Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Autumn already?

Where does the time go? Suddenly August is gone and school has started. Where have I been? In the garden, growing a zillion cucumbers and huge tomatoes.

In the kitchen, canning pickles and tomato sauce.

These are my first tries at canning veggies. I've also got a crock of cabbage in the basement, fermenting into what I hope will become sauerkraut and not some nasty mess. No photos yet. Fermenting seems like a private process of becoming, not to be interrupted and captured on film. Rather like human adolescence.

And I've tried to spend less time inside on the computer and in books and more outside among the plants.

Now that the weather is cooler, the morning glories are staying open a little longer into the day. And the zinnias are regularly visited by monarch butterflies and hummingbirds.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Before and after

I've become addicted to Design*Sponge and all the pretty things and pretty places featured on the site. Inspired by many of their "before and after" posts featuring reclaimed furniture and redecorated rooms, I've been trying to see more potential in what other people discard or are otherwise done with.

I found this chair on the curb during Granville Clean-Up days when residents can get rid of large items and others can go curb shopping among the piles. Getting it home the four blocks was tricky because it's pretty heavy and it doesn't fit in the car (except in the passenger seat if you leave the door hanging open...).

And it cleans up real nice after four coats of primer.

The seat was made from a cabinet door from a neighbor who is currently ripping out a kitchen back to the studs (thanks James!). The fabric is from the local Granville designer Amy Butler. I made the cushions myself, even covering leftover buttons with fabric to make the matching buttons.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July in the Garden

I returned from Minnesota in late June to find my garden erupting in foliage. The tomatoes have grown to be at least as tall as me and they're now setting fruit.

Particularly beautiful are these tomatoes that I grew from seeds saved from a delicious Italian tomato we ate last summer in Le Marche. The other half of my tomato plants are San Marzano tomatoes, grown from Italian seeds sold in the U.S. There are fewer fruits coming on the plants right now but I'm hoping to use the San Marzano mainly for canning, while the other ones are for eating fresh.

Also looking good are my fabric potato pots. I was intrigued by the concept of filling a container in order to grow potatoes and I've read about growing them in bushel baskets, clay pots, etc. These collapsible fabric pots appealed to me since I can remove the soil after the growing season and store the pots folded flat (don't ask me where I'm going to store all the soil, I haven't figured that out yet). Not all my potato started this year but I think it's mostly the fault of the seed crop and not the new-fangled pots.

In the newly reorganized herb garden.

I put the little clay turtles in the mint pots. Someone else (the little girls next door?) decided they needed to be together and arranged them side-by-side, making their way to the rain barrel...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Up North

We've just returned from a visit to Minnesota where it was nice and cool. Don't these views make you want to be there too?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My big heap o' trouble

I heard one could get a "truckload" of free wood chips from the village. I should have asked exactly what was meant by "truck." I envisioned a pick-up. They provided a dump truck. I calculated that I could've mulched our entire lot at least three inches deep.

Thankfully as of posting this photo the hill is perhaps a little over a third gone. My neighbors, friends, and friends of neighbors have come to help themselves. But still, what to do with the rest?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tutti a tavola a mangiare!

A year ago we were in Italy. Now that it's almost summer I've been dreaming again of Italy. So last night we made a homemade pizza with fresh ricotta and arugula from my garden. Wow.

I had never had fresh ricotta before but now I think I'm spoiled for ricotta forever. Really, if you can find it it's worth every penny. We finally made it to the foodie mecca of Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati and now our fridge is stocked with all sorts of fabulous finds and rare delicacies. Too bad I'll just be eating ricotta at every meal...

And the garden?

I finally have my own vegetable garden in my backyard. We built the beds in April and already are eating spinach, lettuce, arugula, and swiss chard. Also planted in the beds are leeks, onion, shallots, snow peas, beets, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, basil, and cilantro. In containers I'm growing potatoes and I've planted pumpkin seeds in a few spots to see if anything happens. Perhaps I'll go sow some pole beans this afternoon.

