Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cabbage Rose Fabric and Another Future Project

More snow falling today.  Looks like about three-or-so new inches.  It's beginning to taper off as I'm typing this, so I doubt there will be any more accumulation.  Still can't work on stuff outside ... as a result, my brain keeps scheming new projects, even though I have plenty of current, in-progress stuff to keep me occupied.

I put one of those schemes to rest a few minutes ago.  Years ago, I bought a huge roll of gorgeous cabbage rose fabric, with no particular use for it in mind ... had to have it because I loved it and I knew I would kick myself for all eternity if I didn't buy it.  I don't remember exactly what the price was, but I do remember that it was low enough to barely be a consideration in the decision process.

The selvage on the fabric says, "Cyrus Clark Co., Inc. 'Warrington' MCMXCIX"


Months ago (maybe longer than that), I was in the sewing room working on something else,  and I spotted the roll of fabric leaning against the wall.  I said to myself, "Self, this fabric would be awesome as drapes for the living room!"

That's as far as the idea went until this morning.  I carried the fabric downstairs to the dining room, which is our room with the longest open space when I push the dining table over to the side, and rolled the fabric out to see how much of it is on the roll.

Maggie was helping.


I am excited to tell you that there is more than enough fabric to make the four panels necessary for living room drapes!  I stopped rolling and measuring when I counted16 yards, and I hadn't reached the end of the roll.  That's plenty.

Just like the process I described about decisions for our front porch railing, now that I know I have enough material for this project, I can put this idea to bed until it's time to actually do something about it.  Frees up brain space to dream about other stuff.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pondering Porch Patterns

It has been cold and windy all week, the ground is covered with snow, and I have been limited to working on things indoors.  Couldn't even do stuff in the basement workshop, because it's not heated and the temperature in there dropped to 48 degrees.  I'm not one to sit, so I puttered with things in the warmer parts of the house and I schemed about long-delayed projects that I can work on when spring finally arrives.

One of those things is our front porch.  Long-time readers of this blog are well acquainted with the fact that our front porch is structurally sound, having been mostly rebuilt in 2005.  The posts, railing, and other ornamentation on the porch at that time weren't the originals, and we found absolutely no clue as to what the details might have looked like in the beginning.  It's been stressful for me to try to design something that fits with the house in its current state, and that will be appropriate for what it may have looked like when it was new in 1848.

This photo of our house was taken in the 1950s, before it was stripped of its Gothic gingerbread decoration.  The porch posts you see are not the originals.


This may be the earliest photo I have of our house.  I think it was taken in the 1930s.


1933


1940s or 50s


Our house was extensively remodeled and added onto in 1967.  The dormer and all of the gingerbread trim was removed and replaced with plain trim ... to 'simplify' the house, according to an article in the local paper that was published at the time.  (that article is HERE)  Notice that the porch now has single posts at each front corner, instead of the earlier double posts.

1960s


1970s


1980s


Our porch looks mostly like this right now.

Imagine that the front door and ceiling are painted blue, which they weren't in this photo from 2011.  The utilitarian cedar posts and 'temporary' railing are still exactly as you see.


The first bit of inspiration for its redesign came from the porch on this house in Keyser, West Virginia.  A friend kindly traced the gingerbread corner brackets for me.  The cut outs in the brackets are a lot like an element in the design of the original gable trim on our house.

Inspiration porch in West Virginia.


Cardboard cut outs of pattern for corner brackets.


The brackets are perfect!  It has been a struggle for me to come up with a design for the porch railing.  I have my heart set on Victorian sawn brackets.  I fiddled with a couple of designs at one time, but nothing felt right to me.

photoshop facsimile of our porch with the gingerbread brackets and sawn balusters that I posted in 2011.  The brackets are awesome, but I couldn't get comfortable with that baluster design.


Last week, in a fit of cabin fever from being snowed in, I sorted through my photos and I came across this:

2002 photo of Idlewild porch railing.


It was a photo that I took of the front porch railing at Idlewild, an abandoned Gothic Revival mansion surrounded by a modern subdivision in the city of Fredericksburg.

File photo from Free Lance Star.


photo of Idlewild porch that I took in 2002.


2002


While I was at Idlewild taking photos that first time in 2002, I brought along posterboard and markers, and I traced the porch balusters ... thinking that I might be able to use the design for something at some point.  It's a good thing that I did because, in the succeeding thirteen years, Idlewild has been neglected and abused, set on fire twice by arsonists, vandalized, and shaken almost to the point of ruin by the earthquake in 2011.  What was once a grand, restorable home is now all but lost.

photo taken by a firefighter during the blaze in 2002


2008 photo


2008 photo


December 2014

As you can see from the photo below, it's a good thing that I traced the porch balusters when I did, because they are all gone now.  Whether they were removed for preservation or stolen, I don't know.

December 2014 photo


The Idlewild balusters are only 25 inches high, far too low for a legal, safe railing on our porch.  I decided to use my rough 2002 tracing and see if I liked the design if I stretched them to 30 inches.

Cleaned up posterboard pattern of the original Idlewild baluster, based on my 2002 tracing.


To stretch the pattern, I cut it into one-inch strips, gluing each strip 1/4th of an inch apart onto another piece of posterboard.  



I cut out the new pattern, clamped it into place on the front porch, took a photo, and played with Photoshop again.  The facsimile railing on the left represents three whole balusters in the space between the posts.  The one on the right is arranged like the balusters were at Idlewild, with half balusters attached to the posts and whole ones between.


Un-photoshopped photo of the baluster pattern, cut out of posterboard, taped to a yardstick and weighted with clothespins.


