puttering, or if you’re British, pottering

Black coffee and rain. Sleepy cat, laundry piles, Mr. Husband packing to go away for a business trip (which includes a 24-hour marathon relay through the Arizona desert, and a visit to spring training); the girls are in various states of sleepiness as they arise and go about their day. Raindrops against the window behind me.

Yesterday was sunny-ish, and almost warm, and since it was forecast to rain today, I took advantage of the weather (I know — there I go, taking advantage again. I’m such a user.) and puttered a bit. Puttering turned into a little bit of huffing and grunting when I moved a couple of pots I probably shouldn’t have — one was my new rosebush, Olympia (red), yet to find a proper home. The other was a water-logged vat of mint that needed to move out of my way. So I moved it. All is well. I just won’t do that again soon.

Everything else that I moved was on the scale of the above photo contents — lots of little pots and tomato cages and bamboo stakes. We’re moving stuff from one side of the veggie garden fence to make way for a chicken coop. As yet to be built. For chicks as yet to be hatched and come live with us. However, that day approacheth, so the puttering/decluttering hath commencethed.

I’ve been reading lots of books about sustainable living, city farming, and the like, and recently picked up Judith Moffett’s Homestead Year: Back to the Land in Suburbia. I found it hard going at first, not because of the topic, but because she’s boring. BORING. No dialogue, the characters (her husband and friends) are just walk-ons with names, no personality, and her book reads like a massive to-do list. Here’s what the Library Journal said about it (just so you know I’m not exaggerating): “…her meticulous recording of varieties of seeds started makes for slow reading at the beginning of the book, [but] the pace soon picks up, and Moffett’s account culminates at year’s end with more successes than failures.” The pace picks up because the topic gets interesting, but the pictures (hers and neighbor’s photos) are boring, and how she tells her tale is boring. There is so mch potential here — where’s the pathos?

Nevertheless, she talks on and on about the ducklings she raises for their eggs and meat (I haven’t gotten to the part where she eats them yet), and it sounded so interesting that I began to yearn for a duckling or three to have about the place here. In fact, my dreams last night were all about ducks. I kid you not. This is why I need to be kept in a small padded room with no credit card or Internet access. However, for those of you who’ve read this far, I am not likely to get a duck anytime soon, because chicks and ducklings ought not to be raised together. Ducklings are very wet creatures and chicks need to be kept dry. I don’t rule it out for the future. But for the moment, the duck question has been answered with a firm but gentle no.

I soothed myself from that brief duck fever this morning by purchasing a compost aerator (the one I owned was lost in the divorce). This is a tool much needed because our compost heaps (there are 3 at present) are packed down and as stinky as stinky can be. Part of the puttering yesterday involved my combing through compost with a pitchfork to get rid of vines, sinewy stalks and twists of crabgrass, peas and beans, and weeds. They need to stay out of the compost. Into the green bin (for city pick-up), I said. Begone.

Raining in earnest now. There are some very cute repro-retro napkins yet to be sewn over there on the sewing table. That’s on my list today. I would like to mention that very similar napkins were selling for $5 each at chi-chi Sur la Table in San Francisco as I type these very letters.  I saw them the other night when we went into SF for my birthday, for oysters at Hog Island. The price tag of those napkins was enough to convince me that a couple of hours at the sewing machine was a good way to spend a morning.

So off I go. Photos later.

Project Funway update

1. Ombre socks: one done, the other about 1/4 done.
2. Ring scarf: untouched by human hands since photo was taken.
3. Scrappy sweater: See #2
4. Black, white and red skirt made of strips: finished but for the button and ironing. Waiting for a spot of nice weather to induce me to wear a skirt.
5. Aqua/green/plum quilt: See #2
6. Pink, brown, cream yarns to be made into pillow for living room: Slowly working a panel of basketweave stitch in the salmon pink.
7. Tahoe afghan: A couple more rounds will finish this; ergo, it will sit in the purgatory of a basket in my bedroom til I rediscover it and finish it in a fit of manic inspiration. Until then, see #2.

8. BI Scarf: Unmentioned in previous posts was the 2-stranded stockinette with purled edging scarf I started for myself in September, out of one fat tweedy cream and a gorgeous ombre called “Meadow” that is aqua, cream, brown and army green. Delicous! Together, this was going to be The World’s Most Beautiful Scarf Ever Knit. Ever. However, this came to be known as the (insert inappropriate and politically incorrect words of your choice for bumbling idiot) Scarf, since, with my stress factors, I couldn’t manage a single row without a mistake, and pulled out more rows than I knitted and how easy could I have possibly made this project? Here it is, nearly spring, and the BI Scarf was no more than about 18 inches long, and the tweedy wool just made the whole thing stiff and scratchy. And it curled. The purl edging was supposed to prevent that. I kept knitting my purls and purling my knits, and then it was just no fun anymore. So Sunday, Simone and I frogged the whole stupid thing, and it is no longer on my to-do list. In fact, it’s on its own To-Don’t list.

