Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thank you, Mary!

There was a pattern waiting in my mailbox when I arrived home this past Sunday. What a great pattern for the fall!
I've got a red knit fabric I want to use for this:








Thanks so much, Mary!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Plum goodness

The only thing that could be better than a weekend with my children and grandchildren would be a full week with them (or longer!) I had a wonderful time.

And now ... I'm exhausted.

The 4:00am drive on Friday morning was peaceful. By starting that early, I was able to miss all the commuter traffic in southern and middle New England and get my fill of the morning news on the radio. I arrived in the north in mid-morning and spent some time with my youngest son, sitting on the lakefront and watching sailboats gliding swiftly across the glistening water. We chatted and caught up on our summer's activies. Times like that make me amazed at how quickly children become adults.

I made two quick stops on my eternal treasure hunt and turned up a cut of dark green corduroy (possibly large enough for a jumper?). The dollar rack at a consignment shop had a wonderful Evan Piccone wool jacket, silk pants with original tickets still attached, and a men's wool blazer that I bought with the intention of upcycling. The silk pants are a possibility for the company holiday party this winter.

I had a wonderful time playing and talking with my grandchildren. But my surprise was when my son asked if I remembered the old plum tree. I vividly remember when we discovered the plum tree on the property, and the disappointment when the birds got to the handful of plums before we did. The tree never produced more than two or three fruit, and succumbed to some disease, or so we thought. On the other side of a row of brush and trees are now a handful of plum trees, the next generation. And so loaded with fruit that I caught my breath when I saw them. Such beauty!






My first thought was to get them canned before anything happened to them so we gathered supplies and made two batches of plum jam. My eldest grandson wanted to make canned spiced apples from their apple trees. He found a recipe online, and the result was delicious. I'm sure they'll be making more over the next few weeks. My youngest grandson wanted to make apple crisp. I helped the little chef measure out the oatmeal, sugar and spice. My daughter-in-law made a double batch of zucchini bread (the equivalent of four loaves), to fill the freezer and our bellies. The kitchen was buzzing all evening, with apple peeling and canning and baking. The aromas were heavenly! Everyone helped and had fun. Families doing things together. And a nice stash of good eating as a result :) P.S. We used about 9 lbs of plums, and my guess is that there's another 50 -60 lbs left on the trees!

I brought home two jars of plum jam and one of spiced apples to share with my mother. And a piece of zucchini bread and some apple crisp for my lunch sack this week ... to remember this weekend.






Summer, good times, good people, good food.

Somehow, the clock spun faster for those 48 hours. It seemed I had just arrived and it was time to leave. Of course, the drive home was more tedious since there was so much more traffic. So many out of state families were heading home after their summer vacations. I hope they were as happy as I was during that drive.

It's still in the 90's here in southern New England. I think I'll take the bike out after work.



Happy Monday, folks!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On the road ...

Right about now I'm waking to a cooler morning, listening to the birds, and waiting for little feet to patter down the stairs ...
Hugs and coffee coming soon :)
Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Style, or lack thereof

(This is the first in a short series of posts in which I aim to focus my thoughts towards creating a useful tool in order to be more conscious of my clothing selections, making them both useful and meaningful to my lifestyle.)

Recently I discovered that my closet contained many things of which little is useful. A transition from living and working in a rural area to life in the city has left me ill-prepared, in the fashion sense. My years of business-casual separates for the office don't quite *suit up* today. The few acceptable items now on hangers in my closet are seasonal and very quickly facing the end of that season. So the time has arrived to dump it all on the floor, or a chair, or a bag bound for the thrift shop, and start over.

I don't expect overnight transformations. That would bring a new chaos of mismatched separates. There must be a way to do this in a well thought out progression. The obvious method is to do a style book, or collection of clippings. And focusing on basic necessary pieces that compliment each other. Does that sound right?

It certainly is more challenging to fashion a wardrobe around chance finds at secondhand stores than it is to take out a credit card at the more desirable shops. Certainly, I could have a limited number of pieces that would do double duty and fit my character if I would shop at higher end stores. I could buy an entire matchable wardrobe with one swipe of plastic. There are two three problems with that. The first being substantial monetary output, and my aversion to it. The second is that ethically, I don't want to continuously waste resources for new clothing when good secondhand items are available. Third, and actually the one REAL reason, I don't like to shop.

