Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rain's down, soup's up, spirits middling 6WS

Today needed a reboot.  I woke before dawn, still dark o'clock, to a chirp.  Gah, why do smoke alarms notify about batteries in the night time? the next chirp confirmed that it was no use trying not to hear it.  
So I staggered downstairs in search of batteries and stepladders, found a battery, stepladder nowhere to be seen.  Not in the place it spozed to be, nor anywhere else that I could see with half-open eyes. Upstairs again for a second sweep, chirp still going, then back down and found it, um, in the middle of the living room...I didn't notice it because it was in the wrong place!  it was there from another adventure last night, unhooking an S hook from the ceiling, to lend it to friend next door, too complicated to explain now.

 So I finally got the steps upstairs and situated in my least favorite place, at the head of the stairs, where the alarm is.  Replaced the battery, after prodding and banging to find out how the little door opens.  Climbed down again, all smug.  Chirping continues. Took out and replaced battery.  Chirping.

Realized it must be the CO alarm on the nearby wall.  Got that off, wrenched open the little door.  And found it needs three AAs.
Back downstairs, rifle through kitchen drawer full of seeds and clips and rubber bands and batteries, amazingly found three AAs.

Back upstairs, install them, more or less got alarm hung back on wall, silly keyhole openings in the back you can't see to hang.  Got out phone and put in note to self to get more batteries.

Then breakfast for all, and catch up on email.  This is where the morning suddenly sped past, since I found I'd fallen asleep upright and woke up about an hour later. So the day did reboot.

Made a wonderful spicy soup as a consolation prize and good lunch for a cold rainy day.  Can't reproduce this, since it included all the rest of the steamed green beans from last night's dinner with Handsome Son, a bowl of spicy vegetables donated by Indian friend, chicken bones from last night, two containers of the water you get when you wash the blender after making pesto, onions and garlic, usual base in olive oil.  And very good it was, spicy but not too much so.  Hot biscuit to go with.  This restored me a treat. And made me feel a bit less incompetent about being unable to find a stepladder in the middle of the living room.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Summer came back, but looking like October

Today was the warmest day in a while, high 80sF and a little breeze, perfect for people to do what I did, mosey over to Cranbury, for ice cream before the shop closes for the season, then walk about. 

Amazing how many people are free in the daytime to be out and about, all ages, reminder that everyone is not on a nine to five workday. This is my second positively last ice cream of the season, and I wonder now if I will make a few more positively final appearances, like an Italian tenor.  I'm not fighting it.

Anyway, after the obligatory icecream at the store all tricked up for Halloween, I went over to Village Park, to see sun on the water, a favorite sight. 

I notice yet again that I do like those empty benches in front of a view.  They suggest stories and happenings to me.  And sun sparkling on water.  And shadows in trees and of trees.  This is one of those days where I don't draw nor paint, but store up images which will later occur to me as I'm working.

Then home to the last of the fruit crumble and a cup of coffee, very Viennese, and an Emma Lathen.  If you have not read any of them, you might really enjoy.  It's a series of detective stories set in the world of high finance, but a lot more fun than that sounds, with great comic characters and dialog.  Written by two women, both from that life, it is as funny as it is wise.  I'm rereading, just to have  books I can laugh out loud at.  Urgently needed at this point in history.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tea's up! and visiting geranium too

So yesterday about 3.30 p.m. I thought hm, time for a little something.  Scones, maybe.  Jam, too, maybe.  But I didn't have either. However, in practically no time, amazing how fast it goes when you're hungry, I'd made a batch of golden raisin and walnut scones, and a pot of strawberry jam.  

I had a packet of strawberries in the freezer waiting for the moment I felt like making jam.  And the smell as they came out, pure summer time and hot weather. It's nice to remember hot weather when you're cool at the moment.

So by 4.15 I was sitting down to a nice afternoon tea, complete with hot scones, fresh strawberry preserves, and a great air of smugness.  Amazing how fast this is when you make small batches of everything.  And sb's taste better, usually, than massive batches.

And they'll be shared with various people, too.

I also have a visitor hanging out with me while the roof down the street is being repaired, well, several, but this is the most spectacular, the geranium.  

Also several of her friends came with her until their porch is uncovered and back in action.  Really improves the look of the place, I must say. 

Having a couple of computer setbacks today, involving losing and finding and accidentally deleting programs, dang, which is why there's no watermark on these pix.  But they're not good enough to steal, so I'm not too disturbed about this.  

