Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New resident finds her friends

As promised to the neighbor who's giving the party out there next week, I cleared the last of the dead foliage outside my section of the fence to leave a nice green vista of groundcover, and brought in the Japanese maple from next door to live on my patio. It was dug for me and set in earth in a pot, very handy.  So I only had to dig once.




This also entailed digging up groundcover, with a network of tough roots, a bunch of  which I planted where the tree had been, so it's now all green out there, no gaping hole to be seen.

And settled the new visitor in to get acquainted with her friends, after a long, nearly seven foot, journey from her roots. Very pleased about this, and hopeful that she will do fine over the winter, since this is a good time to transplant.  She's a sturdy customer, having been amateurishly lopped more than once and still survived. And she will give me red leaves for natural dyes, as well as an interesting color to look at.

In the course of these events, a branch was broken off, so it's now in an arrangement with a broken off sedum and the cicada lying on a bottom sedum leaf, forming a kind of rescue still life.  



As I wrote that, a dusky swallowtail butterfly zigged past my window, reminding me to tell you that the bigger caterpillars on the parsley have now departed, and there are new babies out there with bits of egg clinging.  So with any luck we'll have a good population of duskies around here next year.

 You really have to plan ahead to garden here in this weather and at this age.  I have a limited time during which my back and arms say I can dig and lug and carry, and the hot weather together with mosquitoes renders that even more pointed, so you have to know what to do before you get out there. No time to lean on your spade and think.  And since the dead foliage I was cleaning out seems to be the summer resort of the mosquito, I picked up about a dozen bites before I knew it.  All summer I've been free of bites, and now they're coming in with a final surge.

But the gardening is done for now, until the Rose of Sharon arrives quite soon and I have to start thinking and digging again..very smug here, looking out.  I can see the little maple tree from the sofa in the living room, and through the passthrough from the kitchen, too. I always think of views from the house when I plant because I look out a lot while I'm thinking, working, cooking, doing anything really.  I think I'm part cat, so nosy.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A day packed with great stuff

Today was one of those days where good things just keep on keeping on.  Wonderful morning of plein air work in weather that was not too hot, not too humid, light perfect for working, new friend appeared on the scene to join us. And I managed four small artworks, all acceptable.

Then two items I wanted showed up at the library. Later two good friends stopped in to chat at different times.  One, the person who donated the sawblade for my weaving, and  no mean craftsman himself, showed me pix of the overhauling of a piece of furniture I'd given him, which he loves and has restored to a marvelous new thing for his home.  

The other honored me with personal stuff, while giving me material for me to work on for the Festival where I will teach paper weaving.  And I got news that my entry into the artists group show won an award.

Another friend was puzzling this evening over what to do with the little Japanese maple which is too crowded in his limited space, should he toss it? this was the little tree which gave me red leaves last year for pink dye, and I suggested that he dig it up as planned but instead of tossing, let it come to live on my patio.  Which he did. 

Tomorrow I do some garden cleanup anyway, and now I have a new tree to house on the patio.  This suits my landscaping plans , great, getting away from annuals and into trees and shrubs that I can tend annually and enjoy the developing shape, not to mention dyestuff growing on them.  I have a Rose of Sharon in blue on order for the completion of this plan. And the cherry sapling is coming on a treat. That, with the remaining big cherry tree, is about enough shrubbery for this small space.  It will give a good shape to the patio, as well as create some shade, and shelter for birds. Eventually.

Oh, and I'm invited to a fifth birthday party next week, a favorite young friend of mine and his family.  Happening right next door, all the more reason to tidy up out back and honor the party.

And for dinner I made Diane's Crustless Quiche, using mostly farmfresh ingredients.  



And sometimes a dish smells so great when you take it out that you wish there were a stadium full of cheering and stamping crowds, with whistles and vuvuzelas, shouting quiche, quiche, quiche, quiche to give it its proper due.  This quiche was one of those.



Mainly it's because of the freshest of eggs, and a mixture of parmigiano reggiano cheese and sharp cheddar, and the onions and garlic and freshly picked spinach. Four meals here for me, along with salads.

All in all a stellar day!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Photo shoot at the Libe Gallery, then a fine aftermath

This being the time of the Plainsboro Artists' Annual Group Show, 2016, theme this year being Square One -- go here 

it meant I spent part of the afternoon taking pix of the show, admiring my friends' work, and blogging the results.  It being a blistering hot day, so much for the season abating, after the picturing and cropping and sending and generally virtuously doing a good job at the library, the next destination was obvious.

Over to Cranbury to Gil and Bert's for a scoop of butter pecan in a sugar cone, no pix, it went pretty fast,


sitting in the shade of this awning 



In the evening the lights are on and it's very festive.

Then home to visit with neighbors, get their medical updates (!) and do the actual blogwork, which sometimes involves colorful language in keeping with an art exhibit. Very good afternoon. I had planned on one additional art expedition, but bagged it when I realized how hot it was.  It can wait for a cooler Sunday.

 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Achtung! Do not drag cord emphatically! 6WS

After a little contretemps, to vary the language a little, with the old electric kettle, and I mean old, several years ago obtained via freecycle, in the course of which it suddenly tried to burn my fingers as I unplugged it from the wall, it seemed a good idea to actually buy one new.

And much studying on line told me that the whistling element added too much of the dollar element to the kettle, and just having one that would switch itself off, would be fine.  Given how absent minded I am, often setting something on the stove then getting involved in something else and coming back later to cinders, it's good to have a kettle that will switch off and not burn the house down.  That's why I originally got a microwave, but I'm not fond of boiling water in it.



