Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008? a walk in the park!

Just waving the old year out with a literal walk in the park! every day I make a point of walking about two miles, often in the park in these pix. this used to be a ploughed field, the only place dogs could run loose on Sunday mornings, with bleary eyed owners clutching their early morning coffee and watching their charges.

Then the township grew and we started having parks, including this one. It's close to both my homes, a nice walk with various paths you can take for the sake of variety. And there's plenty to watch in season: cricket teams, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, runners, skateboarders, tiny little tricyclers, bicycles, walkers of all sizes. In summer it's a mob scene in the evening when people from all the surrounding apartments and townhouses bring the kids for a last walk before they go to bed.

The little building you see has a wonderful little playground, very imaginative stuff that kids climb and push around and generally have a great time. And there are concrete tables where men sit around playing bridge and chess and women sit around chatting.

Many languages spoken in this park: several Indian languages, a couple of Chinese ones, Russian, Hungarian, German, Haitian French, Japanese, Farsi. I always greet people as I walk, and it took quite a while for some walkers to respond to a stranger, but now they know me and the Indian ladies give me namaste, the Japanese walkers stop and bow, Middle Eastern walkers sort of wave.

I notice I often walk against the tide -- for me the perimeter path feels right if I walk clockwise, but most people go the other way. Nobody can explain this! is it about handedness? culture?

I do get suited up for this serious walking stuff -- before I leave the house, comfortable LandsEnd shoes, check, pedometer (fun to know just what I'm doing), check, warm hat, check, cellphone, check, walkman radio or CD with current mystery novel playing, check, gloves, check. Then finally, I can leave the house.

A couple of neighbors have hinted that they'd like to join me, but I haven't got enthusiastic about that, since walking is my Time Alone to Recharge. My daily life is strenuous, rarely alone, usually with a lot of responsibility, and walking is a kind of tranquillizer! You really get to know a place well if you travel it on foot, and I have a few different walks to take, some where I can watch birds, or see flowers growing, some to meet people, some to see how high the water is on the marsh -- winter is best for seeing the marsh behind the condo and the great blue herons and ibis there.

Nowadays there are far fewer dogs than there used to be. Different population, different pets. Typically I see small dogs in pairs, seems to be a current fashion in dogs! two tiny Westies, two little dachshunds, various little fluffy guys who are probably designer mixes.

So near the end of the Old Year, and I wish you all a good New Year, with health, wealth and tiny dogs abounding!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Almost New Year

Looking ahead a bit to color! it's that time of year when I think Spring ought to be almost here,now that the solstice is behind us.

And I start thinking about journals, too. Not the sort where you sit down each evening and write Dear Diary, etc. But more fun ones.

some I've done: journals with little drawings and paintings of flowers and things I've seen on my walks, or just rapid sketches of animals playing on the patio. These are not like true illustration, just nice reminders. Once you draw something you remember it better than anything. I have a series of loose small drawings I did at Cape May, down in the meadows, lovely to look at now.

And there are journals of just drawings, a series of Handsome Partner and cat, one done daily for a while, just for the fun of it.

And there was the one where I cut out my horoscope from the local paper every day, mounted it on the page then the next day wrote whether there was any correlation at all with what happened. That was great fun, and for about a month I liked it a lot.

And there are the garden journals. I keep notes and pictures and bills and plastic name things so that from year to year I can see what's happening. Now that climate change is on us, this is very useful, since I can't count on gardening the way I used to -- flowers bloom at different times, some don't bloom until I've given up on them, some go mad and take over, but differently from in the past. It's an interesting thing, particularly if I remember to date the entries so I can see what happened when.

Like the coleus I started from seed indoors, and absolutely nothing happened. I gave up on it and just shoved in a few cherry pits thinking I might get a nice little houseplant out of it. whereupon ALL the coleus seeds shot up, six weeks after they were officially dead. I guess they were offended that I hadn't waited. they ended up being great additions out of doors, and a bunch of them is now doing well in the house.

and the morning glory which didn't even start to bloom till after first frost, completely backward from expectations.

and there's the Good Things Journal, where I write down three good things from the day and Three Things I wish hadn't happened, and surprisingly often the Bad Things are only the other side of the Good Things. I probably wouldn't have noticed this if I hadn't written it down and reread it.

