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Showing posts from October, 2013

Snapshots

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... Robb and I have been fooling around with panoramic photographs.  We're still trying to figure things out, but are finding our primitive efforts peculiarly amusing.  That crazy flooring pattern becomes almost hallucinogenic when run through this program. I took all the doors and most of the drawers into work and primed them.  I did all the drawer surfaces, and the backs of the doors.  I'm using Benjamin Moore's Advance, which is one of these strange hybrid paints, simultaneously oil- and water-based.  I hadn't used this product previously, but so far I'm smitten.  I can't remember the last time that I got so much pleasure out of the act of applying paint to a surface.  Often, I feel like I'm beating my paint into submission, which is not a pleasant experience.  This stuff was a joy to work with.  Let's just hope that it continues to behave nicely. I am marveling at how well Robb and I managed to ignore the squalor of our kitchen, up un

Shrouded

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... Our kitchen is dressed up for Halloween, in some sort of ghostly splendor. Since the bulk of the old paint has been scraped off of the over-the-counter cabinets, we've moved on to sanding.  Or more accurately, Robb has been sanding. I thought it would be nice to go out for lunch, since our kitchen was in such disarray.  And I ate something that instantly disagreed with me, sending me straight to bed with nausea. I conked out, and slept right through an afternoon of sanding noise.  Crazy. Today, I'm dragging as many of the doors and drawers as will fit in my car in to my studio, and will start priming them.  I've got way more room at work.  There's significantly less dust, more sawhorses, and fewer pussycats. Robb built a portable work platform, since he can't really use ladders.  He's a smart one, that Robb!

Happy Birthday to Lisa

Today is Lisa's birthday.  Drop her a line if you get a chance.  We're eating cake right now. (OK, Berry Galette)

If you can't stand the heat-gun, get out of the kitchen.

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...   Robb and I have been treating the kitchen restoration project like a job.  We're working a regular schedule, and taking the weekend off.  Part of this is to keep me from wanting to kill myself (it is dirty, uncomfortable, grueling work) and partly because this weekend is my birthday.  If we worked on this project for my entire vacation, I'd be a mental wreck. I've managed to get almost all the paint scraped off the main cabinets, as well as the drawers underneath them.  We'll follow up with sanding, and then after that we'll prime and paint.  We have to be careful to not destroy our vintage formica and flooring, which adds a layer of stress to the project.  We have to work with care, or we'll just wreck the place. And speaking of wreckage, both Robb and I have come to the somewhat unpleasant realization that we don't have a lot of faith in how the cabinets are attached to the walls.  And, oddly, both of us had the same thought: Now tha

Bird Brained

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 ... This past weekend, Lisa and I expanded our vegetable garden, and absorbed the path which had previously separated two beds.  This morning, I went to let the chickens out onto the lawn.  This is a high point of our hens' morning.  They typically go rushing out as if their tail feathers are on fire, and then proceed to gorge themselves on grass. Anne Elliott, our Alpha Hen, stood in what had been the path, watching me through the fence as I approached the gate. The newly reconfigured path was three feet to her left; in order to reach the grass, she was going to have to walk around the vegetable garden.  Simple, right?  Her neck stretched tall as she tried to puzzle this out. Her head cocked to one side as she pondered her route.  Instead of moving in a straight line, she was going to have to turn a few corners. Her beak dropped open and she just froze, staring at the gate. I walked over and opened the gate, letting the other chickens out.  Anne Elliott remain

Of Kitchens and Kittens

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... When we first moved in, we found the door that would go between the kitchen and the dining room, leaning against the wall in our laundry room.  We did what any normal person would do, and shoved it in the garage where it collected dust from every one of Robb's construction projects. Like so many of the surfaces in our little house, the door has several very good layers of oil paint, and one final coat of terrible latex paint.  That shape in the middle of the door panel is where the latex paint is peeling off. We'll be doing a lot of sanding, very soon, and so our plan is to re-hang this door in order to contain some of the mess.  Before we do that, we wanted to strip off its paint. The first part of this process is done with our brilliant Swedish heat-stripper.  It heats the paint -- so they tell us -- to a temperature at which paint softens, but below the temperature at which lead volatilizes.  The paint comes off in large strips, which is reasonably easy

Walnut Dye? That's Nuts!

