Thursday, July 29, 2010

Project Updates

I have a tendency to start a project and then get distracted and leave it unfinished for a long time or forever.  I also have a tendency to buy vintage clothes or an old piece of furniture because I see their potential for modification, and then never get around to modifying them.  There are many reasons for this, such as a big storage shed and my low-end sewing skills, or just the fact that I'm interested in a lot of things and something new is generally more stimulating.  However, I don't want to be a person who leaves things unfinished, and so I've been making more of an effort.  During the last month I've blogged about planned DIY projects at least twice, first some vintage re-working and then some furniture painting.  While I haven't finished either, I have been consistently plugging away at them both and here are a couple of photos to prove it! 

First, I've been taking the floral silk 80s dress from a drop-waist-shoulder-padded monstrosity to a loose hip-length tunic blouse with a belt at my real waist.  It's not ready for a full reveal, but that placket above is all new.  It's been shortened and reworked along the bottom edge.  Next up I have to tackle the shoulders, always a trick.  Once the shoulder pads were removed the shoulders are too wide-set for me.  I'm worried that I'm going to make a mess of it, BUT I'm soldiering on.

I've been painting too.  One shelving unit is almost white.  It is taking a ridiculous amount of spray paint.  I always think spray paint will be the easiest way to a nice quick glossy finish.  It's not!  Ugh, hate spray paint!  It aggravates my carpal tunnel, stinks to high heaven, drips if you don't apply meticulously thin coats and takes FOREVER!   (That's my future office-current garage used only for storage.  Its currently dilapidated like everything else).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Garden Update: Pears

My lunch today featured a pear and a tomato both from our garden.  Yay!  Finally, some harvest.

Curried tuna with carrots and tarragon, pear and tomato from the garden. 

When we bought our property one of the things that we liked about it was the abundance of mature trees.  The history is a little fuzzy, but the front house (mom's) was probably built in the 20s or 30s and then added onto in the 50s and 70s.  The back house (mine) was built in the early 50s according to a neighbor, and added onto in the 60s and 70s.  In the early years someone with a good sense of design and proportion laid out the property with a nice angled driveway that limits visibility from the street.  They also planted a lot of trees.  Since then many weed trees have sprung up along fencelines and such, and now we have dozens of trees.  Unfortunately post-70s the property wasn't very well cared for.  I think elderly people lived here, then a woman who got divorced and lived here alone until she set up some trailer hook-ups and rented out trailers.  Yeah, weird.  Almost two acres though, of county jurisdiction means some strange allowances when it comes to zoning, thus informal trailer park.  The post-70s neglect meant that the irrigation system went all to hell and by the time we moved in during the winter of 2001, several of the trees were completely dead and almost all of the others were in need of serious TLC.  Some of the big trees that we lost were short lived species, but several were fruit trees.  Two big cherries were completely dead, as was one pear.  The other pear hadn't been pruned in years but was still alive, probably because it was near a big leak in the irrigation piping.  There were also three apple trees which were getting crowded out by a giant mulberry, but were still alive.  

This post is really about the pear tree though.  It's huge, probably 40 feet tall, and with a trunk diameter of 21.5 inches (68 in circumfrence!).  Due to its lack of pruning many of the old branches reach for the sky and just to taunt us, that's were the majority of fruit forms.  That is until a couple of years ago when some new growth sprouted out just above our heads.  After a couple more years we're starting to get more fruit at pickable levels.  The pears are small, and we don't spray anything for bugs or to keep away birds, so they tend to have little marks.  So tasty when ripe though!

The pear tree.  The ladder is six feet tall for scale.  There is lots of dead growth that needs to be cut out, but we always prune in winter and sometimes can't tell which limbs are dead.  You'd think we'd remember to mark them, but we never do.  Oh well.

Some of the ripe pears out of reach above my head.  The animals are the biggest recipients of the fruit since the dogs eat fallen pears as desert after their regular meals and as snacks at any point in between.  We also gather the fruit in a bucket so that we can take a few pears back to the neighbor's horses when we walk to the back.  The dogs help themselves to the fruit in the bucket too.  

Small pears, but mostly unblemished.

A much better representation of their color.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Summer Food

A mid-week lunch was a variation on my favorite tomato and basil sandwich, and then because it was so hot, a small dish of vanilla ice cream with rose preserve topping.  Super summery.

This rose jam came from one of the Middle-Eastern markets in town.  Our attempts at making Oaxacan style rose ice-cream haven't been entirely satisfying, not rosy enough, but this is a good substitution.