So here's my new kettle, arrived today, and it's made no, not in China, in GERMANY!  Das ist mein elektrischer wasserkocher! Das is also almost the extent of my German.  See, the light illuminates!

So I hope this provenance is a good sign.  Very sleek design, simple, does what it promises, and I'm boiling three successive lots of water as instructed in the booklet before it's ready to  make my tea.

My mom used to hate tea made with water from a new kettle, said it tasted blue!  I think that meant metallic, also, come to think of it now, that she had synaesthesia, too, tastes and colors blending. One of my sisters used to dislike onions in food, said they tasted green!

So I read the little booklet, presented in German then in English. My German being scanty, the year I spent on it in Uni devoted to reading Kinder Und Hausmarchen, book of fairytales, not exactly colloquially useful, but supposedly a basis for reading, I went to the carefully translated englische pages.

And here's how it goes:  Do not drag cord emphatically, and do not place this appliance near a jot gas or in wettest places. Dry the water on the bottom of the body before place it on power base.

Anyway between us, it's working just fine, my new little electric watercookerthing.  And I promise to avoid spillage on the connector and not to let boiling water be ejected by emphatically dragging on the lid.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nature, giving gift after gift

This morning, on the way out of the house, I found a dead cicada, complete and perfect, right outside the door.  He instantly became a drawing model, results in Beautiful Metaphor.  The cicada is a beautifully engineered animal, with four transparent wings, and wonderful veining.




Then when I noticed a while later that there was a kind of black dust dropping onto the bookcase around the cut parsley flowers I'd brought in for decoration, I realized they were parsley seeds.  So I figured I'd collect them, so small, like black dust, you sweep them into your collection envelope with your hand.

Then I noticed on the parsley stems these little visitors




Dusky swallowtail butterfly caterpillars!  very young, must have hatched in the house, since a couple still had the original egg casing attached to their middles.  





So, since I love the dusky, I took the stems carefully back outside and put them back with the rest of the parsley.  See the remnants of the egg casing on one of these?


I called over my neighbor, who was very excited along with me, and quickly sent pix to a friend in Puerto Rico who used to live here.

Dusky swallowtails like parsley, dill, that family of plants, and if you see them please don't destroy!  they don't eat anything else, and what's a bit of parsley between friends?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Not for Kids Only, aka why should they have all the fun..

Summer time, oddly enough more indoors because of heat and humidity, and a lot of reading temptations show up.  When I'm not doing a mental workout with Jane Hirshfield's essays and the anthology of Kierkegaard, I'm reading stuff like this:


Perfectly wonderful, not exactly for kids, very penetrating social critique and very funny too.  I have to read more of her.

And then I've finally got around to Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, a series of books really for kids, where two families of kids have adventures involving sailing, pretending to be pirates, diving for pearls, learning to swim, camping and cooking and tracking, all out of the reach of adults.  For kids a great escape form of reading.  

I never read kids' books when I was one, very little access,in  wartime no publishing for kids, and a house full of older brothers school texts, Dickens, Buchan, Belloc, GK Chesterton, through which I plowed at an early age.  Heck, I was an adult before I encountered Beatrix Potter! 

I could read well years before I was old enough to have a library card.  Dogonart used to kindly bring me back books on her card, though, and that's how I read Mary Poppins and other items. So she did what she could to provide more age appropriate material, and I still thank her to this day for doing this. And for showing me how to make a chest of drawers out of three matchboxes and three beads. Drawer pulls, you know.

Anyway, last week I found Swallows and Amazons on CD, great to listen while I do other stuff, and it's actually very good, even for an aging adult.  Which just shows you that a good story is a good story for practically any age of audience.  And that the later years are a great time to fill in the blanks from childhood, including reading lovely kids' books.  And yes, I now know who Mrs Tiggywinkle is!  oddly, I recently did one of those BBC quizzes about which Potter animal are you, and found I was Mrs. T.  Very apt.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mushroom quiche farrago

After the wild success of the banana bread in the new square castiron baking pan, I though to try a quiche type of thing, since I'd got some lovely baby bellas locally.

As usual I didn't have half the ingredients in the Sunset Books recipe for mushroom crust quiche (but you can find it on Epicurious anyway, with no credit given to Sunset Books), but went on undaunted.

No crackers, so I subbed panko crumbs, no cream or cottage cheese, so subbed plain yogurt.  Couldn't be bothered pressing the mushroom crust into the pan then filling with ingredients, so I cooked the mushrooms in butter and oil, pinch of sumac, then mixed in the grated cheese, plain yogurt and three farm eggs, then poured the lot into the preheated pan.  About 20 minutes at 350F. You put castiron in the oven when you light it so that it's the same temp as the oven when you put in the batter, true for cake, and for this recipe, too.




And it came out just fine, in both senses. Meaning it tasted fine, and came out of the pan no trouble.  This is four meals for me, with a salad of fresh tomato alongside. Or it might be that the other bits go to friends, you never know.  And since it's not a quiche, I'm calling it a mushroom farrago.  Which is not a Spanish dance, in case you wondered.

So now there are a couple of helpings of farrago in the freezer for when I'm in a quiche mood, eating, not making.

At this rate I may donate my corningware to the thriftie, since I seem to have defaulted totally to cast iron, and it never lets me down.  The care is minimal, not like those lengthy instructions you get which put you off cast iron.  I just wipe it out after use, if necessary scrub gently with a cloth and kosher salt, wipe again, oil with a pastry brush and olive oil. Done.  Easier than scouring corningware or any other pots, really.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Reading a poet on poetry, and why cats paint

This week I've been slowly taking in Jane Hirshfield's Ten Windows, How Great Poems Transform the World.  Goopy title, but the content is far from goopy. 