But I wish I could find all my icons, which suddenly shot off my desktop!  SOS out to techie son for suggestions on how to do this. The solutions I've found look a bit dangerous to me, not wanting to dig this hole any deeper.  So I will breathe, and spin, and go for a walk and this too shall pass.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dessert for breakfast, life is good 6WS

Yesterday's dinner, for Handsome Son and self, was all about comfort food in the first chilly days of fall.  Pasta with red sauce of farm tomatoes, homemade oregano pesto, sausage slices, then a crumble of apples and blackberries, farm produce. Nice glass of red wine.  

 Here's the fruit looking like natural jewelry, and the bowl of melted butter with olive oil waiting to mix with the flours on the left
The crumble part was almond, walnut and oatmeal flour, which I processed from the nuts, in the coffee grinder, plus oatmeal flakes.

This not only made a very good supper, fresh grated parmigiano cheese and hot pepper flakes on the pasta, then the different texture of the crumble, but the dessert is good for breakfast, too.  

Because, you know, oatmeal, fruit.  So this morning a bowl of it with mango yogurt over it, cup of Vietnamese coffee. What could be better.

Now that the farmers' market is almost over, many vendors having finished for the season,  my mushroom and egg people sell to other stores, so I can still get them, I can look at the season and muse.  

Very glad to be out from under the onslaught of squash, zucchini and potatoes of last year's farmshare.  I have been given a few summer squash, but those I can manage. And I've had more variety of everything.  So all in all, it was a good move to quit the farmshare.  I still eat top of the farm, but my own choices.  

And the visits to the farmers' market were social events, too, with music, and bumping into friends and friendly dogs, and generally a value added morning. I guess this is an unsolicited testimonial.  I still buy from the farm where I had the share, though, but it's what I want to have, not what they want to sell me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I write to you midst shot and shell, to quote the poet

So we are at the start of a long long long period of renovation in the development.  After years of prodding and wailing and pushing and generally being squeaky wheels to the Board, we have taken out a massive loan, and are now at work.  

Starting a couple of weeks ago, all the roofs are being completely replaced, yay, fixing the leaks in my ceiling, I hope, and all the wood siding, rotted and rotten looking, replaced with some synthetic stuff that lasts forever or near to it.

This will be great when finished, meanwhile, there will be a long period of noise and disruption and dust and sneezing and general chaos.  I have to move furniture off the patio, and put away my solar light for safekeeping, and generally hope my little trees survive having stuff flying down on them from a great height. Parking is always tight anyway, and with many spaces taken for vehicles and setup, even more so.  If you are out in the evening, your parking spots are gone before you get home.  

I don't store anything in the eaves, so I don't need to do anything about that, though I have neighbors frantically emptying out the storage of years from there and figuring out where it is to go, since it was in the eaves because there wasn't anywhere else...But this too shall pass.

Meanwhile, it's a kid's paradise to see all the big rigs and giant digging and pulling and hauling machinery, and all the huge chunks of debris flying down off the roofs.  I can't watch while men are trotting about on the ridgeline waving large roofing panels, though.
And they worry if anyone gets too close, hence the distance pic of the current roof under construction down the street.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Voting around here is Done and Dusted by Dollivers

The mail-in ballot arrived, and the Dollivers, always keen to exercise their fantasy franchise, clamored to get on with it, and assist in the photoshoot of the historic ballot.  Call Me Michelle made sure I knew whose name to check.  

Great excitement, particularly since today former GOP governor of NJ, Christie Whitman, announced she will vote for Hillary.  The Ds claimed to have called her and urged this action, for historic reasons if no other, she being our first female gov, but they tend to get carried away with these things.

So it's Done, the Die is Cast, and now for the wait..

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tonstant Weader and two gems

As patient blogistas who actually read in here know, I read in all forms, audio via Hoopla, audio via CD, Kindle, paper type books, depending on what I'm doing at the time.  So I consume large amounts of reading material, including Dorothy Parker from whom I swiped part of the blogpost title above, but I don't bother you with a lot of it.

Now and then I just have to, though, and this is one of those times.  I recently listened to an audio of Ann Patchett reading her book of essays and addresses, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.  And in there was a long account of the address she gave at a university, part of their program, on the subject of her book Truth and Beauty.

It is a moving account of her life and times in the company of Lucy Grealey, the poet and author of Autobiography of a Face. To her amazement, she was subject to great criticism and outright hatred, much of it from people who bragged about not having read her book. Politicians who wanted her banned from campus, her talk cancelled, mothers of students who demanded that the book be taken out of the roster of required reading, on and on.

From accusations of "unnatural behavior" odd considering that both were seriously involved with the opposite sex most of the time, but anyway, to trying to introduce sex to college students (as if), in order to lead them astray, accounts of Lucy's final days, when she was addicted to heroin, bound to lead their young to do likewise, and so on.  But virulent and pretty scary.  