Most of these journals are either books I've made for myself or handmade books that were given to me or found cheap at the library booksale, more fun than the kind that's created to be a journal, with dates and little blocks for each day, dull stuff. I've made and given away a number of small artist's books that are meant to be written and drawn in, and I'm always open for requests, if anyone fancies one for the New year.

And there's a terrific idea if you want to make your own small notebook: you know those art cards, repros of famous painting that you get at art museum shops, and never ever use? you cut paper to fit, then staple it into the card and now you have a very nice cover for a small notebook which will fit in your purse, and if you can get through life without writing down the stuff you will otherwise forget, you're doing better than I! it's nice if you have a punch that rounds corners, to round the corners, also great fun to do. I've also given a number of these notebooks to friends as more than a birthday card, but not quite a gift, and people like this.

I have one of those punches, and it had my favorite instructions of all time (except for my digi camera which started: take camera out of box!) anyway the punch said: l. insert paper in punch 2. punch. My kind of people!

When I first got the corner punch I went mad rounding corners on everything that didn't move. the cats were careful to keep moving throughout this period.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Music, Dog Daze and the Santa Season

I play recorder regularly with great friends, and I present two of them to you, with great joy! we play all kinds of early music, no, not the Beatles, early meaning Renaissance and medieval and, if we feel really modern, Baroque! I took pix today, but was very sad indeed to find that the husky dog who lives in friend's house, and whom I planned on having right there in the middle where the space is, is no more.

since we were last there, three weeks ago, dear Nico, a 12 year old husky, was found to have an inoperable mass and was euthanized. Very very hard for the owner -- the lady in the green sweater -- but definitely right for Nico. We used to love his company as we played, shoving our stands around and howling along with the fire whistle! and now and then if he didn't like our choices, withdrawing to the other room, all on his dignity. He had a wonderful life with Jeanne, and it's just too bad that dogs simply don't live long enough. So we honored him with a space in the middle of the pix.

His predecessor, Felix, another husky, was the idea behind the name of our, then, quintet, the Felix Five! this is something recorder players do, give themselves fancydancy titles, since our music is strictly for our own pleasure. Somewhere I have old fashioned print pix of the Felix Five from years ago. One of these days they will show up, along with the 4,589,343 other pix somewhere waiting to be organized. Along with the Euclidean Trio, heh.

Speaking of dogs and other friends: When Andy was forced by his health to retire from his petcare biz (second retirement, first was from a prestigious research post in chemistry, this man has no false pride!) I made a nice collage of pix of many animals he'd cared for.

We both had petcare bizzes, which I created and organized then spun one off to him one to me, separate enterprises. But some things we both did, one of them being to get pix of pets to put in their files so that if, God forbid, one got lost or loose, we had a picture ready to rush about and shove at people gasping, him, have you seen him, etc. Anyway, once he retired, I took a lot of pix, made a collage and hung it in the kitchen where he could enjoy it. and with any luck, you'll see it here.

What I originally planned to say in here today, but dogs get in everywhere, was that our little town has a nice Christmas ritual, which consists a few days before Christmas of marking the season. The first time I encountered this, I was scared rigid, since it consisted of all kinds of official vehicles, sirens and lights going, swerving round into the cul de sac I used to live on, and I wondered gads what disaster can have happend to bring ALL the emergency vehicles out at once. I ran to the window to find out if I had to evacuate, scream, faint or what, and there down below on the back of the fire truck: Santa, waving happily at me and wishing me Merry Christmas. Oh. Okay. Not an emergency. Fun for little kids -- throwing of candy to them, etc.

This was before 9.11 which changed our lives totally and permanently in this part of the world -- neighbors and friends died that day, my petcare biz vanished when corporate travel vanished, much hardship all around, obituaries for months and months of young kids who had worked in the Towers, whose remains were finally found and identified, 700 people from NJ died. It permanently scarred all of us for emergency signals.

Anyway, now, when we hear the sirens and see the lights, if it's in late December, neighbors now assume it's Santa! we've learned this stuff. But one of my friends across the street commented that it's going to be really hard to get our attention if anything actually does go wrong, since we'll all say, oh, it's only Santa, not to worry!

Anyway, just to say to all of us, folks, whatever we're dealing with, and in this household with the latest medical findings for Handsome Partner, we are dealing with a great deal, I just want to say: whatever happens, it's okay, honest. It's only Santa!

Huge holiday greetings and joy and fun and playtime to all of us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bringing in the skeins!

