Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday in the kitchen with Boud

Simple food for one today.

Breakfast, pancakes (with a drop of almond essence in the batter, very nice the second day), wildflower honey,  with farm-raised fried egg. Pot of English Breakfast tea. 

Pancake batter mixed previous evening because I had an urge to eat a pancake.  The teapot is one I bought myself to help get through the election season, and it worked pretty well.

Lunch, my favorite of all pastas, orzo, boiled with turmeric in the salted water, tossed with a carrot pesto (just a regular pesto except carrots blended in instead of green herbs) and mixed with baby bellas sauteed in butter and olive oil with a pinch of cloves.  Pesto supply from freezer, mushrooms prepped and in freezer.

Afternoon snack toasted banana bread, golden raisins and walnuts,  with small pot of Vietnamese coffee.  

Bread from freezer, of course. The pot is new, same design as the little teapot, with strainer basket dropped in, and I decided that the ugly little plastic pot I'd been using had run its course and I was worth a nice new pot dedicated to coffee. I drink it very strong, but not very much. This is its maiden voyage, and God bless all who drink from her.  

Note the different milkjugs from breakfast to afternoon!  this is a four star townhouse, this is.  The afternoon one's a Wedgwood Queensware, considerably upscale from the pressed glass one on the breakfast tray, but I like all my pitchers.

All this prepping meant that it took only a couple of minutes to assemble some great food. Suits me on the many days I don't feel like fooling with cooking but still need, oddly enough, to eat.

There's still supper to think about later, but that might be mango yogurt with sliced almonds and blueberries from the freezer.

I have to get around to baking some bread, but some days I don't feel like doing it. Pancakes are the current bready item. Some days it's hot biscuits.  And I think I'll make soup tomorrow.  There's still plenty of soup season left even though it's officially Spring.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fish and chips, what a Brit! 6WS

Yesterday Handsome Son came to dinner, and had what you could call fish and chips, again, but it always goes well. Especially since it was at short notice.

This time it was a nice piece of flounder, with a  marinade of plain yogurt blended with Dijon mustard and Colman's dry.  Then added in some extra flavoring I had in the freezer, fish sauce from an earlier meal, and it worked a treat.  Then after this pic, pretty much smothered the fish in the sauce.  Or enrobed it, if you like fancy cookspeak.

With roast potatoes mixed with all the usual spices, but with the addition of a little dish of spiced radish salad, courtesy of Indian friend, all mixed in and roasted together. And peas, and nice glass of red.  I interrupted Handsome Son's meal to take the pic before I forgot. He's very patient.

 I recommend this idea, of mixing some very spicy addition to potatoes, comes out more interesting.  And since both the potatoes and the fish go in at 400F, the fish for half the time of the spuds, it works well with the oven, too.

Served after carrot and cabbage and chicken soup, and before banana bread with a pot of tea.  Followed by an Agatha Christie dvd.

Before he left he noticed the latest slippers in progress, I seem to urgently need slippers to match my blue robe as well as the pink ones, and promptly dashed up the the stash, picked out an exciting grey yarn, and ordered a pair for himself. 

So I traced around his foot on a piece of paper, and he wondered if I needed to trace the other foot, as well, for left and right. It reminded me of the question about when you turn the elbow if you're knitting a sleeve. Well meaning, good thinking, but a non- knitter at work. 

Oh, and Bev, from whose website I got the free pattern, came in to Rav to explain to me that there really was an Aunt Maggie, and she really did design these slippers.  Bev transcribed from her handwritten pattern, and published, to share and to honor her.  So I'm glad to know all that. She's long gone, but we still honor her when we knit her slippers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ballet Shoes? not quite..

The weather, high winds, low temps, are causing me to keep warm at home, knitting, baking banana bread for tea, grumbling, domestic life, oh well.

And here are the slippers I just started, must cast on the second before I fall prey to SSS, second slipper syndrome.  That's where you never get around to casting on the second one.  Applies to socks, too.

It's a great little pattern, made several pairs of these for friends as well as me, very satisfying to make. Using up some acrylic yarn on these, since they need to wear pretty well.  It's Aunt Maggie's Slippers, from Bevs Country Cottage website, here

Not quite ballet slippers, except they're pink and they have little square toes.  There the resemblance ends.
And here's the banana bread, cooling for afternoon tea.  With walnuts and golden raisins.

