Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking forward to 2010

For us sticklers, 2010 does not start a new decade -- that starts at the end of 2010. Nonetheless, we can still look forward to it, and enjoy the last year of the old decade first.

And here's this year's path ahead picture.

Note the total absence of snow in the picture, taken yesterday after endless torrential rain washed away all the masses of snow, and left us with walking paths and sunshine and generally welcome weather to those of us who don't much go for snow after the first nice fall.

And there's a little study of rocks. I do this all the time, did this on yesterday's walk, as a visual exercise or playtime, and thought I'd share one with you.

It may or may not find its way into a future drawing or monotype or tapestry, who knows. It made me wonder what you do along these lines: poets among you, do you try over phrases or note them from time to time? novelists, do you play around with character aspects, musicians, do you noodle at musical phrases or gestures, knitters, do you think about stitch patterns and how to combine them in new ways? cooks, do you have sudden inspirations about what to combine to make a new dish? post here to share if you'd like to. I'd love to hear.

And finally one of my neighbors has a plate holder I just had to show you, since I think it about sums up a nice approach to life, and one I plan to adopt next year.

To those of us who had a tough 2009, let's hope for a much better 2010, and for those of us who had a nice 2009, let's hope for another nice year. I'm a bit early, but that's me!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Books and food and cosy stuff

This entry starts with a portrait of one of our favorite recipes, thanks to Diane, a crustless spinach quiche. Well, you could use practically anything in it, I guess, but spinach is very very good, and the fact that there's no need to foofle around with pastry, one of my less keen interests, is a big deal. Diane posted this ages ago, I think because it is okay for Passover? and it promptly took a premium place in the not very long list of Stuff I Like to Cook. And it never occurred to me before that of course you can make it without a crust, there's no law about this!

And on the subject of food, endless entertainment for HP and me on Sunday afternoons when there's a procession of cooking shows on tv, a new interest for me, watching people cook, though I've picked up a lot of tips, but an old interest for him, in his single days he used to cook on Sundays for the week, and listen to various cooking things on the radio! Nowadays it's Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, variously wandering about Italy and each others' kitchens, and other people too on farms and various homey sort of settings.

A lot of what they cook I wouldn't touch with a bargepole, it being high in meat, which we rarely do, and generally more work than it's worth. Except that I make Tibetan flatbread routinely now, having seen Jacques Pepin doing it.

But watching people like the bigs cutting and chopping and displaying wonderful expertise with a couple of knives, is fun in itself. Not to mention the number of things I've learned and applied to our own food. I love to see them taste and really appreciate color and flavor and texture and all that, with a minimum of measuring, just years of experience.

One thing I don't believe much in (with the shining exception of Ploom Croomble) is cooking ripe fruit. Heck, if peaches are ripe and juicy and scented and lovely, just EAT THEM! likewise practically every other fruit that ripens.

I have to thank internet friends such as Diane for the spinach quiche, and other people who explained how to do potstickers right, and the people who tried to help me find ways to use a wok I acquired, none of which was something I couldn't do with pans and steamers I already had, so I freecycled it to some other eager soul, who is probably right now wondering what new things to do with it. Now that I've acquired some interest in food -- I always cooked pretty well, but in a detached kind of way before -- it's good to share. Lunch is our main meal now, and HP really enjoys it, high point of his low key day, so that's a big part of it.

Today is Christmas leftovers: cold cuts of the ham and turkey, with cherry sauce and cranberry sauce, and homemade picalilli (I have to thank Rhonda for putting me onto that, by asking what the heck it was and one thing led to another, and les Adams ended up with quite a bit of it), and stuffing, and the remains of the corn and sweet potato and mixed vegs.

Cup of homemade chicken noodle soup to start, just for another hot element, since it's lashing down rain and not freezing but definitely soup weather today. And slices of fruitcake, I was given one by HS as a present, as one of the few people in the world who loves it, and didn't have any this year. I notice people eat it promptly if you put it on their plate, though...and leftover apple pie from yesterday and ginger ale, which I only have on holidays.

And then there's the question of books.

This year I have as usual read a huge amount, being a very fast reader, finishing a lot of interesting ones, and also made valiant attempt at books that I failed to finish, largely because they were so large.

The wonderful Wolf Hall, by Hilary someone whose name will come as soon as I stop trying to think of it, Mantel, that's it, and the Children's Book thing by AS Byatt, both well written, but just waaaaaaay too long for the content. You kept on thinking, well, listen this must be nearly finished, mustn't it, and the writer launches into another five hundred pages of plot....I just wish there were more editors in the world.

