Friday, October 30, 2009

Frugal Friday

I went shopping in my closet this week. HP needed another warm indoor jacket -- has trouble keeping warm, because of being forcibly inactive -- and I fancied another cardigan. But there was no time to get to the thrift store, so I did the other thing, and realized that we both had what we needed but in different form.

He had a beautiful hand knitted Irish aran sweater (no, not by me, from an expensive boutiquey place) had had it for over 20 years, these things never wear out, and it is too difficult to navigate in and out of it in his current situation. So he needs jackets now. Aha, light dawned, and I cut the sweater up the middle, turned back the edges like lapels, and now he has a very nice, extremely warm, jacket ready to go. The trick was to cut it up the middle of a motif so that it hangs symmetrically.

And, full of ambition, I figured I'd take a terrific heavy cotton sweater of my own, LandsEnd best, which I bought for $2 at a garage sale about 10 years ago, cut that up the middle and have a nice shawl collar cardigan, which would suit me better. It's purple, not my fave color, but looks good if I put white next to my face, not if the purple is there. It makes me look old and tired. Well, maybe I am, but there's no need to look it, too! and since I've lost a lot of weight this year, the sweater was way too big, but is a nice generous size for a jacket, can wear a sweater with it. I should explain that it came in a bundle of terrific LandsEnd turtlenecks, all of them for less than $5 the lot. I liked the other colors, dusty pink, and ivory and jade green, so the purple came along.

So I present to you my happy frugality results. This is actually quite easy to do, once you nerve yourself up to cut through really good knitted fabric, and the results are definitely worth it, when you think that both of these items were languishing on a shelf unworn for ages. And it took approximately 45 minutes per sweater to do this alteration. Piece-o'-cake.

I did get to the thrift recently, though, and snagged three sweaters for unraveling, I mean harvesting (!), purposes, really good yarn that would be much more expensive bought as new yarn. One is multicolored, and will provide a nice range of shades for my tapestry, now on the second, yellow/orange/flame/red color family. One is caramel, great for quiet sorts of knitting for people who are not heavily into color. And the last is charcoal, lovely heavy yarn.

HS had recently suggested that because long pants are not an option, HP might do well with something like legwarmers. A technical explanation here: because of the spinal damage, causing total incontinence, he has a permanent external catheter setup, as well as protective underwear, which between them make it very very difficult to insert him into regular long pants, since he can't assist with movement, and it takes nothing at all to detach the catheter which means back to square one, an hour's work of undressing, reapplying, redressing, etc. So he wears soft knitted shorts. But despite the handknit afghan he uses in the daytime, it's still a bit draughty.

I was going to knit him some legwarmers, thinking HS was really onto something here, until it dawned on me at the thrift store as I pawed through sweaters, that this charcoal one has lovely long sleeves which might make great legwarmers with practically no work at all once I've detached them from the sweater. That was when I realized I could cut his sweater to make the jacket I was at the thrift store idly thinking about, a couple of weeks ago.And the color is a nice conservative one. And he can tolerate wool.

So that's the next frugal adventure around here. If I live to 150 I will not run out of work to's also incidentally how two seniors can survive on social security and a tiny pension each, and live like royalty. At least we think we're royalty.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

First Hallowe'en party

As a confirmed Hallowe'en Hater, can't stand the ghoulishness, and how a serious religious day has been turned into a carnival, don't get me started....anyway, once in a while even this curmudgeon can be charmed.

And I was, yesterday, at the H. party given by a neighbor for her three year old and his friends. The moms had set up a little toy house under the trees, like a scene, and hung treat bags about a foot off the ground, so three year olds could see and reach.

And then a little parade past our fence, and they got to seek. They did have a bit of trouble fathoming what they were supposed to do, and needed some broad hints from moms, but they had a good time.

For my money, the twin Dalmatians were just the ultimate in cutitude, closely followed by the others! the pix are the result of quite a few efforts, since the kids were moving at a high speed, out of camera range all the time, and by the time I'd got a focus, the partygoer had moved before the shutter finished clicking. They weren't posing, didn't ask them to, just playing.

