Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Coming up for air

Fffffwwwwushhh. I'm not sure, is that an accurate representation of the noise a whale makes when it comes up for air? Oh man, the deadlines! They conspire. They burgeon. They... are very much something I'd like to sweep away before we hop on that plane for Florida. Right now, I write mostly for quarterlies, and they all have similar editorial schedules, and so... four times a year, it is CRUNCH TIME. The good news is, progress is being made. It feels good. It also feels good to get back here and write something for free. 

In between clicking away on the keyboard, I've been hopping up to spray paint a frame here and there, or cut a mat, or something like that. This is definitely a slow project. In between the spray painting and the accumulating and the mat-cutting... I have to say, I don't know how other project blogs move fast enough to keep it interesting. Do they forgo sleep?

Over the weekend, we hung a small assemblage in the "lair." The man-lair. A small collection of old posters and old photos and prints and pet pictures just perfect for Patrick. I planned out the arrangement, and Patrick set the anchors. It was the perfect little project, and a good trial run for the more ambitious stairwell gallery still in the works. 

Not sure I'll get a chance to update again before we take off, so the next time you hear from me will likely be from the beach. Gah. So surreal. Cheerio!

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Still lifes

Rain drops are hanging from the gutter outside the window. Our yard has gone from snow-covered to naked and muddy over the course of the afternoon, while I paced and thought and watched from the upstairs window, and wrote in fits and spurs.

I'm beginning to despair of having a proper winter this year. Whenever I receive snow gear for Christmas, winter fails to show itself. This year, Patrick and I received snow shoes, which are languishing in the garage.

In two weeks we will be getting ready to leave for Miami. I'm trying to wrap my head around that fact.

We'll be camping, so it'll be nothing decadent, but still... Miami... in February. Oh my. 

The gallery wall is still in progress. I want to hang everything at once, when I'm ready, so can strike a good balance of big frames and small frames, white frames and brown frames. I bought a new rug for the office, which is on its way. Putting down said rug will necessitate me cleaning everything up off the floor, though, so it's a mixed blessing. 

We have friends coming for dinner the next two weekends, so I have to hold off from diving into any big ambitious projects for the time being. To keep the house presentable. It's good, in a way. It's forcing me to be quiet and collected, and to not take on too much. Two months ago I had four projects going simultaneously, and right now I have just the one. It feels good to be able to focus.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Coming along

This project is turning into the perfect winter companion. It's good to have a companion project to see you through the winter. In the past, it's been a quilt, or a reupholstery project. It helps make the time pass, and it's important for me to have something growing during the winter, indoors, when nothing whatsoever is growing outdoors. 

So, here my little collection of things to hang is growing. The mat cutter is working out ok-- I'm using these instructions, and a little hand-held mat cutter I got for $7 shipped on Ebay. White matboard is definitely a good choice for beginners-- it doesn't show the small moments of untidiness that are so hard to avoid. 

Initially I thought I was going to stick to white frames for this project, but the more I poke around on Pinterest, the more I like mixed frame arrangements that are cohesive but not matchy. So I'm bringing in some dark wood tones, and maybe some black, and oil-rubbed bronze. The little owls were embroidered by my mother-in-law, and they hung, for many years, in Pearle's house. They're very 70s, but in a charming sort of way. The black and white photo is my mother, at nineteen, looking sort of like a model I think. The flower embroidered runner we had hanging in our bathroom in our old house; I just painted the frame to make it fit a little better with this arrangement. The print in the top right corner is Acadia National Park, where we had our honeymoon. I found it in a stack of ephemera at an antiques shop. The little turtles I cut out of a magazine and mounted on cardstock. Sometimes found art is the most fun kind.

I love how this is turning out to be a mix of artifacts, family treasures, and random not-too-precious things. It's turning out exactly how I wanted it to, so far-- we'll see how it goes when I start hanging things up!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kale and breadcrumb-stuffed squash

I love delicata squash. Is anyone with me here? They taste butternut-like, with none of the graininess of acorn squash or the fibrous nature of spaghetti squash. And the skin is edible. Wonder squash.

