Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Teapots and pitchers, accidental collections

The subject of accidental collections came up recently, the kind you didn't intend, and might not even realize you have until someone mentions it.  And the friend I was emailing with said she liked the sound of my pitchers, would like maybe to see.  So I thought, good idea.  And there are teapots..

My afternoon teas, solo or with company, are an almost daily chance to enjoy this stuff. Not quite Downton, but who's counting.

Here are the markings on the underside of one fish one, probably says dishwasher safe..I also bought two cups with the fish design. They're elegant mugs really,  don't need saucers. And my afternoon teas are an almost daily chance to enjoy this stuff. Not quite Downton, but who's counting.
And this is a Chinese coil pot, with a bamboo handle, fave of Handsome Son when he visits
Chinese porcelain pot, but with Western design for export
then my biggest one, a Japanese porcelain, with brass handle, and markings too faint to read

Below are: One small hand made Japanese clay one, makes wonderful tea, pours fine if you approach it boldly -- the stream is a wide arc -- and has no markings. This came to me through the antique trade. The little fish one is a favorite for tea, too, and the one on the right I reserve for coffee. They all have a filter in the design, no need for strainers.

 My pitchers are more historic. So I thought you'd like to see the markings if any.

Here, reading from the top and around clockwise are a Wedgwood Queensware one, early 19th century, an Irish Belleek, old, but not antique, a pretty Staffordshire china, modern, but traditional design, a blank Lenox, as you see. But once you see it upright, the color and glaze and shape are unmistakable.

Known as backdoor Lenox, that company being near here for its long history, a lot of locals worked there, and sometimes seconds or unmarked pieces found their way home, and eventually into hands like mine. 

This is a pottery region, the clays being excellent and varied.  A lot of English potters found their way here hundreds of years ago.  And the seashore clay was used by Lenni Lenape Indians to make coil pots.  I've dug some at Cape May, and created small items from it to show local kids at community events.

The Dutch pewter one is part of a wedding present, early 60s, the set including a coffee pot, teapot and sugar bowl.

The pressed glass, in the middle, unmarked, probably Depression glass, belonged to a friend's grandmother, so I use it in her honor.

 So this is the slightly more elegant side of life chez Boud.  And I really think these accidental collections are complete now.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Spring or something, planting, making discoveries

With a sudden onset of hot, humid weather, it was time to look around at the sudden growth outside. 

This included a sighting of these blossoms on what I had thought was a cherry tree, from the State forestry people. But these aren't the cherry blossoms I expected. Urgent tweet to Quinn Piper, my guru in things tree related. She suggested prunus serotina, one I'd never heard of, but checked and it is. Still a cherry, black cherry, so that part's good. However instead of the twenty or so foot mature height I was replacing, my old wild cherry, this will grow to upwards of eighty, that is not a typo, feet. I am unlikely to be there for it. But the blossoms are lovely. This is the first year of flowering, very exciting.

Onward to notice a few blossoms on the chives, which come back year after year, unprotected all winter. Usually they don't get to flower because I snip them younger.

And the potatoes are just booming. And the roses

In the course of searching for a flashlight to shine into the hole cut in the wall for the plumbing, to see if it was dry now, never found the flashlight,  but did find saved seeds, Italian basil, Thai basil and honesty. I planted the basils in containers out front so neighbors can pick when they cook. The honesty is now in the strawberry pot in the hope that marauding chipmunks won't reach up and bite them off this time.

Lunch for sudden onset heat, caraway walnut biscuit split with tuna salad, chives and tarragon added. 

Succeeded by sudden onset Duncan, who had already had his share and wanted to make inroads on mine, while my hands were occupied.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Never mind the cold wet weather, it's Summer.

It's summer, so fruit salad is the requirement for lunch. Here nice crisp apple, banana, raw almonds, sharp cheddar, dates, plain yogurt. All assembly, no cooking.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Exciting Day, started out innocently...

