Saturday, May 12, 2018

Putting soles on

When last we left the great shoe creation experiment we had one pair of shoes without soles and one pair of slippers in the sewing stage.
Chris's shoes and my partially sewn slippers
It didn't take long for me to finish the slippers, do a test fit, and then quickly make another pair in a wool/poly blend. I ended up increasing the length slightly from the original test slippers but didn't make any other changes. I love the color combination of the green exterior and red interior. The insoles were a bit of a challenge because finding material was more difficult than I expected. Purchased insoles come pre-shaped and they didn't fit well. Ultimately I decided to purchase yoga mats - a thick exercise version and a typical thinner yoga one. The prices were low since you can still get mats in the under $10 range and they cut easily. I sewed on some cotton fabric and installed insoles custom fit to the shoe. Awesome!

The exterior soling is a heat moldable material that comes in a sheet. You cut a sole, heat it, press it to your foot, and it conforms to the shape. Pretty cool, right?
Laying out the shoes
Cutting soles 
Pressing hot material to the shoe 
Molded bottoms 
See the arch swerve? Cool.
 We did Chris's first and then mine. The process was simple and worked quite well.
Once the mold cools completely you do a bit of trimming then lay your shoe on it, carefully mark sole and fabric so you can match it up again later, and then use contact cement to attach them.
Test fit 
Cutting away excess 
Smooshing on contact cement
 Once the soles are glued on you do more trimming and then sand the edges to get a good bevel.
Sand, sand 
Sand, sand, sand 
Ta dah!
Some stuff to note:
~Chris wore his shoes on our cruise and walked many, many miles on cobble and hard macadam streets. They performed beautifully even walking downhill in steep Madeira.
~I used puffy paint on my yellow/purple slippers and get plenty of traction, no issues there.
~None of the shoes are waterproof. We purchased spray waterproofing and will try it soon.
~My green shoes are a bit wider than I'd like. The slippers tie tightly since they have no sole but the felt shoes can't tighten enough because the glued sole holds them open. I need to cut a more narrow soling material and be more careful with the molding. I also have to do better with stitching as you can just see the front seam at the toe.
~Chris likes to pull on his shoes without untying them. Unfortunately that stresses the back heel seam stitching and it split on one shoe. I'll add reinforcing to his shoes in future and see if I can get him stretch laces too. 
~The yoga/exercise matting is super comfortable to walk on but does compress permanently after heavy use (see first note). The good news is it's very easy to cut and insert new insoles. 

I definitely have more shoes planned. I got some leather working tools and scrap leather recently and will be experimenting with those. Plus I want to reverse the colors on the green/red shoes since I have enough felt left over to do so. Chris too has already made requests for future pairs. He loves how these fit and feel.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Garden update - onions and taters and whatnot

On May 8th I planted 80 onion sets - a mix of red, yellow, and white. What the heck am I going to do with 80 onions all coming mature at the same time?!? That's assuming the chipmunks don't dig them up and make salsa. I gotta make sure Cooper stays out in the garden more this year.

I also planted 8 hills of potatoes. That won't be as many as it sounds especially if they perform like they did last year. And if it does turn out to be a bumper crop, well at least potatoes store well.

The cold frame is doing nothing. It's been 10 days, which is supposedly the germination time frame for the seeds I planted, and the darn thing looks empty. Well, except for one pansy that somehow overwintered from last year. It looks great.

The peas I planted are just starting to poke up their little green heads. The Alaska peas anyway. The Early peas are stubbornly staying hidden. Of course they are - that's what I planted two rows of as opposed to just one of the Alaska. Oh well, I'll switch the ratio in the next planting.

The orchard trees are doing great. Everyone is leafing out and so far no deer have jumped the fence. The blueberry bushes I transplanted last fall are greening up as well. The wild blueberries look stressed but I'm hoping the fertilizer I added helps.

Did I mention the peach trees down in the Grove garden? They survived the winter without deer damage thanks to the fencing but I just noticed that rabbits went to town on the trunks. They've pretty well stripped them of bark and I'm fairly certain the trees won't survive. We planted the darn things when we built the house so they were just hitting 5 years old and now, kaput. ARGH! So I'm going to have to purchase rabbit guards for all the orchard trees before this happens to them.

