Monday, March 30, 2015

little projects

 Even though I haven't mentioned many house projects lately, it doesn't mean they aren't' still there. Oh they are, I've just accepted them as part of the fabric of my life. But some things -
 are a time sensitive situation.

This is my front gate. By all appearances, puh-LENTY of room for peoples to travel into my property.
But for some reason that little patch of ground, just inside the gate post, always gets trampled. 
I am baffled. 
This year the little crocuses I transplanted a couple of years ago have appeared. They have never bloomed due to the trampling. 
 This year, in an attempt to preserve the poor little crocuses, I decided to move the dirt back and put bricks where people trample.
It didn't' take long, maybe 15 minutes. I added about 6 inches(18cm) to the "walkable" space there in the front. 
It is supposed to be warm for the next few days so maybe the crocuses will bloom.
That will be a nice "welcome home."

Friday, March 27, 2015


Around here, Spring always seems like it is trying to learn how to drive a manual transmission. We get these spurts and starts and sudden jolts. Then, especially if that year Spring is on a hill, we sort of slip backwards until Spring remembers the brake.
 A week ago today, we had another snow storm. Wet sloppy snow came straight down all day.
 And while it hid the crocuses that had started blooming, Saturday was so warm everything melted and the sun shone again. Yesterday it was a lovely 68°F! Tomorrow it is supposed to be 35°F and sleeting. Hopefully, Spring will not stall too long here. 

One of my spring-break projects had been to whip the forsythia into shape. I've wanted to do this every year and finally this year I just dove in. 

The unruly plant right in the middle got whacked down to the ground. This means there will be no yellow on this one this year.  But I am hoping that with all the new growth next year it will be glorious.

As chance would have it, the day I decided to deal with the forsythia, one of my professors from grad school visited. She is also a fantastic gardener and I asked her advice about the plant. Among other things, she told me her mother used to cut stalks early and force them indoors. Since I was cutting the whole plant down I thought well, why not? 
I stuck them in the watering can and brought them inside. 
A week later little buds appeared. I pulled the stalks with the flowers and put them into another vase. 
They look fantastic against the blue kitchen wall. 

Meanwhile the forsythia outside (the one I left alone) has not done anything. It is still sticks. Will I get two rounds of yellow this year?

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

and its snowing.


I'm just coming off of my wonderful week of vacation (stay-cation), my first day off since going back to work, wanting to get in the garden and do oodles of things, also a bike ride would have been nice. But no. Snow instead. 

So I'll just reminisce about my wonderful week last week.
My sister is expecting. The baby shower is this coming weekend and I've been agonizing over what to do. She lives in southern California. Knitting would be the obvious answer (for me) except - it would be kind of a waste of time. It's too warm for the knitting (it was 93°F last week!). I don't know how it came to me, but I realized I should do some t-shirt transfers onto some onesies. It was so much fun!  I think this kid is going to have more onesies that he will know what to do with. 
Now I have a question for you, who's bright idea is it to give a baby WHITE onesies? Won't they be stained the first time the child wears it? I have tons of RIT clothing dye, so I chose my favorite boy-colors (which irks me because there shouldn't be boy-colors and girl-colors and don't even get me started on those awful pastel baby-colors - yuck!) but anyway, ranting aside, I chose Blue, Kelly Green, and Yellow. 

I decided to try my hand at tie-dying two of them and am thrilled with the results! I just boiled everything on the stove-top for about 1/2 hour. Maybe I should have done the green longer, it has become a very light green after washing. But that's okay.

Then came the hard/fun part - choosing what to put on the plain onesies! Originally I had wanted to use some images I've been collecting from work.

There are some great mechanical drawings, compass roses and the penny-farthing! I was also joking with a friend that since I live in Philadelphia I have to send one with the Eagles logo on it. Then of course, I'd have to balance that out with one with the Lakers logo on it (See - 'cause I'm from Southern California and when I was a six-year-old at Sports Camp - Magic Johnson came and made us all swear to be Lakers Fans for life. I take that kind of thing seriously.)  But the dyed colors didn't come out quite like I had expected and so I decided to skip those.

As I was pondering how to decide on more images, I remembered some of my dad's drawings. My dad has a natural gift for drawing. His latest project has been to draw initials for as many people as he knows. Has he passed the 1000 mark yet? I'm not sure. Putting an initial on the onesie is an obvious choice. But my sister is keeping the baby's name a secret until he arrives. We don't know the first initial and so my dad has not drawn one for him yet. What I do have are all of the little tags my dad whips up for Christmas gifts.  Each one has a tiny little drawing on it (these are all around and inch tall or so).

I was able to narrow it down to the few I thought would scan well and be the cutest for a little baby onesie. 

