Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sugar and spice...

I've been having such a wonderful fall so far. Apple pie, clear crisp skies, and brightly colored leaves.

I like to put raisins in my apple pie and I have a trick which imparts a deep luscious flavor. I put 2 small boxes of raisins in a small sauce cup and cover them with Sugar Maple Liqueur then I bring them to a simmer. As soon as they simmer I turn off the heat and let them soak while I make the crust and pie filling. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and sugar are all I use otherwise, with a tablespoon of flour. By the time I'm ready to add the raisins to the apples, they've soaked up most of the liqueur.
Here's another little trick that will give your pie a luxurious flavor: put small pats of butter all over the apples before putting the top crust on. Oh, yummmmmm.
Speaking of crust, .5 cup shortening, .25 cup of butter, 2 cups of flour, a small amount of salt and 5-6 Tbls. cold water. Work it as little as possible for a tender crust. It can be harder to lift off the rolling board when so tender but I simply scrape under the rolled out crust with a long metal spatula to release it. Works a charm. I also coat the top of the unbaked crust with a beaten egg and then sprinkle sugar over all.
I think I need to make another pie tomorrow.
The trees above are maples in my yard. So brilliant.
Over the past 24 hours I primed the walls and ceiling of the bird room and put on a coat of paint. I did only one coat of primer and one of paint seeing how it's just the bird room. But I got good coverage with the paint and I'm not sure another coat would improve things all that much. Tomorrow I'll paint the baseboards and go shopping for a piece of vinyl for the floor. I'll cover the vinyl with hay. I have to build some perches, bring in some branches, protect parts of the windows (cut up flashing should work fine) and then the birds can move in. Yippee!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Morning walk ...

I had my cello lesson yesterday via Skype and that didn't leave me enough time for a walk. But I walked today and it was a gorgeous day. What's more appropriate at this time of year than colored leaves?

Beginning Quilting class has ended and all but one row of quilting remains to be sewn on my table runner. I'm very pleased with the result and enjoyed the endeavor so much that I purchased enough fabric--in batik designs--to make a queen-sized quilt in a pattern called "Triple Around The World". There's an image of one here. You can see the similarity between that quilt and the runner I just made. I have learned the requisite techniques. Happy, happy. My fabrics:

I almost didn't get my runner finished during class because in my hurry to leave the house yesterday I forgot to take the electric cord and pedal for my sewing machine. It was after making that discovery in class that I decided to take some time to shop for fabric. To my fortune a classmate let me use her machine to make my last few seams. It was wonderful to use her Janome machine--several hundred dollars vs. my $99 Brother, but I'll continue with my little cheapy until I'm sure I'll be doing much sewing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Morning walk ...

Tuesday, 9/24/2013

Update #1: The construction crew left today. They are done! All I need do now is prime the walls, paint, and construct some perches, etc. Then I can start on the upstairs.

Update #2: The 3-walk spindle had 132 yards of singles on it. I'll be making it a 2-ply yarn so that translates to 66 yards of yarn in 3 walks! :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Morning walk ...

I took several pictures this morning but settled on this one to post. I was struck by the bright yellow color.

Monday, 9/23/2013

For the record, this is 3 walks worth of singles. That's 4.5 miles of walking, and when I've wound it off I'll post the yardage.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Inspection day ...

There have been bags of clothes (human and bed) on my bedroom floor since the day the movers delivered my things from NY. I had them plopped there and although I've rummaged through them a few times they've done sat in the same location the whole while. On top of those bags was the heap of my stash which ended up in my bedroom because the cellar where I originally thought to house the stash ended up being too damp what with the soaking spring weather we had.

So for several months now--5 to be exact--my bedroom has looked a bit of a dump. Justification for leaving it in this state was that my room and the spare room would get re-done--paint, etc.--when the birds were moved into their own resort. And both rooms will be re-done in a few weeks--hopefully.

In the meantime--this week--I decided I'd move the harpsichord upstairs to my room because 1) it still needs some work and the budget doesn't allow for it at this time, and 2) the music room feels a tad cramped. The piano, pump organ, harpsichord, 2 bookshelves, and stereo system have chiseled away at the available space for inhabiting the room. Yesterday I bought a bench to put in place of the harpsichord. It's not large and will give the room some seating apart from the stools: piano and organ. At least now, if I am to play for someone, I won't have to ask them to stand there. All I need now is to find someone to help me move the harpsichord upstairs and the bench, which is heavy, in from the car.

