Thursday, January 31, 2008

Weather Update

Where did my pretty weather go?!?

I *had* to take the dogs out at 3:30 AM for a bathroom break and it was spitting little beebees at me in the dark!

Now, we are ever so slightly encased in ice, with a prediction of more rain and snow on top of it. Schools are closed, roads a mess.

I had to hang on to the porch railing to avoid slipping down the steps.

Little pellets frozen into a sheet in the mulch.

Frozeny solar light.

Even the half-naked Hula dancers are too cold to wiggle. Actually, the whirligig mechanism is frozen.

All the shiny stuff is sheet ice on the driveway.

And since our driveway goes up and down and is about 750 feet long, Stud Muffin is having to wait to leave for work. (Happy Dance temporarily postponed.) Actually, he is in the shower thawing out right now. I could go get a picture of that, too, if you wanted! No? Okay for you! I guess he is going to brave the driveway and hope the main roads are better.

As for me? Thank goodness, I did my errands yesterday. So, it is just me, a roaring fire in the wood stove, a hot cup of coffee, and a few projects in the studio.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where did everyone go?!?

There seems to be a decided lack of new posts out in blogland, myself included. It's as if we all crawled into a hole and pulled the hole in after us. Maybe we are all hibernating until Spring arrives, or maybe winter life gets so boring, it's not worth talking about (well, except maybe to whine!)

So, this is what's been going on at my little place in the country.

The weather has been weird. (My grandmother always told me that if I had nothing else to talk about in polite company, I could also comment on the weather!) Yesterday it rained all day and was 61 degrees. Last night we had a high wind warning (up to 70 mile an hour gusts) and by the time we took the dogs out for the last time, the temperature had dropped to 32. My garden doesn't know what to make of it all, but it is hanging in there! {Update: The weather man says that tomorrow we will wake up to sleet, freezing rain and bad visibility. And it was so pretty today!}

Stud Muffin got a new job! I was getting concerned that he was getting bored out here in super rural land, and he needed something to do other than distract me from what I needed to do. The people who built our home called and wanted to know if he was interested in working for them as a salesman. We believe so strongly in the quality of their product, that he said yes. So, for the last week, he has been heading off to work and as soon as he is out of sight, I do the Happy Dance! Then I jump up and down on the bed, until I'm tired and need a nap. After that, I get productive and make like a housewife, cleaning (wipe those shocked looks off of your faces!) and making home cooked meals. Oh, and Stud Muffin sold a house on his fourth day!

I found another treasure while out running errands:

Sorry about the sun glare!

This quilt isn't in very good shape, but I'm going to pick apart the blocks and use the good ones for something else.

The mailman brought me some goodies! Not long ago I won a gift certificate from Sew, Mama, Sew! and I used it to get this pattern,

and these fabrics:

Look at those cute gnomes!

The pattern was more complicated than I expected but I think I could do better now that I've made it once. The purse has lots of pockets, including a zippered one. This will be good for when I don't want to take my big purse with me, say to the farmer's market in one of my pillowcase totes. Since I was test driving the pattern, I used fabric and notions that I already had on hand. A little stash busting, if you will!

Interesting accordian construction for credit cards.

The mailman also brought the first of my garden seed orders, these from Seeds of Change.

I have another order coming from Rare Seeds, with a number of heirloom varieties of tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers. Since buying a greenhouse isn't in the cards (or the checkbook) right now, I am rigging a growing station in my studio. I am using some spare garage storage racks and have hung some florescent shop lights to stand in for grow lights. I will have pictures of the setup after I have more of the seeds planted in their little peat pots.

But I guess that will have to wait for another time. I have a few more WIP (works in progress) that I hope to complete soon. And then I will share them with you!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sundays from Singapore: Last part of Thailand or the one where I run out of photos!


Well, I didn't exactly shop til I dropped that second day, but we needed to get on the shuttle back to the hotel. Our Tuk Tuk raced us back toward town, with me frantically trying to snap some pictures along the way. I got a few, but mostly blurry one.