My viewpoint on clothing has now evolved away from just looking for items that are in excellent condition to items that really define who I am. This makes it a little more difficult as I've got images in my head of who I was some years ago, but not of who I am now :( Can I go back to being youthful and adventurous without looking like a fool? I admire all the young women who can wear short, straight skirts. But time has a way of excluding me from that group ;) I have a photo of myself in a very short skirt, taken back in the 70's...

This brings in the sewing aspect. I could give you dozens of reasons why I haven't made as much for Self-Stitched September as I had planned, but the truth is I am feeling a bit lost in regards to style. Would my preferred A-line skirts look too outdated? Would a pair of looser, wool trousers, combined with a button-down shirt and vest be out of place in the office? Or is just that 1970's rebel still hiding inside, refusing to "conform" to today's standards? ;)

Coming soon - a style book.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And they even relate this to a study done on rats...

Woohoo! Another article in the NYTimes about overdoing the tech bit. Take a look.

Would you be like the gal at the gym with the ipod, tv, and iphone? Gee, I don't even listen to the tv. I'm there to feel the workout. Or maybe my aging brain just needs more "downtime" than these other folks ;)

It's an interesting world out there. Keep your eyes open! :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hello!

I apologize for the "thin" postings lately. Life got in the way, as it so often does.

We've got a family wedding coming up, out of town, so I'm helping my mother shop for an outfit. I'm doing the "previewing" - dashing around stores to find options, then bringing her to try on and choose. We did good today, and all that's left are shoes and a purse. We'll find those over Labor Day weekend. Then I'll have to find something for me to wear. It turns out that I have no dressy clothing in my closet. And I have a serious deficiency in footwear. Aside from all that, I'm really looking forward to the wedding of this sweet young couple. And to seeing (most) of us together again! (Reminder: charge the camera battery!!!)

There was a bit of a dilemma to be dealt with this past week. I'm one of those folks who has lots of clothes in the closet, but only wears about 20 percent of them. This hit me while reading a post about choosing what to buy/make, and setting guidelines. I realized that most of what I have does not express my personal style. It's not what I'm comfortable wearing, so the clothing is just taking up space. Cheap does not always equal a good choice. So I started having a little clean-out.



4 pr pants, 2 dresses, 14 tops

My moment of enlightenment came when I found three white cotton tops that I used to wear, but not so much anymore. A cotton pullover top, no matter how nice, still ends up looking like an undershirt. These three have been cut into cleaning cloths :)

I've come to a huge decision regarding my affliction. I'm hopelessly lured by the thrill of the hunt for anything vintage, and the results are filling a closet. It's time to clean out the closet. So I'm currently taking photos and getting everything ready for sale. My hopes are to set up an etsy shop, opening in September. Clothing, patterns, and trims will be offered. Vintage should be enjoyed, not stored!

Oh, and I'll be heading north this coming weekend to visit my little sweethearts before they start the school year. I've got a bag of school supplies for them. And a few hugs :)

The weather went all hot and humid again, dang it! This has been the craziest summer I've ever seen. It's in the high 80's and some trees are turning color already. Summer is flying by! I hope you are all enjoying what remains. It's part of the cycle, don't wish it away ;)

My posting may be erratic till next week, but I'm around and keeping up with your writings.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sewing projects - coming soon

Sometimes I get caught up in a whirlwind of activities, as the case has been for the past few weeks. Along with the 9-to-5 and general living duties, there were spur of the moment bike rides, thrifting jaunts, and that weird smell in my car (actually outside or under my car) that prompted me to dash to the car wash. I haven't run over anything, although I've passed a few previously flattened critters on the highway, so something may have stuck. Well, the car is clean and the smell is gone. So it's time to get back to Self-Stitched September.

Driving past the Anthropologie store two weeks ago, something caught my eye. But when I stopped two days later to investigate, I could not find it. Was I hallucinating? In the window there had appeared to be a patchwork skirt in plaids, quite cute and whimsical. I've picked up some thrifted clothing to try to recreate one. If only I had stopped when I saw it, I would have a better model than the "vision" in my memory. I'll be winging it.

I'd like to make this top, and think I can do it by tweaking view 1 of the pattern shown just below it; widening the front and adding pin tucks. And scooping the neck instead of making the collar band.









This pattern has been on my mind. I think the shoulder and sleeves would be great in contrasting fabric. I'm all into easy-to-wear clothing for the office.








Then 2, or more, plain A-line skirts. Basic necessary provisions for work.


I'm not completely slacking, though. I've been working on this. (details coming up soon)



Time to dust off my sewing machine....