But I have arrived at the sage wisdom that there is no law that I have to finish a book just because I started it, a corollary of the law that you can make a quiche without pastry if you want to. This for a hellbent finisher such as I is a massive epiphany, I want you to know. This is a Sagittarian speaking, an Earth Tiger, too. So refraining from finishing up the prey I brought down is no small thing...

One book I loved and did finish, and reread bits of and recommended to other tea lovers is a wonderful one about tea and teatime and china and traycloths and all kinds of lovely afternoon fantasies and recipes none of which I will cook, but which I did enjoy reading about and if I can remember the title, or if Rhonda or another reader from the tea lovers topic in Ravelry can post it here, I will pass it on, because it's a lovely book to dip into now and then while you drink your afternoon cup of tea.

And there's Socks from the Toe Up, which I equally won't knit, but love the presentation, just lovely stuff, by Wendy Bennett. If you are looking for trouble in the New Year, let me unleash weaving and bookmaking on you...hehheh...witchy cackle here.

Kathy Blake's Handmade Books, a paperback of great beauty and simplicity is my favorite of all bookmaking books, and close behind is Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz. This reminds me that there's an artist's book in the studio in the beginning stages which will eventually make its way to you, Gaby, in the not too distant future. It got a bit sidelined by the extreme cold up there recently, but will happen.

And Weaving Without a Loom, wonderful teaching, partly for kids, I suppose, but excellent for simple souls like me, how to create looms from cardboard and making great stuff with them, by Veronica Burningham. Anyway, these are physically lovely books, I even bought them, which will tell you something, to browse in even if you never cook from them.

All three of these books have triggered massive projects in my studio, and endless fun doing them and learning new skills right and left.

So that's my wish for the New Year: the BEST kind of trouble to all of us!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Horsies in the Snow, Ho, Ho!

It will definitely give you some insight into the wildly stuffed ragbag that is my mind when I tell you that as I drove past the horse boarding stable, this morning (the Big Snow, we had nearly two feet flat and more in drifts, being now plowed) anyway, where was I, oh yes, driving past the horse place, I saw various horsies out in the field poking about in the snow, wearing warm red and blue coats and looking very contented.

And I immediately thought, oh yes, pigeons on the grass, alas! And immediately booted G. Stein out of my conscious mind and replaced it with, oh, I mean, horsies in the snow, ho, ho....

Owing to a New York driver (the license plate told me) tailgating me all the way past the farm, I was unable to pull over and get pix, since the road is even narrower now with big icebergs and snow berms on each side, no safe way to stop unless the driver behind has a NJ plate and knows not to drive so close, so that if you start to stop, they know to get around you with plenty of time to spare.

Now, in fairness, I must say that around here a NY plate usually means someone who drives in the city, Manhattan, that city, and there it's considered enormously polite and kind and in the spirit of the season to allow a whole ten feet between you and the car in front, maybe even foolhardy, if you don't want another car to insert itself right in there, too.

However, this is not the city, and around here it's considered downright dangerous to be that close on a deserted country road, where the driver ahead can't turn off, no shoulders, no turns, it's considered rude and not in the spirit of the season at all and very likely to end in a rear-end collision. But as I say, mores vary. Anyway, I hope to see the horses again in their cheery coats before the snow goes, and maybe even get portraits to share.

This is why this blog starts out instead with seasonal amaryllis in the living room, busting out in red, much to HP's pleasure, he loves red.

And, news from the studio: I will show you pictures of art, my completed set of three tapestries, to be exact. Rubs toe in dirt, aw shucks, twere nuthin, I got em finished is all...and this makes a lovely symmetrical art experience in that in the one calendar year I learned to warp a loom, create tapestries, process fleece from farmy stuff, via carding, and combing and spinning, all new skills, all the way to using the yarn in my tapestry, and completing the set of three just in time before the month ends.

Started in the spring before it was warm enough to work on the patio, learning to spin and curse until I got it down to just spinning, no cursing, then spent the last cool days indoors washing and drying fleece, then the summer carding and combing and cleaning and spinning and dyeing, oh, I forgot to brag that I learned to dye, too, and then the fall designing and making the tapestries including a lot of fibers, but a goodly amount of my own spun yarn, and finished up the last panel last night while we watched A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott one, pretty well done for such an old chestnut. So it came to a seasonal end, the art, that is. For the moment, that is.