It's simply so worth reading and thinking about, and so illuminating in every line.  Each chapter is one of the windows, and the prose is so rich and dense with meaning that you really have to read a chapter then set it aside for a few days before your brain can go on with the next.  She knows and totally grasps a great deal of literature, brings out quotations to illustrate and analyze her point, with such clarity that you have to stay with her. Hugely recommended, though I usually look with a cold eye on books that talk about books.

A lot of lit crit is so literal, or dense in the unintelligible sense,  and dry and oh dear, why bother, just written for academic advancement, nothing to do with the advancement of understanding and effects of great literature, and writers of the unfortunate semiotic school, I'm lookin atchou!  anyway, I am cautious with this sort of reading, but had read some of Hirshfield's poetry and liked her insights.

So I embarked on this one and so glad I did. She brings a poet's incisiveness and many layered vision to the concepts, and you just accompany her on a ride over and through new ideas, shaped and presented and still open to dispute.  It's like a personal seminar you never want to leave.

As you see, I'm also reading her poems here, so as not to forget to dance with her what brung me here.

On the subject of literary and of fine art analysis, I do have a very sceptical approach, except  for such tours de force as Why Cats Paint, which is one of the most full-on hysterically funny treatises on the painting exploits of cats, complete with works, analysis, and footnotes and references.  



It should come with a warning sticker to those literal folk who try to read it as serious art history of the zoological kind, and think it's going to be about elephants and chimpanzees and all that, playing with color and paper, all very nice.  But that's not what this is. 

It's a penetrating sendup of art criticism, wonderfully skewering the solemn writings of solemn white males discussing the work of other solemn white males.  And gets funnier and funnier until everything in the universe seems funny.  

Do look at it, particularly if you've been stuffed with Gombrich and Pevsner and all that canon.  Or even if you haven't.  Real artists, as opposed to wannabes and to people who write about them, usually have a terrific sense of humor and ability to see themselves as basically comic figures.  It's no coincidence that a lot of them have cats as studio companions!  Life's a banquet, not an essay to be written, after all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thai basil pasta new idea, and hummer in tree

Today, after very successful doctor's visit, always so nice to hear there's no news after being prodded and quizzed and counted and generally detailed, I noticed that the hummingbird appears to be moving in.  

I saw her this morning while I was tying up the rose that got all awry in the wind and rain, and then this afternoon she was positively a pest.  In the cherry tree, fiercely driving off the chickadees who were under the impression it was their tree, and even a wren and a tufted titmouse, both doughty warriors in their own right.

And divebombing the lantana. I tried, with very modest success to get pix as she rested in the cherry tree at intervals. I suppose to her a couple of seconds is a nice long nap, but I doubt if you can spot her in the foliage.  Look bang in the middle, against the sunlit bit. She's facing right, if that helps!



No zoom capability, camera, not hummer, that is.  But she's definitely a fixture around here, and starting to demand her rights. And I notice that the more I watch her, the bigger the other birds suddenly appear.

Later in the afternoon, as I was wondering what might be on the dinner menu, a friend from down the street who's moving back to India suddenly showed up to unload some art supplies from her daughter, and a pot of Thai basil. Plus a basket of little cherry tomatoes.

The Thai basil is quite different from my other basil, and has a lot of seeds in the making, which I will save for next year, since it's really great, a bit licoricy in flavor, and wonderful.

So that settled supper. I made a little pasta dish, sauce from butter and olive oil, with a big dash of that lemon zest I put in the freezer months ago and am still using, plus a blurt of lemon juice, tomatoes halved, about a dozen leaves of basil, minced with the pizza cutter. Dash of kosher salt.  All cooked down gently while the pasta cooked.  And gosh it was good. This is a keeper.  I bless Lakshmi for the pot of basil, and the seeds which will ensure next year's crop, too.  Just tossed the sauce with the pasta, done.

You know how if something is really very good, very aromatic, you don't need much to be satisfied? this is one of those pasta dishes. I have enough for tomorrow too, and will definitely feed this to Handsome Son at some point.  I find that if food is just okay, you tend to eat more to get satisfied, or, as my Uncle George used to say, gosh, this is awful, I'll be glad when I've had enough!

I find the same with homebaked bread. One slice satisfies as much as several of that air-laden shop stuff, no matter how virtuous the label.

Anyway, do try this sauce, it's really good. But the secret is the combo of Thai basil and lemon, I think. I had no cheese in the house to sprinkle over it, but it worked fine anyway.

This was one of those suppers that reminds me of Miss Read, eating a simple meal on her lap while reading, to the shock and horror of her cleaning lady.  I enjoyed this dish on my lap (note the apron made from an upcycled shirt), while reading my Twitter feed.

This evening it's on to Jeeves and a pot of coffee, and a piece of banana and walnut bread.   Also I am looking forward to using my new cast iron square baking pan, perfect for cake and bread shapes, since the cakes I've done in the cast iron skillets have gone over very well.  May as well use a pan designed for the purpose.

Honestly what could make a better day than all the good things that came my way today?   zippedeedoodah, etc.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The patio chez Boud, miniature wildlife center!

There's no end of activity out there, every afternoon. Today several chickadees, then a mourning dove taking a bath, chased off by a Carolina wren who wanted a drink, then a goldfinch watching the action. Cardinals playing around the planters on the fence. 

And this morning I had tied up the sedum that was knocked flat in the recent huge rains and in less than an hour it's become tufted titmouse central, half a dozen birds doing tricks on the stakes, fighting and arguing and shoving.  My camera is not up to the action, so my words have to do.


