rebeccmeister: (Default)
I spend so much time working on long-term projects. It's easy to wind up feeling discouraged by how long they take and how many wind up falling by the wayside.

For a while, I was knitting baby hats for friends with newborn babies. But after a certain point, my energy for knitting the baby hats just completely fizzled out. On the other hand, I still wanted to give [personal profile] annikusrex's kiddo a special hat. So I decided to compromise: I'd make a hat for Felix. Eventually.

So as it turns out, it may take a few years before he'll grow into this one:

Felix hat - front

Felix hat - back

It was fun and interesting to design this. The font is Monotype Corsiva.

It's not quite adult-sized:
Felix hat modeled

I also crocheted up a plant hanger while I was on the train. Overall, I'm ambivalent about it, but I might make another one anyway. You know, so we can get that whole three-level effect with a little path running down the middle.
Small plant hanger holding a fern
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Today I cut out and stitched up the first prototype "bike spat." Voila:

Bike spats prototyping

Current observations:

Sewing curved flat-felled seams is HARD, as advertised. Here's the toe cap, from the outside:

Bike spats prototyping

Not too bad, right?

Well, from the inside:

Bike spats prototyping

Hahahaha, yeah. It should get the job done, though! No fraying nylon for me.

The upper shaping was even harder to get right than the toe box:

Bike spats prototyping

I feel like these need some additional stitching somehow, to shape them more effectively. But I'm optimistic that they'll accomplish their main goal, of keeping the rain out of my shoes.

Also, my respect for cobblers has just gone up by 287%.

And I think it's been at least a week since the last time I proclaimed my love for my new sewing machine.

Some of the corners I had to stitch through were THICK. So thick that I had to just turn the flywheel by hand and ease the fabric through. I also managed to completely bend a sewing machine needle. I've never done that before. Whoops.

-

In other bicycling adventures, this morning I rode my bike up to the Household Hazardous Waste facility in Richmond, to find out if they would take the old neon rowing light that stopped working. Riding through Richmond reminded me of riding through Phoenix - neighborhoods with way more character and cultural diversity than we seem to have here in El Cerrito.

When I got there, the HHW drop-off space was a large drive-through building with lots of "Slow!" and "Caution!" signs out in front. There were no other vehicles in sight. As I pedaled towards the entrance, towing my bike trailer, an employee got up from his chair and said, "We don't accept bikes!"

"That's good," I replied, "Because I don't want to get rid of this one anyway!" (zing! I'm usually too slow on the uptake for witty repartee)

As it turns out, I guess they can't have people on bikes or on foot come through/to the facility for liability reasons, but they were kind enough to make a special exception in my case. They accepted all the items I dropped off. It's nice to have that old neon light taken care of, finally. It was a ridiculous item from start to finish.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
We did chores Sunday morning, and attended to miscellaneous odds and ends. I got my hairs cut even shorter (hmm, should take a picture), and made a few repairs to various items.

I also got underway with drawing up the pattern for my bike spats. Observations so far: French curves are amazing. I got one that doesn't have a ruler, but I might upgrade.

It's going to be tricky to figure out how to sew the flat-felled seams. These things are going to be made of three pieces of fabric, in total: a trapezoid for the ankles, a curved cover piece for the top of the shoe, and a piece that fits over the toes to hold the cover piece in place. So if I can manage, there will be two flat-felled seams joining the three pieces together, and then a bunch of double-rolled hems because I don't want the nylon to fray.

If the flat-felled seams don't work, I'll have to see about an appropriate fabric for Hong Kong finishes instead.

In the late afternoon, [personal profile] scrottie and I rode over to the BAP to use the gym. The boathouse was quiet, and it was a bit windy. Once we got there, we decided it would be more fun to paddle around in the plastic sit-on-top kayaks. And it was. Hopefully next time we'll remember to pack a picnic.

And now I'm experiencing some sort of GI distress, of unknown causes. I have too much work to do, but will try to lie low to the degree possible.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
It feels as if it has been forever since I've had enough free time on a Sunday to tend to chores and then work on a project, what with regattas, science marches, and bicycling expeditions and such.

Today I got to test out the new sewing machine, a Janome HD-1000, and try my hand at sewing nylon.

Sewing setup

The machine's in the background. In the foreground, you can see a cardboard cutting table from [personal profile] annikusrex's mom, K. K taught both of us how to sew, and I have a lot of memories of standing around that cutting table, playing with pattern weights and pins. It is so handy to have a table for sewing projects that also folds flat, and it's surprisingly sturdy. Thank you, K!

The sewing machine worked like a dream.

After a bit of rummaging around, I was able to relocate the strip of aluminum I'd used previously to anchor the basket to the CETMA rack, as well as the old bolts and locknuts. I hope the blue foam camping pad works as well as, if not better than, the last closed-cell foam I used to pad the rack. I suspect the whole setup is still going to make a ridiculous and awful rattling racket again.