Despite advice to cancel, not to subject herself to an audience which might heckle and harass her in  real time, Patchett bravely went, took her stand, made the speech and lived to tell about it.  She was determined that freedom of speech should not stop before her, and that the academic environment, above all, should be a place where ideas are freely discussed and shared.

So I had to read Truth and Beauty in order to find out what had got these good folks all of a dither.  But first I had to read Autobiography of a Face, Grealey's masterwork, in order to understand before I got into the friendship, what kind of person, and more to the point, writer, Grealey was.

And I'd say that's a good order to read in.  Grealey's book, ostensibly about childhood cancer, leaving her face forever marked, despite multiple surgeries to rebuild her jaw, is in fact about much more than the facts of her life.

She's a poet, you realize that very fast, and has the penetrating, unswerving gaze of the artist who can see so many layers of meaning and so many further questions, about her life, and how to be part of life, and whether looks are the only entree to love and acceptance, while pursuing her own inevitable path into writing.

It cost her dearly, and she struggled more than most of us can imagine, with pain, treatments, depression, and the overall load of a massive talent in a tiny body, finally overtaken by the drugs she resorted to for relief, after moving on from pain medicine.

You simply have to keep reading.  Except when you have to put it down to come up for air, and remember to breathe.  It's all distilled wisdom.  And she's a true Irish writer, from an Irish family, father a journalist, moved to the US young,  eloquent, unsparing, detached.

Then Patchett, who knew Lucy after college when they taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, as part of their tuition deal, while both seriously pursued their own writing, to the end of Lucy's life, never doubted that Lucy's talent was greater than hers, a generous woman always.  She herself has won many prizes in her own right, and has a major writing career, but is still able to love and respect a greater writer, and cope with the difficulty of being a lifelong friend to a complicated and demanding person.

She has very different insights into their friendship, and into Lucy's struggles, many of which Lucy simply doesn't refer to, just deals with, but it's worth reading to see what she had to rise above. And Patchett is worth reading for herself.  And Grealey's family got into the act, criticizing Patchett for hijacking their family's grief and accusing her of getting famous by knowing Lucy, sigh.  

I suspect it's one of those times when the family doesn't quite realize and accept what a public property a famous gifted relative has become, and that they can't stop people knowing her, writing about her with love, and generally being visible.  Nor can they realize that another famous writer was writing about Lucy. So there are many roiling parts to this story, a drama rushing forward all the time.

These are two books both of which I'd heard of and not read, and both of which I do recommend, but Grealey unreservedly, Patchett with a little admission that I had to skip when it got too long and editworthy.

So there we are.  One thing that I think disappointed Lucy was that her audiences for lectures and public events were often populated by people who wanted to compare notes as cancer survivors and didn't realize she was lecturing as a poet, more than as a survivor. But her readers who go to her poetry read her as a writer.  Her experience informs her writing, that's usually the case, but it's not the whole thing.

So if you have not read both of them, do.  I think you'll get a lot out of it.  Most people have read the Grealey, but if you look on the Patchett as a companion volume, that would work well, too.

And you might have comments to leave here, too. Open to hearing!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fall planting, and Fall tea party follows

So the long awaited Rose of Sharon arrived, and it's like getting a new puppy.  All the planning and thinking and ordering up and waiting (well, this is fiction in my case, my dogs have all been strays who showed up and asked to come in, but nemmind) and then the carton arrives and a tiny little tree lies there waiting for you to take over.

So I pulled out a lot of groundcover, and dug a nice roomy hole for Rose to climb into, while she soaked her tired roots in a bucket, 

and here she is with her new friends, looking small but determined 

She will have blue flowers, so let's hope she flourishes.  Behind her on the fence is the yellow climbing rose, starting to take hold, and around are the daisies and the dark pink sedum. On the right is the Japanese maple, and the jury's still out on whether it will survive the transplant, but there are a few nice new growth tips, so I'm hopeful.

The Dollivers flatly refused to take part in this rite of Fall, on the grounds that their gardening gloves keep falling off and it's annoying, so they decided that being hostesses to the Fall teaparty was more their line of country.

So here they are, all agog to meet Jeanne, in fact a couple of them already did, but don't mention that to the others, they hate to be left out, serious case of FOMO among the Ds.

Two views, so as not to exclude anyone from being in the foreground. Good thing there aren't more of them, or this could get tedious.

