Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The big re-cap

Well. Here we go. There hasn't been any real excuse for not blogging except that life sort of got in the way. And I should know better. When one waits until the last minute - it usually takes hours. There is so much I've been meaning to write about, but alas, I just haven't gotten to it. Luckily I've been taking a million pictures so that helps jog the memory. Also, I watched Julie & Julia last night - and I don't know if I have readers - but - I'm writing a blog darnit all. Okay, so I'm not writing in relation to the greatest woman-home-construction-role-model ever (who would she be anyway?)- I'm just writing about me. Maybe that's a little vain? Well, thanks for reading. Some of you I know and some of you I don't - thanks all the same. By the way, I disabled the comments because I was getting an incredible amount of spam. But I wonder if I can just turn moderating on .... will let you know.

For this episode of Tara's life, for those interested, we (Jacques and I) offer:
Chapter 1: The window stripping project
Chapter 2: HOT
Chapter 3: Sewing stuff
Chapter 4: Package from Babette
Chapter 5: W0rkshop
Chapter 6: Garden
Chapter 7: neighborhood changing

Chapter 8:?? all the rest I forgot to mention

Chapter 1: The window stripping project.
We are moving long. Not as quickly as I'd hoped, but probably more realistically. I called it my summer project. It probably will not be finished by the end of the summer. I am, however, getting the hang of things. I'm keeping the CitruStrip company in the black - that's for sure, and the steel wool manufacturers have nothing to worry about either. The thing about stripping paint is that it is immensely satisfying for the first few layers. But the little cracks and crevasses which don't want to relinquish the paint - no matter how often you smother them with stripper - those are frustrating. I even have a sharp little awl I'm trying to do some careful scrapping. It's hit or miss I tell ya. What is great though, is applying the stripper to mostly clean wood, using the steel wool to wipe it off, and then cleaning the rest off with mineral spirits. What a fabulous result. It gives me confidence that it will be gorgeous when it's finished! Stay tuned.

Chapter 2: HOT
Yeah, well, I know I posted about this before - but truth be told, things haven't really changed. We got a few days of reprieve and then wham-oh! - the furnaces of hell were lit again. Seriously - I can't believe how hot it's been. I've kept my air on for about a week and a half. It simply was not bearable. I had a BBQ on Saturday - which had to be absolutely the WORST day so far. It was 100°F, and probably 90% humidity (well I have no idea actually, but might as well have been), and we just never stopped sweating. Just sitting there trying to have dinner - everything was dripping. My hair never really dried, I decided to wear a black dress which was good because you couldn't' tell it was soaked, and the other good thing was - we were all in the same boat - just big dripping water fountains of sweat. Unbelievable. The menu for the BBQ? mmmmm:

Melanie's marinade for the chicken:
Cornell Chicken
chicken legs and thighs (I used a dozen of each)
¼ cup salt
1 cup oil
2 cups cider vinegar
1 T. Poultry seasoning
1 t. pepper
1 Egg
Mix together, marinate? - 24 hours is best. When cooking: turn every 15 minutes for about 45 minutes depending on how hot the grill is. Before turning - re-dip chicken in the marinade.
Lick your fingers when finished eating.

My favorite potato salad from Bon Appetit: Potato Salad with Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette
If the link doesn't work - you can find it on OMG - the best potato salad ever! There is never any left over for me.

Jessica made a really amazing salad:
diced watermelon (small)
diced jicama
diced Asian cucumbers
Thai basil

Desert? Blueberry pie- with fresh picked blueberries (from the Joy of Cooking - the recipe not the blueberries - those were from Massachusetts), and chocolate ice cream. How did I manage to bake a pie in this heat? I have two kitchens. :) One on the first floor in the studio - one on the second were I live with air conditioning.

