Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gifts of living Unexpected and Unearned

It's been so fun watching Paul reopen his darkroom and dust off the cameras. We've been going on dates and both bringing the tools of our art, my paints and paper, his camera and film. I've enjoyed the togetherness, working on things, making images in good company. We've also been discussing our surprise at seeing one another's growth as artists, considering our long hiatus from working on our art. I think though our technical skills have stalled--and we pick them up where we left off, or with a little catching up to get back to where we were--the other parts our ourselves have continued to grow, even when we weren't making much art. Our eyes, the way we look at and process what we see, grow of their own accord. We pick up our tools and are amazed to find we have new resources at our disposal!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wild Plum Harvest

I found some wild plums, a blushing golden treasure hanging drooping under the trees near a small lake. I have been watching this thicket for three years, and have missed their ripening, or been beaten to it. I now know one does not see plums and come back next week! I was so excited to finally get a few. When I found them, I didn't delay, but filled my skirt. They were enough to can a small batch of jam! Funny how once I finally find a fruit, I find it everywhere; I found another thicket in a park we frequent, also ripe. Seeing the spot where they grow, what kind of a place with what companions, how the plants actually look, touching the branches, is so much more instructive than the field guides! Having seen, I can think of many similar spots to check next year around Labor Day.
Even with a fully laden tree, from twenty feet it mostly just looked green. The one visible plum I had taken for a stray yellow leaf, and all the rest were hiding, back under the leaves. I once was blind to wild plums; but now I see.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Vat of Indigo

This picture shows a scene from our backyard several nights last week. I am swishing fabric in my indigo vat. Newly dyed cloths and shirts hang on the clothesline. Gibbie is making a giant mudpuddle out of his digging hole. Ezra is in the hammock hanging from the clothesline. His foot is sticking out.Indigo was easier than I expected and super gratifying. The color is rich. My indigo I got in a kit at my fabulous local art store, Wet Paint. I dyed cotton and linen, including t-shirts for Ezra's birthday, as well as clothes of mine that were formerly white. White clothes and I don't get along very well, as they soon become no longer white. I also dyed plain fabric that I have an array of plans for. The colors turned out strikingly vibrant! Rich, lovely blues. We will see how they wear--I am expecting a gradual fade as with blue jeans. Next time I do this, I would like to make it an event, as the vat can dye so much fabric, and have others join in.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Biking Together Again--Gibbie Helping!

So, after a long hiatus, prompted by Gibbie's new found ability to ride behind an adult on his "tagalong" (meaning he hated the old trailer and I didn't know how to carry Ezra with the tagalong) I finally mustered up the courage to just try something. Lo and behold, it worked!I just tie Ezra, who is is now four years old, on my back. I don't do this much anymore, as he walks everywhere, but it worked just like always, and doesn't hurt when I'm leaning over biking, as it tends to now if I tried to wear him while walking any distance. It's similar to biking with a heavy backpack, which I am used to. Ezra loves looking over my shoulder, and we can all three of us can talk much better than when I was hauling them in the trailer because they are closer. I think it's quite safe and feel more comfortable in traffic than I did with the trailer. Plus, Gibbie is contributing to the ride! He can pedal along, and push hard on hills. He's really helping now!

We have biked like this to several places including our church, which is about five miles from home and up quite a hill! Another disadvantage which kept me from doing it for so long is the lack of storage space--I can't wear my backpack. This should be easily resolved with a generous handlebar basket and a rack over my back tire to support panniers. Maybe we could even put a rack on Gibbie's tagalong? I can't use a rack with a crate on it, because the tagalong runs in that space over the wheel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ezra's 4th Birthday

Monday was Ezra's 4th birthday.

We usually go to a coffee shop on Mondays, and so we asked Ezra where he'd like to go. He picked Kopplins Coffee. Here he is with the owner, Andrew Kopplin:
In the afternoon, we had an outdoor party with neighbors and some family. There was a kid pool (which Ezra was born in...), a slip and slide, and a greased watermelon.

Note: All of these pictures were taken on Arista Premium 400 film using either my Nikon EM with a 28-105 Vivitar lens, or my new Zeiss Ikon Contaflex with a 50mm Carl Zeiss Tessar lens.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Perlieu in June

We went to our beloved spot in Dunn County again last month. It had been over a year since we'd last been there. I'd say that it was one of the most relaxing cabin trips yet. We even had some friends visit us.