That's the blog version of those awful Year in the News things that the newspapers and radio programs and tv does, saving no end of production money by hauling out stuff they used before and relabeling it High Points of the I kept it short, wanting you to click in here again sometime, after all.

And on a more sober note, HP's year went from as bad as it could possibly be, to stable, no further gains expected, and fairly happy,and looking forward to the New Year. Which says a lot more for his character than for the events he endured, I must say! and it says something very good about our friends, including all of you blogerati, who gave us unlimited encouragement and support and some fun, even.

So, okay, we're ready for Santa!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This one's for you, Minimiss!

And for people who would like a white Christmas and are unlikely to get one, maybe Gaby, MAJ, Hazel, Eepy, Diane in Singapore (not Diane in NC, I think you're buried already!), maybe Bernadette, too.

We had the promised snow, over a foot of it, I think, and the good news is that it's so deep it stopped up the draft, house is quite cosy, and the bad news is there's a lot of it, and the plows are hardly started.

The car out front with the wipers sticking up so they don't freeze to the windshield is mine, and the newspapers are next to it, in a snowdrift.

Out back the patio is full of snow, all the planters and furniture wearing white hats.

The more good news is that it fell on a weekend so there was not the snarl of traffic that would have happened in the week.

The bad news is that it happened on the weekend, fouling up all sorts of Christmas plans from Piffaro's concert, and other people's travel -- friends stuck in Europe because the US airports on the east coast are closed tight -- to MC's massive holiday dinner for relatives, which I'm guessing didn't go forward...and probably kids hate that they won't get a snow day!

The wonderful news for HP and me is that, being retired from the petcare world, we don't have to mush out in this to get to hungry little animals waiting to see us in their houses, and having to trudge through feet of unplowed snow up driveways, very few people thinking to arrange for plowing on their vacation.

Vivid memories of being pulled over by police wanting to know what I was doing out in this dangerous weather and having to explain, and being reluctantly allowed to proceed. And of following the snowplow some days, very slowly but at least moving. And of happy little pets jumping with glee because Food was On Its Way!

I never minded working Christmas Day when I had the petcare biz, used to declare Christmas on another day and celebrate it with HS on a day of our choosing. It was fun to go from house to house being greeted ecstatically maybe 20 times in a morning! and then doing it all again in the evening.

Clients would give a little extra then, too, often regifted items, I suspected, but they were nice anyway -- fine wool shawls, massive boxes of Godiva chocoloates, Limoges porcelain animal figures, waaaaay too many cat themed scarves and figurines, but the intent was lovely...I used to wonder what fool put it around that business owners would be insulted by a money tip. This one would have been perfectly happy with it!! you work very hard for very little if you work with live animals. But for 12 years it was the day job that enabled me to continue as a studio artist, and I was happy for that.

I was watching a little video from ZooBorns the other day, of wild puppies which had been nursed by a pet dog after their wild mother was killed, and they are now at an age where they grab your pant leg and tug, or chew up your shoelaces when you think they're just snuggling up.

It reminded me of all the gloves I had to replace after the fingers were bitten out by eager pets, and all the jackets with pockets torn off in search of treats, and the shoelaces chewed to was an unexpected business expense, replacing these things routinely.

The found art photo I took the other day before the snow buried it got some interesting responses, from

The Pope before a nose job
An animal looking right, head and shoulders
Two pictures at once, two animals
Maybe a cat
Maybe a pig
No idea what it might be
Whistler's Mother, created from found objects
Miss Piggy in her best evening shawl

The last two were my takes! heh.

Keep warm, everyone! and remember if you envy us the snow, that snow is repurposed water, very very very heavy to dig and throw...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow preparations a la Field and Fenista

We are being warned and watched and generally asked to be worried about a big snowstorm on its way here. This triggers massive expeditions to stores to buy essentials such as toilet paper, milk, bread, etc, because who knows the roads may be closed as long as eek.. six hours....anyway.

Tomorrow is Saturday, the day I have a lovely afternoon off to slope around without any pressure, doing this and that, mostly that, and often this entails moseying around a supermarket actually looking as well as shopping, time to breathe. However, if we have up to a large amount of snow tomorrow, this will be impractical, since the plows will be heavy competition on the roads.

So I thought I'd rush out madly to the nearest, Asian, store, not to leave HP for more than a short time alone, to pick up vital produce anyway, for soup purposes, etc., and I'd also been reading recipes for piccalilli, and one thing led to another.

