Thursday, July 29, 2010


My dear blog readers if only you could smell this picture...........two big, fat, golden loaves of homemade white bread fresh from the oven! Come on over and we'll share a slice (or two).

Random Stuff from the last few days in VA

So Tuesday early morning (like 4:00ish) Dave gets up to go to work, gets little over halfway down our "street" (since no one else lives on our street is more like our 1/4 mile driveway: two ruts in the middle of the woods) and stops when he meets a tree down across the road. We had no chain saw, so he came back to the house, took the bow saw back, and for an hour in the dark cut off about 10 feet so he could get around the larger section. He came back home that day with a chain saw and cut up the tree, we brought it home for firewood. However......... as he's cutting up the trunk I marvel at the color of this wood. First of all, the tree was still in good shape when it fell (we only had rain that night, no lightning, no high winds), it was sheered off about 2-3 feet from the ground, didn't come up by its roots like the dead ones, there was no sign of termites like the tree we have in our "back 40", there were other dead trees in the vicinity still standing. We have NO clue why this particular oak tree fell at this time......... anyway, back to the wood........ I was actually caressing the wood it is so pretty, a shade of pink. Imagine that, my favorite color! We trucked the logs home, but now I don't want to cure them for firewood. I want something made from this pink oak! Something will come to me, I'm sure, for now I just marvel at the wood:
One of the things I want eventually (sooner rather than later) is a butterfly garden somewhere here on the property. I love butterflies and taking photos of them. I am in the process of beginning a compost pile and have been saving "stuff", however the hole I dug was too small for all of my scraps so I left the tin with the watermelon rind chunks on the railing so the fruit flies are outside rather than inside. Well........... these blue & black swallowtails LOVE the watermelon. At times there were up to four feeding on the juice! They would flitter off when we'd go on the deck, fly around, and then light back on the watermelon, I guess it was too yummy to resist! This seems to be a weird version of a "butterfly garden"! Sometimes we would just sit and wonder at the gorgeous velvet wings and other times I would stand in wait with my camera to get some good shots like this one from yesterday. Yes, the rind is moldy and covered with fruit flies, but it didn't seem to matter to these two who were sharing the watermelon:
I spent most of yesterday with Cheri shopping after a lunch feast at her house. So, today is "domestic" day here at the house. I used the cucumbers and tomato that she gave me from her garden and made a salad which is in the fridge for tonight's dinner. Then I moved on to making some more bread. I use my grandmother's recipe for white bread which is very easy! No bread machine, just my hands..........and this FABULOUS custom-made bread board which Cheri's husband Dennis made for me. It is absolutely the most gorgeous kitchen item I have ever owned. Dennis is a master! He made it heavy enough so it wouldn't slide across the counter while I knead the dough and even made sure to use FDA approved finish on it. I would never have thought of that! So here is the "virgin" board before I used it for the first time this morning:
I stopped making just 2 loaves and doubled the recipe (which uses exactly 5 lbs. of flour) since I usually give away half of what I make to friends (like Cheri and Dennis!). I haven't ventured into any other bread (other than vegetable and fruit bread), but in time I will. The loaves come out huge and I'm having an issue with the two loaves on the bottom rack rising into the top rack! So today I will try to stagger the baking times, we'll see how that works out. On a side note, I guess the customers at Walmart aren't supposed to be good at math: I looked at the 25 lb. bag of flour trying to figure out how I would get it home in the truck in the rain yesterday so I settled on the 5 lb. bags which would fit in bags in the tool box. I did the math: $1.28 (ish) for 5 lbs. and $7 and change (.88?) for the 25 lb. bag. hmmm..... let's just round it in my head 5x1.25 is around $6. Why on earth would you buy the bigger bag that costs more and have to store the extra flour you're not going to use right away? If you need to use 25 lbs. of flour right away you probably are selling what you make and shouldn't be shopping a retail grocery store in the first place. Go figure! Whew! I knew my Masters' degree would come in handy some day.
So, here is the dough ready to be kneaded on my new bread board. Right now it is rising in the same bowl (which was a present almost 30 years ago from my Aunt Jani who said to make bread in it, which I am!) and will be ready later today. Wish you could smell it!
Last random thought: I love to take mushroom and fungi photos, there are SO many different varieties just on our property alone. I usually trek out in the dewy grass with my camera the day after a rain because you never know what has popped up overnight. Like this:

What the heck is this "fuzzy dandelion gone to seed looking stuff" on this mushroom? Very odd and interesting. Of course, not as interesting as the Indian Pipe that was growing on the neighboring property last summer. Cheri tells me that it is RARE (her use of caps!) and we must preserve it, if only I can find the spot where I photographed it last year. Sounds like a challenge to me...............................
If you have read to the end of this post, congratulations! And thanks for listening!

