Archive for November, 2008

Best Vacation Ever

November 18, 2008

Well, maybe not the best ever but … that’s only because I’ve been blessed by the vacation fairy. KJ and I did have a damn near perfect whirlwind early winter vacation in November. We met in La Crosse on a wednesday night, did some pre-cooking and planning and then set out driving northbound on Thursday morning. We hit our destination, a cabin just north of Two Harbors before sunset and got ourselves settled in. We whiled away the evening by exploring our space and reading The Dark is Rising out loud to each other. I tried out my new recipe for White Russians and you be the judge whether KJ violated Minnesota state drinking laws by sharing it with me.
We spent two beautiful days (admittedly overcast and frigid but beautiful never the less) hiking around in a number of lovely Minnesota State Parks. We were confined to the shore side of the highway in each of these due to an extended hunting season taking place. All the really cool (read: rugged, non-paved, lower traffic) trails were over on the far side of the scenic highway but … we made up for it by walking further on the groomed paths and by appreciating the spectacular views of the lake. Also we got to climb on the rocks more by staying close to the shore line. On saturday we checked out of our apartment and headed south, swinging through Duluth. I don’t remember San Fransicso that well – its been four years since I was there. But I think Duluth gives it a run for its money in terms of seriously steep roads. I can’t imagine driving anywhere in that city during ice weather.
We stopped at one more park on our way south: Jay Cooke. I was sorry that we didn’t have the whole vacation to do over again and do it there. That is a place worth some serious exploring. Also there is a continuous trail that goes up along the shore line – its seems like it might make for an epic hiking adventure some fall. Just a thought.
We spent Saturday night and Sunday in the big city (thanks Malea) and then got home at a decent hour on Sunday night. Monday I got KJ up early and dragged her off to hike Hixon forest with me just once before she escaped back to her sedentary office existence. We’ll be making this trek again I suspect. Here are the stunning pics.
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These are … the view out our cabin window over the lake with the pervasive dramatic clouds that marked the whole trip … KJ striding out across the rocky edge of a tiny island that we rock hopped our way out to it risking frost bite in the frigid water of Lake Superior on our way and … snow falling around us as we looked out from the top of a rocky promontory mysteriously topped with a stone chimney that may or may not have been the site of Minnesota’s most inaccessible home.

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Wooden Architecture of Russia

November 12, 2008

For no other reason than because its really damn cool I’m posting these scans from a book called The wooden Architecture of Russia. Roald asked me to crib them from a library book for his “inspiration” file before they were due back at the library and I decided that I find them inspirational too.
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This kind of pen and ink rendering is one of those things I half wishI had been trained to do because its so stunning. But I am actually too lazy to make myself learn or even attempt. Never the less, if it weren’t for the pixelation inherent in this type of book’s printing I would be blowing it up and mounting it on my wall.
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And this is just amazing. This is carving in the END GRAIN of the logs. You couldn’t even do that with a laser cutter today. It just blows my mind. And its beautiful. So… look and admire.

Porphyro in Akron

November 11, 2008

O City, your axles need not the oil of song.
I will whisper words to myself
And put them in my pockets.
– Hart Crane
selection from Porphyro in Akron
This is only a part of the longer poem but it wasn’t, in this case, the overall sense of the poem dedicated to a booming rubber manufacturing town, that appealed to me, just the turn of phrase. These lines, I think, capture perfectly the introverts take on a busy scene.

The Sewing Bender Continues

November 11, 2008

And only one short week after going on my fabric bender and cutting six yards of brown upholstery fabric at Hancock, I have a finished project and a whole new lease on my little sofa. I’m thrilled by the power of the sewing machine and I think this may mark the start of a whole little sewing jag for the next few months. My eyes are spinning like pinwheels with new project ideas. I think all this post-grad-school free time is going to my head.
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The unassuming little cushions are a whole nother deal. The stripy one (which ended up pleasing me more) was reletively simple to construct. The only trick was being careful to line up the stripes perfectly at the seam. Mismatched stripes at a seam is a major pet peeve. But the flowered print was a much more complicated affair. Before recovering, it had been much my favorite of the two throw pillows that I picked up for a dollar each at a yard sale four years ago. I got them because pillow forms usually cost more than fifteen so they were a steal and although the patterns were ugly I planned to re-cover them immediately. However, when I got them home, they looked ok with the little red sofa – not great, and certainly not my style, but not atrocious. And I wasn’t on a sewing jag then so … I left them. And left them. And forgot that I’d ever had a big problem with them. So anyway, I never got around to re-covering them. The one in question was more squishy and comfortable and had a nicer cover to begin with. But when I decided to re-cover it became a problem because the cover it had, was a piped border that would show under a new cover. So I took it off. And found that there was no pillow form underneath – just cotton/poly stuffing. OK. In the end I got out my large but ever diminishing bolt of white muslin and made a new form for the pillow and then proceeded to make a very overly complex little cover for it in the most inconvenient manner conceivable. The minute I finished, I thought of a better way to have constructed it. And it has a very badly set zipper in the bottom. But … all of this is by the way because for the first time ever I have a sofa and coordinated pillows (practically a whole living room set) of my own choosing. Its a heady feeling. I’m pretty jazzed about the whole process.
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The green fabric is a piece of flannel I found in the sale corner of my new favorite fabric store – languishing unappreciated. I got two yards because I liked the color and it was so cheap. Now my plan is to make it the backing for a lap quilt for the living room. And at 40% off 7.00 a yard I’m tempted to go back and get the whole bolt. I really do like the color.

