Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Peppering Pecks of Pickles

It was a clean out the refrigerator afternoon. I pride myself in very rarely having to throw out food. I love the challenge of using every last thing and not letting any surprises from the produce drawer reach out and grab me.

Having recently become an apron fan, I slapped that baby on and went to work. I made a fat free pear crisp, which is basically sliced pears drizzled with maple syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon, covered with oatmeal and baked. It smells like fall around here. Ernst will be thrilled; he is a cobbler kind of guy, even if now that means the vegan variety.

Pickled peppers (and carrots, zucchini and cucumbers)
Next I made Spicy Zucchini Pickles, plus some regular kind with cucumbers and some pickled carrots and pickled peppers, no joke. If it came from the earth, it was fair game. I found this easy refrigerator method of making them, using zucchini spears. They are super easy, super yummy and you can make them in no time. The recipe starts spicy, so either cut down on the hot pepper flakes, or have a beer handy. I also put in fresh dill instead of the seed, and left out the mustard seed and forgot the garlic another time. Basically you need the vinegar and salt, the rest is mix, match and mess up.

Last, I juiced the remaining veggies in the house. I used carrots, celery, cabbage, ginger, some zucchini that got left from the pickle process and an apple. When I first started juicing, I needed to have a lot of fruit in it to enjoy, but now I can take mostly veggies and just enough fruit to sweeten it. I just don't get it, but I feel so great on the stuff. It's like my body senses all the nutrition coming down the chute and decides to be good so it will get more in the future. It makes a great big colorful mess, and I can't stand cleaning it up. But when I am done and I have that jar of veggie power at the end, it is worth it. Ideally, one should juice often and not store it. Ideally, the person that says that can give me a newer version juicer. For now, I think my way is just fine. So the fridge is clean, my floors have been wiped down, the worms in the compost pile are rejoicing and all is good. As long as I don't look at the laundry pile, that is.
Why I hate juicing.

Why I love it. (Bonus points for naming the compost pile mystery.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Count Your Chicken Quilt Before it is Matched

too good to be true

Today would have been such a great quilt day. Our meeting was moved for the third week in a row to Friday, so today seems unending. The weather is perfect. Ernst is home, so we get to hang out.

With all that going for me, I took my whole quilting operation outside and set up shop. I cut out all the squares I needed plus the batting. I even ironed the squares, and if you know me you know I abhor ironing. I sewed all the Xs outside in the gorgeous weather, with my faithful companion Molly Malone. So what's the problem?

When my color challenged husband told me some of the squares were not working, I knew things were bad. This is a man who looks at me very puzzled when I describe a red as a "yellow red" verses a "blue red". He is so cute to think all greens are green. So when he decided some of my colors were wrong, I halted the entire project, brought the equipment inside and decided to let my chicken quilt sit for a while.

Well, maybe it's actually a rooster?
The original chicken fabric is so incredibly gorgeous, I really need to do right by it. It was a piece of designer fabric sample that I got at the thrift store. After cutting it, I now know how really cool it is. It has the chickens, but also a more subtle pattern of chicken wire sort of embossed in it too. Somewhere out there is the perfect fabric I need to tie this whole thing together, but after tearing through my depleted stash, I know it isn't here.

So what to do with the perfect day? If I were smart, I would spend some time getting ready for my job interview tomorrow. But maybe a nap would be more productive. This chick needs her beauty rest.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sewing the Funky Chicken

Upper Lake, CA

We just got back from a weekend to Upper Lake, Ernst had a talk there. We stayed in a house overlooking fields, horses and red barns. The weather cooled down and I am in the quilt mood big time.

a bit of rain this morning cleared the skies

There is a decidedly rural theme going through my latest quilts. Sheep, farms, cows and gingerbread men and women. I don't think this phase is done just yet. I've had a chicken themed quilt in my head for a while, and I think it is time to get it out of my system.

Even Molly was invited by our wonderful hosts!