Fresh Amish bike basket install

This is the third Hirshhorn basket, and this time around they made a couple of awesome custom modifications for me, to enable much better left-handed access:

Left-handed bike basket

And here's what I sewed, in action. A nylon rain and weather covering:

Basket with cover

For, ahem, aerodynamics, you know.

If I'd had such a covering on the previous basket, it might have lived longer, as it sat outside through the Texas heat and humidity and rain.

The next item on the sewing list is that set of Bike Spats. Those are going to be slightly complicated to shape, but I think I'm up for the challenge. I'm fairly certain that the moment I complete them, we'll revert back to the dry season here.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I took photos at yesterday's Open Water regatta, and should do a proper write-up, but not right now.

The next couple of days are going to be hectic because I have a deadline for a manuscript review that is going to be a lot of thinking work, on top of all the regular work.

But yesterday afternoon I made time to visit the art supply store and the good fabric store. I picked up a large piece of foam core board, and a huge flipchart pad of cheap paper, as well as a "French fashion curve," so I can work on making clothing patterns out of old favorite clothes. I'll also use these supplies to design my bicycling spats and bike basket cover. It had to be a special trip by BART because the foam core and flipchart aren't particularly bikeable.

They had some nice twill fabric at the good fabric store. I'm not at that stage yet. They also had a nice pair of pants on display, sewn from a pattern they had for sale. I'll look up the pattern to get a feel for the construction logistics.

Actual sewing won't happen just yet because my sewing machine order got delayed. The shop called me to explain the original box arrived damaged, so they were concerned about the state of the machine, and ordered in a replacement, which should arrive in around a week. Okay, fine.

I rode to work this morning on an old Sears Free Spirit that [personal profile] sytharin found by the side of the road with a "Free" sign on it. [identity profile] scrottie.livejournal.com put on new tires, trued the wheels, and found the replacement shifter cable for the three-speed internal hub. It still needs a small metal part to hold the cable housing stop down along the chainstay, but the folks at Blue Heron Bikes tracked one down and so that will arrive later in the week. Once that's in place, I'll update the shifter cable housing and give it to a grad student here who needs a bike.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Cooked: lemon curd cakes with poppy seeds:

Lemon curd cakes with poppyseed creme fraiche

Saturday morning after rowing, I visited Berkeley Bowl for a couple of items. Green beans were on sale. After some discussion with my friend S, I determined that my preferred method to cook green beans is to start by sauteeing an onion and garlic in some butter, then add the green beans and cook for a minute or two until they turn bright green, then add in stock or water and cover and steam/cook until tender. I added a bit of smoked paprika towards the end.

I also made pancakes and baked bread, roasted two bunches of broccoli, and made a baked pesto pasta dish with the broccoli.

Meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] sytharin got something like 20 different varieties of tomatoes planted. She's going full-bore on the tomato experiment this year to determine what varieties work best for the Bay Area's weird climate.

I didn't quite reach the point of purchasing the sewing machine I'm looking at (Janome HD1000) because based on the reviews, there's a chance with every machine that the machine has a certain type of manufacturing defect, and it's hard to get it dealt with if you order the machine online. In contrast, if you obtain it from a recommended seller, there's a 25-year warrantee. The closest seller is in Alameda, so it's going to take some logistics to get down there. But given that I've waited this long to obtain a sewing machine, those are minor hitches.

Instead, I watched some videos about how to use your favorite pair of pants to make a new pattern for new pants. This guy seems to have a really good idea of what he's talking about. If I have reasonably good success with this, I will branch out into other articles of clothing.

I also paid a visit to the closest local yarn shop, which is pretty conveniently nearby on Solano Ave. I just wanted some cotton yarn so I could knit up dishrags because I am getting tired of dealing with disintegrating "natural" sponges. But it was a good excuse to visit and ogle all the pretty yarns, and I'll go back if I wind up wanting more yarn for some reason.

I don't want to get too many projects going at the same time, but on the other hand it's nice to work on something that I can start and finish quickly.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Friday evening, [livejournal.com profile] scrottie took me to the San Francisco Ballet for a performance in three acts. The first act, Seven Sonatas, was for me the visual and auditory equivalent of a beautifully exquisite wedding cake - one of those cakes that manages to both look and taste perfect. The second act, a piece called "Optimistic Tragedy," was danced and performed well (with live orchestra), but was to off-puttingly heteronormative, basically. The final act, "Pas/Parts 2016," was accompanied by jarring digital noises instead of music. My favorite part of it was the set and lighting. The set was a minimalist pair of walls, arranged to emphasize the depth of the stage, providing maximal surface for the lighting to portray tone. I also appreciated getting to ogle the whole War Memorial Opera House. Which leads me to a question: is it common for there to be a buffet dinner available for performance-goers before ballet performances? Or is it something interesting and unusual about performances at this specific venue?