Today was supposed to be a quiet day, music partner not able to play, so free time to regroup.  Then, taking a morning cup of tea, I glanced up.  And saw an ugly wet stain on the ceiling.  New. Since yesterday. Right below the bathroom and laundry area.  This put paid to my plan to shower and do laundry.

Two neighbors later, measuring and confirming that the problem was most likely shower or washing machine.  And that, since everything visible was bone dry, it must be inside the wall.  Or floor.  One of the neighbors is my friend and contractor Mike, who said they may need to cut into the wall to detect the source, but don't worry, I can create a new access hatch for you, using the hole they cut.  Good for future use, too.

Then a fruitless morning trying to raise the plumber, all the time the stain spreading...they were having phone problems. When I finally got through, they were here in twenty minutes.  Probably grateful I hadn't given up and got another plumber.

And, after insisting, repeatedly that I did not mind cutting into the wall if that's what it took to find the problem, plumber reluctantly did so.  Either he thought I would freak out if he cut up my walls, or he didn't fancy all that work. 

Anyway, cut he did, detect he did.  And after many tries, finally found that the problem was indeed behind the wall, a pinhole in the copper pipe.  Invisible to the eye, but since under pressure, emitting a tiny little spray, probably for ages now before it became evident.  Unfortunately he had to cut into another wall to get at the pipe to cut, replace and solder it.  Which involved moving a large washing machine.  Which involved my bothering my saintly neighbor again, to ask for help, since it's a two person job.

So that bit is done.  The washer is in the hallway, glad I can slip past it.  And two neighbors will replace and rehook the washer this evening, after my contractor friend has repaired the wall.  Then I can do the laundry.  But at least I got a shower this morning, the shower's innnocence having been established despite the plumber's insistence that the problem was I was splashing water over the shower, yeah, right, he didn't get far with that, try as he did.

While I was at it, I booked the plumbing people to replace a toilet that's ready for it, and to investigate why my second shower causes a damp patch downstairs.  Which is why I couldn't shower yesterday until the first one was cleared.  Sigh.  It's all go. But I
may as well get a few big jobs done while I've got my wallet open.

In fact one reason the contractor neighbor was here was to give me a price on replacing my deck, which he's repaired recently.  May as well do the whole thing and enjoy it.  So that's going to happen. But I know  he will just tend to business, no protesting that it doesn't need done. He's already done the measurements and will price lumber this weekend. 

This place will be fully functional if I live to see it!   My logic is that now that my body is no longer considered a disaster area, I can turn my attention to the fabric of the house. Too bad there's no insurance for house repairs caused by wear and tear. Or on the householder, also under wear and tear.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Asparagus is in!

Celebrating the new asparagus season.  Here are a few spears, briefly simmered, and added to this salad of local mozzarella, apples, cheddar cheese, almonds.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spuds ahoy!

I'm sure you remember vividly the post in which I talked about planting potatoes? no? how will you manage the quiz at the end of the post, I ask?  You may be headed for failure with a capital L, as one of my teachers memorably said one day, poor lady.

Anyway, back in February we had a deceptively mild day, and I had a couple of potatoes sprouting on their own in the kitchen, so I planted them in containers.  Then a lot of weather ensued, which kept them pretty much wet and frozen for weeks, neither of which conditions suits potatoes.

But a couple of warm days, and we see that, contrary to my expectations, they are sprouting rapidly, and there will be a harvest.  

Even my backup one is coming up despite the squirrels digging everything up multiple times.

So maybe in June, along with green peas from the farm, there will be new potatoes, too.  I'll be sure to show you the harvest if there is one.

And here's my little red maple, new foliage, lovely color.  I use the leaves in fall for dyeing purposes, and recommend them as a natural dye source. Even fallen leaves, if they still have some pigment, can work.  Aside from the fact, says she hastily, that it's a beautiful tree for your landscaping..I tend to get carried away with utility in these things.

Speaking of which, the ficus, which I took outdoors perilously early, did indeed drop a lot more leaves, no help from squirrels climbing about, but I notice also signs of new growth, so that's hopeful.