I may pull that dark fabric, it seems a bit strong

My Moldovan friend Galina has asked me why I have yet to make a quilt named after her. I have been waiting for one with the right character, because she certainly is one. When I first learned her name, I would confuse it with the Romanian word for chicken, so this one will be named after her.
the latest arrivals

I was waiting to pick up one more chicken themed fabric, and I cracked up when I came home last week to find this on our kitchen table. A friend of mine who sews had sent it home with Ernst. It has cows too, but if I cut it up right I can make one chicken quilt and then make a cow quilt in the future. 

this one got the idea in my head

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zidul este terminat

The Great Wall Build of 2011
The original wall we copied
I have a new appreciation for walls. I drive around now and notice them everywhere. I wonder how long they have stood, if there are any boo boos in them, and if professionals or amateurs put them up.

This photo is what existed on our KH property as of last week. It ran the entire length of the east property line. I don't know why this was installed but the rest left undone. The neighbors planted trees and vines and we are enjoying the benefits. Running on the south and west end of the property, there was a mishmash of chain link and wooden fences that looked a bit tattered. I can't believe I didn't take a before and after, but such is life.

For every pro...
...about six newbies
Serious hard hat hair
Nina working hard

Blazing hot, but we had to keep going
Experienced wall builders

Not RBC approved footwear

Striking, joining, or as we said, "spreading the goop"
Enjoying the shade in the neighbor's yard

The lot gets new blacktop and striping this weekend, then it is done

Even the praying mantis was asking for a nice delta breeze, please. But we survived, we drank gobs of water and had loads of fun. The two huge projects on our hall this year were done in either freezing windy downpours or blazing hot weather. And in four languages: Russian, Romanian, Sign Language and English. Yet, we had a blast. But please no more for a while. I have hit the ZID!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Channeling My Inner Construction Worker

There are a few words in Romanian that I know backwards, forwards and upside-down. Wall is one of those words.
zid                     wall
zidul                   the wall
zidului                to/of the wall
un zid                 a wall
a zidi                  to build (a stone wall)
am zidit un zid    we built a stone wall, although that is redundant

At our hall this week, in the blazing heat of this surprise bit of summer that won't let go, we are zidding a zid! And I am helping. I am striking the mortar and brushing it, and learning the difference between bee holes and cat eyes, both of which need to be filled in with mortar after you strike it. I also learned that concrete blocks are really heavy and, this sounds very sexist, better left for the big boys to lift. Seriously they are very heavy.

Our Romanian friends are used to building with concrete blocks, except they used horse manure in their mortar in Moldova. My little friend Laura remembers as a kid having to get in a big vat of it to help mix up the smelly stuff with her feet. I doubt that manure based mortar is in the California Building Code, so on this project we are sticking with mortar from a bag, not a nag. I'm sure they are so sick of hearing me use the word zid, they can't wait for this to be done so I can get on to other words. There is one more day of the wall build. Tomorrow we (they) put on the top decorative piece, and we come behind and clean up. It promises to be another blazing hot day, and by now the wall is getting kind of high for this shorty. The showers have felt great at the end of the day.

After I got done zidding today, I did my Tuesday bread delivery. Long story short, each Tuesday we get a huge supply of day old food from a wonderful store (Totally Joyous?) and deliver it to people who need it. I have four stops, one is at the apartment where many of our Moldovan friends live. I pulled up tonight and got the giant blue Ikea bag of bread out to lug to Galina's home (she distributes to the apartment) when I heard Jessica, Jessica Help! A little boy in our congregation was being picked on by a teenager in the apartment. That bratty thug was grabbing my little buddy behind the neck and pinching him. So, still dressed like a construction worker and just darn scary looking, I marched over there. I told the teenager, I see this kid two times a week, sometimes more, and I'm going to ask him every time I see him if you are still hurting him, do you understand? I'm surprised I didn't threaten him with cement shoes or getting buried in the zid. Tomorrow I'll have to work on my mafia accent.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Great Skunk Wars of 2011

The Eight Stages of Dog Humiliation


The use of guilt
Kissing up
Reaching rock bottom
Repeat the offense

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ginger, a Cookie Quilt

I have never had a country decor in my home, but my quilts are not really about what I like. They are about what I can scrounge fabric-wise, and this is a perfect example. I picked up this adorable gingerbread themed fabric that had been hacked at - a case of dieter's regret? I cut out what I could use, and then went to work finding some other fabric in my stash.

I did my own hacking - at a floral skirt that made me look like a raised flower bed on Miracle Gro. It all come together really cute, but for some reason I had a harder time with the "cookie puns". My baking days are long gone, unless you count dehydrated coconut/macadamia nut/lime raw cookies. That would not be a great name for a quilt, but now my mouth is watering. Got Soy Milk?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nellya, the Rag Quilt and Hug All in One...Sold!

