Saturday, July 31, 2010

Self-Stitched September - project #3

It's a Wilroy Traveller, and I was immediately taken by the fabric. It has that linen-like look, probably a poly-blend, washable. You can scrunch it, and it springs back without wrinkling. It may have been designed for travelling, but it will look fresh even during a rough day at work, and that's a good thing :)

Unfortunately it was too big for me. I knew it would need to be taken in, which turned out to be a major project. Even the pockets were too low. And do you see the epaulets? *o*

I pinned, stitched, cut, partially re-set the sleeves, repositioned the pockets 2 inches higher, and shortened the hem by 3 inches. The sleeves were too baggy so I removed some excess. I removed the shoulder dressing ;)

There's an inverted pleat below the back yoke, which I left but tacked down near my natural waist.

It's much smaller but still got enough room for comfort. Success! Now I'm off to find a brown belt to replace the black one in the second photo below......

....and put a dress form on my wish list.

One Small Change - July recap

I sometimes feel like I've been slacking on this challenge but when I make out a recap list, that feeling disappears - quickly! Deep breath and here's my update:

Those unpronounce-able ingredients have just about disappeared from my kitchen shelves. Instead of boxes of processed snacks, I'm making my own bread, pasta, crackers, and granola from scratch, using organic flours, etc.

I still get my java jolt from cold-brewed coffee (no electric usage), and now it's only from Fair Trade brands!

I eat very little beef, chicken, and pork, enjoying the different grains and legumes as proteins. So my support of factory farmed animals is nearly cut off. An occasional take out meal is where I have no control of this.

The space in my living room where the television was located has a stack of old suitcases loaded with vintage sewing trims, notions, and supplies. I've regained the hours that I used to spend sitting in front of that electric box.

My utility usage is still very low. I did cave in during the oppressive heat a few weeks ago and bought one of those floor model air conditioners. Waking up to 82 degrees in the house each morning and feeling ill wasn't a good thing. But the a/c does the trick and I only run it when absolutely necessary, and for only a few hours. The electric bill that arrived yesterday shows only a slight increase, so it doesn't use much more than the two electric fans I was using. Very livable! A double relief!

I haven't had paper towels in the house for months, using cleaning cloths instead. And I use cloth dinner napkins instead of paper, even carrying one with my lunch for work.

Lunch is packed in glass canning jars or Pyrex containers (no plastic), and I still have my recycled sandwich wrap. I also bring "real" forks and spoons, skipping the disposable flatware.

I ran out of homemade deodorant and tried another trick that I read online, using a splash of witch hazel and a few drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils. It's easy and works for me!

As far as being self-sustaining, I've got lots of berries (blue- and straw-) in the freezer. And I still make short-storage pickles from the little cukes I get at the farmers market. Not much, but it's okay for now.

Goals not met:

Biking to work. Seriously not a good idea when it's been at or above 90 degrees and oppressively humid. Along with the traffic and lack of bike lanes around here, it gets a little scary. For now my two-wheeling will be confined to the paths (like the one I'll be on tomorrow!)

Goals going forward:

Buying organic chicken and beef. Yep. It's time to support the small farmer growing meats, the same as I support the organic veggie growers at the farmers market. I'll be buying some chicken this week.

Fermented pickles. Before the season is over and I am filled with regrets, I need to get some cucumbers soaking in brine. I'll be looking for a suitable crock/glass jar at the thrift shops this coming week.

