Washing Fruit and Veggies on the Road

 

washed fruit in cooler

 

So, you’re driving along on a late-summer road trip, the farmers’ markets and road-side fruit stands are overflowing with beautiful produce, but you hesitate to buy a bunch of berries or tomatoes if you can’t figure out a way to wash them, right?  Here’s our solution.  All you need is a container (a tub that yogurt came in is perfect) and some water.  A cooler is optional. I’m not really sure why it took us so long to figure this out.  It works a lot better, and uses a lot less of our drinking water, than trying to pour water with one hand while somehow holding and scrubbing fruit with the other hand by the side of the road.  Even if you are on your way to a house or hotel where you could wash fruit, this has the advantage of letting you eat it right NOW, while you cruise along with the windows rolled down, or at your favorite picnic spot.

Put your produce in your little tub, and pour in enough water to cover it.  Swirl everything around with your fingers for a minute or so, and then hold the fruit back and pour the water off. If a lot of dirt comes off in the first round, or you just want to make sure it’s really clean, repeat.

 

tomatoes in tub of water

 

Then you can put the clean tub of fruit in your cooler, or on top of the parking brake between the seats for easy access.  If you’ve washed something like tomatoes that does better dry and room-temp than cold and wet, you can dump them out onto a towel, or use one of those little green plastic baskets to store them. If you knew how many picnic style meals we’ve eaten, consisting mainly or entirely of various versions of caprese sandwiches, you’d laugh out loud.

 

tomatoes in green basket 1

 

A couple more notes: basil does well in the cooler with the stems in the water, or in a sealed plastic bag with a little moisture inside (kind of like the cooler version of this method), but not if the leaves touch the ice (they’ll frost and turn black).  Thanks to Bryan for hand modeling, and for being as enthusiastic about fresh local edibles as I am.

 

tomatoes in green basket 2

 

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Exploring & Eating: Texas Edition

 

indian oven

I’ve updated the Roam + Eat page to include all the new places from our latest trip to Texas, plus some I previously forgot, meaning it now includes every single good place to eat I know in the Lone Star State. Only 49 to go … just kidding.  But I will try for a couple more updates as the summer goes on, to fill things out a bit!

 

Hidden Gems from the Road

 

Jazz Fest 2011And not so hidden.  Jazz Fest is of course, amazing, and so is the food there!

 

I’ve been working on a new page, for you and for me.  It’s full of all the places (mainly restaurants) that I want to remember from our travels.  How do you persuade me to leave my comfortable and productive studio, and head out on the road for a summer tour of art shows?  Well, just remind me that when we get to Austin, we can eat at Enoteca Vespaio, they have the first and best macarons I have ever tasted.  Then once we get to St Louis there’s Shu Feng, oh the crispy eggplant . . . you get the idea.  And it pretty much works that way, every spring.  Ever since we read Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria, we have an ongoing joke about being on the walking and eating tour of wherever we happen to be, with the goal of walking enough so that we can eat some more!  The list of restaurants and fun places to visit is getting too long to keep just in my head, or on random scraps of paper and lists on my phone, so I made a page for it here.

For every place I’ve remembered, looked up, and put on the list, I thought of at least one more that I haven’t had time to post yet.  So, look for another update, hopefully soon, and I even have some pictures to put in!  But I wanted to go ahead and publish the start of the list.  My goal is to keep updating it as time goes on, and we stumble on more hidden gems of the road.  If you have some of your own to share, let me know!

 

Free Yourself to Make Something Ordinary

 

garment bag stitching

 

Now that I’ve told you a little more about why we travel most of the summer, I can also share some things I’ve made for our trips.

 

Our clothes spend a fair amount of time in a “closet” consisting of a thin strip of wood between the shelves we have built into our truck.  It’s much better than keeping them in a suitcase, but still not ideal since they are unprotected.  At the end of last summer, when we unpacked the clothes from truck to house, I noticed that one my jackets was significantly more faded on one side than the other.  Maybe hanging it with the same side to the skylight for the whole summer was not the best idea?  The same thing happened to Bryan’s jacket, so I’m pretty sure that extra UV light on one side was the problem—combined with the fact that it was warm last summer and the jackets didn’t come off the rack very often.  I had been thinking vaguely for a couple of years about making some kind of garment bags to protect our clothes from getting dirty/scratched up as we move things in and out of the truck, especially as I have started to take more me-made garments on the road.  This was the final straw, I had to do it.

