Monday, May 28, 2012

Micro Project: Twine Trellis

I continue to work on the post that will tell the full story of deck structures at my house, but meanwhile, with the Moonflowers and Morning Glories and lots of other climbers up in the pots, it was high time to get something in place for them to wind around. The twine trellis is a cheap solution, and I even like the look of it naked though I doubt that will be the case for long.  

Not pictured are my first attempts at this kind of trellis on two of the other posts which are just really unattractive.  I'll be taking those down and going with this design all around.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tallulah's First Swim

I've written about about Tallulah's sadness at the loss of her big sis, but as pictured here, sadness for Tallulah is far and away the exception to the rule.  Here she is enjoying her very first dip in the big pool (with BF Madge). The dog was about three parts terrified to one part happy about the whole experience overall.  I managed to snap this photo while she was giving me a tentative grin. The jury's still out on whether or not she'll be a "water dog", but I'd give it about a 50/50.  It's true she was terrified, but she did manage to settle down in our arms a few times and idle at "tolerant" for at least short intervals.  

We'll see.     

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More work on Pippa the Pop-Up

[Editors Note: This post follows on the one posted here.]

Yes, friends it's...ANOTHER BLOG POST!

Can ya believe it?

I know all three of you are dying of essitement. 

And well you should be!  Exciting things are happening around here.  It's nonstop fun.  Thrills! Chills!  I keep starting blog posts!  And then stopping blog posts!  And starting blog posts! And then stopping blog posts! Do I want to discuss food?  Projects? Gardening? Exes? Camping? Design? FEELINGS? I got lots of...FEEELINGS! (And exes. I keep getting their mail.  Y'all? Where should I send your AARP stuff?) Also? Crises! And by that I mean other than my usual (ongoing) existential one! 

And this is in addition to my long-term discussion about the merits of bone-in and bone-out hot wings and my ongoing (and all too often neglected) need to think about blue. Couple all that with an almost constant need to log miles on my treadmill to keep myself looking at least somewhat more human than a manatee and my ever growing potted plant collection that is more attention needy than Kim Kartrashian in a manic phase and you've got yourself a busy, twitchy blogger.

I somehow managed to sandwich in a few additional projecting hours today.  Following a recent consult with Nikki May, artiste extraordinaire, on my table top project, she suggested the decoupage finish, while beautiful, might benefit from a little "aging" aesthetically and be made more durable via more sealant. We decided I'd accomplish this by applying some stain and a few coats of clear lacquer that just happened to be lurking around on my garage storage shelves.  This is I did today (one coat of stain and two of lacquer) in my garage which, near the end of the all-day project, I realized, happened to be hermetically sealed (the garage, that is).
It wasn't the stain fumes the got to me, it was the lacquer.
And I didn't realize what was going on until that last coat when, despite slinging my head around and whinnying like a horse with a fly up it's nose for about five minutes, I ultimately couldn't shake the pounding sensation that had taken over between my temples.  Bleary-eyed and dizzy, I realized I'd taken to mentally referring to my phone as "Iphona". Like a woman's name.

As in rhymes with "Ramona".

As in, 

Gee, I wonder where I left Iphona

I glanced over at Tallulah who, either in fact or as a result of my compromised perception, looked to be listing to the left.

And it finally dawned on me that I'd become an unwitting participant in an accidental huffing situation. (I'm sure no one is surprised, given my criminal history.)  I staggered over to the wall and slapped the garage door button, and soon Tallulah and I were gratefully gasping great gulps (alliteration points!) of summer air, free (at least relatively speaking) of harmful chemicals.

Not a minute too soon!   

Happily, the huffing doesn't seem to have effected the outcome of the project.  The stain, while subtle, did indeed add age as well as additional interest and the lacquer, though it's impossible to photograph, added a richer, smoother quality to the surface of the table which will most definitely translate to more durability.

