Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rogue Peony

Behind the bee hive last year I noticed an awfully familiar looking plant. It looked just like the peony in the pot I had. When I examined the leaves, sure enough they were exactly the same. I thought, Well, lets let it grow and see what happens next year. I was right! The first peony bloomed today.
 Now, I did not plant this plant, you see. I put those I purchased in pots. I have no idea where this one came from. Probably I've been trying to kill it (by yanking it out every year) since I moved it. I don't know if a peony seeds would take so vigorously.  Thoughts?
Bottom line, no complaints! It smells amazing.  

 While I was trying to photograph it from my "deck" there was a photo bomb. 

Update on my new nephew. 
On Sunday morning he landed in NICU. He was jaundice. For many reasons that I won't go into detail about, this is not really a surprise. But still! This isn't supposed to happen to my nephew! This happens to other people's nephews!

But my nephew looks so groovy here in his blue light not to include this pic my sister sent. :)
 She's been able to stay with him the whole time. Today his bili* count went down enough that they will take him out of the blue lights. If the count remains the same he can go home tomorrow. I'm sure my sister is anxious for that, as are we all!
* I don't know what a bili count is. 

Finally, too cute not include...
My neighbors in their vintage Harley Davidson with side car. 

I heard the bike ('cause its LOUD and you can't help but hear it) and so I glanced out the window. Miss Mary was already stowed in the side car and they were ready to take off. It always takes a while to get that thing started so I had plenty of time to grab my camera and take a photo. Miss Mary doesn't like traveling in the side car much, but Mr. El bought her a helmet with a purple butterfly on it and it sort of makes it tolerable. He's 78 and I'm not sure how old Miss Mary is. But there you are.

Friday, May 8, 2015

In his own time

Today he decided he was ready.
My new nephew Liam Philip.
May 8th, 2015 3:47am
8lbs 20 inches

Friday, May 1, 2015

Touring Philadelphia

It's been a long time since I've toured Philadelphia outside of my normal travel paths.  But that's what I've been doing with my friend Darcy who is visiting for a few days. She is a fellow undergrad and study-abroad class mate. We've had as much fun taking trips down memory lane as walking around Philadelphia.  It's been 20 years since we studied in Denmark. How did that happen? It's also been fun for me to see the city through a visitors eyes again.

We started the day with the self-guided tour of the murals:
Recognize this one?

Of course we had to stop at Capogiro, voted the best gelateria in the world by National Geographic Magazine. I had the bacci and lemon and Darcy had stracciatella and mojito. The mojito will be stuff of legends.
 We made quick work of it.
 She's had gelato twice more since then. Once in the afternoon and then after seeing the Avengers last night, we of course, had to stop for more. She had the margarita and, uh, I can't remember the other,  but I had nutella and orange/cardamom. Hmmmm. delicious. 

 We've been foot-mobiling (we walked 13,000 steps on Wednesday) and using the subway, but this past week the Indego bicycle group moved into Philadelphia. Its a rent-a-bicycle program located all over the city and I can't tell you how excited I am about this. There is one right by my house and then another stand right next to my work. How convenient. I have my own wheels and so probably won't be using the program but it is great to know it is there. It's only $15/month. Shoot, that is worth it even if you are only visiting for a week. It has not taken long for Philadelphians to embrace the new program. I see them in use everywhere.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cherry blossoms

One of my favorite parts of spring are all of the blooming trees. Especially the pink cherry blossoms. Last weekend gave us our first taste of summer with an 81°F day. Lovely. All sorts of trees were blooming everywhere. While walking from work to the coffee shop yesterday afternoon I glanced down one of the little side streets and saw these beautiful trees. So lovely. On the left of the trees is a lovely mural from the Mural Arts Program. This is a perfect example of some of the things I love about Philadelphia.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

If you don't have time to do it right the first time...

When will you have time to do it again?

I saw these words on a computer printed sign in the mechanic's office at the VW dealership at least 8 year ago. It made a huge impression on me. I've always been a get-it-done person sacrificing good quality for just getting the thing finished. I have had to learn to take the time to do it right. This was one of those projects.
A few weeks ago I found an amazing book online. Actually, I found a page from the book that blew me away, a pop-up sundial.