-

I always feel a sense of relief on weekends where I have a chance to do a goodly bit of cooking. Saturday: more walnut-arugula pesto (so delicious with eggs on toast!) and some Amish turnips for dinner with M&M. Sunday: bran muffins, a loaf of bread, muesli, garden kale sauteed with garlic and lemon (lunch), chocolate-hazelnut spread, and peanut-topped greens with paneer, which used serranos, mustard greens, and turnip greens from the garden. Oh, and I mixed up a homemade rooibos chai tea blend, which allowed me to consolidate more spices. I hope it tastes good. Regardless, I now feel like I can face the week without feeling too preoccupied by kitchen tasks. We still have something close to a 10-year supply of cloves.

-

In the Department of Fixing Things, I tackled several lingering tasks. The first was the project of cutting down an aluminum threshold for the main entry door to the boathouse. The original threshold was too long, and the piece needed to be cut to the shape of the door molding. While that might seem fairly simple, it wound up being a good opportunity for me to learn more about various options for cutting metal. I did the bulk of the work with a hacksaw and Dremel cutting wheel, but when I got to the boathouse I discovered I'd been too conservative in my estimate of how much aluminum to cut down. And of course I didn't bring along cutting tools to the boathouse. Fishing around in the boathouse toolbox, I found an old, rusty file and figured, what the heck, might as well see if it will be sufficient to finish the job. Even though the file was meant for wood, it worked well enough on the aluminum to convince me to keep going. As I got close to finishing, another club member came along and asked if I'd like any help. It turned out that he'd been involved in the previous project of installing the previous door, so I was happy to have his assistance.

But as with almost all such projects, we eventually hit a hiccup that we couldn't resolve with the tools on hand: the threshold piece now fits, but it sticks up too far along one edge of the door, and the door can't close. So we took the threshold back off and I'll have to try again after bringing in a metal file and some tin snips to finagle the underbits some more. The whole thing is kind of a silly project, but that threshold had been sitting around at the boathouse for who knows how many years, so I adopted it.

What else - I bought some intermediate-weight gloves and stuck some reflective material on them so my hands will stay warm and visible during the intermediately-cool weather here. I also tried to buy some replacement parts for my Camelbak, which is about 10 years old by now, but failed because my Camelback version is now outdated technology. I'm highly annoyed. I also pulled the snap-loop fastener off of my travel neck pillow and sewed it back on in a much better configuration so it will actually hold the pillow around my neck. And did a wee bit of housekeeping.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I think it's time to learn more about various water-resistant fabric options and how to sew them.

For bicycling, it looks like I want a product that doesn't exist - a cross between a gaiter and a shoe cover that is waterproof, and not made of flimsy spandex or neoprene. It needs to extend to cover my toes so my shoes stay dry. Gaiters usually don't - they stop at the laces. I believe I have at least one friend who would also like a pair, if not more than one friend, heh.

If my replacement basket ever shows up for the Jolly Roger, I want to make a water-resistant cover for it, which should also help with prolonging its life by reducing UV exposure. [livejournal.com profile] scrottie would like a pack cover, and if I make one for him, I should make one for myself, too, really. And then maybe I can design something that will work better than my current "shower cap" approach for my Arkel shopper-pannier.

I just ordered myself some RainLegs, because I don't like full rain pants, but completely sopping-wet pants are really annoying.

I should probably just push for a REAL visit to Seattle Fabric Supply, next time I'm in town.

This is not going to be cheap, but if it works, it will be SO WORTHWHILE.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
Now that packages have been shipped hither and yon, I can post photos from this year's holiday crafting extravaganza. We made 3 things, altogether: homemade bath bombs, strawberry-rhubarb jam, and passion fruit curd. Perhaps it's less exciting to receive a generic, impersonal gift, but on the other hand, it was WAY less stressful on our end, and that meant we were able to share the bounty as widely as possible.*

We had a hilarious moment in PCC in Seattle when we encountered a "homemade bath bomb DIY kit," well after the point where we'd finished that aspect of the adventure. It wasn't that hard to procure the ingredients.

In a nutshell, we followed a recipe from Northwest Edible Life, including using the pictured mold, because anything insect-themed is appropriate, right?

After mixing up and extracting the first set from the mold, I read through the comments and learned about the hazard of adding too much water. The next morning, I observed the outcome directly for myself:

Successful and unsuccessful homemade bath bombs

The rear set went off prematurely. Whoops.

For posterity's sake, here's a photo of all of the jars of canned goods:

Homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam and passion fruit curd

It might seem like a lot, but I still wound up wishing we'd been able to make and share more. Either that or we have to decide we don't like so many people.

I think we wound up trundling over to the hardware store 3 times to buy more canning jars over the course of making and canning things.

But at least this year we had enough boxes and padding to get everything packed up and shipped.


