Monday, June 25, 2007

Crafters, Start Your Engines...

Oh, happy day! Never did I think that I'd be happy to be told to not come back to work. But since I've taken this part-time office job as a favor to a friend of my mom's, I've been seriously looking forward to getting to start my summer vacation in earnest. And, as if by magic, it happened today. The woman I was covering for is coming back soon, and the temp that I replaced wants more hours and she can have 'em! And, as if to herald the beginning of my long summer crafting days, what was in my mailbox when I arrived home, but Amy Karol's sewing book!! Oh, Amy, how did you ever KNOW that I wanted to make cafe curtains? Oh boy, oh boy! Where to start in my crafting adventures? Finish embroidery project? Dive into something from Amy's book? Figure out how to bind off first practice knitting that's been sitting on the new machine for days? So much crafting to do and SO MUCH time to do it in! WAHOO!!

On a mellower note, here are some photos from my mom's company picnic. She works for a
gihuge-ic corporation that lets all of it's employees go to the zoo for free. I get excited over a $10 holiday gift certificate to Barnes and Noble from my work, but whatever. I'm making this quick because Amy's book is calling to me...

The Impala fountain with a lovely rainbow:

One of our elephants which will soon be leaving us. Due to inadequate funding, a large enough space couldn't be made for our elephants. It's sad to see them go since they were such a fundamental part of the Philadelphia Zoo, but if there is any argument for why animals shouldn't be locked up in zoos, the elephant is the champion cause, I think.
My first glimpse at the newish Big Cat Falls. Holy cow, you can get close to those cats. I had some pretty amazing lion encounters, but this cutie sitting in a tree made my day:And to visually illustrate how close you can get to these cats (and how bald my Dad is):By the time evening was falling, most animals were bunking down for the night. I didn't even get to see my most favorite zoo animal (the Giant River Otter, of course) because they were all tucked in. Here's a red panda that I caught snoozing in his tree:And in case you didn't realize how much work the zoo does to preserve endangered species:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The hayride to the strawberry patch. Not at all marred by the fact that Tony and Sophie were complaining the whole time about it being bumpy/itchy. Hard at work. Whenever I strawberry pick I'm a little sad that for a short while it's fun for me, but for some people in this country, it's an all-day/thankless/low-paying job (not to be a downer or anything).My loot. Also known as: Almost Ice Cream.The Oh My! strawberry shortcake and sour cream sherbet (a little melty due to low light/long photography process). Enjoyed with friends on a perfectly cool evening. Soon to be my breakfast, too... Want it? Sherbet recipe in here, shortcake was actually from a package bought along with the strawberries and the berries are just tossed with good old fashioned sugar. Whipped cream is hand whipped with a little vanilla.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rabbit Woes

I've seen a rustle in the pachysandra every once in a while. And something smallish has been digging under the new latticework panels that Andrew and my Dad installed under the porch. Maybe I was hoping for a very tiny groundhog or something (we have loads of them around here), but no, I'm fairly certain I have the dreaded rabbit. Dreaded? Why yes. Because they will eat my entire garden and they will do it while looking CUTE and so I won't be able to get angry enough to actually do any harm to them. I know about nature's defenses such as camouflage and mimicry (looking like something poisonous so you don't get eaten yourself), but what about looking cute so as not to get killed? Stupid rabbits. So far, it seems to have enjoyed my soybean leaves. All but one plant has been de-leafed, but they have new shoots coming out (you'll be happy to know for your later snacking pleasure, Mr. Rabbit). We bought deer fence and a couple of stakes and hopefully will get some sort of fence up this weekend. I'm mildly confident that it will work, though, considering we'll have to sink the fencing so that the rabbit can't burrow and the garden is pretty well grown in now so it will be tough to manoeuvre. Living with Nature is fun!

