Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two MAJOR events!

Finished. Finally! finally. whew! I am so glad to have finished this sweater. And it is actually really beautiful. It is so warm and soft and I have even already sewn the ends in! This is the part I usually neglect for quite a few wearings before sewing them down. But I wanted to put this project behind me - so that I could start a new sweater, guilt free. But now, I have to assess my yarn situation because I have so much sitting around I don't know what to make of it all! Wish me luck!

And now I need some more well wishes and luck.
I have a new kitty.
I stopped at the Morris animal shelter yesterday and came home with this little guy. he doesn't have a name yet because we have to see how things go. So far, not good. Jacques. is. not. happy. He was so shocked last night that he crawled under the papazan chair in the corner and growled and hissed all night - and even went after me. He finally gave up on the living room and went into the bathroom to claim territory. Then he slept with me and the little kitty decided to claim the bottom of his standing basket.
This morning didn't go much better Jacques couldn't believe it wasn't all a bad dream and just wanted out of the apartment. So I let him out. Now I'm blogging and Jacques is trying to reclaim his territory. The little one is holding his own. But I'm worried. Jacques is still. very. unhappy. I fed them and Jacques was growling the whole time he was chewing. It sounded like he was saying, yumyumyumyum, over and over. Now he's stalking around growling at this little thing. The little one just wants to meet him. I really want them to be friends. Jacques needs one.
I got the new kitty because Jacques was SO lonely while I was gone in Hawaii. I've always known that he misses me and I've always wanted to get him a buddy. I really hope I did the right thing. This new little guy is so sweet. He just wants to be loved, is about 1 year old, and doesn't jump up on things (yet). He does, however, scratch everything. So we are going to have to nip that in the bud. He has the longest tail I've ever seen and when Jacques growls at him, it poofs out like a bottle brush. I've decided to give them until next weekend, 10 days. If things don't get better, the little one will have to go back. Too bad, he is so sweet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aloha, Aloha

Hello and Goodbye to the beautiful Island of Kaua'i. Today was the last day. Tomorrow I fly to California to spend Christmas with my dad and Ann.
But today... I saw the moon set over Hanalei Bay:
and the sun set over Kekaha Beach.

It doesn't really matter what happened in between.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Ah - yes, I am on the beautiful island of Kaua'i with my friend Mary - a fellow book artist. It is about 9:30 in the evening, we had Island Sangria, (Gewürztraminer, little gin, soda water, sugar, pineapple, rambutans, bananas - yum), and now I'm sitting on the balcony - it's about 80 degrees and I'm blogging. This is part one.
What is a Rambutan? - it is very similar to a lychee fruit. Except that it comes in this very funny outer covering.
Pretty yummy.

We start everyday with the alarm clock of the island:
I wish I were kidding. These birds are all over the place - there must be at least five that live in the bushes under my window. They start about 5:30 am. As of today I don't hear them so much. But it takes a night or two to get used to them. What I really want is a handful of those feathers.
Everybody seems to get along. There are a few cats and they pretty much leave the big fowl alone. I would too.

Its the rainy season at the moment, and so there are flowers everywhere. The beautiful yellow one (at the top of the blog) grows on giant trees 20 feet high and they are covered with them. They are everywhere on the island. When the yellow flowers fall off, they turn this beautiful red color.
The trees grow next to several of the rivers and so you see the flowers floating along.
We did a hike of the Na Pali Coast today. There were tiny purple orchids everywhere - guavas were ripe and falling off the trees and then there was this little passion flower.
Doesn't it look like it should come from outer space?

