Summer craft

We’re unpacking boxes again. Some of mine haven’t been unpacked since a very sudden move in 2008, and a few from my childhood home decades ago that were only opened to toss more things in rather than weed and remove.

I found a whiskey box with a great wad of crafty jewelry that dated c. 1980-1991. It was a time of equal-opportunity counter culture decor for me – vintage hippie beads, new age crystals, punk rock chains and pins, beads representing bleeding-heart worldliness from Africa and South America, and crafty bits from midwestern 4-H camp.

camp-wad

I remember making most of these things in the summertime – embroidery floss taped to my knee while I sat in the hammock or under a tree – or else they were worn more in the summer with their nautical vibe (and my winter clothes tended more goth and grunge and gender-bending…)

camp-bracelets

I made possibly hundreds of these things and gave away many.  This was also before the overpopulation of Jesusfish due to global warming melting out the rightwingedchristiandom crazies, so some of these are patterned with fish just for fishsake…

camp-friendshipbracelets

And I remember trading these beaded safety pins in elementary school – the bead colors meant something, but I’ve since forgotten (and this was before gay rainbows too, but yay for gay rainbows)!

camp-safetypinbeads

I had a bead loom – up until recently, I think – I think I gave it to one of my siblings before the last few moves…

camp-beadloom

And I’d like to think I was one of the “cool” camp counselors, evidenced by these gifts from my campers. Plaid Maggot was the secret real name of our two-year award winning (of the camp talent show) jugband whose real name was something gentle and new age and asinine like Lunar Rhythms or Earthstrokes…

(I think another counselor reported me for my non-censoring leatherwork class, but secreting these quickly away and playing dumb actually worked out for all involved that time…)

camp-leatherwork

I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of summertime crafting this year. I most like sitting outside to unravel sweaters or card wool so the sneezy bits fall on the ground rather than the rug.

unwinding-outside

But I only got in a couple of unwinding sessions so far…

unwinding-cicadas

But there are still a few months to go before the nasty white fluffy stuff comes back, right…?

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Other people’s houses

When we go on vacation we nearly always stay in other people’s apartments and cabins. Hotels serve their purpose for a night or two on weekends or in in-between places (and we’ve managed to rack up some points to stay in some neat ones). But for longer stays, it’s cheaper, sometimes more comfortable, and easier on the gut to stay in other’s living quarters. I can’t take eating out for more than one meal a day, or too many days in a row, even in places with my favorite cuisines – I need home cooking on a regular basis and I like exploring  new markets (or we bring our own groceries if it’s remote and/or slim pickings for good stuff).

I like staying in places that feel homey but don’t seem too much like someone else’s home – strong smells, dog hair on the sofa, stained linens, funky (stinky) plastic dishware, too many personal effects, and condiments of dubious quality still in the fridge are turn-offs. But on the other hand, places decked out in all new things that all match, bought brand new in either “wal-fart for cabin” or “swedish store Euro-chic” seem too sterile.  But I suppose I do prefer the sterile, even with resin bears and thin wobbly dressers, to cabinets with tubes of butt cream, half-smoked joints in the bowl on the living room table, and 73 photos of very sticky germ-ridden grand kids on too many unlaundered sticky doilies… And no matter what, I always spend way too much time thinking how I’d tweak any place a bit – from cleaning out the moldy caulk and rubber tub daisies, to painting a cheap wooden chair so it doesn’t blend in so much with the wooden walls…

And I’m a bit conflicted with the act of owning a second property – granted, it’s fine if it’s well-used by extended family and renters I suppose, but it leads to over-building, destroying habitats, and the production and disposal of more cheap crap (not to mention my contempt for the rich, but that’s another category since they usually don’t share or rent their homes to others)…

But we’ve yet to hit the jackpot for meeting all of my hopes – clean, not moldy, not very cluttered, but stocked full of (not sticky) puzzles and games and take one/leave one paperback, decent mattresses, a nice place to read or knit with adequate lighting, and a kitchen with a pot large enough to boil pasta and a corkscrew. So we pack along as much as these things as possible when trying out someplace new.

The cabin we’ve stayed at a few times now in the White Mountains doesn’t really meet many of those things either, but it’s got something a bit more rare – history and honest frugality. Now, that isn’t surprising for New England, but for rentals, they are elusive qualities. The place dates only to the 1960s or 70s, but is full of a generation’s or two earlier cast-off furniture and books.

I love this particular dresser – the quarter-sawn oak veneer is still in excellent condition, but the handles are a lively mismatch of whatever was on hand. Too many of us (myself included at times) would just go down to the big-box and buy six matching replacements when it is totally unnecessary.