Great fun, and the moms agreed that pix were fine, since I needed to show off their handsome young!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A huge miniature offer for your delight

Folks and blogistas, as you may know I used to be a serious miniature maker, specializing in miniature needlework, and showing at nationally juried miniature shows. Work appeared in some national magazines, too, and I used to run a Minipoint Club, which was a subscription deal where I designed and kitted and shipped a different miniature each month, went on for years sending them all over the world, till I got all tuckered out.

I used to accept commissions for miniature rugs, too, and will never forget the summer I had orders for three Victorian rugs, roses on a black background, and wondered if my eyes would ever recover. I'm a pretty fast stitcher, but each square inch of actual stitching, not counting the design and color balancing and all that, takes at least an hour. All those hours of stitching black, ow! but they were well received.

All these works are one inch to the foot in scale, which is the classic dollhouse scale. And they are not toys -- they're artworks on a small scale. The buyers were serious adults who love the miniature artforms.

Anyway, that was a long time back, and I just turned up a little trove of rugs and pillows and raw material not yet made into pillows, all stitched by me, most designed by me, too, some traditional designs, some in wool, some in embroidery floss, and had a sudden thought.

Why not offer these, one per customer (well, more if it's pillows, they're better in groups of two or three) to my online friends? So I took some pictures of the entire trove I found, once these are gone, they're gone! with a ruler in place to show the scale, and wonder if you would like to either post in here email with your specific request and the address to send it to? please don't ask on behalf of a friend -- I'd like direct communication.

You'll note that there are a couple of pieces of embroidery not mounted as pillows, in case you fancy your hand at creating a pillow using this work as a pillow top -- use a wisp of batting to stuff, and some fine material for the backing, stitch around like a regular pillow.

I used to sell these at a pretty price, but those days are over, really, and though I'm not asking for $$$ (unless you'd like to send a few $$ to your local animal rescue group?) but I am asking some things of you.

One is that you frame the piece if it's a rug, or place it in some kind of vignette if it's pillows, so that it is displayed and enjoyed. The second is that somewhere on the frame or vignette box you show my name as the creator of the piece. Okay, that's it for requirements! Oh no, there's another: please send me a picture of it in its new home, with permission to show it in here if I would like to. Okay, NOW that's it for stringent requirements...

One of my lifelong small missions is to see that good needlework gets its due, so if you accept a piece and display it, you will be a part of that mission, and I thank you.

I've tried to take pix, though my camera is not in a good mood today, that will help you identify the rug, not by location, they are now back in their bags and away, but by color and background, that sort of thing. Step up, they need a loving new home!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Other People's Lives

Strolling around the park today, after the first light frost started to turn the leaves, made me think about how other people's lives tend to look very rosy from the outside. As mine probably does to people who see a happy old lady ambling about in the sunshine not having to be in an office, taking pictures, chatting. And that part of it is in fact rosy -- I am very aware of the blessing of being able to walk at all, let alone for pleasure.

And I'm amused by the library reference man who a couple of years back when I was desperate for internet connection, and had to trail to the libe to get online and get really vital legal and official things accomplished in a mad rush in the 40 minutes maximum allowed, commented, this is nice for you, gives you something to do to help fill your day! having assumed I was a leisurely retiree, I guess, heh.

But when you know the people, you have insight into just what troubles they deal with, and have all the more admiration when they turn a cheerful face to the world. Like our down the street neighbor and old friend, who is the sole caregiver of a wife deep into Alzheimer's who will certainly have to find a placement for her soon, before it kills both of them. But he rarely complains, but would rather talk gardening with me and his plans for next year's tiny garden -- his is even smaller than mine!

And the family next door, teenage daughter valiantly struggling with brand new double whammy of lupus and kidney cancer, all happened in the last few weeks, who is still celebrating Diwali, the feast of lights, and trying to get to dance recitals in the intervals of hospital and chemo. Until this hit, she was an A student, a high level Indian dancer, a violinist, who ran kids programs in the summer.

And her parents, who look decades older than they did a few weeks back, stalwartly affirming that they will manage this, they will have a life, all of them. Their daughter, whose Indian name means Light, is going to have a nice lacy scarf and little artist's blank book for a journal from me as soon as I get the scarf finished. The journal is made already. Just two little thoughts from HP and me, since we just want to do something.