It's not everyone whose idea of vital stores ahead of a snowstorm includes the making of six pounds of pickles, but well, like I said, one thing led to another, I was there in the good produce department and there were cauliflowers and other good things and they even had nice cucumbers of the right size, and I ended up later in the afternoon chopping and simmering and fooling about with mustard seeds and ginger and mustard and turmeric and all sorts of veggies, using all the big pans in the house, and finding that I didn't have enough malt vinegar and substituting with various other vinegars for the vital malt stuff.

Which brings me to the interesting observation that to me malt vinegar is common, cheap, and easy to buy. In principle.

In fact it turns out to be highly valuable stuff, hard to find in the store, which has a ton of wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, which everyone knows is only good for rinsing your hair, and balsamic vinegar which I have tried and wondered wildly why people eat it when clearly it is destined for use on the hinges of the garage door....anyway, I found some malt vinegar labeled: Fish and Chip Vinegar! priced at a queen's ransom, complete with tiara and the Order of the Garter. So I sighed and bought a bottle of it, the only size they had, small.

But the other ingredients made up in price for it, and I continue to wonder why people buy expensive tiny jars of pickled items when they're fun to make, not too expensive at all, and you get a whole lot out of one recipe and if you don't mind having the house smell like a fish and chip shop invaded by mustard plants, it's fine.

So, bring on the snow, we are READY!

And take a look at this accidental artwork I found at the Preserve the other day. It used to be a galvanized metal tub, and got squashed probably by a tractor, and now looks irresistibly like -- no, I won't make your guess for you. You tell us what you think it reminds you of. This is not a Rorschach test, folks, just a fun thing. I know what I think it looks like, but if I say that you won't be able to see what you think, so take a shot at it. What do you think?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last day of my misspent youth!

My friends, I come to you on birthday Eve, the last day of my youth....tomorrow I'll, 71, definitely starting to be ancient, heh.

In fact inside I feel very young indeed, full of ideas and verve and loopiness, and it's quite a surprise to see this clean, respectable old lady looking at me in the mirror! I have a ton of blessings to count, so that will keep me busy for a while.

Meanwhile, back at the loom...weaving on the last panel of the three part tapestry, and now I'm finally learning a thing or two about weaving tapestry. I am very happy that I spun and dyed and am now weaving quite a bit of yarn for this project, and mixing it with other stuff that's lying around and works in with the color family.

I am still using the picture frame, hand organized loom, just warped with stout string (they won't let you put it on parcels any more so you have to find SOME use for it), with no nails or tension adjustments or any fancy stuff like that.

With any luck, this three part piece will grace the opening exhibit of our posh new gallery in the posh new library, which is still being built, and I will credit my co-conspirators in this venture: Carol Q,, who gave me the spindle on which the spinning was done, plus lovely roving to learn on, and Paula L. who donated the fleece which taught me a ton of stuff in the process of washing and combing and carding and dyeing and spinning it.

One reason I am anxious to get this done in good time to exhibit is that one of the principles of the new gallery, agreed to heartily by Jinny B, the director and co-conspirator of hundreds of projects with me, too many to keep count and blame her for, anyway, where was I, oh yes, one of the principles of this gallery is that we plan to break down the artificial boundaries between Art and Craft, by honoring it all as art, no matter what the materials used, and my tapestry is my first shot in this effort.

The Dick Blick catalog just came, the big fat annual one, of art supplies you never heard of and suddenly NEED, and there's a new section on weaving, including a couple of tempting little tapestry looms. But after admiring the pictures for a while, I once again conclude that I'm doing just fine with my own version,and have all kinds of big plans for the big stretchers S. gave me recently, anyway. I may knock a few nails into them, since they're a bit big for free warping with no supports, but other than that I think I'm technically up to speed.

Speaking of which I finally mastered the art of cropping with my digi, took a while, it just didn't work with my old slow laptop, so I think it was a memory issue, but with this little fast netbook, it does. I am a purist in taking pix, believing you crop with your eye before you snap the shutter, so what you have seen in this blog up to now is exactly what I've taken, no artificial aids, other than sharpening up the light a bit to compensate for low winter natural light.

However, when it comes to trying to show you details of artwork, I think that cropping is okay. Now this may be a function of my finally having learned how to do it, but we'll pass quickly over that thought and I can show you the current state of the tapestry, panel three, blue family.

What I've put up is about a quarter of the length of what will be the finished work, but I've closed in on the actually completed part, to see how it looks. Once again stuff is happening that I never realized while I was working on it.

I often think that art is a picture of the inside of the artist's mind, whether she knows it or not. It certainly is an illustration for any artist, of coming face to face with yourself.

