Thursday, April 29, 2010

In the grip, but it's starting to loosen and let me out...

I'm coming to the end of this series of watercolors, will have maybe eight or ten in the collection, and I've framed four to date. Show to be set up summer or fall, I have been invited to pick the month (in the new gallery you saw at the libe, yay). And I will have to pay attention to tapestry after the painting frenzy has died down briefly, since it's going to be a true mixed media show, with tapestry and paintings, just total contrast in materials, though it's about natural scenes and flowers, very loosely translated!

So here are paired tree pix, which started out as one large painting until I realized it was trying to be two, so I went with that! sometimes the artist is just the medium through which the art takes place. If you fight it you end with mud or stiff little works! better just let it happen, and use all your skills and experience to guide it into a finished work, rather than try to hammer it into shape.

Important footnotes: thank you people who emailed me very touchingly about yesterday's thanks to homecare professionals, yes, you get it!

AND the first journal is now in Ontario, will make its way soon to Calgary, then to Toronto after that to points west...yay again.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Caregivers for caregivers

We just had a visit from Dr. H. the eye doctor, to the house, to do exactly the sort of eye exam HP would have in his regular eye doctor's office, to which he can sadly no longer get, with recommendations, diagnosis, all that. And twice a week Emil M. the physical therapist to the stars, comes in to work with HP, always ready with new ideas, and there's the dentist, Dr. Y, who set up an entire dentist office in our living room and proceeded to do an urgently needed filling, and always his terrific Doctor Pamela B., who is there for us, spends as much time as her patient needs, never rushes away. This is the A team for care for HP, and without them it would be impossible for him to be at home.

All these services are provided by law in nursing homes, but are relatively new in private homes. That and the shortage of home health aides, is a big reason why many people can't be maintained in their own homes, no matter how much they might want to be there.

So this is a paean of praise to the homecare professionals, a cheerful and inventive group of people who are really working the high wire act of the medical world -- no backup on site, bring your own equipment, make rapid decisions based on what you see when you arrive, deal with the family's abilities or lack of them, support everyone, be in someone's home without intruding on their life.

If there is a life after this one and if there are rewards and grades given for how you served your time here on the planet, then people you will see with crowns studded with diamonds and emeralds and rubies and other such nice stuff are probably the homecare section of the Elysian Fields!

The picture at the top? mosses gathered from the woods behind the house, transplanted to our house in a homemade wardian case consisting of a pottery plate and an old clock mantel, flourishing away in this environment, new surprising plants appearing.

Just seemed like a great metaphor for our homecare pros, and for us!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Studio madness!

The different avenues of art in this house are dizzying: downstairs it's all fiber and knitting and weaving and moving slowly and with deliberation, and keeping HP company.

Up in the studio, brief bursts of total madness and excitement, and aside from the pieces I'm showing you here, more in the works....this is too cool.

I think it's partly having survived our first home nursing year and being in pretty good shape, both of us. It's unleashed a wave of painting.

To kind inquirers, yes, my work is always for sale, and these pieces, trying to remember to answer questions here, are all either 16 x 20 or 20 x 16, depending on which way they're oriented.

These will probably be shown before too long, and I'm thinking of a joint watercolor/fiber art show, because people always get intrigued by the very different sorts of art one person can make, at the same time, too.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Azalea Time again

Today I had free time thanks to HS visiting to help with HP's care and let me get out. So I wisely went to the thrift store and found three sweaters to unravel.

One is heavy brown tweedy cotton, will probably become a knitted wallhanging artpiece, one is a lovely soft green lambswool, will become warm hats or something, and one is silk, the pink one, a new departure for me, and we'll see how it goes. It will be part of an artwork if it goes well.

Then, on the way home, I realized I was passing close by Sayen Gardens, where the wedding excitement took place last year, longtime readers will remember, but today, though there was a wedding, no collisions at all. Just a lovely time walking about and seeing the guests leaving some other party.

