Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A new obsession

Yeah yeah yeah - beautiful weekend - gorgeous weather - sunshine, knitting, fun, cats, gardening... and my new obsession....

First: baby sunflowers
Busy Busy Bees

Columbine that has re-seeded itself all over the yard - much to my delight.
Neighbor dogs in front of the new sunflower patch. 

Jacques in front of the garlic, which should start sprouting scapes any day now!
Peonies that haven't bloomed for three years
And mustard greens.  I always forget how much I LOVE these. They turn the garlic purple!
I picked more than enough so I had left overs. Very happy left overs.  

And yes - as promised my new obsession... making my own shoes. I know, I know - I really don't need a new hobby but this one has me intrigued. It is as mysterious as book binding used to be. And after many hours scouring the internet, I have come to the conclusion that yes, making shoes - good shoes - nice looking shoes - healthy shoes - is every bit a mastered profession as book binding. This is not for the weekend hobbyist.
But that didn't stop me. 
How did this new obsession come about? Well, Penland School of Crafts is offering a shoe making class. Two weeks and $1200 (not including room and board) later you leave the class with a pair of beautiful shoes. Do I want to take this class? oh yeah. Can I afford it? snort. no. 
So talking with friends and wishing, leads to conversations and google searches and pretty soon things start to happen. 
First I found a link on how to cut up flip flops, cover them artfully with fabric, glue them together and voilá! cute sandals.  Cool!
I kept looking. 
Burda has a wonderful tutorial on how to cover your shoes with fabric. 
More searching helped me realize, I really need lasts for my own feet in order make nice looking shoes that fit.  And then I landed on this site belonging to Ms. Mary Wales Loomis.  Her idea is so simple - pour plaster into a cheap pair of pumps you like - use that as the last. Then using buckram (! - a book binding material) start to form the shoe, then cover with fabric! I love this lady. I started pulling out all of my shoes. But I had to keep searching for how to make my own lasts, because I don't own a pair of cheap pumps, never mind sacrificing my favorite shoes to plaster.  
I finally found a few sites that said to use an alginate mold. I've never heard of this stuff. But is it WAY cool. Unlike molds that you want to use again and again, this stuff is intended to be temporary. You can actually stick your whole foot in it and be able to wiggle it back out. When you pour plaster into it - well you have to rip the mold apart to get at it but - you know - that works. 
Sunday afternoon I decided - what the heck - I've got no other plans, let's dash off to AC Moore and pick up some of this stuff. Well....! 
Long story short - no one at these craft stores (Dick Blick either) was much help at this stuff. I finally bought plaster and plaster strips from AC Moore (with a 50% coupon I might add) and something called InstaMold from Dick Blick.  
I was still leery so I did a lot more internet searching before deciding to dive in.

First I built the box for the mold.  Using cardboard and waterproof tape, I made small enclosure so I wouldn't have to use so much liquid. 

Since I wasn't interested in tons of detail I put on an old nylon sock to hold my feet together. I think this proved to be a good idea as it was very helpful in releasing the mold later.  

It took two tries to get the formula correct. I had to sit still for almost 20 minutes until the stuff set. Thank goodness for solitaire on the iPad. 

I decided to wait a day before pouring plaster into the mold. Sadly, I am out of practice with the plaster and I mixed up way too much.

In the end I was rewarded with a very nice set of plaster casts of my feet.  

Can anyone spot the problem here? Plaster is fragile! Not a great material for cobbling.

I was mulling this over and decided I would try to do plan A and plan B at the same time.
I had an old pair of clogs with a rip in the toe that I will never wear again.

So I took them apart.  
Then I used the plaster strips to make molds of  my feet. My feet were resting on the wooden part of the clog so these lasts should (in theory) fit onto these clogs. 

In order to get my feet back out of the plaster I had to leave the backs open.  So tonight I made molds of my heels
and attached them to these.

I spent hours this afternoon at Dick Blick looking at the different casting compounds and finally settled on one which claims to be like plaster and paper mache - but won't chip. Hmmm. Stay tuned. I'll let you know how it goes.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Happiness is a porch...

and a chaise to sit on - 
especially when it's raining and it is still 80°F. 

I just need to say it again - my garden is beautiful. This week, irises, that I had forgotten I'd planted, bloomed.

This gorgeous purple variety. Now they've bloomed,  I remember my goal: to find the same purple irises which had bloomed in the garden in California where I grew up.
 These ain't them.
Don't get me wrong, these are beautiful and I am glad to have them in my garden.... 
but you know, there is something nostalgic about what you grew up with. Those irises were small - deep purple, darker than this, and had that iris scent - very strong. They only bloomed when I was a child, by the time I hit my teens they seamed to be finished.  
Maybe someday I'll find that particular variety again. Maybe there is an Iris Society out there!? If there is a Violet Society there must also be an Iris Society. (shall investigate...)