Here's a set of pictures from the trip, including digital and film photos.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Post Seattle Trip

I got back from Seattle a while ago. It was a great to see Pat and Angela, and go to a bunch of coffee shops. I was reminded how small the coffee world is and how many connections there are between people I know. I was reminded about the hype and the ego. I was reminded that there are some really good tasting coffees out there, and there are some mediocre coffees with fancy labels.

I love that now when I talk with Pat, I can picture his life and the scenes from one of his average days.

The trip was also about photography. I hadn't intended it to be, but bringing along my favorite Nikon system was bound to do something. Walking into Jim's Cameras to get my FE2 fixed did something too. I was surrounded by old cameras. I wanted to look at so many of them that I think Jim got tired of me. Oh well.

I got home, started developing film again, and bought a Canon CanoScan 8800F scanner. I'm having a lot of fun scanning my hand-processed negatives. It's great because I can use my 35mm cameras for everyday photography and have a way to use the photos digitally, and then hand print the ones I really like.

So, my Seattle & Portland Set on Flickr is now complete with both digital and film pictures taken during the trip. I also have a set just of film scans.

If you run into me on the street or in a coffee shop soon, chances are I'll have an SLR or a rangefinder on my person.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sisterly Love, Housey love

My sister Mary has moved into our house!

It doesn't seem quite real yet, because of busy-ness, but we are so excited about the Promise of Mary With Us. I have long longed to have some wonderful person living with us, for more community and companionship and working-together-ness, and we really missed Mary while she was studying and travelling in Europe. It is beautiful to see her growing.

Welcome, Mary dear!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beginning of Seattle Trip

This is my first morning of my trip to Seattle and Portland. I'm visiting my friend Pat and going on an espresso pilgrimage. You can follow my adventures on twitter, and see photos on flickr. (More will appear daily.) I'll be taking real film photography while I'm out here too, so those shots will take a while to make an appearance. My Nikon FE2 seems to have a possible issue with a light seal, but I've already found a place in Seattle I can have it looked at. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This Kitchen

So remember this kitchen when we first got this house? (Same view in following two pics.)Paul wanted the kitchen to be yellow; "Gram's-making-oatmeal-raisin-cookies-I-hope-yellow. " We ended up going a little mellower, because the kitchen tends to be such a flurry of activity anyway. I still hope the pantry (thank God for the wonderful pantries in this house!!) will be that yellow-yellow when we get around to it. No hurry.There were no appliances, and the walls were rotting apart, and everything was dirty and mousy, we are just so thrilled with how it all turned out! Paul put in the cedar panelling, which was salvaged by my ever-resourceful father from someone's trash. We sanded and refinished it, and it's so nice and warm feeling. Under a few layers of plastic and linoleum were real wood floors, worn but solid. Paul put in lovely lights where there were none, in just the right places, and a great sound system for listening to all our favorite public radio stations.
The hutch and butcher block we thought of while trying to imagine how this kitchen may have first been in 1900-- probably not built in cabinetry, but simple freestanding furniture if any, and a big table? The butcher block (craigslist) is awesome for kneading, chopping, rolling, grinding, all of which happen a lot in this kitchen!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


It waits
in the basement.
Calling me,
to come
lose myself in the safelight.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

House for all seasons

Wow, everything looks so glistening in these pictures. It doesn't feel like that most days, but I hope we never stop being thankful for this house. We painted the living room yellow because we spend the most time in it in the long drear winter, and wanted the cheeriest color possible for wintertime. As it turns out (we moved in and painted in the summer) the living room gets the most beautiful sunshine in the winter because the sun is so much lower, and the trees which shade the front of the house in summer are bare.
It's odd to me how open-plan houses are all the rage because people supposedly never use their dining rooms, because one of my favorite things about our house is having a nice ample dining room. It is such a joy and privilege to have a big crowd of people over for a meal, and that's just what dining rooms are for! or course that big table is also for drawing, and cutting and pasting, and play dough, and judging by this week, storing mail and newspapers, catalogs and laundry and stacks of library books. Or--this one's new for me--nothing at all except (hopefully, as the garden gets going here) a vase of flowers.

I'm learning about myself that though it used to feel like we couldn't possibly handle having lots of people over, having people over regularly helps our life be more sane. It helps us clean up. It helps us remember what we have. And it helps us remember what's important-- friends and neighbors, not the house.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Greenhouse Christmas and Kilts

This is a photo of a carol singalong at the rollicking rollicking Victorian Christmas party thrown by the house my sister Mary lived in. It was so much fun! The singing was boisterous and spirited, just as carolling should be, in my book.
Gibbie and Ezra wore the kilts I made them for our friend Pat's wedding. Alas, they outgrew them so quickly!