Now that we're getting near the equinox, it's time for the age old bringing in of the skeins, see pictures of this year's harvest, and note the golden color of the ripe yarn hanging to dry, and the springlike green of the cotton fiber, waiting to dry and be rolled into balls, to knit into clothing for the peasant who processed the precious fibers.

No machinery involved in this process, just the old taking to the river, well, the upstairs bathtub, the soaking and pressing and squeezing and hanging, in the labor intensive ways of the elders, who remember the early stories of primitive hunters and gatherers of fibers, catching their own sheep, getting the snags of fleece off the fences, ten feet of snow, uphill both ways to the sheep fold....and now their descendants make a simple journey to the thrift store and riffle through racks of sweaters in search of the color and texture for their upcoming projects.

And like their ancestors, today's harvesters sit down for a nice glass of wine after their labors, and look out at the eighteenth fairway outside with its first snow covering, which has finally put paid to the local golfers for the season, and run upstairs for a quick pic of the patio, showing the entire extent of the flower garden for next year's planning.

And then sit gratefully down inside the house and admire the houseplants doing fine and looking out with sympathy at their fellows freezing their little roots off out there...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cogs, dogs and blogs!

Checking in this morning as a representative cog in the universe who has just got into a decade birthday, yay me. another day, another decade! wonderful celebration for me last night catered by Handsome Son, complete with food, presents and CLEANUP afterward, what a gift....

Last time I had a decade birthday I gave myself a complete set of free weights and a book on how to! worked with them faithfully most of the time every since and I attribute my incredible beauty and litheness and ability to lie to their use....seriously, I have been more fit and better off ever since, and it's a blessing, since my current life, owing to partner's serious and increasing disability, is very strenuous, but manageable. I think it wouldn't have been if I hadn't been doing the fitness thing. And I walk a couple of miles each day, as my Indian friend next door says "in any weather, you don't CARE about that weather!" while she stays warmly indoors until spring.

so that was a good decade. This time, I opened this blog, figuring by the time the decade came around I would be totally skilled and proficient in the art of blogging, and you can see how far that came true.....well, it's a goal, folks, and I have a decade to get there...and another little pride of cogness came about this year when Oliver Sacks included some of my writing in his paperback edition of Musicophilia, very thrilling. I love his work, and was so glad he was interested in corresponding with me about synaesthesia, a fave subject of mine, too. So this was good. And he sent me a copy to save my having to buy it, nice touch!

About blogs: a lot of people either can't find the comment button to post a comment, or their systems won't let them through, or something, and I get a lot of entertaining email in response to these entries, which amuses me hugely! I even get responses on other websites where I'm active and that causes me to wonder hm, where am I now??? So different parts of internet life get interwoven, exactly as they do in so-called meatspace. It's lovely, and one of the best toys I've had in a while.

On to dogs:

Have you been reading about this experiment some scientists in, I think Vienna, have been conducting on dogs and jealousy and notions of justice? hilarious: they have been getting dogs to shake a paw in return for a treat, then finding that the dogs who shake a paw and don't get a treat refuse to do it again. Well, duh! anyone with more than about 30 seconds of experience with dogs knows that they are very smart on keeping the rules! if you set up the rule that a pawshake is paid for, they expect it to be paid for. I'm sure dog people have all had the experience of dogs checking for the presence of treats before consenting to sit, stay, lie, read the paper, etc. Nothing to do with notions of justice, just of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

My question is where these scientists have been all their lives? and why did they have to set up a special study to discover this? I noted from one picture I saw that the test subjects were border collies. Well, I ask you.

Border collies could have figured out the protocols, written the test, screened for candidates and shown the scientists how to evaluate it....I remember the Golden Fleece awards made by the senator from Wisconsin whose name evades me right now, about the use of tax dollars to study the screamingly obvious. this was Euro money, so I doubt we'll shout much about it. Feel free to post a comment reminding me of the Golden Fleece guy's name.

Speaking of Europe: have you read David Sedaris "Me Talk Pretty One Day" very very funny essays, the best of them about his attempts to master the French language while living in Paris. He's funny in small doses. Best if you hear him narrating himself, but still good in print.

And rereading Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy Sayers, many times read before, but it never palls! the picture of Bunter in the back of the car, with bottles of vintage port wrapped in eiderdowns, anxious that it not be joggled and made undrinkable for months...big big deal in his life. and people with Latin and French tags all the time, very funny stuff. And Peter's dotty mother, the best character of the lot. Anyway, Sayers is good.

