Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Breakfast

Wild blackberries...picked yesterday on the last walk of my summer vacation. They tasted all the sweeter for marking the end of summer vacation.
Three wonderful months of relaxation and productivity have given away to delighted gap-toothed smiles from former students who've surely grown four inches over the summer. I truly have an exceptionally rewarding job.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Chair"ubim and Seraphim

The sewing machine has been humming in my little sweatshop, accompanied by the snap-snap-snap of the staple gun. It's taken three days of intensive work, two trips for supplies at Mill End, and one light-bulb moment. Also involved were six yards of tan chenille fabric chosen after myriad trips to $2 Fabrics looking for just the right neutral brown, two years (or is it three years?) of looking at the chair and dreading the moment when I would actually start the reupholstering process, and the unlikely blessing of an unwanted saggy queen-sized mattress which turned out to be a source of cotton batt and non-woven fabric when I tore it apart. The combination of that unexpected treasure trove, the end of summer vacation and the daily sight of my chair in all its half-removed rust-colored dishevelment finally pushed me over the edge and onto my sewing stool.

Originally my chair was covered in this horrid pinky-brown tweed. It had seen better days before it took up residence in our furnished apartment. Then we bought our first home and thought we'd seen the last of apartment furniture until our old landlord offered us the chair along with a seven-foot sofa and two walnut end tables. Fifteen dollars and an empty family room made the deal too good to resist.

I cut my upholstering teeth with this rust fabric--very Seventies. Recovering the back and sides of the chair went smoothly. Unfortunately, the "T"-style cushions stumped me--how in the world could anyone stuff that shape into a tight new cover? We solved that problem with a blue floral slipcover in the Eighties. Time passed, the shiny synthetic slipcover went out of style (thankfully) and a change was needed.

Change wasn't that simple though. I can't count how many years I spent searching for a simple brown upholstery fabric. $2 Fabrics was a regular stop on my hunting trips.
This tan chenille was as close as I could get. Turns out it was a great choice.

Why would anyone keep an old, ugly, half-covered chair around for DECADES? Comfort, pure simple it-fits-me-perfectly comfort. Turns out springs are the secret! Springs in the back cushion, springs in the seat cushion, springs under the seat cushion. Modern chairs just can't compete.
Several bits of twine had broken, so I grabbed some sturdy cording and retied all the springs. Ugly but utilitarian (and hidden).

It's been all chair, all the time, for three days. I quickly learned to wear jeans. Apparently it's not a good idea to wear shorts on a nylon carpet--kneeling and walking on my knees while I moved around the chair and reached for my tools resulted in rug burn on both legs. I've also had a better workout than anything devised by a fitness instructor. I was so sore from the bending, reaching, holding, and stapling that two Advil couldn't even get me to sleep on Night One. Every little toss or turn was painful enough to wake me up. But the tribulations were minor and the process went smoothly. The sweatshop coughed this up right before dinner time today:Her cushions are a bit plumper. Her curves are fuller. Her arms are softer. She lost some details and gained others. She's a delight to view, but best of all, she's still the most comfortable chair in the world.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Sweatshop

The countdown to school has started. There are not many days left to take long morning hikes, enjoy a lazy bowl of Cheerios near the pond, play with my walking partner's teensy cocker spaniel puppy, stay up late or have uninterrupted time to work on my many "projects".
There's nothing like a deadline to get me into heavy-duty work mode. So I opened up the old sewing machine that I bought as a newlywed and got to work reupholstering my favorite comfy-est of chairs.
I'm not nearly finished, but I managed to use up nearly the entire spool of thread. So I must be making progress.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August Equals Gravensteins

Our family reunion in early August was held in Sebastopol--Apple Central for those of us who think there is nothing that can compare with a Gravenstein apple. We snuck away while folks were touring the original family homesite and found this U-pick orchard. (K&K--the friendliest farm wife and an immaculate, well-loved orchard--two thumbs up!). We picked two boxes of apples (a bargain at ninety cents a pound) and loaded up the little red orchard wagon. Windfalls are so sweet. I picked up lots and tucked them away in a special corner of the box to use first. I may have eaten one or two. I love rubbing away their natural waxy coating and revealing a glossy striped apple.
We shared lots with the family, then brought the rest home where they made my kitchen windowsill look even nicer than usual. Aren't my little birds cute? I grabbed them a few years ago at Target the instant they appeared. They decorate my life year-round except for the Christmas holidays. I love birds!
Applesauce, Apple Crisp, Apple Brown Betty, Apple Pie or...Apple Cobbler! A picture can't do the delicious tart-sweet perfect apple taste justice. You'll just have to acquire your own Gravensteins.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my chin from just looking at my photo.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Donner...Party of Four

Is there anything better than spending a sunny warm summer day in Truckee with friends? After strolling the main street, petting new puppies and old dogs, admiring the creativity on display in the friendliest bead shop I've ever been in, drooling over a tooled red leather purse that's outside my budget, sampling free trade chocolate and bemoaning the loss of my favorite jewelry/spice store down on the Bar-of-America-end of town, I began wondering why it's been so long since I visited one of my favorite towns. We tend to drive past on our way over The Hill to see family rather than make it a day's outing. So wrong.