NH-dresser

The bathroom wallpaper initially made me a bit twitchy, but I’ve grown fond of it and it’s in really great condition – the room could be brightened up a little with some accent paint in that cheery orange…

NH-wallpaper

And the curtains were perhaps bought new via an advertisement in Yankee magazine from the early 70s – I love that both still live in the cabin, though I’d certainly wash the curtains because they probably never have been… And both the magazine and one of the popular style trends was in the “ye olde” variety for that time period, it also dates to the beginnings of me and makes me feel ye olde and crumbling and yellowed and low-tech too…

NH-curtains

And there is a small settee awkwardly shoved in a corner that was probably semi-banished when a bigger new sofa went in a couple of years ago, but they still kept it – it’s in fine shape with a delightful bird pattern – I’d be tempted to get rid of the big new sofa and use it instead… (but the new sofa is damn comfy).

NH-textiles

 I wish there existed many more old but perfectly good (not smelly or sticky) things in our lives and weren’t so quick to toss them… though I don’t have that much of a love for bobbles…

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Catch-up, but no ketchup…

Going on vacation is great, but the aftermath is a bit of a struggle…

I’ve been doubling up on work-work to make up some hours and the house-work doubled, tripled on its own.

catch-up tomatoes

We’ve canned even more tomatoes – certainly enough to get us through to the season next year – I think. Some of the heirlooms didn’t produce much, but I’ve been especially fond of the green stripey ones this year for eating fresh. The green beans exploded and have been eaten in all cooking methods liked by us as well as frozen and pickled – I put in another crop in early July, and I don’t want to say I regret that, because it’s one of the few veggies not being attacked by something or another out there, and the neighbors will be happy for more bounty, but I wish I’d put in a dried variety instead…

catch-up-painting basement floor

And the basement is coming along – the floor is now half teal. And I am an idiot and decided that the orange didn’t work after all, and have to hurry up and re-paint it with the original yellow, or a boring white, or more grey… (The pic above shows the floor color fairly accurately, but the walls are more grey-green rather than the yellowy putty they seem to be on my screen). So as long as I get on that soon, we’ll be able to finally install N’s library by the end of the month and unpack most of the rest of the boxes.

I’d like to overdye a large old cotton rag rug (old meaning faded and from the 1990s, not vintage) and a large old cotton sofa cover but not sure how to do that… I’ve only got a small front-loader washing machine, a well that is going a little precious this time of year, and I’m sure the laundromats don’t want me to do that there, but I don’t want to spend much to revive these things – probably be cheaper to get some cheap sisal/jute rugs in the end, unless there’s some sort of paint-on, no rinse or little rinse fabric dye out there…?

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Vacationing body and absent mind…

I was away for another trip to the White Mountains last week, staying in the same shabby, smelly cabin that has a lovely view of lake fog and mists, birds, otters, beavers, and this year, a black bear (but no moose).

NH-mistymorning

It was a long-needed break for my recently increasingly absent brain (I didn’t even schedule that post correctly) but I think I needed another week or two to truly get it back, or at least more of the crucial bits.

But I got back to knitting which has been great – a long lost friend coming back and all that. I took two projects and managed to knock out most of a Trilobite hat – I’m not convinced it won’t be ripped as yet, the body is short and ended too abruptly, so I might undo the top and add a few rows, but we’ll see what a good block can achieve first (I did a provisional cast on and knit the body up, then picked and knit brim down so I can hopefully double it over)…

NH-trilobite-window

…and turned the heel on my latest sock.

fancy feets heel

I put on a pair of boots for the first time in over a year and did a few little hikes since messing up my knee

NH-tinyhike

(I’m not used to being so broken.)

As well as revisited one of my favorite bike trails.

The weather was unreasonably hot and humid, so I wasn’t as active as I’d hoped, but we found a good solution for a too-humid-to-hike day at a lake beach with beautifully cold water (our temporary residence lake tends toward bathtub temperatures and lily pads at our end).

NH-beach

I really like going up north, but I often dread that it is a few weeks ahead or behind the seasons from where we live. I’m always glad to shuck off winter and going up there in the spring is downright depressing when the leaves haven’t started to come out, or the end of summer feels like autumn, which I like, but I don’t want to come in August. But this was the first trip that it synced up with home and felt exactly the same – only some day lilies were still hanging around a few weeks after ours stopped…

NH-daylilies

I banged out a few more hexes, but sewing those most aggravates whatever is going on with my wrist, so I’m happy I’ve narrowed it down and I can still keep my hands working on other things rather than lying limp as they’ve been for weeks.