I scanned them at a high dpi, blew them up, cleaned them up, and chose my three favorite. 
 For the two plain dark blue ones, I didn't think the line drawings would stand out so I still had to find something different. I remembered a process I liked very much, bleach stenciling. I found two images on the internet I wanted to use and tried it out. It didn't work. I think it might be because I used a non-chlorine bleach. That's okay - I have time to try it in the future. For now, I decided I still liked what I wanted to stencil so I printed those up instead. An interesting thing happened as I was ironing them on. When the area I had bleached heated up, the color changed a bit - now that area is a sort of lavender color. And I think it works.

I did end up using the penny-farthing which I just love. I used the same image on a t-shirt for my dad for Christmas. Now they can be twins! 
The tie-dyed onesies came out much better than I'd dared hope. I think they are also adorable. 
It is taking all of my self control not to race to Target and buy more onesies and to not call my dad and ask him to whip up some more drawings so I can make more. I think I should hold off until my nephew actually arrives and we can see how this first batch was received. Right size? Did I fix the color okay?  It would be terrible if I inadvertently turned him navy blue. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

a change in the air

There we were, less than a week ago, doing everything we could to stay warm. 
From camping out in the sunbeams
to crawling under the covers and bundling up,

we were bracing for Snowmageddon Philadelphia 2015. And it did come. We had such a lovely snow day with between 8-10 inches of snow falling, then Friday and Saturday - very cold.

And now? We find ourselves with a high of 61°F! Ha! 
I went for a bike ride this afternoon.  In shorts. 
I was not the only person with this idea, there were a ton of people on Kelly drive. 
When I got home I could not bear to go back inside, so in spite of the few glacier-ettes still hanging around my yard
I did some general maintenance and re-acquaintance with my garden. I finally pulled the sunflower stalks down, cleaned up the trash that had been hidden by the snow, picked up all the poop Jacques and other four legged critters "hid" in the snow. (Too bad that doesn't just melt away with the ice.) I pruned the roses a bit and discovered that 'everyone' is waiting in the wings. Little green shoots everywhere, tulips, daffodils irises and crocuses. It is such a wonderful time of year. The forsythia at the art museum is in full bloom. Tomorrow I will hack away at mine. It needs to be whipped into shape. I think it's a bit late this year, but it was just too cold in February. I also need to start thinking about starting some seeds! 

I am on spring break this week - meaning I took the week off. Somehow it is already Wednesday evening, and I still haven't done half of what I wanted to do. But I did finish one thing I've been working on since January - designing my perfect backpack. 

 For over a year I've been searching for the PERFECT BACKPACK. I want something that can carry my laptop, all of my other stuff, have good accessibility, and yet not look sporty. I don't want all the buckles, and clasps, and dangling straps. That's fine for the mountains, but for the office I want something a bit more elegant. Not finding anything to my liking (never mind price range), I decided to try to design my own. And while elegant, this one jest ain't... it will do for what I really need it for at the moment: picking up my farm share. 
Even though it's not perfect, this back pack has some great features. 

I made extra-expandable and deep pockets to the sides so that I could put 1/2 gallon bottle of milk on one side and a dozen eggs on the other. The pockets are held close to the bag with elastic so that when they are not in use, they aren't flapping all over the place.
It is also possible to convert the backpack to a shoulder bag. The straps are clip-on. They can both be clipped to the back pack side, or clipped one on each side for the shoulder bag.
The top zipper is a jacket zipper, so it separates completely. I really like this feature. Zipping it back up is fine too, the only problem is that I'm always losing the zipper puller. Maybe if I put some sort of lanyard or bauble on it. 

And of course, the pocket configuration on the inside is vital:

On the top is the laptop compartment and on the bottom side is a wide pocket for a wallet maybe, a narrower pocket for cell phone or sunglasses, and an ultra narrow pocket for a pen or toothbrush.

All in all a pretty nice travel backpack. It will be perfect for small trips etc. But for everyday it is cumbersome. Nothing is available at my finger tips. It will be fine for shlepping my farm share first to school and then home. Although I did realize I should probably make some reusable drawstring bags so that the pretty yellow lining up there doesn't get totally dirty. 

Conclusion? The backpack has been inspected and approved...
but not by me. 

Back to the drawing board.

Friday, March 6, 2015

After the snow

Winter wonderland
Snow on evergreen boughs

Snow on branches

Snow on phone lines
Snow on laundry line
Snowy porch,  enough for little birdy tracks      

Birdy tracks with kitty tracks 

In the morning, Jacques went out for a brief jaunt. 
When he came back in he had a perfect snowflake on his back. It melted quickly.
After the snow stopped I took camera and tripod out to try to capture one.
 Here is the best I could do with the snow pile on the porch railings.

But I did manage to find this one on the porch. 

And the sun on the snow this morning....