Thursday, June 23, 2016

Closing talk for art exhibit, with surprise present, and food catchup

Wednesday was the talk for the last day of my textile art exhibit, and it went over so well, nice group came, everyone who promised to come and some more people who hadn't but came anyway, very knowledgeable group to talk with.  

And one guest, Cynthia C., came complete with a lovely present!  a solar light for the garden area, and here it is, set up right away, as soon as I got home, and last evening already charged and  putting out a steady glow.

I thought this was a good home, between daylilies and lavender, and kneedeep in pachysandra.  I will enjoy this for years.

Then, time for a bit of food catchup.  I whipped about in a frenzy and made hot biscuits with poppyseeds, a soup of farm-picked asparagus and red lentil, and a plum crumble.  Some of this is to feed Handsome Son, along with a main dish probably of pasta with my spag sauce,  when he comes over Friday, some to feed Boud anyway.  I make us a big meal on Friday evening, then I have leftovers for a few days!

The plum crumble is starting to be my own recipe, no reference to books or tattered copies now.  I macerated the fruit, great price on plums in the Asian store,  in fresh grated nutmeg, fresh ground cinnamon, a swoosh of lemon juice, and some honey and molasses.  Then reduced the liquid that came off it, added it in, mixed the fruit with cornstarch, just a dusting, and that was the fruit done.  

The crumble was equal parts almond flour and oat flour, both whirred in my coffee grinder from sliced nuts and oatmeal flakes, plus whole oatmeal flakes.  Tart enough to suit me but maybe not other people, so when it came out of the oven still hot, I sprinkled some sugar over, not much.  This is a gluten free crumble, I think, since cornstarch has no gluten as far as I know. And almonds and walnuts don't either.

So that was this morning's cooking done, on a comparatively cool day.  Now back to reading Nightingale, alternating with Buddhist Wisdom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Done. Time elapsed 1.5 hours

Including finding the screwdriver to get the lid off the can.  All the bits the painter could reach, now looking very spiffy. It's some of what was left over from when I painted the studio.

Painter is v.v. chuffed about this, partly because it looks so much better, and partly because she lived to tell the tale.  The electric cords are waiting for the outlet to be dry and pluggable in.

So now I have ambitious plans to get on with the staircase, too, now that I seem to have established I can do this stuff again.  And the taping will be a feature there, too, since as usual, it's the bottom few feet that get the traffic, and the rest of it, soaring way up there, looks just fine.  

What I used today was one of those big pad things with a handle, rather than wave a roller about in such a small area. When I find a longer rod I can screw the pad onto, I might return and fix the bits I couldn't reach.  Not easy leaning over immovable appliances, and having rather short arms is a bit of a liability.

I rarely buy paint, usually getting full unopened gallons at the dumpster from the surplus bought by excited homeowners overestimating their area.  So the colors are a bit of a lucky dip. At the moment I have the rest of the flat latex in peachy beige, very nice, the rest of the shiny green from the kitchen, perhaps not for the stairs, though, and a full gallon of eggshell white, which might be just the ticket.  

Eggshell finish at the bottom of the wall, flat white at present the rest of the way up.  Might be nice.  And I might even get all carried away and put in a racing stripe of the laundry area color.  I think Handsome Son might be recruited to help with the taping, so as not to have wavy lines. 

Of course, if anyone suddenly puts out new colors at the dumpster, I might rethink my interior design ideas. You have to allow for these possibilities.

Total cost today: about ten dollars for the pad and replacement pad. Labor free. Well, two Advil for the laborer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cure for Dudgeon revealed

See I can do clickbait titles with the best of them..

Lately I have for various reasons been in a state of fairly low spirits and high dudgeon, partly because my aging bod is resisting doing as much as I like to do, and fighting back with some pain to the point where I have to choose what to do, rather than plunge in and do it all. And I have to time it, too, so as not to be all froze up at the wrong time.

One of my biggest grievances was the fear that I might not be able to get back to painting my own walls, a very therapeutic and satisfying sort of job, but hard on the very joints that are kicking and fussing.

However, I decided, heck, let's at least give it a shot and do the laundry area which has been annoying me for years.  So I emptied the shelf, chucked away some containers with a quarter inch of material in them, why do we do this, instead of just finishing it at a go, anyway, I did that.  And sorted out the painting stuff I'll need.