Ceramic bird on one side of bath, real bird on the other!



On the deck, undeterred, a baby rabbit demonstrates why I haven't had any results from the seeds I planted on the edge of the deck, just handy for his mouth.

About now is when the  hummingbirds might be seen on the lantana.  I notice that between the hummers and the wrens, there's a wonderful shortage of squirrels.  Probably no match for the birds, and know better than to challenge them. An irritated wren can see off a squirrel before he knows what's up.  Astonishing how active all the wildlife is despite the heat and humidity, higher this year than ever, we are told.

And bang on the nose, at four o clock, even as I typed that, the hummer showed up and is working over the lantanas with great energy. And now she's resting in my cherry tree, but I have no hope of a picture.  Three seconds is a long nap for her.




Indoors, lovely late summer lunch of mostly local food, except that the dates are from California, this not being date country.  Mesclun dressed with homemade vinegar, with olive oil.



And, totally disregarding the madness outside, Marigold opened her beauty parlor and gave Duncan a great grooming and massage.  He's twice her size, so this is quite a job, which he's happy to let her do.

A couple of short stints outside in the garden demonstrated to me that today is just too humid and hot for me to work with, so I reluctantly am staying home.  Tomorrow is supposed to be less torrid.  But there's no shortage of entertainment anyway.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August mailbag, new venture

I was given one of those boxes of art postcards, very good ones, by a friend who is downsizing, and I realized this was a nudge from the universe to get on and write a line to various people I've been meaning to write a line to. Not to get mail back, just to give them a little something in the mail that's not a bill, for once.  Or an advertising flyer.  This collection has some of my favorite artists, and some I was unfamiliar with, and all of it is great quality art. Frameable stuff, I'd say.



So I set to work and wrote my August mailbag, some of which you see here, had such a good time choosing the right image for each person, one that either reflected her, or that she would really get, or I just liked the image for her to enjoy. I notice that all my recipients in August are female, but it's not by design.  Maybe some men will get in there at some point. But they didn't come to mind right off, as all the women friends did.

I've been blessed with regular wonderful postcard messages complete with art images and other interesting stuff from my honorary granddaughter, for years now.  I can't rival her in faithful correspondence, though she's very busy in her own life, nor in her always legible handwriting, but I can do my possible as they say. And now that I have the tools to hand, no excuses.

And I hope that the people who eventually hear from me -- there will be more, this is just the August bag -- will be happy too.  I'm thinking of doing a batch each month.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Food on Friday with Dollivers

Today was about a lot of food and catchup, sorry, couldn't resist, and first in the catchup, the vinegar.  




I tasted it this morning. No mother had appeared, but it was definitely vinegar, lovely and fruity, and I bottled it back in the original wine bottle, and it's awaiting the next salad around here.  So I can safely recommend this low end method of making wine vinegar.

And Handsome Son managed to fit in a visit for lunch, to which he did total justice. He's a good cook, but right now is also a very busy one, and it's nice to come over for a large meal with seconds!



Today it was chicken rolls, which I kind of invented:  smoked deli chicken slices, stuffed with farm chicken sausage, the apple flavor, and Kennet Square mushrooms (translation for those out of area: the best), with grated parmigiano, also the real thing.  Rolled in farm egg then panko, baked for about 15 minutes at 350, and it went over a treat. In fact there's nothing left.  Good thing I got crafty and make another couple of dishes of these rolls for the freezer, because I got a request to do these again some time.



Potato salad, including my own patio grown spuds, yay, and farm ones.  Just tossed in oil and vinegar, with mustard seeds, bit of sea salt and black pepper.

Dessert was a peach crumble.  Peaches were fresh from the farm, macerated in spices including that really good cinnamon, not the supermarket sort, the real stuff, then frozen to await a crumble. The crust was almond meal, which I made in the coffee grinder from whole almonds, with oat flour and oat flakes, butter, bit of salt, bit of white sugar. I baked this last night, and let it sit overnight in the fridge, which I think I will do from now one, because the fruit set up just lovely, and the flavor was really good, actually better than fresh baked.

And a big carafe of homemade lemonade, which was very welcome to greet him as he came in on this 100 F day.

So this was very happy stuff, I love to use good ingredients and see the food enjoyed.  There's still crumble for other friends when I see them.

Then it was afternoon, too hot to have the oven going and it's restless weather when I can't get out to walk.  So I harvested herbs for pesto, right in the blazing sun, flavor at peak because of the heat and sun.



This was pretty labor intensive, good thing I don't do it more than once a year.  I have my version of pesto, which is all about a big handful of herbs, torn down fine, all the stems gone, a good shake of diced walnuts, pinch of kosher salt, good parmigiano fresh grated, good olive oil, and ziploc bags for freezing them. 



I keep the cheese in the freezer, in parchment paper inside plastic, and it doesn't seem to hurt the flavor at all.  Today I ended up after using most of one block, with a rind, which I'll use for soup, so it's back in the freezer, with the rest of the other block. 

Then, when the pesto's whirled into a paste in the blender and bagged and labeled, the blender has lovely remnants in the bottom, impossible to get out. So I put a cup of water in, blend that up, and freeze the resulting pesto water for soup later.  This pleases my frugal heart no end.



And of course, after all the work, and the cleanup, was over, two Dollivers, Dreads and Blondie Firstborn, reading left to right, showed up in their whites ready to pose and claiming they'd been there all along, but didn't want to get in the way, bad enough with Duncan tripping me at every step.  Or some such malarkey.  