And since it's azalea time, not my favorite shrub, but nemmind, it's a state law that you must take pictures of same and show them to family and friends.

And rotten old wisteria, trying to do in a lovely evergreen, why I don't like wisteria and don't encourage it...

Then, since humans keep on getting in there, you have great scenes like this one

of bulldog Lola lying down, panting and swearing and refusing to go on, while Grandma gamely forges ahead, refusing to wait, leaving the family torn between should we pick up this massive dog and carry her and not lose Grandma or should we stick with Grandma and hope Lola comes around...I left them debating this issue.

The gardens have a lot of nooks with benches in them for just sitting and smelling the lovely scents of spring, including spicebush, which you can't often find, since the scent literally drifts for hundreds of yards and is probably in somebody's back yard down the street a bit.

I also saw a man doing his meditation beside the water, but didn't think it proper to take a picture of that, so you have to take my word for it, and enjoy the old gent in the sunshine who got into my water picture.

Then home to tea.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One Year On

No pix today, just a little note to say that today is one year since HP came home from the rehab. A huge year full of all sorts of fear and endless work and panic and eventually some organization and now much more calm.

Today we spent a couple of hours out on the patio in the sunshine watching birds and talking idly. We've both come a long way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Art keeps breaking in

The watercolor adventure in the studio is going on whenever I can get a little while up there to work. I have to get moving, because before long it will be too hot up there (AC doesn't exactly reach there, third floor, you know) to work and the paint will dry even faster than I want, which is saying something.

So anyway, here's a couple of the recent output up there, others lying about there, waiting for a good idea to emerge as to what to do next, or awaiting the shredder, or maybe going to have a new life in a different form in the same series.

Here are orchid

and iris.

Several people asked me to remember to give the dimensions, so I'm being very good about this. The pieces are matted, the mat opening of orchid is 13 x 10 (as you know, height precedes width in measuring art) but the whole piece is 20 x 16. Iris is 10 x 8, these are all inches....but is matted into a 20 x 16 frame, with a mat opening about 9 x 7, since a small work always does better with a big margin around it. They're both framed in plain light wood, very lowkey.

And, as usual, please please make no use of any of my images without clearing it first with me, okay? thank you.

Some updates: the Nautilus journal has gone from here to Ontario, thence to Calgary and is being mulled over before it goes off to Toronto, after that to Wisconsin, and points west....

And I'm getting more and more ads about what they call "monetizing" this blog, i.e. making in income from advertising, mentioning products for $$, that kind of thing, and I just wanted to make sure readers know I don't do this, don't plan to, not my style. So when I review anything or talk about products it's strictly my own inner control freak coming out, nobody is paying me to talk, but that never stopped me yet....

Also, when I offer an item in a sort of lottery thing, it's not to enlarge readership, but because the item needs a home and maybe a blogista's home is the right one. And it does not mean your email address will ever be shared, sold, none of that stuff. This is strictly a friendly deal.

Speaking of which, I noticed a terrific idea on Ravelry the other day. A poster was mulling, there's that word again, over whether to open a blog, and not sure if she wanted the work entailed in it, or if she would keep on having enough to say (how do people ever run out, I ask, but I digress) and the suggestion came that she be a guest poster now and then on other blogs. I love this idea!!!

So listen, blogista friends, if you fancy being a guest here in Field and Fen, write a post on something specific you fancy writing about, share some pix you want to share with this group, heck, recipes, whatever you feel like imparting, but you're not quite ready for a Blog of Your Own, get in touch with me. You can email me about it, and we'll work out the logistics together. This could be fun.

Stick with me and you'll be in no end of trouble....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chinese Spring Festival has sprung!

I love small events, like the ones we get at our local libraries. Not small in their own context, but small compared to Woodstock and major sports things and state fairs and that sort of group insanity. I'm not much for huge crowds and noise and movement and overwhelming numbers of things happening at once.