And realized that in fact it's not half as bad as I thought.  I must have painted it more recently than I realized. The upper half is pristine, no need to do anything with it.  All the bits I don't like are the bottom half.

So I had a rush of brains to the head and taped up where I will paint down from, nice peach color paint that I found I'd put up on the shelf for this very purpose.  Chucked a cloth over the appliances. And now it's all ready for me to work on tomorrow. And it's not half as big a job as I thought.  So this will be a test of whether I can do this.

I also retired the curtain that had been hanging across this opening (you can't have folding doors and cats), and have ordered a very pretty replacement with a design of green plants and things on it, fits right in with the plant-ridden upstairs.

Then, bloated with pride, I retired to my other vice, recorder playing.  I can now do this again, shoulder being at least willing to allow that, as long as I don't play the bass recorder, that being a bit heavy for my hands, and requiring some angles my fingers don't like doing.

So I practiced some Handel, largely because he's full of the blasted high notes that my playing partner and I are determined to master in this life.  I realize that it's not everyone who considers Handel a good fingering exercise, but he won't know.  And he puts a lot of notes in the C6 register, that's two octaves above Middle C., for them as cares about this.

And I sorted my lovely Elizabethan and late medieval music, the recorder being at home in this era, as I am.  So my Morley and Machaut and others are now organized in a way that means we can just play instead of fumbling about on the floor sorting pages. This happens when you play, you get into another sort of mindset that cares nothing for organizing bits of paper, then later you realize what a mess it is.

Oh, what a great day, such joy playing music. Woodwind is particularly good for your spirits because it involves using a lot of oxygen and breath control, and anyway it's just fun.  

You see here the three instruments I can still handle, well, there's a fourth, the sopranino, but its range is so high most people don't compose for it.  You know the Magic Flute? those high runs? that's sopranino territory.  

Anyway these here are the component parts of the soprano, alto and tenor recorders, the alto being what I was mainly playing today, the tenor being in two bits there.

And now I am going back to continue reading Donna Leon's essays on Venice, and checking various musical references on youtube to catch what melodies she's referring to.She would be horrified that I use Handel merely as fingering work, since she's a total Handelian oratorio nut, but she won't know either.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Berries and Biscuits

Here's the latest haul from the farm stand, strawberries, almost the end of the short season, and the first raspberries of the year.  They are precious, since you have either to grow them or get them from a local farm, since they are too fragile to ship, so you are unlikely to find them in a store.  I used to grow them back when I had a big garden, and give them away freely to very happy friends.

One year I offered a week of prime picking time in my patch as an auction item for a services auction in aid of a local women's organization, and that went for a nice price for the cause.

Back to my own current harvest here: you see that little bag of tiny bush cherries? the harvest in total to date.  But at least it's in double digits now.  They are tart and lovely, big pit for small berry, but okay, and I think they will make a great team with the strawberries I have lurking in the freezer for whenever I get the urge to make jam, a tart component of the flavor.

Not that you need to make jam.  Tip from a lazy cook: take a couple of berries, any berries, and squash them onto a split hot biscuit like the ones here, and eat and they're as good as jam with no labor and no added sugar.

These biscuits look pretty rock solid, but in fact they're a little crusty on the outside and wonderfully tender inside, since I use olive oil for the fat content, and skim milk soured with lemon juice for the buttermilk component.  They take about two minutes to mix, ten to bake, and they're very good indeed.  When you serve them later, about 15 seconds in the microwave gives your teatime guest the impression they just came out of the oven.  Oh well, now you know, if you've had tea secret is out.

And today's farmstand haul also included kale and broccoli, both fresh in from the field this morning, and prepped and frozen and in the freezer within an hour of coming home.

Tonight's Handsome Son menu includes a lovely kale and Chinese sausage soup, then breaded white fish name escapes me, possibly pollock, or is that an artist, and roasted french fries.  Dessert is about berries, with maybe a shortbread cookie or an almond macaroon.  They've been going over a treat.  Incidentally, for people for whom gluten is an issue, almond macaroons don't have any.  Homemade lemonade or moscato sparkling white wine to go with all this debauchery.