In order to get the harpsichord into my room, the heaps of yarn and wool, blankets, and bags of clothes needed some attention. That's what I did today and the travail included my periodical inspection for moth damage. The outcome wasn't too bad; I was expecting worse. There has been an outbreak of moth births in the past few months: The Great Baby Boom of Lepidoptera occurred here--in my new house. The eggs come in on the birdseed you see, and they hatch when the bags of seed are opened. But since there wasn't too much damage I won't complain. Life is full of critters and I've made my peace with them--unless they swarm, gang up on me, or procreate unabashedly and attempt to take over.

After five months it feels good to have a tidier bedroom. If I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job of organizing and storing the stash in the closet and--finally--putting my clothes away.

Stash after being picked up off the floor and before storage, all neat and tidy--for how long? Heh!--in the closet. (And I once thought I'd never accumulate a stash)...

A result! ...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Quilting ... progress ...

I have just finished my homework for this week. Wednesday will be final construction time. It's a good thing this pattern is a bit forgiving. By the time the border goes on, all the little discrepancies have added up! I must say it looks surprisingly straight considering.

Feeling a bit melancholy this evening. An impending death. Sadness.

I think I'll go practice the cello for a while and close with this song by dear Elton John.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Construction ... day 8 ...

Well! A big development today: I have a door into the new bird room now! So far I'm quite pleased with this little room, I think it's going to be a happy place for my birds. They'll have 3 windows, 3 exposures, and if all goes well, maybe they'll even have a small porch in the future!

Morning walk ...

Thursday, 9/19/2013

The somber stretch of my walk. There are some very old stones here. Lives lived, and moved on. The stories entombed here! Some of the inscriptions are very sad, especially those of deceased children. (A reminder that childhood deaths from disease used to be a lot more common.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Morning walk ...

... or my daily constitution. Started it this week, once a day before noon (hopefully that sticks). I'm walking down N. Groton Road .75 miles to the Historical Society and back. Spindle in hand. During that 1.5 mile walk I can spin about a yard of roving which translates into several yards of yarn.

I've decided to take a picture on each walk, and I'll post them here. If you don't see a picture it means I may not have walked that day. If you notice too many missing pictures you should take me to task! But I think weekends will probably be exempt from this. (I get to write the rules! :) )

My first day was yesterday so I have 2 pictures to show, yesterday and today...

Tuesday, 9/17/2013

Wednesday, 9/18/2013

Quilting ... 2nd class ...

Went to my second quilting class this evening. It's a really lovely group. Lot's of laughter. Feigned disasters -- though most of us are getting experience with a seam ripper.

Here's how my patchwork table runner looks now:

I have 2 ends to construct and attach, a border, backing, stuffing and quilting to finish it. I'll be making and attaching the ends this week at home. Next week is our last class! The teacher announced a new class starting in October for a sampler quilt. I think I'll sign up. Quite enjoying this. The array of fabric patterns and colors to choose from is dizzying; allows the imagination to run wild.

Stopping in to the store this week for a little "retail therapy" I found myself in the company of two other men -- who quilt! In fact, one gentleman is the President of the local Quilters Guild. How about that!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Construction ... day 7 ...

I'm thinking there's enough room under the addition to have a root cellar there. Hm. Going to have to plant a good garden! Towards that end I went to the lumber yard today and ordered some Hemlock to build my raised beds. I'd like to have them built and filled before the snow comes. (Judging by the temps these last few days one could be forgiven for thinking that could be any day now!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

No power ...

It finally occurred. Last week. I'd been expecting it since moving here and thought it would have happened already. The cause of it was the severe thunderstorms that came through. Doozies.

The outage was beautiful. I was stocked up on candles and an oil lamp and they provided enough smooth, soft light to tide me over the hour of power failure.

Talk about quiet! No humming, no nothing. Pure absolute quietness.

Funny how the world contracts when means of outside communication are cut off. Neighbors suddenly seem closer, more neighborly, and more necessary. Doesn't it seem that mass media and telecommunications tend to create the illusion that we are less reliant on one another. Question.

It really was nice to have everything turned off. Just me and my existence, the birds, and the neighbors. Oh... and a glass of Pinot Noir.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Branching out ...