To review, here's what the surface of the table looked like to begin with:

White laminate over particle board peeling and actively crumbling at the edges. After the application of Gatsby and many coats of decoupage:

Much better.  And after today's work:

A little more detail in this photo (maybe?):

Pippa's counter tops are made of exactly the same material--laminate over particle board-- as the table top and they all sport exactly the same problem:  crumbling and chipping edges.  Following some Internet research on pop-ups, we've decided to remove the counter tops entirely and replace them with wood.  The plan is to decide on and apply the finish to that wood tomorrow (to stain or not to stain, that is the question).  Once lacquered, surfaces dry to the touch in several hours, but it takes a full week for the stuff to cure entirely.
Pippa's booth cushions are currently covered in a blue plaid material (I will get before photos up--pinky swear!) that, while not the worst in the world, just aren't my style.  Tonight, I'm happy to report, I've made some strides toward picking the fabric that will replace the plaid. For the booth:

Seriously how delightfully cute, retro, and "camp" is that?  I want to die of love for it every time I look at it. And the colors?  Gray?  Turquoise?  I love the yellow accent.  Love, love, love.  This fabric will cover the booth and trim and I like this for the rest:

GRAY!  Surprised, aren't you?  Outdoorsy?  Yes!  Gray? Yes! 

I love this too, and I think, though both fabrics are prints, they are harmonious enough in color to be pleasing to the eye when seen together in the small space. I've ordered samples of both fabrics and, barring any unforeseen issues with quality, print or color (cross fingers!), hope to order it in quantity soon.  An upholsterer (in the NashVegas area) has been recommended and I'm hopeful we can make progress on this (HUGE) aspect of project soon.

Can NOT wait!  

KS vs V-J-J

Read something brilliant today.  Right here

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Punch up your Summer

I had a great weekend with friends both old and new.  Friday was especially decadent beginning with a five-hour breakfast on my deck (inside and beneath a structure now known as "C-3" watch this space for an explanation...someday) and a girl party that rolled on from morning until afternoon. 

And, face it, it wouldn't be a girl party without a) brunch and b) booze. 

I'll leave you to your own devices for brunch, but today's summer sipping suggestion is this:  punch.  I do still love to throw together some Peach Sangria, but I've gotten into the habit of punches for get-togethers for a couple of reasons: it's easy and there's just no limit to the variations. You can generally use what you have on hand, not to mention it stretches your booze buck.  I improvised a sort of lemonade punch this day that was a big hit. 

While I prefer not-very-sweet drinks as a rule, outdoor summer sipping calls for a little sweetness, I think.  And, please.  Don't just throw in sugar.  Make a simple syrup.  It doesn't take that long and you never have to contend with separated sugar floating to the bottom of your pitcher or being otherwise inadequately blended (SO annoying).  

We'll call today's recipe:


1 to 1.25 cups sugar
1 cup water
The juice and pulp of four lemons plus one more lemon for garnish
1 cup to 1.5 cups Coconut Rum (more if you dare)
1 (large) bottle sparkling water (I used most of a bottle of Apollonaris
Mint (if you have it.  I do and then forgot to use it!)
Chopped fresh fruit (if you have it) 

Make the simple syrup:  mix the sugar and water in a small sauce pan and boil until the sugar dissolves; cool in the fridge.  When the syrup is cool, throw a handful of mint (if using) into a pitcher and add the lemon juice, cooled syrup and then add the Rum (you could use regular rum but the Coconut definitely gives it that "tropical" feel) and pour in the sparkling water, slowly, after half or so tasting as you go. Stop pouring when you're happy with the mix. Add more rum or not.  Serve over the chopped fruit in short glasses with crushed ice and garnish with mint sprigs and lemon slices. 