After all that effort on my part, slaving over a hot farm stand, then frenzied prepping at home, HS will be required to make us a pot of tea.  And carry a couple of heavy items for me. He's very happy when it doesn't involve repotting seven foot trees, complete with screams, I mean firm instructions, from Boud.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bloomsday 2016

Bloomsday again!  for those who weren't reading here last year, June 16 is the day on which all the action of James Joyce's novel Ulysses takes place in Dublin.  The protagonist is Leopold Bloom, aided and abetted by Stephen Daedalus (late of Dubliners), hence the name of the celebration. Joyce fans invented it.

And, I think they knew, my potatoes burst into flower overnight and here they are, celebrating their writer!  

who knows what Joyce would have had to say on this coincidence, probably a 600 page novel full of allusions to the potato, its vital significance to the Irish people, the tragedy of it, the comic sidelines, the in depth history of its literature, its current ironic imprisonment in a little American container situated on a huge continent, and who knows what else.

Anyway, as the granddaughter of an Irishwoman, I proffer my humble bit.  

You will see, bottom left of the Kindle, showing a high percentage read, that I'm getting down to the finish line on reading Ulysses, which I will do before it does me in.  You'll see the potato in blossom, down on the patio, to the left of the word "feelings".

It's wonderful reading, but so packed with allusions and references that you just have to find out more about, that it's slow going.  Good thing I have it on my Kindle, otherwise my shoulders, always a bit iffy nowadays, would have packed in completely holding it up. Each year I think I will have finished reading it by Bloomsday, and up to now each year I haven't managed it.

Well, next Bloomsday, perhaps that will be true.  Either that I've read it or haven't managed it. This campaign promise will work either way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Citrus Shortbread Cookies, Variation Two, Brown Sugar

Great time at the gallery today, with a scheduled friend and then two unscheduled, very welcome, friends to guide around my exhibit and talk with.  I love to do that, so as to provide a bit of information and insight into what's going on in my art.

Then perfect weather for sitting out and reading a mad series: Poirot detective short stories, Trollope (Anthony, very good, and Joanna, turned it back, already read and forgotten), and one of the Edinburgh series by the man who writes No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, name escapes me, also finished up a suspense novel by someone else whose name escapes me.  Total transparency around here, if I forget I admit it!  

The Trollope, Anthony, that is, is Dr. Thorne, reading it since it's the next selection at a local book group I'm going to try.  A good start for me, since I do like Trollope, very funny writer as well as serious and astute. There's a different group whose selections I like but they're in permanent conflict with the stitching evenings, not working for me.  The one I'm going to is a different night, and I think is not the same one as another artist group I really should get to now and then.  If this sounds busy and confusing, I think that's because it is.

Then realized when my eyes got tired and I finished reading,  omg no cookies nor cake in the house, disaster, this can't happen. What do I have with my English breakfast tea?  so I thawed the logs left over from the Citrus Shortbread cookies, and put a dab of brown sugar on each, for a change of pace.  I never buy brown sugar, just mix granulated white with molasses, just as good.

And it turned out pretty good. The sugar makes a toffee like effect. This recipe is rich, and though the cookies are small you really don't need many of them.

In fact there still one more log left in the freezer. This recipe is turning out like the loaves and fishes.  I already made about 5 dozen and there are more to go.  Yet I did make the logs the diameter of the recipe, and I did slice them likewise, but Martha only got about three dozen.  Perhaps her kitchen helpers snaffled them when she wasn't looking. 

So now I have a sense of security, coming from having a supply of nice bites for company available. Always a Good Thing, as Martha would probably say. I recommend  the log method, since it's very easy to have it in the freezer, and bake.  And it bakes up just fine after freezing, in case you wondered.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Citrus shortbread, just right for baking on a sweltering day, but I never claimed to be a good planner

So after a great morning at the farmer's market, with buys of local food from four different farms, and a steel band concert going, then a cooking demo, which involved being given a very nice shopping bag, I came home to the usual frenzy of prep and freezing.

Then since the giant plum cake is finally finished, I thought, hm, self, you need a little something to go with a cup of tea.  And leafed through a couple of books, then found a Martha recipe for citrus shortbread I've been meaning to try for ages.