I'm in a period of expansion! Last week was my first quilting class. Tonight I started a tapestry sampler. Both crafts have been on my mind for ages and finally I'm getting around to experimenting with them. Mucho excitement!

I'm weaving this small sampler from instructions in a book called Tapestry Weaving by Kirsten Glasbrook. It's an excellent book, filled to the brim with pictorials. Every step of the sampler is well explained and illustrated. Pages after the sampler are filled with examples of exquisite tapestry weaving and explanatory commentary. I recommend this book with no hesitation at all. It's an excellent beginner book.

The warp for the stair treads is wound. I wound it this afternoon. Perhaps I'll have time to start sleying the reed tomorrow. Had another idea today: To start and end each tread with a row of soumak. It will create a nice edge between the hem and rug. When I get my first tread woven I'll post pics of this.

In other news, yesterday I got to wear my "Sock it to me" tie. I named it that because I knit it with sock yarn. :) I made it 4 or so years ago and have rarely had an occasion to wear it so it was special. My nephew got married, and that was very special!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Weaving ... a new project ...

My poor loom! It looks like a dumping ground since I removed the Noro scarf a few weeks ago.

At least it's all fiber-related material. I even have my swift bolted onto the breast beam! Ha!

But that will be tidied up soon enough because this week I had the marvelous idea to weave treads for my stairs. Isn't this going to be fun, fun, fun!

I'm almost finished painting and stenciling the bottom portion of the stair well. I've never done a room in red before, but since the stairs are at the heart of the house I thought red would be rather nice. I've also never painted stripes before but it's been on my mind to do so forever. I painted harlequin diamonds in my bathroom in Brooklyn. They were in green:

After 20 years it had started to chip. Look at that ceiling! I surmise it hasn't been painted since sometime in the 1940s! I didn't paint it because I thought the chipped paint made an interesting texture.
Here's my new stairwell in stripes:

My camera has a hard time capturing red. This photo is close but not quite right, but it does give an overall impression. The following photo is truer in color and shows the 4 weft yarns I will use in weaving the treads:

My plan is to weave the treads in something called "boundweave" which produces a stiff, rug-worthy fabric. A few tests are in order to make sure I have the right weight yarns, etc.
I'm all geared up about this one! :)

Construction ... day 4 ...

The bird's room is quickly taking shape. Happy, happy. These photo make a better showing of the addition in relation to the rest of the house. From the street side the addition is not visible at all. (Doesn't it look better with the "carport" gone!?)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quilting ... first lesson ...

I took my first quilting class this evening. It was bound to happen seeing how I've admired quilts for so long and even have a few books on quilting.

North Country Quilters is offering a 4-class introduction to quilting and the first class was last week. I didn't find out about it until this past weekend, but the teacher allowed me to join in beginning tonight. She gave me some catch-up instruction a half-hour before class started. I was the only man in class but one gets accustomed to that. Though, come to think of it, when I took spinning lessons at The Yarn Tree in Brooklyn the class started out with 2 of us. It still makes me sad that the store is gone from Bedford Ave. The web store is still open though.

I'm hoping the class will help get me over my fear of using the sewing machine. Straight lines seem rather improbable at the moment. As does accurate cutting. Though I must say, a rotatary cutter, cutting board, and good ruler make all the difference.

For our first project we're making table runners. I decided on a Thanksgiving color scheme since it'll be upon us in no time, besides which I'm getting into a fall mood. I absolutely, totally, with all my being, love autumn.

Got my strips cut and managed to sew 4 together before class ended. I'll sew the remainder this week and next week we'll be shown how to cut new strips from our constructed cloth and join them into the runner pattern. It was fun, and it's getting me out and about. Who knows, maybe if I get comfortable with my little $99 sewing machine I could end up making meself some clothes!

I would so love to have an old pedal sewing machine. We had one in our house all the while I was growing up. No electricity needed. What a wonderful idea!

Construction ... day 3 ...

Day 2 was rainy so not much happened. The contractor spent about 6 hours here today. It's all getting a thoroughly good soaking at the moment as a rather large (and severe) thunderstorm just passed through.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Construction under way ...

The "bird room" has begun! I can't believe it.

I'll try to take several progress pictures and here's the first from day one.

The room will be 10x15 on the back of the house with access from the living room. There will be a window on all three sides. Golly! Who'd a thunk it?

A story of fingerless mittens ...