 

garment bags hanging 2

 

I decided to make two, each half the width of our “closet.”  One would be slightly longer than my summer dresses, and the other just long enough to protect shirts and pants.  I traced a plastic hanger for the shape of the sides, and left a split in the front to close with a zipper.

 

This was the perfect scrap/thrift store shopping project.  Since it didn’t matter exactly what the garment bags looked like, as long as they worked, I could use practically anything.  I used the last of some heavy canvas from old curtains that came with our house, plus another small curtain (made out of some great textured blue-green fabric) that I bought at Goodwill.

 

garment bags hanging

 

This may seem like a strange project to wax poetic about, but here’s the thing: as I cut myself loose from trying for aesthetic perfection, not caring what anyone would think of my topstitching or pieced fabric, sewing felt more like sculpting; using what I had on hand, and my hands, and just making something almost like I was pulling it out of the air.  I was free to use my creativity in any way I wanted, to use whatever I could find, odds and ends of colored thread, salvaged zippers (really nice ones actually)—and I started to see an unexpected beauty in my intentionally imperfect stitching, one that I hope comes through in these photos.  I was free to do whatever I wished, and yet cared enough to add little touches and experiments.  I was trying things, enjoying the process, and making something useful as I went.  With enough practice behind me to be comfortable with fabric and thread, I was able to just play, and it felt pretty magical.

 

garment bag snaps

 

 

garment bag corner stitching

 

Around the same time, as we both worked on various projects for the truck and Bryan’s display before the summer season, he was refinishing the director’s chair that he uses in the booth.  He did a really nice job, dissembling and sanding the chair before applying the new finish.  After all that, I decided it needed a new bag to protect it from getting scuffed all over again as it’s loaded in and out.

 

disassembled chair

Chair in the process of disassembly—we’re looking through where the seat would be.

 

I went back to the thrift store looking for something to line my chair cover with.  I loved searching through the housewares section, looking at everything as a material instead of a finished product (always my favorite kind of shopping), and letting the serendipity of what I found help shape my project.  I decided on two vintage towels for padding the front and back, and a second-hand piece of fabric to round out the outside.  I think the green stripes with my other leftover fabrics make it look like something for sailing.

 

When I announced that I was going to spend our penultimate evening in Flagstaff sewing (this chair cover), I got an enthusiastic “Ok!” from my notoriously goal-oriented husband.  Remind me to try this trick again next year . . .

 

chair bag stitching

 

It’s weird, but having all these me-made covers on our travels this season has been quite a boost to my morale.  Every time I see them, or touch them, I’m reminded that I have a spring of creativity and ingenuity which I can use to make whatever I want, and whatever I need.  That’s pretty much all I need to feel good about life in general.

 

How about you—have you done any creative and/or freeing projects lately?

 

Life as Artists on the Road

 

I’ve been working on this post for a while (um, understatement).  I keep feeling like I should, or would at least like to, explain a little more about what we do and why it is that I travel so much, but it turns out to be not so easy to explain.  Everything from how I met my husband and fell in love, to the story of my own life and work so far, to the state of the art market (we’re not getting into that one here) is wrapped up in it, and just figuring out what to put in and what to leave out has been more difficult than I thought, but here we go.

 

nm highway sunset

 View from the truck windshield—a beautiful sunset from I-40.

 

The beginning of the story, for the purposes of this post anyway, is 2000, when Bryan (long before he was my husband or had this work) left his career as a business consultant.  He didn’t like what he saw himself becoming—that guy in a suit who cuts off little old ladies on his way to the airport.  He looked at the senior managers at his company and saw that while they were paid generously, they didn’t seem happy.  They were still overworked and stressed out.  Most of them had been divorced.  They spent their careers working to help huge companies with questionable ethical and environmental records.  He wanted more time off, and to have some choice of his clients, neither of which the company wanted to give him.  He followed his heart and resigned.

 

Bryan wasn’t sure what he would end up doing next.  He was a passionate photographer, capturing America’s wilderness using large format film (he still does).  To make the next part of the story short, over the following few years he carved out a niche that would allow him to make a living.  By the time I met him, in 2003, he was traveling most of each summer, exhibiting his work and photographing for new projects, and spending his winters in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I grew up.

