Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Last Saturday was the annual pesto making day at our house. I make up a year's supply of pesto for us to eat and to give away as gifts and bribes. The bribes are usually to entice our friends to feed and play with Big Kitty while when we're out of town. A couple of jars usually make their way up to a Yupik village in Alaska where my sister Sandra teaches school. We share the pesto with our friends and the rest we eat all year long on pasta, pizza or chicken. It's great to add to tomato sauce and soups as well.This year our crop of home grown basil was a bit skimpy so I had to supplement with basil from the Farmer's Market. Adrian assisted by plucking the leaves from the stems and washing all the leaves. Here's my recipe:

4-6 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 cup grated parmesan/asiago cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
8 small cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp pepper

Dump everything into a food processor and give it a good whirl until everything is blended together. And that's it! I make many batches of this and dump it into a big glass bowl. I fill my jars once I've used up all of my ingredients. This year I made about eight or ten batches which resulted in 12 cups of green basily goodness. I use heavy lexan plastic 1 and 2 cup nalgene jars for my pesto because they don't retain odors, are very sturdy and work great for freezing. I ordered them from a laboratory supply house and I use them year after year. Friends and family know that if I don't get my nalgene jars back after they've eaten the pesto they will be cut off the following year. I am quite fierce about this. The jars of pesto go into the deep freeze and last all year long. I keep a jar in my refrigerator which can last several months without a problem. Adrian and I are going camping next week and we need someone to watch Big Kitty. I've got a 1 cup jar of fresh pesto for anyone who is willing to watch her!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Sense of Place

I've joined the 2008 Bead Journal Project and will be making a piece of bead work for each month starting with September. This is my first year participating in the BJP and the first piece of bead work that I've worked on in nearly 18 months. I am really excited to be participating in this project and I'm looking forward to a years worth of beading.After I signed up for the BJP I began thinking about what types of bead work that I wanted to do for the up coming year. I am currently participating in a year long journal quilt project and my work for that is all over the place in terms of style and technique. I've had a lot of fun working on the journal quilts but I think that as a group, the quilts lack cohesion. I don't really mind this because I've learned so much with creating each piece, but I will likely come up with a loose plan for next year's journal quilts. For the BJP I wanted to come up with a way to unify the twelve pieces other than the just size of the piece. I didn't want to plan out all of the pieces in advance, but I wanted to have a topic or color scheme that would help to keep my work cohesive.Eventually, I decided that I wanted to bead about the different geographic places that are special to me. Over the years I've developed strong attachments to particular locations and I feel connected in many ways to these places whether it's from the experiences that I've had there, the beauty of the landscape, or the emotions that the place evokes. Feeling emotionally attached to a particular location is sometimes described as 'having a sense of place'. If you are curious to learn more about a sense of place you can read about it here. So my theme for the upcoming year will be A Sense of Place and the circular shapes will create little porthole views of what that location means to me.For September's project, I decided to bead about the north shore of Lake Superior. Adrian and I had a camping trip planned for the middle of the month so I decided to start my beading then. I wrote about that trip a few blog posts back. I also wrote about my fretting over the bead work a few days ago so you are welcome to read about that bit of neurosis if you want to as well. To be honest, I was a bit anxious when I began this piece. It had been a while since I had done any beading and it was daunting to see that blank circle of cloth with just a line or two of beads on it. I had completely forgotten how to relax and trust that the bead work would evolve naturally. Once I quit being panicky, I really began to enjoy the beading. I beaded the blues and grays of the water first, added the greens around the lower edges and then worked on the rocky shoreline. Adrian found the little heart shaped piece of basalt while he was hunting for agates on our camping trip. I wanted to be able to see the rounded edge of the heart so I decided not to use beads hold it in place. Instead I glued it down with Fabric Tac glue.
Here's how I finished the piece:First I removed my outline basting stitches and tore off the excess paper around the bead work. Using a double strand of nylon upholstery thread, I sewed a length of running stitches a half inch away from the bead work and all the way around the piece. I cut out a circle of mat board and glued a piece of cotton batting to it. For me, bead work is a tactile thing as well as visual. The thin batting gives the bead work a slight convex softness and makes it wonderfully touchable. I gathered the bead work around the mat board and secured the thread with several back stitches. I pulled the upholstery thread quite tight to help stretch and smooth the bead work out on the front of the piece. Big Kitty pondered the meaning of life as I finished off the piece with a row of size 14 beads around the edge. I glued leather to the back of the piece and signed it. Big Kitty gives it her approval by laying on top of it. I call this piece Love on the Rocks. You can read more about that in my blog post of the same name. I can't wait to begin my October piece!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Little Fish, Big Fish