And so is life around here! Cheers!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Swinging and Harvesting!

.So those of us who follow women's professional golf are seeing the last season for the amazing Anneke Sorenstam, who has won practically everything in the world. And now for several tournaments, I've noticed that the commentators say this is her last tournament. Then she shows up in Asia for her positively last tournament. Now she's in Dubai for her definitely, positively last tournament. I wonder if she's having farewell events on every continent!

We started watching women's golf on tv years ago in disgust at the lousy sportsmanship and general scruffy behavior in women's tennis, and were amazed at the sheer politeness and calm and much more subtle competitiveness of the women's tournament. and the incredible skills.

I even treated myself to a putter (at a garage sale, knowing my modest goals) and a plastic glass to putt into in the living room and had quite a good time finding that my eye-hand coordination is good, but not prepared to risk my shoulder learning how to really play golf on an actual course.

Now, you will see our appreciation when you know that we live on the edge of a golf course, a public course with happy hackers out every weekend and some weekdays. When I used to walk the dog up the boundary line, I'd hear the players talking seriously about their swing, their new club, new approach, etc. Then I'd see them swingandswingandswingandswing and finally contact the ball, which would fall off the tee and roll a few yards....Or, the other type of amateur, who contacts the ball with great force and sends it at right angles to the course. We learned to duck.

So when you see real golfers deciding exactly where the ball needs to be and putting it there, it's amazing. They make it look easy. I think our local golfers have plenty of fun, though. Or something. Most of them are men. I wonder if they're hiding from their wives...and what they do in the winter when the course is closed, which it soon will be.

Meanwhile, back in the house, yarn harvesting is going on apace. Currently in the middle of unraveling an Old Navy sweater (they are wonderful for unraveling, very well made for the purpose, chain stitched seams, not serged) in a nice sort of goldy yellowy variegated color, pure lambswool. This will make some good socks, and other stuff, too. and I made an afghan out of scraps of donated yarn, wonderful warm thing. I have a pic of the draft layout before it was crocheted together, with Marigold testing it for warmth.

I was given yarn (people are always giving me yarn, figuring that between my personal knitting and all I churn out for pet rescue, I'll use it up long before they will) recently, a lovely merino wool, which I made into a Catspaw Shetland lace scarf, not as hard as it looks, once you remember to: take notes, make little check marks, use lifelines threaded through, arrange for total silence and no telephone ringing and nobody asking questions that make you forget if you did your yarnover, etc. Once you get that down, it's a snap...

Anyway I'm also making another scarf, with Catspaw just at the end, in a double wool, and completed another in a lovely sage green good cotton yarn, and I'll show you some of these. The sage one is a present for a friend who will have received it by now, so this won't spoil the surprise if she reads along in here. I think I've done Catspaw now! and feel free to move on to another lace design.

I give up on placing the photos logically in this post! blogspot not happy today, but anyway, they're here, even if a bit premature.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Comment box woes up there

Not possible to add comments to the negative space and turkeys post, so I'm adding this in the hope that if you want to comment, you will be able to!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Farmers and whimsy and negative space

Farmers can not often be accused of whimsy, but there's a local farm family who puts out a giant turkey in time for Thanksgiving which stays put till after the holidays. The body is one of those rolls of hay or silage or whatever they are that lie around in fields like huge tootsie rolls, and the features are seasonal: pumpkins new each year, but the tail and head part I guess are stored in the barn from year to year. Always look forward to seeing it on the way home from practically anywhere around here. So I thought you'd like to see this, as one of the pix I took today on my travels

Speaking of local sights and travels, there's the question of negative space. As an artist and longtime teacher of drawing and various other arts to adults, this is one of my favorite subjects to introduce as a way of seeing much better and designing artworks that work.

It's also often completely surprising to the students to learn that the space around the objects isn't nothing! it's what holds the design up. I get people to do the classic bring in a sports photo from local paper -- they are usually brilliantly cropped with great negative space, unsung artists, those photographers-- cut around the positive shapes, keep the negative bits, the reconstruct the picture using only the negative pieces. Epiphany! it's not only fun, it's a revelation of how artists see.