Retail Therapy: Thrifted

Why is thrifting so cyclical?  I used to find a nice coat every time I went to Savers,  but now it seems to be all about housewares for me, and particularly wool blankets.  I've found three nice wool blankets at Savers in the past few months.  This yellow blanket is headed to my mom's house come winter, while this peachy blanket will perfectly fit with my new color scheme.  The third blanket is a lovely off white with one yellow and one brown stripe.  Not pictured because I bought it several months ago, and it's already been put into storage for the summer.  No need for wool blankets in our current climate.  That being said, we've actually had a lovely overcast and quite cool day today.  May tomorrow be the same!

This tray was the third item I found at Savers last week.  I'm not usually a floral person, but I like it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Source It!

Can you help me out?  I want one of these metallic rose branches that I saw on two different blogs today, but I have no idea how to find one!  I did a google search and came up with nothing.  Anyone know what they would be called?  Are they from some specific country?  Made from a particular metal?

First it stood out amongst the objects photographed by timfalle for his blog Suitcase Confessions, which was featured on sfgirlbybay this morning.  Tim seems to have brought his home from Copenhagen.

The second place I saw one was on the Quarto & Sala site featured on Desire to Inspire this morning.  Did these Brazilians also get their version in Copenhagen?

Want one, in silver, asap!

Upcoming Projects: Painting

Furniture painting that is.  Wall colors are being chosen too, but I'm not ready to get to that quite yet.

These shelves came out of my office during the Great Office Clean-out of 2009.  They were over-stuffed with books and their silvery grey psuedo-industrial thing just wasn't doing it for me anymore.  Off they went into my mom's storage room for a year, where they gathered dust and overflow books from her own over-stuffed bookshelves.  Then the other day I decided that they might be a perfect filler solution for an awkward corner in her living room.  The silver color doesn't really work in there either, so I'm going to paint them white.   (Disclaimer, in case I haven't made this perfectly clear in previous posts, those purple-ish floors are due to a previous owner thinking that they could refinish the floors themselves.  I think they were going for a cherry wood stain?  Which they applied erratically, so its actually streaky in spots.  So so ugly, but having ceiling repairs, windows replacement, and sub-floor issues to deal with first, we are not refinishing the wood floors until a later date.  Even though they are awful, terrible, horrible no good floors as they stand.  BIG sigh).

My mom once bought five of these genuine Thonet chairs at a University of MN inventory sale.  There is a yellow one and another green chair, not pictured.  In order to improve their appearance I'm planning to paint them black, matte black, I think.  I'm also, in an uncharacteristic move, going to co-opt them to serve as dining room chairs at my house.  (Uncharacteristic because its much more common for my mom's house to be on the receiving end of my extra furniture than vice versa).

Hopefully next week I'll be able to post pics of the re-finished products!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scenes from My Week

Pastries from La Dolce Vita bakery on Lomas.

Last year I made cardoon pizza and this year I'm cutting the flowers.

I need a new camera because my little point and shoot does not represent reds well.  This is an extremely washed out version of the amazing salmon-colored sunset tonight.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekend Edition: Garden Growth

I didn't do too much gardening this weekend due to the swarms of mosquitos that took over the yard last week.  (Seriously, I look like I just got over the chicken pox, I've got so many welts on my arms and legs).  Just a little weeding and regular watering.  I was extremely excited to see that the green beans are finally blooming.  The vines had already climbed to the top of the trellis and I'd started to resign myself to the fact that they might just add greenery to the garden this year and no produce.  I can't wait to eat beans from the garden.  We also have an eggplant well on its way, and there are lots of green tomatoes in the back garden that so far seem to be developing nicely.  While I think the garden is healthy so far this year, we've had very little to show for it.  Our long cold spring delayed planting and was followed by a solid week of 100 degree temps that fried a lot of the little seedlings.  Luckily we don't get hard frosts until October here (usually) so there is plenty of time for everything to catch up.  Go veggies, go!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Best Architecture Since 1980?

Do you watch Charlie Rose?  I'm only an occasional watcher, but this segment with Matt Tyrnauer discussing his piece in August's Vanity Fair on the best architecture of the last 30 years, was really interesting.  The clear winner was the Guggenheim in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry.  Interestingly, the building with the second most votes was the Menil Collection in Dallas, designed by Renzo Piano.  One completely huge, shiny and exuberant, and the other extremely minimal.  Also interesting was the third choice, The Therme (thermal bath) at Vals, Switzerland, designed by Peter Zumthor-- a building that Matt Tyrnauer classified as completely obscure to anyone outside the architectural profession.