It has rained for two days straight. Pouring rain all day, well, it comes and goes but the sun doesn't shine and you don't get dry. So yesterday we did a tour of a chocolate farm. It was fascinating. Not only to they grow cocoa trees, but they have vanilla (which is an orchid!) they grow and harvest bamboo and several other things. It's a completely organic farm.
Here we have two cocoa pods.
and here are the vanilla pods (still green).
The tour of the farm ended with a talk about the history of chocolate, and how it is produced. Then we had a blind chocolate tasting of 10 different chocolates. It was very interesting to compare them. I now know what my favorite american made chocolate is (they didn't include any swiss or german chocolate. Hmmm - maybe because they can't compete with them?). And I can get it at Whole Foods. Speaking of whole foods:
our haul at the farmers market. We got green beans, bananas, papayas and rambutans. Plus I found a plumeria at the Kaua'i Coffee plantation. We also manage to put away two pineapples since we got here.
And believe it or not - it is even Christmas on the Island. We have seen some amazing decorations to say the least. From a tree decorated with lays, to one with soda cans, to this bougainvillea that was decked out with silver and gold balls.
Quite beautiful! And then last night we were hoping for a reprieve from the clouds and rain and such - and our wish was granted. We got to see the end of the lunar eclipse! We left the apartment and ran out to the golf course and just watched the stars and the eclipse. It was amazing! This morning we discovered we'd been eaten alive by the mosquitoes, but it was worth it.
If you double click on the image, the little white dot in the middle of this black photo will turn into the moon at the end of the eclipse.

We've spent some time at Hanalei Bay.

And the other day we ran into the man himself at Safeway.

He said he was resting up for the big night and graciously took a picture with us. That is - a friend of his (wearing a baseball hat that said, "I believe in Santa") took the picture. There is more to come, more to blog about, but we did the hike on the Na Pali Coast today to the waterfalls. I am pooped, but I will post more soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day, filled with cheer and warmth and good food! I spent the evening at a Friends pot luck which was lovely and cozy. I ate too much, and didn't regret that for a minute.
I did actually brave the Black Friday madness to run a few errands. Luckily some of them were in Chinatown - where apparently Black Friday doesn't exist? Because I had no problems there.
I came home and checked when the first day of advent was and it's today! Well, then I think it's appropriate to spend Thanksgiving weekend decorating. I knitted my Christmas tree. And then knitted a few more. I found this pattern online and have wanted to try it since last year. It is a lot of fun and the trees look amazing. I will probably try to sell some this coming weekend and Book Paper Scissors, we'll see.
I also FINALLY got my rear in gear and planted over 200 more tulip, daffodil, crocus and allium bulbs. I soaked them in garlic water for a week and then spread red pepper flakes all over the place where I planted them. Let's hope that keep the darn squirrels away. I've been wanting to do some planning of the back quarter. I decided to start with a daffodil trench. Here's the garden before:
Then I dug this trench:
And put the extra bricks along it. I want to have rows like this all the way back with things planted in between. Like vegetables and flowers and stuff. I have to see the the forsythias bloom this year. If they don't they will be fired. I have no use for plants that are supposed to do beautiful things but which don't.
This year I got smart and kept all of my leaves for composting. So all of the flower patches got a nice blanket of rotting leaves. They should be thrilled.
Hmmm, I'm looking forward to making more plant beds. This looks a little bit like my pet python died and I buried it, don't you think?
And the dogs next door? sigh, well at least they are getting fed a bit. Poor Petey (the black and white) doesn't like anyone near his fence. My making this bed just about made him bonkers.
The little one stays way out of his way when he's in a mood like this.
But then sometimes they come begging anyway. Doesn't that look just melt your heart?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A new baby, a Thanksgiving recipe, and Misc.

My friend Rachael had a baby! A little girl, all of 6 whole lbs! I was furiously knitting before her arrival to make sure there were some home made things there for her. I knitted the yellow one first. This is a great pattern and I'd actually really like one in my size. To bad the pattern is for "new born, 6mos and 12mos". Not exactly my size. After I made the yellow one I thought, well that's pretty big. Maybe I'll make a little one that she can wear for about 5 minutes after she's born.
Rachael sent me this picture of beautiful little Isabel:
wearing the purple sweater. Oh she's so tiny! That sweater can' t be more than 6 inches across! I'm so glad there is room for her to grow. I can't wait to meet her. She's not in Philadelphia, so it will be a while.
The Thanksgiving recipe - to-die-for was made today! Oh boy - this is really good.

