Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Story of Wood and Box

This is my wood.

This is my box.

This is the story about how my wood became my box.

Ever since we moved here, there has been a pile of wood on the side of the house. Okay, so that is not entirely accurate. Ever since we pulled apart and salvaged the deck we built from our old house before the bank took it back due to foreclosure, there has been a pile of wood on the side of the house we currently rent. Anyway, we decided that since this was still prime wood, we weren’t going to leave it for the bank to use to further profit from our loss, but didn’t really have a goal as to what would be done with the wood. Either way, the main purpose was to stick it to the man. Of course, a pile of wood is prime nesting places for mice, and I don’t like mice. That means it was time to finally do something with my wood, and the first thing I wanted to do was make a deck rail garden box or two.

Originally, I was planning on creating two boxes to go in between the three trellises on the front porch, but the weight of the wood overhanging the porch rail would, well, probably pull it right off. It was then that I decided to make one large box that would rest on the rail and be supported with legs on either side to keep it upright. Finally, a plan was created. Keeping the full length of the deck boards would also decrease the amount of cutting I’d have to do with the saw. So all I had to do was screw three pieces of wood together and slap on some sides and PRESTO! a finished porch rail box, right? Well, as easy as it was to build, not so easy was it to carry because, damn, deck boards are way heavier than they look!

Once I finally did get the box done, I drilled holes along the back length of it for drainage and lined the entire inside with garden fabric to keep the dirt in but let the water out. I used my handy dandy stapler with half inch staples to accomplish this task. Then, after wiping the outside of dirt and debris, I grabbed the container of white exterior paint we never used for the chicken coop we built five years ago and applied a thick coat and let it dry. I used Kilz one coat paint and primer, which worked out beautifully.

Now the most challenging part was getting the box to the porch and attaching the legs without killing myself or breaking a window. I was able to dry fit the whole thing myself, but after I screwed on the legs, I knew I’d need a second hand to help lift it back into place. My husband was able to do this minor task without much effort. Once in, I further secured it by screwing through two of the trellises into the box itself. This sucker ain’t going nowhere.

Time for planting the flowers! I partially filled the cavity with potting soil and then started planting the flowers I picked up on clearance at Home Depot because most of them were not in bloom at the time, but were quite healthy otherwise. I also used up the remaining Wave Petunias I used for the pots on the back deck. To my surprise, I almost had too many flowers in the box, which is a good surprise to have. This means it will fill in nicely and hopefully overhang a bit.

That is the story about how my wood became my box, got a little dirty, and turned into a simple yet great looking flower display. It also makes me want to open the blinds in the living room more often than never.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Homemade Tortillas

We’ve had some unseasonably warm and humid weather lately here in the Pacific Northwest. That is great for the flowers and veggies growing outside, but not so much for food in the house. I bought strawberries Thursday night and by Friday morning they were moldy beyond recognition. A couple weeks ago I bought flour tortillas, and usually they will last a couple months (if they manage to go uneaten for that long, which is rare) on the baker’s rack inside the bin I keep bread items. It is not uncommon for us to go through a dozen tortillas a week, with the sheer amount of Mexican and Tex-Mex food we eat in our house, but apparently the last eight tortillas in the bag were simply not meant to be eaten, as when they were opened to make a quesadilla for lunch, were all covered in the familiar bluish-green mold.

So when it came time to think about dinner, I couldn’t get my mind off of making shrimp fajitas with baby portabella mushrooms mingling with red bell peppers, onions, jalapeños and garlic. The only problem was the lack of tortillas. Now, I’ve made corn tortillas many times, but I was in the mood for a warm flour tortilla or three with the fajitas. A quick search led to a multitude of recipes, so I settled on one that had pretty pictures (what can I say, I’m shallow like that) and made the dough in the food processor, kneaded it by hand until no longer sticky, allowed the dough to rest under a towel for half an hour, pinched off and rolled ping-pong sized balls, let those rest for another ten minutes while I preheated my cast iron skillet, rolled out the balls one at a time as thin as possible, tossed them onto the cast iron skillet for thirty seconds each side and stacked them in a towel lined tortilla warmer until dinner was ready. They were amazing! So soft and pliable and delicious, I can’t believe I hadn’t ever made them before. I guarantee I will be making them again.