While I was surveying the damage to my garden and looking for ways to erect the fence, I heard a scuffle nearby. It sounded like the angry mama robin that I'd heard so often when I tried to walk near the nest. But the nest has been empty for days (the last birdie finally flew) and so I was a little surprised to see a young bird on the ground literally nose-to-nose with a neighborhood cat. The mother bird was frantically flying around trying to scare the cat off, but the cat wasn't really stalking, it was just truly curious. And the baby bird wasn't flying away. So I shooed the cat away and then ran to get my camera and managed to get this shot of the cat looking on from a distance.
And then the bird just hung out there for a while so I got a nice close up shot.I figured he was learning how to fly and I'd not see him again, but this morning I went out to photograph the soybean destruction, and I practically stepped on him. If he can't fly, he is seriously going to have to stop hanging out on the walkway. He jumped/flapped his way up to the potted flowers off of the walkway and just hung out, not really minding me. Maybe he's used to a life in front of the camera?? Anyway, I think he's been there for a while because there was a lot of evidence that he'd been, um, fertilizing my plant. He is one high maintenance bird, but his parents just haven't given up on him yet.
In craftier news, I didn't get to go to the Renegade Craft Fair this weekend. There was too much going on all weekend and we were a little too tired to schlep into Brooklyn this year. But I got the nicest convo from Chonkiewoo on Etsy saying that she'd worn one of my wordy bird necklaces and got compliments on it! I love the fact that although I was sad to be missing Renegade, one of my wordy birds was romping around there:)
Today is strawberry picking day so I'll be rolling in strawberry sour cream ice cream soon enough...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

She Works Hard...

...for the strawberries. Today was share pickup at the farm and they had a special deal going: weed the strawberry patch for 20 minutes and you get to pick a pint of strawberries (a bonus to your normal share limits). Weeding suits my OCD habits well, thank you very much, so I signed myself up. And here is a small sampling of my rewards...there weren't many left by the time we got home because we gobbled them down in the car. Nothing beats a warm strawberry right off the vine, if you ask me. I am learning so much from taking this little part-time job. I worked on Monday and at 4, finished. Finished! In teaching, there is no such thing as "finished." There is always more grading you can do, a kid you can have a meaningful conversation with, this committee meeting or that committee meeting to get to, and lesson planning to create and then tweak. But I actually finished this job and then it was time to go home. And, as a bonus, I didn't have any emotional ups and downs (a class going really well or a class going really poorly, a nasty parent email that messes up the rest of your day, a set of bad papers that make you think you are the worst teacher ever) and so when I left work, I just left. Finished. What a concept.

During the school year, a day off is largely spent decompressing and so I'm only marginally creative during the school year. But today I had a day off from my summer job and there was no decompression necessary. Again, what a concept. So I accomplished a great deal. I finally sat my butt down and broke out the knitting machine. Oh. My. God. I have heard so many negative things about these contraptions that I was sure it was going to leave scratch marks or something all over my arms, but it was a charm to set up and to work. It does catch here and there, but it mostly seems to be due to the pressure I put on the carriage as I run it across, and I'm learning as I practice. Ironically, the ONLY difficult thing about setting this all up was untangling the crapola yarn they sent to practice with. It wasn't going to center pull, so I had to wind it myself, which turned into a 60 minute knot. Anyway, I whipped up a big chunk of knitted fabric and then tried cables with mildly disastrous results. I'm going to worry about binding off later because it seems to take a little thought. Yahoo for a new crafting toy!
And even though it was over 90 degrees today, that new yard sale plate was SCREAMING at me to put cookies on it. So here you have PeaNOT Butter Cookies (the real kind will kill Andrew, so I'll save them for a day when he's really driving me dum dum cha!) from this cookbook here. I substituted cashew butter for the (deadly in my house) peanut variety, and it really does the trick. These are a little crunchy on the bottom and soft in the middle. Oh my. They were my lunch and my dessert and there are a bunch left, but you're going to have to get your butt over here soon, Meg, if you want any. As always, with impeccable timing, I can see Meg walking up to my door as I write this. I highly recommend buying the cookbook if only for the to-die-for strawberry ice cream recipe made with sour cream. We'll be heading out to pick-your-own strawberries this weekend so I'll be blogging about its goodness soon enough.
And, finally, I promised that I'd be blogging more about crafts, so here is one of the mitts I made for my secret Etsy pal. They'll be in the mail this week, I swear. They are a little out of season at this point, but they just weren't happening in the last month of school. They can be a good reason to look forward to Fall.
So that's it for a mondo-crafty day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

My Next Post Will Be About Crafts...