And, on a more frivolous note, Saturday's dessert, my first try at a crumble, is here for your viewing pleasure.

Plum crumble, please pronounce this Yorkshire style: Ploom Croomble, made with a bunch of Italian plums I froze in August, because they were so good this year. This went over just fine as the conclusion of a meal of homemade soup and garlic bread, for HS and HP and me last Saturday.

Since HS puts in hours with us each Saturday, including personal care for HP, I figured he ought to start out with a decent lunch before I vanish out to play for the afternoon.

Okay, folks, see you when I get old, um that will be after midnight or soon thereafter...exit trailing filmy robes with heavenly music in the background...litle clink of champagne glasses off stage...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hippo Birdies, Sagittarians!

To all good Sagittarians, arrow carriers all, we wish a gracious Hippo Birdies, Hippo Birdies, Hippo Birdies two ewes this week.

From Diane to MaryAnn to Anthony to Jane Austen to Beethoven to the Great Me, even if we sags don't believe in astrology, anyway, these are great days to have birthdays.

So Hippo Birdies
Hippo Birdies
Hippo Birdies
To all of us
Dancin in the streets
Let joy be unconfin'd

I'm just sayin'...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cigars and other musings

Walking in the woods after huge rainstorm, our share of the major storms tearing across the US in the last few days

And a lovely December sky out at the preserve

And a view of the lake at the preserve

I often take pictures of my afternoon walks to bring home and show HP, and then I let you in on a couple of them, too. The light in December is evocative and wonderful, and you simply have to picture it since it changes so fast in the late afternoon. I usually have the world to myself at this time of year out walking, since a lot of walkers around here are seasonal and don't believe in cold weather!

I should remind blogreaders that my pix can be enlarged if you click on them. I've been setting them up for ages this way, and kind of assumed everyone knew to do that, until I was informed that a keen reader had just discovered this exciting feature!

The first entry or two in this blog I didn't know the enlargement wasn't happening until another keen reader asked why her clicking didn't work. So I studied the situation, realized how to upload to make them big at the outset, smaller in here, able to be clicked on and enlarged and scrolled around and forever after have done this.

Forgetting of course that everyone doesn't intuitively know this stuff. You remember the first time you tried to answer your cellphone and couldn't fathom what button to push to do this, while it rang and played music and drove everyone around you crackerdog? then once you got the hang of it you were sure it was obvious. Nooooooo.

Same with the pictures. As one godawful computer manual I used to have said: the use of this button is obvious so I will not explain it. What the heck are you writing a manual for then, I ask? and those early manuals that waited till page 154 to tell you how to switch the computer on, AFTER explaining all kinds of arcane special adaptations and personal choices you could make if you could understand a word of the text....

So whenever I show anything you want to see better, just click, okay? written material really benefits from this, and artwork you want to get a better look at.

Speaking of which, do we have any pix yet of the location of the miniature rugs and pillows and things you guys happily adopted into your homes? they would be very welcome, and I'll upload them promptly when received. You can email pix to me at and I'll go from there.

And speaking of cigars, which we weren't, but what's a rough transition between friends, yesterday on the tv news there was a feature about Cuban cigar-rolling women having books and newspapers read to them while they worked.

Here, in Trenton, central NJ, for many years there was a cigar factory, now morphed into a posh condo building, where one of my old neighbors from years ago used to work in the 1920s when she was young and newly arrived from Transylvania.

Fairly newly -- her mother, with five kids, left Transylvania, crossed the European continent with them by train, just ahead of all the frontiers closing in 1914, took ship for the US and set up home with her kids joining their father in NY. Just like Hester Street, except he was in fact there, no new wife, and with a job.

Anne spoke Hungarian and sort of English -- she was very young when they came here --and in the cigar factory there were women of all kinds of nationalities largely Eastern European at that time, the smart ones who got out of Europe right before WWI.

Cigar rolling, though it was skilled, was monotonous repetitive work, and the women, they were all women, all spoke different languages with a bit of English in common. So Anne told me they would teach each other basic phrases in their own language, to pass the time as they worked with their hands, and she picked up Russian, Czech, a bit of German, and who knows what all else. These were smart people who were not able to get a formal education because they had to work from a very early age and bring home a wage.

She was an interesting neighbor, who used to bring official documents across the street to confer with us, since her English was very functional, but she was worried by officialese, so we'd explain what they wanted, etc.