 

Meanwhile, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.  I had left school at the University of Arizona (in Tucson), feeling unfulfilled, uninspired, and lonely, and moved back home to Flagstaff in December of that year.  I worked at a small museum in town (cataloguing lots of beautiful artifacts) and at a couple of other places off and on, but nothing that was going to turn into a career.  Bryan and I met at the end of that summer, started dating and (um, more long story getting short here) fell in love from fall through winter.  By the time he asked me if I wanted to travel with him the following summer, I was ready to say yes.  It was a big leap of faith, actually bigger looking back on it than it seemed at the time, but I knew he was the one for me, and it worked out.  We survived some big adventures together that first time on the road (some that I question whether I would stick around if they happened today), but we made a good team. By the time we got back home in the fall, Bryan had decided that I was the one too.  We got married in October 2005, and we still travel together every year.

 

(This pic is actually our return last fall)

 The truck—hauling, transport, mobile studio and camper.

Our time on the road is a mixture of selling work, making new work, and of course the adventures that happen in between.  Most of the selling takes place at the country’s top juried art fairs, and at galleries.  The fairs are competitive events run by neighborhoods and art associations.  Each season it’s a logistical challenge for Bryan to come up with a national tour from the shows and gallery openings he is invited to that will sustain our work.

 

Most of these art fairs take place outdoors.  As well as art and workspace and some regular living stuff, our truck holds a tent and carpeted walls to make a kind of mini-gallery for the photos, which we set up and take down every weekend that we “bring art to the people.”  Dealing with the weather is also a major part of this experience.  I started a list of things never to take for granted, but everything else pales in comparison to the first two items: hot showers and ice.

 

Wherever we end up, there are usually interesting things to photograph nearby.  It might be a national park, or interesting architecture for the In a Big World Wandering series, or something for an entirely new project.

 

Bryan crossing flooded boardwalk

Don’t worry, he made it to the other side without falling in.

 

In between selling and shooting photos, we usually either camp out or visit friends and family.  I love camping, staying in beautiful places, and trying out local foods at farm stands and restaurants.  But few things make me more suddenly grateful than arriving at a real house full of friendly faces, running water, a large bed with clean sheets, laundry, and a kitchen, etc.  My fingers start to itch at the thought of real kitchen tools, and we usually end up cooking a lot for whomever we’re staying with, as part of our efforts to at least act like, if not actually be, the world’s best houseguests.  It’s a good survival strategy; we need to make sure we can always come back.

 

As you might imagine, doing work of my own during this traveling time is . . . difficult.  But I’ve also found that it’s fairly necessary to my happiness.  I’ve tried selling my own work at art fairs, mainly felted handbags (you can see a few of them on Etsy), but that market wasn’t quite right for the things I made.  Along with the usual issues of customers not understanding the cost of handmade goods, plus the physical work to set up an extra display every weekend, it all convinced me that this wasn’t the way to go (at least not with the bags).  I did learn a lot though, about all aspects of running an itty-bitty handmade business, and about myself.  I began to figure out that my passion is really more for empowering other people to become makers than for selling things I make, hence my latest project (and this blog).  Although come fall, I will be making a about a ton of those little fuzzy hats again . . .

 

booths ann arbor

Left to right: my booth, and Bryan’s.

 

But back to the road.  Being gone for long stretches, usually months at a time, of course makes me homesick.  I miss my friends, my family, the smell of the pine forest, my studio (especially my studio—the freedom to make pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want to), my kitchen, green chile, good tacos (depending on where in the world we are) . . . but I’m starting to adapt.  At this point, if we stopped traveling, I know I would miss that too.  I’d miss the friends and family scattered around the country that we get to spend time with, the foods we get to eat (yeah, I’m a little obsessed with the food) and the things we discover, especially when we can get off the interstate and explore.  It’s an amazingly diverse and interesting country out there.