*While I am declaring that this was WAY less stressful, it was still far from stress-free to juggle these projects and work and such. I am longing to get myself into a better position for working on creative projects in a way that feels positive and fulfilling, but I still don't quite know how to get myself there.

Argh

Dec. 11th, 2016 03:08 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I should not have tried to apply that last layer of polycrylic to the sewing machine cabinet while it was raining.

Sigh.

Sand and repeat. Probably not until after holiday travels, given how many other things are on the agenda at the moment.

-

Also, the Argentine ants have found our kitchen. More specifically, the tiny bits of honey that wound up on the outside of the honey jar.

I feel justified for my concerns about crumbs everywhere.

On the other hand, now I have to do even more cleaning.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
We're in the midst of a pretty solid rainstorm as of sometime around last Wednesday. On Thursday, I tried commuting on Old Faithful, but on the way home I had to bail out a couple of times because caliper brakes really don't work well on old steel rims. Also, I should re-true Old Faithful's front wheel. I'd switched over because I haven't had the time/energy/wits to figure out what to do to fix up the Jolly Roger's front fender, and fenders sure are nice when it rains.

I finally had a dab of time this morning. The problem with the Jolly Roger was that I recently switched from using 1.35" tires to using 1.5" tires. With the wider tires, the front tire was no longer clear of the front fender. I tried futzing with the whole thing, but couldn't get it sorted out properly at the time, so eventually I just pulled off the front fender. That's all well and good up until it starts to rain in earnest. I'd forgotten how annoying it gets to have water spraying up into my face.

So, what to do. I really just needed to re-bend the awesome, heavy-duty steel bracket that [livejournal.com profile] randomdreams custom fabricated for me a while back. The problem is that I haven't had the right equipment to achieve the leverage necessary to bend that sort of metal.

There was a vise hanging around in the workshop here, but it wasn't attached to anything. I managed to remember to ask A about it while he was in town, and learned that both the vise and the workbench in the workshop belong to his friend J. So that meant I couldn't just get A's permission to just go ahead and install the vise onto the workbench. Instead, [livejournal.com profile] scrottie came up with the idea of installing it onto a board. So that's what I finally did this morning:

Makeshift vice setup

I clamped the vise-board down to the workbench, put the metal bracket into it, and then cast about for a good lever-arm to bend it further. Aha - a pipe wrench did the trick. The actual bending took less than 60 seconds, after all that build-up.

Fender bracket adjustment complete!

So that's finally up and running again.

I also put a final coat of polycrylic semi-gloss finish on the sewing machine cabinet. Once it has cured, I'll move it to the spot next to the bed and will proceed to the next refinishing project, a small yellow-and-white child's dresser that's currently in the spot where the sewing machine will go.

Having the sewing machine back in its cabinet should be helpful for tackling some upcoming sewing projects. Probably the next real task on that whole list will be figuring out what to do with and how to organize the current contents of the child's dresser (mostly arts-and-crafts supplies), and the same for two boxes of academic papers that are currently sitting in the closet.

Projects

Nov. 28th, 2016 09:29 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
The trouble with being a DIY holiday gift-giver is that making things takes time, and I'm feeling really time-strapped these days. Regardless, [livejournal.com profile] scrottie and I made a big push to get stuff underway this past weekend, and it was satisfying to feel some sense of progress.

I'd like to be finished with the sewing machine table refinishing project already, but I've only managed to get the second of 3-5 coats of polycrylic on it so far.

I also finally managed to try out the bike bubble machine that J and K sent to me. It was gloriously whimsical for about a mile of riding, but then the constant bumps converted the bubble juice into foam and it stopped working.
Bike bubble machine

I'm glad I tested it out on a drizzly day, on a bike with fenders. That reminds me, though, that I need to fiddle with the Jolly Roger's front fender bracket some more. When I upgraded from 1.35" tires to 1.5" tires, the fender was too close, so I took it off. It's annoying to have water and mud flinging up in my face when I ride around in the rain.

Oh, and Old Faithful is reassembled and back in action. I decided it would be useful to have another spare bike kicking around.

I'm a quarter of the way through the Holiday Challenge, but slept in this morning instead of going to the boathouse to erg some more. S and I are heading to Seattle the week before Christmas, so I need to stay on top of those meters.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
One of the things that [livejournal.com profile] scrottie and I didn't quite get to was updating our projects, chores, and fun activities lists.

We keep a lot of lists. But it seems to work pretty well to do so.

I think I'm actually due for a trip to slouch in a coffeeshop for this very reason - such thinkspaces tend to be the best places for me to think through who I am, where I am, and what I want to be doing.

Top of the lists:
-Travel. We need to make travel plans for RAGBRAI at the end of July, and also think about getting in more long bike rides to get ready. I also need to figure out how to work in visits with my parents and Riverside sibling over the remainder of the year. In the very least I should go up to a Seattle-area head race sometime around the end of October / beginning of November, methinks.