Then I search google books and found it here. Once I saw the whole thing - I coveted a copy for myself. The book? La Pratique et Demonstration des Horloges Solaires. Got it? Yes, well, for those of you (like moi) whose French consists of one semester, that would be The Practice and Demonstration of Solar Clocks, aka sundials. Printed in 1624, the book was written by Salomon de Caus and is full of movable parts. Salomon and his brother Isaac were famous in their lifetime for designing and engineering water works for the royal gardens. The Library Company of Philadelphia has two of their books (sadly not this one): one on the mechanics of water works and the other on the harmonies of music. Both are beautifully illustrated but neither has any of the movable parts I was hoping for.

Say what you will about the digitization of everything but do I love it. This is the only way I can find a gorgeous book and see the whole thing without actually traveling to whatever crypt-keeping-organization is holding it under lock and key (not all of them of course, but some...) and beg to be allowed to see it. A search of WorldCat reveiled that there are only copies of it in England and France. That is a bit of a commute. And never - never! would I be able to take the book home and sit in a comfy arm chair to "read" it. But I can on my iPad. I can download the entire thing and view it. That is nothing short of fantastic. FYI - AbeBooks.com currently has three listings for first editions of de Caus books. Price range? $4, 500 - $46,000. Not exactly in my budget.

I am a tactile person and since I am a book binder, well - I just had to try to make one of my own. The book is in the public domain and the digital version is licensed for private use. I downloaded the pdf, opened every page in photoshop, saved every page as a jpeg, made a little mock up of how many folios I wanted in each signature, opened InDesign, and plonked the jpegs in place on the correct pages. No sweat. It only took all night, but I was so excited to be able to see the whole thing by turning actual pages I just couldn't stop. The next morning began the quest for the correct paper. I wanted something that looked like old handmade paper - even if it was machine made. Long story short, in the entire city of Philadelphia there was none to be had.The closest I came was to some Canson Ingres paper at the Drexel art store. But they only had 11 sheets and I needed 12. I was too excited to wait for the right paper and maybe here is where everything started to go wrong? I ended up using my Mohawk Superfine stash, 11x17 sheets. This was an acceptable compromise because the original book is 15" tall and my printer can only print 13" anyway. Fast forward to printed, bound and guillotined, I had the satisfaction of having the book in my hands. Wonderful. Each page is new discovery of some gorgeous graphics.

 In this last image, see the redish line that leads from the center of the top circle to the left side? That means that things is a volvelle. One of those circles moves. (revolves = volvelle). I'm guessing the inner most one, but I need to spend more time with the image to be sure of which part. I would really like to add some of the moveable parts to my copy.

End bands were added of course - any excuse for those.
and then.
with the cover.
the drama unfolded.

How to cover it? Which paper to use from my substantial stash? I finally settled on this orange piece of paste paper I had made. See 'cause it looks like sunbeams...

The Spine. I wanted a leather spine. I had some blue goatskin, calf skin and some clothing leather. The goat was too short, the calf was the wrong color, but the clothing leather was just right. Pared it, constructed the case, put the spine on and then groaned at the thought of having to try to print: La Pratique et Demonstration des Horloges Solaires on the spine. Okay - why should I have to? It's my book for personal use - who cares? I think the book did.

I settled on On Sundials for the title stamping.

It stamped beautifully on paper, but the gold would not stick to the clothing leather. Not for love nor money. Nope.
 Okay - start over.

In my paper quest, I had come across an incredible ultramarine paper. It was so cheap - $3 a sheet! I bought ten. Did that work with the paste paper - meh- it was okay.

Okay - Make new case again, and get ready to stamp. Stamped crooked. groan sigh. Make new case again. Stamp, the text is not centered on the spine. Ask myself - oh can't I just live with it? If it really bothers me in the future - I can redo it. Look at that gorgeous paste paper and think, nah, I don't want to waste it on something that isn't perfect. So - make new case again, Stamp. This time the text is not centered in the opposite direction. By this time the type had gotten hot enough and been used too many times so it started to bend and was also stamping the edge of the type, which was ugly.