Our ride back in the shuttle took us through some fairly rural area and past some local shopping venues. most of the local shops were in the front part of the shopkeeper's home. Sized like a one car garage, the merchandise was crammed every which way, hanging from the rafters. etc. Through a door in the back, you could glimpse the living quarters (more like living eighths!) There were many outdoor eating stalls that smelled wonderful, more hardware stores than we have in Singapore, and numerous scooter repair shops. Of greater interest to me was the gas station. This was a lean-to with 3 oil barrels of various grade gasoline and hand pumps jammed into the top of the barrel. They even had the glass bubble showing the color of the gas on top of the pump. Wished I could have gotten a picture of that!

The only non-blurry picture from the ride to the hotel!

The town had remnants of the Queen's birthday celebration still hanging. I don't know when her birthday was, but the shops and portraits of the Queen were draped in royal purple bunting. I understand that the King's color is royal blue.

The more industrious folk have converted their scooters into shops on wheels. Just add a sidecar, top it with a canopy and dangle merchandise off of everything. They must have perfected a way to secure their stuff, because piloting these shops around town at high speeds gets all the goods swinging frantically in the wind! I guess this way, you don't have to pay rent, and can take your business anywhere, and if the moods strikes, you can take your shop out to lunch too!

We made it back to the hotel just before the sky opened up and let go a torrent of rain. We cancelled plans to venture far for dinner and contented ourselves with dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was here that my lips fell off and I learned my first and only words of Thai.

The rain was still pelting the planet, so the lovely floor to ceiling glass doors were shut, unfortunately cutting off any air flow and increasing the humidity considerably. I passed on the seafood buffet and ordered a lamb curry dish that was indicated to be mild in spiciness. I had been forwarned by Almost Grown and Not Quite Grown, who had suffered from a highly spicy pasta dish the night before. I wasn't taking any chances with my taste buds or intestinal happiness. The green curry dish smelled wonderful, with a large hock of lamb in the center. My first bite confirmed my impression that this tasted really good!

As I was about to make such a comment to the rest of the dining party, a flush came over my face and chest. This was followed rapidly by the sensation that I had inadvertently swallowed a hot poker. I never got my rave review out. What followed was a frantic shoveling of rice and gulps of water into my face, fanning myself with my napkin, and the concerned queries of my dinner partners. Oblivious to the gushing rain, someone kindly opened a window as my clothes drooped with sweat. Driven by hunger and the unmistakable fact that the flavor of the meal was superb, even if it possessed flame-throwing capabilities, I persisted until I was reasonably sated, and I was in danger of sliding off of my chair.

It was that night that I learned my only words of Thai... Mei Pet (not spicy.) I used it liberally from then on. May I have some water, Mei Pet? How's the ice cream? Mei Pet? Please pass the Mei Pet bread and butter. So, I can't say hello or goodbye, have no response for a tradional greeting, but by God, I will be able to order a not spicy soda!

Sapphire ring for a Sweet Sixteen.

The remainder of the holiday was passed shopping for an appropriate birthday gift for Almost Grown, and floating in the pool. The nights were passed listening to the ocean crashing, swiping sand out of the bed, and creeping to the bathroom as quietly as possible. It was a wonderful little vacation and I look forward to going back. I never got around to trekking on elephant back, visiting the pearl farm, or hiring a boat to take us around to the unspoiled beaches where swimming was possible. There will be plenty for me to do on my next visit. I will remember to have the 500 baht departure tax due at the airport, and will practice saying Mei Pet most decisively!

Love to all,


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Food for friends or a Totally Carb-licious Dinner!

It was just one of those days in the kitchen when everything came out delicious looking and fattening! So, I thought I would share with you!