It began to feel like the only quilts anyone wanted were the blue and white beach themed ones. I was hoping that with an autumn nip in the morning air, this warm and cozy quilt would get some Etsy exposure. Just in time for fall, it sold.

Nellya, my friend this is named for, is one of those people whose hugs are all-encompassing. She wraps me up in a giant marshmallow of a hug. I have been told by a very good friend that my hugs don't last long enough, that I pull away too soon. Another friend of mine has a running joke with me. She teases me that I hate to hug, so we just do a pinky hug. It isn't that I hate to hug, I'm just not the right height. I usually manage to get lipstick on someone's shoulder. Other times I ram their pierced earring post into their skull or slam them right in the chin. Instead of marshmallow hugs, I'm afraid mine are more like jaw breakers. There are very few hugs that I get right, so I usually just end up doing a series of short quick ones. Then I appear to be a hug addict, never knowing when enough is enough. Maybe I'll just show people a picture of this quilt and say, There! I sewed a hug. See, I'm not a hug loser after all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Me Like Squares

Month ten of unemployment seems to be taking a toll on my intelligence. While the job I had wasn't rocket science, it was mentally stimulating and I learned new things monthly, if not weekly. I lost that job last November, and with it apparently some of my mind.

My husband on the other hand still comes home from work with his brain on fire. When I ask him how his day went, I mean something like, Did you like your lunch, Did any of the girls I know from Team Panda ask about me, How are your co-teachers? But that isn't what I get.

Today he came home all fired up with a book he is reading about the mathematicians who made the early theories that led up to the invention of the modern computer. So tonight's conversation, very one sided I might add, was about set theory, the axiom of choice, Wittgenstein's picture theory, and Russell's Paradox. I made the mistake of pretending like I understood. Big mistake. He even tried to make it simple for me by taking one of these theories and comparing it to the Low Fat Blue Corn Chips from Trader Joe's that he was eating. Something about if you had 100 bags of them, something about one chip from each bag doing something, and then something else that I forgot, but probably never really understood. All the while I am saying, Hmm, how interesting, really, wow, that is something.

What was going on in my head at the time? Me like Cookie Quilt. Me like squares. Squares easy. Rectangles hard. Triangles more harder. Me makes quilts 49 squares big. Me can count to 49. Cotton good, me like cotton. Me sew. Sewing hard, but me good at sew.

Me need to find job.

Cookie Cutting on a Hot Day

Mid September, after a nice cool summer, is putting in one last little kick. I decided to cut out some fabric on the back patio today. It was getting really hot with not one bit of breeze. I was getting frustrated and annoyed, hot and bothered. Then the breeze came, the quilt squares started to blow away, the comforter on the clothes line started blowing onto my cutting table. With this quilt, the phrase of the day was That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles, because it will be a Cookie Quilt!

includes a skirt I always regretted wearing when I passed a mirror

so cute!!

the sad crumbs
This stinkin' cute fabric came from the thrift store. Somebody at one point went at it with a vengeance, but there were several squares left, enough to make a themed quilt of gingerbread cookies. It even has a recipe on it, but I don't know how useful it will be after I sew the quilting X right across it. I ran out of steam after my fight with the heat and then the wind, so I put it away rather than try to sew mad. Sewing when one is hot and bothered is never a good idea. It leads to nervous pets, wasted thread, concerned neighbors and much use of the seam ripper. I'll put this one on the back burner for a few days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

These are my memories of September 11th, 2001.

We are not morning people. So when the phone rang early that morning at our Lake Tahoe house, it woke us up. Ernst got it, and I heard him say, "Wow...really...hmm...OK...we'll go look." It was my sister from Connecticut telling us a plane had hit the Twin Towers. We imagined a little dinky plane such as a Cessna, so we stayed there awhile, trying to wake up. Ernst said he'd better go look to see what all the fuss was about, and then I heard for the first time that day "Oh My God!" By that time the second plane had hit and we watched together the replay over and over of the unfolding catastrophe.

