It Is A Wonder That Anyone Grows This Stuff From Seeds At All

Here we have one of my most recently planted (recently being three weeks ago) basil varieties, the lovely-sounding lime basil:


Three weeks and they have barely put out a second (first true?) set of leaves. The lime basil has these cute little serrations in the first leaves that the other basils do not, but all of the basils are essentially the same size. I guess I have to retract what I said about the Burpee basil a while back, thinking that it was growing poorly. I guess that's just the way it grows. It's amazing anyone even tries to grow this stuff from seed. You get it from the garden center (though only a few "standard" varieties to be sure) and it already is a robust 6" (or bigger) plant, and can (emphasis on the can) take off like a weed. The Burpee basil is not even that big yet, though it is slowly growing. I eagerly await the day of planting out for the new kids on the block.


The currant tomatoes are only now beginning to put out a second set of true leaves. Don't know which this is, red or white, since I didn't keep that good of track. These were planted at the same time as the basil, and though they are further along they are still quite small. I wish I could remember when I planted the seven roma plants in the one pot, because those were earlier, though not by too much, I don't think, and they are considerably bigger. The waiting is torture.

One more plant picture:


Baby cucumbers! I planted these after the initial 3 seeds did not germinate when I direct sowed. This was really disappointing, as this is a rather more expensive heirloom variety, though I think now that maybe it was not warm enough to direct sow when I did. Anyway, we have cucumbers! Seedlings, anyway.

Work has continued on the doors:


Here they are almost stripped. Now they are in the bathroom almost 100% stripped (though not completely) I figure, it doesn't really matter that much since I'm painting them anyway. Next step is to buy some topcoat paint and we will see what we will see. I figure I might as well see this set through before wimping out and buying brand new doors instead. 

No further progress on Jeanie, or any other knitting, I've just been too tired. But still only one border (plus fixing the graft, then blocking) to go! There are four projects I have listed at 95% complete over at Ravelry - I really have to get on the ball and clear those out!

Finally, during the past two weeks we went from this to this (same station, different angle):




Episode V: The Cabinet Fights Back

Ok so that's a lame title for the post, but it's pretty accurate. I donned my PPG this afternoon and tried out the Citristrip on the door panels. You know, there's nothing like being decked out for a chemical spill cleanup to make one's afternoon. The Citristrip is pretty good stuff, whatever it is, though it does make a rather big mess. If you leave it on long enough (which I hadn't yet in this shot) it basically does all the work for you.


Hey, I do believe there is wood under all that crap. That's multiple layers of paint, by the way. Not one or two. A lot. 

So there I was, happily scraping away (well, not that happily, it was cold today, and getting close to sunset when I was doing all this) when suddenly, reality reared it's ugly head.


WTF? What the hell is that? Run. Grab the kids and run. RUN I SAID!!!

I don't know if that is nasty greasy stuff or mold, but I am seriously disturbed. Seriously disturbed. The mystery of why these doors were painted in the first place? I guess we can consider it solved. Oddly the nasty stuff is only on the top edge of the doors (both doors), which I can't really explain, unless it represents dust + grease (it is a kitchen after all) + never being cleaned, ever.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out yet again that this building is less than 30 years old. Unless these cabinets came from somewhere else (which I suppose is a possibility) then that is some serious neglect happening there.

I am now at a loss as to what to do. I finished (more or less) the whole stripping operation (I got a little sloppy toward the end but I figured I could always sand off any remaining paint) and the doors are hanging out in my bathroom drying, the bathroom being the only cat-safe location in my apartment other than outside, and see recent rants about the temperature. They actually don't look half bad, other than the icky stuff on the top edge and the fact that I seem to have also removed any varnish or shellac or whatever was on the doors before they were painted. They seem too heavy to be particle board but I do not know what they are. Fine wood they are not.


All told it did not take a terribly long period of time to strip (more or less) the paint from the doors. Though I did have to get them off the cabinets first. And disengage the hardware. And it did make a huge mess. And the state of the cabinets themselves (the frame) is as yet unchanged. So the question is this: do I continue to do this or do I wuss out and go to IKEA and buy some cheap-ass cabinet doors (not all their doors are cheap-ass but some are, and those are of course the ones of interest in this instance) that it just now occurred to me that I could maybe do? (Why did I not think of this before? Why?)