It's a consolation for not being out and about.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dolliver Towers, new construction chez Boud

Everyone in the news seems to have towers to their names, some of them golden, even, and the Dollivers have been getting restless about being set on the spare room bed when they ought to be getting their own building, at the least.

So, yesterday the parts for Dolliver Towers arrived, and the Ds went to work to get construction completed

Here's the Team Lift under way as per the instructions

with Blondie Firstborn pointing out that she can't lift when other Dollivers are sitting on the bit she's lifting

then came the reading of the instructions and the finding of the parts, and the getting squashed under them and finally the construction, and the installation of the entire collection in their new digs.

 They took over the penthouse and made the others squash into lower floors. Except for the bed doll, who is too tall for a lower floor, and needs the headroom afforded by a penthouse suite.

Duncan is happy with this development, since it leaves the bed for him, his favorite afternoon nap place when the sun comes in.

However, I'm keeping quiet about it, since the friend who was suggesting ways of displaying the dolls also said that if I found anything that worked she was going to give me more porcelain dolls she's had stored away for ages...just what I needed.  She pointed out that this would solve her storage problem for the dolls!
I'm trying not to acquire at this point, even lovely stuff as hers no doubt is. I have to admit nothing ends up in the landfill..

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Your consumer reporter, hard at work 6WS

I like to hear the end of the story, so I thought I should report back on a few ends.

The mobius scarf went over well, and Handsome Son went home wearing it, plus his fingerless gloves, which turned out to match and to have been knitted by me at some point I have forgotten about. 

The almond friands (very hard not to write friends there) went over equally well, with special request to do them again at some point. Just a bunch of paper cases on the plate I served them on now. So this was in fact worth the effort. Even if I don't have the special little tins you have to send away for, I seem to have said that a few times now.

And the kettle I blogged about ages ago when I bought it, and it arrived from Germany with semi translated instructions, has proved very well the water to heat admirably, even to steam.  I've been using it at least two if not three times daily, and it still does all the things it spozed to, so here's a shoutout to German workmanship.

Out of doors, however, there's a conspicuous lack of consumption by the squirrels. After an entire winter of trying to access the firmly locked and inaccessibly hung suet feeders while many species of birds noshed happily undisturbed, one smart squirrel finally managed to knock down the red net feeder plus the S hook, now sunk deep in the snow. And today struggled and finally got the other suet feeder unhooked and down on the ground. 

 However, that's where his thinking skills ended.  Squirrel yanked and plunged up and down, digging and scrabbling and swearing and completely unable to unlock the feeder, thanks to the split rings I put on there which defeated him. 

And since what was left was a small bit of food, he couldn't access it to eat.  While this titanic struggle was going on, hauling the feeder all over the patio, the large chunk of food was unnoticed in the red net feeder which was wide open to eat from.  This is a limited set of thinking skills.

So once the squirrel left, either from frustration or exhaustion, the birds all flocked down again and set to work on their food.  I'll hang it all back up again when the snow melts a bit.

And now for a pot of tea and an almond friand, neener!

And on the subject of Handsome Sons and genetics, he told me last night he's been writing a blog which is about a mythical set of characters based on real objects, and their adventures.  For which he has a keen audience!  The concept takes the form of announcements, like a kind of news blog, I think.

I asked him if this was anything like the Dolliver idea, and he agreed that it was, but more fictional!  Not as amazing as you might think, since he's been doing this sort of thing since he could first hold a pencil, illustrated stories of stuff around the house and what they got up to in their spare time.  I have bunch of little drawings up in the studio that he saved for me instead of recycling everything.

But it cracked me up.  No, I don't have a link to the blog, but he's planning to monetize it, and I'll ask if he wants me to link it at that time, when it gets more ambitious. 

Like Mom like Handsome Son, I guess.  So happy that his creative spirit is alive and well despite a couple of work setbacks in the last couple of years.  You simply can't tell an artist to just stop; they can't! They just find different ways to keep going.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

New idea for dessert. We'll see what the verdict is tomorrow.

 Handsome Son is expected for dinner tomorrow night, and I noticed I had no little something for dessert anywhere.  So I pawed through my cookbooks, and found one I didn't know I had.

