Monday, June 21, 2010

Ripening Figs

Just a couple more weeks and they'll be ripe and ready.

There is a fig tree in front of a house a few doors down from us.  Neither the owner of the rental house nor the tenant -- nor anyone else in the neighborhood for that matter -- seems to crave the velvety sweetness of the figs.  Not even my Sweetie and Gem.  Just me and a whole hoard of insects.

As they turn purple, I slip down there and pick bowls of them to take back home and eat.  There are lots I can't get to (I'm petite, ok?) and they drop onto the sidewalk, fermenting in the summer's heat.  Bees, ants, and flies circle drunkenly around the gooey little splotches.

The price of figs in the supermarket being what it is, it's surprising that no one else is picking them.

This year I'm going to do more than just eat them as they ripen.  I want to make preserves or something so that I can enjoy them in the months to come.  Trouble is, eating them fresh is the only way I've ever known figgy goodness.  Fig recipes, anyone?

Sew and Sew

I learned to sew from Sister Barbara at St. C Academy. She inspected our buttonholes and hem stitches with an eagle eye and many's the seam I had to rip and redo. Sister Barbara presided over my first projects, from a simple pencil skirt (with zipper!) to my prom dress that year and I still thank God for her even-handed guidance every time I pick up a needle and thread.

Throughout my college years and adult life I've made clothes, curtains, and costumes.  In recent years, my interest has shifted away from the practical, but I still love to sew.  Mainly I'm interested in hand sewing nowadays, the kind of thing I can curl up with in the living room while everyone else around me is doing their own things.  

I don't like the hassle of setting up the machine and then putting it away again.  So I haven't been constructing any garments, but I do hems and repairs to things that need it.  I also have been making some pictures.  I mainly use fabric (applique), embroidery, and beading.

Gem likes her hair to swoop down over her right eye.  I made this a couple of years ago when her glasses broke and I just couldn't throw her old pair away after they were replaced.  So here is a sort of portrait of Gem with her glasses, some fun boucle yarn, beads, and scraps of fabric I had on hand.

I don't know what she thinks of it, but I framed it and hung it up.

This is a more recent applique.  I love my chickens and this picture of a mama hen with her hatchlings is actually 2 small pictures.  They are mounted, but not framed yet.  

I wonder what Sister Barbara would think?  She would be happy that I am still sewing and enjoying it.  Maybe, though, she would also see me as a little lazy.  You see, I rarely rip out and redo my mistakes.  Instead, I just work them into the picture the best way I can.

Sometimes it really works out.  With this Mama and Babies I measured the background fabric wrong and needed about an inch more in both length and height.  So I set the pieces aside for a while until I happened upon this pretty gold ribbon.  I used a variety of goldish beads to attach the border to the picture and, frankly, I like it better than my original plan.

I have a 6 year old niece, Vava, who is a real artist.  I love her drawings and am using one of her butterflies right now to make a new applique.  Here are some of the fabrics and colors I have in mind:

I learn a lot by reading all kinds of needlework blogs and I've recently read about Gwen Marston's Fearless Quilting.  I don't know if I'm interpreting it right, but I think of it as just what I do.  If I make a mistake, rather than ripping it out, I try to turn it to my advantage.

Kind of like life.  When I do something wrong, I try to have a good heart, pick myself back up, and keep moving.  Maybe it even comes out better than my original plan.  You think?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Handiness Theorem Proves False

I married an engineer.  That means he is extremely handy around the house (can fix or build almost anything) and extremely nerdy around the house (makes waaaay more math references than I ever need to hear).  Over many years of experience with both, I have developed my very own mathematical theorem.

I have tested this hypothesis with a large sample of wives -- spouses, I should say to be nonsexist -- and it almost always has proved accurate.  Being artsy, I don't feel constrained to have 100% accuracy for my theorem to hold up.  (Sorry, math and science types.)  So "just about everyone I have talked to about it" counts as a sufficient sample to prove my hypothesis. 

So here's my Handiness Theorem:
The handiness of the man is inversely proportional to the permanence of his relationship with the recipient of the handiness.  
In algebraic notation, it is h2  + g2  ≥  w2  +  h2 where h = handiness, g = girlfriend (temporary relationship he has to impress) and w = wife  (permanent relationship where not a lot of extra energy is needed because she already loves him).

This means that when my sweetie and I were first dating, I mentioned in passing how bright the lights in my dining room were and that I really preferred more indirect lighting.  The next weekend to surprise me, he colluded with my two roommates and installed dimmer switches in the living and dining rooms.   Motivating both roommates to try to steal him.  Didn't work.  A series of handiworks followed me from one apartment to the next throughout my college years.  (Did I mention my various landlords loved him too?)

Could I have ESP?  Is this why we dated for 5 years before marrying? Hmmmmm...

We became engaged.  The kitchen door wouldn't stay open properly .  Took him 3 weeks to get around to that one.  The toilet ran; another 2.  There were probably more handiness needs, but I can't remember it all.

Now we've been married for almost 23 years.  We live in an old house that almost always needs something done.  Suffice to say that there is a light bulb that has been burned out for a month now.  (I'd do it, but the ceilings are 14 feet high and I can't carry that giant ladder upstairs.)  

Well, shame on me -- I take it all back.  Despite the fact that my beloved husband just hates my chickens (calls them "raisin-brains"), he has built me the Versailles of chicken coups.  We call it the "poulet chalet."

It's actually a 96 square foot poultry compound.  There is a small roosting box which houses a roosting bar and a nest with an external egg door!  (The front of the box even comes off for easy cleaning.)  The food and water hang underneath it.  A ramp for them to exit the box leads to a protected outdoor area, completely predator-proof that I can shut in the evenings. (Even in the city there are lots of raccoons and opossums around.)  This is roofed (8 feet high) very sturdily.

This "protected pen" is inside a larger outdoor pen which has storage for hose, food, cleaning supplies etc.  It has a variety of perches, and lots of room to flap around.  This is also over 8 feet high and walled/ceilinged with hardware cloth.  I planted merlitons, tomatoes, flower and other vines and plants that will offer the chix food, cover and loads of chicken fun.  Other amenities too numerous to mention (and boring for everyone but me).  

Now that's love.  How lucky can one woman get?  Who needs light bulbs anyway?  Handiness Theorem retracted.