The fencing? Granville has a serious deer problem. They eat all the hostas, of course, the daylily buds, the hydrangeas, viburnum, tulips, hollyhocks, sedum, phlox. They even eat things that are supposed to be unappealing to deer: coneflowers, boxwood, coral bells, alliums, etc. They eat the plants growing right next to the houses, they walk down the middle of the streets in full daylight. They do everything except walk in the house and open the fridge. So, the veggie garden needs a high fence. I've reinforced it at the bottom to keep out marauding ground hogs. So far no invaders but I wonder if the raccoons will find it when it's tomato season.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cozy Kitteh

Max has found an alternative use for my grow mat.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to hypnotize a bunny

Thor is new to our house. Bill bought him from a 4-H kid back in December as my dissertation present. Now that Thor's stud days are over he lives a quiet life the highlights of which are eating broccoli stalks and guarding the back bathroom against dangerous intruders (otherwise known as friends and houseguests).

I've only ever had lops but I find them to be the most responsive and social of rabbits. While my other bunny, Roo, had a personality kind of like a dog--friendly, curious, playful--Thor is more of a fussy boy, more like a disapproving bunny than a puppy. Everything is a big drama for him. And if it isn't, he'll make it a big drama. Stomp. Stomp! STOMP!

Despite being so cuddly looking, most bunnies are not all that interested in being held. So, I don't often pick up my bunnies unless I'm checking on their overall health or trimming their nails. To look at their teeth and to check their skin and ears I will usually pick them up and hold them in my lap. While in this position their feet are positioned to give you a decent blow to the jaw (yes, this has happened) but I read once that you can calm them down and make them very docile while they're lying back.

First of all, make sure that the bunny is held and supported. You don't want him to be able to twist or jump away as this could cause him to hurt himself. Keep his feet supported and still by pressing your chest against them, and keep the rest of his body contained in your lap. Not too deep so that he's at risk for falling through, but cradle him in and support him so that he feels held.

Now, gently rub his chin with the backs of your fingers. Go slow, make it even, and strive to make the strokes match the speed of your own relaxed breath.

After a few minutes of this you should have a mellow bunny who will consent to gentle petting of his forehead or even to clipping his nails (although keep a hand gently holding his body down since he might get nervous and jumpy again). Keep going back to stroking his chin now and then.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring knitted collar

Knitting projects are like books. Generally I have several that I'm in the middle of.

Lately I've been busy with knitting baby hats for the local hospital and I'll post more on those later but I just finished a project for myself that I've been thinking about for over a year.

This is the Berthe collar from No Sheep for You, a book of patterns for projects specifically designed for fibers other than wool.

I'd been looking for a long time for just the right yarn to show off in this project. The photo of the finished collar in the book was a lovely sea green color and I must admit I was immediately wanting to make one just that color for myself. I'm so original, right? Not only do I always knit from someone else's pattern but so often I want to follow the colors of the yarn in the photos. What can I say, so many of you designers have such impeccable taste!

I finally found the right thing in a sale bin at So Much Yarn in Seattle. Their store, by the way, is full of gorgeous yarns and I could have totally spent myself silly in there. But I was restrained and focused for once (and I didn't have too much room in my tiny suitcase).

As I tried to show in the above shot, I used GGH Boulino yarn, a blend of cotton, nylon, and linen. From a distance it appears shiny but up close it has variations of texture and thickness that seemed just right for the level of interest I wanted in the yarn for this collar. I used just a bit less than a 50 g ball for the whole collar, knitted on size four needles. Since the yarn is rather slippery I used bamboo circular needles and they gripped the yarn well but didn't mar the silky finish.

My only complaint about the Boulino was that it was difficult to keep it from twisting while pulling from a ball. It comes wound on a cardboard spool and pulls from the outside. I tried handwinding it into a ball and even then the ball would fall apart in my knitting bag because the yarn was so slippery. With this kind of yarn I'm not sure there's a good solution to this problem of slippery and twisty but the end result was definitely worth it.