I had already decided that if she didn't survive this year,  I would spray her some interesting color and use her as a home decor feature.  Maybe she heard my plans and thought, hey, not so fast, lady. Waste not want not...

Saturday, May 5, 2018

New learning at the knittting group, and WW Farmers' Market 2018

Yesterday was a meeting of the knitting group, always fun, and three new members showed up. One was in the throes of a broomstick lace project and she kindly showed us how it's done.  I'd heard of it, but this was a first in action


And I had brought Ellen Wilkinson in for a field trip

Today was the opening of the WW Farmers' Market for the year.  So I was there earlier than I usually manage, couldn't wait. It's always a lot of fun.

 Bottom line, this is today's haul, first asparagus, wonderful chicken sausage, local mixed greens, handmade mozzarella from the sausage place, mixture of crimini and shiitake mushrooms. Several excellent meals here.

This handsome feller, complete with spring clip, had noted that here and there interesting bits of food get dropped, so he kept his nose alert just in case Dogs love the farmers' market.

Two young audience members, in plenty of time for the live music tuning up

This baby cracked me up, intently studying his father taking pictures of the labels on garden plants, important stuff

And here's the brother of the two young audience members, jamming briefly with a member of the performing group

Always look for the mushroom display, this being not far from Kennett Square, home of the mushroom around here

 The knife grinder discussing the technicalities, and reminding me that I hate grinding my own knives so it would be good to remember to bring them and have him do them

The musicians getting under way

Once home, it's all about prep, washing, drying, slicing, wiping, generally setting up in the freezer ready for a week's good food.

So that's us.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the Fourth be With You!

Sad news, with the departure recently of Phyllis, a local friend, longtime blog follower and participant, always ready with ideas and books for me to read and responses to posts by email.  She always showed up at my events and demos, full of life and ideas to the end of her long life. Loved company but no so much as to hang out with what she would categorize as "just anyone".  Groups for their own sake not her style.  Interesting reader and debater.

Meanwhile, May the Fourth be with us all, and our inner Princess Leias!  Phyllis would approve.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Adventures with ferrets, Sebastian and the orchids

The last week has been punctuated with visits to a friend's animals and flowers while she and her husband have been on a cruise. Their idea of heaven, mine of hell, but moving right along...

So I've been stopping in to be bossed around by Sebastian the cat, usually totally timid, but has now got the hang of me and thinks nothing of ordering me to get his breakfast, stat, and his three wingmen, or partners in crime, Rocky, Skunky and Loki, the ferrets.

It's an endless talent show, what with one ferret trying to scale my leg, while another checks my shoelaces and the third yanks the kitchen rug about, it's his hobby.  They're as funny as rats, another pet favorite of mine.  I know small mammals are not everyone's cup of tea, but they have great personality if you let them chat with you.

Sebastian keeping an eye on Rocky, in case he makes inroads on S's breakfast

But Rocky was busy wondering if he could climb up me without my noticing


And Sebastian seized the chance at his breakfast while Rocky was otherwise engaged. For the photoshoot, only Rocky was present and posing, the others being MIA, probably up to no good in another room.

And there were the two prized orchids, one in bloom, the other bursting out just in time for the friends' arrival home tomorrow. 

I spritzed and generally fiddled a little bit with them, not too much, they're doing fine. Beautiful Metaphor readers will recognize the yellow one..friend's very happy with these, they first two she ever got to come back for a second year, so I was careful to give them five star treatment.  Actually orchids are as tough as old boots once they get under way.

All in all, just like old times with the petcare service.  And only a short walk, no commute.  Duncan was a bit suspicious when I got home having evidently been around other animals, but he was content to hold me down with a paw while he slept.

Friday, April 27, 2018

No pix today, but a cool story

So, the Google doodle yesterday honored the 100th birthday of athlete Fanny Blankes-Koen, which reminded me that I'd seen her run long ago.  My eldest brother was in the Cleveland Harriers running club, in north Yorkshire, and seeing her name brought it back to mind after lo these many years, and I wondered if the club still existed.