The second question is, if I continue in my quest to reuse what I already got (after all, I have a jug of paint stripper, not to mention chemical splash goggles and chemical protective vinyl gloves and a plastic scrapper thingie and a tin of mineral spirits and a paintbrush I can now no longer use for anything other than stripping paint. Oh yeah, and I have that primer too, that ought to last a good long time since I only used a very little bit on the handles (too bad that didn't come in tiny cans as well) and it probably would work just as well on wood as on metal because I think it is all-surface primer.) Anyway. If I continue this, what color should the doors be? Right now, at this moment, I am sort of leaning toward glossy white (true white, not this off-white beige-ish stuff they are now). Because I failed to mention that a lot of my small appliances are black and red. And chrome. But I am not very good at design - what do you think? I think given the red and black that pale pink or blue is rather out. :(

Anyone up for some more cheery photos?


That is actually not a cheery photo. That is a photo of my neighbor to my immediate right's balcony. The reason I took the photo is because I have tomato envy! They bought some starts somewhere (I bet it is early girl or some other common variety) and their tomato plant is far larger than mine. Do you see the tomato?! Also included in this shot is the evil rose "bush" that possibly infected my poor roses with powdery mildew. What you can't see in that photo is the mosquito breeding ground they have going over there. Seriously. All the pots are in basins that are perpetually full of water. I understand wanting to be sure those plants don't dry out under the withering glare of our summer sun, but leaving the pots sitting in water all the time is not good for the roots. Plus the mosquitos. I wonder if I could call the county on them.

Hey, I can't remember if I blogged this before, but because my own tomato seedlings (from seed) were so small I bought some tomato plants (heirloom, of course) of my own last week. This one is a black krim:


It has an almost-bud! I also bought two others, a green zebra and an eva purple ball, not counting the romas and red and white currant tomatoes I also have going. I don't know what I am going to do with so many tomatoes. I also did not realize that black krim is a beefsteak-type tomato - I hope there is enough room for it... The roma seedlings incidentally have put out their 3rd set of true leaves, so I will plant them in their permanent locations possibly this weekend. I have seven total (eight actually but one is really small still), but now I don't think I have space for seven since I bought the garden center ones... 


That's parsley on the left and an heirloom cilantro on the right that has actually gone to seed - anyone know how to collect seed from cilantro? (I know it doesn't look like cilantro, but believe me, it tastes like it!)

I also saw this little fly-type guy last week out on the side of one of the window boxes:


I do not know what it is or if it is good, bad, or otherwise, but aren't the wings wild? It had green eyes and a grey body, and it was probably no more than 1/4", and my camera had trouble auto-focusing on such a small thing.

Knitting! I did work on Jeanie, but the edging is surprisingly difficult, for me anyway. I finished the bottom edge, but I grafted it on backward (twisted) and it looks bad, so I'll have to redo it. I just hope there is enough yarn left to finish the top edge! I'm guessing it will be done in a day or two. 

Unless I am overcome by paint fumes.



Right. So. I was all prepared to go with the path of least resistance (ie option 3) and simply get the paint off the handles, repaint them, and be done with it. Except once I starting stripping the paint (which by the way boiling does work, I didn't give it enough time last time after freaking out about the green - it's like magic really, the paint just peels right off) this is what I was left with was something that looked like it would be perfectly at home at the Museum of Early American Artifacts:


Which is to say, yuck, I don't want to be touching that every day. No wonder they painted them. With wood paint. Anyway.

So I thought I would just clean them up a bit, just a bit, so that all the gunk was gone and I would have a nice smooth surface to work with when I got on with the painting and all. And that's when I discovered they were fake:


Not fake handles, ha ha, but they are not copper they are copper plated. Some of them were all shiny and nice like the very first one I cleaned and some of them were trashed like this one. And it wasn't my scrubbing that made the copper-y color go away, because I scrubbed that first one to within an inch of it's life, so I still think it is copper. Plated. You were so right Schrodinger. 


So I cleaned them all, all seventeen of them, after prying them from the cabinet doors with brute force sometimes. But I couldn't leave them bare, because some of them were shiny pretty and some of them were thrift store rejects. So then they got primed:


This actually happened in batches, because the cleaning was really hard work, so 6 were done last night and the rest in 2 batches this morning. After the priming was the painting:


I love them. Love love love. You can see that that front one is actually pitted where the handle meets the base, but I did not sand them, nor do I have any intention of sanding them, because a girl can only go so far.