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... One of the many nice things about doing the BORP ride (more on that, anon) is spending hours in California's beautiful wine country.  The event take place at harvest time, and there's so much to see (and smell).   This year, less than a mile into the the ride, I noticed a couple of California Black Walnut trees on the strip of land between the freeway and the service road on which we were riding.  The next day, after having stopped to buy some champagne from the winery that hosts the BORP event, we paused to collect black walnuts. Walnuts have fleshy hulls, which grow around their hard shells, and these hulls have long been used to dye textiles.  In fact, the knitting project I had brought to work on during our car ride was partially dyed with walnut hulls. I got pretty lucky in terms of walnut harvesting.  The tree had dropped most of its crop, and all I had to do was fill my bags. The processing was significantly more work.  The hulls had to be scra

Sisyphean Vacations

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... Since I spend my time at work painting theatrical scenery, it seems fitting that on my vacation I'm unpainting my kitchen.  Unpainting, instead of painting: that's super-relaxing, right? This was our kitchen, back when we first bought our little house.  It's significantly less grimy and has more food in it, but otherwise it looks pretty much the same. This is what the ceiling looks like.  Robb and I have done a lot of work on this house, but we've steadfastly ignored how rough the kitchen looks.  We did whatever the house-restoring version is of sticking our fingers in our ears, and chanting "lalalalala, we can't hear you." And now, we've run out of easy and semi-easy projects, and we have to get serious about the kitchen. We've been stripping paint off of our cabinets and drawers.  I've been using the nifty heat-tool that we used on the exterior siding of our house , and Robb has been doing the finish-sanding.  I think

Reconfiguring the Garden

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... This past summer wasn't a big one for gardening.  We had an unexpected amount of work to do at the theater, creating the pre-Broadway production of No Man's Land , with Ian McKellen and Parick Stewart.  I may not have tended my vegetables, but I really can't complain. Over the past two weekends, I cleared out all the plants that were past their prime, and started the daunting task of loosening up our rock-like soil in preparation for whatever winter crops I might plant. While the soil tests we had done when we first moved in assure us that we have great mineral content, our dirt might as well be made of cement.  It has terrible texture, no doubt because our neighborhood is built on an earthed-over stream-bed.  My soil is pure silt.   The strange thing is that no matter how much organic material I dig in, the texture remains the same.  Dense, and rock-hard.  We compost like maniacs, I collect rabbit manure, I mulch everywhere.  And

Watch Lisa Take Over the Country

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...followed by Jennifer, Jessica, Emily, et al. This fascinating map from Deadspin 's Reuben Fischer-Baum uses Social Security records showing the most popular girls names in each state since 1960.  Cool.

A Modest Harvest

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... The garden, though somewhat under-tended of late, continues to produce.  The " Jesús " fig tree has a small but delicious crop ripening.  We think these are Black Mission figs.  Are there any fig experts out there who could give an opinion? We're enjoying the windfall fruits from our neighbor's apple tree .  Our persimmons are starting to color.  And I need to rip out our entire vegetable plot, and decide what I'm doing over the winter.  I should have made decisions ages ago, but I was either too busy or too sick to think about it. If you want to see what other gardeners are doing, mosey on over to Daphne's excellent blog for the weekly round-up.

Organizing

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...   For some time, I've wanted to re-organize how I store the yarn I use for knitting. When I last organized things, I did it by color, which turned out to be an attractive but entirely unhelpful method.  Today, with the support of my Imaginary Friends on Ravelry, I re-ordered everything by the thickness of the yarn.  I really thought this would be an overwhelming odious task, but it was fun and painless. See that thing handing behind Linguine, that looks like a python skin? That's a photocopy collage of the swatch for my next project, a Fair Isle cardigan knit from yarns I dyed with locally sourced natural dyes. I'm finally getting over the rotten bronchitis.  I had been too sick to even knit, which is pathetic indeed.

