Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Plaid Shirt

So here is the finished shirt! All ready for fall. I rolled the sleeves, but I didn't make that permanent because I wanted to be able to scrunch them up if I wanted to. While that's a nice, trendy idea, I don't think I ever will, because it's such a bother. But it's a possibility. I put three gathers down each side on the front to make it more fitted. Since it's plaid it just looks neat anyways. I also removed the pocket flaps and buttons. It was very easy, and now it doesn't look like a sack anymore! It would also look cute belted. I couldn't think of anything else to do to it, so I stopped there.
Of course I'm scrunched over in most of these pictures, I realised, so it's hard to tell the difference.
There is an interesting story here. . .my sisters and I went out in the woods to do this, and my nine-year-old sister Grace took the pictures. Now, there's a little girl who may give me a run for my money! I was very surprised, she seemed to know exactly what she was doing, like she'd done clothing shoots a million times before. ;-) She was like:
"Okay, turn a little bit--lift your head up more--and move your arm, move it a little to the right--okay, hold that. *flash* Okay, now I'm going to take a vertical one. Very good! Okay, now we'll do one next to the tree. . ."
I told her I felt like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face!
After a while she just started taking random pictures, all of which turned out great. She centered them, adjusted the zoom, etc. I take about five pictures before I get one I'm happy with, but she's very conscious of all the picture-taking steps. For instance, we were actually "done" picture-taking when I started finding mushrooms. . .I dug the one in the picture above out of the leaves, and she snapped that one.
The pleats. . .

The Great Pumpkin Saga

So, since I can't hit a Starbucks every day, I've really, really been wanting to get some canned pumpkin so that I can make those pumpkin lattes at home! However, when we went to the grocery store, they were actually sold out of canned pumpkin. At a Wal-Mart supermarket. Apparently they were also sold out of pumpkin at my Nana's grocery store in Florida, and she says it's just been a bad year for pumpkin, causing a shortage of some sort. (Which bodes ill for Thanksgiving). Whatever the cause, I was forced to take pioneer methods and make my own. Seeing as we have two pumpkins from our garden, I chose the smaller one and decided to make my own pumpkin puree. You cut up the pumpkin into halves or quarters, put it in a pan, cover it with tinfoil (this takes a lot of dexterity and meditation--believe me, it's not that easy!) and then bake it at 350 until it's soft and the edges are browned and wrinkled--just like baking a squash, if you've ever done that. Then you manage to scrape it out (don't believe Internet stories that you can just peel the skin off) and puree it in the blender. My online sources assured me that after having fresh pumpkin puree I would never want to go back to store bought, but I'm not quite that enthusiastic. It took forever for the pumpkin to cook! I finally bumped it up to 375.

I found this inside the pumpkin, growing in the rows of seeds. Apparently one sprouted. . .and started growing. . .and turned green. . .all inside the pumpkin. Which seems impossible to me, but whatever. You can see the trailing white tail it has, that was almost rooted in the pumpkin guts, I pulled it out and could feel it separate from the pumpkin. Too weird for words, I know. Although perhaps professional pumpkin puree-ers see that sort of thing all the time.
I thought it was interesting how the pumpkin was whiter and softer at the top, and then got yellow and firm--an entirely different consistency altogether. Very pretty.
Also, I decided to be very thrifty and roast the seeds. You can see I got quite a lot from one small pumpkin.
And they're an excellent excuse to take yet another close-up of something.
Ah, yes--the puree. I'm going to freeze it instead of canning it, which seems way over the top and entirely unnecessary to me, when I have a much simpler method of preservation. Until the power goes out, of course. Aha! Now for the most important part. . .the only thing that got me to even look twice at that pumpkin in the first place.
Here is the pumpkin latte mixture in the pot:
And the lovely end result! Two delicious pumpkin lattes. Although I will admit, I decided it needed more pumpkin than the recipe called and it was a little chunky. And I got distracted trying to explain the concept of a matching mug to an anonymous family member and the mixture boiled, which may have made the coffee taste a little strong. But otherwise, completely delicious!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Chris Thomas King's "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou has always been one of my favorites.

But today I decided to finally research it and see when it was actually written. I've never done it before, I guess because I was afraid I would find it only a convincing, but modern song made for the movie.

I was pleasantly surprised, however! It was written by Skip James, the gentleman preforming the song in the first video, in 1931. I was pleased to see that Mr. King's version did full justice to the original. I must admit I like the guitar better in the modern version, but I think the less distinct, crackly, dog-eared quality of the older recording adds to its charm.

Doing an Internet search on Skip James is definitely worth it--he lived an interesting life, and was beginning to gain public attention when the Great Depression came along and cut his career short.