Overall, every change I've made has become part of my routine. Because when it's a SMALL change, it's not an agonizing effort. It becomes habit. Thank you, again, Hip Mountain Mama for starting One Small Change! Best wishes to everyone who has made small changes. Keep up the great work!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This and that

Summer's in full swing and there's so much to do! Those hours after work are filled with fun stuff....from bike rides to berry picking. I drove up to Jones' this afternoon to get another half-flat of blueberries. I'll know I'll miss them when they're gone! I picked enough to fill another gallon bag in my freezer and a quart basket for my mother. Now that the season is almost done, the berries are much smaller and it takes twice as long to pick the same amount of berries. I'm looking forward to blueberry pancakes this weekend :)

I had an interesting time at the thrift shops last weekend. Along with the cast iron skillet I mentioned a few days ago, I picked up a pair of snowshoes for $3. Over the years I've had some "teardrop" shaped shoes, a metal military surplus pair, and my new Tubbs lightweights (LOVED those!) Just before I moved here, I sold them through a sports resale shop along with my x-country skis. One of the more foolish things I've done! It will take a while to get good replacements, but this is a start.

I also picked up this little sweetie:

The week before I had one of these in my hands but set it down because the paint was badly flaking off. When another one turned up this week, and in better condition, I guessed it had been put there for me. Well, that's my excuse ;) And it was only $2.99

I've been adding to my string of little flowers, but only when I settle in before going to sleep. There's only about 40 inches, but the repeating motion is just like counting sheep :) I think I've found the top to embellish with these posies.

It may take some major surgery to turn this gent's sport top into a frilly chemise. Maybe slicing up the front and chopping off half the length of the sleeves?
July is ending already! It's time to get caught up on One Small Change. I'll be updating on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finally! A bike ride!

With all the humid, hot weather we've been having, the last thing I wanted to do lately was get on my bike. But we had a slight reprieve for two days so tonight after work I took a spin on that beautiful trail near me, the one that goes through the woods. It was pleasantly cool (-ish) and somewhat crowded. More than half the walkers brought multiple dogs, including some really beautiful ones. I guess we were all looking for some outside activity :) I did a very quick 6 miles (all those mornings at the gym paid off!), and came home to a pre-mixed salad. I'm thinking about a shower and a bowl of cereal, then off to bed. Sleepy time. G'night, all! Sweet dreams!

Suggestions welcomed!

My thrift-shopping haul last weekend included this well-used pan. It must have cooked up may meals of wonderful fried chicken, seeing it's condition. The price was $2.99 and I've never been able to find one this deep for a reasonable price.

These photos were taken after quite a scrubbing, and there is still a considerable amount of rust and grit. Before I add a coating of oil and start seasoning the pan, does anyone have suggestions (or a miracle cure) for cleaning this little treasure?

I have three other skillets that I use regularly, but they were in much better condition when I bought them, each needing a basic cleaning and re-seasoning.


(I'll add my thrift shop finds from last weekend in my next post.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm strong to the finish...

... 'cause I drinks me spinach!

Yes, I've been starting my mornings with this vividly colored green beverage and it is soooo good. It's just a bunch of spinach, a half banana, and a little water. That's it. No sweetener, no protein powders, nada. The flavor of the banana overpowers most of the spinach, but that's okay.....for now. The original post states that any green can be used (spinach, chard, or even kale), however the taste of a stronger green will take getting used to, or can be *masked* with some extra fruit (blueberries, melon). The blog author suggests that drinking this every morning has possibly helped her get through the cough, cold, and flu season unscathed. hmmm.... Now there's a benefit!

This week I purchased a cellophane package of organic baby spinach at Whole Foods since I could have the rest as salads if the drink was unpalatable, but it turns out that I enjoy drinking my spinach. And while a $5 bag of greens every three days may be a bit extravagant, I think I'll do this every other day. Any little bit helps, right? And if I get daring enough, I might try some chard at the farmers market next week.

Now this isn't my complete breakfast. By no means could I get through the morning on it. I'd be chewing my pens at work :( After my *power drink* I make the bed, take a shower, pack my lunch, and then have my coffee and oatmeal while I scan the headlines and my favorite blogs - probably yours! :)

Take a quick click over to the original post at Golubka for some fantastic colorful photos and good writing. While you're there, check out this and this!!! And consider putting in a row of spinach for fall ...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just playing around

I recently came across an older copy of Crochet Magic, and prompted by the combined images of vintage lace doilies and the decline of summer (yes, the days are getting shorter now), I took out my stash of hooks and a ball of cotton. The hats and scarves I've made as gifts over the years have been works of love but now I need a work of art, fashion, and mathematics (3 tr in next sc, ch 2). It's been decades since I've made a doily, and I routinely walk right past the uniformly wound balls of crochet cotton when I grab a skein of yarn from the store shelf.