Cuter than a Button

November 9, 2008

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This little quilt square (not actually a square) made my Sunday happy. I saw this pattern in a book (in truly awful colors and as part of a really ugly little decorative wall hanging) and was compelled to delay my planned errand run and make one up on the spot. It turned out even cuter than I had imagined so now I have a design impetus for baby quilt number one. I’m thinking of a field of these arranged in a diagonal lattice all done in different colors. I’ll have to come up with some heavily abstracted leaf pattern to do around the boarder.

Yes. We Did.

November 5, 2008

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I may not have been that active in this election cycle (compared with countless others) but I certainly followed it with interest. My newfound obsession with the New York Times online has been fed with lots of political news. And of course I take an interest in what ever KJ is interested in. So I did a decent share of volunteering for Obama this last week. I figure that yesterday I waved at several hundred cars while bouncing up and down and cheering with a sign during rush hour. I know from my tally marks that I knocked on more than 250 doors and spoke with more than 70 people yesterday reminding them to vote and leaving “lit” with information about how to register, voting hours and specific poling places. Lots of people did more and I’m grateful to them. Because it actually worked. I think that as enthusiastic as I have been at various points during this election cycle I never really let myself believe that it could happen. Whether it would be electronic voting machines acting oddly in Ohio, people kept away from the polls in Florida or just the general cussedness of living in a country that seems to fundamentally disagree with everything I see as right I was just so scared that it would work out like the last two. In 2000 I was disappointed. In 2004 I was devastated. But … there is still hope. Hope works. People who care (in both parties) believed in the system and went out yesterday and voiced their opinion in record numbers. I really mean it that I think we should get out every vote. Even the ones I don’t agree with. If everyone participates in the process and pays some attention to the options we’re going to get better candidates from both sides … and a better government. So when they called California for Obama on pbs I started to cry. Its been such a long road. Now we just have to hope that what happens next is all for the good.

Election Day

November 4, 2008

I am unjust, but I can strive for justice.
My life’s unkind, but I can vote for kindness.
I, the unloving, say life should be lovely.
I, that am blind, cry out against my blindness.
Man is a curious brute — he pets his fancies —
Fighting mankind, to win sweet luxury.
So he will be, tho’ law be clear as crystal,
Tho’ all men plan to live in harmony.
Come, let us vote against our human nature,
Crying to God in all the polling places
To heal our everlasting sinfulness
And make us sages with transfigured faces.
– Vachel Lindsay
from General William Booth Enters into Heaven, and Other Poems (1919)

Standard Time – or no more sunset photos for a while

November 3, 2008

These will be the last pictures of beautiful sunsets across the river valley from Hixon Arboretum for a while. The end of daylight savings has actually been less traumatic than I had feared. It does suck that the sun is sets and its dark by the time I get home from work at 5:30 but the upside is a much more humane morning ritual. The sun comes in and wakes me up just in time to get up at 6:00, read for a while, pack a lunch and hit the trails in time for an hour plus walk BEFORE work. But I had to include a couple of these photos from last friday’s glorious ramble.
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A little Nutty

November 2, 2008

So … I decided a little out of the blue to re-cover my sofa yesterday. I’ve had it as “mine” for three plus years now and it only just occurred to me that I don’t have to leave it the shade of red that Mom chose between 8 and 10 years ago. I have to tools and the talent to make a change. Why not. So after canvasing for Obama from nine to noon I came home changed my shoes, grabbed my purse and headed to the Onalaska Hancock Fabrics. I stood around in the discount home furnishings fabric section for about an hour second guessing my yardage needs and finally got 6 yards of a dark brown textured weave that I think will look classy and be a great background for wide range of colorful throw pillows (yet to be created). I went home and dug right in and had one arm half way done by the time I slept that night. On Sunday, after knocking on doors until noon, I came back and spent pretty much the rest of the day on the living room floor cutting out pieces or at the kitchen table sewing them up. I finished exactly half the sofa. Here’s what it looks like.
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In progress. Pulling off cushions and measuring them. The fitting process for this complicated little (perfectly square) sofa is very rigorous!
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As it stands: I’ve completed half the sofa. Started on the second arm and ran out of brown thread. So its going to require another trip to the fabric store before any more progress. In the mean time I have a harlequin sofa. I’m not taking any bets on how long this takes me to finish. But I do have a soft deadline. I want this to be done (along with a number of other home improvement and neatening projects) before KJ comes so that she will be impressed with my mature and stylish housekeeping.