And the great friend on the other side, who is the ultimate optimist. He has had a bathtub standing in his kitchen for two years while he searches for a plumber who can get it upstairs to the bathroom to install it, and remove the old one. All of them have said the only access is via the downstairs ceiling, on account of all the tight right angle turns on the stairs, which has given him pause. Until last Saturday when he got up to find the living room ceiling and a lot of water on the living room floor and a flood in the upstairs bathroom where the &*&*&&*& shutoff had failed.

He was pretty racked up about it when he told me especially since the one shutoff that failed was the only one he hadn't got around to replacing yet. But then he said, with a big brave grin, well, now the ceiling's out, I may as well get M. (local handyman) over to give me a hand installing the tub through it....

He has a very old frail mother at the end of her days in the house, family all trying to take care of her. He's already arranged flextime at work to help with this. And he will come over and help me any time I ask, so I ask rarely, because I don't want to impose. Just not the person who should have to deal with floods and reno right now.

And people who don't know all this see him as a happy go lucky guy whose life is just so cool -- glamorous daughter, brilliant student in grad school, prestigious job of his own, successful wife, pretty townhouse, etc.

Anyway, this is just a little note of praise for people dealing with the hand they've been dealt, and still interested in helping with other people's deals, too.

Little series of pictures in the park:

young man striding around,

old man strolling,

young Indian mother with beautiful baby in sparkly slippers waving them from her stroller.

And remembering that their lives might not be as simple and calm as they look on a lovely fall afternoon, in the park, in the sunshine.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tapestry update, at last, new vistas and Mrs. Stewart

Tapestry update, at last, new vistas and Mrs. Stewart

My computer with the library in the background is one of the places I’ll be blogging from from now on. My unofficial WiFi access has vanished into the maw of a package which has automatic firewalls.

It used to be that friendly neighbors left their WiFi modem open and didn’t mind the occasional piggybacking from folks like me, but now that packaging is the big deal, they don’t have that option. If you have a cable contract, they take over your telephone, television access, internet access, food choices, fashion decisions, you name it! And automatically put up a blocking mechanism to reject unauthorized people. That means me.

And aside from the sheer cost which is beyond our means, they simply can’t understand a household like ours, where the directv dish is HP’s, the landline phone is his, the cellphone is mine, the internet access is mine. They don’t understand how to separate out the functions and sell you what you actually want, what a concept.

So life will go one and my access will be a bit less frequent but very focused on getting a lot done in the brief times I can be away from the house. And amazingly, on discovering how many times I would be checking email, when really there is very little that is so dramatic that I need to be there on call!

And my organization has to be a bit better, since I found I'd forgotten to upload the pix to the drive before coming out to blog, sigh...but that gave me the chance to do some more pix, too, so all is not lost.

Yesterday I finished a scarf, made three artist books, did some spinning, and read a Mary Wesley novel, all in the time I suspect I might have been foofing around on the internet, doing Vital Research…this is over and above the nursing care, cooking, laundry etc., that consume several hours daily no matter what else is happening. So it goes to show.

And I have made a neat discovery, that in dyeing fleece I can branch out from Koolaid, since I realized, on tidying up the laundry shelf, that I have two bottles, don’t ask me how, of Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing. Remembering vividly making things bright blue when I had intended only to whiten them, I realized that I can use it on purpose as a dye, and did so. Nice blue, almost unobtainable via Koolaid. And not poisonous, as far as I know. I just soaked the fleece overnight in it, and wrung it out by hand, let it dry, and we’ll see how it spins.

And the tapestry is at the end of the first panel, and that blue will almost certainly be needed, once it’s spun, that is, on the second or third panels of this work. So I show you the first panel, still on the loom, where it will stay so that the other panels will work with it as I go, and the empty loom for the second panel. Potential!!

Recorder Society meeting this week, was a blast. The conductor is a worldclass musician, don’t know how we managed to snag her for our amateur group, but she was wonderful. She played Carnegie Hall this year, was in a Festival of Early Music in Prague, and gave birth to a daughter among all this, and cut several Cds, with YoYoMa’s percussionist from the Silk Road Ensemble. And she’s a cutup, very funny, terrific fun to work with.