I also brought a couple of sweaters to deconstruct in preparation for unraveling – a super soft beige merino that I’ll likely dye or double up with a darker color and a completely unlikely metallic thing, but the base fiber is cotton and rayon, so it feels okay and will definitely be doubled or tripled with something soft and woolly (or alpaca-y). I’m surprised how often I wear my one scarf with a little bling, so this is just the right amount to mix into something else similar.

NH-unravelers at the pond

So for once I didn’t pack too many projects, and each got a little attention.

(I didn’t finish any puzzles though which is something I enjoy but rarely do unless in cabins…)

NH-blue moon

We came home to a thirsty, weedy, tomato-dropping garden, and a partially unfinished basement project in a deafening screaming match for days of attention…

I’m ready for another week away…

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Cellar dweller…

Our “finished” basement needed to be finished some more.

The only redeeming quality was that half of its lights are groovy. But the ceiling was styrofoam, the floor is skim coated with cement covering up god knows what, and I have no tolerance for thin, cheap, and dark paneling.

basement light

Painting the paneling was a no-brainer. I made a brief attempt at whitewash, but it looked terrible. And I wasn’t about to take the time and energy again to fill in the groves to mimic drywall, and doing new drywall would have been more effort, expense, and bad for the environment since the only place for paneling is a landfill, or a fire.

basement-good light

So a thick coat of primer and a couple of coats of pale green-grey paint later, it is fine – for a basement. I went with the same color scheme as my tiny studio (and it’s also the same green-grey as the temporary bathroom fix) because I like it and there was leftover paint. One wall only has half paneling/wainscot and another has built-ins, so those started to become yellow along with a couple of doors.

But it didn’t work for me, despite the fact that one wall was perfectly painted – the yellow was oddly too cool.

basement-yellow&orange

So I went out and bought more of the same orange that we’ve been using on all of the outside doors  and painted some sample strokes over the yellow.

But apparently, I forgot that I had added white or some other lighter colors to the original inferno orange…

So  a mixin’ I went…

In went a pint of a bad yellow, a near-full pint of a pale lavender, a spoonful of the green-grey, and the dregs of some bright white used on the trim in the kitchen….

basement-orange

And thankfully, it worked – at least in the way I wanted it to – a warm, bold color familiar with copper.

But the color scheme is a bit on the odd side – the green-grey looks white, so it’s a bit like a fuzzy freezer burned creamsicle, but it’s the basement, right?

I’m not crazy about the other half of our light fixtures – not sure what the original owners were thinking mixing mod with colonial revival, but at least both are copper.

And don’t get me started on the agony of figuring out what to do with the drop ceiling and the defeat of just buying new panels, albeit, smooth ones… and ones, I might add that were woefully damaged and without any attempt at quality control. I’m looking at you, Armstrong. But thank you N, for dealing with making all of the cuts thanks to the dumbass original owners who didn’t lay it out in the direction that would have minimized cuts…

The floor will soon be painted a dark tealy-green and then we’ll finally set up N’s library, my favorite old oak library table, some of my found objects on the built-in shelves, all of the artwork that didn’t make the cut for the walls seen daily upstairs, a lounge area for hot summer evenings, a corner for my stationary bike, and then there’s still plenty of room for a floor loom…

(I don’t have a floor loom.)

(And maybe a pinball machine for N.)

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Oh garden, my garden

The garden has continued to exceed my expectations for first year dirt.

garden-full

Don’t get me wrong, it’s got many problems, but we’re at the point where we can eat something from it every day, and I’ve been able to freeze a few things too.

garden-stuffed peppers

(I’ve got my fingers crossed for a big tomato canning session soon if all goes well).

And it is immensely satisfying – both in eating something homegrown and not having to shop for veg of unknown origins.

garden-green stuff

But I’m still learning a great deal and battling far more pests than I’d expected – my former urban gardens didn’t have half the critters that live in or near the country like we do now, and the bone-dry spring followed by a swampy June has messed things up a bit…

Three lined potato beetles went to town on the tomatillos, followed by a minor invasion of cucumber beetles on the squashes that I thought were just baby three lined potato beetles, but weren’t and are much worse… (Thanks K for catching that one!). Powdery mildew is making sad stuff of the zucchini and I found end rot on one of the precious tomatoes. The cauliflower went ricey early (but I put that in too late and didn’t expect much), leaf miners have been selectively browsing, the cilantro bolts practically the second I put it in the ground, some things are misshapen likely due to soil deficiencies or the wacky rainfall, flea beetles have made lace of the eggplants and I’ve given up on them entirely, and there is something that I fear to be leaf spot on some of the peppers (though the actual peppers haven’t been afflicted).