Southern New England was hit with another rash of storm cells yesterday evening, which was the perfect reason to be domestic. I stayed in to make a loaf of bread, try a new cracker recipe, and stitch a chain of small flowers. My rusty fingers are still getting their tension back, but each motif made me smile. They remind me of little violets, especially the way the petals curl. I'm thinking of edging a cardigan with a chain like this made from lavender cotton.

There's a lot of summer left, a lot of trails to ride and dripping ice cream to enjoy. But I may carry this project with me for a lunch break in the park......with some of those yummy corkscrew crackers!

Side note: The Weather Service is going to Litchfield, CT to examine the destruction/debris from the storm to determine whether it was a tornado. This is not the typical New England weather I grew up with.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Taking it a step higher

That's a tomato. Up there. Where I can't reach.

The original Arkansas Traveller tomato plant I purchased at the farmers market back in May grew so tall I actually had to top it, cut the main stems at the bottom of the deck upstairs. There were some blossoms right under the deck, so I cut the stem just above them. Of course, one of those blossoms turned into the only fruit on the entire plant! Even with a step stool I can't reach it, so when it's ripe I will probably have to do the lumberjack thing and cut down stem at the highest point possible.

My two "adopted" tomato plants are doing well, much smaller, but both have fruit. The Roma has a dozen small, green plum tomatoes!

The cucumbers show pormise! They suffered while I was away and lost dozens of blossoms from the extreme heat even though I had drenched them with water the morning I left.

I've been enjoying basil, dill, and parsley. And I'm getting very anxious to find out what's happening in my potato container. The above-ground plants have been very healthy and strong. I think I'll be digging through there to find out if there's anything hidden inside.......

This is what relief looks like. A few hours of rain, lightening, thunder, and wind last evening to break the hot, humid spell we've been in. It's cooler this morning and I'm enjoying the coolness through the open patio door while it lasts. The weather reports predict a return of the heat later.

Wishing everyone a pleasant day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What do you get when you mix two recipes?

Lunch! And it's a really tasty meatless summer salad!

I usually eat quinoa hot with stir fried vegetables, but recently read an article on using it as a summer salad base. Then I came across another recipe for a Curried Chicken Salad which had an interesting dressing. So I took the best of both recipes and came up with what might be my new favorite for cool summer meals.

This is what I combined:

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 3 cups water


1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I prefer Greek style)
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1/2 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1/8 tesapoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
Pinch of Cayenne

Your choice of fresh veggies (I used some chopped scallion, broccoli florets, halved grape tomatoes)

Rinse quinoa to remove any grit. Drain. Boil until tender, 10 - 15 minutes. Drain. Put back in pot, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Mix dressing ingredients in bowl. Add quinoa and toss thoroughly. Add fresh veggies. Chill. I would say it serves 4. Paired with an accompaniment, it would serve 6.

I was so pleased by the tastes of the dill mixed with the turmeric and coriander! How different and refreshing on a summer day! I will try the original chicken version from Slice of Feist later but for now I'm good with the grains.

Have you been experimenting in the kitchen? Tried anything new and completely different?

And for dessert (or a mid-morning refresher), I packed a container of Greek yogurt with strawberries and blueberries from the freezer. They thaw quickly and it's like a mini-smoothie!

Never mind the tools they make for the ladies!

Monday took me back to work after a gloriously hot and humid week off. Rarely do I take more than a long weekend as vacation, stretching out my days to span the summer. But this year I needed, and truely enjoyed, not thinking about business for a full week tucked in between two weekends (9 days!)