There's an agenda here, too, since tomorrow's the reception for my solo exhibit at Plainsboro Library Gallery, and I'm putting up some very simple snack things, but it seemed nice to see if I can add in a dish of homebaked cookies, so this was the one. I don't like a lot of food in the close neighborhood of textile art, so the items are small, manageable and not likely to give me palpitations if they get near the artworks.

I never did one of those recipes where you roll the dough up and cool it then slice it.  Sounded like fun. And this is one of them. So now I've done it.  I've also found that half of the recipe made plenty of cookies to take in tomorrow, nearly three dozen, what do they want of my life, so the other log is now in the freezer ready to bake whenever the insanity of baking in 90 degree weather hits again.

I tested one, cook's privilege, and it seems okay to give to people. Well, actually, really good.  I used lime zest rather than the orange Martha likes, being allergic to orange, but other than that I actually followed instructions. And since I needed an airtight tin for them, and didn't have one, I recycled the spice container tin my Indian friend gave me,and it works a treat.

So if you are local and planning on coming to the reception, and to hear me chat on about my work, you may get one of these little shortbreads.  And you can review my art and my baking at one time!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Dollivers Celebrate A Historic Day

Today is NJ Primary voting day, and for once we're in the spotlight. Usually since our primary is in June, the whole presidential picture is signed and sealed, done and dusted, over and done with, and our votes are an afterthought.

Not today though!  And at the polls,  I met a very young woman voting for the first time, exciting for both of us!  I will bet any money our votes cancel each other, since she is of the Bernie demographic, but that might be assuming too much.

Anyway, the Dollivers broke out the moscato, for a glass of bubbly, to celebrate a truly historic day, no matter which party you vote for, in fact, first time in the history of our country for a woman to get the nomination of a major party.  

Elton tactfully left the field to the women this time, so we just talked among ourselves, no accompaniment needed. And honor all the women who went before this day, in all nations where even getting the vote was a battle, and the women fighting for fairness here and now.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A bit of fancy cooking ready for tomorrow's picnic

I thought it would be nice to make some Parmesan Crisps, from Ina Garten, for my part of a potluck event, annual stitchers' picnic.  And since they're not just anybody, I pushed out the boat and got the real Parmigiano Reggiana, to make the best.

So here are the workings:  fresh picked thyme from my front yard, growing very nicely after the long winter and longer spring, undaunted, fresh ground black pepper, bit of flour, bit of kosher salt, block of cheese ready to grate.

And here's the aromatic result

Let's hope I don't have to bring any home. I have a feeling I will be bringing an empty plate, though.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gardening teaching patience to the wildly impatient, that would be me

Here are two excitements from the world of gardening chez Boud. One, indoors, is the final appearance of a tiny baby begonia leaf, after waiting nearly a year for the planted leaf, which was broken off in a cat related incident from the parent plant, to show whether it was over it and ready to grow.  

This is thrilling, since I have no access to the plant form, to replace the parent, you never know, with cats around.  So I can propagate it the easy way, just stick a leaf into potting soil, keep it moist and wait.  This leaf has doubled its size since I spotted it yesterday, so it's serious about growing.

And here's lavender in bloom, after three years of growing this plant in a pot.  It suddenly bloomed yesterday

This weird winter into summer no spring season, evidently, is what she was waiting for.  This on top of the white and yellow iris showing up after years, is a rapid series of lessons in just waiting. Don't just do something, sit there, is the moral of the story, I guess.

I do love to propagate house plants, partly because all the greenhouses and hothouses we used to get plants from, and the supermarkets with garden sections in winter, all went away, so access is much more limited now.  

It's limited to gardener's larceny, that is, swiping cuttings from other people's plants, or being given them. Or, as in the case of the dracaena, cutting a leaf as rental for taking care of the parent plant for a summer.  I now have my own, several inches high, all the cuttings succeeded.  Or propagating from your own established plants.  I give away a lot of cuttings, too, I hastily add.