Or can she?

So the doors that are like french doors (where two meet in the center and swing outward) - I have 6 sets of them. Two are smaller doors that are above the fridge (with the weird "other" handles) and above the stove, two are "below" cabinets, and two are "above" cabinets (though technically the small ones are "above" cabinets as well). These doors all, except for one pair, stick, such that you cannot open one without opening the matching one, and what's more annoying, you have to close them at exactly the same time (or really shove on them to get them to close). This has bothered me for an entire year. I was (and still am) convinced that the reason they stick so badly is because they had been painted with 18 coats of paint, and thin though they may be, when you get up past 15 coats of paint you start to get a measurable surface. 

When I was at Ace getting more paint for the handles (I ran out because I was using one of those mini spray cans because actually I had bought the paint to paint some shelves to hang in the guest bedroom, which I did also do (hooray for long weekends!), but which consequently caused me to not have enough to finish the handles. This is why the handles are glossy black and not flat black, as I would have preferred, because the small cans do not come in flat black and I already had a can of glossy black. Anyway.) So I was at Ace and I ended up getting the brilliant idea that maybe I could strip the paint from the edges of the cabinets so that they could close normally. Just the edges, mind you. One pair of paint stripping gloves, a paint scraper, a pair of goggles, and a can of Citristrip (it was the least bad stuff I could find) later I was set to go.

I got a little over enthusiastic and messy on the right one.



Now the damage was not actually that bad initially, but it was bad enough, and I just kept pulling the paint (the top layer anyway) and it kept going... Notice that the cabinets used to be white. And before that (at some point) they were wood. Not plywood (I don't think, we'll see) but regular old wood. So, I thought, I might as well go for broke, the damage is done and I'm gonna have to fix this anyway, and my nice shiny pretty handles actually make the crappy paint job they did the last time look really crappy, so I Citristripped the hinges so I could get those suckers off and strip all the paint off properly and see what we had. 

The right one came off no problem. 

The left one... the left one. The left one is the figurative problem child. I think the screws are stripped, plus I have no leverage on a screwdriver above the stove and 1/2" from the wall (so I don't think my power drill/screwdriver will help). I don't have a photo, but picture the right door off, the left door hinges covered with orange goop (again, this is my third try), and the right door out on the balcony also covered in orange goop. I got the hinges all the way off the right door, and plan to boil the rest of the paint off them, but as far as I can see they are perfectly fine, nice hinges, and why the hell would you paint over the hinges anyway? Oh yeah, I forgot. Lazy.

So to recap, I have beautiful shiny black handles that I love for my kitchen cabinets that I hate. And oh by the way one of my cabinets is currently out of commission because one is on the balcony and the other has orange toxic goop on it. Happy Memorial Day to me.

(PS I am about 10 seconds away from finishing Jeanie except that my paint stripping adventures this weekend have prevented this from happening. Perhaps once it gets dark.)


Reason # 285310 Why Landlords Suck

So obviously I live in a rental, which sucks in oh so many ways. I try to make the best of it for the time being, and being an industrious individual decided that the kitchen could use a little sprucing up. The reason? The handles on the cabinets and drawers (which are all the same incidentally, which suggests they got these on special and couldn't be bothered to actually get some knobs that matched the drawer pulls, but whatever) are all painted. That in and of itself is not so terrible (except that it kind of offends me that you would want to "ruin" a perfectly good handle in that way). However, they were painted in situ, that is to say, right on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, with the same discount [probably] paint, presumably because it was the cheapest and easiest thing to do. This is a problem because the handles are metal. Therefore some of them look like this:



This really pisses me off. Instead of taking the time to take care of the hardware, or encourage tenants to take care of the property, they just slapped some paint on it and called it a day. It sucks more because periodically paint flakes off the handles and aside from looking ghetto I have cats and who knows what they pick up and eat off the floor.