I just thought of these because I was telling a friend about the house's community potlucks, which are open to anyone--Monday nights, I think. It's a pretty neat place, and they have great parties.

Also missing our dear sister and auntie Mary, who is not at the greenhouse anymore, as she is travelling. Ezra made her a special letter this morning, so he's thinking about her too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

On doing dishes

There is a peaceful kind of wrapping up involved in washing dishes. You are putting the kitchen to bed, putting everything back where it goes so it will be ready next time. This can be a pleasant task to do alone, after the hubbub of mealtime. It can also be a pleasant task to share, as the occupation of washing and drying and putting away creates a setting in which companionable conversation can flourish.

Margaret Kim Peterson, from Keeping House; the Litany of Everyday Life.

The above is from a wonderful book, I am reading it through a second time, it was so full of practical good to me.
Above, Gibbie and Ezra, above and beyond companionable conversationalists, engage in mealtime sillyness.

Making Waffles

Gibbie loves to make waffles. And eat them. We really lucked out when my dad gave us this wonderful old waffle maker. It has a tiny round glass window on the top cover with an arrow that points to hot when it's ready for batter. Gibbie has been really coming into his own in being helpful around the house. I'm not sure if he thinks of it as being helpful or having fun or doing work, but I am celebrating his growing competence.

I was making waffles one day for our weekly breakfast with neighbors, and Gibbie was watching, and all excited over our new contraption. A waffle maker is one of those things that would usually have no justification in our kitchen. I don't like single-function gadgets, or most things that plug in, and try to cook without that kind of stuff. Except for waffle makers, which are just a phenomenal thing. Because we mostly eat all homemade food, sometimes there's not enough around our house in the way of snack food. Sure, sometimes I make energy bars, and the kitchen is stocked with yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, bread, and cheeses. But during busy weeks, when we're more likely to need more snacky stuff, I'm less likely to have all that around. Waffles are a super thing for this! We can have fun making a big batch, have a luxurious breakfast with fruit and cream and all, and then freeze the rest for instant toaster fun for ages to come.
So, in my waffle enthusiasm, I was eager to introduce our budding cook to waffliciousness. I had no idea how much of the process he would be able to do. The first morning he tried it, he ladled batter for dozens of waffles, pressed the lid down, watched for the steam to stop leaking out (the waffley sign of doneness), open the lid, and fork out a couple of lattices of golden goodness onto the butcher block. It's really fun for me to cooperate together, rather than just teaching cajoling. I like hanging in the kitchen, working together, a lot. Especially on Saturday mornings, when Paul is home, with BlueGrass Saturday Mornings on the radio (Local public radio jewel Jazz 88's jewel; just the best show for that sunny, relaxing productive kind of Saturday morning I like), and a morning with friends ahead of us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm not a superhero, I'm just a kid

Can you tell from this photo that this superman outfit gets a lot of action? I've noticed that when we go places, often the kids get a lot of attention they don't really relish. This is totally understandable because often one or both of the kids is wearing something somewhat or completely outlandish: an animal costume, a kilt, a cape, a mask, etc. I bet there are lots of kids who love to get noticed and exclaimed over when they are cute or funny, but not these two. They seem generally surprised and a little confused; "No, I'm not a hero--I'm just a kid."

Also pictured is a treasured ring. It came from a quarter vending machine, at Java Train Coffee in St. Paul, and Oh, did Ezra treasure it. I haven't seen it in a while.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Buildig A Bicycle

For a couple of years now, I've been dreaming of owning a bike with a few specific features: single-speed, road tires, bullhorn handlebars - along the lines of your basic hipster bike. I didn't have the knowledge or parts to build something like this myself, and didn't feel like going to craigslist. I tried to get one person to build it for me, and then she passed me off to another guy who I finally started working with last Friday to build my long-desired bike from the frame up.

It's a vintage (1960's or '70's) polish frame called a Tyler. It's surpisingly light for something that old.
We overhauled and greased-up all the bearing systems.

Almost all of the parts were from Daniel's home stockpile. We got used brakes (with new pads) from Sibley Bike Depot along with new Salsa brake levers.

It was great to finally get the bike I've wanted for so long, and be able to participate in building it.