 

At the end of a mediocre show, we’ll often look at each other and say, “Well, we lived.”  It occurred to me recently that what we mean is not just “we survived” but also “we’re living” in the fullest way, taking advantage of the paths and adventures that are available to us, even though not all of them are good, and testing our limits.  It’s not always fun, pretty much never glamorous, and as a friend who’s taking a sabbatical from art fairs recently put it “a stupid way to make a living.”  And yet, one thing we don’t have to worry about is regret about chances not taken and roads untraveled.  The odd and beautiful parts of life on the road, the magical things that happen when you’re in a strange place at a strange time, are what will keep me coming back, probably for as long as this weird way of life is possible for us.

 

squonk opera passing

A performance called (I am not making this up) Squonk Opera passing by the booth in Pittsburgh.

 

Now I feel like maybe I should have written this post right at the beginning, as a brief summary of the state of my recent life . . . but here it is.  This won’t become a blog all about life on the road (that’s not my thing), but I would like to bring up a few other ways that my own goals and work intersect our travels, and hopefully after this it will make more sense.  What about you, any thoughts about travel/work/life?

 

 

Spring in the Great Smokies—Gratuitous Pictures

 

great smokies spring 2013 1

 

Just pictures today.  This always feels a little self-indulgent to me, but as I mentioned last post, after working hard on Hello Sewing Machine, and hitting the road with Bryan’s work, I am ready for a break!  Lucky for me, one of my all-time favorite breaks in my routine is just around the corner.  Our yearly week-long creative retreat/gathering of friends and family starts tomorrow, and I am so looking forward to it.  I’ll share some pictures and projects from that as well, once I have them!

Another kind of break I cherish is spending time in the wilderness.  These pictures are from this April.  Spring at home is a quiet season, easy to overlook until you turn around and it’s summer already.  Not so in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It’s like reverse fall, flowers and tress busting out all over with blooms in different colors, sizes and scents.  The week we were there it was already crowded with flower identifiers and photographers, and everyone seemed to be in a great mood, buoyed up by the coming of spring.  I hope you can take time for a little break today too.

 

great smokies spring 2013 2

 

great smokies spring 2013 5

 

great smokies spring 2013 3

 

great smokies spring 2013 4

 

great smokies spring 2013 6

 

In Which I Read My Diary From Last Year, and Re-Up for Me-Made-May!

 

If you were reading this blog this time last year, you no doubt remember that I signed up for Me-Made-May ’12, hosted by the fabulous Zoe.  I just think this is the best idea, it encourages all those of us who make clothing to actually wear it in our everyday lives, and thus think about what we make and use and why.

I had a great time doing it in 2012, and learned a lot.  My pledge was to wear one item of me-made clothing every day, which I succeeded in doing.  Sometimes you would not have been able to tell, since I made underwear count.  I also pledged to blog about something MMM related once a week, which I almost succeeded in doing.  I did draw and post a cartoon of my summer wardrobe, an extension of the way keeping track of what I wore for the month helped me clarify what I wear and what I would like to wear.  My overall favorite thing I did was to get three other lovely bloggers/sewists to share their thoughts on style and how sewing allows them to express themselves, in this post.

I knew that I wouldn’t take a picture of every outfit I wore, so I decided to also keep short notes for each day.  I dug them out recently and I was surprised at how much is in there, about my thoughts and how far I’ve built up my me-made wardrobe in a year, so I thought I would share some of them.  If you are bored by reading other peoples (very brief, not edited for grammar) diary entries, please skip to the bottom of the post.  I’m going to include a couple of explanatory notes – May was as usual for us, a busy travel month, and even with the notes it’s going to feel pretty disjointed.

 

Me-made skirt.  I'm kind of tired of these two tops together, but they work well. . .

 

Day 1 – wore green Deva yoga pants, blue Henley. I felt more proud and self-sufficient than I thought I would!

Day 2 – I wore Henley & pjs to clean, then grey pants & ‘Bethan t. I thought about the various imperfections of those pants and vowed to make better ones.  (On this day we flew from home to pick up our truck and continue our summer art show circuit.  I promise to write a post about what exactly that means and what it’s like, soon.)

Day 3 – Wore cropped drawstring pants and strapless top. Found myself wishing I could wear all me-made outfits!  Wanting more time to sew since this month is good inspiration.  (When we are on the road I am separated from my sewing machine by hundreds or thousands of miles.)

Day 4 – wore all me-mades! Shorts & blue tank to set up, then new sundress + undies.