So my crafting time this summer has been slightly impaired by this part-time job that I've taken. Even though I'm working only a few days, my weekends still feel like the kind of weekends where I have to get the errands done. But I will only be working a few weeks, and then I will finally break out the new knitting machine. I have been working on some items. I just finished a pair of fingerless gloves for my Etsy secret buddy which I must send off, and Sophie's embroidery project will be finished within the week. Otherwise, I did very well at the yard sales again this weekend. The plate above is handmade, from Vermont, for 50 cents. It's screaming to me to put some cookies on it, but we just started a heat wave, so that'll have to wait a few days. The rest of my weekend was spent gardening. Here's a lovely iris that Andrew picked out and in front of it you can see the baby's breath I planted (even though Andrew thought that it would make our garden look like a floral shop. Bah.) And just because it cracked us up, here is our pizza adventure from last night. We make our own pizza a lot and never had this happen:) It was still really good though. And this should be it for the baby birds post. This shot below was taken on Thursday. It's the last time I saw all four together. Sometime on Friday or Saturday when we were away overnight, all but one flew the coop.And here's the last guy. He's still there. His parents are feeding him less and less and chirp at him from far distances, but he's pretty happy in his roomy digs, it seems. He stands up a lot in the nest which makes me think I'll get to see him fly, but then he just sits right back down again. So now when I walk by, I don't say hello. Instead, I say something like "let's get going little birdie..." his parents look exhausted;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stirring and Stirring and Stirring My Brew

Oooo-oooo! Oooo-oooo! That's a song that we sang in lower school during our Halloween parade. Whoever was dressed as a witch that year would stir a big cauldron and everyone else would walk around her all creepy-like. It describes how I was feeling the night before last when Andrew and I, suddenly saddled with a ton of Anise Hyssop (which we had to cut out of the garden to give some smaller plants a fighting chance), decided to make Anise Hyssop infusion and candied leaves. First we boiled together sugar and water, then stirred the leaves in (that's the stirring and stirring and stirring my brew part!) Then we noticed all of these little red things floating to the top, which we soon realized were little bugs. Yum! Extra protein!! We spent some time fishing them out:And here's the strained brew:And the candied leaves that took a million years to unroll (after we'd given them all a good squeeze to get the juice out for the infusion.) Being slightly OCD, this was a task I was much better suited to than Andrew, but he hung in for a good, long while. We got the recipe here and will probably try the cake with marscapone frosting. Mmmmm!And I promised Laurel more garden shots than I've been putting up, so here's a glimpse of what I see every day in my yard. In the back we have beans on the right, cukes on the left, and a hanging pot of basil in between...with some dill below (trying to attract some swallowtail caterpillars, don't cha know). In front of the beans there is cilantro and chives (too tiny to see) then squash then soybeans. In front of the cukes there are peppers, then tomatoes (I've pulled one aphid off, but haven't seen any others!) and then basil galore. In between the stepping stones is an herb called oregano thyme...I have no idea what that's seems more oregano-y to me. And speaking of herbs, Dad and I went to the farm today and pulled all the weeds out of the herb beds. I think that's the best smelling job on the farm:) It felt good to do some volunteer work and even better to have a job that was so satisfying to complete. The plants were freed from some pretty major weed-growth, and the resident dog and cat kept us company. It occurred to me that even though I get paid for the office job I'm temping at, I'd much rather be spending tomorrow picking weeds for nothing at the farm:) And this, my friends, is why I'll never be rich...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Day in the Life of The Office

I have taken on a little part time job at the start of my summer vacation to help a friend of my mom's out. He owns a business and his one-woman billing department is out for a while with an illness. So I'm going to be taking the train into the city a few days over the next three weeks to work a 9-5 job without teenagers. Weird. Today was my first day of training. My, there's a lot to remember. Some bills go out with numbers like this, and some go out with numbers like that. This company gets a special page copied with their bill and this one gets all of their bills only sent to this one person. This salesperson wants all of his invoices to have a space here so that the customers see very clearly what job their being billed for. After about 2 hours, I realized that I had totally landed myself a job in The Office...only I'm not in Scranton and my name isn't Pam (they want me to answer the phones too, of course!)...but (for real) this company deals with lots and lots of paper...we make copies, but STILL!