If you want to see my official pix of conductors and others, I’m the official photographer of the Princeton Recorder Society, which you can find at or something of that nature, you can google on it. It sounds posh to say I’m the official photographer, but it’s really I’m appointed because I’m the one who remembers to bring my camera and then remembers to use it! I’m the best they can get, this is not a great tribute to my photographic talent! But do take a look at the website, Tom L. the webmaster is doing a very nice job.

And our latest conductor looks like a medieval angel figure or a pageboy, with long red curly hair, black tunic and tights and boots, and a wonderful face.

So this week we played medieval music, and then for a finale, leapt ahead to the Baroque, all that way, 18th century. Great stuff to play, and she even taught us some new techniques.

Did you know that virtuoso players like her in concert don’t keep changing instruments? As you probably know, different voices of recorder, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, have different fingering and different clefs. There’s no time in the heat of performance to keep switching so they switch the fingering. This boggles the mind! Such mental flexibility is kind of hard even to think about. But she taught us to do it a big, playing altos as if they were sopranos.

I do know how to play the bass as if it were an alto, which involves change of clef and of fingering and of pitch, and often am the only person in the group who can divorce her thinking from her playing enough to do it! It’s intuitive rather than considered. But playing an alto like a soprano was new.

What happens is that your subconscious starts to associate the feel of a given instrument with its fingering and clef, and you have to override that if you change the expectations, great mental adventure. It’s one reason I switch at home all the time between flute and different voices of recorders, to try and maintain the flexibility to be able to play what I mean to.

Anyway, the evening was great fun, once a month HS comes over and sits with HP to let me get out without worrying.

And you want to know what I call a good friend? M., that's who. Who invited me over to her kitchen to make art together (and I did a couple of drawings, which I can show you here, for your endless delight!) and baked a cake, too! not bad. I reciprocate, of course, but it's so good to have this done for me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Zinnias and books and food and adventures of an immigrant

I was listening to Steve Roberts on the radio today talking about a new book he's written, well, compiled from student accounts, about immigration. He is the son of the first generation, and his interviewer, Diane Rehm, is too. His family from Russia and Poland, hers from Egypt. So they were talking about the huge undertaking of emigrating from the land of your forepeople, and leaving behind all that is familiar, food, friends, maybe relatives, definitely scenery, and all the hardship it entails.

Which is very sympathetic of them, but I think they missed a HUGE piece of this. HP and I are immigrants ourselves, came here on our own initiative in my twenties, his thirties, as a newly married and dead broke couple. We had to sell stuff in order to raise the cash for the sailing tickets! and make a credit union loan before we even landed, in order to be able to actually get overland from New York, our port of entry, to Wisconsin, where HP was to do postdoc. work with other atom scientists. And the day after we got to Wis. I had to go out and find work for rent and groceries, since HP was not going to be paid for another month. In the middle of January. In Wisconsin. Aie! walking everywhere, neither of us either drove or could possibly afford to at that time.

Anyway, I don't want to go on an on in my worn out cardboard shoes and whine, but did want to make the point that we were quite alone, no family nor friends there, we simply broke our own path in life, never took a loan after that credit union one, owed nothing to anybody, created our own careers in different fields.

And it has all been the most amazing adventure! there is nothing, nothing, as exciting as starting over, remaking who you are and what you're about, free of the expectations built into your origins, in a country where we literally have been able to find opportunities to do practically everything we wanted to.

Where my northern Brit accent was not a liability as it was in England, and my religion was not a regrettable fact, as it was there, and where I could breathe the air, which I couldn't back there, either. There was no work there, for people with posh degrees, and I had a short life expectation, I was told by my doctors, not beyond the age of 30 unless I got out, into a place where there was actual air, not the black stuff lying around where we lived. Which unfortunately was where our education was available.

So anyway, that's ancient history, but I wonder if people who have never done it can grasp the excitement of taking your own life into your own hands and deciding where you will be and what you will do. And succeeding, and often failing, on your own terms. Judged as what you are, not who you are related to.