This recipe gets made at least once each winter. It's incredibly cheap, incredibly delicious, and just fancy enough to feel special. It's good for one of those let's-open-a-bottle-for-the-heck-of-it kind of nights. Beans. Kale. Garlic. Breadcrumbs. A dusting of parmesan. It's alchemy. My favorite recipes are like that: humble ingredients coming together in just the right way to make delicious magic.

Kale and Breadcrumb Stuffed Delicata Squash

2 delicata squash, halved and seeded.

Rub with salt, pepper, and a little oil, and bake cut side up in a 350 degree oven for an hour.


I big clove garlic, sliced
4 packed cups chopped kale
1 can white beans, OR 3/4 dried white beans cooked with garlic until tender
1 tbsp minced fresh sage

Saute the garlic in a little oil until golden brown, then add the kale. Cover and cook until well-wilted, adding a little water if the pan seems dry. Stir in the beans and heat through to let the flavors mingle. Then add the sage and remove from the heat.

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Combine in a small bowl. This time I got a little extra decadent and toasted the breadcrumbs in a tablespoon of butter before proceeding. Unnecessary, but delicious.

Mix half the breadcrumb mixture into the bean filling. Raise the oven temperature to 425. Pack the baked squash halves with filling, mounding it up in places, then sprinkle the remaining breadcrumb mixture over. Bake 15 minutes.

Enjoy! Makes four servings.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Hello sunshine

We had a beautiful weekend full of friends time. We had brunch with local friends and dinner with local friends and dinner with some not-so-local friends. I made curried coconut green beans and oatmeal pumpkin bars and facilitated sticker play. I ate amazing mango chutney, and aged salami, and even drank a dainty little glass of Frangelico. I didn't take a single picture. 

I never thought January would be my favorite month, but this year, it's turning out to be. It's the month where we catch up on the most important things. Everyone needs a month like that, right?

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Some artifacts

The mat cutter I ordered is taking its sweet time arriving, so in the mean time I've been fiddling. I picked up two 8 x 8 square canvasses at Michael's last week, because I really love the look of a spare canvas in the middle of a frame wall, and because I'm forever collecting "bits" of things to display. The handful of artifacts on the canvas is from the beach at Long Point State Park, where we had our second date and then later got engaged. Not on the same day. The little metal button, and also the piece of purple beach glass (in the tiny frame) I specifically remember from our second date. Sigh.

Those tiny frames are ones I picked up at the thrift store months ago. They had a package of the four cheapo little frames for $1.25, I think. The box was so flimsy and the packaging so cheap that they actually glued the box to the frames... but that was nothing a little sandpaper couldn't fix. I primed and spray painted them glossy white. The bottom frame holds a skeleton key we found in this house when we bought it. I love artifacts like that.

Obviously I took the glass out of the tiny frames, and put in a piece of white cardstock and a piece of corrugated cardboard in its place. 

I like to do things like this, projects that use thrifted materials and take forever to complete because there's always the waiting... waiting for the perfect materials to find their way to you. It makes the process more enjoyable, and gives you time to think the thoughts you need to think to make it right.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Patrick and I spent part of our Saturday rummaging through an old barn full of antiques nearby. It was the jumbled, messy, chaotic sort of antiques place-- dust on everything, piles covered with sheets, water spots where the rain had come in through the corrugated steel roof. In the very top of the barn, fat stacks of framed photographs and artwork waited quietly next to a small mountain of ruined lampshades. Because I've lately been in a framed art state of mind, I dove in. Actually, Patrick dove in. He found a covered bridge print (below) from about ten miles away from where I grew up. And then I dove in, too.

Within ten seconds, he pulled out the bottom band photograph, and ten seconds later, I found the top one. Its mate.

Look at these guys.

Look at these dapper, earnest guys with their shiny instruments and smart bow-ties. This pair of photographs is going to look so terrific in Patrick's room, I can't believe how easily we found them.

Just as easily, we scooped up three covered bridge prints by the same artist, all from my home county. 

To thank us for carting away some of the dusty mess cluttering up the barn, the owner (who I sense may be feeling slightly stuck with a big dusty mess not of his making), cut us a serious deal. Those photographs above he gave us for $2 apiece. Damn.

I think we'll be going back sometime soon.