So the picture of sneakers is not because I'm sporting them on my way to work a-la Jane Fonda in 9-5 (one of my favorite movies ever) but because I just bought a new pair of running shoes. A few years ago, I ran a marathon with a group called Team In Training (check it out). That's right, I said I ran a marathon. Me...the girl who got out of having to take gym class in high school because I took too many academic courses...the girl who was in ballet class when everyone else was running around chasing or whacking a ball of some sort. It was a great experience and very rewarding since money was raised for charity. Anyway, it's been a while since I got a new pair of running shoes and I'm thinking about lacing them up and actually running again. Maybe there's another marathon in me, maybe not...we'll see:)

We had a crazy, huge storm this afternoon. I had a great view from my 18th floor corner office and watched the lightning flash and the wind and rain whip around the buildings from my perched-on-a-cloud vantage point (I don't see THAT in my bio classroom!!) Andrew had the sense to get himself off the golf course and had a tough time driving home with all of the downed trees. My dad was volunteering at the farm and said that 3/4 inch hail stones were dropping so hard on the tin roof that you couldn't talk over it. And what were my little birdies doing? Getting SOAKED. So here are my wet 'n wild shots for the day...

My attempts to get a good "feed me" shot:Streeeeetch!!!! And this new angle....look at those little grumpalicious guys....

Monday, June 11, 2007

For Sophie

So our best friends are moving all the way across this big old country. And, to add insult to injury, they're taking their daughter with them. Mostly, I've been dealing with my sadness with copious amounts of sarcasm and general belligerence whenever we hang out, but the departure date is nearing and I need to focus more energy on something to send off with them to their new home. Sophie isn't so keen on moving and although I know she'll get over it as soon as she's in a cool new town and meeting new people, I thought a wall hanging for her new room would be nice to remind her that I love her. So I traced some of the summer stitchettes from Wee Wonderfuls (happy new baby over there, btw!) but made them holding hands. On top of the girls will be the words "you + me = friends" and I've added some rocks and flowers to ground the figures. I also added her cockapoo, Lucy, and had a grand time making her all curly with french knots galore.
I traced the figures onto tracing paper and added my own changes (I also changed the hair on the girls to match what Sophie and I look like) and then traced the opposite side of the paper with an iron-on transfer pen. It was my first time working with the pen and it worked like a charm. Ironing it on took a second and it's nice and clear. I think some of the lines have faded a bit as I've been working the piece, but that could be my imagination. I'm using the fabric that I tea-stained earlier and the floss is all natural-dyed linen and it looks really lovely all together. It's nice having a relatively limited palette to work with because it makes decision-making easy when I'm choosing colors. So this will probably work itself up relatively quickly, then I'll pop it in a frame and turn it over to Sophie:)
* * *
Nikki commented that she thought I'd be missing the birds when they go. Um, am I talking about these birds too much? Who cares! I can't get enough of them:) Well, here they are in all their peeping glory.
Did anyone ever see The Dark Crystal? This guy down below reminds me of the creepy bad guy who always wandered around saying "mmm.....gelfling...." he's got that long, spindly neck goin' on.
It took me a while, but I learned that the birds don't get psyched out if I just jostle the branches anymore. But if I give the main branch a thunk, they think it's a parent that's landed with a mouthful of worms and they'll peep for me. So here are lots of blurry photos because I didn't have the heart to keep faking them out, so the perfect shot was not had.
I've also found a good hiding spot in my house where I can see the nest with my binoculars. I've been able to see feeding time close up from this vantage point because mom and dad don't know that I'm looking.