Well, I'll calm down now, and leave you with this paean of praise to the joy of Getting Out and Doing Better!

Oddly enough this program came right after I'd finished reading Hilary Mantel's Giving up the Ghost, a memoir I read while Im waiting for her Booker Prize book, Wolf Hall, for which I'm approximately 254th in line at the libe. And I found that I wish I'd known about her before.

Reading her is like riding a power drill -- she just blasts right through the emotions and memories of her childhood, sometimes funny, sometimes elegiac, always shiningly intelligent and with a huge respect for the intelligence of her readers. In fact she mentions this in passing, that writers need to be able to trust that their readers are smart enough to get what they're offering. She doesn't say, but I think might imply, that if the reader doesn't get it, it's not the writer's job to hammer it home! You practically need a seatbelt to stay with her, going at warp speed through many layers of experience and thinking and dreams and fears and ambitions.

And there are parallels between her life and this reader's: growing up working class in an area where Protestant and Catholic knew who was which, and Catholics heard themselves described in less than happy ways, first in her family to get beyond high school in education, struggling against ill health for years on end.

But here's the truly eerie, woowoo music part: I kept on wondering why her refs. to Bankbottom, and Hadfield, and Hyde, Cheshire were familiar, and realizing, I'd written that address many times in correspondence with an old uni friend I kept up with for many years -- she lived on the exact same street as Mantel grew up on, about ten doors down. Mantel was born much later, so I doubt the families knew each other, but if that isn't eerie...

Speaking of trusting your reader's ability to get what you're saying, Mary Wesley does this all the time. In A Sensible Life, which I have just reread, she does this in wonderful scenes. There's one in which the protagonists are talking at the side of a river where an old trout is lurking, having escaped capture for years by the man in the scene.

The woman after a while indicates that she can see the trout there, though the man had assumed she had no idea. And we know that he thinks he's hooking her, and she knows he is trying to, and is not planning to be hooked. But this isn't shoved home at us, it's just lightly touched on with the few words describing the trout, no need for more. Mary Wesley can not write a bad novel, and I think I've read all she's written.

I thought about that trusting the reader notion, right before I read it in Mantel, so I was kind of pleased that I'd noticed, gold star for me!

And I close with three nice things: one is a view of today's lunch, cooked in one of the many terrific pans I've rescued from the dumpster lately, and a new adventure i food for us.

Mustard greens, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, onions, turmeric, black pepper, with chunks of flounder sauteed separately, then added. Then I finished it in the oven, so the mustard greens were not quite as hot as they started out. It went over big, and fast. So we'll do this again.

I saw a food show about mustard greens and though, hm, must try this. I did blanch a whole bunch of them the day before, and froze several batches for future use like this or in soup or something yet to be invented..

The second thing is a scarf I'm making from the Yarn Harlot's recent blog, although hers was her homespun and mine is harvested lambswool, being created for a friend who has hit a great big snag in life and I think she needs a little present.

I made another scarf, last week, different friend, different sort of present, different yarn, different needles, same stitch, which came out interestingly unlike this one. If you want the pattern it's: cast on 26, or any number divisible by 4 plus two, then a single row is the whole pattern, which you repeat till distracted, namely knit two, knit one in back of loop, purl one, repeat these four stitches all the way to last two stitches which you knit. That's it. Amazingly complicated looking, considering.

And last, not at all least, the last zinnias of summer on the patio.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Woodrow Wilson and King Charles' Head

Remember in that Dickens novel the confused character, is it Mr. Dick? who gets King Charles' head into every sentence. He's treated with gentleness in the novel, but is a bit of a comic character all the same.

I realized yesterday that Woodrow Wilson had temporarily become my King Charles' head, when I was out walking on the Princeton U. campus, and stopped by Prospect Gardens, which I love in all seasons, took pix of the gardens and Prospect House which is where WW lived when he was president of Princeton, before he became the other sort of president.

Then on the way out of the campus stopped at the, hm, guess what, Woodrow Wilson school, because of the Pei architecture and fountain and took pix there, too, all without realizing the thread of connection there. The Woodrow Wilson motif. He being a man of few words, would probably have said "Oh."