I've never been to the Menil, or Bilbao, though I'd love to see both.  I have however been to the thermal baths in Vals, and I can not imagine a spa that could be more beautiful or play to all of your senses at once. Sound, smell, texture, light and dark, hot and cold, openness and compression are all explored inside the spa.   It was amazing but very hard to get to.  It's deep in the Swiss Alps, up a long, narrow winding two lane highway with a deep chasm to one side, and large trucks full of bottled Valser water careening down the mountain toward you.  At least it feels that way when you have to slam on your breaks because they suddenly become visible around one of the hairpin curves.  So, despite its relative obscurity, it definitely belongs on the list.

What do you think?  Have you been to any of these places?  Which is your favorite?

Retail Therapy: Wear in Good Health

On Friday morning I stopped at a couple of thrift stores and had one of those bountiful days where everything was in excellent condition and fit well.  A couple of pieces are perfect just as they are, but the others will need a little modification.  

This black dress is a too long for it's super conservative neckline, so my plan is to shorten it.  Or perhaps remove the slip and replace it with something that has a deeper scoop neck.  

This blue and white embroidered tunic is amazing.  Perfect for summer, it's making me want a Mediterranean Island vacation asap.

This silk dress needs some modification for sure!  80's shoulder pads are out of control, but the sash around the drop waist and the rich colors are saying it can be modified into a blouse pretty easily.

This is polyester, not silk, but the fabric hangs nicely and the robe has a swooshy drama that has made me reconsider my first instinct to shorten it.  It has pockets too, which is always a plus.

Last but not least, this classic trench coat has allowed me to check off an item that has been on my thrift list for a few years.  I have other vintage trenches, but they had more of a 60s feel that was never quite what I was looking for.  This one has the epaulets, reasonable collar size, intact belt and knee length that I've been looking for, and it fits perfectly through the shoulders.  Best $5.00 I've spent in a long time!

Now if only the thrifting spirits could smile my way and send along a mid-century round coffee table...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Tassajara Bagels

When I was a kid, five or six to be exact, my mom worked at a restaurant on Canyon Road called The Haven.  On Sundays one of the items on the brunch menu was a basket of bagels straight out of the oven.   They were so tender that they practically melted in your mouth.  I distinctly remember sitting on a banco, listening to Spanish guitar and devouring bagels as soon as the basket hit the table.  Devouring food from The Haven was a big past time for me back then.  The owners' daughter and I would spend Friday nights in the storeroom eating chicken wings while sitting on big bags of flour.  Their chicken wings were made with Hoisin sauce.  Soo good.  Also memorable was their version of red stuff, Red Zinger iced tea with lots of lemon and honey.  Friday nights were extremely busy, thus our seats in the pantry.  We didn't mind though, familiarity with the pantry provided us with another past time, sneaking baking chocolate.  We'd take whole bars of it, eat our fill, and the hide it around the property to consume later.  Only we never remembered where we had hidden it... the wood pile?  Behind the extra toilet paper in the supply closet?  Apparently the staff would find partially gnawed chocolate bars all over the place and their complicity meant they only made comments within our earshot that the mice must really like chocolate.

One of the items on my New Year's resolution list was to learn to make bagels, and I started with The Haven's bagels... which were really the Tassajara Bread book's bagels.  They turned out a little small, just like those pesky croissants, but they are tender and delicious-- just like I remember.  I will definitely work at perfecting this one.  Just a note, they are more bread-y than chewy-- so not like New York bagels, if that's what you are looking for.

The Tassajara Bread Book is still sold, you should definitely pick one up if you are interested in baking.  Since I couldn't find the bagel recipe online anywhere here it is:

Makes 4 dozen bagels and 1 Challah bread.

3 c warm water
1 T yeast
1/2 c sugar (
6 whole eggs, well beaten
5 - 6 c unbleached white flour

Beat dough well and let rise.  (For onion bagels, add 2 small, diced raw onions to sponge).  After rising fold in:

1 c oil
1 T salt
4 - 5 c whole wheat flour (or unbleached white) until dough comes away from sides of bowl

Knead 5 minutes.  Let rise 50 minutes.  Punch down.  Let rise 20 minutes.  Punch down.  Cut dough into thirds and roll into balls.  (Cover dough with plastic bag when not in use to keep a crust from forming and also to keep dough moister).  Cut one third into 24 pieces and roll out in tubes.  Connect ends of tubes around first two fingers, sealing by rolling on table.  Dip rings into boiling water for 10 seconds (for that genuine bagel crust).  Place on greased cookie sheet, allowing a little elbow room.  Egg-wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, or leave plain.  Let rise 20 minutes.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Repeat entire process with second portion of the dough.  

With the third portion if you want to make a challah, divide into six portions and braid.  (Since it's no longer 1970, I'm going to direct you to this youtube video on how to braid the loaf, rather than the book's illustration).  Let rise 1/2 hour, then egg-wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.