-Pants. Two pairs are on the mending pile, three pairs are about to meet their maker (including one on the mending pile), one pair is really only good for mucking around, and the other day I discovered that the last pair looks like it also has some sulfuric acid holes in it.

-Art: I want to finish the cat quilt but I don't seem to sit down for long enough while at home.

-Also art: I want to work on some insect art projects - mostly drawings.

-Plants: I bought a tiny fern at Berkeley Horticulture yesterday. I need to repot it and also some succulent babies from the yard so I have more pretty houseplants around.

-Furniture: I should work on refinishing the sewing machine table so as to help keep space clear in the workshop.

-Rowing: I have a big pile of miscellaneous rowing-related resources sitting on the desk, which need to get organized and put into binders. I should also put together a more defined training program.

-Gopher. There's a gopher in the backyard. It likes to gnaw on the roots of the artichoke plant, and it has pulled multiple tomato plants underground. S spent Saturday digging around to figure out its tunnel network and apply gopher repellant while RAC constructed root cages for some replacement tomato plants.

Projects

Apr. 21st, 2016 11:52 am
rebeccmeister: (Acromyrmex)
Over the weekend, I got almost 5 more ants quilted on the catbed test-quilt. I'm simultaneously pleased with my progress and overwhelmed by the thought of how much quilting needs to happen on the real quilt. My stitches have gotten to be more even, but I'm still nowhere near as good as the internet quiltmaster ladies at controlling my needle and getting lots of stitches loaded onto it. That's probably okay, even if it means that I'm slower. I decided to use cotton batting before giving myself a chance to see what it's like to work with it, and in retrospect the quiltmaster ladies are probably correct that wool would have been much easier to work with the first time around. Oh well.

So, the immediate agenda is to finish the catbed test-quilt, then move on to the full-size quilt.

After that, I think I'm going to work on a couple of drawings. I'd forgotten that the department here holds an annual Art and Science Show, and of course the announcement about the show only reached me about a week before the actual show, so I don't really have time to prepare good drawings. In the long-term, however, I want to draw out a large-scale diagram of the inner workings of a desert leafcutter ant colony, so if I manage to continue making progress on other projects, maybe I'll manage to get started in time for next year's show.

Meanwhile, I have finished reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, although now I'm also working my way through the two original articles included at the end of the book. I really liked the last chapter, which contains some social commentary on what to do with the insights gained from the book. The biggest take-home message is that human beings aren't rational, although this isn't to say that human beings are irrational. We just tend to use a collection of cognitive tricks to reduce cognitive effort, sometimes in illogical ways. Given this knowledge, it's probably a good idea to learn to recognize when this simplifying trick is problematic, both on an individual and societal level, so that costly behaviors can be accounted for.

Altogether, I declare it to be the least annoying work on cognitive psychology I've ever read and a fantastic summary of a full and productive research career; the kind of thing an academic should aspire to write because it should be informative to both a technical and a lay audience.

Next, I am going to read Protein Turnover, by J.C. Waterlow. It won't make for light reading, but I have good reasons to read it.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I've been playing a Scrabble-like game online with a friend about once a week or so. She generally completely kicks my butt, but somehow or another I picked up some good tiles yesterday, including all four high-scoring ones (J, Q, X, Z). In addition, I managed to put together a bingo, and I even had a second one in my rack (LUMPERS or RUMPLERS) but I couldn't put it anywhere. S also managed a bingo, and so in the end I won with 396 points to her 378. Maybe I should start keeping track of game totals.

Anyway, here was our final board:
High-scoring game

Later in the day, I told [livejournal.com profile] sytharin that I would lend her a hand with projects out in the garden. First things first, I went on a quick trip over to the store to pick up more potting soil to replace the soil I'd used up, so she can start a bunch of interesting seeds. Things like a pink banana plant, for example.

When I returned, she was underway with another project, mixing and pouring plaster for a ceramics wedging table:

Plaster preparation

Have you ever mixed and poured plaster before? I've dealt with it a lot, in the context of making ant nests. So I was a touch nervous when RAC said she'd been mixing the plaster and water for about 5 minutes by that point. So then she got ready to pour:
Plaster pouring

...slightly more liquid than she'd hoped...

Plaster pouring

...kind of thick towards the bottom...and you can see how it's starting to leak out of the mold, too...

Plaster pouring

After things reached this stage, I stopped taking pictures and started helping out. A spare board helped reduce the leak rate, and then we managed to scoop a bunch of the plaster back into the mold. If you ever find yourself wanting to make a plaster clay wedging table, I have a small piece of advice: put a small strip of clay along the seams, to seal them off.

Oh, actually, multiple pieces of advice. I think the mixing ratio that RAC used was probably okay. It was the ratio on the package. Anyway, other advice. Do what she did and get one of those drill attachments for mixing paint. Always add plaster to water, not the other way around. And maybe put the form onto something that's slightly easier to tap/vibrate/relocate to knock out as many of the bubbles as possible. In this case it would have helped to have something like a moving dolly. That would have helped with the splashing, too.