Here's another shot of the collar, held together with just the wooden pin from my shawl pin shown above.

This is a great project for putting in your purse (in a ziploc, of course) and bringing with you for when you have just a few minutes here and there to knit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Let me consult my crystal ball

When we woke up Wednesday morning we expected to see lots of snow. Instead the six inches of snow we were predicted to get had arrived in the form of ice. Now it's Friday but the temperatures have stayed cold and all the ice is still around. One the ends of my hydrangeas it created these cute little ice orbs.

They look like little lightbulbs or very mini lawn globes.

Thankfully we never lost power here. Actually it's surprising, considering that all we need in Granville is an errant squirrel or a stiff breeze to knock power out for a few hours. The first three nights we spent in our house here in August of 2007 our power went off and on every evening for three evenings in a row. My first thought was that the electrical system in our house needed serious attention. Well, the electrical is old and probably does need at least moderate to serious attention but apparently it was a local transformer problem, which they then solved by turning off the whole town's power for 6 hours over one night in order to access and fix the infrastructure. Still, power flickers are the norm here even with a repaired transformer.

I'm also thankful that we haven't needed to get anywhere by car in the past few days. Bill walks to work and everything else vital is also within walking distance. Check out the quarter of inch of ice on the windshield. Only just this morning was I able to use an ice scraper to help me pry open the driver side door. And even when pushing from the inside I still can't get the passenger doors to budge.

The ice on the windshield is almost impossible to scrape and I've already broken one scraper. Eh, maybe I'll scrape later.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Spring organizing

So I've been searching everywhere for our other futon cover and I finally found it a few days ago in a box that we hadn't opened since we left Wisconsin. Sure, there was only a humidifier in the box so I didn't think we needed to open it. Yet after searching in just about every other possible space I finally decided to open the box and finally found just what I was looking for.

It's been an ongoing challenge, moving into a smaller house with less storage space and less reliably protected storage space: dirt crawl spaces, damp basements, yucky and hard to reach attic. I finally freaked out last year when I couldn't find a book I was looking for (it was in one of many boxes of books stuck on shelves in the basement) and we put up lots of bookcases in our living room in order to actually have books out and accessible. Still, I often find myself going through boxes of stuff in the basement, trying to find something that I finally conclude we got rid of before we moved (that stupid spaeztle maker I never used for years, now I'm actually making spaeztle and trying awkwardly to do it with a cheese grater, duh).

One positive thing that's come of our having less storage is that I've learned how to be even more choosy about what I need to keep. With my Lutheran guilt I've just kept things forever because it felt wrong to give them up. I loved that sweater when I was in the ninth grade but do I really need to keep it? Or, someone else loved that [insert object here] maybe I need to keep it and love it too. And this has worked for some things. I've come to the point where I'm better at actually using something that may be antique or valuable--a rare but cracked Roseville compote as an everyday fruitbasket--because value is ultimately subjective, right? If I'm not selling it, then it's worth what it's worth to me. Still I have bins full of antique tablecloths that I'm still too chicken to use on a table, and I have lots of old sweaters and half-finished projects just languishing in bins.

But there comes a point when one needs to take stock and streamline. And then organize!

It's such a soothing thing, organizing. I do love reading organizing and design blogs and while I totally enjoy looking at how clean and stylish some of these homes are, I know that I can't ever totally get there myself. Indeed, I've come to love color more than ever and can't now imagine living in a place that is predominantly white, even if that white is a neutral backdrop for color. Ok, I can imagine it but I just can't see it ever being a reality for me, I'm too scattered. Of the many, many, shelves of books in our house I've only been able to organize one single shelf by color. All the rest are in odd groupings by subject, whether their Bill's or mine, or whether they just fit that sized shelf.