Pumpkin stuffed with everything good. (that's the title. really.)
1 pumpkin (3lbs)
salt and pepper
1/4 lb stale bread
1/4 lb cheese - Gruyere, Emmenthal etc.
2 - 4 garlic cloves
4 strips bacon -cooked to crisp chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or scallions
1 T minced fresh Thyme
1/3 heavy cream
pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Mix ingredients 2 - 7 together. Stuff into the opened and cleaned out pumpkin. Mix cream and nutmeg together, pour into pumpkin. Bake at 350 for about 2 hours. This is SOOOOO goood!
Yum! You can hear the original NPR clip here. Just click on "Listen to the Story" It's only about 6 minutes - so you should! I will make this on a LOT! and I'm going to experiment. The next experimentation will be to make the recipe vegan. I think the key things are the bacon, garlic and the cheese (I used Gruyere). I can get fake bacon, but the cheese flavor will be interesting to recreate. Although - maybe I'll abandon those flavors altogether and try for, something with coconut milk, pineapple, nutmeg, rice and cashews??? worth a shot right?
Roasting the pumpkin today made me nostalgic for the summer. I really miss being a farmer. Last weekend I cleaned out all of the tomato plants, dumped coffee grounds and eggshells into the soil to help boost it back up. I've been planning on planting my (200) tulip bulbs in new spots, but I realized today, I really miss the fresh harvest. Next year I want to grow all kinds of things. Tomatoes, zucchini, squash, onions, garlic, pumpkins, collard greens, as many herbs as possible... There really is a difference in the taste, a satisfaction in the food that isn't there with store bought stuff. Sigh, it's going to be a long winter.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Happened to October?

Yeah, I'm not sure. I sort of blinked and it was over!
Maybe because I had soOo much to do! Every weekend was occupied. The first weekend I spent at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was asked to show my artist's books for family day. They thought it would be a kids event. Hmm - won't do that again. Kids don't understand how to handle special books. Not their fault - neither do their parents. However, there were so many other people who came, who'd never seen artists books. One woman was almost in tears she was so happy to see "the future of the book" And she was so excited. There were several people I had very good, long conversations with. It was a feel-good afternoon - that's for sure. Plus I got paid! How nice.
The following weekend (Wed. - Sunday) I was off to Tuscon AZ, for the Guild of Bookworkers Standards conference. But the take off of that trip just couldn't go smoothly. I finally managed to rent the 3rd floor on the Tuesday before I had to leave for the conference and they were itching to move in. So they did and promplty found that the toilet had an issue. Something was leaking and it had soaked the floor under the linoleum. It smelled so bad. So I called the plumber who came on Wednesday and did fix the issue - but the tennents had to deal with the smell until I could get back in town. Fabulous Jeff came and saved the day again. I haven't seen it finished but the tennents love it! A nice new clean floor - how can that be bad? Jeff wasn't sure about the linoleum I picked out he said it didn't really stick. So we'll see what happens with that. If it's not one thing it's another.....
The Conference though,.... It was pretty great. The first thing I did was go on a tour of the Arizona State Museum - and was confronted by a blast from the past.
In one of my past lives I used to teach high school ceramics. I always did a unit on Southwest Pottery. We were led into the showcase room, and there was a vitrine with all, and I mean ALL of the pots I used to show my students to get them an idea of what they were making! What a pleasant surprise. I can't believe I said, "I recognize that pot!" They are really beautiful.

Next we were given a tour of the conservation lab. Jealousy jealousy. What a nice lab. On the tables above is a buckskin suit with real silver thread which is waiting for a display form so that it can hang on the wall in the museum. They also have those great overhead fume vacuums and over head electric outlets! And if I'm lucky I'll get to order one of those amazing tables. It has a hydraulic lift and can change heights up to 8" difference! They are also on casters. sigh. how nice.
They also had a beautiful facsimile of one of the Maya Codices. That's something to look up on Wikipedia. Those books have interesting histories.