Through the magic of Photoshop, I can see what the railing would look like with these balusters in two different arrangements.


I like the one on the right best.  It looks like my long search for a final design for our porch may finally be over.  I love the way the balusters look in the Idlewild configuration.  It reminds me of the lacy appearance of the original trim on our house.

As far as I'm concerned, I consider the hardest part of this project to be complete.  Design is finished, materials are sourced but not yet ordered.  In this world of composite and vinyl, it took a while for me to find reasonably priced true one-inch thick boards that I can order when I'm ready to sit down at the band saw to start cutting the brackets and balusters.  (not gonna happen any time soon, and I'm okay with that.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The View From Where I'm Sitting

I'm always the first human up in the morning at our house.  My first task is to take the dogs outside so they can do their business.  Next, I make coffee and I give the dogs and cats their breakfast.  Then, I usually sit in one of the leather chairs in the family room, my trusty coffee cup in hand, and I peruse Facebook and see what my favorite blogs have to offer.

This is what I see this morning:



Maggie is sitting on a mat on the radiator, Ruby is curled up in the far corner of the sofa ... and that heap of green down-filled throw on the near end of the sofa isn't just a heap ...



It's Winnie's nest.  She got in there all by herself.

On another slightly-related subject, I don't know what possessed me to think that I could slipcover my sofa in cream colored fabric and actually live with it.  (posts about this are HERE and HERE.)



There's a slight texture to the dropcloth fabric that I used to make the cushion covers, it traps and tenaciously holds onto dog hair, and every black dog hair that it holds is perfectly visible.  To combat this, we usually have a quilt folded and tucked in on top of the cushions (it's in the wash right now).  Long term, I will have to come up with another fabric if I really want to slipcover this sofa ... one that's more animal hair friendly than this.  Short term, I will just keep washing the quilt whenever it needs it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snow Day, 2/17/15

It started snowing here on Monday afternoon, just after lunchtime.  The storm was predicted to drop a lot of snow on our part of Virginia ... six to ten inches, the weatherman said.  When we woke up on Tuesday, there was a little over six inches on the ground. 

There are tire tracks in the driveway because our daughter had rescue squad duty overnight and had just arrived home.


I suited up after breakfast, to get outside and clear our steps and front walk.  Dressed in layers ... three layers underneath this hoodie, with a fleece hat and the hood on my head.

Selfie taken in answer to a challenge from a friend on FB to show our outdoor snow day attire.


This snow was light and puffy, unlike the heavy, icy snow that we usually get.  It was easy to shovel, and the remnants swept away relatively cleanly with a broom.



With the main job finished, I used my phone camera to capture the scenery.







While I was out, I heard plows coming up the road.  Not surprised to see that the work was being done by two large John Deere tractors ... this is a country road, after all.



The yard looked particularly lovely, with the coating of snow accented by the crisp blue sky.





Shortly after I finished the shoveling, my husband went out with our snow blower to clear the driveway.  The light, puffy snow made quite a plume!






By mid-afternoon, the sun warmed the hard surfaces and any remaining snow melted and mostly evaporated, even though the air temperature remained well below freezing all day.  We had no plans to leave home, but it was good to know that everything was clear and safe if we did need to get out.





A snow day is perfect for cooking something that has to simmer in a pot.  Supper was chicken and dumplings, made with the remnants of the weekend's rotisserie chicken ...



... and I put the finishing touches on a new crocheted hat, inspired by THIS pattern.  (The ribbed band isn't in the pattern ... I added that on my own.)



Next time it snows, I'll have a snazzy new hat to wear.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Making Home-Cooked Dog Food

I'm cooking dog food this morning.  You may already know that I supplement my dogs' diet with home-cooked food that we call Dog Stew.  I started doing this five or six years ago, when our greyhound Emma was under the care of a holistic veterinarian for treatment of weakness in her back legs.  One of the first things the vet and I discussed was what Emma ate ... and the vet told me that Emma needed to eat more real food, in addition to commercial dry food.  From this conversation, Dog Stew was born.

Dog food components are in these pots.


The recipe has evolved since then, taking advantage of whatever I have on hand, but the basic ingredients remain the same. I offer it to you, in case you may be inclined to try something like this for your own dogs.


Connie's Dog Stew

In the smaller pot:
2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds ground turkey
1-2 pounds pureed/ground organ meat (today's organ-du-jour is chicken liver)

In the larger pot are lots of colorful vegetables ... frozen ones today, fresh ones when I can in summer:
One package each of peas, carrots, broccoli, lima beans, green beans, and kale, simmered till tender with just enough water to cover them in the pot.  No corn!  When the veggies are tender, I puree them in the pot with my hand blender.  I do this because Ruby eats so fast that she almost doesn't chew, and Winnie has only one tooth and she can't chew.  Stir in one large can of pumpkin puree (or add orange squash to your original veggie mixture)




Other stuff:
Cooked rice.  I use half white rice and half brown rice, two cups each when uncooked.
Kibble, amount varies

I mix the meat and rice, then stir this mixture into the vegetable puree.  Add kibble, one cup at a time, until most of the extra liquid is absorbed.  I divide the stew into plastic containers, 600 grams each, and store it in the freezer.

Not picking out that one extra gram from this container just to get a perfect photo.






At mealtime, the dogs' meals consist of half stew and half commercial food (kibble for Ruby, canned for Winnie), mixed with a little bit of water.  Today's batch of stew made 18 full containers and one partial, which will last for just over two months.

I know that cooking food for the dogs like this is better for them, and it makes me feel good to know that they are happier and healthier because of my efforts ... all of this cooking and mixing sure does crap up the kitchen, though.



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