Thanks, Daniel.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Now on Flickr


Sometimes there are pictures I would like to share, but not write a whole lot about.  Thus I've saved up a bunch of fun pictures that I never blogged.  Instead of having them forever asleep on my hard drive, I started a flickr account.  You can see new and old pictures whenever you like.  Follow the photostream far back enough and you can see past trips and previously unreleased construction photos.  Clicking on Ezra's latte above will work, as will the little widget that will remain on the sidebar.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Welcome to Gibbie's 5th Birthday

Gibbie didn't land on a single theme for his birthday party this year. He ended up inviting a handful of friends over for a little Robin Hood Oo-de-lally sing along and St. George and the Dragon reenactment. I didn't manage to photograph all of the various characters, but here are a few:
Here's Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
Ezra was the Sheriff of Nottingham.
I think this is a wood fairy.

At Gibbie's request, we all had personal apple pie "cupcakes."

As a side note, I loaded-up my old Nikon FE2 35mm SLR for the event. I haven't used one of my film cameras since Ezra was a newborn (over 3 years). It still feels much more natural to me than the digital Nikon I use all the time. We'll see how long it takes for me to finish the 36 frames of HP5 and get the negatives developed. I'll keep you posted. Speaking of keeping you posted, I'm on Twitter. I don't know how long that will last... but as long as it is I'll keep a little twitter widget on The Full Cup sidebar so you can follow along... if you want to.

Happy birthday Gib.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fire Roasting

I mentioned a couple of posts ago about roasting coffee over an open fire with my buddy Pat. He was good enough to share the pictures from this adventure, and so I will too.
You can see by the color that they're pretty early in the roast process above.
I can just barely see that Pat was wearing his Clover t-shirt. Very appropriate.

As Pat said, it was a "fantastic uneven roast."

Not good coffee, but a very good time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Trivia Blog - Trivial Cafe

Every morning that I've opened the coffee shop, for more than five years now, I've come up with a new trivia question for the day. If the customer gets the answer right, they get a peppermint patty... and a lot of satisfaction.

Coming up with a new question day after day is a challenge. I try to gauge the difficulty level of the question so that maybe %10 of the people can get it right. It's no fun if it's so hard that no one can figure it out, and it's no fun if it's too easy. I also try to have looked up at least two sources and some background information in case I'm challenged on the legitimacy of the official answer. (I tend to get at least one challenge every day.)

So I thought that maybe all of this work (and fun) I put into trivia questions might interest some of you enough to enjoy a blog full of them. Right now I open three days a week, so I should have at least three questions a week as well as some favorites from trivia past. I'll post the official answer at the end of the next day's question. I don't have any prizes to give out, but the satisfaction of being the first to comment the correct answer should provide some satisfaction.

So with no further adieu I present to you Trivial Cafe!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Air Popper Home Coffee Roasting

I've been roasting my own coffee at home now for about five months. It all started when my great friend and former roaster Pat and I took a trip to his cabin and couldn't find any decently roasted coffee on the way. The Co-Op in Menomonie sold some green (not roasted) beans, so we decided to take matters into our own hands and see if we could use what tools we had available at his cabin to roast something better than the usual stale and burnt co-up coffee. We had some encouraging success using an oven and baking tray (better than co-op) and some fun failure roasting over a bonfire (very uneven and scorched roast). (btw- Pat, do you have the pictures from that trip? Want to post them on your blog? hint, hint.)

I got home from that trip with almost a pound of green Guatemala and a little bit of boldness. I walked two blocks to a thrift store and spent $2 for a used popcorn air popper that was to become my first roaster.

Gibbie and I roasted at least once a week in the back yard until one day it was too cold for my little popper to achieve proper roast temperature and I ended up with a very sad batch of Kenya French Mission coffee. Since then, we moved into the basement stairway of our house, which isn't heated, but is usually warm enough to roast. More importantly, being out there doesn't get our house all smokey. Much of the roasting process smells pretty good in one way or another, but the lingering smell afterwords is pervasive and not much like good coffee. Smoke detectors don't like it much either.
Here's Gibbie with the green beans. They don't seem much like coffee. They're feel more agricultural and smell of the earth.
Once the popping chamber heats up, Gibbie pours them in.
I've recently outfitted my popper with a candy thermometer. This helps me to monitor the roast more systematically than I previously could. I've gotten a lot of useful information on using and modifying air poppers for roasting from Kenneth Davids' book Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival. There's also a lot of good information at Sweet Maria's on air popper roasting.This is Gibbie's main task in the roasting process. He stirs the finished beans after we pour them out of the popper to ensure that they don't keep roasting themselves with their own heat. He's convinced that the more he stirs, the better the coffee will be. He's a good roasting buddy, and we're both excited to get a first crack on a real machine some day soon.