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Monday, January 9, 2012


Patrick hasn't had a gig since December. The restaurant where I waitress is closed until February. Can I just take a minute to tell you wonderful it has been?

This weekend was one long, sweet, quiet date. We had a dinner date out and a dinner date in, a breakfast date in the car and a lunch date at the dining room table. We had a antiquing date and a driving date and a sitting-and-listening-to-NPR date and a movie date. I am cramming as much date time as possible into this month, because oh, it is so fleeting. The rest of the year, he will be gigging and I will be waitressing every Friday and Saturday evening (and even some Sundays too) but for right now it is the January lull, and I am sponging up as much husband time as possible. 

These pictures are from a hiking date Sunday afternoon. As we drove north, the driving sleet softened into the perfect sort of floaty, romantic snow... magic snow... and we stepped into the woods among towering spruce trees and just let the quiet fill us. 

(You can barely see the snowflakes falling in my photos, but the air was full of them all around us. Patrick had snow in his hair. I did, too.)

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Currently in progress...

This is my first week as a full-time writer. I've divided my days into blocks for working on different assignments, but somehow there always seems to be room in between for a little "project time." Somehow sitting down to two hours of reviewing interview notes seems way more palatable if I can put a coat of spray paint on something first. So, I've been working on this. It's the beginning stages of a gallery wall, and I got my inspiration from here.

A pile of Things to Frame has slowly been gaining members for years: vintage postcards, old photos, art from friends, prints from Etsy. A small frame pile has been growing alongside, whenever I found a good one for less than two bucks in a thrift store or antiques store.

And here is where it will live:

We have yet to paint that awesome skylight/clearstory thing, but when we do it'll probably be glossy white, and maybe we'll hang a ton of mirrors up there to maximize the wee bit of natural light the space gets. 

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to buy a mat cutter and lots of white matboard. It's good to have a project.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A little village

I'm developing a habit of doing Christmas crafts after Christmas. (Remember this table runner?) What can I say-- I spend the whole month of December watching other peoples' projects go up around the blog and Pinterest world, and by the time the holiday comes I'm so amped up and so inspired and so... out of time. I don't let that stop me, though, oh no. I pull flatted garment boxes out of the recycling and begin building a snow village.

In many ways the time after the holidays is the best time of year for crafting. The house is full of handmade ornaments and cheery decor. If you're looking for raw materials and things to repurpose, look no further than the recycling bin. I made a whole town from one garment box, and salvaged glassine for its windows from another. The doors are colored cardstock. Everything else is just paint.

By the way, the templates are from here, and the inspiration is from here. Inspiration + templates is my favorite formula. 

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Patrick's lair

Patrick spent all day in here yesterday. I'd asked him to "move in" to the armoire I'd painted for him for Christmas, in the process emptying a big purple tub I was going to need to put Christmas decorations away. (Our decorations, you see, have multiplied quite a bit in the past two months.) Simple enough. I expected it would be an hour's work, and instead he was at it all day. I heard drills squealing. He went to the hardware store. I heard him hauling things around, and I was beside myself with curiosity. I wanted to watch, to see, to offer helpful and probably extremely annoying observations.

In the end, he built a shelf out of two discarded table leave from the garage. I got all spinny-eyed, and maybe a little moony, too. He kept something out of the landfill and gave it a new purpose, and the resulting shelf is beautiful in a punk industrial sort of way (perfect for Patrick) and awesomely functional. The leaves were exactly the right length for that little bit of wall, too. Fate, I say. 

Someday, I might get really finicky and buy new brackets for underneath, but hey, baby steps.

He also hung things on the walls. Good heavens. Mr. Les Paul (below) and that awesome antiques shop score from what feels like forever ago finally have a home.

Really starting to look good in this old house. Oh, and for a wee trip down memory lane, remember this room a year ago?

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Monday, January 2, 2012


It's finally snowing. Patrick has the day off, so we've both been puttering today: a little writing or picking, a little crafting or cooking or tidying, watching the flakes fall. All our decorations are still up, which is as it should be, I think. January is too dark for anything but light. 

I fixed whatever issue was making my blog take ten minutes to load for a month, which was deeply satisfying. And now to get on with the business of the new year... Hope it's a good one, friends.

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