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm a Winner today!

I think Ricë felt sorry for me and chose me: I won this issue of Somerset Studio:
I didn't even have to relate my sob story of letting my subscription lapse because of forwarding issues (pardon the pun!) and having 2 different addresses and not trusting the El Mirage post office to even look at our forwarding address (I know the people who bought our house are reading the 2 lost books from paperback swap and probably other items as well!) So, I am excited to be receiving this issue from Ricë's give-away. If you haven't checked out her blog, do so..........I love to read her posts (and especially the rants........she's hilarious!).
So, thanks Ricë!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The REAL Frontierville

The REAL Frontierville (Facebook game) happens on my 1.5ish acres of property here in Virginia! I've been gathering wood daily in between rain fall for the past several days, it's difficult to have a fire outside with wet wood.......good for smoke signals, not for S'mores. So far I've collected 4 or 5 boxes full of starter wood. Today I worked on the area near the Rhododendron tree at the side of the house, lots of larger pine branches to break down. I kept wandering collecting branches when (oh, shiny!) I remembered the tree that was caught under a newly fallen tree. On a walk Dave and I saw that the newer, smaller tree's top branches got caught under the dead oak so I wandered over to see if I could free it some more. I cleared several smaller dead trunks out of the way, sort of like a large version of pick-up-sticks, until I could move the trapped branches better. I got the branches which were laying on the ground freed, but wanted to prop them up higher so the tree might have a better chance to grow UP instead of along the ground. I noticed an older snapped-off trunk that would work well for this, and the next step was to get these looooong branches to the other side of a tree to reach the dead trunk. After finagling the branches (and moving some more dead wood) I got them to the side I wanted. In order to reach the top of the trunk to place the branches (Dave, don't read this part!) I climbed on some downed trees (yes, I know they could break with all my weight) and could just about get the branches in the crook, but not quite. So I snapped of a piece of wood from yet another dead tree, climbed back on the log, and used it as an extension to place the branches. DONE! The photos are sorta backwards in order and I don't want to wait while I fix them so here are the propped branches (about 6 feet or so off the ground):
the bent part of the tree showing the branches I propped:
and finally the fallen tree which had trapped the branches:
Just for the heck of it (oh, shiny!) I took a photo of the Galax leaves in the same area as I was working today. Maggie had purchased some for me in downtown Galax this past weekend to see if I could make some art from them. Hers are much larger than these, but if I can use them, I will have my own supply when they get larger:

So, now that I've used up all of my "energy", I will need to eat a meal so I can work some more! LOL

Monday, July 19, 2010

Butterflies and un-retouched photography

See, here's the thing: when does "photography" end and "computer skill" begin? There are so many programs to "enhance" photos nowadays, how do we know when a photo is just that; a photo and not someone's idealized image from a photograph? By that I mean, when does the art of photography turn into skill at an editing program such as Photoshop? If you are putting a photo out "there" to be enjoyed as a photograph, shouldn't it be just that? I have been playing with my camera (not an expensive Nikon by any means) to take the best photos I can, not relying on cropping or any other manipulation. I know that I am probably going to irk some people who love their Photoshop and I am not saying that there isn't a use for manipulation software, but if I enter a photo contest then it should be judged on the photo and the photographer's skill at using the camera and not on their skill on the computer. Here's my unsolicited advice: if your picture is out of focus take another one, and another one until it's in focus. That's camera work. Why bother having an ultra-expensive camera if you can just make it look "great" on the computer? My husband actually found a site (or program?) where it's possible to make a photograph from images. That's taking manipulation of photos to a whole other level!
Anyway, off my soapbox................ that being said, here are a couple of photos (un-retouched) that I snapped of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail:
And Spicebush Swallowtail:

Thanks to my big sister for identifying them for me! We used to help her catch butterflies when we were much younger so she could mount them for her collection so I knew she could tell me what kind they were!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More basket fun!