If you don't have lemons, you could substitute any frozen fruit concentrate mix (lemon, pink lemonade, raspberry, limeade...anything, really) for the the simple syrup and lemon juice. You could substitute any fresh citrus fruit for the lemons: limes, oranges, grapefruit.  Vodka would work as well, it just isn't as festive as coconut rum which is the booze of Summer punch as far I'm concerned. Just get a bottle.  It will entice even the confirmed non-drinker to enjoy a glass.

Sandi: former confirmed non-drinker.
As you might imagine, I am SO proud.

Night time summer punch calls for something a little stronger, if you ask me.  And y'all know I love me some tequila.  Though I absolutely probably do not need to drink it. But, of course, this deters me not at all!  I cannot take credit for this recipe, that goes to my good friends at Southern Living who have yet to steer me wrong on a recipe for absolutely anything. You can drink this punch for any reason at all but, for the obvious reason, it's dynamite with your spicy foods, your guacamole's, your fish tacos and fajitas AND barbecue. Southern Living bills it as a "game day punch" or a "man's drink" no doubt for the powerful punch it packs. And, yes 'Margarita Snobs' this one's for you too, because--hello?-- I am a Margarita Snob.       


1 cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
1 cup tequila
1/2 cup orange liqueur (Triplesec)  
1/2 to 1 cup cold beer
Lime for garnish 
Note to yourself:  Unless there are only two of you?  Always, always double the recipe using all the frozen concentrate and a whole beer and, of course, double the other stuff.  Doesn't matter the beer--just whatever you like or have on hand, be it light or dark, fancy or cheap, Corona or not. Be sure and pour in the beer just before serving so the whole thing has fizz. Again, serve in short glasses over crushed ice and rim them with salt if you like. Also, I kind of warn everyone that the drink is stout. Right before we climb into the hot tub. After that?  All bets are off. Because everybody, without exception, loves the stuff.  
So, happy sipping, friends! And please email me your favorite punch recipes. I'm always looking to add to the repertoire.     

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dim all the Lights

The last time I saw Donna Summer was, appropriately enough, on a hot Summer night at Memphis Botanical Garden, August 21, 2010.  And let me emphasize the hot part again. If you've never been to Memphis in August, I assure you, you cannot possibly fully appreciate the situation. 

Regardless, Donna put on a hell of a show.  She sounded fantastic as ever and never seemed ruffled by the heat which had to be even more extreme on the stage and through three full costume changes. The red satin suit she wore absolutely had to be the most suffocating frock under the circumstances. I was nowhere near the stage and not in possession of a proper zoom lens, but I'm posting here the better (though none I'd classify as good) images I did capture for posterity.

There were people of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and stripes dancing up a storm in the garden that night.  Donna rocked it out, I have to say. 


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Jay Gatsby got up in Pippa

A couple of things:  despite the fact that my previous dialogue about camping trailed off here, my enthusiasm in real life for the past time has not waned. Just so you know.  

I'm a little obsessed, in fact. 

So obsessed that I'm now in possession (seriously, you won't believe this) of a gently used pop up. 

Say hello to Pippa. The pop-up camper.
(Not even kidding. Who am I?)

That's right, friends, if you're keeping score, (and why would you?) my first camping trip included a six-person tent, my second camping trip included a six-person tent and a two-person tent, and my as yet to be embarked upon third camping trip will include an ancient at least partially redecorated pop-up named Pippa and central air.

If you're a little nervous about my fourth camping trip, I'm right there with you.  Although I'm fairly convinced that my camping equipment advances will not evolve past this pop-up any time soon--if ever--(though you have to be crazy not to covet this or this or this) owing not only to certain budgetary constraints, but also to a singular aversion (as I'm fond of proclaiming to anyone with the misfortune of touring my new pop-up) to,

"Driving around with my own poop sloshing around in a tank behind me,"

which is my Very Special way of proclaiming (possibly as a mantra) that I shall NEVAH EVAH buy into the mindset that is trailer camping, that bourgeois American past time that includes a multi-zillion dollar politically incorrect gas-guzzling drivable housebus on wheels complete with (God forbid) a bathroom ((skeeve)) and television, satellite linkage, microwave, and Bose sound system. 