This time I was able to do something I normally can't..... I had offered to help my oldest son on any of his job sites, as an extra hand. He does landscaping and contracting. I always envy the diversity of his work. He may be putting in a patio today and building a terraced wall next week. Well, he accepted my offer and I tagged along to *help* build a walkway and steps over a ledge that had been a dangerous transition from a backyard hill to the patio behind a house.

I don't think I can call what I did much of a help (insert hysterical laughter here). I carried tools, unloaded the truck, screwed in some keyhole screws, cleaned up the work area, and loaded the truck when it was time to go. But mostly what I did was to be amazed at how skilled he has become. I've seen photos of his completed jobs, but it's different when you watch someone work. He has it planned out in his head, and just gets to it. Every cut was accurate and every obstacle easily overcome.

As someone who was involved in many, many home renovations years ago and, being now eager to have my own little "handyman's special" once again, I have gone back to the gym to turn the jelly in my upper arms back into something that resembles muscles. Seriously, the drill got heavy after about the first half hour :(

I refuse to buy tools with pink handles!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ponder this...

I sometimes wonder who will take possession of all my family's photos when I'm gone. I'm not talking tintypes. These are a suitcase full of 1970's, 80's and 90's snapshots that has been passed on to me. Besides the family pics, there are vacation photos, town activities, and more. I don't even know many of the folks in these pictures, or where they were taken.

For those of us who carry, store, or dust our treasured “stuff” with the hopes that someday, someone else will also treasure it, please check this short essay in the NYTimes online by Ellen Lupton. It’s sweet, almost sad, and definitely right on point.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Project #2 - I'd better step this up a bit...

...or it will be a chilly September!

Here's my second dress for Self-Stitched September, minus a finished hem. I'll be hemming it tonight but wanted to get this posted today.

I started with a thrifted jersey knit woman's button front blouse and was able to find a solid lightweight knit fabric at JoAnn's that *almost* matches the dark blue in the print. The pattern, another 1970's vintage style (Butterick 3466), is something easy to wear at the office. Total cost was less than eight dollars and I still have leftover blue fabric. It was the end piece which I bought at 75% off.

It's been many, many years since I last had to rip out a zipper and re-do it! But it was worth the effort. I think it turned out respectable.


2 dresses
2 athletic tops
1 blouse (previously refashioned from a man's shirt)

.....and another refashion-able dress is waiting on the cutting table!

On the turntable during all this was "The Best of The Big Bands", a two record set. Music from the 30's and 40's. Nice.

What I did on my summer vacation (the first one, anyway)

It’s an eclectic place; a mixture college-town activities, arts and crafts, big business, and back-to-the-earth living. It’s a hard place to make a living, but it makes me feel alive when I visit. It’s like watching a bee hive, buzzing with movement. I am drawn to the activity. After a few days I am energized and inspired.

At the core of the town is the college. The surrounding houses have almost all become off-campus rentals for students. They are easy to locate by the bicycles parked outside. By local law, cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as drivers and they must be given consideration by motoring vehicles. Students are not the only bicyclists; some folks choose to cycle to work in good weather in this hilly place. And the waterfront bike path is used by some as a safe route from their home in a neighboring town to their work here.

The belief and hope of the human spirit are evident everywhere. This vehicle was parked outside a small deli on a side street. It is sporting a planter on top with a very healthy tomato plant, just like the Truck Farm in NYC. Too cool!

The grocery store in the center of town promotes local and organic products. I love shopping there and stock up on bulk products when I visit. Along with a generous variety of legumes, grains, and flours, they offer local syrup (yum!) and Dr Bronner’s liquid soaps by the pound. You can bring a container or purchase one there. I brought mine, and weighed it on their scale before filling.