For clean-up, have a bucket of water ready to go for immediately after you pour. Use the water to rinse out and dilute the plaster that remains in your mixing vessel and on your mixing equipment. You don't need a ton of water, but enough to loosen things up. Removing hardened plaster is often more difficult, but another alternative is to work with a flexible mixing vessel. If you generate a bunch of waste liquid, pour it into a big bucket and let it sit for a week or more. The plaster residue will sink to the bottom and you will be able to pour off the water. Then, once things have dried out, you'll have an easier time disposing of the residue. I believe there's actually a way to recharge it, but it might involve temperatures that are too high for doing this at home.

Then I did some cooking, and I have no idea where the rest of the day went.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
[livejournal.com profile] annikusrex came to town for a mini-conference on Friday, which meant that I got to kidnap her for Friday night and the better part of Saturday, hurrah! An amusing amount of cooking and eating ensued:

-Butternut squash pizza with goat cheese, romano, walnuts, apples, mushrooms, onions, and crispy sage (fried in butter). For the sauce, I roasted up a butternut squash and pureed it in the Cuisinart along with a bit more sage. In case that wasn't enough, it's also artichoke season, and they're actually available for an affordable price around here ($1/each for organic ones). Yum.

-For breakfast, another feast. [livejournal.com profile] sytharin has been wanting to have some of our dad's Swedish pancakes, but at some point in her travels her Herman culture perished, and they just don't taste the same without that special little bit of twang from the Herman. I've managed to keep my own Herman going, so on Saturday morning, it was time. Here's our dad's Swedish pancake recipe. Swedish pancakes are like crepes, except slightly thicker:

1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C soy flour (you can substitute more pastry flour but the soy protein makes these more filling)
4 egs
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C melted butter
2 C milk
1 C Herman (omit if you don't have any, or you can probably use a regular sourdough culture to achieve a similar effect)

Put everything in the blender or whip it together with a whisk or egg beater. Heat your griddle to ~425 degrees F. Use around 1/2 C of batter to make plate-sized Swedish pancakes. Fill with your favorite fruit filling and top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. In our case, rhubarb compote made from rhubarb freshly harvested from the backyard.

-Then, Scrabble. RAC played a strong game, including a bingo, but then AKW played a bingo which wasn't a real word (MILKINGS) and we failed to challenge it, so she won. RAC hadn't known about the googly eyes on the J until she drew the J.

-After that, AKW and I tried to go to the newly renovated Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, except there was a "Medical Emergency" on BART (I believe that's code for somebody died?), so we hopped on the 72 bus and took the long route there. Fortunately, the weather was pleasantly warm, and the extended walk up University was scenic. We went past this place, which looked intriguing:

Intriguing Berkeley store

The museum itself was fine. A number of the individual pieces on display were striking, such as the artist who created sculptures out of spider silk by alternately giving solitary and social spiders access to a frame for web-building. When I first saw the pieces, I figured they were synthetically made. I liked how the artist was playing around with the solitary/social concept. The social spiders build interestingly engineered webs. Also striking was Portrait of my Father by Stephen Kaltenbach. There was some incredible colorwork in that piece that can really only be appreciated in person, appreciated even further when you realize it was painted in 1978. It has a holographic feel and shifts and moves as you look at it, plus it deals with some complex subjects.

As an exhibition, however, I felt like the curators were trying a little too hard to put in as many different kinds of things as they could to showcase the museum's collections and ties to other strengths of the university. The University of Nebraska's art museum, in contrast, did a better job of reverential presentation of works from its holdings.

Still, I love going to museums with AKW and it was wonderful to have her out for a visit!

-

While she and I were larking about, RAC was otherwise engaged. After Scrabble, she ran off to rent a pickup truck, and proceeded to drive all over hither and yon picking up all of the kinds of things one needs a pickup truck to acquire: two bales of straw, a bunch of bags of mulch, sand, pavers, three 50-pound bags of clay, a bag of pottery plaster, and probably a couple of other things I'm forgetting. I'm highly amused by a similarity in our temperaments - like me, RAC is inclined to charge around working on projects until she drops from exhaustion. There's something comforting and nice about being around this kind of work mode, though. There's something similarly comforting about cooking and sharing food with the household network out here, too. Saturday night, for example, after AKW had left for the airport, I joined RAC and M&M for some tasty stuffed onions and roasted cauliflower. Yum.

-

Sunday morning, I'd promised RAC that I would help with some aspects of the ongoing household projects. In particular, it was time to give the workshop a thorough cleaning and round of organizing.