First up, focaccia with fresh rosemary from my garden. I was inspired by this post, and other than having to rig a shelf above the preheating oven to warm the rising dough, it was quite easy to make. After it cooled (barely!) a little mouse ripped pieces off and dipped it in some Balsamic vinegar before popping in my (I mean, it's mousy) mouth! Yum.

Next, for my dear MIL, who *might* be willing to share, a homemade baked macaroni and cheese.

And to round out the meal (and myself,) brownies! Not just brownies. Stud Muffin felt that if we were in for a penny, might as well be in for a pound, or ten, so these are frosted too. Barb, these are just for you!

Oh cr*p! The brownie pictures aren't very good. I'll have to eat this one and try for another picture later. Now, before my doctor falls over dead from the horror of this meal, I did eat a salad too. But if this keeps up, we'll have to come up with new nicknames. Penny's Freudian typo on this post would be good for Stud Muffin. So he might have to be "Stuf" Muffin, and I will change my name to Chubby Bunny!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shhh! Don't tell Stud Muffin!

Confession time.

While I was out and about doing Domestic Goddess errands, I *happened* to stop by Goodwill and 1 other thrift store, and scored big!!

First up, three vintage square tablecloths:

My favorite one.

This one should marry the one above.

Pretty soft pink flowers.

Then a table runner with matching embroidering on both ends.

Love the bluebirds!

More pillowcases!

I have a serious blue/green/purple thing going on right now.

And my favorite bit of fabric today:

I wish there was waaay more of this. As it is, this is the smallest valance I've ever seen, only 8 inches by 36 inches!

So, if I didn't get as much done at home today, I had my head in the clouds (okay, dryer) waiting for my freshly washed finds.

I feel some more totes and aprons coming on. But, don't tell Stud Muffin, okay? He'll never find out!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sundays from Singapore: Thailand part 2


Okay, where were we? Oh, yes, we had made it to the hotel. Our first afternoon was spent unpacking, fighting over limited drawer space, and swimming in the black bottom pool.

That evening, the Morg's invited is to join them at a favorite restaurant at the resort next door, the Adamapuri. What I did not understand when accepting the invitation was that after ascending those 5200 extra high steps back to the lobby, we were going to walk uphill to the next hotel. And I was wearing heels, for once. But being the good sport of high endurance that I am, I only moaned and groaned part of the way. My humor was stretched, however, when Mrs. Morg frantically signaled us to retrace some of our steps to see a monkey or lemur hanging in a tree. Well, that would have been quite a sight, especially for my budding primatologist, Not Quite Grown, but it turned out to be nothing more than a fallen palm frond caught in some other branches. Mrs. Morg was told to wait until the next one bit her before causing 6 other well-dressed people to dash uphill in evening wear.

Dinner was marvelous, in a surrounding even more Thai than our own. The restaurant overlooked the ocean and the setting sun, with much appreciated breezes. I don't even mind that all the pictures taken that night have my hair (you know, the Beatle do) standing straight up in the wind. I dined on Caesar salad, rack of lamb, and a triple chocolate mousse dessert that would cure any and all ails. Waddling as we were, we elected to have the hotel valets drive us home in glorified golf carts. Now, if I could just have persuaded them to carry me back down the steps.

I'm much cooler now... no glasses, longer hair that doesn't stand up, and i know I am younger and slimmer! That's NQG next to me on the left, followed by Almost Grown, Mrs Morg and her mom, and Morg on the right, all wating for our reservation.

The night passed quickly, soothed by the sound of the crashing ocean and the very efficient air-con. After a breakfast buffet, the "girls" in the group over the age of 2 took the shuttle into Phucket town. Poor NQG forgot her Dramamine, and boy, did she need it! We were supposed to be transported in a van, but for some reason, ended up in two Volvos instead. The Morg women went in one, and we went in the other. Our driver deferred to the other and let him lead the way to town, about 30 minutes away.

