Shameless self-promotion

bookfront

Remember a few months ago, when I told y’all I’d published a novel? I’ll be signing copies from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Annie Laurie’s Antiques, 536 Broadway in Cape Girardeau, as part of Cape’s monthly First Friday with the Arts promotion.

If you’ll be in the area, stop by and see me — and be sure to bring extra money for shiny objects, because Laurie always has plenty of them. (Remember that cool ’70s dining set I posted a few weeks ago? I bought that from her.) Make sure to check out the other downtown businesses, too — all the fun little shops and galleries stay open late for First Friday, and Minglewood Brewery usually taps a firkin of some interesting new brew they’re trying out.

I’ll have copies of both Greetings from Coldwater and Route 66 for Kids on hand Friday. If you’ve already read the novel and just want to come in and ask questions about it, I’m game to answer them (if I know the answers; Shirley is just about as enigmatic to me as she is to you), and if you wanted to get a jump on your Christmas shopping, this would be a good way to do it. If you don’t know anybody who wants a book, you probably know somebody who’d like something from Annie Laurie’s or its sister shop across the street, the Indie House, which is sort of an incubator for several artsy little businesses.

Bonus: I think Laurie is planning to have a food truck outside, so you can grab dinner while you’re there, and if you don’t see something you like, you can always cruise a few blocks to find good Cajun, great pizza, or amazing wings. Come visit us!

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Fruit-fly trap

Score one for Pinterest: After an infestation of caffeine-junkie fruit flies this summer, I ran a search for organic solutions to the problem. This one, courtesy of Suburban Turmoil, kept coming up.

For any method to work on a long-term basis, you have to start by finding the source of your bugs. In our case, the flies came in with some dodgy bananas, invaded the compost bucket in search of coffee grounds (apparently a great favorite of fruit flies — not that I blame them) and decided the filter on the underside of the lid was an ideal place to raise kids.

To eradicate the larvae and eggs, we replaced the filter, and to kill the adults, I used Suburban Turmoil’s technique:

Get a Mason jar with a lid. Fill it about halfway with apple-cider vinegar. Add a couple of drops of dish soap, put the lid on the jar, and shake until it’s good and sudsy. Open the jar, add enough water to bring the bubbles up to the top, and leave it out overnight.

Your fruit-fly trap should look like cheap beer with a nice head. Try to suppress the urge to drink it.
Your fruit-fly trap should look like cheap beer with a nice head. Try to suppress the urge to drink it.

The bugs will smell the vinegar, think you’ve got rotten apples for them to snack on, and become trapped in the suds when they try to check it out.

Gross.
Gross.

I caught the better end of 30 flies the first night, and over the next few days, this sneaky little trap killed at least 100 more. Every time the suds died down, I closed the jar and shook it up again, adding soap or vinegar as necessary and replacing the solution a time or two until I stopped finding bugs in it, which took maybe three or four days.

I don’t know the blogger over at Suburban Turmoil, but I definitely owe her a beer for this excellent solution to a really annoying problem.

Emily

Secret Garden

Hidden behind our six-foot privacy fence, our garden really is a well-kept secret. The only hint of its existence is the occasional tomato plant stretching above the top of the fence. The bulk of my plantings still lie beyond the metal fence at the back of the yard, but I’m slowly expanding my planting areas beyond that, and I think in a couple more seasons, I’ll have something worthy of a Frances Hodgson Burnett story.

Here’s a quick update on the back garden, which is primarily vegetables and herbs, with a few zinnias thrown in for fun:

My wisteria-laden arbor makes exactly the welcoming entrance I had in mind when I installed it behind the garden gate.
My wisteria-laden arbor makes exactly the welcoming entrance I had in mind when I installed it behind the garden gate.
I planted beans along the fence last year. They planted themselves at the end of the season and came up on their own this spring.
I planted beans along the fence last year. They planted themselves at the end of the season and came up on their own this spring.
Those zinnias the neighbor boys helped plant this spring are blooming nicely. I need to gather a bouquet and give it to their mom.
Those zinnias the neighbor boys helped plant this spring are blooming nicely. I need to gather a bouquet and give it to their mom.
Couple more zinnias.
Couple more zinnias.

garden

I’m a little frustrated with my cucumber plants; they’re blooming like mad, but they’ve yet to set fruit. The garden is feeling the absence of the apiary this year. Our last hive crashed last winter, and instead of buying more bees this spring, Ron put our names on the swarm list and hoped for the best. We didn’t get any calls, so we don’t have anybody living in the bee yard this season. Next year, I’m ordering two packages of Italians and maybe one of Russians. I miss having fuzzy little six-legged friends working alongside me in the garden, and I can think of way better ways to spend my time than standing out in the garden with a paintbrush, hand-pollinating cucumber blossoms.