I had been at a wonderful exhibit at the Art Museum, which though small, is powerful, great exhibits and the whole place small enough and close enough that you can go and look at a few items and leave before you're worn out.

This time it was an amazing display, lent from all over the world, of Inuit art and artifacts from the Alaskan arctic. Tiny needles from bird bones, used to stitch clothing using sinews, cut with slate bladed knives, with horn and ivory handles. A complete kayak frame, real one, pictures from the 19th century of whaling hunters showing how the kayak and harpoon worked together.

All the artwork, and there was a lot, reflected huge understanding of the sea creatures the Inuit lived with and hunted and respected and thanked, and even the simplest tools were made into artworks as well as functional objects.

Not allowed pix in the museum, so I can't show you any of it, but you can go to the Princeton Art Museum website where they show you one, single, solitary image! it's a nice one, but I wish there were more for you to see.

However, I can show you some other nice stuff I enjoyed on my Saturday afternoon vacation while HS took care of HP.

Here's Prospect House, WW's old stomping ground, which is used nowadays for receptions and lunch for the well-in people with connections. I don't have connections, but I have a number of times been invited to lunch there and assured that this is a huge treat for me, since it's so very very difficult to get an invitation....the food's okay, and the awning you see is at the side of the dining room, overlooking the garden views that follow here.

Here's the Woodrow Wilson building, center for government studies, whence they send pundits to talk on PBS....I managed to catch a rainbow in the fountain without knowing it. I think the architect of the building is Pei, don't know the creator of the fountain, sorry, but no doubt some keen blogster will know and tell us!

And between the Art Museum and Prospect Gardens, I caught this ancient and awesome tree, which the Inuit would probably have approved.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dumpster Diver's Divers Delights!

So today, it was starting to rain as I trotted out to the dumpster with the morning garbage from HPcare and the kitties, and I noticed in the middle of the dumpster, a doll's foot sticking up, pulled on it and found I was holding a perfectly clean, unplayed with collectible doll 14 inches tall, in Native American costume, complete with dreamcatcher, beaded jewelry and headdress. Whose face bears an amazing resemblance to Rachael Ray, but I digress. I thought I would leave her out in plain sight, so someone could take her, but the rain deterred that idea.

So I took another look and staggered back when I realized that right next to her, also upside down, in a bunch of dishes and boxes, is an eight inch porcelain doll, fully jointed, missing one leg, but with silk dress, complete wig, and hat,and kid boots. Under her a doll of the kind that just stands on a single stand, in a foofy pink dress and a petulantly gormless expression.

And undaunted, I ran back to the house for my hooky thing that I use to retrieve stuff from the dumpster, usually my own stuff that wasn't meant to go in (!), and fished out the two small dolls, and noticed the leg of the porcelain doll, both parts, including the kid boot, resting further down in a dish....not to be left there.

Back home, neighbors must think I'm dotty, to get a stepstool and a soup ladle climbed on the one, scooped with the other and came home with the complete leg. This is the only damage to the doll, no cracks, chips, nothing. I just need to figure out how to put her back together again.

Also in the course of fishing her leg out, I found a lead crystal candlestick chucked in there, too. These were all in plain sight, not accidental throwouts, I think. Somebody probably moving.

So the candlestick will be given first option to HS, the big doll will be freecycled, along with the pink foofy one, maybe to the thrift store, maybe via Freecycle, and the porcelain lady will stay with me to keep my other little porcelain doll company.

I set up my haul on the bookcase for their portrait, which you see here.
So the universe brought me a nice surprise in return for the early morning work.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Knitting news and design ideas

News from the knitting front, where work has been fast, if not furious.

The lacy scarf you saw a while back is now finished, blocked, and presented to its new owner who was suitably amazed and happy with it. Then another scarf, designed and knitted and blocked and presented to its new owner, no picture here since that would have spoiled the surprise for its new wearer, who reads in here! maybe she'll get someone to email me a picture of her wearing it???? for showing you. Well, maybe. This was designed for dogwalking in the winter purposes, since experience tells me that it really helps get out there on winter nights with the dog if you have a lovely warm scarf to wrap around your neck against the icy winds.