A several years ago Adrian and I dug a big hole in our backyard....Weeks of sweaty manual labor transformed the hole into a pond....We went to the store and got some little koi fish to live in the pond....
After much deliberation, we named the three little orange fish Orangie, Spottie and Cappie. The spotted black fish we named Blackie. I know what you are thinking...the lamest names EVER! But all I can say in our defense is that we were delirious from digging dirt and hauling rocks for weeks on end. Later on I wanted to change the names of the orange ones to Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire and Count Olaf for the spotted black one, but Adrian would have absolutely nothing to do with that. If you don't know who the Baudelaires are, I strongly encourage you to read these books. They are insanely clever and delightfully macabre (the books, not the fish).....When the pond looks like this....We hack a hole in the ice, scoop out the fish and move them to a fish tank in our basement for the winter where they watch me feed the cat and wash clothes. As the years have gone by, the pond plants (which also spend the winter inside) have grown....And the garden plants have matured.....And the little fish..... have turned into bigger fish....big hungry fish...very hungry fish...

September Sunflower

This is another one of my quilts from the Journal Quilt Class that I am currently taking at Colorful Quilts and Textiles. A couple of months ago, our class teacher Susan Stein showed us some really cool samples of what you can do with the cheapo sheets of acrylic felt that are available in every craft store on the planet. The technique involved distressing the felt by melting it with a heat gun. So I went out and bought a sheet of felt and it sat untouched in my sewing room until the day before the next class. This quilt is the result of what I did with the felt.
First, I tore up some random pieces of printed scrapbook paper and glued them onto the felt with watered down PVA glue. Then I glued down two layers of crumpled tissue paper on top. Next I painted the tissue paper with dyna flow paint in shades of yellow and gold. I let the felt dry and then I pulled out some rubber stamps and stamped all over the painted and papered felt. I wound up with a stiff piece of felt paper that looked like this:I cut petal shapes out of the felt using my soldering iron, which gave the edges a neat melted look. For the center seed part of the sunflower I used a tyvek mailing envelope that I painted, sewed and steamed with my pressing iron. Tyvek is cool stuff to play with. It takes paint beautifully and melts easily with a heat gun or an iron. I set a pressing cloth over the back of the tyvek and pressed with my steam iron for a few seconds and voila! The tyvek bubbled up to form three dimensional 'seeds' (or gecko skin in the case of this quilt). I used some fabric that had I dyed earlier this summer for the back ground and leaves. I quilted the blue background first, added the stem and quilted that and then added the leaves and quilted them. The stem and leaves are fused to the background using wonder under. I wanted the sunflower seeds to be dimensional so I layered several circles of cotton batting underneath it before I stitched it to the quilt. Next came the petals. I began laying them down and stitching them onto the quilt, leaving some space in between the petals. After the first layer of petals was stitched down, I tucked some petals under and over those until the flower began to look dimensional. My sewing machine was not very happy with me as I was sewing down the last few petals. It balked at stitching through several layers of glued and melted felt paper.I glued some fuzzy yarn around the center of the flower to cover up the edges of the petals and then added backing and binding. Lastly, I colored the center stitch lines on the petals with a brown ochre water color pencil. I am really happy with this little quilt. I am so glad that I didn't blow off the melted felt technique and not experiment as I was so tempted to do. This class has been very good for me. It has helped me to think outside the box and to try new techniques that I wouldn't have otherwise. Normally, when I read about a clever fiber arts technique in a magazine or a book I'll think 'how cool, I need to try that!'. But then I never do. With this class, I always experiment with the techniques at home because then I have something for show and tell the following month. As an added incentive, if you bring show and tell to class you get to put your name in a basket to win a fabulous prize each month. So there you have it, dangle a reward in front of my nose and I'll try anything! I am the quintessential Pavlovian dog of crafting. Bribe me with a treat and I will perform. It just occurred to me that I have yet to win the monthly prize and the year is almost up. I wonder if Pavlov's dogs turned on him when he failed to reward them? This could get ugly....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Lads Are Back In Town

