Wednesday, January 30, 2013


And just like that, the torpor was spent. I've finished two things this week, and it's only Wednesday! Nothing like that sort of record to get myself back in the momentum groove.

This is one I've been working on for a few weeks, a pretty new tote bag.

I loved almost everything about this project, maybe with the exception of cutting open and folding under and blindstiching all those leaf shapes. That was disjointed and repetitive-- lots of tying off and knotting thread. But once I was into finishing each leaf with a delicate line of contrast handstitching, I was in the zone.

The Happy Zone. I moved my studio armchair over to the window that overlooks the garden, where I could perch my supplies on the windowsill and watch it snow, if it chose to snow, and stitch. 

I'd never done reverse applique before, but I love how organic and imperfect and magical it is, really. Subtraction, not addition, creates the pattern. Neato.

I've also been working on hexagons, as you can see in the top photo, and joining them together will, I think, be my next armchair project. It's good to have one of those, for winter times.

Yesterday I finished a cover for our hand-me-down ironing board, which sported a lovely stained sheet safety-pinned in place, before I sewed this up. Not a bad project-- trace the ironing board with 3" extra all the way around, make 12 ft of 2" bias tape, cut 3 yards of 1.4 elastic and sew it all together in one fell swoop. One seam, if you don't count what it took to make the tape! Not too shabby. I used these instructions

Those little hexagons are going to pepper a linen table runner for our dining room, I think. I need a good, all-purpose runner for that room that isn't too fussy or season-specific, you know? Hexagons on linen should fit the bit.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Sun and snow

A chicken will do most anything, it seems, to avoid walking in the snow. At least our chickens. They let themselves out of their coop, and into the closed garage, where they will happily spend the day brrrrak-braaaaking and pooping on things and eating Styrofoam-- YES, really. There are Styrofoam blocks in there from the packaging that came with our new tub, and the chickens are steadily pecking them into nothing. I have no idea why. They also peck at the Styrofoam panels on the foundation of our house, even when surrounded by a world of green grass and glory. 

Yesterday I made vegetable stock. The chickens' rapture, especially in winter, in my vegetable stock-making. After the carrots and potatoes and celery have given up their ghost to the steaming stock-pot, I cart them out, still hot from the kettle, and let the chickens have at 'em. Even a pile of steaming, heaven-scented potato chunks couldn't lure those biddies out into the snow.

In the garden, things are still going strong. Strong, at least, for January. I harvested kale, spinach, mizuna, beets and parsley during the big thaw we had a few weeks ago, and even got a cold frame planted with more spinach, mâche, and arugula.

This is all a grand experiment. I have never planted a cold frame in any month earlier than March, which, thaw or no thaw is still a far cry from January. Eliot Coleman says I can get a few weeks head-start on the beginning of early spring greens season this way, so, we'll see. He lives in Maine, so I'm inclined to trust him.

The seeds are here and ready to go, the garden map has been drawn and filled in. We still have a long way to go before spring, so I'm trying to stay engaged in sewing projects and house-y projects, but starting to feel a little bit of longing, too.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Midwinter torpor

My one-project-per-week resolution has found itself sidetracked, somehow. There are two times of year when my usual barreling inertia gets stuck in a rut. One is predictably the hottest week of July of August. Last summer, I got so irritated at myself for not making progress, until I reminded myself that it was 93 degrees outside, that it had been 93 degrees outside everyday for a week, and maybe the smart thing to do would be to find someplace cool and damp to slurp an iced beverage. Which is what I did

Now for the midwinter torpor-- it's easier to forgive myself this one, when it's windchill -20 outside. I'm working on being nice to myself during these two ruts each year. Deep in the throes of Winter Rut, now, I tell myself that a space heater, a novel, a sewing project, and a podcast are perfectly respectable employments for a snowy afternoon. 

Usually ruts last a week or ten days, so Monday, I expect, I will unstick myself and begin moving forward again on my project list.

Next is paint stairwell clearstory, you know, um, this:

This is an old picture, obviously, but see that little shabby gray bit, up at the tippy-top? Yep, that's the object of my progress-desire. Maybe you can see why I'm hesitating. Also, I need to conscript Patrick's help in maneuvering our extension ladder into place on the landing below. Gulp.  

In the background, at least, bathroom progress is happening. Tiling is next, which is when things start to get really good. The introduction of a finished surface, into a wholly unfinished room, is an exciting thing. 

(The staging area. Always an inevitability.)

In other news, it has been incredibly breath-suckingly cold. The chickens are unfazed. I am trying to channel their insouciance. Happy Friday, friends!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peasant eating


This has so far been a winter of soup and pasta. In winters past, I've embraced a meal planning system, little cards kept in a binder, each one outlining a week of meals and the necessary groceries to make it happen. Those meals weren't anything exotic, but I'd usually work in something requiring avocados, or maybe purchased hot dog buns (veggie dogs are popular here) once a week. That was all well and good, but things are changing.