This particular artist tends to overdo, however. To me the negative space is overwhelmingly obvious to the point of sometimes being unable to figure out the positive image. This is why I use a pc not a Mac -- the Mac icons might as well be written in Martian for my understanding. son, the Mac professional, tries hard to see this. But look, Mom, it's obviously a TOOLBOX! not an abstract well balanced design....

To the point also where, after many many years of traveling the Garden State Parkway, hereinafter known as the GSP, I finally only recently came to read the icon correctly that I needed to follow in order to get to the coin-only bin at each county interchange. These come up a couple of miles ahead, and since the GSP management is held captive to what each county, the custodians of the interchanges, decides, about placement of the various parts of the interchange, they have tried to make the graphics huge and obvious.

So you are supposed to know a bit ahead of time which is the coin only, which is the token, well, that's phased out now, which is the receipt offered and which, God forbid is EasyPass, which if you accidentally drive through it, unforgivingly takes your picture and sends a summons if you are not an EasyPass transponder owner. Big fine.

Anyway, most of the icons on the side of the road are pretty clear. Except that the one I usually need, the coin, exact change, one, looked to me for years like a well balanced very nicely constructed abstract graphic.

It was in the course of demo'ing negative space to a class that I suddenly realized for the first time that this graphic was in fact a hand dropping coins into the bin.....aieeee. Class fell about laughing when I explained this.

So yesterday, it struck again. I was peacefully coming home past the county park, where there was a great big sign, cutout letters in red, coming up, against a background of dark green shrubs. This point is important in my defense, since red and green are complements, and each makes the other pop. Anyway, I studied the letters and wondered if if was in maybe Hindi (we have a huge subcontinent population) or maybe Arabic, since Eid is this week, and only after I'd passed it did it flip in my mind and make sense: Happy Holidays.

All I can say is duh.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let us now praise highway architects

So imagine the state I live in, NJ, which has the greatest concentration of cars per square mile in the entire north American continent. Now imagine the population center, which is pretty much central, given that you can get with equal stress and strain to either Philadelphia or Manhattan, where a lot of jobs are.

Then imagine the six lane Route One, and the cursed NJ Turnpike, many many commuters whizzing back and forth between them. On a small road with a tiny railroad bridge over the main eastern seaboard rail lines. At the main train station for said rail lines. Then imagine the trains from Philly and NY and people getting off them at about the same time, rushing for the cars and zooming into car traffic. All between 4 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Gridlock, weird kinds of accidents, general chaos daily.

Now imagine that finally the two lane bridge over that main train line has been reopened after several months of being completely shut, causing many detours around mazes of developments. And realize that that two lane road was the main link between Route One in this area and the Turnpike, and you will cringe at the resulting traffic mess.

So after several decades Amtrak, which owns the bridge but was busy lobbying in Washington to keep the trains running,no time for fixing broken old bridges, finally got together with the DOT and various other entities, and the bridge was scheduled for rebuilding totally, safely, to eliminate the nerve wracking aspects of trying to cross it.

And it opened yesterday, so I thought what the heck, I'll cooperate and drive over it and see how it works. And found that, in their infinite wisdom, the NJDOT, instead of putting useful traffic lights and that kind of helpful thing to let you know who has the right of way, always a nice touch, have put a TRAFFIC CIRCLE on TOP of a BRIDGE! with no advance warning, no signs until the last possible moment a yield sign, just as you reach the top of the bridge and imagine you are about to cross it.....then if you manage to circle correctly and get off the other side, the new bridge now leads directly onto the WRONG side of the road at the bottom. Which explains the police cruiser, flashing lights, parked there yesterday to stop people hurtling headon into traffic.

Now, all this is taking place at about 35 mph, but it's surprising how much trouble you can get into at even that speed.

It would not surprise me if the architect gets an award for this. The other award that happened last week was for the transformation of a formerly two lane road outside our post office, into what the designer called a "pedestrian-friendly" SIX lane road with NO crossings. But, if you by chance reach the other side, there's a walking path....that's the friendly part.

I rest my case.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Notes from Field, Fen and Patio

The name of the blog comes from a little feature I write elsewhere on the internet, on very local nature observations, surprising to people not familiar with New Jersey and figuring it's all about oil-cracking plants and highways and so on. Not so.

It's spang in the middle of the Eastern flyway, and birding is terrific around here. Case in point: the bald eagle is being restored here, and recently as I sat in the car at a red light waiting to get on to Route One, six lane highway, by Lake Carnegie, a bald eagle flew right over the traffic and sat in a nearby tree. Unmistakable, the sheer size and the bright white head and snooty facial expression. While I was getting over this, dangit if another one didn't fly over and join it!