And I've taken to saying "hey birdies" when I walk by their nest since I can see their little heads poking out now. Am I going to miss them when they're gone? Nah. But I'm starting an embroidery project for them as soon as I'm done with Sophie's...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Williams Sonoma Marshmallows Do Not Melt!

Seriously. Andrew and I had big plans this evening to make rice crispy treats. We got some "crispy rice" cereal at Whole Foods and remembered we had some fancy-shmancy WS marshmallows (vanilla and chocolate flavored, of course) so we cooked 'em up. Only, the marshmallows did NOT want to melt. First they browned a little, then with copious amounts of stirring (so much that we kept switching off on the task because it was pretty tiring) they turned into a giant, gummy, pulsating mass. It appeared that they were never going to really melt, so we finally gave up and threw the rice crispies in. We had used half chocolate, half vanilla marshmallows and in the end they were quite yum. The sugar caramelized just a wee bit so the flavor was wonderful and they were nice and chewy.

So, we can call this the post of a thousand photos. I went yard sale hopping with my mom and her friend, Debbie, yesterday. Debbie, it turns out is a professional yard sale-er. Well, maybe not professional, but she's pretty darn close. We arrived at her house around 8 am and hopped into her car. My mom, the "navigator" was handed a few pages of printouts detailing 8-10 different locations, directions, and an order in which we were to proceed. It was a fabulously intense yard sale experience. One place took us to this creepy gated community where all of the houses looked the same and people had matching trash cans. The entire community decided that this was their yard sale day, so it was like trick-or-treating for adults...just wandering from one yard to another. So here are the spoils of the day for me:

A brass teapot with ceramic handles:
7 pretty vintage handkerchiefs with sweet trim detail:
A handmade quilted square with lovely little french knots that will go perfectly in our orange dining room:Here's a detail 'cuz you have to see it close up to get it...
A little birdie tile from Mexico:
A sweet apple mobile...this is just a detail of it: And not photographed...a big hoop for hand quilting, an embroidery flower design book, a length of bobble fringe, a big roll of craft paper for bulletin boards (but I'm going to use it to cover the table when I do messy crafts), a wool Santa-Fe type area rug (like a BIG area rug, not a door mat!), and a trio of cool pots for planting with chinese-style decorations on them. Oh! And one of those low beach chairs that Andrew and I can fight over when we go to Maine this summer. Un-flippin'-believable....all for under 30 bucks. Yippie-skippy!

And why would I end a post without a shot of my birdies. I decided today that I am really going to miss them when they're gone. They are starting to peep now and I can see their little beaks peeking over the edge without having to get on the ladder. Here they are this morning...
And then later in the afternoon - - they must have all made a group decision to turn and face the other direction:)

Peep, peep!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Crowded House

This week was graduation at my school. Each year, the junior class spends the day of graduation making a flower chain that creates an aisle for the seniors to process through and also spells out the year of the graduation by being rested on pegboards with the appropriate numbers. It's a beautiful tradition and creating it is as much a part of the experience as seeing the finished product is. Therefore, it wasn't too difficult to rouse myself Wednesday morning to be at school at 7am to start the process. Whew. The picture above is a good closeup to see how full and gorgeous the chains end up and the photo below gives you an idea of the size of the chain (a number of these chains are actually handmade - - it takes all day!) Forgive the overall ugliness of the photo can't do much to make a fluorescent-lit physics room look arty.
There is a lot going on in the garden right now, but here's a sweet little closeup of the pea flowers that have come out:And because I can't get enough of those baby birds, here's a peek inside their crowded quarters!

The nest has rapidly gone from cosy to cramped and there is a lot of feeding going on to keep these guys going. It's getting harder to snap photos because the mother and father are always around.
I haven't taken a photo yet, but I'm in the middle of a knitting project for my secret etsy buddy (shh!) and I've drawn the design for Sophie's project (it will be an embroidery project on that linen that I tea-stained last week.) I've never used one of those transfer iron-on pens, but I'm going to give it a shot today.
Oh, and I guess the other big news is that SCHOOL'S OUT!!!! I'll finally be able to get back to making things now:)

made. by k.d.