Remember I told you that Singapore motorists drive pell-mell and can't stay between the lines? Well, they are stellar compared to these two! Thailand still has you drive on the left-hand side of the road, with an equal number of scooters and cars/trucks. However, a good 50% of our time was spent racing in the opposing traffic lanes, honking at every scooter we passed, even when approaching a blind curve. The Morg's driver seemed determined to beat out all the other vehicles headed in the same direction that we were going. Our driver, Boy, started laughing like crazy, pointing at the other disappearing car, and desperately trying to keep up. Most of our trip was conducted at about 70 MPH. Mr Toad's Wild Ride has nothing on these guys! Needless to say, driving in Phuket involves a strong stomach, a good grip on some handle, one hand to cover your eyes, and a lot of honking.

We arrived at an unscheduled stop at a jewelry mart, where I'm sure the Morg's driver had an uncle working or he was receiving a kickback. Undaunted, we wandered through a very nice showroom filled with Thai rubies and sapphires, and other assorted ornaments. I was shopping with Almost Grown for an appropriate 16th birthday gift, but she became overwhelmed by all the choices and developed a headache. So, off we went for the center of town.

*New* camera set on sepia. Why I thought this was a good idea, I'll never know!

After being pursued by a cabbie who wanted to show us all over town for the equivalent of 9 cents per person, we dodged a powerful rainstorm, ate some pretty good pizza (I know, not very adventurous) and then had to hightail it to another street where we suspected the really good stuff was hiding. At the traffic circle, another man approached and asked where we were headed. He proudly showed his official Tuk Tuk license and tried to convince us that there was nothing much to see on the street we wanted. Of course, he had a much better place in mind to shop. We persisted and he finally offered to take all five of us in his Tuk Tuk to the desired store, a handicraft shop, for 50 bhat, or a little over $1US. And he would wait for us and take us to a "much better place." Well, I'm no fool, and if someone wanted to drive five of us, wait while we shop, and then take us some more for a buck, I'm okay with that!

A Tuk Tuk, it turns out, is a cross between a pickup truck and a camper. Picture a short flat bed truck, with a metal canopy top, open sides and benches bolted facing each other. Oh, and paint it screaming red, too. Into this we disappeared, and roared off on another crazy ride. Almost Grown took some pictures of Not Quite Grown and I holding on for dear life and making scared faces as we bounced along rutted streets.

Hanging on for dear life!

Not Quite Grown (even younger in 2001!) illustrating the terror of the ride.

The shop we wanted turned out to be the coolest thing we had seen all day, and I'm glad we insisted. It was a cramped little store, filled with wood carvings, silk scarves, silver jewery, porcelain, and purses. I could have spent much more time there, but we had told our driver (based on the unimpressive storefront) that we only needed a half hour.

Very neat handicrafts shop.

Wood carvings of every size.

Porcelain and jewelry.

Personal household shrines.

Celadon porcelain. Lovely soft green color, should have used color setting!

We selected and haggled, paid and wrapped, and loaded back into the racing red lorry for our next stop. This, of course, turned out to be an overpriced tourist stop, that had nothing neater than what we had already bought but at greatly inflated prices. One little wood birdhouse I purchased for 390 bhat, cost 900 bhat at this last stop, I rode back to the shuttle stop feeling smug about my finds, and not a little terrified by the ride itself.

The next and final installment of Thailand will include how I melted into a puddle of steam over my curry dinner and the pursuit of the perfect Sweet Sixteen gift.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Boy have I been busy!

Close up of quilt block.

I finally went to the doctor about my very sore right arm that has been bugging me for a couple of months, and he fixed me right up. Well, it took a steroid shot in the elbow which bruised and hurt like you-know-what, but at least I can use my arm again. This has motivated me to get some things done in my studio.