Later a local birder told me it was a nesting pair, causing great excitement in regional birding circles, their nest a carefully guarded secret to avoid disturbance. She was a nice shade of green, since she had not yet managed to see them.

I told Handsome Partner about this one afternoon when we were sitting on the patio, as far as he can get these days, and another eagle flew over the rooftop, very obligingly, and he enjoyed this quite a bit! we have a small wilderness preserve nearby, and my guess, since the fishing is very good there, was that the eagle was heading for his lunch.

Wilderness preserve with no birds in evidence, in picture here! and there are many other wildlife characters there, including beavers continually blocking the hiking trails with felled trees, many kinds of snakes and fish and carefully secret rare wildflowers on the other side of the lake, not easy to get to and accidentally stand on them.

Ospreys over there, too, and we get the annual migration of the snow goose, a hugely exciting thing if you can catch it. Many many of them so far up in the air that unless it's a very clear Fall day, you can miss them. White with black wingtips. They land, some years in a field at a local farm, where the entire field is covered in these wonderful animals, all facing the same way, taking a rest. They stay just a few hours before leaving for the rest of their trek. I've seen them twice.

When the weather is mild enough I drive us to a local park with a river running through it, and it's not unusual to watch great blue herons, cormorants and a kingfisher working the water busily. Right in the middle of a little town, about half a mile from the Turnpike. It continues to amaze me that wildlife simply adapts and gets on with it in the middle of one of the most densely populated states. Picture shows Handsome Partner (wearing the ski sweater I showed earlier, I now realize) by the river. Only a few steps from the car and he can manage that still.

I don't feed birds in winter any more, since the squirrels got onto it and have found out how to dig holes in people's roofs and take up residence in the bedroom ceilings. A neighbor found this out the hard way. And there is no such thing as a squirrel proof feeder! it's a cruel hoax.

We still see a lot of small birds over the winter, though: goldfinches, cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, Carolina wrens yelling endlessly away -- they used my outdoor knitted hanging you saw earlier in this blog as a playgym in the summer! not unusual for cardinals to fledge twice, so you see babies learning to fly as late as October.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And a little cat shall lead them....

Fluffy Sheba, the household resident Rescued Persian, has registered a complaint that Marigold, the Rescued Burmese was pictured here, see a few days back, in a primo position, too, followed swiftly by CK Duncan, at leisure with Handsome Son. CK is a rescued longhaired cat who claims to be black but is in fact chocolate colored in the sunlight, hence Chocolate Kitty Duncan, aka CK Duncan, aka Duncan Donuts, a mean reference to his girth.

Anyway, both of them pushed in and got their pictures up so Fluffy Sheba inserted several teeth into my ankle in a gentle request that she, too, get her fifteen minutes of fame. So here she is, looking exactly as cheerful as she usually does. She gives the impression of a queen who somehow got placed in a plebeian household.

While we're at it, a little paean of praise to the best guard dog I ever had, Buff, the 30 lb mixed terrier known to local kids at that time as Liz's orange Scottie. Nobody got near me unless I said it was okay, a big plus to a woman living alone and walking her dog in the local park at night after work.

He came to me the day a previous dearly loved dog had to be euthanized, and I just agreed to meet him, not to take him home, no, never, there would never be another dog like my collie/terrier mix Kerry. when I used to brag about her at work one of my colleagues says, ah, she combines the best of both breeds: she herds rats!

Anyway, I went to meet Buff who then had another wimpy name, not right for a self respecting big dog like him, and when I opened the friend's apartment door, Buff ran and put a toy right on my foot. So in less than ten minutes he was in the car on the way home with me. And the lousy little politician never ever again agreed to play at all, in the next 15 years I had him. I'd throw a ball, and he'd look at me like, get yer own ball, I'm not your servant!

And there have been many other pets, none of them invited in, but they moved in anyway and some of them -- the parakeets -- had families in my apartment. Harriet and Opal, the parakeets who I swore I'd been keeping apart, had three families on the top of the refrigerator, beautiful multicolored babies all of whom found nice homes. One of their kids still survives. Beeper lives happily on the top of the current refrigerator in the current home, and feuds with Marigold.