I had some hand spun Alpaca left over from the scarf--yarn spun by my young neighbor--and was debating what I'd do with it. Beginning of story.

In the meantime I've seen my neighbors at the Plymouth farmer's market on Thursdays selling their handmade soaps, cookies, and all. Last Thursday I popped my head around the corner of their tent for a quick exchange of greetings with the young lady who spins so beautifully considering she's just begun. Haven't seen any more yarn at their tent since the spool which I bought back when, but I'll keep my eyes on the lookout. ...

The story continues. Pretty sure I've mentioned it before, that the general store in Rumney--the Rumney Village Store--is one of my favorite places around these parts.

There was an old general store in West Canaan when I was growing up, just down from the high school and on the first floor of the building which housed the Grange. We (all of my family) belonged to the Grange. If my memory serves me I went to the meetings just about all through my high school years. There were colorful, beautiful people at those meetings. Old timers. It was good. Apple pie and sharp cheddar cheese for refreshments! The Grange hall had creeky old floor boards, antique benches, and a dusty-musty scent of time gone by. A history.

The general store in West Canaan didn't have roaming chickens, but the Rumney Village Store does. They roam about the yard and sometimes the porch, and on some days their eggs will be carted up waiting for someone pining to cook a hearty breakfast, or maybe the baker needs them. A few weeks ago when I visited the store I could hear the player piano from outside as I alit my car. What a treat! And their lovely pooch. What a sweetheart!

You must visit the Rumney Village Store if you find yourself in central NH. They are just past the town common--oh so pretty in that New England way--on the way to Stinson Lake.

The story continues. When I was there 2 visits ago I was presented with a skein of my young neighbor's handspun as a gift from the proprietor of the store. The young spinner sells pies and cookies at the store, and now yarn. The owner thought I should have a skien. Very kind and thoughtful. It was a wool/alpaca blend, darker--in a chocolately way--than the 100% alpaca I already had. A very beautiful yarn and a bit softer than the straight alpaca. It wasn't a huge skein and I wondered what I would make with it. Hm. Hm. Hm. Off to peruse my "favorites" list on Ravelry: A list of patterns I'd seen and wanted to remember. Found it! A quick, simple pattern for fingerless mitts. Elegant in their simplicity.

I used both the lighter 100% alpaca and the gifted skein of darker wool/alpaca blend. Dark on both ends, light in the center. Kind of like a neapolitan ice cream with twice as much chocolate and no strawberry. I think they came out looking pretty good, if I do say so myself. Brought them over to the store last weekend and they fit the owner well. Wouldn't you know! I forgot to take a picture of them before I wrapped them up. Maybe I'll be able to sneak a pic sometime when he's not looking.

I like that a number of people were involved in the creation of these mitts. Happy story.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I visited the Shaker Museum in my home town of Enfield on Sunday. It was marvelous. My brother met me there and we were given a tour of the great stone dwelling by a very informative, interesting guide. The great stone dwelling has 6 floors and is the biggest dwelling house the Shaker's ever built.

Our tour started in the basement, a fine place to be with company and some lights but I'd hate to get caught down there alone when the lights went out! We ascended floor-by-floor up to the 4th story and saw the big meeting hall and many very large bedrooms. The light coming in from the many enormous windows is just splendid. It must have been a wonderful place to live.

I came to the museum knowing beforehand about a collection of spinning wheels in the attic. As far as I know this room is not part of the regular tour so I inquired about the wheels and wondered if we might be allowed to see them. So after giving us the rounds up through the 4th floor we were guided to the 5th floor where I had an opportunity to draw the bell rope. Fun! The last flight of stairs brought us to the top, just below the bell tower and directly ahead was the room full of spinning wheels. Several of them need a bit of TLC, but I'm sure all of them could be brought up to working order.

My favorites are the double wheels.

From the gift shop I purchased a paperback entitled "Growing Up Shaker", a first-person account by Sister Frances A. Carr. It was such a good read I've already finished it! I will need to go back and pick up a few more reads. They have a lovely shop with books, music, craft kits, handiwork, cards, etc.

The Shaker system is fascinating and I wouldn't mind learning more about it. Most interesting to discover that their god is not an all-male trinity, but a male-female duality, and that they strove after equality of the sexes in all matters. Wow.

It's a shame they are down to only 3 living members, but it seems this could have been foreseen seeing how they shun procreation.