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Regarding yesterday's post

Following up on my short post about technology yesterday, I sometimes wonder whether we've made our lives better with all the tech advances. We may be able to check our emails on our cell phones, but wouldn't it be nice just to talk to the person standing next to you in line at the deli counter? How often do you pass someone in the grocery store chatting away on their phone while they are pushing their cart? I even passed a gentleman on the bike path last week, as he was deeply engrossed in a phone conversation during his walk stroll. Can anyone "be in the moment" anymore? Do we HAVE to be connected 24/7?

I've often thought about leaving my cell phone at home, and if it weren't for my elderly mother, I think I would. (I will admit that I have chosen not to answer calls from friends and they are okay with that, knowing that I always call back later.) I do know a very successful businessman who does not even own a cell phone. He's a very content person. There might be some clues into happiness there....

It's also interesting that we must now store our photo albums (and video clips!) on our phones to share with others. (Remember, don't overdo it. One or two photos are plenty. Don't keep saying "Wait, this one's better" ;)

Last week I sat with a gal who was trying to program a new app into her phone that would translate voice into text so she could "legally" text while driving. We were having lunch. First, what's the rush? Second, in the words of Full House child star Jodie Sweetin: "HOW RUDE!"

It's been 4 and a half months since I unplugged the tv. On occasion I have watched a random cooking show or the news at someones house, but overall I don't miss it one bit. I listen to the news on the radio and read it online. I read books, old style, with paper pages. I get out into nature. I visit with friends. And last Sunday I sat outside working on a craft project while the squirrels scampered in the trees behind my condo. No, I definitely won't be bringing back a tv anytime soon.

I'm thinking about a computer break later this fall, perhaps October. Well, maybe for just a week or two. I'll have to think about it.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sometimes technology can be a wonderful thing

....and sometimes, not.

Even though you all know about my cooking and cleaning habits, I value my privacy. So, while we may chat about trips, biking, reading, and family, I keep some things to myself. As we all do. As we should. But this article in the NYTimes really caught me by surprise.

It appears that phones with GPS capabilities (not mine) and some cameras (not mine) record the lattitude and longitude of each photo taken. This "stamp" is hidden, but can be located by tech-savvy folks, when posted online. The stamp can be turned off, if the device has it. Did you all know this? It seems a bit creepy to me.

Which then leads me to this more pleasant article about the effects of tech overload, and an experiment by neuro-scientists on a rafting weekend.

Which reminds me, I need to turn this computer off and get ready for work!!!

Have a wonderful day!

Soon


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cheech

ceci, chick peas, garbanzos.....




When they've been roasted so they are crunchy, we pronounce it "cheech". Growing up, that was one of the treats at our church's annual feast for our patron saint. (For anyone who is not familiar with Italian Roman Catholic churches, most of them are named for a saint, which is their patron. Thus, St Anne's R.C. Church, St Anthony's, etc.) In the middle of the summer the church would hold a festival, or "feast", which is several evenings of food, games, rides, raffles, and more food. Pizza Fritta (fried dough) is the biggest draw, but if you're lucky you'll find a stand that still sells small bags of ceci. They're dry, like snacking on nuts, and they were tradition at feasts around here. They used to be sold in small waxed paper bags with the top twisted closed, now they're in zipper baggies. You'd buy them early in the evening and many were "ping-ed" down on friends from high up on the ferris wheel ;)

I grew up in a very Italian section of town. To mark the beginning of the feast, a few chosen men from the parrish would carry the statue of our saint through the neighorhood. Musicians would accompany them to announce the procession. When people heard the music advancing, they would rush out of their homes to pin dollar bills on ribbons which adorned the statue. (Hey, this was back in the 60's, when most mothers were still at home cleaning and cooking for the family.) There was also a "vigil" at the church. People signed up to take turns praying to our saint.

So in mid-August you ran into friends from school, rode the merry-go-round, ate candy apples, and brought home little trinkets that were won in games of chance. And it was always someone from out of the area who won the raffle for the car!

I went back to the old neighborhood twice this past week for this year's feast. Most of the faces have changed, but the spirit is still there. It was terrific.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The effects of societal evolution

There have been a few times where my younger co-workers have shown that their schooling had a serious lack of cultural enlightenment. By the quizzical looks on the faces of these college graduates, I have begun to wonder if the "finer" bits are being lost in today's schoolrooms. Recently, while gathered around our virtual water cooler, I discovered that they did not read classical books in early grade school. No Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland (they weren't even interested in the movie). They couldn't remember what they read in middle school, whereas I remember Cry, the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a few plays by Shakespeare.