And found a recipe that would use up the egg whites I've had in the freezer for a little while, since I made something or other that needed just yolks.  Almond friands. The book even tells you how to pronounce it, taking nothing for granted. 

This recipe proved to be one of those frugal moves that lead to complications.  Like making a button down coat with matching skirt, to use up a few buttons you found in the box.

Anyway, I was interrupted by a friend coming over all in a tizz over some medical tests, and obviously needing tea and sympathy, so we did that.  And she marveled at the stuff I freeze, had no idea you could freeze egg whites.  Well, neither did I until I tried it and it worked okay.

Then she left, and I got to work, with the assistance of Duncan, who was hoping for a bit of raw egg white as a treat (!).  And found that this recipe to use up a couple of egg whites involved stages. And melting.  And sifting. And beating and two different oven temps. And special little tin things. 

So, since I did have  the ingredients, I ground up the almonds, beat the egg whites, sifted the confectioner's sugar and the flour, melted the butter, on and on.  And put the batter in ordinary cupcake cases sitting in a cupcake pan.

There is apparently some mystique about these things, related to being Foreign, and needing special tins you have to send away for. Hm.  The book made them look very appetizing, though, so I made a batch. Supposed to make 10, but made 11.  Extra one for the cook.

After all this faff, I took another look at the recipe 

and found it had two stars.  And checked what that could mean.  It means "needs a little extra care, and a little extra time."  Cookspeak. Meaning don't imagine you're going to just whip these up like cupcakes, nooooo, where did you get that idea? It doesn't say the results are wonderful, worthy of two stars, though..

I tried one, and it's okay, very delicate, interesting texture and flavor. I'll see how they go down tomorrow night. If it's anything short of ecstatic, this might be the only time I do them.

The book turns out to be Australian, written by a cast of thousands, so nobody takes the blame for anything, I suppose.  But it's wonderfully photographed, and they do translate metric measurements into the old fashioned ones we still use in this so-called advanced country.  I'll try other things from it, perhaps, but not the many starred ones.  Which may prove to be ill starred, we'll see.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mobius cowl and backyard birds

Yesterday's snow and ice storm, and the ice sticking around today both caused indoor work to get going.  Also outdoor work, hungry birds ripping at the suet feeders to fuel up.

I've been seeing red bellied woodpeckers frequently, one at a time, but studied them and decided it was a pair, taking turns.  The male has a bigger red hat than the female.  They're very quick to take off if they spot me, so this is the best I could do, after many tries! The bird is on the lower feeder, not the bright red one.

The nice part about the feeder is that they have to cling on and curl the tail up to balance, so you get a view of the red feathers on their belly, a great help in identifying.  Then today both arrived together, yay, and it was indeed a pair.  The male snarled at the female who retreated to a nearby branch waiting for him to leave.  Then a starling started on him, and after he'd rapidly eaten a bit more, he too vanished, into the trees out back. I'm hoping for nesting there.

After all the bigger birds had gone, the patient Carolina wrens took over the feeder, definitely a pair, and hoping for nesting there, too. They were the first to realize that the red feeder was full of good stuff, and the other birds have caught on from them.

Meanwhile, back on this side of the window, knitting happened, 

and next time Handsome Son comes over, he will pick up his own Mobius cowl (which I call a scarf for him, thinking that cowl may sound girly!)  I did it again in Shaker stitch, and you see how nicely the edges roll over. This is acrylic, his choice, easy to wash etc. It can be arranged in any number of ways, depending on the weather and wind.

Over in beautiful metaphor, you'll see a lot of studio activity, too, ahead of the residence series in April.  Great fun to have a destination for art.  And, since I've done my current bit for Creative Collective, writing the pr for both upcoming shows, and providing my bio and label information to the right people, I'm free to make my own stuff again without thinking about deadlines for other items.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Just when the spring seemed to have arrived -- snow prep. Again

Overall, this has not been the worst winter.  But good old Ma Nature saved her worst for last.  Storm around here with high winds, a lot of snow, up to two feet standing, probably much more drifting, and general angst and arghghghgh.  Starting tonight, and ending who knows when.

Aside from all the texts from the utility company, the HO association, etc., all elevating the anxiety, other things are not so bad.  