However, two of the handles were not painted (who knows why) and looked rather nice, except for the fact that they were painted in place so there is paint around the bases of the handles:


You know where this is leading right? I thought the bare handle looked a hell of a lot better than the badly painted handles, so I thought I would do a test and see if I couldn't spruce them up a bit. First I had to get the handle off the door, which was a project all its own, since the screws were also painted over. I chipped away the paint and finally got the handle off the door (which left the inside of the door looking like crap but that's beside the point). I had read somewhere that you can sometimes boil paint off of metal and I chose to believe this, so I tried it. It didn't work. But it did make the patina alarmingly more green (which should have tipped me off because hello, I took chemistry in college). The handle looked worse now, and at this point I remembered I have some Barkeepers Helper, which is strong stuff but I only keep it because sometimes I can't get my pots 100% clean and it's the only thing I've found that has worked. Barkeeper's Helper is a cleanser that yes, contains oxalic acid, but it is like magic stuff and you can use it to polish metal. So I did. And it did.


Clearly these are some sort of copper or copper alloy handles. The nice patina should have tipped me off. But now I have one shiny handle (sans patina), one weathered handle, and fifteen (yes, fifteen) ugly-ass painted handles. Oh yeah, and two other handles that are black and don't match the others at all.


SO now what do I do? Does anyone have any suggestions? I figure I could:
  1. Ignore the shiny handle and pretend like nothing ever happened (I wouldn't be writing this post if that were a possibility).
  2. Painstakingly clean all the handles so that they are all shiny and ignore the two that don't match (they are above the fridge anyway).
  3. Clean all the paint off the handles (but don't shiny-fy them) and then paint them all with paint that is designed for metal (I have never done this before and don't know what's out there).
  4. Throw all the handles out and start over (13 doors and 6 drawers).
Keep in mind that this is a rental and I do not want to spend $200 on drawer pulls, but I have seen some cheaper handles and pulls online that don't look like too much crap for $1-$2 each. Very simple designs, but at least not painted with wood paint. In addition, because the idiots who furnished the apartment were, well, idiots, all of the handles are these 2-screw handles instead of having knobs for the doors and handles for the drawers. This means that there are two holes in all the doors, which means if I wanted to replace them with knobs I would have to fill the second hole with wood putty (not a big deal) and then paint the doors again (kindof a big deal because all the hinges are also painted in place (thanks asshole painters) plus the cabinet doors are the same weird off-white color that the rest of the apartment is, which I probably would never be able to match (and wouldn't want to anyway). 

Wanting to repaint the cabinets opens another can of worms, although maybe worth it. But, the cabinet doors seem very cheaply made (like maybe they are even plywood, I don't know, but cheap). I actually can't open one without the opposite one opening as well they have been painted so many times, so stripping the paint at least from the edges of the doors wouldn't be such a bad idea, because this little "design" trait pisses me off to no end. Although I don't know what kind of paint it is, so don't know what kind of paint remover would be required. According to my renters insurance policy the building was built in 1979, so since lead paint was banned in the US in 1978 I think it is safe to assume that there is no lead paint (I also didn't have to sign one of those statements acknowledging that I know lead paint is on the premises and that no children live here, like I did in NYC.)

Remember, it's a long weekend! I could potentially get a lot of "stuff" done... and I'm not planning on going anywhere this weekend. This whole ordeal makes me want to sit in the corner of my ghetto apartment and cry. Ideas?



Work It




Go Kristi Go!

She rocked the house tonight baby! I wasn't quite sure she had that extra crowd-pleasing sparkle, but boy oh boy she delivered in spades. She deserves to win. And speaking of delivering in spades, I meant to post this last week but completely forgot:

These are the 13-year-olds from the space-filler they are using this year called DWTS Kids (or something, I don't really pay attention). Anyway, the other ones were cute (wee little dancers, how can they not be cute?) but these two. OH. MY. GOD.  They are 13. THIRTEEN. I dare you not to be impressed. I wish I could dance like that, and I have been dancing a long time. Come to think of it, I have ben dancing longer than they have been alive. (Sigh. Ok, going to go sit by myself in a corner now.)

The Return of Absorba

Guess what? Absorba, she is finished! Fini! I finished block 17 a few nights ago (and barely made it out alive - it was around 95 degrees in here), and realized that, though I still had some yardage left on the cones, I did not know exactly how much yardage I had left, nor did I know how much yardage it would take to to the sc edging, and I really really didn't want to make it halfway through another block only to run out of cotton and have to rip. So I present to you Absorba, the Bathmat:


More photos over on Ravelry. Suffice it to say that since my bathroom gets four minutes of actual direct sunlight per day (I am not exaggerating) nothing photographs that well in there and this is about as good as it gets. 