I’ll have to do it within the next week or so if I want them this season, but I’m half-tempted to order some leafcutters just to bridge the gap until we can re-establish a proper apiary next spring. Leafcutters are, like orchard mason bees, a gentle, solitary species that won’t produce honey but will work their little butts off in the garden without giving me any static. In the absence of my beloved A. mellifera, I’m not against hiring a few temps in the interest of getting a decent cucumber crop.

Emily

Interior decorating

This summer has been a bit of a roller coaster, especially in terms of my health (nothing scary, but a series of minor maladies that were just enough to cramp my style and drain my energy), and I just started to feel better about a week ago.

I took the day off Tuesday to finish up a project I started in April but haven’t had time to work on much because of the aforementioned health issues.

As I mentioned last winter, the drywall work in our house left a lot to be desired. I repaired the cracks and did textured paint jobs in the bedroom and office, but I got tired of messing with joint compound and sanding screens and decided to try a technique my friend Erin told me about, in which you tear contractor paper into random shapes, crumple it, smooth it back out, and apply it to the wall using wallpaper paste, overlapping the edges of the pieces.

Left brown, the paper ends up looking like soft leather; painted, it resembles stucco. Either way, it conceals a lot of flaws and obviates the necessity of repairing someone else’s sloppy drywall work.

The leather look was really too dark to use in rooms as small as ours, but given my fondness for Southwestern architecture, stucco seemed about right. I did the dining room in late April or early May, but I didn’t get a chance to finish the living room until this week. Here are a few photos:

Here's a look at the paper technique. Each piece is torn, crumpled, uncrumpled, and applied to the wall with paste and a smoothing tool.
Here’s a look at the paper technique. Each piece is torn, crumpled, uncrumpled, and applied to the wall with paste and a smoothing tool.
The process is time-consuming, but it hides a lot of flaws.
The process is time-consuming, but it hides a lot of flaws.
The paper will start to bubble after you hang it. DON'T PANIC. It will settle down and smooth out as it dries.
The paper will start to bubble after you hang it. DON’T PANIC. It will settle down and smooth out as it dries.
Ignore the clutter. I didn't bother putting the room completely back together when I knew I'd be painting soon.
Ignore the clutter. I didn’t bother putting the room completely back together when I knew I’d be painting soon.

Here’s how it looked once it was painted:

As with the paste, the paint will make the paper bubble while it's wet. As with the paste, it will settle down. I panicked a little bit before I discovered that.
As with the paste, the paint will make the paper bubble while it’s wet. As with the paste, it will settle down. I panicked a little bit before I discovered that.
I like how that short little hall looks with all my family pictures hanging there.
I like how that short little hall looks with all my family pictures hanging there.
The paint is "La Fonda Terra Cotta," from Valspar's National Trust for Historic Preservation line. I love it.
The paint is “La Fonda Terra Cotta,” from Valspar’s National Trust for Historic Preservation line. I love it.
The color is a little yellow here because the lighting was odd, but you get the idea.
The color looks a little yellow here because the lighting was odd, but you get the idea.

I really like that terra-cotta color. It looks very Southwestern and makes the whole room feel warm and inviting.

I’m hoping to replace the futon with a loveseat as soon as I can find something suitably mid-century. That room is just too small for big furniture.

Emily

Another recent project

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another little project I did recently. The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which we have long since established is my favorite place in the known universe — has a set of black cardboard information boards under the glass on the front counter. The boards have been in existence for as long as anybody can remember and provide information about other local businesses and services that might be of use to guests.

I’m not sure what was used to make the white letters on the boards, but it doesn’t respond well to spills, and despite the glass over them, moisture occasionally reaches the signs and smears the lettering. I’ll be in New Mexico soon to lead a motorcoach tour, do a few projects at the Swallow and spend a couple of days signing books at a festival.