I did snow prep as follows:

brought in the snow shovel, since it won't be possible to get into the outdoor storage closet without using a snow shovel to get the door open. Note how lovely the sun is out there, big alternative fact.

made a big pot of soup, laid in veggies galore, freezer pretty well filled in case of outage anyway

and not forgetting the kitties, gads, not forgetting their food, vital supplies arrived this afternoon.

and Handsome Son's Mobius scarf under way. He came over the other night, liked my Mobius, but not in that bright red color, ew (!),  went to the stash, picked out a lovely dark brown (!) which I'm patiently knitting into his own Mobius.  He's a walker, so a good scarf is a great idea in this icy windy weather. Won't be done before the storm, but there will be plenty of use for it later.  It's in Shaker stitch, which I really like to knit, to the point of obsession.

And with my complete Rosemary and Thyme dvds at the ready, we're set.  Sort of.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Indian treats, date jam and March 'nations

Today was one of those days where you need a flexible approach to life.  I had sort of planned on going to a special lecture on Palestinian costume and embroidery, then the weather turned so bitter I was afraid I would have trouble breathing, what with the wind and all.

So I was wondering about this, then a friend stopped in, newly back from India full of news of relatives and parties and bearing a box of special Indian treats she knows I love.  One's gone already before the pic happened.

While she was in mid chat, another friend stopped in to return a dish in which I'd given him fruit crumble some time ago, and stayed to join in the convo.  Very good time had by all, and I seized the day to give them both some banana chutney I've been planning on giving.  Food just whizzes back and forth in this neighborhood.

Then he left and she and I talked resistance training, no, not the political stuff I've been doing, the free weight type.  And she was stunned to find out I lift more than two pounds...but while we were at it, I showed her how to do resistance whole-body safe stuff on the stairs.  And she cracked me up by making a video of it to share with her husband so they can both do it!  The inadvertent movie I didn't ask to see it, bad enough seeing still pix of self.

Then by the time they'd left, I was out of time, also peopled out. I can only take on so much people exposure daily, but they had priority.  Hoping to see some people tomorrow who might have gone to today's event, anyway.

So got down to the other plan for the day, making date jam.  Wanted to make some little preserve ahead of friend coming to visit next week, and date and apple seemed good.  The apples were in the freezer, all prepped, so I just cut down the dates, put dates and apples, random amounts, really, in pan with some added water, shake of really good cinnamon, not that supermarket stuff, shake of vanilla essence.  

Brought to the boil, down to simmer, cooked for about 35 minutes, spooned into redhot sterilized jar, which had been in boiling water all the while the jam was cooking.  Done.

You will note that there's no added sugar in this jam.  Dates and apples are already packed with fructose, no need for it.  I just read a book by a big alternative fact merchant on how she went without sugar for a year.  

I read with interest wondering how she managed it, and found out she had made massive use of glucose -- SUGAR, and dextrose -- SUGAR!  All she did without was a range of prepared other forms of sugar.  Very far from sugar free.

No need for me to pile on, though, since I found a raft of messages to her from people who know all about this stuff kindly explaining that she's totally wrong, and is no chemist, nor nutritionist. So I figured my opinion was out there enough, no need for more. But I'm just sayin, that's all, mumble, mumble.

And I did get out for a brief errand, after I finished fussing about the sugar lady,  despite knifing wind, because I was out of, gasp, wine!  And milk. And while I was there, flowers. I organize flowers for the house on the first of the month, a New Year's resolution which is pretty easy to keep, and very good for my spirits at this time of year.  Poked about in the flower department, and came out with pink flowers, protest pink!  

I don't like it at all when people abbreviate flower and other names, chrysanthemums to mums, computers to 'puters, please.  However, can't beat em, join em, so, to show I can be as annoying as the next, here are my pink 'nations...

Some baking tonight, I think, and some Alan Rickman watching, great youtube link from K, she is always showing me stuff I really ought to know already and don't, and it's v. cool. In fact why don't I show you the link, too, instead of just wittering on about it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pancake Day!

Breakfast in progress.  

Pancakes, with wildflower honey, to celebrate the fact I just realized it was Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day.  And anyone may eat pancakes, no need to be religiously observant.  Shriving no longer a part of my life, I went ahead and just made the pancakes.