Au contraire! 

I'll be roughing it!

Save, of course, for the minimal climate controlled, weather-tight, curtain-enclosed enclave that is Pippa my "back-to-nature" tent camper.  Yes, I'll be forging a path through the wilderness within spitting distance of the IGA whilst relentlessly stalking Sasquatch with my dull axe and posting photos of my progress via Facebook, don't you worry, while leaving no trace of my invasion upon the land.

Because I'm environmentally friendly like that.


Among the many advantages of Pippa like, say, improved arm strength thanks to the hours of manual cranking she requires (more on that later), is the fact that there is lots of tiny (TINY!) stuff involved.  She comes equipped with a tiny 3-burner portable stove top, for instance. And a tiny refrigerator.  The space inside is generally tiny, though the beds are surprisingly expansive with one being a double and the other queen-sized.  Pippa's advanced age (she doesn't like to discuss the exact number) means that the interior fabric and style choices are rather in need of updating and some of her finishes and surfaces are, shall we delicately say, a little worse for the wear. 

Which brings us (finally) to today's project.  While I do plan on bringing you traditional before/after photos of Pippa's interior, today I'm featuring but a small project involving her tiny table top.  You know the kind, all campers have a small booth with a removable table top.  In Pippa's case, as is usual, the booth and table top fully convert to yet another (TINY!) sleeping space.  Pippa's table top however, as stated earlier, is one of those items a little worse for the wear.  The white laminate was chipping around the edges like this:

Along with the problem, you see pictured there the solution to the left--a page torn from one of several copies of "The Great Gatsby" that I have scattered about the house.  I believe I've waxed poetic about my penchant for endlessly rereading certain classic novels with TGG being perhaps my number one choice in times of trouble.  Poor Jay Gatsby never ceases to soothe somehow.  And so armed with the prose of F. Scott, one enthusiastic helper recruited from next door,

a few brushes, and a bottle of the ever-popular Mod Podge which, comfortingly, seems not to have changed one whit in the thirty or so years since I discovered its wonder during a Vacation Bible School class in which I shellacked a picture of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Savior to a slab of particle board in the basement of Mississippi Baptist Church one summer and called it "art", and we were ready to transform. 

It didn't take long.

Here you see the entire expanse of the table top fully decoupaged, but still not dry.  (And, in case you don't know the very complicated secret to successful decoupaging, it is...MORE MOD PODGE!  More of the stuff painted under and over your material of choice. Layer upon layer. Think that's not enough?  Slather some more on!  I'm convinced the stuff is really just Elmer's glue in a different container.) 

We didn't pay much attention to placement or pattern but I did think to memorialize the iconic first and last pages together near the center:

And if you're thinking to yourself, "Damn, that isn't much of a project," you'd be absolutely right. But I'm simple myself, I suppose. I cannot convey the absolute joy the coming together of this obvious idea (and one I'm sure that is done all the time) brought me.  The thought that we'd undertake many camping adventures and enjoy many "wilderness" (ahem) meals atop some of the most skillfully woven sentences and paragraphs in all of literature made me nothing short of giddy.  I could not contain my excitement as the finished project began to emerge and it became evident that the plan was going to work, the pages were going to adequately cover the surface and eliminate the peeling edge problem as well as be practical, original, and attractive. Much as I love a good painting project, it definitely just would not compare to this: 


So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.       

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

The Making of THE SHINING by paget76

Whether you're a fan of "The Shining" or Stanley Kubrick or both, this little gem of a video--a short documentary on the making of the film by Kubrick's daughter, Vivien, --feels kind of like discovering a long lost treasure, especially since Mr. Kubrick is no longer with us.  Not to mention?  We get to watch the inimitable Mr. Nicholson brush his teef, learn Shelley Duvall is a drama queen (duh!  I still question that casting choice), and watch Scatman Crothers weep. 