In case you are tired of all of my garden pictures, I include this one:
Last night I (finally) made a pillowcase for my square pillow. I've had this square pillow for years. Why? I have NO idea.  Especially since I only have 1 square pillow case! I am forever shoving this thing into cases that squish it into horrible-hard-not-fun "pillows". First world problems - I know. So last night I solved my first world problem by digging through my first world stash of fabric and finding fabric that I cannot imaging having any other purpose...my large ladybugs.And voilá! a new pillowcase. 

And all of this blog comes from sitting on my chaise with the inspector who is currently keeping a watchful eye on the garden - there are mice and birds and ?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Six years, somehow

Six years I have owned my house as of May 9th. I can't believe it's been so long. So much has happened since I moved in. In fact, I forgot the anniversary altogether. I had a fun visit with a good friend of mine. So good, I started this post and then promptly forgot about it.  So here it is, a bit late... As of May 9th the roses had not bloomed yet and I wouldn't be surprised if they were very late this year. They just started this week.

Other notables for my 6th year anniversary: noticing how many things have improved.
The azaleas were nothing but a stump with some very suspicious growth. I left it alone and now I have a three foot tall bush that explodes this white color in the spring.  I love it.

Irises along the side of my house like I've never seen them before. There are so many beautiful ones. 

Jacques still owns the place and shares it reluctantly with Swee'pea. Swee'pea is good company for him. Although I'm sure that is something Jacques would strongly deny.
Melissa patches have exploded and I've made several batches of pesto. It could possibly be the best pesto I've ever had. 

My yard looks so different from when I moved it. So tame! Even though there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Lots of things to be done inside as well. But while the weather is still nice, all I want to do is be outside.

My dad sent me the big scary farriers rasp so I can get to making my own bone folders soon. 

And part of the house directly behind me, finally fell off this week. Always something new...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Garden Garden

It is all about the garden at the moment. 
On the heels of the tulips...
come irises  
and the alium will be next to bloom. 

The violets are still blooming. I can also give an update on the violet recipe experiments. I ordered some of the violets which are intended for these recipes. But they haven't arrived yet! I'm so upset. Not only that but I can't get a hold of the nursery to get an idea of when to expect them. I do hope I haven't been swindled. 
Even though I have the wrong violets I do have some beautiful results from my experiments: 
Violet water. What a lovely color. 
The same flowers in vinegar yield a completely different result.
The two together...
Last week it was time to go to Greens Grow, the local, wonderful organic nursery.  I needed plants such as herbs, tomatoes, soil, compost and that sort of stuff. It's not quite time for some things to go in the ground (tomatoes), other herbs can be potted. I decided it was time a good time to do that and also to plant some seeds. 
Can you spot the kitty in the picture below?
He is there, the Inspector, with his ears sticking out from behind the tomatoes.
There was such a nice inviting box for him to sit in until something in the compost pile caught his interest. When he came back from inspecting, the sunflower seeds had been planted and placed in the box for safe keeping.  He made room...
Nice that he can share..
   This weekend's project was a long time coming. The previous weekend I had worked of pulling out a row of bricks next to the porch. There wasn't enough room for proper flowers. The daffodils and a few tulips came up, but some of the bulbs had been caught behind the lattice.  Taking out one row of bricks gives me an extra four inches grow stuff. Hot Dog!
So I yanked the bricks out, replaced the border bricks, pulled weeds as I went then mixed compost from the nursery with some cow manure and organic topsoil into the sad sandy soil that is what I have for flower garden there.  
The other nice side effect was the addition of many nice full sized bricks to my stash-o-bricks for other projects.  
Here's the walk all put back together including some marigolds.  Hardly looks like anything happened doesn't it? Well, trust me there was a lot of work to make it look like that. 
This weekend I decided to dive into the next brick project: fixing the bricks at the back of the porch. 
I've been wanting to do this since I moved in, but there were always more pressing (read "fun") project needing to be dealt with. 
This second area is totally overgrown with plants. The bricks only go to about half way across the porch steps. The rest is dirt. But now have more bricks to work with! Also on the list of things to do is deal with the rain run off. You can see my Jerry-rigged contraption there. Don't knock it - it works! But it sure does make it hard to use the stairs.
In the green pot are some peonies that are finally blooming again this year! If you don't know this - Peonies do not like to be moved. I moved these a few years ago and they haven't bloomed since, until now.  So I'm not even going to breath on them.  They are staying put. 
The easy part is pulling the bricks up. Trowel, shovel and elbow grease. No problem.
THEN - the dirt has to be leveled out. I did quite a bit of digging and moving and smoothing until the ground was level and flat. It still wasn't perfect but it was good enough for me. 
I started putting the bricks back and decided to extent them all the way to the basement entrance. 
I had a lot of help from the Inspector. 
I finished right as it got dark. Which was a good time to finish because that also let me know that the lights on the motion sensor were out. So out came the ladder and light bulbs to be changed. 

I'm pretty satisfied with the work. It looks like someone could actually walk on it.  

The next morning when I peeked out my bedroom window - it still looked good! That's always a plus.

Now the mental debate begins... work on the rain spouts or the next thing I really need to tackle, replacing my "deck" with something better. Not sure what will get priority yet.