I feel so much better now that things are better organized in there. I mostly had to shuffle around various accumulated piles of abandoned projects to move the table saw back into a corner that would give us all better access to some storage shelves we moved in there when we were renovating the bike garage to accommodate more bicycles. RAC installed plastic sheeting over half of the shelf to ready it for storing ceramics-in-progress:

Tidied workshop I

We also cleared off the worktable and cleared floor space. You can't really tell either of these things from this photo, but before the photo it was getting pretty hard to walk around in the workshop.

Tidied workshop II

RAC was generally on a roll. She managed to apply some copper paint to the kick wheel to protect it from further rust, and she built the last planter box for the front driveway. She also filled it with soil and got tomato plants transplanted, and set the paving stones for the path here:

Front yard tomato beds

We are now tomato-ready.

I did manage a couple of other small projects, like painting more trim for my door-window (to tack down the fiberglass screen along the sides):

Backyard projects

And transplanting a lavender plant and strawberry plant into pots (both plants are being hugged by a kale plant that's going to seed):

Potted

The local plant shop (Berkeley Horticulture) carries five or six different kinds of strawberry plants. I got a Mara des bois because highly flavorful French strawberries sound fantastic. But I might have to get even more varieties in the overall search for strawberry perfection. We shall see. I'm still skeptical about whether it's possible to achieve strawberry perfection outside of Washington, but it seems worth a try.

Other than all that, RAC built up a frame for making a plaster wedging table, did a bunch of weeding, and figured out what was wrong with the irrigation system. We've been enjoying the colors of all the different California irises she's planted in the front yard:

Front yard color riots

And with that, it's time for the beginning of another full work week.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Cleaning the boombox's CD lens with a little dab of isopropyl alcohol did the trick! No need for complex disassembly. I was so pleased that I might have been dancing around the house for a while thereafter. Fixing the CD player means that I can put away the portable CD player for now, even though I've finagled a repair for it as well - a little piece of cardboard wedged against the lever to convince it that it's closed. I'd had the portable player plugged into the boombox, which worked, but was fussy.

I started diving into sewing mending projects by first hemming a pair of [livejournal.com profile] scrottie's pants. It feels good to have unearthed the sewing machine. Then I worked on zipper replacement for a pair of pants I really like. I got partway through before realizing that yeah, I'm going to have to track down the proper zipper foot to put in the second line of stitching reinforcement. So then I walked down to the hardware store to look at tiny table legs for the set of drawers that lives under the desk, to the JoAnns of Disappointment to look for the zipper foot, then to the Lucky for a few groceries.

Oh well. At least the project is underway. I also cut out and pinned on some corduroy elbow patches for the old purple sweater I just can't stop wearing.

Somehow, those projects took most of the afternoon.

I also discovered that Froinlavin takes a different kind of brake pad than I thought, so I'll get the correct ones when I go back to pick up S's bike from the shop. And I got halfway through the project of swapping on new tires. I'm not particularly keen about the new tires - something something Vittoria. I think I'm going to go back to Bontragers once these tires wear out in six months. I did get another bottle cage installed, for carrying along a spare folding tire, so that counts for something.

I feel much better about life now, with some of these projects well underway.

So then I made some mushroom risotto and had a quiet evening. Today, S is heading back to Arizona to work on a bike project and pack up his stuff there. It won't be an easy trip for him but here's hoping it goes smoothly. I have a feeling I have plenty of distractions lined up for while he is away.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Today has been an "organize the calendar" sort of day. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but at the same time this is a good time of year to take stock of things and think about plans for the upcoming year, including changes. I am not sure about how to organize this list of things I am wanting to organize, but here it is:

-Short-term: Finish bike hook installation (probably the weekend I get back to town - Jan 8).

-Schedule a piano tuner (S gave me the Gift of Tuning, hurrah!)

-Figure out rowing in the Bay Area. A big thank-you to [livejournal.com profile] dichroic for passing along a couple of lists of the area rowing clubs. Starting point: Berkeley Paddling and Rowing Club (closer), if not that then Lake Merritt (8.7 mile bike ride one-way).

-Finish out an R-12 award (i.e. ride at least a 200km brevet each month for 12 consecutive months; I have 3 more months to go). Once I finish this, I plan to focus more on rowing, with occasional recreational bicycling thrown in for fun and profit (e.g. more picnics and bike camping).

-Come up with a plan for creative projects. [livejournal.com profile] sytharin and the housemates are somewhat keen to get ceramics operations up and running, which is something that makes me dream of gas-fired kilns and learning to mix up glazes. These two dreams are impractical for the here-and-now, plus I have other, non-ceramic creative projects that I wish to attend to (specifically, quilting and knitting). Hence the need for more of a plan for creative projects. The best solution may be just to schedule Crafternoons with RAC. That should also help us figure out how I can best help her with gardening projects, too. I can see why people use shareable calendar goop for this stuff, although I am tempted to continue rebelling with my paper and text files.