Very good. Carry on.

that and this

Wow. Stupor-Bowl yesterday nearly ate my brain. Nothing against the game, but lots of people over, lots of cleanup before (I scrubbed baseboards!) and after (potato chips and pistachio shells everywhere), and I ran away from home for a little while to get away from the madding crowd. Too much testosterone makes me wilt like a delicate flower.

Field Trip

So I hied m’self to Beverly’s for something like three hours, where I pawed through the bolts on the discount table and brought home a couple of slices of gingham, so I can try and remember how to do Chicken-Scratch and smocking. I’ve been reading Posy Gets Cozy lately and lately she is all about the smock. It got me remembering my 4th-grade summer school home ec class in Terra Linda, where I smocked a red gingham halter top. I could do that again — not the halter top. Ack. But a peasant blousey thing, perhaps. I got a yard each of an espresso brown and a burgundy/cranberry red color. I have the right pattern and found instructions online. Now all I have to do is l-i-i-i-i-f-t this finger, then th-a-a-a-a-a-a-t one……well, it may take a while. Hold breath. I’ll be back in a while.
Also, tra-la, whilst digging through the upholstery fabrics, i found some awesome natural linen. It was half off, and I saw some spots on some places on the bolt, so asked for and got another 25% off. Woot! That got me about 4 yards of wide linen for less than $20. Hello! I picked out some yarn, in skeins to match the colors of living room (pink, cream and brown) and our bedroom (green and aquas). Why should fabric get to cover all the pillows? I have grand schemes, GRAND ones, I tell you, and this item gets in line before the smocking but perhaps after lunch.

I have a ton of cross-stitch supplies round here somewhere (mostly in Simone’s room — my little needle-maven!), and am also planning to make a little sampler of the Serenity Prayer for the wall. It seems appropriate, given what we’ve been going through and may or may not go through in future. I could find this pattern in its entirety somewhere, I’m sure, but I found an online cross-stitch text/graphing generator, and am planning to stitch this in a Celtic font, just the three main words: Serenity, Courage, Wisdom, as a reminder on the living room wall. While at Beverly’s I picked out three new colors of embroidery floss, to give it a clean, fresh vibe. I could have dug through my old stuff, but this feels important enough to have a clean start and no strings attached, as it were. I’ll post a photo when I get that done. Like, in the next decade or two…

Last but not least, I traded all our empty beer bottles from the Stupor Bowl Fiesta to a local guy who makes his own beer, and he left me a six-pack of homebrew in exchange. Here it is. I wonder how it will taste? Stout and lager, three of each. If it’s good, I’ll have to trade him some jam or a pie or something. I’m all about the barter.

Hope your day is either sunny or rainy, both of which it seems to be right here, right now. Weather — you can’t live with it, you can’t live without it.

February dreaming

These blossoms have not yet bloomed, but we’re getting to that point. These are mock-pear, but it’s something in February when the cherry and plum trees bloom. Petals falling like snowflakes on the sidewalk. So pretty.

It’s been sunny, with pretend-threats of rain, but no such rain for a week or so. The big storms (such as they are in California) were wonderful, loud and very wet. More, please! However, the sliding glass door leaks, and I had to stuff the cracks with plastic bags to keep the rain out. Now, a week or so later, guess what I find? Little green sprouts in the carpet, and shiny, sluggy-snail tracks near the sliding door. The door-repair-guy is coming Friday. If all goes according to my Evil Plan, I will end up with a French door and windows instead of the hopelessly misaligned and leaky sliding door. G*d willing and the creek don’t rise.

I know you’re dying to know what’s going on with my Iron and Mend Challenge. Well, I’ve extended it another week-ish, since I didn’t finish. Health and time were factors in completing the challenge. I did do quite a lot of ironing, and some mending. But there’s more to do. I have not yet given up. Nor given those items away.

Crafty Poo
Still working on the scrappy sweater, and returned to a cotton ring scarf I was knitting before Xmas and forgot about. It’s close to done, depending how long I want it. I would really like to finish up the yarn, no leftovers. So that’s how long it will be. Maybe with a fringe, too. Hmmm. I had also started a pretty granny square afghan up at Lake Tahoe, in mountain colors (shades of blue, green, brown and white). It is about 4 ft square, but not quite big enough yet. Coincidentally, it’s the same colors as our bedroom. I had in mind to crochet this at Tahoe, and keep the spirit of Tahoe alive with us all year. Whilst watching that silly show American Idol, I picked up the crochet hook and off I went. This could be a good match — watching mindnumbing TV and crocheting a simple pattern. I sense progress.