Jeanne was the perfect appreciative guest, came complete with handmade chocolates and the Ds are even now arguing over who should get the run of the box.  We enjoyed  some savory egg salad on wholewheat, banana bread, and raisin scones with tomato and lemon preserve.  It went down okay, and Jeanne left with a little care package for home consumption.  I do love to fix this sort of afternoon tea.  Don't do it often, but it's great fun with the right guest.

And as another mixed media artist, she was just wonderful to show around and let her see what was what around here, including the llama yarn, which, as a yarny person, she buried her nose in appreciatively.  And as a knitter, she had a funny knitting story, which I will not relay here, in order to protect the guilty.

Lovely afternoon.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September Mailbag at last, nearly October..

So what with one thing and another, various obligations involving workshops and festivals and plein air events and meetings, September has been a happily busy month. To the point where I suddenly realized I had Not Done The Mailbag for the month, horror, shock, recoil.

So though I had names all set and addresses mostly found, I had to haul out the collection of art postcards and pens and stamps and thoughts and do the selection.  It's fun to look through the whole collection and try to pick ones that will amuse or interest the recipient, and be seasonal, as in the case of Canadian Thanksgiving which always comes a month earlier than I think it will.  Anyway, each month a different group is the idea, so as to spread the goodwill as far as possible.

If you are a longdistance friend mainly in touch via email and you suspect I don't have a street address for you, don't be shy about emailing me with it. Cynthia, this means you!  it's good to get something in your mailbox which is a surprise and not a nasty one like a bill.

So here's today's welter of materials, and after I got the mailbag done, time for restorative pot of English Breakfast tea and a scone.  Just the ticket.  I called this round the September October mailbag, since at the rate I'm going, it might be October before they get there.  So I'm covering myself.

In the course of finding one or two addresses I thought were in the book which weren't, I pulled out a fat file of correspondence I've kept over the years, and was sort of overcome on finding some wonderful notes to me from Handsome Partner, from long ago, that I forgot I had.  Also from other departed friends.  

But I kept on sturdily with my quest for addresses and thanked my packrat habit of keeping the little receipt you get for the customs slips for people in other countries, where you had to put their address.  Now in the address book, where they oughta.

Wonderful day today, bright and sunny and cool, and earlier I was over in Cranbury walking and watching turtles including a massive one about the size of a suitcase,  and fish at the dam (fish really do swim over the dam, like the three little fishies, in case you wondered) and then strolling back down the street for a large cone of homemade icecream at Gil and Bert's before they close for the season. 

It's been so hot for so long that it's hard to know when the season will end. There were plenty of customers around, including small sidewalk chalk artists and little dogs hoping for a treat.  And, had I remembered to bring my tablet, there would be pix, but oh well.

This might be a good Dolliver destination before the season ends, come to think of it.  I'm hearing more and more shouts of protest from them at how little they get around these days.  Perhaps they'd like to come on plein air tomorrow...we'll see.  It might mean finding berets for them, so as to be artistes. Sigh.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kennet Square Mushrooms, home and cooked

I was at the farmers' market this morning, and picked up a small ($6) box of mixed shiitake and crimini mushrooms from the Kennet Square nice people, very knowledgeable about their crops, I love to buy from farmers who know what they're doing.

It looks like a small box, but once you prep and cut, here I chopped coarsely, it's a lot.  I ended up using two castiron pans side by side, knob of butter and blurt of olive oil in each, heated till the butter stopped foaming.  

Minced several cloves of garlic, and shared them between pans, then tossed in the mushrooms.  Shake of kosher salt over, couple of grinds of white pepper, cook on fairly high till they smell wonderful and start to soften. 

Then a nice slosh of red wine, here trusty Yellow Tail Shiraz, and let that cook off, lower heat at the end since castiron stays hot for ages, so you can overdo if you don't watch out.  And you did know there's no such thing as cooking wine, no?  if it's not good enough to drink on its own, it's not good enough to cook with, is my mantra. 

Anyway, one part of this was for my lunch and the rest frozen ready to reheat and serve along with other items for next time Handsome Son comes calling.

So here's lunch, mushrooms with garlic and wine over thick slices of homebaked wheat bread, toasted, not to lose any of the remaining wine sauce.  And I pronounced it Good!

In the mail today, early afternoon, came a Very Exciting Parcel of various things, including a package of Albert Square tea, new to me, but evidently popular in London, and this will have a test drive this afternoon for tea, along with a scone and the lemon and tomato jam.  After I've cleared up the dishes after lunch, that is.

The sender plans to style me HRH in future mailings, which I suspect means Her Reputed Haughtiness. But if it comes with tea and other goodies, I'm fine with it. 

