Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scamp Update

{What Two Coats of Paint Can Do}

Our 1978 Scamp was structurally sound when we bought her off Craigslist in April, but she needed a lot of work. She was upholstered from top to bottom in plush carpeting and midnight blue velvet, and the water tank, water lines, and all the electric needed replacing. She's finally starting to come together and I'm happy to report that she no longer smells like mothballs and disco.

Here she is the day we brought her home. More pics of the ensuing deconstruction here.

Fast-forward two months and the carpeting has been removed, the evil spray-glue sanded away, and she's beaming white after two fresh coats of paint. There are four large screw holes between the cabinets we'd love to cover up with something fun and slightly uncouth, like this. Any other ideas?

Provided it actually works, our electrical system is pretty rad: the Scamp can run off a 120 volt external power source using an extension cord, or off a 12 volt system that charges from the truck as we drive. AC, fridge, lights and sound system can run off either, thanks to a tricky converter/inverter system that P. figured out under the close supervision of the Hound of Love.

The yellowed fiberglass counters and cabinets all needed a few coats of melamine paint, which is nasty stuff to work with but worth the trouble; the kitchenette looks so much fresher now.

While the huz installed a giant subwoofer I defrocked the disgusting cabinets and drawers of their velvet death shrouds. A little sanding and repair with liquid wood filler seemed to do the trick.

Plus two coats of Urban Safari acrylic paint and they looked as good as new.

Measure twice, cut once. Time for new floors.

We measured out the floor plan and cut the footprint out of blue plastic moisture guard, which prevents moisture in the plywood base from seeping into the new floor.

After some research we decided to go with a synthetic bamboo "floating" floor that is scratch-resistant and incredibly flexible. A real hardwood floor would have buckled and cracked as the Scamp bumped and shifted along the road, but these boards interlock with each other and don't actually attach to the floor of the Scamp. Plus they're totally indestructible. It was surprisingly painless and quick to install; we locked the bendable boards together and trimmed them to the footprint of the moisture guard using a box-cutter.

We lay them down inside the Scamp and voilà; the upstairs and downstairs floors fit perfectly.

We're picking up the cushions from Steve's marvelous middle-of-nowhere desert upholstery shop this afternoon, and hopefully we'll cut the bamboo molding to finish the floors tonight. The movers were supposed to come today but we put them off until tomorrow, praise the lord. One more day to work on the Scamp, one more day to pack. Madness, I tell you, but such a hoot!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Desert Swim

{Stock Tank in the Rocks}

When you have friends up the hill who are in possession of an enormous stock tank and when you have been working outside in the hundred degree heat all day, the only reasonable thing to do is to call those friends and ask please for the love of god can we go swimming in your pool. They say of course. So you gather up the dogs and the husband and a few cold beers and you go swimming in a glorified stock tank in the middle of a rock pile. And it feels absolutely. ridiculously. wonderful. Then you admire their VW Thing parked just yonder, because maybe after restoring the Scamp you need to get your hands on a vintage dune buggy. Just saying.

Hope you had a lovely weekend. Apologies for the lack of self-restraint by showing not one but TWO hindquarter shots of Biscuit. I can't help myself. We are racing against the clock to finish the Scamp because, muggles, the movers are coming on Wednesday and taking all our belongings cept what we can fit in the truck and the Scampalamp. So it's a little crazy around here. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

There Was A Bonnie Lass

{By Robert Burns}

There was a bonnie lass, and a bonnie, bonnie lass,
And she lo'ed her bonnie laddie, dear;
Till war's loud alarms tore her laddie frae her arms,
Wi' monie a sigh and tear.

Over sea, over shore, where the cannons loudly roar,
He still was a stranger to fear;
And nocht could him quell, or his bosom assail,
But the bonnie lass he lo'ed sae dear.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bookstore Treasure

{And A Whirlwind Trip to Washington, D.C.}

I'm back in the desert after a whirlwind trip to D.C. to accompany the huz on his orientation for his grant in India. We were so busy I only took a handful of pictures, but sometimes it's refreshing to experience things without squinting through a viewfinder all the time.

As we flew over the southern Mojave, over Joshua Tree and our very neighborhood, I marveled at how bleak the landscape looked from above. In the distance we could see the Salton Sea.

The darling Second Empire-style rowhouses and flourishing sidewalk gardens of D.C. could not have been a greater contrast to our parched desert. We stayed in Dupont Circle for the conference and spent one joyful, boisterous dinner with parents and sisters who came down the coast to see us desert defectors. The rest of our daylight hours were spent sweating in a humid hotel conference room where we learned how our year in India might shape up.