And a pair of slippers happened yesterday, for HP, who loves them, knitted from a pattern and yarn both supplied by F. many thanks to her. He loves the colors. Pictured here wearing them today.

They act as padding to protect his feet from the hard footrests on his chair. And they're about two hours work, tops.

And then, what should I espy on my walk, but a wonderful design idea in the form of a fungus whose name is unknown to me, growing near beech trees at the edge of the golf course. It's about the size of a large dinner plate.

Doesn't that make you want to do something about it? wonderful natural design which just makes you want to draw or paint or do tapestry or knit it or something.

The tapestry is coming along but it's so slow that if I pictured it today you're liable to think it's the same picture as last you will have to curb your wild impatience until there's more to see. I can't wait to get to part two of this three part work, ready for different colors now.

Art-making afternoon today, with friend M., the lender of the beach house, who was very unwell for quite a while, but who is now doing really well, huge phew here, and getting out and about, and able to be over here and visit and feel just fine as we painted and drew and drank tea and ate the cookies she brought and the ones I'd done, which as it happened were about the same, funny that we both suddenly did oatmeal cookies. She also admired the New Floor and I didn't charge her anything for walking on it.

Since this was basically ice breaker art, neither of us for different reasons having done any painting or drawing for months, I just set up a simple dried flower arrangement thing that I had kept hidden upstairs away from the cats, who love to eat that stuff.

These are dried flowers selected from various bouquets HS has given me over the years, birthday, Mother's Day, that kind of thing and far too good for any cats to go and eat. So I guarded it carefully while it was modeling for us.

M. and I used to go to a drawing group on Sundays, with life models, and had a great time, but neither of us, she because of energy levels, me because of inability to get out all Sunday afternoon, has been able to sign up this session.

So we're making our own group of two! to meet and paint and draw whatever we feel like, and next time she will host. Which is good, since she has more room, but it was nice here anyway.

So that's us. Just a good Thursday. Chop wood, carry water, be glad.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Enough of work and sorrow, time for PIE!

The prune plums are in season now, very good this year, as all the soft fruit has been, and at a terrific price in my Asian market. They are mysteriously labeled as dates, but they're the right thing for my pie.

I think the Chinese speaking management occasionally get a bit baffled as to the English name for some produce, and come out with wonderful spellings or completely nonrelevant names, so you have to know that if you want tomatillos, you go for tamatlos, and dates means prune plums, and prunes means plums and so on.

So I dug out Marian Burros' terrific recipe from years ago, which I expect you can Google on, my not wanting to put in a typo and be responsible for a terrible event in your kitchen. On a website where I'm active, a poster working in metric gave her plum tart recipe, which is what reminded me of Burros, and listed one kilogram of flour. Now I'm not much up on metric, and don't have much in the way of measuring devices which are metric, either, but I am pretty sure that the one cup of flour Burros uses is a whole lot less than a I thought I'd go with Burros.

And here it is. Haven't made pie for ages, not since Tiny Pies way back in cold weather -- and I did get a supply of Granny Smiths, which are now peeled and sliced and frozen ready for when the Tiny Pie Muse strikes again.

Meanwhile, this was dessert at lunchtime, with a scoop of butter almond ice cream. This should be eaten to the sound of trumpets with a sunset background, it's that good.

The Greeks named the muses, but I don't remember a Tiny Pie muse. Maybe Pi would do it...

Current reading, speaking of food, is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I admit resisting for ages because I thought it was yet another of those affluent white middle aged tall blonde New Yorkers finding herself type of book, but I find it's actually pretty good in parts if your energy level can keep up with hers, which is strictly manic. She does make some interesting observations here and there, and I like the structure of the book -- many tiny chapters, each representing a bead, from a significant total number of beads rooted in mythology or somewhere.

And one very cool thought was the One Word idea. Like what one word typifies Rome? she thought sex. Or New York? she thought achievement. Etc. And she goes on to people.