And the Dollivers, having shaken off their summer lethargy, are now jonesing for a field trip to the farmers' market.  Maybe that will happen soon.  Farmers being good businessmen, I expect they'll be happy to be featured on this blog, even with Dollivers in the offing.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Jam for Tea with the Dollivers

After a wonderful, though strenuous day yesterday about which if you missed it, more here

I had other errands later, involving meetings with artists, pickup of work, and, this all on a day in the high 80s with very little access to ac, I was caught in the street by a neighbor wanting to give me a little item for art use, and have a chat. We don't see each other a lot, both busy, so I stayed out chatting, then realized I had better get indoors.

I suddenly had all the symptoms, I realized later, of heatstroke.  The lot, including doing a Hillary, staggering and gasping while trying to get into the house. I did make it to the sofa, lay down, cooled off, drank water and generally realized I was going to live if I stayed cool and got hydrated.

But the day was still wonderful, for all that.  And today, even hotter, I decided I had to bow to my trouble with heat, as in can't handle it, and aside from an early morning shopping run, stayed home and cool.

And of course that led to baking.  I made a batch of scones, with raisins and walnuts, and a small batch of Amish style tomato and lemon preserve.  

I forgot to make sure the tomatoes coming out of the freezer were plum toms, and used the juicier ones instead. So the preserve tasted wonderful, but is more runny than it spozed to be. 

Here it is at the unboildownable stage
The combo of lemon and farm tomato is unbeatable. Great for breakfast, too, tangy.  Just a small batch, easy to make. Couple of pints.

I split and jammed a scone, and left it for my neighbor across the street, not the chatting one, to sample.  She texted  about three minutes after arriving home from her city commute, that it was very good, and gone already! The joke between us is that I usually give her enough of a sample of whatever's going, to share with her husband, but that she samples the whole lot before he gets to taste it..but she's very good about sharing the banana bread, his favorite, when that's on offer

And of course, two of the Dollivers showed up dressed in whites, NameMe and Blondie Firstborn, claiming full participation in all the baking and boiling and jam testing and sterilizing of jars and serving, see the testing saucer on the right, you know this trick? put a couple of saucers in the freezer and when you think jam is jelled enough, test a spoonful on one there and if it wrinkles with pushing, jam's done, quick, shut off the heat. If not, try again in a minute with the other frozen saucer.

The Ds also tried their hand, not with much success,  at chatting to yet another friend who stopped in, in the middle of this operation.  She is not of the blog persuasion, and was baffled when I set up the photoshoot, explaining that these were two Dollivers from my blog.  

She looked at me a little suspiciously, eyeing the sharp objects in the kitchen, just in case I ran amok, but I guess decided that, though loopy in my old age, probably from the heat, I was harmless really. 

Then, finally, after she left to see to dinner for her troops,  I got me tea, as Wodehouse characters would put it. And very good it was.  Pot of English Breakfast, TWO split and jammed scones still warm from the oven.

And a word about my dramatic career, whence came the title Jam for Tea.  In  Grade One I starred in a class drama based on the Queen of Hearts nursery rhyme, playing the Queen!  

I thought I was pretty darn dramatic considering the limitation of a role of about ten lines, and was annoyed to see my teacher snorting at the back of the room on my big swing around, arms flung up in the air, to see, shock, horror, the Jam Tarts Were Gone.  But my fans loved it. I think that was when I peaked in my acting life.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Plainsboro Festival of the Arts 2016

Perfect day for the annual Festival of the Arts, weather in mid 70s, sunny, little breeze, crowds of cheerful people milling about the Library and the plaza outside.

Art of all kinds, from stitching, with the Princeton Embroiderers' Guild, my buds, have to give them a shoutout

young stitcher's completed project

to paper weaving  which looked before the crowds arrived like the first picture, and you see what happens once young artists get to work

 to the Earthloom

 Young weaver writing out the wish she will weave onto the loom,
 to found object sculpture

 to Chinese brush painting 

and wood burning 

to Indian arts including mehndi

 to mandalas

to an installation of cows!  

Elsie the Cow being an important historical figure in this town, home of Walker Gordon Farms and the Rotolactor, once the main employer in the town. 

And music, food, hula hoops, all ages, and now and then a friendly sleepy dog! 

And your blogwriter, after five hours of happy teaching of paper weaving, meeting and greeting friends, taking pix of great art all over the plaza and indoors, certainly understood how that dog felt!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sign of cooler days to come

After many weeks of not wanting to put the oven on to breadbaking temperature, the return of bright cool weather also brought about this phenomenon

Giant loaf, wholewheat and unbleached ap.  Now cut into four loaves, three in the freezer to keep me going for a while.