I woke up insanely early this morning because I was fretting about the bead project that I am currently working on. With September almost over, I am feeling a sense of urgency to get this project completed. This is the first month that I am participating in the Bead Journal Project, and I really don't want to finish this month's piece late. Definitely not the ideal way to start off a year long project! I began the piece while I was camping but I put it away after a couple of days in a fit of beader's remorse. I had been using mostly size 11 beads and the piece was looking flat and uninteresting. I wanted to mix things up with some smaller size 14's, but I didn't bring any with me and there was no ready source of beads out in the woods. In 'Pam's Perfectly Perfect World' there would have been a gypsy bead peddler camping down the trail from us!
Anyway, I was doing some predawn beading in my sewing room this morning when I heard Adrian beginning to stir. These were the first words out of his mouth: "Today's the Day"!!! I knew there was only one thing that could cause such excitement in his voice at five o'clock in the morning. NHL Hockey. Yep, tonight is the first pre-season game of the Minnesota Wild. The season is starting bit late this year because the hockey arena in St. Paul hosted the Republican National Convention a few weeks ago and they needed to bring in a voodoo priestess to help eliminate the political bad juju from the place.
Adrian has season tickets to the Wild so what this means for me is that between now and next April, I get to spend fifty some odd evenings alone. Which is a good thing because I usually love my alone nights. I listen to music, drink wine, work on projects and generally enjoy having the house to myself. It also makes me really happy that Adrian has an activity that gives him so much enjoyment. I mean, the guy lives for hockey. He spent the entire Republican Convention in a state of fear that someone would plant a bomb in the arena and ruin the hockey season. So... Today is the day!!! The Lads are Back in Town (for some odd reason, we fondly refer to the the hockey team as The Lads in our house). The photo is of Adrian, my Dad and Adrian's Dad decked out in hockey regalia. They went to a game last season when my folks were visiting us last year.
By the way, the predawn fretting turned into a morning of peaceful zen beading. I'm over halfway done with my bead project. The water part is done, now I need to work on the land.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Love on the Rocks

One sunny, breezy day Adrian and I hiked down from our campsite to our little private beach cove for a picnic lunch. I brought along a bead embroidery project that I've been working on for the Bead Journal Project. The piece is inspired by Lake Superior so it seemed fitting to work on it while I was sitting on the shore. The sun was hot and the waves were crashing as I sat there contentedly working on my bead project. Adrian, after a brief snooze in the sun, wandered along the shore hunting for the elusive Lake Superior Agate.
I had an idea that maybe I could incorporate a few small rocks from the beach into by bead work. So I called out to Adrian, much the same way that Princess Buttercup called out to Westley: "Farmboy, fetch me that pitcher". Except that I said: "Farmboy, look for a little flat piece of basalt that I could put in my bead work." Naturally Adrian replied: "As you wish". The fact that Adrian can quote from one of my all time favorite movies and also knows exactly what a flat little piece of basalt looks like makes me love him like crazy, but would you just take a look at what he found?
I know, it's so bloody perfect it makes you almost want to barf.I absolutely love geology. Call me crazy, but words like alluvial fan, paleomagnatism, migmatite and obsidian make me giddy. I think rocks are the coolest things and I'm always on the hunt for new ones to add to my haphazard collection. The truth is, I've been a rock picker since I was a grubby little kid searching for agates on the beach at Fogarty Creek in Oregon. I used to spend hours combing through piles of rocks and sand in search of treasures. As I've grown older, not much has changed except that instead of picking rocks with my sisters, I have Adrian to help me hunt for agates and other cool stones. We love finding a good beach to explore and on our trip up north we found a great one. In addition to many little agates, we found quartz, granite, rhyolite, basalt, chert, jasper, chalcedony, anorthsite, carnelian, thomsonite, amygdaloidal rhyolite, gabbro, diabase and lintonite. These are some of the prettiest ones that we found and I find them absolutely mesmerizing. I'll use a few of them in my bead project, and the rest I'll keep in a jar on the mantle over the fireplace so I can take them down and play with them when no one is looking.