 

booth setup outfit

This is my standard booth-setup outfit, shorts that were a test make, and a tank that’s near the end of its life.

Day 5 – washed undies the night before to wear, wore those under too hot for anything else dress. Thought about need to make another airy dress, fabric is key.

Day 7 – laundry day. Repeat of plane ride outfit and thoughts about pants.  (We are camping out between shows, as we drive to the next one.)

Day 10 – wore B’s jeans & mm pink top in anticipation of City Museum. Maybe I should make some jeans? Would it be more work to find or make? Is either worth it – probably I will stick with the no jeans plan.  (We stopped off at City Museum, in St. Louis, which is like an amazing cross between mixed-media sculpture and playground.  It’s awesome.  Wear sturdy pants.  I once lost a fair amount of corduroy on the multistory slide.)

Day 12 – blue skirt/jeans for hiking with mm black tank. Dressing this way may mean laundry sooner. It’s cool and I’m wishing I brought mm hiking pants/another sweater. Thinking about how what we wear is a compromise between what we’d like, what’s available and the weather.

Day 13 – still camping, wearing mm tanks with alternating skirts & B’s jeans. Kicking myself for not bringing mm hiking pants.

Day 14 – now wearing B’s socks as well with more of the above and freezing!  Raining out and did laundry.

Day 15 – with fresh laundry! Wore grey mm pants, tank & sweatshirt. Thought about the ideal summer wardrobe – two pairs of pants, one for setup/camping, one nice enough for town/at show if cold. Thought that I have as much affection for the non-mm clothes that fit well, color I love, etc.

 
The pink shirt is the me-made

 

Day 18 – all mm! Shorts and blue tank for setup, wedding test dress for show. Thought of a plan to shorten/line dress.  (This show is in Reston, VA.  I love the DC area – the picture above is at the Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, and the one below at the MLK Memorial.)

Day 21 – lounging/computer work/groceries and cooking at friends – good day for mm cropped pants & berry T.

 
Same me-made skirt.  I've really just discovered scarves lately. . .

 

Day 23 – same outfit as day 16, boring!  Me made pjs for laundry.

Day 24 – sorely tempted to cheat, but we are almost done  & I can stick to my pledge. Mm black tank & pink stripe skirt. Stuck in Floyd Bennett Field.

Day 25 – in NYC. Mm linen skirt (loving it!) & dk blue top stitched tank with blue cord jacket.

Day 26 – poor packing leads to undies only today –  with ‘bethan top and blue tea dyed skirt with flowers.  Also no bra – but fabric shopping in NYC!!!!  (This really happened.  Maybe I’ll tell you about it some time, we had quite an adventure.)

Day 28 – Mm drawstring pants & pink shirt w/ mm bra. Good for driving/hanging out with nieces. Wishing I could wear all mm pieces for the rest of May  but don’t think I have enough.

 

pink shirt drawsting pants

Catching tiny frogs with our little nieces at a pond in MI

 

Day 30 – grey pants even got a compliment from Mandy! With pink mm shirt and sweatshirt.

Day 31 – same as day 30 – camping out – cool again. Even though at times frustrating, I’m a little sorry to see the end of mmm.

 

bethan shirt, pants and scarf

 

So, um, there you have it!  Reading these over, I think I should make another shirt like the pink one, it was probably the most-worn item.  I’m certainly glad to report that my me-made wardrobe has grown by a few of the pieces I most needed last May – now that I have good me-made pants I shouldn’t end up wearing Bryan’s jeans this summer!   I also thought more about what I would pack this year (we’ll be on the road again for most of May), there are plenty of me-mades in various layers ready to go.  And I made a new airy dress, which I hope to show you some time during Me-Made-May – knowing that I wanted to up my pledge this time was an incentive to get it done in time.

My pledge for this year is: ‘I, Tasha of Stale Bread into French Toast, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’13. I endeavour to wear two handmade garments, of which underthings may count for only one, each day for the duration of May 2013’

I’ll definitely take some pictures, although probably not every day, and put them up at the MMM Flickr group.  It was really fun last year checking out what everyone else was wearing there.  I’ll make notes again too.  I’m looking forward to seeing what new ideas I come up with during this year’s challenge.  There’s still time to sign up, until the 30th, and all are welcome, so go check it out, I highly recommend it!