There were four workshops to attend, one on 18th Century French bindings, Byzantine Bindings, a Book Arts (she was really a caligrapher who talked about her working process. The books were beautiful), and then a fabulous workshop on the "forensics of the book"! That was really great. And it was in Arizona! The weather had just had a cold spell in Phila. and it was still 90 degrees when we landed in Tuscon at 10pm. I got in my bathingsuit and went into the pool! it was lovely.
I came home on Sunday night and my aunts from California came to visit on Tuesday!
They brought be some beautiful Alpaca yarn. Someone in their upholstery class raises Alpacas and these are some of the yarns which come from them. Aunt Lois had brought me some other colors in the spring. I finally had time to wind them all. They are so beautiful and soft. I've been writing up lists of things I might knit out of them. Hmmm....

It was so much fun having them here! The first thing they did was take a mural tour. Then they came to my work for a ghost tour! They were the hit of the evening that's for sure. We had to discuss them in the meeting the following day with the program committee.
Then it was off to drag them all over town! We did the marathon of Philadelphia.
We took Aunt Alice to see the Maxfield Parrish designed Tiffany mural in the Curtis Building (where the Saturday Evening Post (Norman Rockwell) was published).
We went to the first post office, Ben Franklin's printshop, and where his house would have stood had his silly children/grandchildren decided to tear it down.
We also went out to Amish country on a Saturday and it was jammed with people! I couldn't believe it! We spent money on stuff and they bought me this beautiful lamp. It's been fun having it on.
We did so much, shopping, Bartram's Gardens, and we went to the ballet. And of course we also had time to cook.
We cooked from Ellen Emlen's cookbook:
That is collard greens, cauliflour with whitesauce and broiled chops. So the background is that I found a manuscript cookbook at work. It was in pieces. I fixed it. And then the madness started. We want to publish it. But that is sort of like trying to move a mountain. I guess if you keep at it you can though because we might actually succeed. The food from the book is amazing!
The white sauce is basically cream white pepper and nutmeg - that would make anything good, even cauliflour, and the broiled chop (which should have been "the finest mutton" which ended up being a chicken breast), is marinated in lemon juice with salt and pepper. Then it's breaded in 50-50 bread crumbs and grated parmesian cheese. yum. Aunt Lois will have to let me know if Uncle Ralph was able to recreate it.
Here's the work table for cooking:
And we all had jobs: Aunt Lois working on the collard greens.
Aunt Alice crushing garlic.
It was so nice to have them here. Really fun. It was sad to see them go on Monday. But maybe there will be another visit in the future? :)
Last weekend I was sort of in lala land, realizing how much other stuff had to happen the following week. I had to finish boxes for Katie. She ordered five boxes for a "book" she made from an installation. It is really beautiful. I delivered the first three (four?) boxes on Tuesday and saw close to the final product. Wow it was amazing. And yeah, promptly this past weekend, Katie won a major award at Pyramid Atlantic. ! I'm so happy for her! She's been working so hard. Here's a picture of the project:
I'm really honored that I got to be part of the project.
I also had to deal with the end of the garden season. Lots of green tomatoes. I picked almost 5lbs. of green cherry tomatoes. Then I tried to pickle them. I might have ruined them. We'll have to wait three months to find out.
And this weekend? I cleaned. Yup - I cleaned like a mad crazy lady ALL weekend. I did everything, washed curtains, cleaned windows, vacuumed walls, pulled things down and washed them off, cleaned the fan blades, lifted rugs and mopped under there, got on my knees to mop even so that I could really scrub, scrubbed the grout in the bathroom (it's white again) and I even combed the fringes of the rugs. Poor Jacques. He was outside for the big part of cleaning. When he came back in things just weren't right.

He had to make a new nest on my shell pillow. He was not happy at all.

and lastly, I made a batch of Ellen Emlen's jumbles. At first I thought they didn't work, but they were really good in the morning. butter, flour, almonds, 1egg, sugar and rosewater. You really can't go wrong. Jumbles are the precursor to modern cookies. Nest time I think I'll add some lemon zest.
That's in for October. Maybe I can get back to working on this house! I still want to finish the windows. Things will have to be winterized and the winter project was supposed to be to parge the basement, so that it isn't damp anymore. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kitchen redesign, tomato sauce