Dog Days of Summer

Adrian and I are back from a week long camping trip along the shore of Lake Superior. We went to Tettegouche State Park and camped at a lovely site overlooking the lake. From the campsite, a short steep path led down to our own private beach cove. The trees along the lake were still quite green, but some of the maple trees off the lake had already turned astonishing shades of red and orange. It was lovely, relaxing and a whole lot of fun hanging out in the woods. The breeze off the lake was a bit cold at times, but a warm fleece jacket, a hat and a campfire took care of most of the shivering. When we weren't hiking or hanging out on the rocky beach, I spent most of the time swinging in my hammock, which is the most comfortable hammock in the whole wide world. It's made out of parachute nylon and is by far the most relaxing place to be. It's pretty hard to be ambitious once you settle into the cocoon of joy, but I did spend some hammock time knitting and reading and working on a beading project in between naps. This was the view that I enjoyed while swinging in the breeze:
One warm day we took a hike to some lakes a few miles inland. The day was picture perfect, the sky that luscious color of blue you only see in the fall. We stopped at an old logging camp and I would have gone swimming if I was wearing fur like this crazy dog was. Her name is Summer and she is the beloved dog of my friend Cyndy. I call her dog Spazeline (rhymes with vaseline) because she's a spaz dog extraordinaire. As we rested from our hike, we watched Spazeline fling herself off of the dock in pursuit of a stick that Cyndy was throwing into the water. This crazy dog, despite her semi advanced years would play fetch for days if you let her. Once on a canoe trip down the Namekagon river I threw six pieces of wood into the water to see how many she'd pick up before she was swept down stream by the swift current. Much to my amusement, she got every single one of them. Then she climbed panting and exhausted out of the river, shook water all over me and dropped her sticks by my feet ready to play 'drown the dog' all over again. On this hiking trip, Spazeline entertained us with belly flops for a good half hour before she abandoned the dock in favor of the less vigorous shoreline entry. She would have frolicked for hours in the water, but my hammock was calling it's siren song from miles away so we coaxed the dog out of the water and trekked back to our campsite.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Checking into the Clown Motel

Adrian and I discovered this motel a few years ago on an epic road trip west. We came across this vacation hot spot in the middle of nowhere. We had been driving for most of the day across miles of open range land in Nevada and when we first saw this sign were convinced that it was a mirage. Then I wondered at the marketing strategy behind this. Why would anyone think that attaching painted wooden clowns to the motel doors would act as a lure to potential patrons? Or perhaps the owners were clowns. Or maybe this is the official motel for the International Convention of Clowns. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this was a chain of motels like the Red Roof Inn or Best Western? You could travel across the country staying in Clown Motels. Maybe business would be so good that the owners would branch out and open a few upscale Jester Hotels. Or maybe a quaint Mime Bed and Breakfast out in the country.