We've got "build a better fence around the chicken pasture" (also known as the orchard) high on the list of things to do. For the trees and the new chickens.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cruise - Barcelona

Whew! Nearly done with the cruise posts.

Barcelona was our disembarkation port but we had an overnight on the boat before we had to get off. Since we arrived in overcast and rainy weather we decided to spent the day lounging on the board and enjoying the last day of cruise-related service and activity. After all, we had two more days to explore if we wanted them as we had an extra day before our flight home.

Cool terracing - it is an old fort?
Huh, looks like little windows...
Wait, are those crosses? It's a cemetery!
Day 2 was officially the day we had to leave the boat for good and we used the transfer to the airport. From there we went to our airport hotel as our flight wasn't actually until the following day. Fortunately our hotel offered a very inexpensive shuttle service into the city. So off we went to La Rambla - the walking and shopping section of Barcelona.
Nice pedestrian area
La Rambla was pleasant but frankly crowded. Barcelona is a big city and it's flooded by cruise tourists on a daily basis (yes, I realize we were part of that crowd). It does a good job of absorbing them but it still feels like they're there around you. You thread your way more than you walk.

We ended up in the Barri Gothic (the Gothic quarter), an old section full of twisty lanes and pretty plazas. Loved this area and found a nice cafe to enjoy the sunshine and the streetscape. Given the size of the city and how touristy the area is, we expected exorbitant prices but they weren't too bad. About double Cartagena but not unreasonable.
Very pleasant cafe
"Black beer" Bock Damm and black coffee
Empadillas and cod fritters - yum!

Also just off La Rambla is the awesome marketplace La Boqueria. Permanent market stalls full of fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, and shoot, just everything edible. 

I bought some Catalan EVOO and some truffle oil. According the stall owner, the olive oil from Catalonia is a bit milder than Spanish oil. I can't wait to try it on my garden tomatoes this summer.

After all that gorgeousness in the market we decided we needed a pick-me-up and went back to the cafe for hot chocolate and cookies. Wow. Just wow.

So thick!
Cool touches. But why an umbrella???

Barcelona was nice but felt far too much like a big city for me to really enjoy it. We much preferred Madeira and Cartagena. But that's why we travel, right? To see what we like, what makes us uncomfortable, and figure out where we'd like to go again.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Cruise - Palma Mallorca

The weather was perfect coming into Palma and we looked forward to just wandering the port city. It was a fairly long, though certainly not strenuous, walk from the cruise dock to the main part of the city. There were dedicated bike lanes embedded in the walking area and both were well separated from the multi-lane road so it was quite pleasant.

The massive Catedral de Mallorca
Harbor full of gorgeous sailboats
Castell de Bellver overlooking the city
So many sailboats!
One of several old windmills, now defunct
Roads and gothic churches - a mix of old and new

I wish the wisteria had been in full bloom

As the photos show, Palma was a very nice mix of old and new architecture and convenience. The waterfront is obviously prized as a pedestrian/cyclist space which makes walking a real pleasure. And even moving into the more commercial section of town, motorists were very polite and crosswalks were plentiful.

Overall we found Palma a bit too modern for our tastes. It's obviously a favorite spot for tourists and the city reflects that. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Garden update - getting started for the year

I gotta get better about documenting my garden. If I actually want to improve my gardening skills that is. Which I do. So here goes - feel free to skip this if you have zero interest.

May 1st - 77 degrees and incredibly sunny. I know this isn't going to last but it seems to have become the norm that we get two weeks of super hot (for us anyway) weather in May and then things settle back down to mild temperatures and light rains in June. I kinda like that the soil gets a warm jumpstart this way.

With the warm weather suddenly coming upon us (we had snow and freezing rain just a few days before this) I figured it was time to get my cold frame planted and some shelling peas in one of the main gardens.