And some fucker is nibbling on the tiny watermelons.

garden-watermelon

So I’ve been spraying concoctions of soaps and oils and baking powders of dubious efficacy, though still organic, and squishing everything evil in site, but it’s also been a joy to watch the area become even more populated with daddy long legs, lady bugs, praying mantis (though those can be a bit evil too – I had no idea that they ate hummingbirds – hummingbirds for chrissakes!) and birds, though we’ll have to address keeping them out of some parts when we put in berries.

But we’ve had some glorious tomatoes by the first week in July, and…

garden-tomatoes

an early panzanella…

garden-panzanalla

and caprese salad…

caprese

makes it all worthwhile…

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On getting rid of things, part III – thinking more than doing

tiny car

I’m suffering from a self-diagnosed bout of tendonitis.

That marathon session of curtain hemming, followed by countless hours of weeding the garden, some mad hex sewing sessions, some warm-up spinning for the tour de fleece, then knitting with cotton, and finally holding a paint cup in my taloned index finger and thumb for hours on end while painting the basement made some niggling occasional tweaks turn into a sizzling iron inserted into the flesh of my left forearm and wrist.

I haven’t touched needles of any kind for weeks, even my new little shorties, and this year’s tour de fleece is crawling at a snail’s pace as I’m learning to spin with my opposite hand and for just a few minutes here and there as to not damage that one too.

PRS-treescum1

So I’m back to sorting through my unpacked boxes of shit and book collection that I thought was already heavily culled…

My nostalgia problems and issues of practicality aside, how did I end up with so much?

And do I really have that much – certainly less than many Americans, but much, much more than most of the rest of the world…?

Most of it can be blamed on art, and if I take that which I describe as “materials” away, I’m left with a few small collections of old or odd things, a semi-reasonable amount of books for my field, and a variety of tools and gear that are used enough to justify.

I’ve been watching a few hoarding shows, and find them fairly distasteful/exploitative/I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-I-know-it-when-I-see-it and have only identified with just a few of the folks – the kind that scavenge for re-sale or art – the rest with their excrement-soaked abodes are in a sad, much different sort of way. And I’ve also been reading some sites on downsizing and living in small houses.

I don’t understand why many of us have trouble getting rid of things.

I don’t understand the self-help guides and formulas – things that tell you to only wear a few things for a few months, then get rid of what you don’t (not taking into consideration that having too many pairs of socks means you don’t have to shop for socks for years); or get rid of a number of things according to the day of the month (i.e. get rid of 15 things on July 15) and then the people who publicly post their progress and count throwing the junk mail into the recycling as one of the things – or even worse multiple things – when it isn’t getting to the heart of the matter unless your problem is hoarding junk mail or expired foodstuffs or that terrible-smelling product you accidentally bought.

And why must our things thrill us or make our hearts sing in order to keep them?

(A drill isn’t thrilling unless you’re into something kinky, and if I heard my heart sing, I’d probably shut it up with the drill).

Why do we have to be supported or told how to do this as if we are terrible little children or untrustworthy junkies, or cling to others for approval and praise, or subscribe to a bullshit view of things (and life in general) as precious when none of us or anything is special?

Each and every one of us is merely a bag of bones and meat and our stuff rots away along with us.

And why am I even thinking about this out loud here, publicly declaring my own difficulty obtaining a more minimal life while criticizing others who seek out some form of help?

I saw a reference the other day about someone who was downsizing to a more modest 2,200 square foot house. I wouldn’t have considered modest and over 2,000 square feet in the same breath unless you had a family of ten or more.

I once knew a woman who lived out of three suitcases, and just bought a new bed, table, and one chair whenever she moved.  I was slightly jealous, but then she spent more and more time at my apartment, mooching off my atmosphere of live-in cabinet of curiosities until she seemed drunk with gee gaws.

I find myself looking at tiny houses and gleefully make fun of those earnest folks who believe they’re living the dream while fighting to breathe from cooking smells, the loft bed being 2 feet from the hot ceiling, farts, and the composting toilet.

(Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a tiny house on a trailer to park in the woods or the beach for a holiday or a private space for guests when at home.)

But those folks don’t get it – living minimally and simplistically doesn’t mean leaving a footprint – even a tiny one. We can be simple without as much as a single birch bark vase in an apartment or house already built, and work on making it far more efficient or entirely off the grid so that when that body beneath the vintage plaid shirt becomes dust, the next person who needs to live in a house will do so more efficiently. I imagine that tiny house will just be driven off a cliff or bulldozed by a municipality or turned into a suburban playhouse before long…

But perhaps again, I’m a tiny bit jealous.

So I’m striving for simple but not sterile, practical and affordable, homey but not belongs-in-a-home, relationship with my stuff…

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