But I slipped out one morning to pay a visit to the marvelous rare book shop, Second Story Books, where I found a beautiful edition of poetry by Scotland's great bard, Robert Burns. I carried a tattered paperback copy of Burns many summers ago when I traveled alone around Scotland writing for a travel guide, and when P. came into my life he introduced me to an obscure Burns poem that brought me comfort during long bouts of separation. So I associate Burns with being on the road, the thrill and occasional, acceptable loneliness that comes with extended travel, and the pleasure of turning paper pages with my hands and mouthing lilting brogue with my lips while working on a late night dram of whiskey (or whisky without an "e" if we're talking about the Scottish stuff). So finding this volume was surely a good omen; no doubt it will provide entertainment and comfort to both of us as we embark on this next year of travel.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Guess Where

{A Limerick}

I'm away for a couple of days.
I'll describe it a couple of ways:
It's most senatorial
With a Lincoln Memorial
And in June it's hotter than Hades.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Homesteads

{For Sale}

Each 9 x 12 cradled panel is painted with archival Old Holland oil paint and framed in a custom-made untreated wood floater frame. The frames give the paintings a clean, almost architectural look when grouped together on the wall*Please keep in mind that the paintings are brighter, crisper, and more luminous than the blogger pictures convey.*

The paintings are $295. An 8.75% sales tax will be added to shipments made within our beloved but insolvent state of California. Shipping will be calculated at time of sale. If you're interested please email me at lily.stockman at For a little more about the story behind these paintings click here; for a happy customer click here.

I will update this post and strikeout titles as they sell. Happy homesteading!

Azalea / 9 x 12 in. / oil on panel

 Igneous / 9 x 12 in.  / oil on panel

Melon Shack / 9 x 12 in. / oil on panel

Pied Beauty / 9 x 12 in. / oil on panel

Shelter / 9 x 12 in. / oil on panel

Alley's Place / 9 x 12 in. / oil on panel

Desert Heights / 9 x 12 in. / oil on panel

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Experiment

{Straight From My Studio to Your Living Room}

Now that summer is rolling around and most galleries shut their doors until September it seems like a good time to try a little experiment. I'm going to sell my homestead paintings directly to you. No galleries, no dealers, no middlemen. You don't have to wait a month until a show comes down to get your new painting and I don't have to split 50% of the sale. Let's see how this works. I'll post the new paintings here on the blog and on my website tomorrow at 9am Pacific time. You email me the title of the painting you want to buy; I email you a secure PayPal invoice. I ship the same day you pay and you have a homestead 2-3 days later. Huzzah.

See you mañana.

P.S. and totally unrelated: I found a seriously rad three-foot long snakeskin in our driveway as I was leaving the house yesterday morning, which I naively left left in the Jeep with the dogs for five minutes while I ran into the post office. It was GONE when I came back. There's only one dog on this earth that would daintily, happily snack on three feet of shed snakeskin like it was a Belgian lace cookie, and his name is BISCUIT.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

{With No-Fail Buttermilk Biscuits}

Strawberry shortcake, unlike healthcare reform or off-shore drilling, is generally something both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Which may be why my family firmly believes that when it comes to summer desserts, nothing rivals the gustatory treble of garden strawberries, chilled whipped cream, and perfect buttermilk biscuits. Achieving a moist, crumbly, tangy biscuit is the pièce de résistance, and made refreshingly easy with this one-bowl recipe. P. and I served these for dessert at our wedding on the farm; they're terribly old-fashioned and foot-stompingly delicious.

Balsamic Strawberries and Whipped Cream
If you're a traditionalist when it comes to strawberries, good for you. If you're up for something a little unusual, try this. Just trust me: Hull and quarter three baskets of strawberries and place in a big bowl; add two tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon and a half of sugar, and a few cracks of black pepper. Let sit at room temperature while you make the biscuits, stirring occasionally. While biscuits bake, whip two cups of cold heavy whipping cream in an electric mixer. Add half a tablespoon of sugar (or to taste), a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of bourbon until stiff peaks form.

No-Fail Buttermilk Biscuits with Lemon Zest
Based on the recipe for drop-biscuits made at the old Elkhorn Ranch outside Big Sky, Montana. The proportions are perfect; you can't mess these up.
Makes six magnificent biscuits.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
zest of one lemon
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 tablespoon cream + a few pinches of sugar for brushing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients, then blend butter into mix with fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Fold buttermilk into mix with spatula just until moist dough forms. Don't overmix!

Using a spoon, gather and drop dough onto parchment paper/ baking sheet to form six good sized biscuits. Brush each biscuit gently with cream and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake until pale golden and slightly darker on the nubs, 12 to 15 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool to the touch, slice horizontally with a serrated knife, and serve with heaps of strawberries and whipped cream. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

For Whittling

{Or, An Almost Practical Gift}

Since we are three weeks away from moving into a 6 x 13 foot travel trailer and two months away from moving half way across the globe, we are trying to cease the accumulation of Stuff & Things. Which really cramps my style when coming up with an anniversary present for my strapping lad, i.e. no live animals, heirloom vegetable seedlings, or antique shotguns (all presents I've burdened him with in our two short years of wedded bliss). Something modest in price and scale, but useful and potentially charming. Like this:

1940s butter-yellow enamel pocketknife. Sterling shanks. Steel blade. Slightly rusty. Perfect.

And psst... I'm guest-posting over at For Me, For You today; come say hi! 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vows In A Hayfield

{June 14, 2008}

He wore his dress blues. I wore my mother's veil. The barn swallows cavorted above the hayfield congregation as the brass band played a jaunty rendition of Saint-Saëns. After dinner a summer thunderstorm rolled in, and four generations danced barefoot together in the rain and muck.
I never wanted it to end.

"Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife / Joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life."

Photos by the marvelous Scott Lewis