Chapter 3: Sewing stuff

A big part of the reason I haven't blogged is because I've be re-hooked on sewing. Ugh. It's terrible!! I've forgotten how easy it is to get sucked into that, and how much time it will just suck away from your life. My first endeavor was to recreate a skort I'd had back in my 20's. I'm sure I thrift-stored it - sadly. So I've tried again, and now I have two semi-successful projects. This one:
And the other one with some very goofy pink/orange/yellow battiqued fabric. Both projects are semi successful. The pink one is too long, and this blue linen one just doesn't sit right, no matter how hard I try, but it's getting better. I'll probably try to make it one more time, maybe three is the charm.
One of the other projects I sewed was this red dress which is a Vogue pattern. I love it. It was very easy and it is very comfortable.
Sorry about the picture quality - I'm just too tired to try to take more pictures or do a better job fixing things. I made a few other things as well, but again - you'll have to use your imagination. One of the things which just has changed my life though, ... I bought a serger. It's just cooler than cool. But it didn't solve all the problems I thought it would. I still couldn't hem properly on stretchy fabric. So I went to my little local fabric store and the owner gave me the best lesson in sewing machine needles. I'm all set now. It turns out that when you are sewing stretchy fabric you need a double needle, and two spools of thread - still one bobbin. Who knew? Now you can sew a double row of stitches at exactly the same place. It also turns out you can adjust the pressure of your presser foot. You want a lighter pressure for stretchy fabrics. It feels so good to conquer these problems which have plagued me since I was 16.

Chapter 4: Package from Babette
Towards the beginning of June a packaged arrived from Babette. It was full of fun goodies:
CD's of her son's band, The Genes (who are great - check out their website), a canvas bag, greyhound footprints, and best of all - two artists books! One from Babette, and one from Heather Matthew.
Heather is working on a fantastic collage project, one per day for one year. You can check her work out here:
She's been using stamps a lot in her work and I got this wonderful little book of stamps of the queen. I just love it - and I got a little collage of my own which is a lovely faux envelope with my address on it.
There was also a fun one-page book from Babette, a commemoration of her visit with me. She did some need things with accordions, and put lots of fun memorabilia in the book.

I haven't not abandoned books entirely this summer: I did this little mockup after Don Rash came to give us a leather restoration workshop at work. He mentioned this little structure, raised cords with leather covering and a paper case. I think it's really great and fun (and ALOT less leather paring)
And this segues in nicely to the next chapter:

Chapter 5: W0rkshop
I took a workshop in Western Massachusetts. Leather inlay and onlay. (sorry again about the bad picture). We made these five little cards with five different ways of working with leather and color. As usual it was a great class and I learned loads. I'm excited to start adding it to my work.
I stayed with my friend Melanie, who is doing a million amazing things, including a talk about her residency on top of Mount Greylock. She made some incredible work. Fabulous. Her talk was last night - (how'd it go?)
We also had the chance to pick 16lbs of blue berries. Probably more since every other handful went into the mouth. We had a dog with us, who kept freaking out about something. We both figured it was a bear and didn't worry too much about it. Turned out we were right, but should have been a bit worried. The blueberry patch owner said that a mother bear and her two cubs have been down in the patch at lot lately. Then Melanie spotted them in her lower paddock a few days later. I'm glad we had the dog with us. He kept barking and the bear was not seen. Good thing we didn't stumble upon her!
This is the flat I brought home. I baked a pie, froze enough for two more pies, and made a double batch of jam. If I could go back up there tomorrow for more, I would.

Chapter 6: Garden
And my garden? Was neglected for a while. Somehow I managed to throw my back out. Wow - I've never been in so much pain! If you move in the wrong direction even slightly you can feel the pain start. Then it grows and blooms all over your back, around your sides, you clench your stomach and hope you stay upright, and then you remember to breath. Oh brother. I was pretty miserable. But I was very generously given an acupuncture treatment by a friend and, yeah, well, I'm now a convert. It knocked the pain in half! I could move again, and I didn't have any more flare-ups. It was amazing! I started doing some very slow, easy yoga stretches and now a little more than a week later I feel pretty good. I'm still taking it easy, and trying to sit more, not lift anything heavy etc. But the pain is gone.
I was able to do a little bit in the yard, not as much as I wanted to but... you know one has to accept one's limitations.
Things are growing and blooming and are very exciting.
Teddy bear Sunflowers. These are absolutely my favorites. They are so beautiful and fuzzy. I've got quite a few of these.