Unfortunately we were on our way to Yosemite National Park and did not have time to stop and take advantage of all of the wonderful amenities offered at the Clown Motel. We were also a bit confused by the sign. Would our mini pets indeed be welcome at the Clown Motel? Or did the sign mean that after an evening of free HBO in our clean room, would we only be offered a mini breakfast in the morning? And what exactly is a mini pet? A ferret? A tiny pony? Or what about a mini breakfast? If it meant that we'd be served mini donuts I would have made a U turn and checked right in to the Clown Motel, that's for sure. I would have been staying all by myself though. Adrian was frightened and wanted to put as much distance as possible between him and the Clown Motel before nightfall.

I think this picture of the Clown Motel should act as a universal 'Gone Fishing' sign for bloggers. When you read the words "I'm checking into the Clown Motel" it will mean that the blogger is going on vacation, will be out of town on business, is having another psychotic episode or just doesn't feel like blogging for a while. As for me, I'll be checking into the Clown Motel and will be gone all week. Adrian and I are headed to the shores of Lake Superior for some camping fun. Hopefully it will be a clown free holiday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

No Fear

Every Friday around lunchtime I get together at a coffee shop with my friends Sue and Beth and we knit or crochet. We've been doing this since January and we always have a most excellent time. We laugh and chat and discuss Project Runway and sometimes we even get some knitting done. Currently, I'm working on a smallish Fair Isle tote that will eventually get felted. The pattern was a freebie from this great shop. For the base color I'm using some dark purple blue lopi lite left over from the very first sweater that I knit. The pattern originally called for using the lovely Noro Kureyon for the contrasting yarn which produces a wonderful variegated wave of color. Since I wanted to knit this bag from yarn that I already had, I'm using two odd balls of stuff that my sister Brenda hand spun and sent to me. They're a sort of medium periwinkle blue with bits of other colors thrown in. I am pretty sure that she spun them quite a while ago because there are some odd bumps and thin patches in the yarn. It's the perfect yarn for felting. Now, should anyone jump to the false conclusion that I am dissing Brenda's spinning skills, I must state that the yarn she spins now is a flawless work of art. She has gifted me with some loverly hand spun yarn that, were I not such an exceptionally fine sister, I would not be worthy of. Brenda told me today that she's sending me half of her massive yarn stash and her collection of Addi Turbos next week. Not really, but she did promise to send me some tasty alpaca yarn.
Back to the felted tote....the fair isle pattern is super simple and since it's knit in the round, it's a perfect project for someone new to working with two colors of yarn. My friend Sue completed one of these bags in less than a week and she had never done two stranded knitting before. But then again, she's a knitting wizard. Last month she knit a scarf the length of the Great Wall of China while watching the summer Olympics. Not really, but she was a mad knitting fool for those two weeks!
Today before we went to meet Sue at the coffee shop, Beth and I went to The Yarnery to look at yarn and fondle the fabulous sample projects in the store. When Beth picked me up at my house she noticed the treadmill that I have in the entryway. I said that Adrian and I had bought it after I broke my neck last year so that I'd have an easy way to get some exercise. I mentioned how after my accident things like walking on icy streets and going down steep stairs made me kind of nervous. Beth, in her wise, matter of fact way, reminded me that do I have two titanium rods bolted to my spine which makes my neck plenty strong because it's re-enforced. It's certainly not going to break again with all that metal attached to it! I laughed because she was absolutely right, but later on when I was thinking about it, I had one of those wonderful AHA! moments. The truth is, the accident shook my confidence and made me feel physically vulnerable. I do still have some bad days and the pain can be frustrating, but I think that it's time for me to let go of some of that fear that I've been hanging on to. Today I accepted that my neck is strong and chances are pretty darn excellent that I am not going to re injure myself. Which is why I've decided to go cliff diving this weekend. Not really, but I am going camping next week and I will try to go on a few challenging hikes.
Beth is amazing. She could have very easily said "Get over your fear Pam, it's time to move on with your life". But she would never ever in a million years do that. Instead she said something that prompted me to reach that conclusion on my own. Beth is all about letting people be in charge of their own life and their own destiny. Clever woman, that Beth. She's running for president this year and everyone should vote for her. Not really, but I'm really lucky to have her as a friend.