when she got back home, and after she had bragged about her grand niece, she couldn't stop talking about what she had seen at HSP. I feel honored to have met her, and am sad that she came to the end of her life. She was 97, if I am correct, and although that is a proud age to achieve, I would have liked to have encountered her one more time. She was a grand lady.
In her honor, I decided to cook dinner from Martha Washington's cook book. I made Chicken Fricassee, or Frykecy. This should be an entire other blog entry. Suffice it to say that, yes, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, my place of employment, does indeed have THE cookbook of Martha Washington. My interns and I, and a few other people from different departments, had a potluck from the cookbook this summer. I made the frykecy and it was delicious. A transcribed version of the cookbook is available from Amazon by Karen Hess. The "Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery" is something I would recommend every proud American amateur cook to own. It is a fascinating part of our history and the recipes are still really good.

Yes, it was an almost perfect day. After eating the frickasee and collard greens I sat down to do this blog. It has taken me the better part of two and a half hours. And still, it was a good day.

My New Roomie

Meet Fred:
Fred is a black Swallowtailed Caterpillar. I identified him with help from my favorite site: Yeah!
Hunter Jacques found him. Well actually, Jacques found his trail and was madly sniffing at the wall Fred was crawling up. I found Fred and rescued him from an awful fate. I put him in a little wooden spice bowl for a while and pondered what to do with him. Then I decided to use the Internet! (marvelous invention). Fred was on his bowl in front of me and must have walked 12 miles on the rim, round and round.
I found a new wonderful website: They give great advice. Especially for the big one - what do I feed this little guy? Feed him the plant you found him on. Hmmm, I know he doesn't eat house. So I kept poking around and they give advice about which plants to look on if you want a certain kind of butterfly. That's where I found that Fred likes parsley, dill, and fennel. I have two parsley plants in my window boxes, that's what he must have been attracted to.
So I fixed up a room just for Fred: (you can see him just above the bowl on the right)
He was ravenous! As soon as I put the bowl in the jar, he climbed a stalk and began chomping on the leaves. Fantastic! So with any luck, Fred will turn into this:Now, it is also always possible, that Fred is really a Fredericka, but I won't know until after he's transformed. In that case the blue highlights on the tail will be a bit duller.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Electrical work

Two electricians came on Thursday. It's the same company that sent me the Marx Bros. but this time they didn't . They sent a really nice guy named John, and a guy named Jim, who was an expert on what I call Philly Charm. (more on that later). Now, because I'm also an expert- as an outsider - on Philly Charm as well, and how to thwart it, I did manage to make the guy laugh. But that is of course another story.
These guys took care of some stuff needing taking care off. They installed an outside electrical box:There it is right next to the pumpkin (left by the previous owner). Now I can get an electric weed whacker and whack those weird plants that don't want to be mowed. And incidentally, I've got to mow my lawn tomorrow morning. I talked with my great aunt last Saturday as it was her 97th! birthday, and she is so blasé about maintenance at my house - "oh just get yourself a gardener and a cleaner, what do you want to be doing that for anyway?" Right - like that is all I have to spend my money on. I tried to explain to her that I'm sure the charm of doing everything myself will wear out soon, then I can get a gardener.
The electricians also installed a motion sensor light in the back meadow:

There it is. It's working and everything. I'm really glad about this because it was so dark on Wednesday evening when I got home, I was not going to put my bike in the shed. So I just locked it to my back porch. Today when I went out to get it, my fabulous neighbor Mr. El, leaned out the window and told me that last night at about 11:30 his wife looked out the window, because the dogs were barking like crazy (why didn't I hear this?), and someone had come into my backyard to see if the bike was locked up. She didn't say anything because the dogs were barking like crazy, and they guy left. But Mr. El just wanted to let me know. I have great neighbors.
The last thing the electricians did was to check the light in the front vestibule. I have this really great light hanging down, but the wires are old and bad and they need to be replaced. So rather than hack out that beautiful roundel to put an Ikea fixture in, I'm going to try to get the old light re-wired. I hope it can be done at not too obscene amount of money. Hopefully I can find someone to do that soon. I would really like a light in the front vestibule.
I think it would be safer.
In other news, I planted the zinnias next to the revealed walkway. Will keep you posted on what happens there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Asbestos - OK!

Whew! I'm in the clear!
The nice man who came to test my air said that I was way below the danger level and so I was in the clear. I'm so relieved, now I can really clean up after my demolition.
Finally all the studs are out. And by the way, I can't help that Jacques is in practically every picture of the house. He seems to know where center stage is - (it's with me).
The guy that came to test my air was really great. I said I was from California, he said where?, I said Whittier, he said, Oh Nixon . . . I said uh-huh! I also added that he met that age line of people who immediately said, oh yes, Nixon, when I said where I was from. He was very nice and laughed at that. (For those of you under the age line - President Nixon lived in Whittier and attended Walter F. Dexter Intermediate School, Whittier High School, and Whittier College; just like your truly). The asbestos man was from West Virginia and I must say, a real southern Gentleman - to the core, told me it was a privilege to meet me. Wow - that kind of thing can knock your socks off. It's always nice to meet nice people in Philadelphia, they are few and far between. But I must say, Angie's List really helps. The guys that came yesterday to take all of the asbestos away were really great. They even found some more, and took that with them as well. Now I have to find a heating guy to come fix the heating ducts, because they took those too. (sigh) It's amazing how it's all linked together.
Okay - so watch for the post about when I finally finish the studio. Things that need to be done in there:
- floors
- "finish" the doorway, so add molding, decide if I want to stain it or paint it.
- make the doors or find them somewhere. Someone told me there is an architectural salvage yard on Ridge and Fairmount, need to check that out. If not - I'm thinking of making some doors. I took a paper making workshop a while ago, we made 8ft. x 10ft. sheets of mulberry paper. I could cut one in half and frame it up, put it on casters and voilá; doors!
While the air testing was going on downstairs, I decided it was time to fix my chairs. When my dad and Ann were here at the beginning of July, we went to Virginia to visit another Lawrence collector. (T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia) On our way back we stopped at an antique shop and I got a steal on two beautiful chairs for $20.- I'm thrilled. But one was a little rickety, so today I took it apart and re-glued it. Of course I had to get new tools for this. Some wonderful clamps: I have been wanting clamps like this for AGES! The only bummer is that I couldn't get them in a size I needed. They either came with a 12" opening (too small) or a 24" opening (too big). So of course one gets the 24" opening because that will be more versatile. And the little ones with the 4" opening were irresistible. So now I have them too. And they did come in handy.
Here is a picture of Jacques jumping down from the upturned chair before I had a chance to get at it. It's amazing, I started working on it - the asbestos guy needed me - when I got back upstairs, who was sitting in it? … Why?… was there no other place for him to sit?!