Project Specs:
Pattern: Absorba, the Great Bathmat by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne from Mason-Dixon Knitting
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Solid in Cream, 2 cones (805 yds/16oz)
Needles: size 10 circulars
Size: 26"x33"
Started: August 2006
Finished: 18 May 2008
Pattern mods: None, save that I worked "random" blocks rather than regularly sized ones, and finished with a single crochet edge.

I am mortified and humiliated that it took me nearly two years to finish this. My avant-garde white-on-white (actually cream-on-cream) isn't quite as striking as I had hoped, but it serves a purpose and it does it well. I used it for the first time yesterday and it worked rather like... a bathmat. I even machine washed and dried it, and it was none the worse for wear. Note, however, that I will never buy cheap-ass kitchen cotton ever again. Never. Ever. Do not even tempt me with sales. Knitting with it was pure hell. I shall seek out some lovely organic worsted weight the next time the urge strikes, because this was too much like torture.

I have also realized that the last thing I finished was Mrs. Darcy. In October. That was seven months ago. Entrelac Scarf doesn't qualify, and neither does the TD (Rav links, because I am lazy) because none of those is actually technically finished, though I will work hard to remedy that soon.  (Entrelac Scarf was mostly done back in October too, so that hardly helps. And the TD situation - well that's just ridiculous.) Can anyone say "lame"?

I did put on one more pattern repeat onto my Jeanie Scarf while watching DWTS, or rather, during the commercials of DWTS, so there's a small success. I had planned to whip this one out during March Madness, but alas, it was not to be. My mother's birthday is in about a week - maybe I can finish in time for that?


Well Call Me Chicken Little


Now this is not the cheapest station on my drive home but neither is it the most expensive. Yes, I know today was a Spare the Air day here in the Seventh Level of Hell, I mean, sunny California (what is up with this weather?) but my bike needs a tune-up and I woke up very late this morning. I did not think it was worth getting fired over, especially now that I can start biking to work again since the morning temps are closing in on the 60s. And after I get it tuned up. Sigh.

Hey, how about a more cheery photo?


Now I am no entomologist, but I believe this is Coccinella californica, also known as the California ladybird beetle, as my guy looks just like the ones in the photo. (You know, a ladybug, but not one of those evil invasive Asian varieties.) I think he may be native. Yay for native species!

I also had a little green inchworm on my lettuce this morning, but the camera was not handy. I love you, little green inchworm, but please stop eating my lettuce. Thank you!

Knitting, knitting... you know, it is hard to knit when it is 50 million degrees outside. But, block 16 of Absorba is finally done, all 20 purl ridges of it, and the next side is picked up and ready to go. 80% complete. I just have to keep reminding myself that the end is in sight. I can't wait, because there are a couple of other crafty home improvement projects I am keen on starting, but I will not start something new while so many other projects languish. I won't do it. It's all about willpower.



(No knitting to see here. Move along.)
(PS Click the title and let it play.)



It makes it rather difficult to get any work done, you know, during the day, at your job, the one you slave at day in and day out in order to bankroll your lavish lifestyle.


Sadly, I cannot do very much knitting during these episodes, otherwise I will not be able to function the next day at work. I do a lot of mousework on the computer (can't be helped) and if I knit all night and then try to use a mouse all day... let's just say I learned my lesson once.

I did plant a whole bunch of things in a flurry of "spring" planting. I say "spring" because this is the bay area and we're supposed to be having nice weather already, no? Like 2-3 weeks ago. But instead what we get in windy, sometimes overcast, highs maybe creeping up to 70 and then plunging back down to 45-50 at night. These temps are not terribly conducive to things sprouting and growing quickly.