-Academic to do (condensed version): make a schedule for the conference in Portland next week; push forward the leafcutter manuscript (which doom level have I reached, again?); make a semester plan; analyze data and write manuscripts; start new experiments; polish job application materials.

-Get back on track with tracking spending. As mentioned elsejournal, I'm particularly interested in doing some detailed grocery accounting. In part this should help me figure out which items I wish to buy where in the grocery landscape of the Bay Area, and in part I am intrigued by the idea of comparing grocery spending here against grocery spending elsewhere (Lincoln in particular), and in seeing what I eat over the course of a year. Lincoln groceries won't include the occasional foray to the farmer's market, but those trips were pretty occasional and mostly for pecans and fruit bonanzas, because the grocery co-op did such an awesome job of selling locally-produced foods.

Edited to add:
-Develop the Bike-Friendly Fridays coffeeshop agenda for the East Bay.

I think that covers the major bases.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I spent several hours on Saturday working on some fairly unsurprising holiday gifts for people (they *will* be appreciated, they're just unsurprising, but you know, that's okay). I'm not feeling especially ambitious this year, or at all materialistic, so things will be simple. Hmm, maybe I should just give away a whole bunch of reflective ducks to everyone. Who doesn't need more reflective ducks? It's the simple pleasures in life, right?

On Sunday, we got underway with Project Bike Storage. Most of the garage space at this house has been converted to an awesome studio apartment, but there's a small section towards the front that contains a washing machine and dryer, secured behind a pair of doors that swing open to the front of the house. The perfect space for storing bikes. Okay, the only space, really. The thing is, we need to be able to accommodate five bikes in the space, and the present lack of organization has been making it difficult for L to reach the washer and do his laundry. The first step was the removal of an enormous storage shelf, which we repositioned in the work shed in the backyard. Something tells me the shelf will be highly useful in the work shed. I also made it over to the local Ace Hardware (a HUGE one) and procured three bike hooks. The neurotic part of me that demands to always inventory the entire bike shop or grocery store also demanded that I inventory the entire hardware store. This one appears to have great housewares and storage supplies, compared to many Ace Hardwares. Dangerously useful.

Next I will need to cut down a scrap 2x4 to the correct length, remove the random nails pounded into it, and track down screws to fasten it to the studs. Then I'll drill holes, secure the hooks, and we should be good to go. I sort of feel like it should have been possible to get those pieces finished yesterday, but no such luck. Still, moving forward slowly is not moving backwards.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I had one of those moments yesterday where I just stared at all of the things on my desk and felt overwhelmed by my list of personal projects. In spite of the feeling, I'm actually making progress on things - progress is just slow at times. It just doesn't always feel like progress.

The biggest current project on the agenda is the twin-size quilt sandwich that I need to quilt. Prior to that, I am practicing by quilting a cat bed. I thought it would be straightforward to just draw out a quilting template, trace it onto the fabric with quilting pencils, and then get stitching.

It turns out that quilting pencils are terrible, so I had to cast about and come up with a different plan. Fortunately, in this day and age, hordes of people blog about their quilting adventures, so I soon learned that such pencils are disparaged and fabric markers are generally thought to be better.

And so, hup ho, time to expedition over to the quilt store in town. In contrast to Texas, the quilt store here is open even on Sundays. After I wrapped up the midday cricket injections and cricket processing, I set sail for the Calico House, and managed to get there a good hour before closing.

Not only did they have fabric markers, they also had sheets of plastic template-making material, the exact sort of stuff I wanted but had been scratching my head over because I'd had no idea how to verbally articulate what I was looking for. Sometimes showing up in person makes all the difference.

They did not, however, have any nylon thread, or leather punches, which didn't really surprise me, as neither item is a quilting supply. The nylon thread isn't an urgent item (it's eventually for sock-making), and they recommended checking Ben Franklin for the leather/metal punch (I want to try using one to punch holes in the lids of eppendorf tubes).

I also learned that a common way of transferring quilting patterns onto fabric is to use a chalk-filled "pounce pad," which is brushed across the surface of the stencil, causing chalk to filter down through the holes of the stencil and onto the fabric.

This whole notion has caused further head-scratching. Just how old is this quilting technology? I have no intentions of becoming a long-term quilter, so I don't want to continue buying up a whole bunch of expensive specialty supplies that I'll only use once. With a bit more digging, I turned up some information on how to create a homemade pounce pad, which looks more suitable for my purposes.

When walking out of the quilt store, I had to avert my gaze away from a pile of pink fabric with bicycles on it. I am grateful that independent quilting stores still exist, but struggle with how quilting has been turned into an expensive craft-hobby for many people.

Upon returning home, I successfully used the marker to trace out the first bits of my pattern for the practice quilt. Someone commented somewhere that tracing out the quilting pattern is an often-overlooked huge timesink, which also made me feel better about my slow progress. I'm getting close, however, to finally starting to quilt, and as my PhD advisor used to say, moving forward slowly is NOT moving backwards.

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