10 March 2008

I have not been not busy

This is going to be one of those catch-all, catch-up posts. Jer and I have been spending an inordinate amount of time, considering that it's still winter, in the backyard. We've been pacing out the configuration of the new deck, putting down (and repositioning) spare bricks on the so-called lawn to try to get a sense of the outline, switching the hot tub from the east side to the west side of the yard, figuring out where the privacy screen needs to be, and how high, and where the non-deck paths want to meander, and how wide they have to be to accomodate, say, a loaded wheelbarrow. This morning we met with Jim, our Deck Guy. This evening, we got a PDF of his antepenultimate semifinal plan. It looks good, oboy.

Here's a pic of my majestic, towering Portland Marathon tree, on which I had to perform an emergency transplant lest the hot tub (see toward the end of my March 7 post) roll over it and crush it to fragrant smithereens. With any luck, she won't have to be uprooted again when the deck crew and their lumber and tools show up.

Much of last weekend was spent prepping and painting exterior window frames. Once the old aluminum storm windows were gone, we were left with some exposed and highly visible areas dating back, I assume, to 1954, when the house was built. According to the archeological evidence recently unearthed, it was light green with an unsettling bluish tinge. Covering dull, chipped old paint with a coat or two of fresh semigloss has to be one of the most satisfying activities ever. It didn't feel like a strenuous effort at the time, but both Jer and I were aching and exhausted by the end of each day. We haven't yet confronted the bedroom windows on the south side of the house, which will require a serious ladder and perhaps some paid professional help.

Somewhere in there, we managed to finish the last bottle of Casa Jereva Chardonnay. In 2004, when we were still living in coastal California, we and a group of friends organized a winemaking co-op. We ended up with about 15 cases of various reds (pinot noir, zinfandel, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot) and a couple of cases of Chardonnay, all of which we had to pay to move to Oregon. Bad planning, but no way around it. The labels (stock Avery neon; can you tell?) feature a photo-rendition of our Sea Ranch house.

Making the char was not a straightforward process. We tweaked the yeast hither and yon to get to exactly the right percentage of residual sugar. Bottling was a comedy of errors; due to some siphon mishaps, a substantial percentage of the bottles ended up with a cloudy sediment (we tried to drink those first and save the clearer ones for company). Jer and I saved back a couple of bottles out of curiosity to see how it would age. The verdict: Mmmm, not all that well. It was effervescent, which indicated, to me, that it might have been something else again (not necessarily something wonderful) a few years down the road. And now it's gone.

Oh yeah; I've been quilting. Years ago, before we moved here, I selected and Ziplocked (tm) fabrics for a table runner. I was intrigued by a traditional quilt pattern called the Ribbon block. Since we no longer have a dining table of runner-worthy dimensions, I decided to turn it into a table pad for the kitchen, similar to the coffee table pad we put down when we're eating dinner in front of the living room TV. I'd forgotten how tedious traditional quilting can be. I'm just glad it's done.

Just this afternoon, though, I finished piecing a much more interesting project, which started as an effort to use up fragments of fabric from my scrap drawer. I like the contrast of a rainbow-y gradient against very dark values. I did something similar with Occasional Sunbreaks. Now that I think of it, the bright, strong shapes against inky blueness thing goes back to my Bamboo/Midori series. I'm very happy with how this one's shaping up. It still needs layering, quilting and finishing, but the basic idea is there.

I uploaded a dozen or so pix, mostly from our daily walks around the 'hood, to Flickr. I've just downsized -- at least I think I have -- the default file size in my new camera; these images are ridiculously large.

On a totally different level, I went to a talk by Richard Powers last Thursday. He's a remarkable author and, as it turns out, as articulate, erudite and funny in person as on the printed page. He spent about 45 minutes reading a new short story aloud, then answered questions and, I guess, stayed to sign books and stuff. The line was long; I was hungry; I left. I used to seek out celebrity encounters (within reason of course). For the last few years, though, I've avoided most "meet the artist" opportunities because I've fully internalized the realization that autographs from strangers are pointless, their value as artifacts aside. Plus, it seems so bizarre to try to think of something original to say that will bond you, instantly, to the celeb, identify you as their biggest fan, or whatever. But I do admire this man and his writing.

We've checked a couple of excellent restaurants off our "to try list", too. On consecutive nights we went to Tabla, on NE (barely) 28th with our foodie friend Adele, and to Wildwood on NW 21st with Steve and Anita Kaplan, their lovely daughter Zoe and her husband Matt. Crossing them off the list doesn't mean we won't go back soon.

And with that double negative to bracket the one in the title, I think I'll sign off.

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