Archive for June, 2010

Backyard Before, During, After

So, I’ve been yabbering on, at least on twitter, for it seems like ages about this backyard trellis project that keeps getting rained out.  Well, I can finally show you the before and afters, because I’ve finally finished it! I have more big plans for the backyard, but it feels so good to get the first big project out of the way.

photo of backyard before

Our backyard is small and cute and while I love the picket fence, I do not love the fact that not only does the neighbour’s yard just look straight at ours, but their land is higher in elevation, so it just seems invasive if we’re both outside at the same time. Especially if either one of us is entertaining. I like a nice quiet and private nook. This year I decided that a good way to tackle this problem would be to build trellises and then grow some pretty flowering vines on them. This way it screens our yars form each other a little bit and still looks charming and cottagey.

photo of unpainted trellis and no flowers

My dad is super into backyard landscaping, and has built some trellises, so I enlisted his help. He told me about these pre-built vinyl lattice sheets he’s been using because he’s tired of building them from scratch. So I bought 2 of those panels, 6 of the vinyl tracks, 8 -2x2s, 8 joist-hangers, 2 steel posts (which we decided would be easier to attach and nicer looking than rebar) and a box of screws. Floof came out to help so I couldn’t accuse him of being lazy, which ended up being good because he’s much taller than the rest of us, and he ended up being the one who had to hammer all the joist hangers inside out so they would work because the screw holes were in the wrong places once we got started. After they were up, there was another week or so of bad storms so they just stood there looking forlorn, but they stayed up, so I was happy anyway.

photo of finished trellis with plants and paint

This weekend it was finally sunny, so I bought a gallon of white paint and got to work. It’s really amazing how much just 2 coats of white paint can transform how something looks.  I also planted 4 Clematis varieties and added mulch. They probably won’t grow too much this year, but in a year or so I’ll have some pretty purple-bluey-white flowers growing on it.   And most important it makes the backyard more private and cosy.

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Tuesday’s 10: Web Comics

I remember when the comic pages in newspapers were funny. Now, if I pick it up at all, on Sundays, I maybe read Dilbert (which I find funny, but secretly suspect after about 20 years it’s only  because ,unfortunately, I suspect we might work for the same company sometimes.) Sometimes I wonder if my dissatisfaction is from the years when the Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes ran every Sunday? Or is it from discovering the alt. weekly papers that ran brilliance like Life in Hell? Or, in that same vein, is it because the internet brought forth a whole generation of comics that no longer felt the need to be completely broad and generic and inoffensive to all? And once that gate was open, the thought of stomaching another Sunday with Marmaduke or wondering why Blondie never divorced Dagwood even though about all he’s ever done for 60 years is eat a sandwich larger than his head and sleep all day on the couch?

Whatever it is, of all the things I love the internet for, the introduction to the wicked senses of humour of so many people who don’t mind being esoteric or smart or completely out of left field or blue, is a big one. This list, being only 10, is of course incomplete. And, I feel sort of sad leaving Get Your War On off of it, but that’s not updated on the web anymore (which is sad because I can totally imagine the clipart office workers riffing on the BP oil disaster with as much caustic briliance as they did the Bush administration, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. ) So, without further adue, this weeks Tuesday’s 10 Webcomics.  (note: clicking the Name Link will take you to the front page of the comic’s site. Clicking on the cartoon image will take you to the page for that particular strip. I tried to use example comics that I liked and weren’t part of an arc that required understanding what was going  on to appreciate fully.)

1. Dinosaur Comics:  Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics is hands down my favourite web comic ever. It’s smart, esoteric, and out of left field (sometimes all at the same time.) It’s also the exact same 6 panels, with occaisional props added, and still manages to be new everytime I see it. 