However, he experienced a return to the public attention towards the end of his life, in the 1960s.

So. . .compare the two, see which you like best.

The Old Plaid Shirt

So this is my trusty old plaid shirt. I've had it ever since I was ten. I believe my aunt gave it to me--it was hers before that, so I don't know how old it is. The arms are a bit short, and as you can see, it is truly horrible in its sloppiness. (Okay, so pairing it with an orange shirt and plaid skirt did nothing to make it more attractive, but you get the idea). It makes me look like I've raided the closet of a lumberjack, and I don't think I've worn it in public since I was eleven or twelve.
But I love this shirt! It's so soft and comfy. I always wear it as a jacket around the house, and a few times when I've been really desperate in winter (our house is big and old, and subsequently gets really cold, we don't have central heat) I've worn it as one layer out of many. All last winter I always put it on over my pajamas when I woke up in the morning for added heat after leaving my warm bed.
But it's always been a great regret that it's too sloppy to wear in public! However, upon receiving the newest Anthropologie magazine, I was a bit inspired. The setting was very artistic and interesting, telling a story, which I liked a lot, and the setting they used--autumn woods and weekend cabin, as well as some small-town/general store settings--seemed very North Carolinian to me. And of course, since it's their fall mag, there was a lot of inspiring plaid clothing!
As you can see in the above picture, the shirt has pocket flaps and buttons. I didn't put it on all the way because I had already started altering one side before I thought to take before pictures. ;-) You can sort of see the pleats on the side that I'm holding out.

Here are some good befores--I hadn't done anything to it at this point. The cloth is good, even after many years of wear. It's 100% cotton, and Faded Glory, which I'm pretty sure is a Wal-Mart brand.As you can see, the torso is very roomy, the arms strangely short, the pocket flaps persistently wrinkled and the whole thing just rather frumpy, lifeless, and limp. I believe a good shirt should look attractive all by itself on the hanger--if it doesn't, it probably won't look much better on the wearer.
So with that philosophy in mind, I decided to renovate my old shirt and make it wearable for this fall.
So, these are the befores. . .afters to follow. . .

Go Down Moses

I've recently learned to play this song on the piano! Only much simpler and a lot less jazzy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coffee Quotes

Here are some good quote I have run into, various places. I'm posting these because apparently I have damaged my sciatica exercising and subsequently am almost completely paralyzed on my right side from the hip down. Which means when I do manage to walk, I sound exactly like a larger version of my three-legged cat. Or at least that's what my father says, and apparently it's very amusing, although I don't see the humor in it.
So here I am, bored and in pain, and what better way to make it better than to think on coffee??

Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the soul. ~Isak Dinesen

Nancy Astor: "If I were your wife, I would put poison in your coffee.
Sir Winston Churchill: "And if I were your husband, I would drink it."
(Possibly the funniest exchange of wit EVER!)

The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks.
~Sir James Mackintosh

Schlendrian: You wicked child, you disobedient girl, oh! when will I get my way; give up coffee!Lieschen: Father, don't be so severe! If I can't drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.
Lieschen: Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine. Coffee, coffee I must have,and if someone wishes to give me a treat, ah, then pour me out some coffee!
~J.S. Bach, "Coffee Cantata"

I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte (Ah, yes--how well I understand him, in my present situation!)

And the next quote, from my dear friend Mark Twain, which fills me with continuous doubt when I think about travelling to Europe (despite the reassurance of others who have been there since the illustrious Mr. Twain):

After a few months' acquaintance with European 'coffee' one's mind weakens, and his faith with it, and he begins to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with it's clotted layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream after all, and a thing which never existed. ~ Mark Twain


Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water. ~The Women's Petition Against Coffee, 1674

Ah, yes. The Women's Petition Against Coffee.Now, if you're like me, you're probably thinking: what the heck was wrong with those sharp-tongued crabby 17'th-century women? Now, what could have made them so spiteful and bitter?
I say, it wasn't the demoralizing effect of the plague, the destruction and havoc wreaked by the Great Fire of London, or their lack of legal rights--no! It take a different view.
It is common knowledge that women were not allowed in coffee-houses in those days. Well, they were clever women, and knew exactly what they were missing out on. What's a girl to do when deprived of something? Well, if it isn't possible to gain access to it yourself, the only other option is to see that nobody else gets any, either!