 Make new case again. Accept that I must reset type. Wonder if the spirits of the book were disgusted by the English title and so decide to set Horloges Solaires for the spine. It's not the entire original title but it is in French.

I checked and double checked the type position and tested and tested, and while the title was a little difficult because it was so long, it worked. Phew. Finally.

But then, the paste paper just didn't seem right. There was an instinct that said, don't use this. Don't you have something else? And sure enough, after thorough excavation of my decorative paper drawer, there were two sheets of this beautiful Japanese paper I've been holding onto for at least 12 years. Perfect.
With all the case making the boards had gotten a little short at the fore edge, but thank goodness that was an easy fix in the guillotine. Chopped off 1/16" of the text block and it fit perfectly.  I am very happy with the result.

Little pat on my back for sticking with it and getting it right!

Now... I need to do the research to figure out all the pages that have movable parts and see if I can't reconstruct them for this book. Wish me luck.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Not the kind of excitement you want for Easter

Right there in the house behind mine.
I had to call them because the idiot that rents the house next door (on the left) has been using this property as his own personal dumping ground and ashtray. Except he doesn't stub his cigarettes out before tossing them casually into the abandoned house.  Miss Mary called it. She said all of that dry stuff would catch on fire one day. And wouldn't you know it? Today was the day. It has been incredibly windy all weekend.  Like - my laundry flying sideways kind of windy: 
I went downstairs to start another load because in this wind it dries in about 15 minutes. I happened to look out my back door to see smoke coming up from the back of that abandoned house. I ran to see if Mr. El was still in the front but he wasn't. What I thought he could do I have no idea. By the time I got back to my back door the flames were leaping up above the crashed in wall about a foot. All the smoke blowing into my yard and I knew I had to call 911. Where's my phone?! Upstairs. Ran upstairs, called, and I think they were there in about five minutes. Not kidding. Because the fire was in the back of the house, I would have to point out which house it was to the fire fighters so the operator asked me to meet them at the corner and direct them.  I had enough time to go outside and look at the fire one more time (why?! to make sure it was still there??) and then hustled to the corner. A guy walked passed me and then came back and told me - There's smoke up there!  I know! I said. And then we heard the sirens. I am only three blocks from the station, but still, I am amazed at their quick response. Maybe they were on alert because of the windy day. 

Less than 1/2 hour later the flames were out and it was all over. But I am still shaking. I realize what I was most terrified of was an ember or something flying over to my house. Either to my huge, dry, Newport Pine or worse, my roof. Thankfully, that did not happen. Thank goodness I was home too. I had just gotten back from a 2-hour bike ride.What if no one had noticed until the whole house was up in flames? Ugh. I hate to think. A great big thank you to the Philadelphia Fire Department and to the powers that be that this wasn't worse.  

And now, I wonder what will happen next for the property. Will it have to be torn down? Just a few weeks ago I was looking through it to the original stained glass windows. I wish I could buy it to control what happens on that space. But who's got money for that?

And so, now, I think I will go outside and remember to appreciate what I have and be thankful. Yesterday was spent enjoying my beautiful garden. More crocuses have come up and the first daffodil has smiled on us. 

I also started some seeds for teddy bear sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias and lupine. I can't find the packet of Amish cockscomb I just bought but when I do, those will also get started. 
As always, Jacques was very helpful.
I also think I will go write a thank you note to the firemen - working on Easter! Hoping you and yours are happy and safe.

Monday, March 30, 2015

little projects

 Even though I haven't mentioned many house projects lately, it doesn't mean they aren't' still there. Oh they are, I've just accepted them as part of the fabric of my life. But some things -
 are a time sensitive situation.

This is my front gate. By all appearances, puh-LENTY of room for peoples to travel into my property.
But for some reason that little patch of ground, just inside the gate post, always gets trampled. 
I am baffled. 
This year the little crocuses I transplanted a couple of years ago have appeared. They have never bloomed due to the trampling. 
 This year, in an attempt to preserve the poor little crocuses, I decided to move the dirt back and put bricks where people trample.
It didn't' take long, maybe 15 minutes. I added about 6 inches(18cm) to the "walkable" space there in the front. 
It is supposed to be warm for the next few days so maybe the crocuses will bloom.
That will be a nice "welcome home."