In fact I thought Woodstock was too childish and silly for words, being a couple of years older than the people who flocked there to roll about in the mud and smoke weed, and since I had a young baby I figured I was doing something far more worth doing, very lofty about it all. I notice how many millions of people now claim to have been the joke about how there are thousands of Rembrandt paintings in the US, far more than he ever actually painted...

Anyway, one of our local libes, not the one in our town, but the next town over, where I've spent many happy hours chatting and browsing, had its annual Chinese Spring Festival yesterday, very charming stuff, with talents ranging from world class classical musicians to middle aged ladies doing their seated fitness routine, all warmly received and applauded.

Though there were maybe eight caucasians there including Indian families, did you know they are caucasian, too, well they are....where was I, oh yes, with exquisite politeness all the acts and performances were introduced both in Chinese and in English. Much appreciated.

There were Chinese ink painters, one happily whipping out paintings of tigers for the Year of the Tiger, one doing calligraphy, after studying his book of notes. The calligrapher, a very old gentleman, was great to watch, such a lesson in focus: first he thought about the phrase he was going to paint, then he studied the blank page, then poised the brush for a few seconds, then plunged in unhesitatingly through the figure.

And there were various food items, which I left to the kids, of whom there were a lot. And traditional beading, and games for kids to learn how to use chopsticks using marshmallows.

There was the local Chinese School yo-yo team, in groups ranging from very young

to teenage experts,

juggling with diabolos, switching back and forth to each other, making them travel around their own bodies, then all tossing at once, very impressive stuff for youngsters.

Lion dance, parades, all kinds of chances for little kids to wear their costumes

And the Yuan Yuan group of middle aged ladies, doing what looked like Andy's upper body exercises, seated movements, with the accompaniment of taped Chinese drumming, very exciting.

I had found a folded chair in the corner, and unfolded it to sit, since all the other chairs were taken, and when this group appeared, they made for my corner and one said, so sorry, your chair needed for dance routine! so I moved over, wondering how chairs were to feature in a dance routine.

The dancers wore red tshirts and black pants, a jingle bell bracelet on each left wrist and a jingle bell anklet for each, so there was a lot of belling as they did their moves, including a hilarious wave, from one end to the other of the line of 12 women.

At one point, one of the bells flew off the ankle of a "dancer" and landed in the open palm of a little girl on the floor, who looked stagamazed at where this could have come from. Her friend explained, and she tried to give it back in the middle of the performance! but was persuaded to wait till the end. The audience loved this group, clapped and stamped along.

At the other end of the spectrum, a great musical ensemble of Chinese instruments, flute, several stringed instruments, percussion and bells, just excellent musicians, the flute player in particular was stunningly good.

And the written music of course was in Chinese notation, not western, so I hope I was able to get that picture clear enough for you to see it.

I have not heard a lot of Chinese music, but the energy and virtuosity of this group was unmistakeably good, very lucky for me to have chanced into the library at the right time.

Not to mention lucky to live in a community where this kind of thing happens.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Positively Burgeoning, I tell you!

Today's walk around the park yielded a motherlode of pix, to show HP when I got home, in the couple of days before either it rains and knocks the blossoms off, or it blows hard and blows the blossoms off, or we get one of our sneaky late frosts which freezes the blossoms off. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, it's set fair.

I love walking in the park, because it's a constant human comedy. Yesterday I saw a woman walking briskly and reading at the same time. Now I could get a step or two before disaster would take over, but she was going at quite a clip, intent on her romance novel, I figured from the graphics on the jacket.

Today it was the little girl with a notebook and pencil, she was all of five, solemnly making notes about some tree she was looking at while her grandmother jiggled the stroller with her baby brother in it to keep him happy. Or the three women (all my fellow walkers are Indian or Chinese in the daytime) talking rapidfire in Hindi, waving bracelet- encrusted arms to make their points while a fourth right behind them, rolled her eyes toward me, and grinned, evidently she's heard all this dialog before.