That being said, I will now share some recipes that are so wonderfully delicious they would have even melted the hearts of our scathing Londoner ancestors, the anonymous coffee-haters.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

And here's a recipe from my mom that I haven't actually tried yet, but intend to do in the very near future. It looks impossibly delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Latte
makes enough for two generous servings
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla (yes, the recipe says tablespoons!)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (OR 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and pinch of ginger)
1/2 cup brewed espresso (OR 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee)
whipped cream for garnish, if desired

Combine all ingredients and cook over low heat until flavors are combined. Pour into large coffee mugs, garnish with whipped cream (optional), and serve with ginger snaps. Think FALL!

"The discovery of coffee has enlarged the realm of illusion and given more promise to hope."
~ Isidore Bourdon

Iced Coffee

While I previously believed I'd learned the real trick to making a good iced coffee (keeping a nice simple syrup handy in the fridge, so that you never have to stand and stir in sugar granules into the cold coffee, for ten minutes) I think I've discovered something even better recently.
Sweetened condensed milk!

1-2 cups of chilled strong coffee
4-6 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk

Mix these together in a nice glass (if it's a clear one you can try and make designs) and add ice cubes. Whatever happens, don't skimp on the condensed milk, or it will just be disgusting. Add until your coffee is a pleasing, creamy caramel shade, which is the best indicator for the proper amount of condensed milk. And don't be ashamed to, like Winnie-the-Pooh, taste the condensed milk liberally to make sure it hasn't gone bad while you're mixing the coffee. ;-)

If possible, make some unsweetened coffee ice cubes. But if, like me, you've somehow managed to lose your circa-1990 ice cube trays, and have subsequently decided you don't want any other trays in the world, you can use regular ice--it will just dilute the coffee as it melts. Most people don't care, but this deeply disturbs me.
Also, I find that drinking iced coffee with a straw makes it taste so much better.

"No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils."

~Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mocha After Eight

This is probably one of the most delicious coffees I've ever tasted. It's like a peppermint patty in a cup, only better. And this is coming from someone who isn't particularly crazy about the chocolate-mint combination. From Sherri Jones' book "Coffee Cafe."

1 oz of fresh espresso (I just us strong coffee)
1 oz of mint syrup
1 tbsp chocolate powder
1 cup steamed milk
Fresh mint leaf

Blend coffee, syrup, and chocolate powder in preheated cups. Add the steamed milk. Garnish with chocolate powder and a fresh mint leaf.
You can easily make your own mint syrup (I did) by adding about a cup or more of mint leaves to a simmering simple syrup, which is made by simmering equal amounts of sugar and water. Or you can add the mint after taking the syrup from the heat, it doesn't matter. And of course you'll have to strain it.
I increased the amount of coffee that I used in mine, because 1 oz just isn't enough. Besides, I think equal parts syrup and coffee would just be too sweet.

"No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness."

~Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cowboy Small

There was one a little boy who put on a bandanna and became a cowboy. . . . . . He had found a horse, and was deciding to run away the minute he got the chance. . .
. . .When he was amused to discover he was being followed by a crazed fan with a camera! He promptly aimed with his trusty gun, aka dad's jewellers screw-driver. . .
. . .But as that didn't seem to be deterring the obsessed photographer, he mounted his trusty steed. . .
. . .And, finding he was being relentlessly pursued, fired in earnest this time.
The little cowboy was just thinking what an excellent escape he had had, and looking around for more crazies with Nikons. . .
When the enemy appeared again! The cowboy was shocked, of course.
Things became a bit sketchy here. The little cowboy suddenly became convinced, much to the mortification of his chronicler, that she was not a stalker with a camera, but rather a "buffalo." Despite urgings to the contrary, the little cowboy chose to remain convinced that this person was nothing but a harmless buffalo, and after inspecting her with appalling mirth, he mounted his horse again, going to look for fellow cowboys once more.
And suddenly--it happened! He was shot at from the bushes by an unseen foe. He fell, much to the horror of the buffalo, who expressed her deep consternation and grief by not stirring a muscle and instead photographing the body.
However, much to our great happiness, the cowboy rose again--not exactly sure how, but I'm sure he would explain all if he had a better grasp of the English language. Here he is, older and wiser, but victorious.
And here he is one last time, very pleased with himself, preparing to mount his steed and ride into the sunset.
Buffalo, er, Editor's Note: All right, yes, so I'm a total sap when it comes to my little brother. But he's so adorable, I naturally assume the rest of the world wants to be bombarded by endless photographs of him. And don't tell me you didn't enjoy every minute of the bandanna-clad cuteness!