Dinosaur Comics Comic strip

2. XKCD: I’ll admit, that being someone who avoided math when at all possible, I don’t always get every one of Randall Munroe’s ultra-smart comics, but when the punchline isn’t a quantum physics theorum, it’s funny and sarcastic and perfect.

xkcd comic

3. Questionable Content: So it’s hard to pick an example comic to show for Jeph Jacques serial, because it’s a whole storyline. I’ve been reading it for I think 6 years now since a friend sent me the link and told me that one of the lead characters, Faye, reminded him of me. I remember reading the whole year and some change of back comics in abouta  2 day period and I’ve been hooked ever since. The storyline is about Martin, Faye and Dora, a group of 20-somethings and their friends, and Martin’s  perverted personal robot. I thought about starting with the first comic as an example, but holy wow has Jeph’s art improved over the years. It doesn’t even look like the same artist.  So I picked a random on somewhere in the middle that wasn’t plot-arc related.

questionable content comic strip

4. Wondermark: I’ve never figured out for sure whether David Malki enitrely draws the intricate turn of the century catalog-esque art for Wondermark or if some one it is clipped ephemera. I suspect more and more that it’s entirely drawn, which is impressive. Either way, the comic is visually striking as well as being somewhat sarcastic and off the wall.

wondermark comic strip

5. Cat and Girl: Cat and Girl is another web comic I’ve been reading for what I think is a decade now. You should also checkout the Donation Derby section, where Dorothy draws a picture of where your donation went if you donate $5.

cat and girl comic

6. Achewood: Achewood is another comic with long story arcs, which a friend recommended, and I felt compelled to read the whole back catalog. Only it wasn’t just a year of comics, it was like 5 and it took awhile, but it was totally worth it. The comic folows the adventures of cats and stuffed animals who live in the author’s home. It’s at times crude or violent, sometimes off-the-wall and hilarious, but not always funny haha, sometimes a little sad and dark. but it’s a true gem.

achewood cartoon

7. Garfield Minus Garfield: Like Family Circus, Garfield is an institution of the Sunday funnies. A painfully unfunny, 2 joke institution. If only all these years I’d known that the only thing standing between the monstrosity in the Sunday paper and Camus was the orange cat…

g-g cartoon

8. Diesel Sweeties: This is probably the first webcomic I ever read, let alone read regularly. (And I also secretly love that the artwork looks like crosstitch, even if it’s probably meant to recall Atari game art)

Diesel Sweeties comic

9.Perry Bible Fellowship: Often surreal and sometimes twisted, Perry Bible Fellowship is a true work of genius. Often the strips don’t even need words to get across the punchline. In general, they remind me of MAD magazine during it’s truly great period in the 70s. 

Perry Bible Fellowship comic

10. Alien Loves Predator:  Another in the line of, if you don’t draw or don’t think you can, but you want to make a comic, you can  find a clever solution inspirations. AlP’s artwork is created using action figures. It stopped publishing for awhile (much to my dismay) and now that it’s back, it doesn’t publish as often as it used to, but it’s a true classic. Offbeat and hilarious, this is the cartoon sitcom of 2 New York Roommates who just happen to be the Alien and the Predator (and yes at one point Jesus moves in with them after he gets signed by the Yankees.)

alien loves predator comic

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Guinea Pig Monday: Mocha Cookies with White Chocolate and Butterscotch

mocha cookies with white chocolate and butterscotch, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

A confession: I’m not really much of a cookie person. I mean I like cookies and I have a lot of cookie recipes in my recipes to try queue, but I rarely bake them. I suppose I just like cakes and pies and other more complicated things more. Cookies are sort of an easy default (except of course macaroons.) I’m sure, sometime in the near future, I’ll fall prey to the current Whoopie Pie Madness, if for no other reason, it’s an excuse to buy another one use baking pan.  (I’m horrible with kitchen gadgets, actually I totally dream of say Food Network doing an adult version of those contests Nickelodeon used to have where kids get  10 minutes to run through Toys R Us and  keep whatever they could cram in a shopping cart, except it involves me and a Sur la Table.)

Cookies are perfect for when you want to bake a dessert, but you don’t really want to do anything. Sunday was like that for me. My grandmother is moving to an assisted living apartment complex in a couple of weeks, so the weekend I thought would be partially leisurely, turned into me spending 2 days helping my mom and dad try to figure out what was moving with her and packing up her house.  That wouldn’t really have been so bad if the heat index outside weren’t 105 and the air conditioning weren’t broken. By Sunday when I got home and pondered what Monday’s experimental bakey-goodness  would be, all I wanted to do was sit down and veg out. So cookies were the obvious choice.