I am the queen of asking unanswerable questions, and I asked many as we watched the news coverage. Can the people make it to the top to be rescued by helicopters? How can a plane just disappear into a building like that? Will the building survive? How come...? Why can't they just...What will happen if...? It was hard for me to comprehend the loss of life at that point, and for some reason I just kept focusing on the buildings themselves. To all my questions, my husband just kept saying he didn't know, he didn't know.

Then we watched in horror, as did everyone else, as the first one collapsed and then the second one. It was inconceivable to me that those fixtures in the skyline of my favorite city could just implode. It was then of course that the loss of life became the focus - the news media was coming up with all sorts of totals. I was worried about my brother and his wife living right across the East River; what if they start bombing, what if they send more planes? Who are "They?"  Then the news of the Pentagon plane and the crash in Pennsylvania came out and all my fears were intensified.
We talked to more friends and family that day on the phone than any other day in our lives. I spoke with all my siblings several times, my mom, who had recently moved back East, and many friends from Davis who were calling to ask about my brother. Eventually I had to tear myself away from the TV and go to work. My boss actually expected me to show up the day the world seemed to be coming to an end.

As I expected, my co-worker Jody and I didn't get any work done. How could we? There was no Internet or TV access then at my job, so we were just depending on the local radio station to keep us informed. Every so often my boss's wife would drop in and tell us some of the latest developments, which were scary and mostly all untrue. There were rumors that a fifth plane was heading for San Fransisco but had been shot down by the military, killing all the passengers. All this just made it worse since we hadn't even digested the reality yet, let alone the untruths.

I tried to get some drafting done, but all the clients were coming in to talk about it, each with some crazy new item of news. My work station looked out onto a drab little parking lot there in South Lake Tahoe, a small town filled with nature lovers and ski bums. To my surprise, up drove an open air Jeep with two young men in it. They had afixed two giant American flags to the Jeep, along with smaller flags. They drove in the parking lot and start doing doughnuts on the pavement. They were making those rebel yell cries, like something out of Gone With the Wind when the Tarleton Boys were excited to go fight the North. I got shivers up my spine, This was beyond patriotism, it was scary to see the fervor in their eyes, as if they were just looking for a confrontation.. A few days later, a woman came to all the businesses on Highway 50, demanding to know why some establishments were not displaying the flag and saying that those places would be boycotted by the town if they continued to not comply. What happened to our mellow little Tahoe?

I got home that night and like everyone, planted myself in front of the news to watch the footage over and over and over. After several hours, I just had to stop. I remembered how the defense lawyers in the Rodney King trial had desensitized the jury by showing the beating tape over and over and over until they were no longer shocked by it. I didn't want that to happen. It also bothered me from the beginning that people were calling it 9/11 and not September 11th. It was strange, but I thought by using the term that used six syllables rather than shortening it to four was the least we could do to show respect for those that had perished. I now call it the shorter name too, but back then the term 9/11 seemed a bit too catchy.

Late that night, after many more phone calls to friends and family, I went to check my email. I only had my account for a while then and was still much more phone based. All that day I had been in shock and had not cried. I felt so heartless, how could I not cry when all those people died? I switched on AOL and saw this little cartoon and burst into tears. All the interviews, all the images of grief stricken people searching for loved ones and it was this simple drawing that got me.

The next day, still reeling, I had to drive down to Sacramento for a doctor's appointment. I finally got some rational news from the car radio tuned to NPR. For the three hours up and back I got a meaningful explanation of the terrorists behind it and their organization. The first I had ever heard of Osama bin Laden was when we lived in Davis and our friend Erin had come home from work with some weird news. A man he worked with had been arrested by the FBI as a member of al-Qaida, and FBI agents had been swarming his place of work asking questions. Of course Ernst knew about them and was shocked to hear of them in Yolo County, but it was the first I had heard either term.

Even though I have lived most of my life 100 miles from San Francisco, it is New York City that I love and know. I have been there more times than I can count, have been on the subways alone and know the layout and my favorite spots. Since my brother had moved there in the early 80's that was my city. That day ten years ago, I took out my photo albums and looked through old pictures. There I was at Windows on the World, eating sushi for the very first time. There I was on the top of the WTC on a gorgeous blue skied day. There was my family with the skyline of New York as a back drop. I was putting my finger over the Twin Towers in the all my photos, telling myself  "they are gone, they are GONE." But what was gone was so much more than just the buildings.

Those are my memories of September 11th, 2001.