The owner asked whether I could include restoration or replacement of the information boards among my projects. Based on the historic nature of the originals, we decided the best course of action would be to leave them as-is, remove them from harm’s way, and replace them with a set of updated boards featuring current businesses. Using paintmarkers and black poster board, I created these modern versions, designed to approximate the style and dimensions of the originals. The originals will preserved in some manner that maintains their historic integrity and protects them from further damage. I had the new ones laminated. Hopefully they’ll last as long as their predecessors.

The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners' names.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners’ names.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.

I’m looking forward to getting to Tucumcari and starting work on the mural I’ve got planned, which will be something of a tribute to Bob Waldmire. I haven’t had a good dose of New Mexico since October, and I really need one. While I’m out there, I’ll be signing copies of Greetings from Coldwater and the new print edition of Route 66 for Kids, which has been updated for 2016. (There’s also a Kindle version of the guidebook, but it’s the 2015 edition. I haven’t had time to figure out how to update it and link it to the print version yet. The information is mostly the same, but a few places have raised their prices or changed their hours in the past year.)

Emily

What a spring.

I keep thinking I’ll get on here and write a post catching up all the stuff I’ve done this spring, but every time I think I’m about to catch my breath, something else happens.

March was a little bit busy, but nothing ridiculous; mostly just the usual preliminary garden work, and I started a redecorating project in my dining room that got pushed back a bit when I landed a gig painting a mural at the new juvenile justice center the county is developing. I spent the middle of April working on that. I think it turned out well:

Ignore the white smudges; that's just sealer that hadn't dried yet when I took the pictures.
Ignore the white smudges; the sealer hadn’t dried yet when I took the pictures.
The mural is in an area where little kids in the foster system wait when they have court dates.
The mural is in an area where little kids in the foster system wait when they have court dates.

I also had three road trips in April: a nice trip to Pontiac, Illinois, on April 9 to help the Illinois Route 66 Association spruce up the museum ahead of tourist season; a pleasant trip to Tulsa for a Judy Collins concert April 24; and a trip to Afton, Oklahoma, for our friend Laurel’s memorial service April 30.

That last trip started out well but turned into a nightmare 70 miles from home, when my Subaru decided to have its second catastrophic breakdown in as many years. When we described all the problems we’ve had with the car since we bought it, Subaru corporate offered us $1,000 off a new one. Uh, no. I already spent $5,000 having the transmission rebuilt in this one — for which I still owe $8,500 — and now it needs a $6,800 engine and radiator replacement. I’ll just cut my losses now and park it until I finish paying it off, thanks.

Of course this happened the week I decided I was going to break my 30-year swearing habit by assigning Weight Watchers-style points to profanities, giving myself a daily quota, and cutting off an inch of my hair for every day I exceeded my points.

When we left for Afton, my hair looked like this:

memarch

After I spent two weeks cussing that bloody Subaru, it looked like this:

memay

I don’t love it, but I hate it less than I expected, for various reasons.

Automotive woes notwithstanding, it’s been a pretty good spring. I’ve been doing a lot of landscaping projects. Here are a few I especially like:

We bought an arbor in April. I’d wanted one for a long time.

To the right is a wall I built around the asparagus patch to keep Riggy from sneaking into the garden via that gap between the metal fence and the privacy fence. Just beyond the gate is the new arbor I bought in April to train the wisteria.
April. To the right is a wall I built around the asparagus patch to keep Riggy from sneaking into the garden via a gap in the fence.
This is the wisteria a month later. (Notice the parsley to the left of the arbor, too. It grew all winter and got huge this spring, so I'm letting it go to seed.)
This is the wisteria a month later.

I also decided to try my hand at fairy gardening, Whovian-style:

Fairy gardening is all the rage on Pinterest. This is my geeked-out version.
Don’t blink.
A month later, the lucky bamboo is struggling a bit, and the fern is a lost cause, but the other plants are thriving.
A month later, the lucky bamboo is struggling, and the fern is a lost cause, but the other plants are thriving.

And, of course, my pride and joy:

March.
March.
April.
April.
The pond as it looked today, with the water irises blooming profusely.
Today. Love those irises.

Finally, here are two views of my front porch since I started adding plants and decorations to it:

Curb appeal. We haz it.
Curb appeal: We haz it.
The view from my front door. Love those ferns.
The view from my front door.

I have several other projects to share, but this post is getting out of hand, so I’ll stop there for now. Hope you’re having a good spring, wherever you are.

Emily

Sustainability on a shoestring

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