So here they are with the flattened bags, and the containers of water from each flavor, sage, oregano, basil, and a combo of rosemary and thyme.  There was a lot of thyme which I wrapped and froze, so I have twigs of it later for recipes that need that rather than pesto.  I find that freezing fresh herbs, wrapped in plastic and rolled up with a rubber band holding it tight, works just fine, no loss of flavor that I've noticed.

And while this labor was going on, indoors and out, here's a visitor on the lantana, showing that it's really true about they toil not neither do they spin.  




Get a look at that wonderful tiger swallowtail.  Of course the Dollivers toil not, and neither do they spin, and they too seem to be supplied with nice gear.  I hear them shouting from the next room that they do too work, how would I get any ideas at all if not for them, and don't forget they can hear me.

Quite soon the sun will be over the yardarm, and when I pour my one lovely glass of red per day, they will no doubt show up clamoring for a share, since the sun's over the yarnarm..

Sunday, August 7, 2016

When wine goes south, make vinegar

Next door neighbor opened a bottle of chardonnay which had been around for a while, didn't like it much, asked me to try it, if I liked it, to have it.  Otherwise he would toss it.  Whereupon I said, no, don't toss, let me taste and see.

Which I did, and it was halfway to vinegar already, so I asked if he'd like me to make vinegar with it instead.  He'd never heard of the idea, and doesn't cook, but his visiting friends do, and one was there and perked up quite a bit at the thought of a nice chardonnay vinegar next time she visits.  She cooks, and despairs of his eating well in her absence.

So if it works out, I'll share.  He did come over later to ask if the same applied to spirits!!  but I said I didn't think scotch really goes bad..and I doubted if the same chemistry applies.  Wines though are usually meant for fairly quick consumption, not for storing indefinitely. The ones people put down for generations are usually fortified wines designed for that purpose -- old port, sherry, that kind of thing.  Not a simple table white from California.





Here's the setup.  Wine poured into an open dish, for maximum exposure to oxygen and to the  fermentation ingredients always in the air, a splosh of chardonnay vinegar I had in the house already, not my own make, as a starter, whisk it up together to give it a jumpstart.  




Then cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band, to keep dust and insects out, let air in.  And wait a few days to see if this works as hoped.  I kept the bottle, to reuse for the vinegar.

I have to check now and then to see if a mother forms on the surface.  That shows you it's working.  And I'll keep you informed as to progress.

 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Food as celebration

Here comes the birthday cake for Handsome Son, cherry sauce over a chocolate cake (the usual crazy chocolate cake we all have a recipe for, simple, failsafe).  





Cherry sauce from frozen pitted cherries, cornstarch, touch of salt, sugar.  Served with french vanilla ice cream. Went over a treat.  As did the meatballs and spaghetti, garlic bread, etc., all home done.  As usual fewer leftovers than I'd hoped for, but that's probably a good thing anyway.  Son went home bearing quite a bit of cake for home consumption, too.




And here are the almond macaroons which are my part of the food for the Creative Collective art opening tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury, local readers warmly invited to come and join us and help eat the macaroons and other great items this group does for openings.  These are made with almond meal I made from sliced almonds, and are gluten free, if that's an issue.  

Also to see some good local art, while you're at it.  Two of my Planet Suite works are in this show. The Gallery is inside the Town Hall, in case you were never there before, very nice gallery indeed, good lighting, good shape for seeing art.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Humidity drops, and bread returns

So the humidity has dropped, you can breathe, the temps are still hot, but manageable, and bread baking has returned.  I will be making a birthday dinner for Handsome Son tomorrow, and needed homemade bread rolls as part of the deal.  I plan to make a couple of rolls into garlic bread, to go with homemade spaghetti sauce with meat balls made from farm sausage, good mozzarella shredded over, then home baked chocolate cake with cherry sauce in, sort of rustic Black Forest cake, and ice cream. Not too shabby, and not too hot to eat this way, either.

So I hauled out the breadmakings, and made one small batch of rolls for instant use.  




Today since something that was to happen isn't after all, illness, someone else's that is, caused cancellation, I have a slot of time to make another, bigger, batch of bread rolls for the freezer.  

The same old wholewhat bread recipe as always, from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, easy, makes good bread with a lovely crust, and you just shape the dough however you want it -- loaves, flat cakes, breadsticks, rolls, it's as adaptable as clay.  

I love a handy roll to stuff with cheese when I can't be bothered fixing anything more complicated, and I will have a nice supply in the freezer by this evening.  If you bake bread in or on a nonstick pan or tray, it makes a great crust, better, I find than the regular metal pans.

Officially the birthday is Monday, which also happens to be Handsome Partner's anniversary, so Handsome Son tactfully opted to have Friday night, as well as better fitting his schedule.  

It's an annual very mixed day, August 8, because of the major birthday coinciding with the major death, so we handle it each year one way or another.  We have sometimes celebrated HP on his birthday in late June, but what with weather and work schedules, that hasn't happened yet this year, is still to be decided. 

Monday will be a plein air art morning, and I think of going to the labyrinth after that to walk it in memory of Handsome Partner.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bringing in the Sheaves, well, the Spuds

Potato Harvest 2016.  I can usually count on getting at least one meal of potatoes from a sprouting potato buried in a pot of potting soil and basically disregarded for several months.  





Here's this year's haul, smaller than usual, but surprised I got any, since they were flooded quite often, and potatoes hate that, usually rot under those circumstances.  But here's a nice little meal.  Labor sparing gardening.  I lifted them before the foliage was quite spent, because I thought if I waited any longer they might rot.

These, with a nice sauce of the peppermint growing near them, will be a good addition to a meal.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

In the absence of doves

Yesterday's storm provided us with six inches of rain in two hours, causing massive flooding, abandoned cars, water rescues, state of emergency declared, all around.  Son needed an hour to get over a five minute trip home, caught in the midst.  My home and his are safe and dry, though.