I'm wondering what one word typifies this blogster, and have come up with any number, not all of which are complimentary, but I think for this week anyway, the Word is: Valiant! meaning I fail at a lot of things, and succeed at a lot of things, but either way, I plunge on ahead, and waste no time on regret and whatifs. There's an element of loopiness in valor. It's humbling to remember that Don Quixote, that totally useless warrior, was also valiant, heh.

Commenters and emailers: what's your word? either for yourself or for a city. Just let us know. Just for fun, nobody is analyzing you as a result of your choice, or planning to sell you a car based on what you just said....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tapestry Update

Just thought you'd like to see where the tapestry is getting to. I'm using a lot of my homespun, as well as various other yarns that seem to fit the need, and I wanted to take pictures today, since it's starting to do what the most happy art does sooner or later -- things are appearing in it that I was not aware of putting there.

If you look at it you'll see silo-like structures, and a barn like building, and sloping fields and ploughed earth and various things I had no idea at the front of my mind were happening. I was intent on creating a balanced design with a range of colors that seemed to want to be there, and just now find that stuff is emerging. This happens with art that is alla prima, which all my work is.

That's a fancy Latin phrase meaning just jump in and do it! don't futz around with studies and plans and little sketches and that kind of thing, it just kills it on arrival. I've done all kinds of art this way -- this is one reason I don't work in stone! not possible to do it with stone, though a stone artist of my acquaintance tells me there's still a lot of interesting decision making even in working stone.

I'm not saying this is for everyone, just that it's how I work and feel best. I did try doing a cartoon (preparatory design that goes behind the warp to work from) for this tapestry, on the grounds that just because I don't like doing it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. But I ended up deepsixing the cartoon and getting on much better without it. It was starting to feel stilted and confined rather than expressive, so I figured it isn't for me.

The odd thing is that it's like painting in slow motion! tons of time to think, rethink, try stuff, let it digest, very good considering it's so not how I usually work, warp speed being my natural way, pun not intended!

I once took a botanical illustration daylong workshop just to test my capacity to work slowly, and I did have a good time, daylong workshop, once I calmed down about it all, and even did a few more paintings later, which went over well. But I soon returned to my genetic heritage, heh, hurry, fast, no faster, ah, there now it's ten more and choose which you like best, one of those was worth keeping ,tear up the rest and use them for collage or artist books or beads or something...

Yesterday I was at work on the current piece when a neighbor stopped in to chat and insisted that she didn't want to interrupt my work, was interested and I showed her it, explained what I thought I was doing, but set it aside. You can't actually make art while you chat with the neighbors! it needs all the focus you can give it. I can't work for very long at a time before I tire mentally, for this reason.

I know there are people who think you can talk and chat and work, but I doubt it. They may be making something, but I don't think it's art. Even when I've learned in a workshop or class, I have to be out of there to do the best work I can do at the time.

So anyway, here's the current State of the Tapestry! two more planned, with different colors, though, but probably some echoes of this design in them, don't know yet. What usually happens is that I have a general idea of what I want to do, then the piece takes over and makes its own decisions more often than not and I'm just the humble laborer taking orders.

Yesterday on my walk I caught a lovely winterberry bush, the red berries being much brighter and more intense in nature than in the camera, red for some reason is a terrible subject for any camera.

As you will see when people appear on tv with bright red jackets, which have a hellish dazzle, the bane of camerapeople. When I see an experienced broadcaster doing this, I wonder, gads don't they teach you anything about the camera and what it needs from you, huh?

Also spotted a nice shrub with white blossoms which I have not identified but would appreciate advice on.

On the shopping for HP front you will be gratified to know that I dumped the store that won't ship, refuse to try to find it, ordered online from another outfit, no prob, shipment arrived today exactly as promised, was correct, all looks good, and I will probably give them my business from now on.

Nice day today with HP, he reading history of Peru, and noting that the writer mentioned Heyerdahl, and did he still have his copy of KonTiki. No, but he has about five other Heyerdahl titles....this is very heartening, when he is doing this well and being interested for quite a while. AND, big deal, he moved his legs a bit. Not enough to be useful, if you follow me, but certainly helpful in the circulation arena.

So, good stuff, better day today! I'll take it.