And the burlap hanging planter is working out pretty well. I find that the best way to water is to aim the hose at the bottom of each burlap container, so as not to jostle the soil or the plant, but getting it all moist safely. Even though we've had rain, these little containers dry out rapidly on that warm wood fence, so I need to water daily.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day is a mixed sort of day, partly a serious remembrance of the military lost in war, and for me, also the civilians also caught up in wars, particularly children.  I try to be careful not to glorify combat and victory, so as not to be part of keeping it going, while honoring the suffering of the people in wars.

Then it's also taken as the first weekend of summer, joyful, weather permitting. This year weather was baking hot and between barbecues and various friend visits, I seized the day and the Dollivers.  

I set them up with a little patriotic flower arrangement, so that they could get in training for lying about in the sun, while Elton played a rousing series of Sousa and other tunes but failed to get any marching going on around here.  He tried Grand Old Flag, Stars and Stripes, My Country Tis of Thee, Star Spangled Banner, all to no avail.

The Ds were annoyed at being squashed onto one chair, wanted one each, but reluctantly agreed that a photoshoot with one D per chair stretching out into the distance wouldn't work so well.

But they did recover enough goodwill to send everyone for whom this is a holiday weekend wishes for a good weekend, a good holiday, and a good start to the season (summer up yar, fall down theah, where we also have readers).

Then last night, torrential rain, and this morning here's a wonderful Memorial Day observation:  

the iris, given me by a friend, neither of us knowing what color it would be, throwing out only foliage for a couple of years, finally bust out overnight in bloom with this result.  

This is enough to cheer a person up. Particularly when the friend, after seeing my pic this morning, mentioned that he would share more colors with me when he divides his iris this year.  This patio is going to be an iris paradise before you know it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mushroom quiche

This is in the nature of a Note to Self.  Last week at the farmers' market I picked up a lovely bag of mixed mushrooms from the Kennet Square people, famous mushroom source in Pennsylvania, and decided now was the time to make again that quiche which makes a mushroom crust rather than a flour one.

Then came a protracted search for where the &;*&;*&;* recipe came from, using every tag I could think of. Finally found it in my ancient tattered old Sunset cookbook, so now I know where to find it.  And my label on this post will help.  As will a tip from JT on using the search box which I had totally never noticed in all these years. And a thought that searching in my own blog would have been good. Too late smart.

I subbed sharp cheddar for their bland old Jack, fresh chives for their scallions, and omitted paprika since I didn't have any. But it still worked a treat.  Foreground cooking mushrooms with added cracker crumbs, on board chopped chives, shredded cheese, background eggs, cottage cheese and red pepper in blender.

It's one of those labor intensive deals that comes out smelling so great that it's worth it.  And it's more than filling, on account of all the cheese and eggs.  

So here's today's effort.  Since Handsome Son is not a quiche fancier, this is for me and any neighbors who happen to get lucky. 

Did I mention that strawberries came in this week?  

best I've had ever, I think, right from the farm to my mouth!

Monday, May 23, 2016

walking the labyrinth for H.A.S.

A few days ago, there was a tragedy in the family of a friend, and today I walked the labyrinth as an observance of the loss of a very young man.  

It occurred to me as I walked that there are now so many spirits populating these walks for me, of people who have left us, ages ranging from 23 to 93, all with such an impact on everyone around them.  Every time I walk the labyrinth, they accompany me.

This young man was only known to me by name, his mother being the person I was in contact with, in the art world, and others have been similarly removed from me, yet they all have such power over our lives, and how we live them from now on. Those who were close to me have great directive influence, in ways that don't become clear for a while.

Today's walk, among the ash trees and maples and shrubs, had musical accompaniment from nesting birds.  And as always, I entered confused and undirected, and left calm and with a sense that it's okay for me not to understand why such things happen.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tamarind and plum preserves

In the interest of using up the fresh tamarinds, which had been in the fridge a while, and the rest of the plums after making a giant plum-studded cake for the freezer, I realized I could make jam.

Haven't made jam for ages, and it's not so hard.  I used half a dozen of the fresh tamarinds, which I shelled and took the membrane off,  then sort of broke up and poured about a cup of boiling water over it. Once it was cool enough to put fingers in, I worked it over to release the pulp from the seeds, which it doesn't want to do, then strained the lot into a bowl.  The pulp goes through the strainer pretty well, giving you a thick liquid to work with.