But first (yeah, you knew I could procrastinate just a bit longer) I made a stop into our new junk shop in town. Not Quite Grown, who goes back to school on Monday, had given quite a dramatic performance when I wanted to stop into the thrift shop in town, but found it was closed. Oh, to hear her go on, you'd think she'd been cheated out of her birthright! Her vacation was ruined, her life would never be the same, since she couldn't go into a store that only sold USED stuff! To placate her, I told her I would show her our town's brand new THIRD stoplight and take her to the junk shop that I hadn't been in yet.

Those of you who know Not Quite Grown (or NQG, as I call her,) will appreciate the fact that I rendered her speechless with that promise. Aside from telling me I needed to get out more if a new stoplight blew my proverbial skirt up, she was dumbfounded (read: horrified!) when I parked at the junk shop. But, I pulled rank and in we went.

{Edit: NQG wants me to say that I waaaay over-exaggerated her performance, and also that she carried my "dusty, stinky, heavy box of magazines" from the junk store to the car for me!}

It was a mess. The redneck, I mean hick, I mean nice gentleman who ran it, explained that he cleaned out foreclosed properties and this is what he hauled out. At bit of poking around confirmed a universal truth: If you dig through a big enough pile of cr*p, you just might find a pony!

For my $3 cash outlay, I got a large box of old National Geographic magazines, that I used in my collage work, I also found this quilt top:

Completely hand stitched and appliqued quilt top.

I also found two curtain panels that will make nice aprons.

Yesterday, I took Not Quite Grown and Stud Muffin to the Goodwill store. NQG needed some cheap but very specific clothing pieces for her sorority recruitment coming up. She didn't find anything, but I scored a ton of pillowcases to turn into shopping bags based on this tutorial by Creative Kismet.

The top striped case is from Pottery Barn Teen.

I also found this "sheet" which turned out to be a Simply Shabby Chic cloth shower curtain, for $2.99.

So, finally, we get to the work! This is what I made today from two of the pilowcases:

From the Pottery Barn pillowcase.

I also made a new ironing board cover (since mine was nasty with melted interfacing) after reading this blog post by Lisa Lam.

Recovered using a thrifted sheet from Goodwill.

I am working on an apron using those curtain panels, but had to stop to prepare a pot roast for dinner. I think I need a nap, but am unlikely to get one now. But I'm happy and feeling accomplished, so that's worth something! Maybe some more coffee is in order!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This is only a test

You may have noticed that I'm have trouble with my pictures disappearing after a few days on some of my posts. Mind you these frickin' photos take a long a$$ time to upload one on a good Blogspot day, and that ain't very often! And, it's not as if you can sneak up on the sucker by trying to loading pictures in the middle of the freakin' night! Oh, noooooo!

So, I have been following a long line of help topics to see what the %*&# problem is and what to do about it.

I'm not sure if I hit upon the absolute last word in fixes, but here goes. We'll just see if Blogspot eats this one or two!

Early days on the farm, building front porch.

Back porch.

If this doesn't do the trick, you just might have to put me in a straight jacket and toss Hershey's Kisses at my mouth!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sundays from Singapore: A trip to Thailand

View across the pool as seen from the lobby.


Names changed to protect the friendship!

Ah, Thailand! What a trip, literally and figuratively! We abandoned the house with the leaky ceiling and headed out with our friends the Morgs for four days and three nights to Phuket. This word, like many Thai words, contains a silent "h" and is pronounced "Poo Ket." Since the "h" is always silent, I wonder why they bother. Probably to watch the tourists try to wrap their tongues up in knots trying to get to their destination.

So, the nine of us hit the airport in two vans stuffed with luggage, which I will be quick to point out that the four of us only took 3 suitcases and carry-ons. The Morgs, however, had considerably more since they had with them, one mother/MIL, the amah (or maid) Eva, and little Nickel, who at 2 makes Ivana Trump look like the poster child of light packing. We made it to the airport in advance of the Morgs, had passed through immigration and the check-in counter, and were at the far end of the terminal before Silk Air was forced to change the gate to the other side of the terminal. Back we schlepped, while filling out the seemingly endless documents to both enter and exit Thailand, along with a customs declaration form that neglected to specify what was declarable. Okay, nothing to declare. Easy.