Yesterday afternoon I spent several hours at Mary Ann's house working on a basket. Our original plan was to weave a basket and then go pick blueberries. Since it rained most of the day and it was rather soggy out we nixed the berry picking, but still made baskets. Before I show the one I made yesterday (my third basket so far) I thought I would show my very first basket. It is a "napkin" basket, but I have placed it in the loft bathroom to hold bath supplies.
For my basket yesterday I wanted to add some dimension to the weaving similar to some baskets I saw at a farm museum last Saturday. I adapted this pattern; the original was monotone, I added the curls in a contrasting brown so you could actually see them! It's not perfect, but I love doing the twining for the bottom. This is also my first attempt at a round base. I am SO loving making baskets........
For all you in AZ: notice the nice, tall, GREEN trees in the background. It's amazing what grows in a rainy clime!

Our next basket project will be to make mini baskets with the bazillion leftovers Mary Ann has at her house. Stay tuned.............

Monday, July 12, 2010

Online Class

April sent me over to Amy's blog, she's conducting an online class FREE all week. I need to re-do my Etsy store now that I have high speed internet and this looks like the jump start I need! Come and join in! The button is over there on the right......................

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baskets and such

I'm managing to survive in the 80º temps here in VA. Soooo glad not to be in AZ anymore! A couple of weeks ago Mary Ann taught four of us to make baskets and we enjoyed it so much that we returned this morning to make a second one. This particular type of basket has a wooden base and handle so it looked funny before we began:
But after a couple hours of Mary Ann's tutelage this is what I made:
We all brought food and had a delicious lunch (I made homemade ice cream -- from my auction find, the ice cream maker -- homemade brownies, homemade caramel sauce, and homemade [duh] whipped cream for dessert). Afterward Mary Ann showed me her hydrangea bush which had pink blossoms mixed in with the blue (the color is based on the acidity of the soil so how could half of one bunch be a different color?), she offered me some so I brought them home and arranged them in a very expensive vase!
Before I came back home Cherie invited me over to look at the wooden bread board her husband Dennis is making for me. It is two different hard woods and absolutely gorgeous! It still has to finish curing before it can come home with me. Cherie and I wandered into her wooded area and gathered some dead grapevines to play with:
After soaking them, manipulating, and just generally messing around with them I managed to create 2 wreaths. We originally were going to try baskets, but they just weren't supple enough for anything that "organized." So I just played around and made this:

I left the smaller one for Cherie to finish working on and fill out. It was kind of messy, but I just sat in Cherie's yard while her dog, Sally watched. It was a "hard" day at work, but worth it!

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Best Compliment!

So, truly the best compliment I can receive from my articles in Sew Somerset is that I have inspired someone to create! Shelley O: Wowzers! Shelley read my article and has created a fantabulous Needle Book in her own style. My favorite part is the ribbon rose on her cover. I am coveting this rose! Please skip on over and admire her work of art.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Schmutz Ahoy!

Thanks to April for my last post! We now have DSL (a LOT sooner than expected out here in the woods!) so I can upload pics and post now. I have been busy and finished 2 Schmutz books from schmutz I collected on my trip to NY. The Nutri-Grain/Starbucks book was made last Spring during a day-long workshop at work and is primarily from items I found in the meeting and at the restaurant at which we ate lunch. It even includes a mini book from a Nerds box.

For the Piroulines book, I left the cookies at my sister's. I don't like Hazelnut flavoring, but HAD to have the box to make this book:

I think this Good & Fruity box was collected from Sara and Laura last summer when I visited:

All of these books are made from what I call "Schmutz," which is a nice way of saying "the crap that most people throw out that I obssessively save." The thrill is finding a new way of using something most people toss without looking at!
Now, on to rusting fabric and transforming an old trunk/suitcase/valise we purchased for a dollar at the local auction house! Oh, goody: another way to find Schmutz (and I have a permanent bidding number, shocker! LOL)! To be continued after tonight's auction..............