And the plums were black dessert plums which I'd got at a good price, and I just cut them into chunks.  About a dozen plums in all. Then with just one cup of sugar, no need to go mad with the sugar, I boiled the lot together until it thickened a bit, then added in only half a pouch of pectin, and went on cooking for a while.

It mostly filled two mason jars, and the day after, once it had cooled completely, made a great preserve to spoon over hot biscuits, more of those I made recently and froze, the ones with the golden raisins and the chopped walnuts.  

Since there's no sugar in the biscuits, and not too much in the preserves either, you get the sweetness of the fruits, and a nice tang.  You could use this preserve as a sauce with meat, if you eat meat, too.  Or fish possibly.  Or give as a nice little gift to a lucky friend.

Anyway, it was pretty good, and not a massive enterprise, unlike the way cookbooks act as if you were about to embark on a space mission.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Three Good Things

This week, among a lot of other good things, three stand out nicely.

One is the shelf thing, made of actual wood, not mdf, found at the dumpster, needing only a dusting and damp wipe to take its place at the end of my bookcases, as a home for my collection of teapots.  I thought the pots needed a bit more visibility, since they're so good to look at, and the top of a kitchen shelf didn't do it.

Reading north to south: Japanese clay, probably antique, pot, then shelf with three milk pitchers, one a Wedgwood Queensware piece, on an Irish Belleek, one an unmarked, aka back door, Lenox.

Then recent thriftie find, Japanese architectural shaped pot, metal handle then one down, a Chinese porcelain one, courtesy of the Asian store.  Then at the bottom, a coiled pot with bamboo handle, might be Chinese, don't know, but signed in some way.

All very nice to see from the sofa. Interestingly,  they all make tea taste different one from another.  Same tea, same boiling water, different flavor.

Then there was a great lunch, salad of farm grown curly lettuce and scallions, with added homegrown romaine and curly, with chives, then dried figs chopped in.  With a bowl of carrot and red lentil soup, into which I put a rind from a parmesan cheese, first time I tried this, and now I see why they do it. Great flavor addition, and there's yogurt whey in there, too. Also homemade chicken broth. This lunch is a repeating event, plenty of salad greens and soup available.

Then yesterday, after a brisk wind, neighbor stopped by to give me these white iris broken in the wind and she thought I'd like to have them.  I will be drawing and painting and looking at these beauties for a couple of days.

So that's here for now.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Red Ted throws a tea before departing

This afternoon was a little tea for a friend, long planned, and finally it happened.  Red Ted decided he needed her as his new person, so I agreed that since we had been thinking about whose home needed a Red Ted, this would work.

So tea laid, with Red Ted presiding, and we had a nice spread of parmesan crisps, hot biscuits with golden raisins, crushed walnuts and caraway seeds, buttered, and mixed fruit crumble with mango yogurt added on top.  English Breakfast tea, two pots of same.  We had a Good Time.  Harrods had nothing on us.

Friend needed a respite from some major caregiving, and I decided this was a Good Thing, to cater to her, bake for her, and all that, just because someone should.  

She arrived with a lovely gift, to my surprise, a pot of petunias sitting in a basket of her own make, wonderful addition to my basket holdings.  

She's a great spinner, gave me my first spindle and sample of roving, basket maker, all kinds of talents, in addition to high powered day jobs.

So I guess we were both gifted today..and Red Ted couldn't wait to go home with her.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Long road to finding Etty Hilversum

This road started last August when Piper, who writes the Comptonia blog, encouraged various readers to go to Twitter to follow a drawing series, and take part in it.  Which I did, after a few minor struggles to learn Twitter, open an account, then fix the settings I'd got wrong and so on.  And I found a site that has a lot of what I want to see, aside from a community of artists I am in regular touch with now, and a community of sheep farmers in the Yorkshire dales likewise.

I found that Anne Lamott posts there regularly, with all kinds of wise and funny tweets, from one of which I was directed to Henri Nouwen, a contemplative writer I'd never heard of, but got a lot out of (his book Home Tonight, mainly), which in turn led me to Etty Hilversum, and I really think this journey was foreordained in some way.