This Is One Clean Knife

Ah yes. In the quest for sanitation, I lost it all. Beware, this could happen to you too.
If, per se, your knife is used to make cream cheese bagels during a Northern vacation, and if, let's say, you let it sit for two months before deciding to sanitize it properly.
But then it will seem incredibly disgusting to you, and you will have to go to unusually extreme measures to get it suitably clean.
This happened to me, you see, unfortunate girl that I am.
And I had the perfect idea--my entire demeanor changed at the thought of it! Yes, the ultimate in sanitation! I would boil my beloved knife!
It seemed a nice way to deep-clean it. Not peroxide, not alcohol, not iodine--believe me, I've done all that before. No, boiling was the thing.
But wait, it gets worse. . .
And worse. . .
As you can see, the plastic has completely separated from the rest of the knife. I came in and it was fluttering like some medieval banner in the water. Only stiffer.
I immediately tried to smash it back down, but it just wasn't melted enough. It seemed to be molded in its present shape, and didn't want to budge. I decided to let well enough alone, and removed it from the water.
As you can see, the toothpick that once slid so nicely into the top of my knife is now completely exposed, which doesn't offer proper cleanliness at all. Especially considering that I never use it as a toothpick--I use it to spread open wounds or, more often, dig things out of them. (It's very handy for larger objects--larger than a splinter or something, I mean). Thankfully I carry wet wipes and Germ-X. I guess that in the future I'll just have to sanitize every time before I use it to pry something out of someone.
Also, to my intense disgust, I discovered that the cream cheese shmutz I was sure I had boiled into oblivion were still there, largely untouched in the most impossible recesses of my knife. I think God was laughing at me.
So basically nothing has changed--I still need to clean my knife. Only now it's shape is amazingly different. I'm trying to think of it as a little Swiss Army knife cosmetic surgery.
Next time, I won't boil it so long.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Feels Like Fall

It's starting to feel a little bit like fall, which calls for an autumn-y picture.

Doesn't this just feel so fiery and exuberant? I find it very uplifting, since I'm not particularly looking forward to the cold, miserable weather that follows the beautiful autumn. . .

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This Summer

Well, I haven't posted anything in a while, so I thought I'd just write a thing or two about what I've been doing lately. I have this nagging feeling that I need to hold my blogging claim down.

Hanging out in the woods . . .It makes me feel all Pathfinder-y. :-)

...Writing a lot. Although not in the picturesque manner depicted below. It's more like this:
Sit at the computer. Get distracted because I left the French dictionary on my desk open. (Who knew that 'ĂȘtre perdus' means 'get lost' in French? C'mon, that's useful knowledge right there. You never know when you may get harassed by some confused French tourist).
Settle down to write again...hear suspicious activity in the hallway...leap up to help my sleepwalking brother to the bathroom before anything unsanitary happens...sit down to write again, wondering how I can use the previous experience to help me feel what I'm writing better...start humming and thinking about what I'm going to wear tomorrow--and then rattle off ten pages of what is now probably watered-down, pulp-fiction-writer-on-a-bad-day (the remnants of my creativity). Then I realise it's one o'clock. [Who reset my clock?!?! Who reset all the clocks?!?!] Yeah. And then I go to bed.
I just sort posed that picture because I thought it looked so pretty and romantic. I'm sure writers in Oz have set-ups like that, anyways.
I'm assuming that since I write for pleasure (or at least, that's what I tell myself), people who write as a job have it really rough. Gosh, they might actually have to write straight through twenty minutes, without stopping once to play a game of thought-provoking solitaire!
So, back on topic:
Sewing...this is something I'm making for my sister's Civil War doll. Actually I've done a lot more to it since this picture was taken. I've some other projects to, all of which I had honest intentions of posting about. I'm sure I will. . . soon . . .

. . .Getting very excited about two movies: Where the Wild Things Are;

and Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. I've watched both movie trailers about five times.
I've also been waiting for the Holmes movie for well over a year now, which does a lot to increase the suspense and make one prepared to be happy with anything. (By anything I mean Mr. Downey). Anyways, I don't want anything for Christmas except tickets to see the Holmes film! And I really want to take my little brother Josiah to see Wild Things--it's his favorite book ever. I think I've probably read it at least sixty times in the past month. I can actually recite the whole book in its entirety.

Looking at mushrooms, and being prevented from eating them by my mother...

Watching airplanes take off and land, which was surprisingly fun--every time they go down that runway, you think: it's impossible. How can something like that lift off the ground and fly? But it always does. ;-D (Kudos to the Wright brothers).

Also, I've watched Into the West. Wonderful series! Very realistic and historically accurate, as far as I could tell. Of course I have a thing or two to say about their erratic character follow-up. Advice to Steven Spielberg: if you're going to put your name on something, make sure their plot development is flawless! Really, we've come to expect better from you!

But other than that, it was wonderful. ;-)

And also, I'm reading Jane Austen and vintage science fiction simultaneously; an activity I highly recommend to everybody.

So, there you have it.