But, my point! Yes. For the past several days I've been organizing my yarn stash and knitting supplies. I've had bags of yarn stashed around in various places (usually filling the tops of moving boxes) that needed to be put in a central and protected space. But my knitting albatross was most certainly the unfinished sweater for Bill that I began knitting back in 2000. I loved the color and I loved the detail of the pattern but when I began the project I was young, impatient, and inexperienced (as a knitter, of course). Gauge, smauge! Who needs a gauge! It'll be close enough.

uh huh.

Looks fine from here doesn't it?

And I just kept knitting and kept denying that this sweater was larger than Bill could ever possibly grow to be.

Could I just sew it up and trim off the excess? What do I do?

January 2008 I made the decision to pull it out. January 2009 I actually mustered up the courage to do it. And after spending who knows how many hours knitting up that mess, it probably took another three hours to unravel it neatly. So, photos, balls of yarn, and the many hours lost are all that remain of my failed project.

But it's a new year. I unraveled part of another sweater I'd started for myself back before I understood how to make complicated cables (yes, again the unexperienced knitter bites off more than she can handle) and now that I've made my peace with these scuttled projects I'm feeling suddenly very light and free. I now have yarn for two sweaters and I didn't have to spend a dime. All my yarn is organized, stored in airtight ziplocs in a clear bin in my office, and I'm ready to start something new.

So, my new plan for Bill's sweater is this. It's much more Bill's style and it should be a bit more fun to knit. I can finally handle this basic cable and I'm looking forward to relatively mindless stockingette stitch for most of the sweater.

I don't really do the New Year's resolution thing but I'm realizing that my efforts towards confronting those unfinished projects has made me feel quite happy. Whether that project is just cleaning out a few more items that I've kept but don't use anymore, or whether it's been having the courage to undo another project and start from scratch, I must say that I prefer this feeling of fresh starts.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

start small

I'm finally able to get back to knitting again after almost a year. Of course I have a bunch of unfinished projects (like that sweater for Bill that I've been working on for eight years?) but it's best to start small.

I started these little booties from Saartje Knits back in November. I carried them around with me all from Minnesota to Virgina and points in between but didn't get them finished until twenty minutes before we were meeting our friend's baby. We were sitting at the car dealership in Alexandria waiting for our estimate to fix the faulty circuit for our headlights (you don't even want to know how much that cost) and I was frantically finishing knitting and sewing up the last bootie.

Thus the pics are bad again. But this is an adorable pattern and it knits really fast once you actually do the knitting. I love the little crossed straps. So cute.

I used a white yarn (Plymouth Dreambaby 4ply - acrylic microfiber and nylon) and one that mixed a light green and white (Louet Gems - merino). Both are a fingering weight and I knit them on size 1 needle.

They were warmly received by both little Katherine and her mom!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter Delights

There are many things I love about winter. Living in Minnesota and Wisconsin I've always loved snow (and, despite Bill's potential disagreement on this) I do like the cold. Last night was our first real snow here in Granville and it was a pretty one: lots of big drifting flakes, an occasional breeze.

One of the things I love about snow is that it makes the world brighter. Even today with the sun behind the clouds, there's so much more light coming in through the windows. One of the struggles I've had with living here in central Ohio is that winter's involve less snow and less sun. Winter's are often damp and cloudy, making one feel psychologically, if not physically, more chilled.

So today was a cheerful morning of brightness already, but then as I was making toast I happened to look out the window above the kitchen sink and catch a glimpse of a cardinal convention.

Really, is that seven cardinals in that bush by the shed? I've thought time and again that I need to prune whatever species of shrub has gotten completely out of control back there but the trouble is that birds, especially cardinals, love to perch there.

The overall quality of the pics leaves a bit to be desired. One does what one can with a point-and-shoot digital camera used through the glass of the kitchen window. (I feel like this camera used to take better pictures, do these cameras gradually just fade in overall performance? I could understand a catastrophic failure but I don't get this gradual decline...)

Hope you enjoy the pics despite the quality.