The cold frame - I'd purchased garden soil and left the bag in the frame for about a week so it could start to warm up faster (glass top on the frame too). When I opened the bag to spread it out the soil was indeed warmish. I weeded the frame, spread the soil, and made some trenches for my seeds. Then I got clever (I hope); I lined the trench with potting soil and planted my seeds in that. We'll see if that helps them sprout. I planted cilantro, parsley, and kale. Why nothing else? Because that's all the seed I had; apparently the cruise really interfered with my planning process. Sure; that's what we'll blame it on.

The cherry grove garden (previously known as the chicken garden) - I hoed and weeded and cultivated a small section for the peas. Planted two types, an Alaska and an Early, and have high hopes that they'll do well. I love peas and pea shoots. I've got enough left in the seed packets to plant another crop later this summer.

I haven't touched the other garden areas but have plans for them. The kitchen garden will be herbs and lettuces as it's getting more shade and I don't think the tomatoes will do well there anymore. The hill garden (formerly the squash garden) will be exclusively cucumbers as I have big pickle plans this year. And we're putting in a new garden at the old camp site - creatively named the camp garden - where I'll put the tomatoes, cabbage, and maybe some bush beans. No plans for the main garden as it's still full of rocks and tractor tracks as Chris works on the greenhouse.

Orchard update - looks like the fruit trees survived the winter and I'm seeing leaf buds on the cherry and plum trees; the apple trees are still bare. Rabbits got to the bark on my peach tree so I'm not sure if that will survive. I'll pick up some guards for the base of all the trees to help prevent this in future. And we're working on a better fencing system for both trees and animals.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Cruise - Cartagena

Our arrival in Cartagena was on a beautiful Saturday morning and we were greeted with music and cheering. Turned out it had nothing to do with our boat of course - it was their annual 50km (50!) run to all five forts around the city. Given the fact that the forts are all on hilltops this is one heck of a race. They deserved every cheer they got!

People starting off in the race
The port was very pretty and incredibly close to the old section of the city. A super easy walk and once you were there it was pedestrian only. I love when city centers limit traffic.

One of the forts - way up there
I would not want to climb this
Really don't want to run it!
This one isn't so bad...
We actually paid for an excursion this time - kayaking the coast. And it was worth every penny.
Inadvertent advertising
The weather was great - sunny, cool wind, fairly calm water. We paddled for a couple hours, saw a wee jellyfish (it wasn't Man-o-War season yet), oohed and aahed over cliff formations, and...

talked the guide into letting Chris climb a sketchy rope so he could jump into the water. 
Much to my dismay I wasn't able to capture the actual jump (sorry honey!) as the camera chose that moment to give me trouble, but he had fun.

Back in the city center we saw pretty architecture.
Ate fantastic tapas at great prices. If we decide to do another trip to Spain I think we'll spend the entire time in this city, eating good food. A glass of red wine, a cappuccino, bottle of water, half order of fried baby squid (chopitos fritos), and a half order of the mixed fish fry (fritura de pescado) came to 14 Euro for heaven's sake. I just wish we had some idea of how to actually eat some of the fish. So many bones! Do you just chew em up? Is there a trick to deboning something this small? We did the best we could and left a bony mess on the plate.
Tapas at El Galeon Jr
After lunch we explored some more and found an archeological dig site. While remodeling some apartment houses they dug down and found ruins dating all the way back to 3rd century BC when the Punic (or Carthaginian) people lived there. They were followed by the Romans who built on top of the Punic ruins. Basically this city has been continuously lived in for centuries and everyone just built on top of the people who came before. So cool.
An active dig site

Overlooking the dig
You can wander from ruins to pretty city streets with very little effort. It's a wonderfully walkable city.
Typical street - clean, pleasant
We definitely wish we'd had more time to explore. We didn't go into any museums or shops. We did a bit of window shopping for shoes - so many shoes! (nearby Elche has over 1000 shoe factories) - and managed another sidewalk cafe stop for coffee. That included a local drink called Asiatico. Technically a coffee drink it consists of sweetened condensed milk, cognac, Liquor 43, and coffee. Very strong; very good. Definitely need some Liquor 43 - the golden elixir - now that we're home.

Next stop - Mallorca (or Majorca depending on your native language).