My work here is done. 

(Also?  Post number THREE.  Practically in a row.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

More tales from the Tool Shed. A vintage ladder remixed as a wine rack and cookbook shelf.

It has been brought to my attention that my last post was rather sadder than I meant it to be.  It was meant to be at least half-assed funny? 

Nobody likes a cyber whiner.

On to a happier topic:  decorating projects.  Specifically MY decorating projects which, I'm happy to report, there have many, MANY during my quiet time here online.   

Old timers may recall this post in which I converted some tractor parts to candle holders last fall.  The Tool Shed yielded another treasure while I was there and one that I have a particular obsession with:  a ladder.  More specifically, a vintage ladder that had at one point (probably in 1950) experienced an unfortunate run-in with a large piece of farm equipment that severed its back legs rendering it only able to lean rather than stand on its own.  Much like the tractor parts, my enthusiasm for this broken relic caused the Keepers of the Tool Shed much bewilderment and WTFing as I loaded into the car.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it either at that point, but I have trouble walking away from a random vintage ladder at a flea market, much less one with which I have a familial connection. Broken is quite beside the point.

As you can see, the business side is completely intact and it's covered in the lovely patina only the passage of time can bestow.  It lived here on my back deck under the eaves for a few months until I began my kitchen redesign (blog post to follow on that project as well).  I did lots of Googling on re purposed ladders and there are many great ideas out there, but none of them, I decided, were going to quite work for me. I considered suspending it from the ceiling "long ways" to use as a pot rack and then balancing it atop the cabinets across my galley kitchen (which I was convinced was a stroke of freaking genius and kind of still am) until it proved just that much too short to bridge the span.  I was persuaded knocking off some of the useless back back parts and nailing them to either the top or bottom to make up the difference in the span was not a good plan either.        

When the installation of a built-in microwave freed up some real estate at the end of the kitchen counter, a kind of in-between spot, it occurred to me that the ladder would likely be a perfect fit in the space and so I retrieved it from the deck and leaned it there.  It absolutely sang to me.

I began to have ideas.

Work continued on the kitchen:  painting, painting painting. One thing I always seem to be struggling with is where to put wine (not that it lasts all that long around here once purchased) and I have lots of cookbooks that never see the light of day.  In addition, I needed to free up more cabinet space (don't we all?).

From there, all it took was a lot of cursing, a little sawing and screwing, and one spectacularly shattered bottle of Chardonnay until I had myself a practical treasure:

I wish the photo were less back lit but--new rule!--we're going with content over nitpicking perfectionism for a while.  The ladder is now mounted to the wall at the top with metal L-brackets.  The useless back was broken off and some of the pieces re purposed and screwed to the wall to act as backstops to "catch" the bottoms of the wine bottles:

Perhaps most practically gratifying was engineering a way (at no cost, by the way) to store wine glasses here and free up some really valuable cabinet space.  The metal wine glass holder was slid from the cabinet shelf and rigged onto the ladder by taking advantage of one of the ladder's existing elements--a metal rod that runs beneath each rung:

Wire was added on each side in the back (visible at left and over the glasses) to assist with bearing the weight and and make the rack level: 

The rack can now accommodate on the ladder the same dozen glasses that were formerly held within a cabinet.  The two bottom shelves can hold up to a dozen bottles of wine and believe me when I say it is my dream to need that much wine storage space at some point.

The two top rungs--now shelves--are devoted to cookbooks, obviously, though this still isn't all of them:

Nigella gets a shelf all to herself because she's far too fabulous to be expected to share.

All in all, probably my favorite project ever for both practical and sentimental reasons and the way the two converge so seamlessly.  While we aren't sweating the poorly lit photos, they really don't do the ladder justice and I can honestly say nobody walks in my kitchen for the first time without inquiring about it, where it came from, etc.  As projects go, it's a pretty simple one and I'm always walking away (with difficulty) from vintage ladders for sale at consignment shops and for not that much money either.  The wire, L-brackets, and wire wine glass rack can all be had for less than $15. 

