left on walnut

Category: Our home

Easter, 1958

Easter 1958I was lucky. I got a lot hand-me-downs from my cousin, Carol.

Painting the Cellar Door

Early this morning, I painted the cellar door. The “Auntie Em door,” we call it.

I enjoy painting. I like the methodical motion of the brush. I like the protective quality of paint. I like that I can let my mind wander. The morning was warm and still. Copper, the basset hound who lives down the street, kept me company. His bark is low and mournful. If Copper’s ever in a movie, he’ll be played by James Earl Jones.

Yesterday my friend and I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While painting, I thought about the movie and my trip to India next week. One of the new visitors is clearly wrong for India. “How can you bear this country? What do you see that I don’t?” she asks.

Tom Wilkinson responds, “Light, colors, smiles. It teaches me something.” She could only see poverty and squalor.

Occasionally a carpenter ant would crawl near a freshly painted spot. I just blew them safely off and kept brushing.

Can Guy

Our side porch is usually a quiet place for morning tea. Busy white-breasted nuthatches yammer insistently, whacking sunflower seeds into the bark of trees to “hatch” out breakfast. Squirrels fuss at one another over territory they’ve staked out. I don’t see why some branches have a higher status than others, but apparently they do. This morning a rollerblader in earbuds whirred by. Mostly, though, it’s quiet.

I heard Can Guy before I saw him, his grocery cart rattling down the alley. Can Guy gathers aluminum cans from dumpsters around the university. Our alley is on his route.

Everyone in our neighborhood was busier than I was this morning. I sat on the porch swing taking in summer.


Sheltered by two chestnuts and a walnut, the ferns in our backyard are unfurled by now. Beneath their canopy live two baby bunnies Tom and I have watched all spring.

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top right drawer

Some of what I have learned about photography:

  1. Light is tricky. I think I have enough but when I look at photos later on the computer, they can still seem dull.
  2. My lens works better when not at full zoom. When the lens is way out there, photos are not crisp.
  3. Some of the best photos with this lens are shot at f 8.0 or so, rather than at the extreme stops. I don’t know why. Could be user error.
  4. My time as a photographer: 30% reading how-to blogs, watching instructional videos online, and reading the manual; 30% arranging stuff and lights; 30% messing with photos in Lightroom; 2% taking photos; and 8% making Tom come look at the photos I’ve taken. He’s wonderful. He always finds something nice to say.

Here’s stuff in the top right drawer of my daughters’ dresser:

square nails

When working on our old house, we found several square nails. The carpenter who built this house bent his share of nails. Yet somehow this house has been standing since 1874.

making a light box

I made a light box from 1/2 inch PVC pipe for less than $10. The instructions couldn’t be written more clearly. If you buy PVC at Lowe’s, have the guy cut it. Unless you have a PVC pipe cutter. Then I bow down before you and you totally should cut it yourself.

Light boxes online come with a baffling array of expensive bulbs:

  • 11 watt florescent with 5400 K daylight
  • 250 watt tungsten with 3200 K lamps
  • 500 watt flood lights
  • 15 watt florescent with 5000 K balanced light
  • 250 watt monolights

I bought inexpensive bulbs from Lowe’s with Kelvin rating of 6500 and a clean, white light. I also bought cheap clip-on reflector work lights.

Tom added two sheet metal screws to the top rail. I punched holes in poster board and hung it from the screws to form a backdrop. Easy peasy.

making a light box: day one

I want to build a light box so I can take photos of food, old square nails, and other things I haven’t thought of yet. I’ll put the box on an unused workbench in our basement. This project doesn’t take long unless you first need to clean out the basement, weatherproof the cellar door, hang curtains, and run a source of electricity.

So far, the best part of the job is finding a bottle of sparkling wine.  I took the wine upstairs. Then I finished cleaning up the area. The cellar door needed some new felt strips. It’s warmer now.

While I was at it, I hung an old curtain. I get creeped out at night if I can’t see someone looking in. No one looks in. I’m not that interesting.

With the workbench cleaned up, floor swept and curtains hung, it was time for supper and maybe some of the wine I found.

I’ll work on the light box tomorrow.

blueberry morning

Two mornings this week, Tom shoveled while I stayed inside eating toast. This  morning I made blueberry muffins. In the great division of labor, I’d rather bake than shovel. I feel guilty though, especially since it’s starting to snow again.

Blueberry Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounce package frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Line muffins tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the frozen blueberries. Divide among the muffin tins and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Serve them to your husband on a cold morning and feel less guilty than before.

Houses of Franklin Park

The first day of 2012 was cold but graced with perfect light. Here are the houses around Franklin Park, our neighborhood.