Looked it up, and it certainly does.  It exists, and has a Twitter account.  So I thought it would be nice to tell those good folks that I still remembered the 1948 Olympic year, when the Harriers hosted an invitational meet locally, and world class track stars came to run.  My brother took me to see the meet. It was the year that Britain had the summer Olympics, and I imagine that's why all these stars were in the country.I would have been about nine.

Fanny Blankes-Koen was one, and I was stunned at my first sight of a real woman athlete's body, whipthin, muscled, and moving like the wind.  Her competition looked as if they were trudging in comparison.  She was described in the British press as a housewife and mother of three!  until she shut them all up by winning everything on offer at the Olympics.

And there was Arthur Wint, a Jamaican man whose running stride was nine, that is not a typo, feet. I remember reading this in the local paper. Seeing him run a 200 yard dash, his feet touched earth only a handful of times.  MacDonald Bailey, too, another wonderful athlete, from Trinidad.  Anyway, clearly I was impressed, since I remember it still all these years later. 

So it just shows, you never know what kids will remember.  

And I thought it would be fun to go to the Harriers' Twitter account and let them know about this memory.  Whereupon they got all excited and invited me to their 125th Year Celebration Dinner Dance in September, in north Yorkshire!  I declined, explaining it was a bit of a commute, but was thrilled with the invitation. 

Google on the athletes' names, you'll see.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Latest required reading!

So after discovering Lynda Barry's drawing lessons on radio the other day, I had to go on, and I found her book Syllabus. It's the process, and the lined workbook, she used to create the syllabus for a course she teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  I wish she'd been doing that when I was there (!).  And even though you're only reading her syllabus, it's so full of information and prompts and general massive energy that it's worth working through just for fun for yourself.  Not as good as being there, but a good facsimile.

She understands about bringing drawing back into your life -- we all drew once upon a time before inhibition set in -- as opposed to Learning To Draw solemnly.  She knows the difference between rendering -- copying exactly what's there -- and drawing as art.

Anyway, she also indicates that a big part of her own impetus came from reading Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary.  I found I can't get my hands on it locally, only available to specific students enrolled in special course at local college.  

However, he did write a little ebook which condensed the main gist of it, and I bought that for my Kindle.  It's about the length of a magazine article, but packed with great insights and arguments, and well worth reading.  He discusses the concept of the split brain, and the differing functions of right and left, and how it's much more complex than the popular features about it would have you think. And he's both a scholar in literature and in neurology, a wonderful brain at work.

So this is where we are today, in reading terms:

The convergence of art and literature taking place right before yur very eyes!  I really encourage you to take a look at either or both of these great reads.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day, plants and the sun

Happy Earth Day!  Mine was wonderful sunshine, walking, observing plants opening and seeing the effect of evening sunlight onto glass, accidental art.

Here's the little cherry tree next door, just past the peak of her blossom

And here's a group of daffodils, at their peak

And future attractions

Then at the end of the afternoon, the evening sun shone through into the living room for just a couple of minutes of the right angle, and created this accidental artwork.  The green streak is the edge of the mirror catching the sun, against the cobalt of the glass projected onto the table.

Which reminded me to set out the solar light out front, and it's blazing away now in the dark, plenty of solar energy around now.

Happy Earth Day!  let's all take care of the planet in whatever way we do that.  Speaking of which, the bittercress I was enjoying seems to be a rabbit favorite, too.  I went out to pick some today and found a little hole where it used to be.  Checked another couple of spots.  All gone. Nothing else disturbed.  We have rabbits of good taste around here.  So it's good to leave what some people call weeds, just in case they're food for wild friends.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Change of scene, maybe this will make Spring arrive

So, the die is cast, the ficus is now on the patio for better or for worse, possibly a little too early, but she was dropping leaves rapidly, a sure sign she needs to be outside and letting her roots down through the pot to spread in the earth.