She was running a luncheonette business all this time, what a worker, the cigar factory having gone defunct, probably because of losing the Cuban connection. After she retired from the luncheonette and sold the biz, she got a bit bored, only being about 70, and took a job in food service at Princeton University.

Every June she retired again, and then by September would be bored and ask them to hire her again! this went on until she was well into her eighties, when they said, we really can't hire you again, sorry, insurance or something. They loved her because she was so used to cooking for large numbers, no trouble, leave her alone, she could feed hundreds of students.

The only tiny flaw in her neighborliness was the terrible dog she rescued, a biting little black rotter, who once jumped into the open window of my car as I drove by, and starting fighting with my terrier Buff, who was peacefully sitting in the passenger seat not hurting anyone. It is not advisable to drive a car with a dogfight going on in and around the driver's seat, I can tell you.

She was a good strategist, too. We used to have a shared well, beautiful water, shared by 35 families. She owned the land where the wellhead was and granted rights in perpetuity for the well group to get at it for repairs, etc., which used to happen when a truck might pull over too far and break the pipe under the soft shoulder of the roads, etc.

Anyway, we had an Association, complete with officers, etc., and used to vote annually for officers. One year everyone fully expected me to be elected President, and she spoke up quickly, nominated me for Vice President, which was what I ended up being.

When other women asked her later, indignantly, why she'd nominated me for a supporting role instead of the Big Cheese one, she said, ah, you know when repairs are needed to the well? usually in freezing lousy weather, and the thing has to be inspected and fixed? guess whose job it is to be out there up to the ankles in freezing mud, supervising all the work in all weathers? the President. And guess who gets to sit warmly at home by the phone notifying the owners of the progress? The Vice President!!!! smart lady.

She's long gone now, but, as you can see, she lives on for me!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Of birds and blogistas

Crowd of birds in sweetgum tree, something good to eat there, I think.

One of my favorite sights at this time of year is a crowd of birds throwing themselves about in the sky, like many iterations of a single bird in a net, then settling on a tree, like decorations, then flying away, all in concert. Individuals but working together for a while, very modular.

I love modular -- some of my biggest art pieces are modular, each part made separately in the limited area I have over the years used as studio spaces, then put together in the optimistic hope that they will work together, and surprisingly often, they do.

Putting up a solo exhibit is another modular feat, since I literally have never seen the whole exhibit all at one time until it comes time to hang it, no space for it! so it comes as a surprise. Some pieces look radically different in different light, against a different surface, in relation to other pieces, often for the better, now and then not so much...

Many years ago, I was invited to do a solo corporate show, my first, big honor, very exciting, and loaded my little Plymouth Horizon tiny hatchback with 50 count them, framed monotypes. The art committee for the company had asked me to meet them at the loading dock, and they looked down with amazement as I pulled up in this tiny car! they were expecting a van, I think....and after they got over their surprise and amusement, one of them said, well, if you ever get a bigger car, will you make bigger art? to which I explained that if I made bigger art I would have a van, but I didn't, so I didn't! the show went very well, was warmly received, all very thrilling stuff.

But again, I had never seen the pieces all together at one time. They did the hanging and did a very nice job, too, good, since it was a serious piece of work for several people to decide on the relative positions of 50 pieces of work. And they were proud of their efforts, pointing out how well it all worked together! well, yeah, since one artist did it all, chances were that would happen...but they did grasp that hanging a show is in itself a work of making art.

But speaking of the modular, it dawned on me as I took the pictures of the birds yesterday, in the trees,

one huge one presiding, not a hawk, otherwise the smaller ones would have vamoosed, and then flying off after posing was over, that it was like the individuals who read and follow and post and email around this blog.

Some of you have posted your pictures in the followers section, some are more abstract, some are shadowy presences, some comment in here, some never do that, but email, some neither email nor comment but catch me in passing to talk about what they read in here. And some read and I have no idea at all until they eventually say so. It's all good! there's harmony and unity there, great art principles.

And some of the blogistas know one another in rl, some via internet life, some not at all. But I thought you should know what a distinguished company you comprise:

Mostly women, one or two men that I know of, from New Zealand, England, Canada, the US, including Alaska and Hawaii,as well as the lower 48, and various other points on the globe as you travel about.

Talents and skills and professions ranging from printmaker, to performing musician, to dancer, to watercolor painter, to cook, to photographer, to gardener, to librarian, to weaver, to spinner, to pianist, to computer specialist, to permaculture consultant, to marketing whiz, to social worker, to knitter extraordinaire, to knitting designer, to higher ed admin, to writer, to nurse, to doctor, to teacher, to retired executive, and I'm sure I missed a few, feel free to correct this listing! and to realize that quite a few of you are in several categories all at once.