Today, an older gent in the office stood near the A/R gal and quoted "The King was in the counting house, counting out his money". She gave him a blank stare. I was the only other person in the room who knew another line to the poem.

Okay, so it's not great literature. But it is a poem that teaches children good use of our language. It develops our appreciation for works that come later, and grows our interest in reading. It seems that those little sing-song poems and stories are no longer being learned in schools. Is this why the written word of today is reduced to "k" and "gr8"? By no means do I intend to denounce today's youth. It is the educational system that I am concerned about. I always admired people who have a full vocabulary, who can put down someone without them knowing they've been compared to toe jam. That skill only comes with a rounded education, starting with reading the classical children's fairy tales and poems.

I loved to read when I was young. We had some older books at home that were compilations of children's stories and poems, the good stuff. The ones where you had to figure out some of the words, or look them up in a dictionary. The school librarians encouraged us to read a step up from our level, to keep learning more. I wonder what's going on within those four walls now. Has the computer lab taken floor space where there once were bookshelves? The library was, and still is, a place of wonder for me. A well written book can take you to other worlds, or other times in history.

Upon the advice of a friend, I borrowed Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury from a local library. Immediately upon reading the first chapter, I was caught by the eloquent use of the language. I could imagine the scenes as if I had stepped into them. I could sense nightfall when characters were going home at the end of the day, and hear the chirping bugs in the middle of the hot afternoon. Books like that make me want to read more. And makes me gr8ful that I was encouraged to read good literature a long time ago.

How about you? Did you read Aesop's Fables? Did you go through the looking glass with Alice, or sail with the owl and the pussycat? Or take a trip to Treasure Island?

Ahhh, supper!



As local as it gets, a mere few steps from my back door. From vine to dinnerplate in a flash.






And, by the way, this one is still up there and still green. And now has siblings! (There are also more tomatoes growing in clusters much lower on this plant.)






My cucumbers have not fared well :( They get the size of a very small gherkin, then turn yellow and shrivel from the blossom end inwards. They'll be gone today.


But the basil has taken well and will provide a pesto for homemade pasta. Yum!

the little things

Sometimes it's just the little things that mean so much to us. Like seeing the look on two people's faces when they meet a friend that they haven't seen in over twenty years. Someone they grew up with. And they are both in their 90's. It's a connection that transends time and space.

I was able to make that meeting happen.

That's the way it's been for me lately. Hope your life is filled with good things.

Have a wonderful Friday! We're heading for the weekend :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lesson learned

You know how hectic Monday mornings can be, jolted out of the slower paced weekend by the clock's alarm. Even though you knew it was coming, and your lunch was packed the night before, your pace sometimes doesn't keep up with the time. If something is going to happen, that is the morning it will.

Since I was slightly behind yesterday morning, I wasn't quite paying attention to my surroundings. The condo was around 79 degrees inside and I had turned on the air conditioner in the bedroom. It was the type of morning where you need another shower by the time you've finished getting dressed. After my shower I switched on a light and plugged in my hair dryer - the one electric luxury I won't give up, yet ;) Partway through, the a/c must have cycled on and a circuit breaker flipped. No problem, I'd just switch it back.

No change. No light, no a/c, nothing. Flip off, flip on. Nothing. I called an electrician who promised to stop by after I returned home from work, from which I was now running late.

He was there a total of 10 minutes. Yes, if you've owned a home you've already guessed that the switch didn't flip over far enough to completely *click* so when I flipped it back, of course nothing would happen. Duh! I had heard that before, but never had it happen to me in all these many years.

Lesson: Combining the heat from a hair dryer with an air conditioner is counterproductive.

On the bright side; it's Tuesday! Hoping yours is great ;)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One week ends, a new week begins

This was a very hectic week at work, keeping me there late a few nights. So I am opting to put some miles between myself and the old week with my bike. Cleaning can wait until tonight. Or tomorrow night? ;) I haven't been on the path near Sleeping Giant state park in a few months so I'm headed there in a few minutes.

My sister-in-law VERY generously gave me quite a few pieces of the plaid wool fabric I mentioned the other day. They're beautiful and of excellent quality. Some of the pieces are just a yard in length which may not be enough for a skirt, considering matching the plaids. I'd be happy to just get one skirt and one jumper out of all this! I'll return whatever I can't use so that she can offer them to other friends who sew.






I spent Saturday afternoon stitching little posies on my light sweater, formerly a men's pullover shirt. I decided to go a-symmetrical and let them wander over the shoulders and down one arm.