The recipe I used can be found here:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Society of Gun Worshipers

A friend of mine and I have recently begun having a conversation about guns, particularly her extreme pro-gun stance and my questioning of any gun that takes more ammo than one has fingers. Grab the popcorn, this Facebook drama just got real!

So, this most recent conversation started because of her sharing and commenting on a post about a Texas school district arming their teachers with guns. I know that when my husband went to school to become a teacher, it was so he could carry a loaded gun into the classroom as part of the required uniform! Don’t want to carry a gun? You’re fired! How many of these teachers who don’t feel comfortable carrying a gun will do so because they fear their jobs are at stake? Do you really want your kids in a classroom with a teacher who has a loaded firearm? Better pray to God that your kids don’t talk back or they may just get a cap in their ass! Seriously people, fear tactics only lead to more fear. Having a false sense of security looks good on paper, but until you get to the root of the problem, it will only continue to get worse.

What, then, might those root problems be? For starters, perhaps if we as a society actually cared about our children, then perhaps we would properly fund their education instead of constantly cutting back, closing schools, and increasing class sizes beyond what the rooms were designed to hold just to save a buck or two in taxes each year, then blaming teachers that their kids are failing because instead of getting an actual education, they are being taught to take a test which has no real world bearing whatsoever so they don’t lose funding, forcing the schools to close and teachers to be out of a job. Perhaps then these kids wouldn't grow up to become sociopaths because the adults around them actually showed they cared. I’m not so sure I want to live in a society where children are taught that the only way to survive in this world is to kill or be killed.

By no means am I anti-gun. While I personally do not own a gun, I grew up in a household where there were guns, I knew where they were, I knew they were loaded, and I knew the only time to ever touch one was for self defense. However, when there are guns specifically targeted to the five and under age group, it makes me question both the parents buying said guns and manufacturers who feel the need to arm our preschoolers and kindergarteners. I was also taught the value of life, specifically that life has value. We live in an age where many kids don’t get that anymore. It’s no wonder there has been an increase in kids killing their siblings, either accidentally or on purpose because they wouldn’t share a toy. Since a majority of these people tend to be on the conservative Christian side, perhaps they could actually read their Bible. It’s not like the blurb, “You shall not kill,” is some obscure reference. A 2-shot rifle or a handgun are more than enough for self defense, you do not need to have a gun that has 30 rounds or more of ammunition to fight off an intruder unless you plan on committing mass murder, but if you have those in your house, educate your children on how dangerous these weapons really are.

If we want to counteract violence, more violence is not the answer. If we want to protect our children, stop treating our schools like prisons. If we truly want to have a safer society, then we need to start showing it. Get involved in your kids’s lives. Know their friends and those they hang out with. Teach them how precious life is and not just how to take a life. Children are not born wanting to commit violent acts, but they are taught either through actions or neglect.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Owl Baby Quilt

With the arrival of a new nephew comes a new quilt. My sister and brother-in-law had their second child recently, so, of course, I was expected to make a quilt for them. Going off their colors they chose for the nursery (brown, turquoise and yellow) and that they were using owls as a theme, it was a no brainer to do the same for the quilt!

Coming up with an owl design was going to be the most difficult part. To make it as easy as possible, I looked at the basic design elements in the fabrics I chose, On a Whim and Urban Zoologie from Robert Kaufman. They are both rather different takes on owls, but both utilize the same color palette, which made them work so well together. I drew out simple shapes on cardstock, cut them out, and used them as templates for the appliqué owl on the front of the quilt. My only regret is that I used the sewing machine to stitch it to the top, rather than hand stitch it on.

On the back, I created a new Odd Bug character specific to this quilt and will never be used again, much like each quilt I’ve done for a child, and embroidered it using the same colors I used on the quilt top. I also embroidered his name underneath.

Just looking at these pictures made me realize it has been some time since I did any real quilting. Perhaps that means I need to make a change, oil up my 1963 Singer Touch N’ Sew Deluxe Zig-Zag Model 600 Sewing Machine, slip on a new needle, and get to work on any number of projects just waiting to be completed.