Goodbye Vermont

We haven’t lived in Vermont for nearly 8 months now, but this week marks the end of a chapter for us. We sold our 150 year old farmhouse, cutting off a major tie to the state. I’m not sure that rural living was the best fit for us, but we do have some funny stories from our half-hearted attempts at homesteading.

There are many ways to enter an old house. We may only fit through the doors and windows, but any rodent can point out countless other entrances. At night, in addition to the sounds of the house settling, we could sometimes hear field mice building condos and subdivisions in our attic. Occasionally we would find our cats staring at the walls, listening to their favorite woodland snacks travel the main thoroughfares that meandered through the insulation.

Red SquirrelOne day in the middle of winter, Cliff stayed home from work, nursing a terrible flu. Just as he was finally nodding off to sleep, he heard the Hav-A-Hart trap in the attic slam shut. After many minutes, he convinced himself to leave his warm cocoon of blankets and threw on a coat, boots and hat over his pajamas. Not prepared to drive this jittery red squirrel over the Connecticut River to New Hampshire (our equivalent to the New Jersey car ride), he drove just 3 miles to the pavement and swung open the car door. Hanging half out of the vehicle, he dangled the trap over the road and slowly opened it. With an flash of orange, the squirrel hopped back into the car! Weak with sickness, Cliff pulled himself to his feet opened all of the car doors, and stood out in the cold for the prerequisite 5 minutes, assuming that the squirrel had jumped ship, before driving back home.

The next morning, as I was walking by the windows near where we parked the cars, I was surprised to discover a squirrel leaping between the seats, stopping occasionally to rest on the dashboard. Figuring that it wouldn’t walk out an open door, we got the brilliant idea to chase it out of the car with the cats. But the moment we shut the cats into the Subaru, they entered into a yowling panic, and pounded on the windows until they were released.

Next we tried dropping the squirrel off at the transfer station. While others in my community quietly dumped their trash and recyclables into the appropriate receptacles, Cliff and I opened the doors and rear hatch of our car and proceeded to tap on the dashboard, move the seats back and forth and even considered removing some of the plastic paneling, that is until we caught sight of our neighbors staring at the spectacle.

If it wasn’t for our collective embarrassment, I’m not sure how long it would have taken to realize that we couldn’t scare the squirrel out of its hiding place. Frustrated, we drove to a diner for breakfast, but left the windows down, hoping this time that the red rodent would attempt to escape from its tormentors. We didn’t notice the snow during our meal until we found a thick blanket of white fluffy snow covering the car interior, but no tiny tracks leading from it.

Frustrated, we dropped the Subaru off at the house, and spent the rest of the day trying not to think about the hitchhiker locked in the car.

When we finally arrived home that night, Cliff opened the rear hatch and could hear some rustling. We joked that the little guy was sustaining himself on the potato chip crumbles that speckled the carpet. We located him in the spare tire, and chased him outside.

The next morning we awoke to the sounds of scurrying from the attic.

Santa Cruz Tea Angst

I’m usually a pretty positive person, but I can’t believe how difficult it is to find a decent cup of tea in Santa Cruz. I’ve been singing the praises of kukicha lately because the taste resembles that of gyokuro without the cost or the water cooling nonsense. I had been ordering tea from a great little tea house back in Vermont, but because my stash is dwindling, I figured it was time to replenish it locally.

Our first stop was at Chaikhana Tea Culture. Now I realize that this shop specializes in Chinese pu-erh teas, but was a bit surprised when the proprietor told me that kukicha is hard to come by and implied that I could find it with low-grade teas in the supermarket. Yes, kukicha is made from the stems, stalks and twigs of sencha, but is surely not to be compared with tea dust or fannings. Instead, he then offered me roasted kukicha, which tastes more like bancha than the sweet, grassiness of gyokuro.

Unsatisfied we made our way to Asana Teas. I inquired about their kukichas but the gentleman behind the counter confused my request with kokeicha, a man-made tea with needle-like leaves formed from powdered tea. No kuckicha, but surprisingly they carry gyokuro. Overcome with disappointment and desperation, I decided it was time treat myself to a pot of gyokuro to soothe the pain of not finding my precious tea. But I really should have known better because the tea was stored in an oversized canister and the leaves lacked the typical dark grassy green color and sweet aroma that one would expect.

A few minutes later my very large pot of tea arrived, and the same gentleman informed me that the tea had already been steeping for about 1-3/4 minutes and should steep for another 2 minutes longer. Panicking I poured the tea into my equally oversized cup and discovered the temperature of the water to be about 190 degrees. I was too late, as the leaves had stewed. Lifting the lid from the teapot I found a cramped diffusing area, not allowing the leaves sufficient room to expand. In two short minutes my $10 pot of tea was ruined.

I understand that this was probably just some kid from the University working a part-time job, but I cannot believe that the owners of a tea house would not school their employees in the correct ways to make a cup or pot of tea. The use of thermometers, timers and teaware appropriate to the types of tea would be a simple solution to this problem. And, to all those people that are new to tea or who may not know better, what they think is already a great cup of tea, when prepared and served correctly, would blow their minds.

Sewing Goals for 2009

2008 was the year of the skirt. Safe, flat, fun and rewarding. Also rather quick to make. Now that I’m comfortable sewing in linings and invisible zippers, I think it’s time to up the ante just a bit this year. Not only do I want to continue to experiment with drafting my own patterns, but I also want to start exploring structure as well as drapery.

Aspirations for 2009:

    Tackle the Full Bust Alteration (FBA) once and for all
    Make more clothing for Cliff
    Sew classic garments that are appropriate for work
    Take a serger class at the local craft studio
    Finish one project per month
    Figure out what slopers are and how to eventually make them
    Incorporate sewing into my painting, or painting into my sewing
    Consistently sew straight seams
    Last but certainly not least, to buy handmade products whenever possible

Meadow A-Line Skirt

This is my first completed garment since relocating to Santa Cruz. I adore skirts and dresses and swear that I could wear them everyday, and figured I was long overdue to start sewing again.

The pattern instructions were easy to follow and the project went together very quickly. I will definitely sew this one again, perhaps in a size smaller next time though.

We celebrated the completion of my skirt with a bike ride to Pleasure Point were we were treated to masses of surfers riding the waves. I love California.

Project Details

Pattern: Amy Butler Barcelona Skirts, A-Line Skirt variation
Fabric: Heather Ross Gentle Flower Cotton Canvas Green (100% cotton)
Lining: Muslin (100% cotton)
Notions: 7-inch invisible zipper, hook and eye

I Heart Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz ♥