My garden carrots ran out just before Christmas, so, okay, I've been buying carrots. And celery. Garlic and onions I bought at Frog Pond before Halloween, in bulk, and I still have plenty. Ditto potatoes. I've purchased, I think, one cabbage, a few pounds of mushrooms, a few lemons, some leeks and scallions, and a couple heads of frilly endive at the store since winter began. Other than that, we're living off stuff I canned or frozen in the fall-- big jars of tomatoes, bags of peppers and eggplant, and jars of vegetable stock. 

(The salad is from my garden!)

This winter I've really started to understand how much I love seasonal eating. Seasonal eating is really just a fancy word for peasant food, and my GOD do I ever love peasant food. It's not just about flipping the grocery store the bird, it's not just about saving money, though those are perks. This year, I'm embracing soup. Lots of soup. Big soups with beans and chunks of carrots, tomato, and celery, and festooned with ribbons of kale. And little soups, petite soups of pureed tomatoes with heavy cream, and of beets and carrots with fresh ginger. 

It's in my DNA, this kind of eating. My ancestors were all freaking peasants, all of them, even though I don't know for certain, I can feel it: the Slovenian turnip farmer, the Spanish fisherman poling his own skiff into the shallows, spearing crabs to sell. Maybe there was a German or an Austrian baker or spätzle maker. More likely, though, a German or Austrian sausage-maker. I have no idea if they grow turnips in Slovenia, or if there's any such thing as a Spanish skiff, but I can feel it, okay? It's in my bones.

And Patrick, for his part, must come from a proud lineage of potato farmers and Irish mussel-grubbers. There is not a single drop of blue blood in the way we cook and eat at home.


Mainly, it's because I've stopped worrying so damn much. In the past I strove for diversity, I relegated soup to once a week, I thought those avocados would make us happy. But mainly what I want to eat is soup, in wintertime, and why not? It's hard to find a pot of bean soup that will break the $2/serving ceiling-- heck, most of mine probably don't top $1/serving. 

I can do better, I know, and I probably will. Next year, I'd like to harvest enough dried beans to make chili all winter. Some day in the future, I'd like to fill my raised beds with handsome leeks and shocks of celery. The closer I can tie what we eat to what I'm able to grow, the more exciting, fulfilling... oh, you know what I'm saying! I know it's not everyone's jam, but it sure is mine. 

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Weekend in pictures

//Saturday night, frozen strawberry-rum drinks, fireplace, Chocolat, and girl time. 

//Sunday afternoon: ice skating so the kiddos could get their ya-yas out, then hot chocolate and coloring at a diner the group has been meeting at for twenty years. Four kids, eight adults, talk of jobs and houses and shared memories. 

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Outside and in

Nothing much to talk about today, just a few playing-with-my-camera shots to share.

I've been working on some reverse-applique inside, which I'm enjoying. It's not perfect, but not bad for my first time. I'm inspired by this:

Alabama chanin tote bag. Jan.

Pretty gorgeous, right? 

On Monday it was 52 degrees and I harvested kale, beets, spinach, and mizuna. Then I hauled a cold frame out there (top middle) and planted it. Then it snowed, but that is okay. Next month, when we really start gaining daylight, those little seeds I sowed will have a head start. Yesterday I baked peanut butter cookies, and my neighbor/friend Heather came over toting her seed box. It was awesome. I need more people willing to trade me heirloom tomato and Belgian endive seeds for simple tea and cookies. 

Tonight we have a pot luck with neighbors, Saturday Kat and Alexis are coming for fireside debauchery, and Sunday we're meeting up with our Friends with Babies in Binghamton. I love these full winter weekends.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013


**Thank you to everyone who commented on Monday's post. It's so nice to hear other stories, and be reminded of what we gave him, and what he gave us. Thank you.**

So. Last Wednesday I decamped into the great, gritty wilderness of upstate New York antiques stores. I love antiquing, if you hadn't gathered already. The dusty, dimly lit corners, the crazy crap, the thrill of the chase. This time, I told myself: no impulse buys. No more aqua art pottery, no more cute planters, no more clutter! Just a buffet, a perfect buffet, thank you ma'm. 

I went to Iroquois Antiques, and Old Hickory Antiques. Ed's, and Pete's, and Charlie Brown's. I did not come home with anything last Wednesday, so I expanded my search into Friday as well. I went to Binghamton with Patrick, and I hit up America's Attic.

It is not the place to find bargains, but if you want to take your pick of a variety of solid-wood, unscratched antique buffets in a myriad of shapes and sizes, it most emphatically is the place.

If you want to be lured into buying a lovely Victorian bookcase, too, completely on impulse, because you've never seen anything so perfectly in step with the feel of your Victorian house, well then, America's Attic is also the place for that. Photo of bookcase coming soon. She's a gem.

Meanwhile, progress goes on. 

Why am I reminded of a Mary Oliver poem? Meanwhile, the world goes on. Things are ready. We have all our tile, a fine tub, a repurposeable toilet, ten sheets of hardy backer and five bags of thinset. 

The tub is sitting in our guest room. Every day I walk past it and think about the first time I get to soak in it. In March, with Epsom salts, after a garden-digging marathon. Ohhh baby.