At any rate (and this is more a laundry list for me to remember what I planted, where, and when), here's what got sown yesterday (5/7, now it is Friday and it has taken me 2 days to write a lousy post, sheesh):
  • eggplant + nasturtium, 11" bottom-watering pot
  • red currant tomato (3 seeds), smallest square pot
  • white current tomato (3 seeds), smallest round pot
  • 2 seed mini peppers, round 4" pot
  • bunch of basil seeds, OJ carton
  • cucumbers (3 seeds) + nasturtiums, large 14" pot next to the tomato bed
  • cascadia peas (take 2) + morning glories, along the back of the carrot bed
  • stevia (2 seeds), yellow pot
  • roma tomatos (2 seeds), small blue pot
  • egg carton seedlings (2 seeds each cup): 6 lettuce (3 each variety), 3 red currant tomato, 3 white currant tomato
All of my veggies are patio varieties or otherwise dwarf. I can't wait to see what I get! I've been generous with the number of seeds because, though I get very good germination rates from this company, I have tons of them - more than enough to last me a few years in my tiny space, so I can afford to waste a few if it guarantees me a higher success rate! Some of these plantings are just to get the seeds started, and some are "permanent", that is to say, were planted where they are intended to stay. It is recommended that you not start both eggplants and cucumbers indoors ahead of time, so there you go. The big tomato bed is empty because I am a big dork and did not start any seedlings like a month and a half ago. Sigh. So much for my big plans of early tomatoes. Although, I notice that 2 little roma seedlings that I planted (and then left outside) about 2 weeks ago have sprouted - hurrah! I suppose that must mean soil temps are rising... My other big bed, that had the peas and all those greens during the winter, is now mostly empty - the peas were looking really sad due to some lamentable neglect while I was away. I think it is still early enough to get another crop of peas in though, plus I have more than enough seeds left to last me probably 2 more years, so I'm not worried about waste. I have some Oregon sugar snap pea seeds as well, which is supposedly bush-type (though I'm not sure I saw a difference before) so I may plant a couple freestanding somewhere as well.

The chamomile came out, I'll dry the flowers this weekend and save them for tea. It wasn't too bad of a haul given they were growing in a restrictive space and they overwintered (I thought for sure they would die without ever flowering). I would like to get some Roman chamomile next year, as it's very compact and really more appropriate for my current living situation. In place of the chamomile I think I will plant more mustard greens, as they did very well over the winter in the big bed and they are quite tasty when eaten young.

Some of my long-suffering plants from last year have perked up:

2008-05-08_strawberry blossom.jpg

Now I don't have anything like lovely extensive strawberries beds, or even a scraggly little patch my like my grandmother had growing up on a raised rock structure next to her house, but I do have four little plants. I bought them while in an overly optomistic mood sometime around February I think (I know, what was I thinking, right? It isn't like I have a greenhouse...yet...) They have seemed on the verge of death nearly the entire time I have had them, but now are sending up new leaves and even putting out a flower or two (they are a continuously-producing variety). And apparently I have some pollinators around too: 


My compact oregano also deserves to be in my Hall of Fame. I got it last year and over the winter it pretty much looked dead, all brown leaves and crackly little twigs. I so wish I had taken a photo. It's a testament to my laziness that I didn't chuck it a long time ago. Though I've still watered it periodically, holding out hope that maybe it was still alive. 

Well will you look at that:


It's been going strong since about 2 weeks ago. 

That's not all that is growing:


Both of the plants I have like this that are outside are blooming, and I have no idea what they are. I'm pretty sure they are not cacti, so I'm calling them succulents. They each have one long stalk with these tiny tube-shaped flowers, a whole bunch of them (10? 15? It is dark outside now and I don't want to go look.) They aren't all open. The flowers truly are tiny too - I bet they aren't more than 1/2" in length. I got these from my aunt, and like I said, have no idea what they are. Any guesses? Again, colors are accurate - natural light is lovely. (It occurs to me that perhaps I should have taken a photo of the plant as well. They are kind of spiky and green/purple. Does that help?) Google is not helping me out a whole lot here.

And since this supposedly a knitting blog... block 15 of Absorba, the Blah Blah Blah is done! I have even picked up the stitches for block 16 and marked her as 75% complete over in Ravelry. The prospect of maybe, just maybe, having a bathmat before the weather turns hot and sticky has spurred me on, although the next block is a long one: 20 purl ridges. (I use a highly scientific method of determining the number of rows in my random long cabin - I grab the nearest book, close my eyes, flip through the pages a few time, pick a side (left or right), and then stop. Whatever is the last digit in the page number multiplied by 2 is the number of purl rows. Unfortunately I drew a zero this time, and since you can't double zero...)