If you're looking for a project and a simple kitchen storage solution, this is a great little project to get your feet wet on.

(And, hello, TWO posts in as many days from me?  I rock. Just ask me.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What happened after that.

It's been a while. So long that I almost couldn't remember my blogger password.


I was asked the other day if I'd stopped writing because of Isabelle's death. It's a fair question. And a logical assumption, I suppose. My golden girl dies, I publish a heartfelt account of her passing, re post a feverishly developed tear stained photographic retrospective of her life and ride off into a dark sunset. Nobody ever sees or hears from me again.

[Cue poignant strings.]


But, no. Alas, after Isabelle died, we all had to go on. And so we did. Like Tom Hanks' character in "Sleepless in Seattle", we "got out of bed every morning". We "breathed in and out". Christmas was at hand, you may recall. A mere ten days away at the time.  Holiday champagne punch had to be purchased and drunk. Presents opened. Homemade cinnamon rolls (laboriously) baked and iced. The newest family member celebrated and welcomed into the tradition.

Which isn't to say it wasn't otherwise a pretty bleak season.  Especially for a certain fur sister all on her own now. 

Tallulah looked like this for a really long time.

I remember thinking of her as "limp" back then. Just sort of lifeless.  She still barked, still sounded the alarm when she had to--it's her duty after all-- but she'd lost her natural enthusiasm for the job.  She was sad, obviously.  A dog who'd spent all her short life identifying herself as part of an "us". Tallulah missed her long suffering big sister.  And she didn't quite know who she herself was without that benevolent and reassuring presence nearby.

She was clearly grieving. 

By January we'd begun to notice the fur on Tallulah's butt seemed strangely thinner and by the middle of that month,  realized the dog had begun to obsessively bite down on and then yank out chunks of her fur all at once, leaving behind a random patchwork of aggravated naked pink booty skin.  I suppose it's the canine equivalent of "cutting". 

It wasn't pretty.   

I'd read and heard tell of dogs on Prozac, tranquilizers, and all matter of pharmaceutical treatment for psychological ailments, but I did not want that for Tallulah.  Not unless there was absolutely no other alternative.  And so I hoped.  And soothed and petted and babied her even more than usual (if that's possible).  During some unseasonably warm days, we took her on some very long walks on the nature trail, and she seemed to me perk up a little at those times, her sad little half naked butt cheeks working double-time to keep up the pace. 

She was still game, by golly.  Down, but not out. 

In March, I climbed out of bed one morning and, still half asleep and unthinking, stumbled through the house, walked to the back door, yanked it open and bellowed,


to an empty yard.  It scared the hell out of me, not because it would be all that unusual to reflexively call a recently deceased dog you'd had for over a decade.  But because I do not consciously think about Isabelle very much.  I am careful not to, in fact.  Standing there with the door knob still in my hand that morning I thought of a phrase I've heard over the years, and one that had always kind of annoyed me at that,

"He [or she] has not dealt with his/her grief."

Shouting out my dead dog's name to an empty yard that day caused the loss to suddenly spring up out of nowhere and smack me upside the head like a dead carp. 

Suzanne has not dealt with her grief.
(This is the voice in my head talking.  It says SUPER annoying shit like this.)

I slammed the door shut that day and wondered just how one successfully "deals with grief".  Writhe around in the driveway?  Write a heartwarming memoir called "Marley and Me" in which the dog (guess what?) dies at the end? 

Oh, wait!  Somebody already did that.   

Or, maybe I could...oh, I don't know.  Maybe just WRITE MORE IN GENERAL? About anything.  Or at all.  Yah, that's the ticket!  

Yanking out my butt fur isn't really an option.