I added some sewing to my list, because of yesterday’s living room re-do. This is the cheapest living room re-do ever. All we did was rearrange a very few things, and bring in some quilts and plants from another room. We went from a very black and tan room to a creamy/pink/floral room in no time. The black and leopard sofa is still here, but with tan and dusty pink pillows (new covers, from stash fabric, to be sewn soon). A large beige afghan over the black lightens the color scheme. No surprise here, but Simone (daughter #2) and I picked colors out of the wall quilt, designed by me but pieced and sewn by my mom, and we played up the floral and salmony-pink tones. It works with the tans and even with the black. Go figure.

I know, boring without photos. But I don’t want to run upstairs yet again for my camera. Photos when it’s sunny tomorrow, promise.

Mish-Mash Potato Hash
Wrote a few little letters to friends, made a few calls, did a few chores, and now I’m thinking it’s time for tea. Prissy Pants McGee here, huh? I already wrote my poem for today (I’m in a month-long writing challenge, not writing a novel, but a poem per day, which is just as hard. If not harder. Seriously.). I cleaned up. I thought deep thoughts.

Kids are out in the world — Mia on her last few days of her Deep South tour. Austin at school. Simone at school and around town. Ana at work in SF. Patrick, my Mr. Husband, with his nose to the grindstone. And here I am. Trying to make the words flow, the juices run, and keep it all moving.

Advice to Aspiring Writers: Somedays there is only try. Today there is do.

mayday, mayday

… or day after May Day (happy birthday to sister Carolyn, aka CJ).

I’m playing Compactor Fun at my house today even though it’s raining and I can’t hang out laundry. I had a bunch of herbs hanging to dry in the sun but they got rained on and now are perfuming my compost pile. How annoying and wasteful. I also have a bit of the creeping crud, cough, etc, that isn’t enough to be terrible or go away. So inside I stay.

I’ve been refilling soap dispensers and lotion pumps from various other sources — I have so many half-finished tubes and bottles of lotion that I have been squeezing them into one pump (a decorative one that matches some of my china). It doesn’t really matter that they are different scents, I guess — the purpose is to soften skin. So that’s a reuse.

We had a roasted chicken earlier in the week,. and it’s now becoming chicken soup for our dinner.

Recent online talk of T-shirt “yarn” sent me to the scrap bin/rag bag, where there were several perfectly cut-up-able T-shirts. Daughter #2 and I are cutting them into strips, and I will make a knitted bathroom rug. Then I notice the cutting hurts my wrist, so I will put this in the TV room and have family cut strips while they watch TV. Must keep idle hands busy!

We continue to sort through our clothes and hand them around to others in the house. I think I’ve mentioned before that we’re mostly all the same size. When one of us gets tired of a shirt or jeans or belt or purse, it goes next to the giveaway pile — then instantly gets snapped up by another. This happens over and over again. I was cutting up a pair of pj pants this morning for T-shirt yarn that were once Daughter #1’s, then mine, then D #4, the D#2, then got cut into sleep-shorts (I have leg bits in the scrap bag. Someone is still sleeping in them and I think it is D#3). This process also works with the Boy, because super-small shirts are the rage for your emo-punk-rockr-teen — so the Boy’s tiny shirts fit D#4 perfectly. He loves her R&R T-shirts and may be seen in them. D#2 and the boyfriend of D#3 often switched jeans. Because skinny boy jeans are in for girls, and skinny girl jeans are in for the skinny emo guy.

See? Everybody wins.

This morning I offloaded a pretty item that was too small but hardly worn to D#3, and picked up 5 scarves from D#2 — for tying up my ponytail, tying on purse, etc — not woolen scarves. These are so pretty, and are probably right from Goodwill. Another good purchase, well used.

We watched the Kentucky Derby at 3, and everyone got to pick a horse or two. If our horse wins, we get $10. Mr Husband is a big fan of the Derby, since he used to work in gaming and racing. BTW, I will now share with you my sister Nancy’s mnemonic for remembering the order of winners of horse races: Wear Plaid Shoes = win, place, show. I know — it’s genius. Stupid but effective. No charge, friends.

There ended up just four of us at home at the time of the race, so we each took 6 names and Mr Husband took one. I set 2 of mine aside, so that if they won, I would donate their money to the Food Bank. Otherwise, right into savings. But my best shot was Papa Clem, and he came in 4th. Daughter #2 and the Boy split win, place and show. Alas. It was fun to watch the winner, though. 50-1 odds! Major KD upset!
(LOL — as I sit here typing, D#4 just passed the giveaway pile, picked up a sweater, looked at it, tucked it under her arm, and moseyed away. Free shopping!)

I then spent the next few hours sorting yarn from various sources, into boxes and baskets, odds and ends, sock yarn, acrylic, wool, etc, so it’s easier to find when I want it. Ideas dancing in my head, only no time, no time…
OK, I think I’ve done enough damage for one evening. Everyone go about your business. There’s nothing to see here.