She, and, again, I had barely heard of her, is one of the most luminous and profound writers, so worth discovering and studying.  I read her diaries, which are very dense and inward, to the point of being tiring to get through, since she was talking to her inner self, not an audience.

Then I went on to her letters, which are a wonderful jewel of a find.  Written to many friends in Holland not yet in the camps, during the worst of the WW2 Nazi occupation of Holland, they chronicle her own internment on Dutch soil,  the inevitable and terrible cattlecar transport to Poland, to Auschwitz, from which she did not emerge.  

We see through her eyes the crushing series of greater and greater restrictions put on the Jewish population culminating in the mass arrests and removal to camps, then transport to Poland. 

Even knowing that all this was going to happen, she writes cheerfully and in much more accessible language than in the diaries, for her reader,  tempering her prose to the person intended, apologizing for asking for small favors to help her frail parents.  Heroic. 

All her family perished with her.  She was 27, but in that short life packed more meaning than you can readily take in.  Amazing wisdom and the capacity to find joy even in the most terrible of fates, always  concerned to take care of her aged parents and her young brother, always able to stay ready for experience.  She had a total zen sense of life, in that she believed that heaven and hell are present always in every moment.  She lived that belief, rarely losing her good humor, sick, starving, cold, but undaunted, a social activist to the end.

She was difficult to read, but I felt I owed it to her and all the other Jews suffering then, to at least give it my attention now and get knowledge and direction from it, and to honor the writer.  And to note that sadly, this kind of history is not all in the past.

It was in a way, a literary duty, like reading Foulks' Birdsong, set in WW1,  about, among other things, the battle of the Somme, and the life if you can call it life, in the trenches,  equally agonizing reading.  I owed it to my dad who was there, and all the other young kids fighting in the trenches and not making it home, or making it home as a shell of the people they had been. 

So, odd though it may seem as a recommendation to suffering, I do recommend Hilversum, a brilliant intellectual force extinguished too soon, as not just a book to read, but guidelines to a life elegantly lived, too. 

The poetic coda, her last letter, thrown out from the train as they left for their sad destination, was found and mailed by a farmer, so the friend she'd written to in fact received it and understood the significance of it.

Bear with me if you have known about her for years, but I only just made the discovery and wanted to share, in case you didn't know of her.  For me it's the kind of writing that forms a watershed in the reader's life, falling into before and after.  It changes who you are.

It's great art, like many paintings and sculptures, that is not just an experience to have, but one that changes who you are and how you see the world after.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

West Windsor Farmers Market, and results

Perfect day today for the farmers' market at West Windsor, second week open but last week was rain and wind.  Today lovely, and I browsed among wonderful produce and flowers and smells and friendly people, and happy babies and dogs.

Then once home, I planted my burlap hanging planter with, north to south, you already know about the marjoram, nasturtium nasturtium, dill and dill.  

My next door neighbor and his visiting cousin admired the hanging garden, commenting that it looks Japanese!  and neighbor thinks he might try it, too.  Some basil came home with me, too early, but I couldn't resist, and more dill in containers.

In the kitchen, a frenzy of tearing and rinsing and cutting and admiring, ready for today's lunch. Curly leaf lettuce, scallions, figs (dried, not from market) tomatoes

The tomato is NJ, but hothouse, too soon for outdoor, but it still has that minty smell in the stem that you get only when they're fresh.  Asparagus soup, from the farm, matzoh, every year someone gives me a box, why, why..mystery. Every year a different person too, is this a plot?

Very good morning's work.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Vertical gardening revisited and an exotic arrival

I was at the plant nursery yesterday, stocked up on a few herbs to replace ones which didn't survive the winter.  Moseying round the place, I noticed on their greenhouse walls some black plastic hanging sleeves, filled with potting soil, with small plants inserted into slits at intervals down the length.  You could do it with newspaper sleeves, I imagine.  Old idea, but it reminded me that I would like to have a few plants hanging from my fence.

Then at home I remembered I had a few burlap pockets, given by an artist who had been given hundreds of them -- wrongly made for an order, given to the cause of art -- and who shared them around. thanks Art Lee!

So, I dug them out, found a roll of petersham ribbon from a stash gift, stapled five of the pockets at intervals down the ribbon, with a loop at the top, and hung the result on a nail already in the fence.  