A Vintage Quilt

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... Recently, I was at an estate sale, and I picked up this sweet 1930s quilt.  Oddly, the person who made this quilt never quite finished it.  There's about three feet of uncompleted binding on one of the edges.  As someone who has a terrible habit of taking projects to 85% and then abandoning them, I just had to smile.    The quilt is in overall good condition.  There are some water stains and the fabric is rather fragile.  I set it out to air overnight, but other than finishing the binding, I don't plan to mess with the quilt in any way.  I think washing it would be a terrible mistake, causing more harm than good. I find the domestic textiles from this period very charming.  There's an un-ironic sweetness to them.  Life was not easy for people at this time, and yet their fabrics are so cheerful. 

Movies for the Sick House?

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... Robb and I have been stuck at home with a ghastly respiratory ailment for far too long.  I had the particular bad luck of getting it on top of an existing case of inflamed sinuses, and am down with full-blown bronchitis.  We're both exhausted and pretty brain-dead. And we're looking for movie suggestions.  We want something diverting and delightful, visually arresting, and clever, funny and well written.  We do not want anything grim or harrowing or stupid or sexist.  Given how sick we both are, were looking for something that's not too mentally taxing, without being idiotic or dumbed down. So far, we've watched: Safety Not Guaranteed.   Delightful, and unexpected. Sweet Land.  Beautiful, but a bit too slow-moving for our cold-addled brains. Princess Diaries.  Hated it. Vapid and illogical.  Infuriating regarding San Francisco geography. Crossing Delancy.  Glad we saw it. A sweet odd little movie. My Favorite Year.  So, so sweet. So, with that in m

Molting? That's Revolting!

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... Both Robb and I have been sick since the BORP ride.  We are stricken with the longest, most tedious respiratory ailment imaginable.  My days have been filled with a thrilling schedule of alternating inert-ness and hacking up chunks of yuck.  Robb seems to have skipped the coughing part, which is good, considering the overall health of his back. We're stuck in that awful cycle where we're bored out of our minds, but barely have energy to walk across the room. Today I took a shower.  I wandered outside and stared at our chickens a couple of times.  Robb and I migrated from bed to couch.  We stared at each other.  I coughed.  A lot. At some point while I was standing in the backyard staring stupidly at my hens, I picked up our hen Isabella to get a look at the state of her molt.  And, unlike any sensible person, I promptly brought her inside so that Robb could snap a photo of her wing.  It's the boredom and sickness, crushing my brain.  I don't allow

Chicken Weirdness

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... Has everyone seen this? I don't know of my brain has been irreparably addled by my current miserable headcold, but at the moment, I find this about the funniest thing imaginable.  Those sultry hens and their expressive shoulders....  And for those of you who cannot quite imagine the mess that four molting hens make in a small urban back yard, here's a little snapshot.  Our entire yard looks like the site of a Pigeon Massacre.  I have no idea how we're going to clean this up.

Molt

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... Our chickens are molting.  It's a sorry sight.  They all look like they've been beaten up in a dark alley in some part of town where chickens roam into dark alleys.   Because we can't trust our own memories, Robb and I keep a calendar on the fridge that tracks the laying patterns of our hens.  Each hen has her own color, and we track the time at which we find their egg.  We tally at the end of the week, to see how everything is going.  We tend to get about seventeen eggs a week, from our four hens. If you look closely, you'll see that Isabella (light aqua-green) took most of the summer off, and only started laying eggs in Mid August.  You'll also notice that the girls tend to lay for number of days, and then take a break.  You may even see that they lay progressively later and later in the day, before they take their egg-laying break. So, now that the hens are molting, and their bodies are busily re-growing all of their feathers, how's