These cookies are perfect for lazy baking. You beat 1 cup of room temp. butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 eggs,  and a teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy; then add 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder,  2 T instant espresso powder,  1 teasp baking soda and 1/4 teasp salt and mix until combined. Add 1 cup of white chocolate chips (This is the point at which I decided that butterscotch would be a perfect addition and changed it to 1/2 white chocolate and 1/2 butterscotch chips. The original recipe just called for instant coffee instead of espresso, but I hate coffee and only had instant espresso which I use for baking.)  The recipe just says to roll the batter into balls with no specific size, but  I just spooned out generous probably a little bigger than a tablespoon-sized  dollops a couple of inches apart on 2 baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes (I found I needed to bake for about 14 minutes, but that might be partially my cookie size and partially my oven that sometimes works perfectly and sometimes is possessed by a gremlin. )  The original recipe is located on Jessica’s blog ‘How Sweet It Is’ (which currently has a lot of dangerously tasty looking recipes on the first page, I really shouldn’t visit food blogs when hungry.)

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Tuesday’s 10: Walruses

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–”

This Tuesday a treasury of 10 awesome Walruses, Walri, Walruses found on Etsy.

1. wooden walrus rattle

How cool is this walrus rattle from VadimM? I think he looks like he’s got a lot of great stories about hanging out in the East Village.

2. Minor Headache Print
NoosedKity has a theory about the cause of your headache. Quite a nefarious walrus indeed!

3. handpainted illustration on recycled wood
Next up a hip graffiti inspired urban Walrus from mrz4u.

4. scholarly walrus embroidery
I love how random it is that this cute walrus from kngo is concerned about your academic future.

5.gnarwalrus illustration
I love gnarwhal’s and walruses so of course I love edisonrex’s Gnarwalrus illustration.

6. walrus pillow
I think I covet every pillow in utilitarianfranchise’s shop. Professor Walrus is no exception to this rule.

7. walrus pendant
The Walrus and the Oysters pendant from fairytalesbybluebird is super cute.

8.  Palrus softie
This Walrus softie, called Palrus, from smuttonsbuttons looks like the sort of chap who would like to go out and get some ice cream with you.

9. walrus propaganda
Sinister Walrus is sinister. At ObeyMyBrain I don’t know any Walruses who are so evil, but the print is pretty cool.

10. felted walrus
and last but not least, this adorable needle-felted Walrus named Warner is on sale at McBrideHouse.

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Guinea Pig Mondays: Cranberry Apricot Date Tart

Cranberry Apricot Date Tart, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

This week my baking adventure is a little more adventurous than usual. That’s because instead of following a recipe, I created one. Creating a baking recipe scares me a little bit because baking is such a science. I had a little trouble with the crust shrinking on the sides and I feel a little like the crust still didn’t bake completely. I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of my rectangular tart pan though because it seems that every tart I make with it, the shell is undercooked even if I’ve used a professional recipe and cooked it longer than the recommended time.

Now that I’ve premiered the tart to my co-workers, I can say that it’s definitely a success, and compared to my last 2 Mondays, it’s almost like health food. 🙂 Perhaps I’ll feel more confident to tweak and come up with my own recipes with baked goods more often now. (and maybe I’ll even keep track of how much spice I’m adding so I can be more precise than ‘um I gave it like 4 shakes’ I’m a terible ‘that just loks like the right amount of seasoning’ type.)

Recipe is after the “more”.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Party Planning

Most people view the day after their karaoke birthday party as a good excuse to sleep in and nurse a hangover. I view it as a good excuse to host the brunch party I’ve been wanting to have. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Now that I’ve officially invited it’s the best part, deciding on the menu. There’s nothing I like more than scouring my cookbooks and clipped recipes and favourite food blogs for perfect party recipes, and the extra bonus of making breakfasty foods will make it even harder to narrow down from enough to feed a war to enough to feed just one army.

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Tuesday’s 10: Repurposed Books

I am a book-a-holic. And not just reading them; a good half of my degree was in hand-producing limited edition books. Mostly, though, my love of books relates to my spending so much time in my childhood in the neighbourhood library, curled up in the big window over the radiator (where I wasn’t supposed to sit) reading children’s novels from the 40s and 50s. (I was eccentric and particular, other books could be read at home, but at the library, it was all about the library smell and the aesthetics of a fictional world I badly wanted to live in.)  