Bunch of Semi-Unrelated Bullet Points (Photos Below)

  • I spent a total of six hours this weekend listening to the same opera, twice. Not two different recordings of the same opera. Not even two different performances of the same production. The same performance of the same opera, twice. Die Entfürung aus dem Serail was the Met's final Saturday broadcast of the season (sob!). So I listened. And since it was being rebroadcast on Alaska public radio (KUAC thank you!) I listened again today. Diana Damrau triumphed in the notorious soprano-killer role of Konstanze. And Matthew Polenzani - lord I love him in the Mozart roles; he makes such a sweet, sweet sound. I have my fingers crossed that this one will be released on DVD, because it sounded like the staging was successful, and I loved every minute of it.
  •  I have finally gotten around to listening to La Jolie Fille de Perth, that rare gem of Bizet's that no one seems to know or care about. I first learned about this lovely opera from Rockwell Blake's disk French Opera Arias, in which he sings the tenor aria "A la voix d'un amant fidèle" (a "recital" version, middle part cut, like they do the Pearl Fishers duet) with such sensitivity that it makes you want to cry.  It's a gorgeous aria, and gorgeously sung. I immediately set out to find out more... and promptly learned that there has only been one commercial CD release (doubtless on vinyl as well, I'm sure, but I don't have a turntable so it's pointless to even look) and that CD is out of print. Great. No matter, I sought it out, and sat on it. For a long while. I'm kicking myself now - it's delightful, features a top-notch cast (June Anderson and Alfredo Kraus, who would ask for anything more?), and is filled with some fantastic music. It is much closer in style to Les Pecheurs de Perles than to Carmen, (in other words, more in the French Romantic tradition) but that's quite alright with me. It might not replace Les Pecheurs de Perles as my favorite Bizet, but it definitely compares favorably. (Aside: Hello? Classical music labels? There are a wealth of accomplished belcanto singers out there now, and have been increasingly for the past 10-20 years that could probably handle the florid bits with aplomb... not sure about the "french" style, but we get new recordings of ... how about a new recording? Please?)
  • I watched Disk 3 of Firefly this weekend... and am increasingly upset by the fact that FOX cut it's life far, far too short. (Shakes fist at FOX.) I'll wait a bit until I get Disk 4 (Netflix, of course) so I can savor it a bit longer. Why, FOX, why?!?! Love this show. Love love love. My favorite episode so far? Out of Gas. Also: Mal or Simon? (I vote for Simon. 'S the geek in me.)
  • Speaking of, I have heard that Joss Whedon has a new series coming out. On FOX. I am a big fan of all of his previous work, so I can't wait! Woo hoo! But wait... FOX? I'm not sure I get that - they already burned him (and us) once... (Yes, this news is about 6 months old, but I have no cable TV and don't read the television tabloids, so what can I say?)
  • I finished the 14th block of Absorba, the Undead Bathmat. I am tempted to give up now and call it done. But it isn't as big as I had hoped. So. Onward...

That's it for the list. Here are the obligatory photos:


Chamomile in my windowbox. I love the chamomile, stretching their necks to the sky, turning their faces to the sun. But the box itself is rather scaggly looking. Ugly really. I think it might be the end for the chamomile, which is really a shame since 1) these were planted last year and were one of the few things I grew from seed that survived over the winter and 2) I have chamomile tea still in the cupboard and wasn't ready to cut them yet. Another idea would be to simply plant a lower-growing plant in the box with them (it could use some more potting soil anyway). Otherwise they have to go. (They are not really ideal for a windowbox. I think there is a compact variety I saw over at Territorial Seed that I might have to check out next year.)


When I went out to get my mail today (yes it is Sunday, no I didn't leave the house yesterday) I saw these lovelies growing in the weedy mess (thistle = evil) by the fence on the other side of the "drive" to my building. The landscaping here is grand, let me tell you. At first glance I thought they were some sort of legume (family Fabaceae) because of the purple, pea-like flowers, (like a lupine kindof) except that they're not really. They're not like lobelia (trumpet-like), and they're not like pansys. I'm so confused. My field guide to North American wildflowers tells me NOTHING, suggesting they are maybe not native and someone just dumped them there. Then again, my field guide is pretty crappy. Anyone know? (The color is more or less accurate, they are very purple/blue.)