Time elapsed: five minutes including finding the stapler. Cost zero.  Appearance pleasing, nicer than black plastic.  My kind of invention.

And the same idea as the hanging plastic sleeve, except I will plant each pocket.  Water will drain down from one to another.  And I remembered a little marjoram plant I've had rooting in water for months and now finally have given it a home, in the top pocket.

Feel free to copy at will! not my original idea, I'm sure, but it should be fun to see how this works. Oh, and I put a tissue soaked in peppermint essence in the top pocket to deter squirrels.  I have a feeling that if wrens choose to nest in a pocket I won't have much say in the matter.  If they did, there would be no squirrel problem, though.

And the mail today brought me the peacock jasmine plant I've been awaiting for months, so it is now planted, no, not outside, but in a pot safely indoors in a window that gets some sun.  It's tiny, so pix will wait till it's big enough to see.  This is the plant that flower leis are made from, nice scent, gets big, I'm hopeful.

Friday, May 6, 2016

It may be May, but it's still a soup day

Seizing on the farm asparagus, picked the morning they put it out, and eaten raw or steamed, I cut off most of the stems when I got it home the other day, to freeze right away.  Today was the day for a bowl of steaming soup, what with the raw, windy, rainy weather, which suits the dogwoods fine, the people not so much.

So here's today's lunch: asparagus, with plenty of onions and garlic, a little knob of butter in with the oil for the base, then once cooked and blended a shake of lemon juice and a grating of an ounce or two of parmesan.   The recipe says to strain the soup through a strainer to remove the fibrous bits but I didn't actually have any fibrous bits, maybe because this was the best fresh asparagus, maybe because the freezing broke them down.

I served this with a wedge of wholewheat caraway hot biscuit spread with yogurt cheese.  More in the freezer for future study.

And, since a day without any walking is no fun at all, I did take a walk, all muffled up against rain and wind, and heard a huge commotion in the neighbor's shrub.  Saw a little baby Carolina wren hurtling about, tumbling, running under a parked car, with a parent in hot pursuit.  I think they've nested there, and the babies are making a massive racket and trying out the flying thing.  

I envy the neighbor since wrens are fun neighbors to have and they are deadly on squirrels, who are mortally afraid of being dive bombed by them.  I've seen it happen, and I don't blame the squirrels for staying away.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Busy Day at Art the Beautiful

For the latest presser on the Embroidery Stand caper, go here

And if you're in the mood for an art exhibit review, go here 

And if the weather has got you down to where you can't be bothered about either, go make a nice cup of tea and put your feet up and read Scents and Sensibility, the latest Chet and Bernie book (no, not that Bernie) by Spencer Quinn, the adventures of a detective and his detecting dog, narrated by the dog.  

That's what I'm doing next.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Signs of Spring, at last

Today was full of hopeful signs of spring, after it seemed to have retreated again into cold, windy days.

It was near the first of the month, so time for a little bunch of cut flowers.  And iris were there, tightly furled, but very promising, with chrysanthemums.  True to form, as I picked and sniffed, sniffed and picked at the store, I had to have flowers with more than one purpose.  

The iris will make a beautiful dye next time I work on silk, which will be soon.

Then on the way home, the joyful sign at the farm for asparagus, first day of the year, was up, and I swerved into the farm and started scrabbling through my purse for the cash, not carrying much.  This was an honor system, no person there, just leave your money in an open box.  So I got my first asparagus and took the celebratory bite off the raw top of one, perfect.  

That will be on the menu today. Handsome Son will be here for dinner to help eat it.  And other items, jasmine brown rice cooked with Chinese spicy sausage in it, served with mixed vegetables and chicken on it.  Cake with mango yogurt cheese.

And a sudden wildflower burst out on the patio, must look it up and see what it is.  

Something about my camera doesn't like bright orange, and will only give a blurry yellow instead, but this flower is a wonderful brilliant color.  

Then there's henbit, I think, growing everywhere particularly in the pots I had put soil in for other purposes. 

And the couple of remaining branches on my wild cherry, blooming away, full of bees when the sun comes out, and with all kinds of birds pecking at them, too.

All in all, a good spring day, even if I was back in a winter coat to enjoy it.