Every year I think to myself, hm, should I take pictures of blossoms yet again? then I say, self, see how amazed you are to see them, that you're still alive and vertical and moving at speed, yes, take the pictures. So I do and I did and here they are.

Bradford Pear at the end of the street

Riot of color at the entrance to the street, not very great color combo, but you have to give it points for verve!

Looking up into flowering cherry

I realized that I could walk on the berm and look down into a flowering crab tree, a bird's eye view, so I did

oops, I did it again...and then one more before it's time for tea...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Threads in the fabric of my town

I spent some time in the newly opened Plainsboro Public Library, to take pictures and bring home to show HP, and thought I would share my huge joy with you, too.

I've been given at least three guided tours around different areas of the place already by the Powers That Be in the libe, when I stopped in at the weekend, first full day in operation, wonderful insights into what's there, but since it's three floors and was buzzing with activity on Saturday afternoon when I was there, I figured on having a quieter time, just sloping about with my camera and thanking the library staff as I met them, and here's Christina, one of my favorite library staffers, caught her as she was registering a new patron

I have some small insight into the endless work and struggle in all ways by everyone working there, to get this to be a reality. I have been given great opportunities here, too, to give input into stuff I would like to see there, and to my huge satisfaction, I can show you here in actual pix, ideas that have become materially real. But more important is that a lot of other people also got their say and were respected and included and it's just wonderful.

Considering this is only a town of 22,000 people, a lot bigger than it used to be, but still small, to have this fab. place is amazing.

The atmosphere, with the colors and the light and the open design, is just wonderful to hang out in. Many great details such as all the different fabrics in the furniture, and the changing colors of the carpet from area to area, and the plexi transparent "walls" on the staircases, and the different terraces, more and more to discover as you wander about and the color changer in the ceiling of the children's area.

The Quiet Terrace, awaiting furniture.

I have to show you the gallery, which is its own space, for exhibits only, not shared space, open but NOT a hallway, lovely shape, great light, and get that seating piece!

a real gallery where you go, sit, observe, study, enjoy the art.

You can see it from upstairs, and from the front and back doors, but it's still quiet. I think everything I was hoping for is there.

And the kids' terrace with the giant chess/checkerboard paving,

which I suggested, on the grounds that it would be no more expensive than plain paving, and would be a ton of fun. And the director went one even better: found giant chesspieces so kids can play fullsize chess games, walking their pieces into place. There was a line waiting to do this on Saturday!

Indoors, the children's area goes on and on, reading nooks and science exploration places, colorful and friendly.

And the plexi staircase sides, all etched with quotations, first lines from local people's favorite works. I was one of the lucky ones asked, and I more or less managed to get a picture to show you my quotation, at least fragments of it. Not easy to get pix of etching on clear plexi, but I gave it a shot.

My favorite quotation, took no time at all to think of it: There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual, from No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym.

First line in the novel, sets up the whole thing, wryly and sympathetically and sets up the mood exactly right.

And there's the Bookmark Cafe, open soon, note the work still in progress outside,laying brick and setting up plantings

sitting and chatting area, far enough from the gallery to keep food out of it, but close enough to see from there.

Well, I was pretty carried away. This has been a long time coming, great sturm und drang for the professionals charged with getting it all approved, designed, built, finished, politics overcome, money located, years of work and effort, and I only know the edges of it. Such a deal to be a part of, I can't get over it.

So just consider this a huge personal thank you to Jinny B, Carol Q. and all the staff who have been there for us all along! thank you all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jane Austen shrug, she says nonchalantly...with a shrug

I just finished a new adventure in knitting, my first shot at knitting from the top, and of a cable and seed stitch raglan, and of a moving from two needles to four in the course of one small project. Five, really, since four were holding needles and the fifth was the working needle, mainly because my circulars were too big to do this, as I found out a bit late.