The flight was uneventful, except for the gentleman with excessive flatulence who was in the row ahead of the girls and me. I was dearly hoping for a loss of altitude that would drop those oxygen masks! Some people shouldn't eat chili for breakfast when they are traveling!

Upon exiting the aircraft, we found ourselves in a very long line at immigration. Apparently, the Thais are more concerned about undesirables coming into the country than illegal drugs leaving the country. I figured it took about 5 minutes per person to have their documents checked and stamped. Have your passport? Okay, stamp. Does it look like you? Stamp, stamp. Filled out your entry form, stamp again. Planning on leaving soon? Good, stamp, stamp. And so on.

Somebody didn't have something required or lost their passport and were pulled aside to a seating area. The problem was apparently with her, not him, and many tears followed. No fewer than nine officials from immigration, airport security, and the airline took part in the scenario. According to Lucky Morg, if the airline transported you without verifying all your documents, they face massive fines for the error. The situation wasn't resolved by the time we passed through, but it did provide a diversion as we tried to guess what the story was. Now we are off to get some money.

The currency of Thailand is the baht. Again, with the silent "h", pronounced baaaat. And they aren't worth very much. One US dollar buys you about 45 bhat, give or take. On the other hand, most products and services are dirt cheap. Lucky opted for hour long massages on the beach for the equivalent of $8US.

Armed with some local money, we rode in 2 more vans to the hotel, about 30 minutes away. I wished the drivers didn't feel that the very Devil himself was chasing them (a common trait shared by all drivers, it turned out,) because I missed some really great pictures along the way. The basic geography reminds me of very old Hawaii, mainly Kauai, with thick vegetation that reclaims anything left standing empty for more than a minute or so. It was amazing to see the rice fields, with thatched roof shacks perched on stilts above the paddies. We passed very exciting temple compounds with their unique rooflines and high color ornamentation, all at high speed. Most of the houses were about the size and shape of a one car garage, and were constructed of cinderblock and corrugated tin, in various shades of rust and rustier.

Killer riptides.

The hotel, the Chedi, was situated on a cliff above a white sand beach with pounding surf. According to one map I read, swimming is never recommended at this particular beach because of riptides, the the relentless waves did generate some swell breezes. This was very good, as Phuket is both hotter and muggier than Singapore, if that is actually possible. The only other drawback was the 5200 steps required to go from the lobby down to the beach and your bungalow. I don't think the developers understand the words 'handicap accessible" and definitely there is no translation for the word "elevator." What is required is knee-power and plenty of it.

Our bungalow as seen from the beach. Ours is behind the red flag, the Morgs is to the right.

Our bungalow was a cozy 2 bedroom cottage sitting right on the beach. Lest you envision a spacious house with a living room etc, I will plainly state that this had 2 bedrooms and a bath in the middle. The front sliding door led immediately to the king size bed within about 12 inches. The bathroom was separated by sliding patterned glass doors which had an annoying tendency to outline every naked movement you made to the rooms beyond, and if you forgot to shut the louvered privacy doors to the outside world, to the neighboring cottages as well. I saw more than I cared to on the trip. However, the rooms were comfortable, tastefully decorated, and conveniently located to ensure that the lovely teak floors were permanently covered in a light sprinkling of sand at all times. This fact alone made for some interesting walks and slides to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not to mention the uncomfortable prospect of sand in the bed.

The views were to kill for, especially the sunsets. We had some good rain storms, but they were short and we could get back to the business of steaming. Thailand has only two seasons, according to the hotel information packet, the Rains Season, and the Hot Season. Figures.

The girls playing in the surf at sunset.

So, now we had made it to the hotel, and a swim was definitely necessary. I will leave you here for the moment, and return later to tell the rest of the tale. Hope you have enjoyed your tour of Thailand so far.