I've had a bench stashed in my shed since I hauled all of my stuff out of storage.
Not because I wanted it there - but because that's the only place it would fit where it was protected. It wouldn't fit in the house - darn eastern architecture that wasn't meant for wide furniture. It's been a real pain in the neck having it in there since it takes up a whole half of the shed. Getting bicycles in and out, and lawn mowers etc. was a pain in the neck. I had asked Jeff if he could take it apart and put it back together - he said no. So last weekend, in the beautiful weather, I decided to ignore all of the other things I should have been doing, and I took my cordless drill, my wood carving tools, hammer, and rubber mallet into the shed... and let's just say, where there's a will there's a way. I did get it apart. And to my amazement it was only because I am both an artist and a do-it-your-selfer. I had quite a bit of trouble getting the visible screws out because a lot of them were stripped. The worse one I had to just carve out of the wood with my wood carving tools. Worked just fine!Sadly I didn't realize there were two hidden screws under some molding and the wood split a bit underneath that part. But when I put it back together the problem is invisible. When it came apart and I was that thrilled to be able to get it upstairs into the kitchen. BUT I had to wait until Tuesday. That's when I had help getting the two parts up the stairs. And it looks great! I am surprised to find that I really missed this bench. It is incredibly comfortable. The wood feels good and it's really nice to lounge on it. I'm so glad to have it back.
Here it is from the front view - which is fine:
However, the back view will change.
The plan is to make a deal with myself to get some other very necessary things finished around the house ~ then I can make the fun kitchen island. I still need to finish the shutters on the first floor. That project is approaching some urgency now that winter is coming and the windows will need to be closed and winter-ized. The other project which is approaching urgency is the basement. I need a new de-humidifier (the other one died after one year down there) I need to parge the basement and I need to redirect the downspout gutters so that they empty away from the house. At the moment my basement is damp damp damp. yuck. Once I've finished those two vital projects, I can build another counter which will be behind the bench. I want to design it - á la Ken. Ken made the bench and the table, and he also design the most wonderful kitchen islands. He will be the inspiration for mine. More on that later, when I'm inspired.
Of course my adventure of getting the bench upstairs wasn't without it's usual brush with the Philadelphia wildlife. Oh yes, when I went to tip the bench on it's other side so that I could get to the screws on the other side, something heavy sort of rolled out and away from the bench.
This poor unfortunate little guy decided to make a nest in one of the drawers of the bench. It must have been a lovely nest. It was full of dried leaves, shredded plastic bags, and two of my gardening gloves I'd been missing for a few weeks! I did scare the heck out of him though. And he finally felt that going underneath the shed was a good idea.

Tonight I made my first batch of tomato sauce. And it was a success! Let me tell you!
I used 11 of my own home grown tomatoes, a huge onion, a bit of garlic, olive oil, my own fresh rosemary, basil and some dried bay leaves. A little salt and, on a co-workers tip, a tiny bit of sugar. Yeah, it's pretty darn good.
I have a great picture of the sauce bubbling away in my pot but for some reason it keep loading up sideways. So I cut it out.
Here is the first batch of great sauce. It will be perfect for anything. I just hope I get enough tomatoes to make more. I'd love to make another batch of my own stuff and have it all winter.
Like I said, I love being a farmer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In the mean time.....

Happy October everyone!
I've been doing a ton of things, but at the moment I've been tying up loose ends on the Pink Scarf Knit-a-thon. This is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. A friend of mine and I decided to run a blog to knit some pink scarves to donate to the Susan B. Komen Foundation chapter in Philadelphia. Check out all of the beautiful scarves at

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Danish Family, New windows 3rd Floor, Nightblooming Cereus