That means her crystal beads, gift of Kate H., which hang on the branches and catch the morning sun, sending rainbows around the room, had to come off.  So the beads are now in a crackle vase on the kitchen windowsill and catching the afternoon rays, little rainbows again, very cheering when the wind is bitter out there.

It's the kind of weather that looks pretty, bright sunshine, and wind, and when you go out walking you'd better keep up a brisk pace.  Then once home and warm again, amazing how easy it is to drop off when you're officially reading Amy Tan's memoir. 

 And now that the ficus is outside, that space has become a cosy corner set up for just such a purpose. Cat included, since he campaigns for a drink of milk when tea and books appear.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday, Little Library, afternoon tea, and three little budgies

Today was not only warm, it was eventful.

The third budgie, left, has joined the others in the tree, after a trip to the knitting group, at the big library, where he was photographed and admired like a star!

After I left the knitting group meeting, where I gave a Moosewood cookbook to a very happy recipient, I took my remaining book to leave at the Little Library, a new addition to the Art Center.  

 Locals will recognize this location as the old firehouse, now renovated for the visual and performing arts.

I've been looking for a local Little Library, and was happy to find this new one.  So I left a cookbook, took a book of mystery stories. If you're not familiar with the concept, it's a box on a post, set up with shelves, usually small, where you can leave a book or take a book, or both.

Then home to the first afternoon tea on the patio for the year. Reading, birds daringly feeding right overhead, a nuthatch getting brave, and giving me a great close up of how he works the feeder. He picks out the best seeds.

The tea was artisanal bread spread with farm honey, well it was gone before the photo happened, so you have to take the empty plate's word for it. Since tea leaves and coffee ground are acid, and that's what roses and azaleas like, I've been putting the used leaves out around them. We'll see how it works.  It beats disposing of them any other way.  

Reading outdoors today was Eleanor Oliphant is Just Fine, by Gail Honeyman, a funny and sad and moving story, written from the viewpoint of a probably autistic woman, brilliant,  working hard to figure out social interactions and language in the neuronormal world while dealing with past violent abuse.   It sounds much darker than it is;  it's piercingly funny, too.

Friday the Thirteenth, but artisanal bread will save us all

The end of an eventful week chez Boud, what with one medical thing and another, but now with answers and a plan of action and no ominous findings.  So it's all good.  Except that my chronic woes are a result of being small, female, white, Northern European, and getting on in years.  About which there's not a lot I can do at this time.  In the last couple of weeks I've had many unwanted views on screens of practically all my inner workings, including an unnerving addition to the discharge instructions of living color pix of my innards as seen in an endoscopy, ew.  But onward..

So yesterday, I made a new batch of Ye Olde Artisanalle Bread.  Back to the old bread pans for a change from the giant loaf I've been doing recently. This is just easier for toasting purposes.  

About half and half wheat and unbleached white, poppyseeds tossed around with abandon. Really nice texture.

I notice that my own bread takes a lot longer to toast than the bought stuff.  Since I was out of action a bit this week, Handsome Son did a bit of food shopping while he was picking up rx, and came home with a loaf of "wheat" bread.  Which toasted up lovely, but tasted of air, which is what it largely consists of, I think. I haven't had what my Mom would refer to slightingly as "bought bread" for about fifteen years, so this was interesting.  Happy to get back to making my own though.

Happy Weekend, all!  it looks as if finally spring is getting here, or maybe summer, since Spring seems to have sort of gone out of fashion.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ongoing interest, new challenge

For quite a while I've been following the blog of a Dutch woman, mostly in perfect English, but now and then with an entry in Dutch.  And I follow a Twitter account of medieval manuscripts from a Dutch scholar, again mostly English, but now and then Dutch.

So I decided I'd like to acquire a reading knowledge of Dutch just so I won't be totally baffled when I encounter it.  The hitch here is that almost all the sources I followed up were about acquiring conversational Dutch, with a view to visiting.  Not what I'm interested in.  