I just finished a sketchbook  project I’ve had sitting around waiting to be sewn for about 4 years now. I don’t know what took me so long. I haven’t sewn a binding for so long and I’m not so happy with the neatness of the stitches, but for not having done a book in years and for personal use, it’s not bad. 

photo of the bindingphoto of the end paper 

I love the cover illustrations on the Child Craft books and I’ve wanted to turn them into sketchbooks for ages. I’m really weird about books though, I feel so terrible about cutting them up or using them for other purposes, even though I know I can make more useful things out of them. I’m starting slowly then in my quest for a whole set of Child Craft sketchbooks, just one at first. I notice a lot of re-purposed book sketchbooks and journals have spiral bindings, but I don’t like that look, so I went with a modified long-stitch. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out (if only the stitches were a little tighter.) 

In honour of a project I can finally cross off my todo list; this week’s Tuesday 10 is all about really cool uses for old books. Most everything is an etsy find, but I also had to add the work of a book artist I’ve loved for years. 

1. belt buckle made of a bookcover  

I really love Maxine Dear‘s belt buckles made out of old covers.  What a great way to showcase  cover illustrations. 

2. hollow book image 

Hollow books are nothing new, but they are a fantastic way to recycle all of those Reader’s Digest condensed books collections that are eternally found on the “please take these books away for free” carts at all local libraries in the English Speaking world. (Who wants to read a condensed book anyway? Let alone a whole library of them. Except maybe Moby Dick, which would have been an exciting book if he hadn’t bogged the adventure down with all that symbolism and whole chapters about seeing whales in the clouds and weather vanes, but I digress. ) Secret Safe Books takes it up a notch and repurposes the fancy foil-tooled leather-bound classics you can amass collections of via direct mail advertising.  Give your bookshelf a mysterious secret passage feel of an English Mystery book.hollow book to hide flask 

I like this flask safe too 

3. repurposed bird book journal 

There are tons of repurposed cover sketchbooks and journals out there on etsy like this cute bird one from coverstories.  This one, like most, is spiral bound something I’ve never liked because I don’t like the way the spiral digs into my arm. But, when I think about it, if you’re going to use it for a notepad and need to rip the pages out, it would be more useful than a signature binding. 

4. repurosed book handbag 
I’m totally in love with the idea of turning covers into purses like this handsome handbag from Angela’s Novel Idea. I think it’s because this is something I never would have thought of and it’s genius. 

5. envelope seals made from book
Brinner has a set of envelope seals made out of the pages of old books.  Very cute. They remind me of this set of buttons I bought at a RISD alumni fair where the artist had cut out circles of text from old books and scratched out all but a couple of words with a pen. My favourite said “suddenly wistful.” (I couldn’t locate it or find any online so I couldn’t add it to the list, alas.) 

6. comic book passort cover
owlsay made super cool passport holders out of old comic books. I remember making wallets out of comics waterproofed with packing tape and one from the pages of an old graphic design magazine with iron on vinyl and sewed. 

7. paper garland made out of recycled book
This paper garland from missisaau is cute as can be. This would be a great use for old magazines too. 

8. envelopes made from a recycled dr suess book 

Picture book envelopes from
42 things and 

envelopes made from Where the Wild Thing Are book 

another cute set from Adnagam (who frequently has a pretty cool set made out of an anatomy colouring book for sale)  

9. 

photo of an art work by Thomas Allen

copyright Thomas Allen

 

Thomas Allen is one of my favourite book artists. I discovered him from an article I ran across on the web about this series he did with pulp crime novels. I love the idea of making these film noir pop-ups with nothing but a stack of old dime novels and an exacto knife. 

10. book illustration on canvas
Last but not least is this piece from Truly Sanctuary. Illustrations, particularly in picture books are works of art, so why not hang them from your walls when the book has given up the ghost? I’d love to do that with the old copy of McElligot’s Pool (which is my favourite Dr. Seuss book of all time) that lost its cover years ago and is floating around my parent’s house. 

And that is the Tuesday’s 10. I think I’ll plan some new biblio-projects for my rapidly emptying project list.

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