However, massive dislocation of traffic, nearest six lane highway mostly closed for miles, canals over banks, little streams suddenly major waterways.  We forget we live in a floodplain until this kind of thing comes up out of nowhere.





So this morning, a little chipmunk showed up, looking down suspiciously at the ground, recently over his head in water, and being careful to make his way on top of fences and chairs rather than his usual paths through my groundcover.

In case anyone followed the weather reports from here, pretty dramatic ones, this post is to assure you that all is well for me and mine and most of our friends. Except for the friend away for the day who had left the car sunroof open.  They're still vacuuming out water from it.

I have to be on the road this pm to submit work to a gallery show, so I'm hoping those roads will be open.  We'll see.  And tomorrow is supposed to be a plein air artist day, alas, at a park next to the canal which broke its banks, so again, we'll see. I'm following police updates to see if roads are open again.  There will be more rain, and we'll have to see whether it's practical to try to get there.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stormy weather and the armchair traveler 6WS

The weather, veering wildly between hot and humid and hot and downpours, is good for staying in and reading.  And here, thanks to various recommendations, is the current array, not counting what's going on in the Kindle (more Edinburgh books by Alexander whatsisname Smith).



Thanks to dogonart, and after a lengthy, months that is, wait, the library got hold of Four Seasons in Rome, a year on a fellowship there, enjoyed by Anthony Doerr, and I just embarked on it.  Very entertaining, and great fun to visit Rome by proxy without having to struggle with two babies, finding food for the family, admiring the scenery while lugging a stroller up steps, and writing a novel.  He seems to be surviving so far, though.

Then Kate H. turned me on to Diana Athill, whose most recent book is out this year, in her 98th year.  She still writes at a lively clip, though, if a bit disjointed, but she's lived an interesting life. She goes from wealth and great family houses, not hers, but related, to comparative poverty, until late middle age brought more money into her life, and she has continued on her unsentimental way, casting a penetrating but not unfriendly eye on her surroundings.  She's a lifelong single woman, with a colorful personal life and no regrets.

Pangur Ban is a retelling of that ninth century Irish poem about the monk and his white cat, presented here for kids really, but you can read it anyway. It's short, and you can spend either ten minutes or a lifetime unpacking what's in it.  

Anyone who has had an animal companion nearby while she works will appreciate the notion that the monk doesn't interfere with Pangur's work of hunting for mice and Pangur doesn't interfere with the monk's work of hunting for meaning. The illustrations are a perfect fit for the meaning, created by someone who knows his cats, as you'll see on the page where the cat gets back into the monk's cell.

This recommendation came to me via brainpickings, a wonderful, thoughtful blog which I in my turn recommend. I keep up with it on Twitter then get a weekly digest of the articles referred to through the weeks, some very good sources.

Then The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicholson, yes, those Nicholsons, talk about well connected for sources.  She lives at Sissinghurst! that place of famous white garden fame.  She thanks half the royals for access to their papers and pix!  

The summer in question is 1911, when the tectonic plates of the political Western world were starting to shift, after the death of Victoria, but before all the treaties, all at cross purposes, were invoked by the death of the Archduke with the subsequent destruction of the world as it had been up to then, for practically everyone, mostly for the worse. 

Knowing all that, though, it's intriguing to get a glimpse into the privileged life still being enjoyed by a few, who little knew how soon it would vanish, during a summer of perfect, in fact very hot, weather.  Not unlike the weather recently in the UK, in fact, except people wore a lot more clothes then.

Just embarked on this one, and it's a bit more heavy going, what with all the historical detail and the name dropping, but still worth chugging on a bit with.

So that's the coffee table load for the day!  and I finally noticed that my title is in six words, so it fits with the Six Word Saturday theme.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Late July, Corn High

First corn from my local farm today, and since Handsome Son is expected for dinner, I thought it would be good to make a sort of corn thing with three ears of corn, off the cob, a job I hate doing, but anyway,  farm eggs, from another farm, cheese, sea salt and white pepper, and a bunch of thyme from my front yard.  




Added in a can of chickpeas for ballast.  I might have used tomatoes, but I don't get them till tomorrow, and well, I ate all of this week's..I might make a batch of hot biscuits to go with, though, come to think of it. And I'm serving steamed buttered green beans from yet another farm, courtesy of a friend.  Who also gave me another squash..yet another.

Nice glass of sangria, summer sort of wine, will accompany this Lucullan shebang.

Dessert will be build it yourself, fresh blueberries and peaches from the farm this morning, with vanilla yogurt.

Pot of English Breakfast tea, snarling as it comes out of the pot, will round off the proceedings. 

On one of these very hot and humid nights, it's very good to serve yourself a helping of frozen mango slices and frozen blueberries. They act like icecream and candy at the same time, perfect.My mangoes came from yet another friend, and I sliced and froze them right away.  The ones I didn't use to make mango preserve, that is.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Upcycled art, with an assist from nature and birds

Here's an upcycled orphan earring, now working as a pin on the dress I'm wearing today, thank you Meryl!  Do you ever do this with a sole earring after you lose its mate?  I have a number of pins like this one.  

You just push the stem through as if through a pierced ear, attach the finding on the back, and you have a pin. And if you don't blog about it, people don't see it's upcycled. There are more, which will probably find their homes in artworks, but this one just seemed very right for a denim dress.





And then a simple setup in the bathroom, with a daisy, picked from divisions given last year by a neighbor, thank you Karen, and flourishing on the patio, along with a wildflower sort of sunflower, I think, which showed up in one of the containers after the lettuce had gone to seed. 