I had cut the sleeves shorter on this knit two button pullover, then slit the front center and removed the collar. Next the bottom ribbing was removed.








To keep the knit fabric from stretching, I ran a line of stay-stitching near the cut edges using paper so that the presserfoot would not distort the fabric. Then I just tore off the paper. I took in the sides and sleeves and hand rolled the edges. I pinned the flower chain a few different ways before I chose the uneven placement.












I like the weight of the fabric. It's just enough to wear to work on a fall morning, when you know you won't need it in the warmth of the afternoon.

I took everyone's suggestions for cleaning the cast iron skillet, and spent an hour or two scrubbing. I started with the least offensive option (and least messy), using a potato and some bon ami. I think this would work for a pan that was in my use for a while and needed a good general cleaning. But this pan had a lot of old use built up. So I went to the store to get some steel wool and happened to find a copper scrubbing pad. It was more substantial and proved to be a good choice. I gave the skillet a decent scrub, followed by a light rubbing with a salt-and-lemon juice paste to clean up any leftover rust. Then two good washes and a seasoning with oil. The outside still shows some built up history, but the inside is clean enough to cook on. I'll wash and season it one more time before I use it for food, but I'm quite happy with the result. Maybe just in time to bake the whole wheat No Knead Bread that's rising in my kitchen today!






The sun's up and I'll be on my way. There's a coffee and bagel shop along that bike route. That will be my treat at the finish :)


Hoping you find some fun today!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You say....


potato?

Maybe I should have waited another month, but curiosity got the best of me and I dug through my potato bucket to see what was happening in there......











A handful of small potatoes and a few li'l bitty ones. I had a good laugh over this, and brought two to my mother. Moms are always proud of their childrens' accomplishments, no matter how old the child is ;)

The few I kept will be fried up tonight with some onion and an egg or two. At least it will be a semi-local meal. Will I try it again next year? Maybe, but with a much larger container and maybe with compost from some of those worms I've been hearing about...

And these makes up for the lack of potatoes.....





I woke with anitcipation this morning, eager to drive to the gym. Not only for the workout, but for the drive. Last night the radio announced that there would be a show of northern lights between midnight and daybreak, but may be obscured by clouds. I knew my best shot at seeing this would be in the gym parking lot, an open space with a clear view overhead. Unfortunately, at 4:30 there were a few stars and the moon, but no colors. Sigh :( It's been many years since I've seen that amazing sight. But I'll keep listening and looking.


I've got a possible link to some *f*r*e*e* material! My brother and sister-in-law came across a pile of fabric in their travels, and have offered some to me. I'll be checking into this on Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed for me!


Tonight is a big step for me. I'll be making the first cut on this...






It's Wednesday, have a great one!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Exploring

I was born and raised in Connecticut, and lived here for 30 years before we went north. In all that time I did very little sightseeing of my home state, only venturing from the southwestern corner each fall to attend the Great Danbury State Fair (alas, it exists no more!) and one trip to Mystic Seaport. Every other trip took me far out of this state, as if nothing interesting existed here - or so I thought. It turns out that I was missing a lot! This summer I'm trying to make up for lost time, peeking into those not-so-distant corners.





Yesterday I drove to the Guilford-Madison area for a 17 mile loop on my bike. It is another seaside area, settled when our country was young. Access to the shore was necessary for food and trade back then. I passed several houses that were built well over a hundred years ago, most of which had been restored to their original dignity.

I rode at a moderate pace, stopping to explore to town (mental note to return - Sunday morning coffee shops and a small independent book store!) The sign on the diner near the beginning of the loop stated that it is also serves vegetarian meals. So does the little take out shop with Mexican fare. There are several sculptures scattered around town, different styles from different artists, some on public spaces and some on private property.










Halfway through the ride landed me at Hammonasset State Park, with 2 miles of sandy beaches and a huge, clean camping area. Sorry for the lack of wide view pictures on this, but I feel strange about snapping photos amid folks clad in only bathing suits! I'll be going back to spend a day at the beach before the summer is over.







On the way back to the start, I passed (and stopped at) a used book sale. Maybe it was a good thing that I was biking, there were quite a few that I would have purchased. ;)






Timing worked against me in one way, because I was there during midday and missed the concert in the park last night :( All said, it was a neat place. There were some serious bikers out (spandex) and some motorcycles, too. The automobile drivers were all very courteous. I'll be going back, but there are a few other places to explore first!

And, by the way, during the entire 17 mile trip I only had to walk 3 times, on very long hills. I surprised myself at how many shorter hills I rode up. On a three-speed!