The place to be on Saturday mornings is City Hall Park, where dozens of vendors offer everything from free range chickens, cleaned and vacuum packed, to fresh flowers or hand-crafted goods. There’s local syrup, fresh eggs, cheese, beautiful veggies, artisanal bread, and good-eating food. I can’t leave without a samosa from one of the busiest vendors there.

After four days of swimming, playing, working, sight-seeing, and visiting with family and dear old friends, I felt alive and renewed even though I was tired and homesick for my own bed. There’s a lot to do before I go back to work. I have some material sitting on my dining table. My bike is sitting by the door. I need to bring photos to my mother of her great-grandchildren. And there are missed phone calls to be returned. What did/will YOU do on your summer vacation? Make sure you include some fun!

Friday, July 9, 2010

I got the blues.......and the browns

Yesterday's focus was on food.
While I waited in this constantly 80 degree condo for the gas company technician to arrive and do the annual service on the furnace I (naturally) thought about food. I pulled out my copy of "Pasta Recipes & Techniques" by the Cooking Club of America (thrifted for 50 cents) and turned to page 55. Buckwheat pasta was on my agenda. I had purchased some from the bulk bins in anticipation of this. It went together very easily and quickly turned silky smooth. I let it rest and then rolled it - not too thin - then cut it into fettucini strips. By halving the recipe in the book I have four servings worth of pasta to which will be added whatever veggies I find at the market this weekend.

That's the brown.

After the technician left (by the way, when he arrived he instructed me to turn the heat ON and cranked up to 82 - sheesh! Isn't it hot enough in here?), I decided to take a ride to the PYO berry farm for some blueberries. Hot or not, I want some blues! Their hours were reduced during the heat wave earlier this week but the message on their phone line announced they were back to normal hours so I trotted up there to pick in the midday sun. I only lasted for a half tray's worth but I'm happy with that. I brought some to my mother and froze the rest (next to my bags of sliced strawberries from June). They will be popped into yogurt, oatmeal, or pancakes over the next few months. Ah, have I got the blues!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Celebrating on the 4th

We enjoyed a beautiful, albeit hot, day in the mountains of northern New England on the 4th of July. Splashing in the pool at the ski resort (now a year-round destination) cooled us in the 90+ degree temps and steady hot sun. In the late afternoon we picked our spot in front of the bandstand so that we could see and hear the army band from Camp Johnson. As always, they were great. Introduced and narrated by Marselis Parsons, a local celebrity newsman, the evening was dedicated to a soldier from Vermont whose vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, resulting in devastating loss.

The view from the base of the ski runs was great, surrounded on all sides by lush green mountains.

Tucked behind the bandstand were the artillery, ready for those resounding blasts during the performance. And did they ever echo!

It was a late night, a great crowd, and a beautiful drive back to my grandchildren's house through the countryside after the show. We all slept well.

Wishing everyone a spectacular summer! Go out and make some memories!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It's been a little warm lately. This is the thermometer on the car dashboard in upper CT this afternoon (101 degrees!) I have heard (and read) that the eastern seaboard was in the three digit range the last few days, and even northern VT hit a record 96 for July 6th!

Inside my condo was 79 degrees. I had kept the shades closed while I was away. My container garden on the deck was pooped out, even though I had thoroughly soaked everything before I left in the dark on Saturday morning. I gave them all a thorough drink of water as soon as I returned and they're already perking up.

I'm at the library now. Officials are suggesting that anyone without a/c go to libraries or other "cooling centers". Sounds like good advise to me. I'll post photos from my trip tomorrow. (It was great!) Right now I've got a lot of catching up to do!

Stay cool!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, USA!

I'm heading North to celebrate the Nation's Birthday with my grandchildren. WooHoo! Picnics, fireworks, and fun!

Here's to another 234 years, and many, many more!

Don't you think this homeowner has commendable spirit and pride? :)

I'll try to keep up with blog reading over the weekend, and may or may not post. That will depend on how much energy I have after playing with my grandkiddies!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Safe holiday!