And you see in there Italian parsley flowers, looking just like their wild relative, Queen Anne's Lace, and a feather I found on the street, donated by my local flicker.  He's around here a lot, and is welcome except when he sits on the chimney and hammers at it in search of insects, causing a racket like a motor suddenly starting up two floors down, in my fireplace.  




People with cats will know that there are very few places in the house where I can safely put cut flowers.  One is here in the bathroom, and the other is on top of a bookcase.  Any other place and the flowers are scattered, the water drunk, and general chaos, including broken containers, can result. But the bathroom has the additional advantage of mirrors, which give you more for the price of admission.  The container here was a little birthday gift from Girija, thank you, and is really a candle holder, but I'm using it for flowers since it works perfectly that way, too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We made history today 7.26,2016

Just this:



And about time!  Elton joyfully accompanies the rendering of Good old Summertime by Dollivers dizzy with delight.

Then we all got busy with brushes and shovels sweeping up millions of pieces of glass.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tech is good. Journeys and madeleines of sound

Just musing today, hot summer afternoon, home reading Alexander McCall Smith, easy reading for summer, and noticed how much better it is to read when you can easily look up the references in ways not possible years ago.

Usually in my case it's to music I'm not familiar with and the characters are, meaning the writer is too, so I like to get the sound surround effect of knowing what they're hearing.  I do this all the time with Donna Leon, the opera and particularly Handel aficionada, found myself listening to many a Handel aria,  because her characters refer to it, and now it's happening with Smith.

What happens is that as soon as a character refers to a piece, or an artwork, I instantly seize my tablet, and find the music or the painting on YouTube, and it's surprising how often it's there and easy to find. 

Today it's Isabel Dalhousie and Jamie, the musician, remembering a concert of early music they attended.  They mentioned a song I don't know, though I know a lot of Elizabethan music, so I went in search.  



And found glorious Alfred Deller, a voice I hadn't heard in decades, right there on YouTube, with his consort, singing all the medieval and Renaissance pops. I have sung a lot of these, in various choirs as a kid and at the Uni, and play them on recorder as often as not nowadays.

But there was Il Est Bel Et Bon, large as life, lovely funny song about a young wife admiring her husband's kindness and his feeding the hens, making silly noises at them.  She's reporting this to her mother in law, as it happens.  This may be strictly fantasy, knowing the early period, but it zoomed me right back to uni, where I sang this song, in the first sopranos of our Madrigal Chorale.  We even made a record, very proud of ourselves, long since lost in the many moves I've done, but still imprinted in memory.

And the Wraggle Taggle Gipsies O, even further back, to school. And more songs,  and more recently, Three Ravens and others from the early music period, back to early days of learning recorder, as an adult, and now I've outlived most of my co learners. Remembering Arda and Dominique and Jenny and more.

Anyway, these are the sudden precipitous journeys your mind goes off on when you read, at least mine does. Like Proust's madeleine, but with sound.  Do you do similar things with music or references to paintings?  

I think a lot of us might do it for literary references.  Isabel, in the Smith books,  is batty about Auden, please, why, and she lards a lot of her dialog with quotations, which she then goes on to explain, Lord, save me from people like Isabel in real life.  It's okay to quote, but the explaining is, well, not so. Good she's safely shut inside books..in fact she's an irritating person, which may mean I've read enough of her for now.  But all the same, I did look up the Auden references.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Clafouti aka Trip Down Memory Lane 6WS

So last night I was in the mood for some sort of pancake thing for supper, made one of the oatmeal ones, added in golden raisins and blueberries, tasted very good, but didn't turn over well on the pan, so it came out a bit freeform.

Today, bored because after I made a quick trip to the farmers' market, it was already hot at 9 a.m., air not breathable out there, not really up to going out again in heat at high nineties and humid, I thought hm.  How to rescue the rest of the pancake batter?  all good ingredients, but could it do well in the oven instead?  This is how I end up putting the oven on in ridiculous weather, sheer need to do something interesting. I had already played with tshirts and dye, and will duly bang on about that in my art blog.

Anyway, in the midst of this food thinking, I suddenly realized I was talking about clafouti, an old favorite of mine from years ago, from earliest perusing of Julia Child, whose original book I still have with a funny inscription from Handsome Partner.  



He gave it to me in early marriage, even though he only really wanted to eat my curries, mostly from the Bill Veach book.

Anyway, I thought, ah, I have plums galore in the freezer, and this will work lovely. Clafouti is a kind of fruit flan thing with a pancake batter poured over raw fruit, baked in a moderate oven.  Works for breakfast, or teatime.  Or anytime, really, it's very good. Also much simpler than Julia would have you think. True of many of her recipes, in fact.

So I went online and saw Julia's recipe, and thought, no, self, self, this is where you get the original book out and really revisit it.  And found there, in the original book, unhandled for decades, was a little slip of scotch tape marking the clafouti page.

So I accidentally took a nice stroll down memory lane, and ended up with a very good clafouti instead of a moderate oatmeal pancake.  




Right after it came out of the oven, my friend who feeds me her Indian recipes all the time came over with some offerings, and I explained I couldn't give her clafouti until the whole thing had cooled down. 

She's off on a temple visit, will be back Sunday or Monday.  So she booked some clafouti for then, and went off very happy with the exchange, having left me special squash (yes, I know) and chickpeas, all cooked her own way.  Tonight's supper.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

You just missed her!

You know those annoying birders who insist on telling you about the birds that were here last week that you missed?  I have become one of them.  But I do have a good excuse.