There is one book devoted to acquiring a reading knowledge, only available to students signed up for a three credit course at the local community college.  That expense is wildly beyond what I can seriously consider.  So I continue my search.

Meanwhile, I did find this course, which has a book as well as cd, and a glossary. 

I'm working my way through dialogs, to get the hang of the structure, and I'm already trying my hand at understanding the Wikipedia Dutch entry on Maria von Gelders, whose  book of prayer is a prime medieval artwork.  This course  has a book, glossary, and reading practice, too.  So it's a start.  And here's what I'm trying to work through:

I had a time finding the right Maria, and the illustration of her prayer book was my landmark. If you're interested in her in general, there are Wikipedia entries in English.

Since I'm the ultimate self teacher, this approach is about right. I don't do well learning in a group, always out of tempo with the general movement.

Which all reminds me of a comic situation long ago, when I ran an ESL program, largely for newly arrived immigrants, which was about acquiring daily language. Really different sort of request came in when I was asked by the Ivy League university in town to provide for them a special section for visiting Chinese science scholars, all of whom had a fluent technical reading knowledge of English in the sciences, and zero ability to navigate daily spoken life in the US.  Which we did, and eased their lives a bit.  So I'm coming at this from the other end!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Cipe and earliest cookbook, and a departure

This week's reading involves books I've been waiting for, for quite a while, Cipe Pineles'  Leave me Alone with the Recipes, and Amelia Simmons' American Cookery,  the earliest published cookbook known from Colonial times.  

They actually have quite a bit in common, both insisting that ingredient quality is vital, no matter how good the cook, and taking great pride in selecting and preparing great meals as an important part of life.

Cipe's book was found, in an antique book show, her own handwritten and painted recipes not seen outside her own family, despite her stellar career as a groundbreaking woman in the graphic art industry, and it's a treat to leaf through.  There are lengthy preambles from the women who discovered her, and as a team brought the manuscript to the stage of being a published book, and the best part is her own work.

The paintings are full of life and color, and food that looks like food without being tediously literal.  It's not so much about getting recipes from her, since they're largely traditional, so much as learning more about this interesting and wildly talented woman who made time for great attention to people as well as her cooking. You wonder how she managed to fit all she did into her days, and end up just admiring. She made her way in a very male environment, in the graphic arts and magazine industries, without losing her composure, or her adherence to her principles. 

Her last unfinished recipes had the graphics written, without the text, an interesting insight into an artist who fitted the handwritten text in after the graphics, rather than writing out and then illustrating a recipe.

And the other is the cookbook written by the earliest known published cook of the early part of the republic, Amelia Simmons.  I found a reference to it in the Card Catalog book which noted a modern reissue of this priceless work.

She's full of great advice, and it's interesting to see the gigantic quantities she deals in, with perfect aplomb.  Pounds of butter, and flour, and masses of raisins, to make cake, probably for a crowd.  She wasn't a caterer, but was familiar with cooking for large numbers.  And she assumes that you are growing a lot of your own food.  As in: select your plums before they develop a pit, which you establish by pushing in a pin.  So this means your own fruit trees.

Her advice on picking good meat and fish are still up to date, though few people now have access to a real butcher.  She's really fun to read.  The illustrations came later, woodcuts largely.  And she's very modern in her insistence that a woman, particularly a single one without a family to support her, as she was, should develop her skills regardless of whether she might marry, so as to maintain her independence.

Then, as a complete change, comes the Year of Less, which is advertised as a minimal approach to life, sorting and disposing of possessions, and cutting back on bringing items into the house, so as not to be stuck decluttering later. 

It turns out to be an intense journey of a year in her life, full of great emotional struggles and resolve, and it also turns out that living with less is only a very small part of what that year was about.  Not a quick and easy read.  But worth getting the insight into the life of a very talented person whose demons are always in conflict with her achievements. 

Interesting that all three arrived at about the same time, three very different lives, but with similar threads. They all have an intentional approach to life, designing their own way through work and living, and not looking to depend on other people for their sense of value.

And they're all well worth meeting.