And there is probably much much more to cover than just that. Lots has happened since I raved about being a farmer (which is still great, by the way).
Background: In 1994 I spent the fall semester of my junior year abroad in Denmark. I stayed with a Danish host family, Kirsten, Ebbe and 15-year-old Michael. About a month ago, Michael contacted me to say they were going to be in New York and could they come visit for a few days. Of course, YES! was the answer.
I just spent the last two days with Sina, Laurits and Michael. Laurits is the most adorable baby! He has so much energy though. It's like there is a wind-up key in him somewhere and he goes and goes full speed (for a few hours) until he crashes and sleeps for an hour. He is so curious, everything is fascinating. We went to Ben Franklin's Printshop where they give printing demonstrations. I was holding him. When the presenter smacked the ink daubers together, he froze in fascination for about three minutes. I think that was the stillest he was when I was holding him.f I also think that he realized I was speaking a funny language. The first day he was here he kept looking at me with a completely puzzled and confused look. English must sound very strange to him. But by today I was validated. Every time he looked at me there was a big smile. What a sweetie.
It was so nice to meet Sina too. She is really great and she and Michael are really great parents. We had quite the adventures getting around Philadelphia with a baby carriage. I learned where all the ramps were, elevators on the subway etc. It was a new experience for me, let me tell you. AND - it was an interesting experience having a baby in Philadelphia. People really soften when there is a little one to deal with. People helped with strollers, doors, they were much nicer to us completely.... I was amazed. I had a new adventure as well. I finally made it out to Bartram's Gardens. We took the trolley and it was packed. Brave Michael had to deal with the carriage which had to be folded up to get in and out of the doors, and then we were told that the trolley line was interrupted, and we would have to get off and get on a bus. Turned out it wasn't and the trolley just kept going. I thought I had just gotten us lost in a not-so-great part of town. But we ended up getting out at exactly the right stop. Whew! Bartram's Garden is really really cool. My intrepid intern Alina also works there. She generously spent an hour with us showing us all of her treasures. There was a Hawthorne tree fruiting so we tried some, we passed an Osage Orange tree and she found one on the ground. We talked about the tornado that hit us in the summer which knocked down a ton of trees there. Bartram's is the oldest horticultural center in north America. The grounds and buildings have never changed. Isn't that amazing? They also host several plants which are extinct in the wild. There are beautiful gardens there. They have different exhibits including bog plants, carnivorous plants, lichen, and a pond with lotus flower. I'm so glad we went there and I can't wait to take other people there as well.
We were completely pooped out by last night though. We decided to have a good old fashioned BBQ, gin and tonics, potato salad and blue berry pie. Yum. Then we dragged out the dvd projector and watched National Treasure on the back wall until it started raining on us. It was a great evening.
So it was really sad to see them all go this morning. You know it was a good visit when you think... they could have stayed a few more days and I would have been very happy. :) But we will just have to visit again, either here or in Denmark. :)
One other reason they should have stayed is that my Nightblooming Cereus bloomed tonight.
It went from this:
and this:
to this:

in about two hours. It will bloom for only one night.
The whole flower is about the size of a soccer ball. I tried to find out more about this plant online but I'm not sure I was successful. All I know is it is considered one of the most beautiful flowers in the world, and the perfume... wow. It is amazing. It is incredibly strong and I can't describe it to you, even though I think I've smelled something like it before. I'm sitting here trying to write this blog and scent is extremely distracting. It's a cactus from the Sonora Desert. And because I kept it inside for the winter and then put it out in a sunny spot this spring I got a blossom! I've been watching it all evening. I read somewhere... maybe it will bloom for two nights - so I'm hopeful. Then I have to hope for another blossom next year. It is so exciting when things like this happen. I love it.
And yes, Jeff was here again last week, finishing up the window frames on the third floor, putting the bracket back up to keep the raccoons out (finally!) and fixing a corner that leaked. Now I can spend more money to ask Wally to come and do some pointing on that part of the wall. sigh. It really never ends. The term "the money pit" comes to mind... anyway - I'll post pictures of that next because this blog is supposed to be about what I'm doing to my house not just how I'm living in it... but I keep forgetting to take pictures of that work in daylight.
Other things are going splendidly. Last weekend I prepped for a studio visit with a curator from the DCCA (Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts.) She chose a piece to put into a show which opens in December. I'm very excited about it because she chose the newest piece - a video piece where the book performs itself. Maybe I'll upload it at some point. So that was great! It also made me get my rear in gear and do some cleanup in my studio. The shutters have been on hold for a while now. But I need to get to them before it's too cold to have windows open again. Maybe this weekend. Maybe.