When our inner lunch bell finally overcame our predatory shopping instincts, we drove up Donner Pass Road and chose a spot a boulder's roll from the old bridge, unpacked our picnic lunch and sat down to enjoy the view and the warm sunshine. Looking down at Donner Lake brought back so many wonderful memories of family vacations here. The log cabin built for the railroad workers was fabulously close to trout fishing from the dock with our sons.

After lunch, we conducted scientific research with this little fellow.Turns out chipmunks prefer junk food (tortilla chips) to nutritious anti-oxidant fruit (blueberries) and will graciously pose for photo ops. I'm not sure if this was Chip or Dale.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Good news, bad news. Well, it's actually more good news followed by a wake-up call.

I'm on the homestretch of my Dazzling Dog jacket. Yes, that was a really giant grin you heard--partly because I can see the end in sight, but mostly because I'm soooo happy with my doggies.

I found a layout I liked, so I snapped pics so I wouldn't forget where I wanted which pup.

Boring alert! Stop reading now if you don't appreciate mom jeans and the word "diet".

On the flip side, the photos from my cousinly visit in California made me wince, repeatedly, and resolve to change my eating habits.

Apparently long hilly walks four mornings a week aren't enough to allow me to indulge in summery treats (chocolate milk at lunch, regular desserts, family reunions with homemade ice cream) and still regain my girlish figure. Alas, alack. Yeah, I did mean "regain" as opposed to "retain". Usually I'm so active each summer that I slim down and firm up but this summer hasn't followed the usual pattern.

I'm sure my family loves me anyway, but there's nothing like seeing yourself objectively in a photo (or in a department-store triple mirror) to realize that snacktime is OVER. I'm pasting the photo on our fridge for motivation. (Which is working so far, since I've resisted the siren call of the Tomato-Basil Wheat Thins accompanied by homemade hummus and snacked on fresh blueberries instead).

Fortunately for us all, the photo won't upload to Blogger. I tried, really. Twice. If that isn't a hint that something (like my butt) is too big, nothing is.

I hear ya, Universe, I hear ya.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vinyl Final

This photo was taken on August 2nd last year--which means it took me slightly over a year to digitize our record collection. I don't know whether to groan because it took so long or cheer that I'm finally done.

Now what do I do with a box filled with record albums?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Gone To The Dogs

If there is one thing I love, it's my dog(s). So I received an appropriate birthday gift from my sister Pooh: a pattern for a jacket featuring some Dazzling Dogs! We had some unseasonably cool weather, so I had a great excuse to stay inside and craft while I was still enthusiastic about my new patterns and inspired by their resemblance to many wonderful dogs I've known.

After one very long day of sorting through my fabric stash as I envisioned each dog's personality, trying and retrying combinations of colors and textures, sometimes getting it right quickly, sometimes failing miserably and needing a second attempt before I was satisfied, I have these dogs. Unfinished, but cute.

Okay, Baxter's really unfinished, but I turns out I own only two grey fabrics and one didn't make the cut. I swore I was making this whole project out of my stash, but he just begs to have a silvery muzzle and I can't resist a begging dog. Baxter was the free download from Amy Bradley, the designer of Dazzling Dogs, so of course he's the troublemaker who's gonna force me to buy more fabric.

Poor Ruff looks a little naked without his polo shirt. Wait till you see him with happy dog smile.
This is Skipper, the Shih Tzu. He had to be black and white like the very talented Toby who lives in Fremont, rather than cute puppy Zeke who lives next door. Don't ask me why, sometimes the patterns take over and I have no choice.
I adore Pitties, known as Wiggle Butts around our house. Major here, who reminds me of Dozer, is clearly on vacation somewhere near Laguna Beach.
Winn Dixie will be darling with hair bows, lace trim, eyelashes and a big smile. Winn Dixie and Ruff are technically Pound Hounds rather than Dazzling Dogs, but mutts and purebreds look equally spiffy once they're dressed up.
And then there's Prissy. Still needs rhinestones for her glasses.

Next step: fuse them to the jacket and start blanket-stitching details! I think I can safely say (knock wood!) that this is one project that'll be finished before jacket weather arrives.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Over The Hill

and off to visit another relative...or eight. It's what summer is for.

I wasn't in love with the long drive--this one was seven hours of driving, there and back, in one day--for three hours of facetime, but I have to say that it was worth it to talk to my cousins, hug my uncle, marvel at how much the adolescent boys have grown and sip the Bordeaux (there are no words!) that accompanied a farm supper of lamb and roast potatoes.

I hadn't seen this painting of my grandparents' ranch before. I spent a lot of time there as a kid. This artwork brings back memories of dragonflies in the "crick", kittens dropped off at the end of the drive, windfall apples in the orchard, horseback riding in the hills, slopping the pigs. Pickup trucks, peacocks, dairy cows, a series of cattledogs named Ruff, ketchup in 7-Up bottles. Cousins and basements, berries and cow skulls.

Childhood memories are sweeter when they are shared around a table filled with relatives and laughter.