Meanwhile, things downstairs are being tweaked. I packed away all the Christmas stuff on Sunday, then swept, and dusted, and turned the corner with the little aqua desk from this...

...into this.

Much better. All our old snow melted away outside, giving the chickens a break from coop-captivity, but we have a fluffy new blanket falling this morning, a happy thing indeed.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Ready to talk about it

I owe it to you, and I owe it to him, to write this. It's been three weeks, somehow-- three weeks of near-constant sad reminders, the empty chair, the lack of yarled or yipped greeting when we arrive home from wherever we've been. Losing a pet isn't like losing a dear though distant relative. Like a grandma. Sure, you'll miss her at Christmas dinner, and Thanksgiving, your heart will be sore for a time. But this emptiness, all the time, the whole house feels quiet and lonely. That is losing a pet.

 It was very fast. I guess that's a blessing. Five days before Christmas, he didn't seem like himself. He was having trouble walking again-- a trouble that came and went usually depending on how recently we'd given him a cortisone pill. This time the pills didn't help, though. He wasn't pricking up his ears anymore, really-- they were back, or out to the side: the worried, confused look. Then he stopped eating. 

The day before my birthday, we took him in.

Man. That was hard.

I'm not sure if it's a good thing that it was during Christmas. In a way, it was good-- the house was full, we were surrounded by friends. We didn't have to sit in the dark and feel the loneliness.

 And now, Christmas is gone, winter goes on. Life goes on. It is so quiet.

 This little dog saw us through so much. Saw Patrick through so much-- twelve years, three girlfriends, three houses, one wife, three cats, many mountains and lakes and trails. We can torture ourselves by remembering and reliving the end-- because that is really the only thing a human mind can do, when you put down a pet-- or we can tell those great stories together, The Good Old Days. Playing monkey in the middle with a stuffed trout, the day we came home and found he'd climbed onto the kitchen table and made a nest in a fresh-from-the-drier comforter. Overlook Mountain, from that first picture, and those first trips out to Gilbertsville. He was freaking blind, he had no idea, but somehow he knew it was the beginning of something awesome. That first time he felt his way up the front steps, he knew. And this past summer, those warm days I could leave him outside while I weeded or worked on the greenhouse, those evenings the three of us (and sometimes Pete too) hung out in the cool grass by the chicken yard.

Damnit, I even miss him eating the cat litter.

Ugh. This sadness! Really, I'm okay. I don't spend all day moping around, but every day I think of him. As it should be, I guess. Patrick and I talk about The Good Old Days, we raise our glasses. We talk about getting another dog, soon but not too soon. When the snow melts. When spring comes. And I think about what I'm going to plant under the birch tree, to mark the place. Something variegated and effusive, I think, would suit.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013


In the way of all things, it gets ugly before it gets pretty. 

That's okay. In the mean time, there is archaeology to contemplate. Layers of vinyl and plywood and hardwood to peel away and wonder at.

And the new tile to think about and envision in place. We went shopping on Sunday, and came home with a truckload. I had imagined we'd go with stone-look ceramic for the floor, but then these boxes of clearance marble eyed me from their pallet and whispered my name.

So then they came home with us. We sapped out the store's stock of white subway tile, too, and chose a big, deep soaker tub and a fancy schmancy "raincan" showerhead. 

I am so incredibly unbelievably ecstatic for my first soak in that bathtub. 

In other news, we've decided to keep our toilet. It seems there aren't a lot of options in between the very basic $89 toilets that look blah and the ridiculous designer toilets that are $800 and up. Our current one has nice lines, y'know, for a toilet, and it's in fine shape. So, there's a few hundred dollars saved. Yes.

I'm still not sure about wall color, but with the marble the whole room could really rock this look, which I find myself fall more and more in love with... ahhh, we'll see...

Alright. Time to get my butt to Norwich for my weekly Zumba class (fun!) and then spend the afternoon touring antiques places, looking for the perfect buffet to turn into a sink. Wish me heaps of good antiquing karma.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Snowy debauchery

As you may know, I am friends with this kid. It's been over eleven years. As you may not know, we were born six days apart in the same year. Which means, blessedly, that we turn the same age at nearly the same time, and whenever there are feelings of curmudgeonliness about said birthday, they can be shared. Wallowed in or embraced. 

On Saturday, Alexis and I went snow tubing. It had been such a very long time before I'd done anything designed to get the adrenaline going-- years, YEARS-- and I wasn't prepared for how good it would feel to zoom head-first down a very steep white hill hollering Oooooooh SHhhhhIIITTT!!! at the top of my lungs.

I may have corrupted some innocents. But hey, I'm 30. To them I'm an old lady, and old ladies are supposed to be profane, right? Are we also supposed to drink vodka at the top of the hill we slide down? Yes?

Well, I'd say mission accomplished there. There's something a little thug about us in this one. Makes me chuckle. 

We rounded out the day with dinner and wine at a very old-school restaurant where the marvelous French onion soup swam beneath an unctuous layer of liquid tallow. It was the perfect indulgence.

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