Lunch today with a dear friend who works to rescue animals in her limited spare time and sadly noted that the current housing crisis has caused many pets to be abandoned. Which leads me to my next thought: if there's room at your house for just one of these animals, any shelter or rescue group would love to direct you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

And if food is the music of the kitchen!

Yesterday was the first of the month, so I wish you all White Rabbits. No idea why people say this, they just do.

And on the subject of food: Adventures with Wonton Wrappers.....which I finally discovered after everyone else on the planet knew all about their various uses.

We have a terrific local Asian foodmarket, with helpful workers none of whom have much English, but a lot of willing. And it took four of them to translate my need for wonton wrappers into Chinese and then to the one person who knew where they were but had a hard time explaining it to me. I must say I could not have directed her in Mandarin, so I'm not arguing with her! suffice it to say that after a while I did find them.

And learned to make my own potstickers. I made quite a lot the first time, because it was fun to do and I'd made too much filling (stirfried fresh ginger, garlic, onions, various small veggies) and had to use it up. But there were NO leftovers, which encouraged me to continue....which I did.

Next came Tiny Little Pies. Two wrappers, filled with Granny Smith apple, cooked down with cinnamon, lemon, brown sugar, baked in a hot oven for a few minutes. Wrappers are sealed together with an eggwash, that way they don't open in midbake. Little slits in the top just like grownup pies. Very good hot with a scoop of icecream, or cold with anything you like.

And finally, the Ravioli! ta-dahhhhhhh. Nice cheese mixture (actually like kreplach, but I know the kreplach joke, so don't!) with various cheeses and turmeric and pepper, wonton wrappers folded into halfmoons, sealed with the old eggwash and dropped into big pot of boiling water. They float quickly, but you cook them a couple of minutes more anyway. Then serve with a lovely homemade sauce of chunked tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, onion, big chunk of homemade basil/parsley pesto.

very good stuff, and you make enough for two meals, because the nuked leftovers are at least as good as the first time around. So yay!

Here endeth the current Adventures with Wonton Wrappers. I have now finished the first package so we will have a few days off from WWs...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If Music Be the Food of Love...

Around Thanksgiving it's good to remember the things that we do a lot and often fail to take account of.

For me, one of them is playing music with friends. Not for performance -- none of us is interested at all in performing in front of an audience, though we are competent enough players -- just to enjoy the musical conversation of playing together.

I do this in several different contexts: with Princeton Recorder Society, a keen group which meets monthly, different conductor, usually a name in the world of early music, with a trio, sometimes a quartet if we're lucky, of friends meeting at a friend's house, with accompaniment from her husky who occasionally joins in, especially when the local fire whistle goes off....with another friend who is a terrrific pianist, modest way beyond her talents which are amazing.

We sight read, occasionally play music we're already familiar with, but we don't sweat it.

I've played a number of instruments over the years, recorder being the most consistent, largely because there are local groups to play with, and in the last year was given a longterm loan, totally unannounced, of a very good silver flute played by a friend in a statewide youth orchestra many years ago, and in need of a new player.

So I'm teaching myself flute and having a great time -- this is where the pianist friend comes in -- piano flute duets are an occasional, when I can get her, she's busy, pleasure for both of us. I bring my keyboard with me because it's permanently tuned to A440, meaning it stays on the currently accepted pitch without tuning, unlike a piano, which has to be tuned regularly.

Friend's piano is tuned a half step below A440, for practical reasons, perfectly tuned within itself, but not working as a duet instrument with a flute which can't really be tuned down a half step, hence bringing my own keyboard. She has one but it's downashore (NJ shore) and is a fullsize keyboard, all the octaves of the piano, not very portable! mine omits the top and bottom octaves and I hardly miss them when I play keyboard.

All this sounds very solemn, but it's largely a hoot! wonderful fun to make music together, and make a lot of discoveries at the same time.

My seasonal wish: try it! if you never learned an instrument, do yourself a favor! or if you never had any singing lessons, see if there's a group class locally to try it out. I've played piano, violin, voice, recorder, all the voices of recorder, that is, and now flute, and I never had a better time in my life.

We play early music -- medieval and renaissance on the recorder, later music on the flute, which was not invented when recorder was big -- flute being known as the transverse flute, the recorder being an early flute -- and the piano wasn't invented then either. So it's nineteenth century and later on piano and flute.

One thing you need is the ability to allow for looking like a total fool every time you play, and once you realize that's perfectly fine, you can have such a good time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Knitting items, finally!