Saved some batter for Handsome Son when he pops in tomorrow afternoon for a spot of tea.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mental Health Work, more printed books, less social media

So, after weeks of ever-intensifying need to be active, resist, and so on, I found myself deeper than I wanted to be in social media.  Still active, but not responding to every new outrage at the moment. Including those where people totally misunderstand my words and bring their friends in to hate on me!  No, I don't spend energy there, just block, delete, move on.  And I got back into extended reading in the last couple of days, to retrieve my longer attention span, and my balance.

To be exact,  to Margaret Drabble, a novelist I've followed since her first novel, having some fellow feeling for someone almost exactly my age, but with a very different life path.  We had some similarities in education, and our literary classics are about the same.  So, despite her determination to see the blackest side of everything, even her more lighthearted works more or less being cheerful in spite of everything, I still like to read her. Temperamentally poles apart.

She's a thrillingly intelligent writer, full of echoes of familiar literature, but she doesn't quote them, simply glances off them, the reader either gets it or doesn't, doesn't matter to the onward movement of the work.  

Her latest novel is The Dark Flood Rises, an examination of old age and how her different characters approach it. Her range of characters is limited, since she's always been an academic and doesn't seem to have much insight, or, I'd guess, interest, in other forms of work or of people, but never mind, good to stay within your limits, and know them. 

She does comment that she likes to muse on her own life and times. And I'm noticing that she considers herself old and a bit crocked up, as do most of her characters, though they are at most in their early seventies.  Which made me wonder if attitude is part of this, as well as good luck and good health or the lack of it. Interesting book, not exactly a novel, though, more a series of episodes, roughly interlinked.

The other Drabble I'm reading is The Pattern in the Carpet, a nonfiction work about jigsaw puzzles and other kinds of pastimes for all ages.  I read it partly to get some insight into why people like jigsaws, because she loves them, and I hoped her analysis would get me there.  Which it only partly did.  

I ended up concluding that people who love puzzles of this kind are at heart not interested in visual invention.  They are following the path laid out for them, fitting in the pieces designed to go only one way into their ordained places.  

It's similar to my puzzlement (!) at people who love patterns of any kind.  To me patterns are only momentarily interesting, giving way to variations that I would like to see there! very personal response. I know mathematicians and scientists who love puzzles and card games, and I think it's a similar response, the comfort of patterns and of correct answers.  Perhaps people who love and get great pleasure out of working kits are enjoying a similar experience.

Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with that..and I conclude that I accept, well, I have to, but don't understand, the affinity for pattern.  Very good book for all that, whether or not you're a puzzle fan.

One interesting sidelight on Drabble: she's one of the few people I've noticed who is a Dame in her own right, and a Lady because her husband was knighted. So her title's a bit lengthy. I think it's Dame Margaret, Lady Drabble, or something like that.  Cool. No doubt there are books of etiquette prescribing when you use the whole thing and when bits of it are correct.  She's also the sister of A S Byatt, brilliant novelist, and probably a Dame in her own right, too, but neither of them likes to be asked about the other!  endless rivalry there, but two geniuses in one family seems a bit much for the bonds to handle.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rescued Fruit and Other Kitchen Capers

So today, I came by several pounds of perfectly good dessert apples, and a large whole orange, by rescue.  Without going into the details, if I had not intercepted them, they would have been thrown away.  As if they were, scream, garbage.  I understand the hectic time of moving when you have two small kids, and how after a bit you lose your sense of morality about food and waste.  But anyway, I stepped in and they came home with me.

And here are all the apples, washed, peeled, chopped, and reposing in the freezer for the next time I need them, maybe a crumble, maybe a clafouti, maybe applesauce.

The orange, I don't buy oranges, usually, since I tend to be allergic to them, I put aside until I thought for a moment.

Then I picked up Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal, cookbook, from the library, and you know how you can tell you like a book? when you instantly get an idea from it.  In her intro she mentions that you never waste food, and gives a few examples of items that can go into something else. And she mentions that a lonely orange can turn into a kind of marmalade...

No sooner said than embarked on.  I like this sort of cooking, where you do interesting things to your ingredients.  I scrubbed the orange ad infinitum, then peeled off the zest in strips, with a peeler, not the zester, wanted slices of zest in the finished product.  After the above pic, I ran the pizza wheel back and forth through the zest to reduce it to smaller strips. Then I supremed the inside of the orange, not too successfully. This was a large, rather dry orange, the kind that looks impressive but actually is not as good value as a smaller heavier one with a lot of juice.