This is from Mason Dixon Knitting outside the lines, named the Jane Austen shrug, which I made in the smallest size, it being an experiment, sized for maybe a two year old. The pix include rulers to show sizes, and remember to click on the pic, then click again on the resulting pic to enlarge it, sorry but blogster has complicated our lives with this extra step, poor us.

And I must acknowledge the invaluable assistance and advice and encouragement of fellow Raveler, FionaFae, who provided essential tips, including getting me to use stitch markers, a first for me, I usually wing it, but couldn't wing this one. Thank you, thank you!

I had to figure out what to use around the house for the stitch markers, not having any, and ended up cutting up rings from a plastic drinking straw and using them, worked fine though they do have a tendency to fly through the air when you're busy with the cable, which I had to do with a skewer, not having a cable needle, either.

So when you consider the obstacles of my ignorance and lack of tools, balanced against the generosity of FionaFae's time and expertise, I think it came out okay.....FF, this is the second go at the shrug,the first one being too soft as I worked, so that the stitch pattern didn't show well, so I switched to a different color and texture of cotton.

It's in search of a little recipient, as a gift, if anyone knows someone who would like to be fitted with this, speak up.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Watch this space, Martha!

Today saw the fruition of the stacking planter idea I first saw in a Martha Stewart magazine layout, and I show you the results.

The idea is to stack one planter on a support, inside another, and a third smaller one on top, kind of Russian doll idea, plant all of them, to get a nice vertical display and make terrific use of the tiny footprint of the space at my disposal.

Now the astute reader will immediately note that there are features here not seen in Martha. Nowhere are the matching clay pots, carefully calibrated and probably hand thrown in some ceramic workshop, nor the perfectly amended and soil-chemistry-knowledge-laden potting soil, nor the handwritten waterproof labels, and nowhere will you see evidence that a plumb rule was used to attain a perfect vertical. Nor will they be planted with rare plants brought specially from the Himalayas by hand reared yak.

However, other than that, it's exactly the same. I used old coffee cans as the invisible supports, any planters that would fit into other planters, and the regular old potting soil I get at the hardware store.

And I made sure to do my special squirrel repelling process, namely to soak cotton balls in peppermint essential oil (not the flavoring stuff you get at the grocery, this has to be the essential oil, which I get from the herbalist), which you then poke into the pots, about three per pot.

Squirrels hate this stuff and avoid it for the whole season unless it rains heavily and dilutes it, then you just redo it. We specialize in squirrels and this is a big deal to stop the critters from doing their usual deal which is to dig out what you planted, upend it, chuck it about and then go play somewhere else. I'm told it works for mice and voles, too, but we have so few of them it's not an issue here.

And I plant with that wonderful flower roll carpety thing I had a ton of success with in previous years, before it wasn't possible to find it anywhere for a couple of years. That;s the green stuff you see in the planters -- seeds embedded in fiber with food and other useful stuff.

Now it's back, not in garden places at all, but in, get this, gift catalogs! some of my best gardening helps have come from Carol Wright and Walter Drake, most unlikely places considering they specialize in leetle tiles to stick behind the sink or special tools for accomplishing the sort of housework you wouldn't dream of getting involved in.

So today I did the Sunny Garden roll, sounds like a happy dance, and when my back recovers, I will do the Shady Garden stuff. This is the year of the Stacking Planters. I'm going all out to see what they will do. Out front, too, when I get my moxie back again.

There are enough perennials going on around here that it won't exactly look barren if they don't flourish as expected. And I have a passel of houseplants just waiting to get outside for the summer, like going to camp. So there will be Stuff Growing.

It's just fun to see seeds come up and wonder idly what they are -- the carpets have many species, some wild, some tame, and you get to research what you have growing in your own yard.

So, watch this space! no doubt you will be regaled, or bored to extinction with my excitement as the season progresses. And if you try this yourself, send pix!