And religions from Jew to Catholic, to Moslem, to agnostic, to Quaker, to atheist.
And races including all of them that comprise the human race.

And without exception, wonderful senses of humor, which show themselves over and over as you cope with my wild and headlong blogrush.

So consider these bird pictures a loving portrait of you, dear group! bye for now, come back soon.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First snow, second tapestry panel and nature questions

For blogistas who are nature experts, of which we have a few around here, I post a couple of pix of a shrub or tree at the preserve which appears to be busting out of its bark oddly, like a snake shedding its skin in all directions.

Is it in trouble? what is it doing? the naturalists had their hands full with programs when I noticed this, so I didn't bother them, just took pix to share.

Also nice picture taken on Saturday before the snow fell, of bayberry in full fruit.

Just imagine the labor it used to take to collect these tiny berries, render them to get the fat out of them, process them and make candles in colonial times. No wonder people were careful with candles. Heck, I would have cringed to see my work going up in flames just so someone could read the latest broadsheet about the bad things the Brits had been doing. Or, as I like to interject, not Brits, Hessians!

Then we had the first snow of the winter yesterday, started as rain, turned to sleet, finally became quite pretty snow, and I took pix in the evening as it fell

through the lamplight in the street, and on the front yard.

Couldn't sleep well last night and got up at 4 a.m. to find that it was moonlight, peacefully shining on the fallen snow out back, all undisturbed and lovely to see. Peace as heavy as a warm blanket.

And yesterday,having finished a furious storm of knitting, and got all the items off to their recipients, I was able to return to the tapestry and FINISH the second panel, which I proudly show you.

Now I can get onto the the next color group for the third and positively final panel of this iteration....can't tell you what fun this all is. Most of what you see in this panel is my own homespun, bustin with pride over that.

So, Happy Sunday! well, Monday for you, Minimiss!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

The sad news from Bhopal about how the Union Carbide disaster still resonates, gave me a surprise: HP told me that after the gas leak, UC put out tenders to companies in the water and air cleaning chemistry business, to research ways to clean up the site.

HP was one of the team whose company, not Union Carbide, no connection with it, but with a track record for water and air cleaning and benevolent natural pest control for major crops (they increased the rice and wheat harvests in India and China) set to work on it. I had no idea he had any involvement at all in the frantic attempts to put right what UC had disastrously let go wrong.

As usual, the original research chemist rarely knows to what extent the work was used, successful, etc., but he knows he was on the side of the good guys looking to alleviate the suffering there all those years ago.

It amuses me when students come around to get signatures from us to encourage clean water regs in the state, and try to explain to HP what this really means. They have no idea they're talking to one of the guys who invented the flocculating (or maybe deflocculating, I'm not a chemist) process that cleans water for re-use. And he is far too modest ever to mention it. But he applauds their idealism and willingness to go door to door in support of it.

Then today online is a story of the topping (putting a tree on the top of the final girders for a new building) of the new huge complex being built on the very place he used to work when he did that Bhopal research work.

One of his last projects before he retired was to research and write up the groundwater and soil conditions of that site where he worked, with a view to the company's eventually selling it, in order to satisfy EPA requirements.

A huge project on which he played a big part, since this is very high water table country, very sensitive wetland, and the company was working in chemistry, so they had to be very sure they had followed the protocols for protecting the water and land.

And the EPA report was successful, they got the clearance, and now 25 years later, a major hospital is being built on the site. Princeton hospital, to be in Plainsboro (yes, as in House!!! one of the producers of that program is an old high school acquaintance of HS, now a tv and movie guy, the name of the hospital in House is a kind of in-joke), is rising on the site of HP's old research labs. A hospital, more alert than almost any other site to the need for safe conditions to build on.

So since he can not get there at all, I took a ride over and made pix for him to see what's up and for you, too.

The hospital is on both sides of an old farm road with a lovely avenue of ancient elms, which have been left alone in the construction, and one of the pictures shows you two of them framing the picture of the new scaffolding.

And there's the pic of the classic little tree lashed in traditional fashion, to the topmost girder, and the flag flying.

And a couple of shots of the sheer size of the place.

They plan to include a park and walking paths around the lake, which will be untouched, good, since there are a lot of birds who come there to fish, black back cormorants, a couple of bald eagles seen around, now and then an egret, often great blue herons.