Orange Cosmos. The purple one's are fine - but they are not these. These are so great. They've got these red streaks on the edges and they are so brilliant orange. I really love them.

The mystery plant. I can't remember what this thing is. I know that I propagated it, but can't remember what it is for the life of me. I'm waiting for blooms of some kind. But so far, nothin' doin'. I had another pot of mystery plants I grew in the apartment. But when I went to transfer them to the ground I found the little tag that said, Chinese lanterns. I hope that's what they are and that they bloom like crazy.

I also tried my hand at some cockscomb, and they've just started "blooming." This flower is a weird one. It looks more like coral than a flower. I'm pretty excited to see what it does.

In the edibles department we have interesting things happening too:
My cherry tomatoes are ripening. I got my first substancial harvest last weekend. A beautiful little dozen, don't you think?
I promptly went inside and made an omlet with tomatoes, baby portabellas, green onions, and feta cheese. Yum.
My green onions are moving along nicely along with my gigantic bush of thyme. I should take some to work today. The best summer recipe which must have thyme follows below:
Cook pasta of your choice. In the mean time, brown an onion in olive oil, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, add diced zuccini and yellow squash - as much as you want (or need to use up), add the leaves of a couple of fresh thyme sprigs, and a bit of salt. Sautee the squashes about five minutes, add about 2 tablespoons of water, cover and allow to steam for about 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and maybe a bit more olive oil, and mix all together. Serve with a little cheese.
If you forget the thyme - it doesn't work. Bon Appetit!

I'm also trying to grow cantelopes. But it occured to me that this might be a plant where you have to have more than one for pollination to work? Anybody know?
My plant is pretty happy where it is, growing like crazy, lots of flowers, but that's all it's been doing for about a month. This weekend, it attacked on of my cherry tomatoe plants. Gotta keep an eye on this one.
And my new crop.... dandadadah! Two new blueberry bushes! When I was at Home Depot last time they had blueberry bushes for something rediculous like $2.67. Usually they are about $20 each. So I got two. I'd like to get them in the ground soon - but I'm not sure about my back yet. We'll play it by ear.
And Jacques is stil keeping watch in the garden. Remember this table which had a foot and a half of snow on it back in February? Well, it has survived another season of the elements (so far) and now it is Jacques throne. Chapter 7: neighborhood changing
And sadly my neighbor hood is changing. And not in a way I'd like it to. My wonderful neighbors decided to buy a house in Western Pennsylvania. They still own their house next door, and will probably be back and forth some, but it won't be the same. Their son will be living upstairs and while we get along, he's not like Mr. El. They also took their dogs with them. There is a big silent hole next door. I miss them. It was comforting to know they were there. I guess their son will be getting a dog too. A pitbul. hmm. We'll see how that goes. What I'm most worried about is how Jacques and the dog will respond. That chain link fence isn't the strongest. We'll have to see what I'm going to do about that. I am really going to miss them.

Chapter 8:?? all the rest I forgot to mention

Right now I don't think there is anything else I wanted to mention. I think I got it all. The heat finally broke on Sunday with a big thunderstorm. I opened all the doors and windows and let the cool air flood through the house. I was finally able to shut off the airconditioners. I just have a fan on and it's pretty bearable. So that's nice.

Hope all is well with all of you. I think I'll put the comments onto moderation. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Catch up post to come soon

Greetings all,
Sorry for not posting for a while. The next one will be a novel as long a Moby Dick - hopefully an easier read though - so get ready. There will be lots to recap workshops, the window stripping job, sewing stuff, moving stuff, cleaning stuff, cooking stuff, and of course how I threw my back out and learned the meaning of the phrase "blinding pain."
So, for the next post, make yourself a cup of tea, coffee, cocoa - whatever suits your fancy and curl up on the couch or in bed with a,..... laptop.