I used to supreme oranges all the time for Handsome Partner in his last years, since he loved oranges and his hands wouldn't let him deal with them.  But supremed, that's with all the pith and the membrane cut away, you're left with a lovely bowl of orange slices and their juice, edible with a spoon, fine for him.  Not hard to supreme if you have a nice juicy orange.  This one not quite up to that, but never mind, did me best.

Made a syrup with water, sugar and the zest, left it to manage on a low light for about 20 minutes, just guessed at this when I set the timer.  I also had to guess at the amounts of water and sugar, since her directions need more than one orange!  Then, zest done, I just stirred in the rest of the orange, and put it in a sterilized jar.  

I could have used a jar half the size, but I don't have one.  I'm sure there's an engineer's joke about the relative size of the contents to the container, the sort of uproarious joke where he looks at your shoes instead of his when he tells it..

Anyway, between discovering this good book, from a recommendation on the Cafe website, from a good cook, and finding the fruit in need of a good home, this was all good.

Also the springlike weather brought masses of birds to the suet feeder. I'm guessing they're loading up before embarking on the mating season.  A pair of Carolina wrens have been around together, and one started shouting territorial calls from my gatepost, so I hope that means they plan to move in and nest here.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Ellen WIlkinson holds her first Town Hall

Ellen Wilkinson, fiery orator and politician, whom you met here revisited us to hold a Town Hall on this Presidents' Day weekend, to meet her constituents and hear their take on what she should do when she's reincarnated into US politics.  Modeling the behavior we hope for from our Republican members. And remembering that Abe himself was a Republican.

Here she is in her transporter, courtesy of a Minnesota fan, with her clipboard ready for action.

Light refreshments were served, and Constituent Stefi acted as hostess for the event, pointing out that this was real constituent service, coming right to the house to hold the meeting.  A kitchen cabinet you might say.  You will note the pussyhat pin in action here, too.

So, while Ellen delegated note taking to her advance woman, chauffeur and admin assistant, also knitting staff,  Boud, Ellen's constituent spox (Washington speak) set forth the agenda for Ellen's first four weeks in office, give or take a day.

First she will become our first female President.  Then she will outlaw all gun ownership. College tuition at public colleges will be taxpayer paid.  She will bid farewell to Pence, Ryan, and other people currently in the White House and environs.  She will recommend the abolition of the Electoral College.  This is an ambitious agenda, but she is undaunted, though small.  

To quote the Bard:  And though she be but little, she is fierce!

and, business concluded at the Town Hall, she waved goodbye to her audience, even if they didn't vote for her, she's there for all of them, and sped on to her next meeting, dictating more notes and thoughts to Boud who also had to drive.  Boud is also beginning to see what it takes to be around a real politician.  It's all go.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bright February day, rain in forecast, so seize the day! Carpe Preservum in fact

Today was bright sunny, a bit nippy in the wind, but all insulated and ready for anything, I set off for a hike on the Preserve.  Several other people with the same idea, all very cheerful, and getting the most out of the day.

There is nothing like walking and being outside doing it in lovely wild surroundings, for defragging my mental hard drive, Carol G., thanks for reminding me of that process when you were talking yesterday, and today did the job a treat.

Not many small birds around -- too windy for them, they hate having their feathers all messed about, and I think probably need to keep still to preserve feather insulation.  

Large flocks of Canada geese on the lake, occasionally rising up and shouting at each other and splashing then settling down a few yards away. The big alternate fact brokers, they call this migrating.

And in the beech wood, a new bench installed in a clearing.  This wood is a micro climate, always a few degrees warmer here in  winter, cooler in summer, than the surrounding areas.

Looking over the lake from a sheltered little area, another bench. They seem to have been listening when we asked for a few so people could sit and watch birds, or draw, or just be.

And taken from the bench which has been there for ages, near the nature center, and overlooking the lake from one end.  

There's a nice little trail leading off it, here, too, which winds about and is a great bird hide location, with yet another bench down there to settle down on. Around here, just the sound of small birds at the feeders near the building, geese out on the lake, rare human voices.