Unkinking yarn: various methods. The one I used is to hank it, tie the hanks in a couple of places, then gently somp them up and down in a few inches of lukewarm water with either shampoo or wool wash in the bathtub, rinse gently, squeeze out by hand then in a towel, then hang gently to dry off. Takes a couple of days for the hank to dry completely, ready to wind into balls.

Longer if the cats try to help......other people steam yarn to unkink it but I had the feeling I might end up with hunks of felt if anything went wrong, and after all that unraveling I wasn't up for that.

Twas the Day After Thanksgiv ing...

Holiday for the cook today! lovely leftovers....no work.

And in the spirit of Buy Nothing Day, I've been reading a book from several years ago by Judith Levine titled "Not Buying it: My Year Without Shopping." Very interesting reading about social observation, what buying is really about, why people do it, and don't. If you make allowance for her NewYorkcentric approach -- a trip out of the city is a Big Event! even though she spends half the year in Vermont, strictly as an outsider -- she has a lot of good things to say.

What's amusing to the likes of this Yorkshire woman is that a lot of these brand new approaches are the way I've always lived, but I don't live in the commercial atmosphere of a big city and since she does, she's swimming against the tide. Anyway, it's worth a look.

On the subject of not buying it, my friends at Ravelry, the best knitting site in the world, have introduced me to the notion of harvesting yarn -- thrift store sweaters in excellent yarn and lousy design, unravel, hank, unkink and reknit into items that are really worth having. This fits right into the times, I think, as well as being a great source of total smugness for me!

Someone asked a while back what I knitted last year, just for the sake of asking, I think, and was blown out of the water, as was I, when I listed what I'd made. This is just in scraps of spare time, partner's total disability taking a lot of time and energy, and pursuing an exhibiting artist job, and art volunteering, helping curate local gallery, hang exhibits when needed, generally support, as well as everything else life seems to present, including three demanding cats and a little parakeet, taking most of my time.

Anyway, after I listed an endless number of kitty blankies (given to a friend on board of rescue agency), hats, socks, scarves, shawls, afghans, washcloths, dishcloths, art wallhangings, masks, bags, etc) I began to feel a bit tired myself! I also taught myself lace knitting and did a whole lot of small samples of classic lace patterns, some of which I made into ATCs for exhibit. So I decided to create a binder of pix of knitted items, to keep the patterns and general info.

And I thought you'd like to see a few entries from the binder.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Welcome, friends! and since tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US, I'm kneedeep in chestnuts for stuffing, turkey, various vegetables, and general preparation. Son and I do the meal together, partner enjoys it. It used to be three cooking, but now that only two of us are able to, two of us cook for three!

I love Thanksgiving largely because I didn't grow up with it, and it doesn't have any long memories, so we've been able to create it for ourselves. And there are no presents involved, always a welcome feature as far as I'm concerned, not being a big fan of big giving and getting! I like to give things at different times of year for different reasons.

So, from our little Thanksgiving to yours, happy day! and friends reading from other countries, just have a nice Thursday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Art goes on all the time. current pic is of a small ink and wash drawing entitled Sisters, on exhibit locally.

Notes from field and fen: the first treeful of robins appeared this week, a sign of winter in central NJ, and last week the slate colored juncoes showed up in a flock. So I guess the season's turned.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Learning how to publish and get the info where I need it to appear....meanwhile, in learning mode, the top pic is of African AIDS Comfort Dolls, a few of the many I've knitted to send to ICROSS for gifts to small AIDS orphans in clinics in Africa. Several times a year Billy Wilbond travels to Africa with donations of vaccines, equipment and other materials for the hospitals, using the little dolls (about six inches tall) as packing material! great idea.

Then there's a picture of the mourning dove with her two babies, nesting on my front porch in a planter. she was very calm throughout, letting me take pictures right up until the babies left home. I sent the series to our township summer program, for their visiting ornithologist to share with the kids. Many neighbors came to visit these bird neighbors.

And there's the shot of my front tiny yard crammed with stuff! I gave a lot of divisions of daylilies to a nice lady from Trenton who was beautifying city streets with them. She was very happy to cart them away.

So there's my opening salvo!

First blog post

Trial posting, November 22 2008

this blog will be a great mixture of nature observations, knitting progress, fine art creation and exhibiting, notes on the humans around this household, pet stuff, in other words, just fun as it comes!