So all of this is very heartening to HP whose work goes on even though he is very much retired from activity now, and he was so happy to see these pictures and visualize what used to be there, what's happening now, and how it's changed. And how he is still having an impact on the world!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Little House in the Big Woods...

I don't usually follow myself in here so soon, but this I couldn't resist, in view of my reading A.S.Byatt, complete with fairy stories, children's books of the period, etc. I went out walking out back to get out of the way of the house cleaning team, and found outside our gate this dear little house, evidently the handiwork of the two little girls who live nearest to it, the owners of Tigger the orange cat who visits me now and then.

I just thought I'd show it to you, in the context of the big trees,

and then a real estate closeup.

Desirable residence for elves, fairies, piskies, pixies, whoever has the down payment...anyone less likely than me to be interested in fairy houses, elves, etc., than I it's hard to imagine. A.S. Byatt has something to answer for...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Accidental Art with Glovettes!

Lately, the reading front has been wildly assorted, with Anita Brookner's Strangers upstairs, to read at night, A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book on DVD to listen while I knit and flutter about in the kitchen, etc., Dick Francis various suspense thriller type things when I want something that Doesn't Matter At All, and Penelope Lively, heard on DVD her latest, Family something, title escapes me, how unusual for me. I listen while I walk, too, if the weather is not particularly exciting.

But first for Brookner, who is quite simply the most elegant, unflinchingly brave writer you can imagine, but don't imagine her, read her. Some people think she's depressing, because she deals with fears about aging and loneliness and other life issues, but I find her wonderfully grounded and realistic. There's a feeling that you're in good hands when you read her, since she faces the realities, deals with them, and accepts that there are things we can't change, maybe shouldn't even try to,that simple answers are very often wrong. All very different from my own approach, so it's very useful as a counterpoint.

Above all, she's piercingly intelligent and perceptive and knows what not to say, and where to elide the emotion, where to lean on it, like a fine musician with words.

Very different from Byatt who is expansive and sort of blowsy as a writer, with her hair coming out of its pins and her skirt hem lopsided, and frankly self indulgent in her passion for fantasy and fairy tales and the dark side of them, and a bit too obvious in making connections and holding out bait for the reader to snap at, but still very entertaining. Her research tends to stick out a bit, though -- look out, reader, I STUDIED this bit! but despite all her faults, you can't stop reading, or listening as the case may be.

The current DVD is pretty well done, except that the narrator has an unnerving way of pronouncing words that sound wrong. Her "o's" come out as "u's" as in: there were scarlet puppies on her least that was how it sounded at first. And she is all over the place in her emphasis on syllables, usually coming down in the wrong place, aieee, my grammar police background bristles at these.

And Penelope Lively never fails to be incisive, skewering, and skewing, all and sundry, wonderful spare economical writing. I listened to her latest on DVD and found it a bit too overwhelming, since the narrator did a hugely irritating and silly voice for the mother of the family, making her into a fool and a clown, neither of which she was, but amazing how she could be made to come across that way with a high wobbly delivery. I'm going back to reading Lively in book form, as you see from the still life that heads up this post.

Also in the pic is a pair of those fingerless gloves, a better fit for HS this time, I think, anyway we'll see what he thinks, happily named "glovettes" by MAJ, thank you for this nomenclature, I love it!

The pic is a shot of my little wicker worktable in the corner (found at the dumpster) and turned out to be a nice composition without any intervention on my part. So I took it that I wasn't supposed to move stuff, just snap it.

Many years ago, I used to know a man who was an amateur painter, who assured me that it was CHEATING to ARRANGE a still life! heh. He was convinced that all still life was accidental art and design. No, he wasn't a serious painter, he was a translator. Just as well he had a day job.

He was Dutch, too, which just shows that visual art talent is not necessarily a national characteristic. The blood of Rembrandt and Van G., was nowhere near running in his veins. But in the case of the Dutch, musical art talent might be, given the streams of great compositions and performers over centuries on the recorder, right to the current day.

Speaking of amateur musicians, I continue to play regularly, keeping up the flute as well as the recorder. One fun thing I have started is to play the same piece on each instrument in turn to see how it changes and what happens. Since the fingering and the range is different, it's an interesting mindbender to do this, too.

And I'm adding in the third octave to my flute range, by replaying a piece an octave higher if it fits in the range, great fun. I play upstairs, but HP tells me he can hear it fine (not the cursing, though) and enjoys his personal concerts, usually performed while the laundry is in the dryer.