Lovely outing, and suddenly, thankfully, after a fallow few weeks, full of great art ideas when I got back, but you'll have to consult art the beautiful metaphor to see what that's about.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

So bring back the Pony Express 6WS

They do say that wearing tight shoes keeps your mind off your troubles.  And my local tight shoes have driven out a little bit the grinding worry and fear that is our daily lot around this nation.

Partly it's funny, since I went from bring worried, about my hitches, to being trumpishly enraged, to being long suffering, to finding it too funny and trivial in comparison to the rest of the world, to dwell on.

It went thus:  At the end of December, the coupon book came to start the new year of HOA dues, new booklet, preprinted address label, all that.  Duly wrote out the January fee, two weeks ahead of the deadline, stamped, sent via local post office, and waited for it to show up in my bank account. Did likewise with utility bill.  All preprinted, return address, everything, first class, no danger of my handwriting causing problems.  And likewise waited for the bank account to indicate the payment had been credited.

And waited, and emailed the HOA to say I'd paid them, and so on.  Three times.  One line response: we have not received it.  Oooookay. Since it was first class mail, I checked with my local carrier, nice guy, who had the boxes all open, had clearly already emptied the outgoing box into his official plastic crate, unlikely he was the cause.  Talked to the people at the PO who assured me that there was no way of knowing why it hadn't come back, or got there.  That they handle millions of pieces, etc.  I forbore to point out that my town pop 20K did not handle millions of pieces at the end of December, nor did the next stop, Trenton, nor the final regional center, Plainfield.  Asked him to alert the Postmaster of the problem.  He glumly agreed to do that once he got in.

Then two days later, amazingly, both bills were credited to my accounts.  Same day, totally different agencies.  Which puts the question mark on the post office.  And my dark suspicions on the fact that having sat on the mail for over four weeks, said mail suddenly arrived, unharmed at its destinations. Two days after my complaints.

Not before I'd had alerts telling me I was in arrears, and had sent in replacement checks to cover the difference, and gone on to start setting up direct debit instead of this malarkey.  So now both have received two payments onto my account, the utilities now three payments, since I paid up twice...scream. Hoping they will credit me correctly. It hit my bank account at a low point, but I did not get into an overdraft situation.  And today a letter from the HOA telling me I must have overlooked them, and please send in thus much by Monday...drafted before they received my payment, I suppose. And sent first class, but we now know that's no guarantee.

This reminds me of a similar deal years ago, when my favorite magazine was arriving creased and battered and pretty much worn out.  When I complained to the then postmaster, he said, oh well, you are the only people in town with your last name, so it gets put by itself in a huge mailbag and gets tossed about.  Just normal wear and tear.  

I looked at him steadily like a mom eyeing a lying toddler, and said, well, how does that account for the crumbs I'm finding in the pages?  there was peanut butter this time, too.  Oh.  Rubs size 12 shoe around, well, I'll check up on it.  And from then on not a moment's trouble.  Magazine arrived in pristine condition.  I became the first reader of it.  I did offer to bring it in if they wanted to read it in the lunchroom, as long as I got it first...silence, redness.

And I wonder if someone just hadn't taken care of all the mail until they were alerted this time. I say alerted, but I was pretty firm and relentless asking how could this happen, and what was the point of first class mail, and why didn't it come back to me, etc.  Poor Rich, he was the unlucky guy on the counter when I came in.  I bet other people are being surprised the same way with letters suddenly arriving.

It's a total round trip of less than fifty miles, door to door for each of my bills.  Pony Express would have it there in maybe a day or less.

Meanwhile, since everything is Too Upsetting and I'm doing my Bit but it's such a little Bit, I decided to start on my first WarmupAmerica blanket section. They have to be 7x9 inches, so I decided, after making a cardboard template to avoid a lot of measuring, to work corner to corner, to have a better shot at accurate sizing.  Here's one side

And here's t'other side

 No real front and back, random knitting, some open work, a bit of Shaker, whatever I feel like. It actually doesn't look very random, and you see where I am on this piece.  It does take a bit of calculating to get the rectangle right, when to stop increasing, sooner on one side than the other, etc.  And blocking will help, I expect. But anyway, it's under way. Working corner to corner always makes even a plain stitch look more interesting and mysterious.

And the library is starting a knitting circle, Friday afternoons from mid February, so I might join in there.  Probably everyone needs to Do Something, and this is my thing for the good cause.