Several times this week, I happen to have been home, and to have looked out at the patio about four o'clock.  And to have seen a female hummingbird working over the red lantana plant on the fence.  She stays about ten seconds, tops, so seeing her is a feat, and taking her picture an impossible goal.




So I just wanted to show you this is where she was a minute ago!  she's so beautiful.  Works over every single flower on the red lantana, before swooping away high into the pine tree out back, perhaps to rest or clean her beak.  I'm particularly glad about this, since I'd observed that on the few occasions when I've seen hummingbirds on this street, they have been about five feet from the ground, and in search of red flowers. They used to come to my cardinal flower out front, a wild volunteer not there this year.

So I figured that the planters on top of the fence would also be at the right height, and I got a couple of lantana this year, for the red color. I don't like red in a garden, too hot, but I figured this was a different situation.  She seems to approve, showing up several times already.  I know it's female, because there's no red bib.

And what I see is what seems to be a disturbance in the air, then I focus and realize it's Mrs. H hard at work on the lantana.  



She inspects the whole array usually.  Spiderwort? no, and alyssum, no, then wild phlox, nah, wrong color, but ahhhh lantana, just the ticket.  She reminds me of a picky customer at a buffet.

Speaking of picky customers, I know I swore never to eat squash again, after the glut last year, but oh well, a friend stopped by with fresh summer squash from a farmer's market south of here, and well, steamed, buttered, peppered, salted, it's supper in summer. Just look at the colors, that golden and ivory and touch of green.



Last night was a lively meeting of the Socrates Cafe group, with many interesting thoughts about judgment, whether it's good, and if so when, and what kinds there are, and so on. So today, I simply rested and enjoyed a day of practically nothing, except being so glad about where I am, and how things are, and how luxurious it is to have summer days when you can choose to do nothing.

Not strictly accurate, since I did help a neighbor cut down a huge tree branch that was lying on my roof, and spent  a while lopping off all the small branches once it was on the ground. 

Then I arranged for the friend who brought the squash to take the trunk part home for next winter's fires, cherry being a lovely firewood. And got an incredible number of bites in the process of all this.  I guess the mosquitoes consider me a special delicacy, worth going out of their way to sample. There's probably a mosquito gourmet guide book about this.  And I did go to the library in the next town to get a reserved book before it went back to the main libe.  Other than that, though, quite otiose!

I'm reading one of the Isabel Dalhousie books, by A McCall Smith,  hence the sudden use of an unusual word. She, the professional philosopher,  does this, then agonizes over whether it's fair or proper.  And whether anyone can judge anything, and if so, when. She really should come to our Socrates group, would fit right in.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Field Trip! to the past, a historic farmstead

I took a field trip today, to a meeting of the Delaware Valley Unit of the Herb Society of America folks, courtesy of Helen H, who drove us there, to the historic Holcombe Jimison Farmstead, right by the Delaware, in Lambertville NJ.



Narrowly saved from extinction by the building of a major highway, the historic society managed to keep a few acres intact and dedicated to the farm around them, and to add all kinds of historical artifacts and interesting preservation of our farming past.




It was a boiling hot July day, a good time to remember that the farmers back in the early 19th century, when some of the barns were built, the farmhouse itself dating back to the 17th century, had no relief from the heat.  

I was there for a tour and a talk on edible weeds, very interesting presentation by a member of the Herb society, but I was most struck by the existence of this treasure of a museum and grounds that I hardly knew existed before.  

So this is my turn to pass on the good news and invite local readers to make a point of going there and enjoying the barns, the museum of farm implements and historic NJ items, plus meet the blacksmith, see the Kean Barn with old carriages and more recent engines, plus the herb gardens.  The herbs were the main reason for my visit, and it was interesting to explore how they'd decided to cultivate herbs to reflect the changing demographics of our population.

Within one small enclosure, are plots for herbs from India, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, Mexico, China, and other cultures. Amazing really to see what has been achieved, totally by volunteer labor.  Most of the people are very knowledgeable, with background at Brooklyn Botanical Garden, research into entomology and other specialties.  




 tour guide with modern water bottle, showing me the wooden water pipe excavated from nearby town when roads were being rebuilt recently.  There are still pipes like this in the infrastructure of New York and Philadelphia
 
 Some of the pictures hark back to my own childhood in the country, without utilities or running water, and I recognized the washday items all too clearly. My mom turning that huge mangle to wring the clothes. And the later, smaller one, that latest best thing she got years later, still hand driven. A poss stick in the background there, too, for possing clothes, all laundry hand done.

Canning and processing of food mainly done by women


 Spot the fruit varieties here, in the collection of stencils used to mark fruit crates


Funeral hearse, restored to 19th century condition, needing only black horses.

My tour guide was a retired teacher who enthusiastically showed me practically everything, untiringly, on the farmstead, then delivered me to the building where they gave me refreshments, and the talk on edible weeds.  A very full afternoon, and I definitely have to go back there.


Such a labor intensive life.  I noted that in the wool processing area, the hand carders are exactly like my own, same design still being made, because it works!  And the office for the doctor/dentist which was also his dispensary, since he did it all, and he installed the first telephone system for the area while he was at it.  Also led the local brass band.  Just too many items for pictures in this post, you have to go there!

And rural electrification is said to have got its start in this region. Hats off to the energy and real bravery of early farmers.  This is why I like to buy food from my local farmers, since many of them are the latest generation on the family farm, and hard work is their way of life. 

While I was there, a young couple came in searching for someone to donate the family parlor organ too. Turned out they were descendants of the original Jimison family and this was the organ that came originally from this farm, so it will probably come back again.