Sunday, May 30, 2010

In Praise of Holiday Bad Food

Chez nous, it's become a holiday tradition to celebrate with Bad Food, items we never normally introduce into our house. Hot dogs, ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, potato chips, you know. The Buddhist joke about the hot dog: make me One with Everything....

So here's today's celebratory lunch, very well received.

Happy holiday weekend to them as celebrate,

happy ordinary weekend to the rest of us!

Remember to thank the people who went to war for us, even those of us who don't think we should ever go to war, still, they did it, and most of us have no idea what people in combat see and do, so we acknowledge that when asked, they did the best they knew how.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Freecycle, Serendipity and Shakuhachi moments

This being a national holiday weekend in the US, for Memorial Day, it's officially a day to commemorate veterans of war, unofficially the opening of summer, and fiscally a weekend for stores to hope desperately people will shop and shop for summer items. Doomed to disappointment in my case, since my gesture to material things today was a wonderful bit of freecycling.

Freecycle is more than an exchange of items, when you are lucky enough to have local freecyclers who share information, conversation, general sociability, along with great stuff. Today's was with Linda a freecycler who did a wonderful job last year of emptying her late mom's house, with great respect, a lot of care, and much work to do it right. I was one of the recipients and came to see how Linda applies these notions to more than just freecycling.

Anyway, she came back into my life this weekend with an offer of craft items, which of course were a great magnet for me, who knows what might come of them. And I went out today to a different address from her mom's old house. She explained it, far better than Mapquest, why am I not surprised, and told me to look for a horse farm.

Now, around here people often say oh, I live in an apple orchard, or I live on a horse farm, and what they mean is that it used to be that but they have a new house on the site, no horses, nor apple trees. However, in this case, I actually ended up finding her in the stable out back, tending to actual horses.

To whom she introduced me, a big quarter horse, lovely guy, a little pure white miniature, Star, with massive main and tail, who studied me closely, just in case anything good appeared in my hand, and a third one another lovely bigger guy, an Icelandic, who slipped his head through the doorway just checking. What a treat. No pictures, light levels too low in the barn. Turns out little Star, about a quarter the size of the biggest of the three, is the boss of the outfit. If he says the big guys can't go in their part of the pasture, too bad, they have to get his go ahead, if he manages to get in their section first. They each have a personal section, and you can see why the bigger guys are probably happy about that.

I was impressed at how calm they all were, considering I was a total stranger coming at them smelling of cats, probably, and they were happy to get a stroke on the nose. Nice zen atmosphere in the barn.

Different horse place, but I wanted to have them in here!

And the craft materials are terrific -- some items will go right into the fiber art hanging I'm working on right now, others have future plans. One basket will go on the hearth for logs in the fall, one tiny one on HP's table for his cruet set. Stamps, always welcome, and will probably take up bandwidth in future books I create.

So that was an expedition to an area I'd never been in before, a bit of countryside right behind major roads, May a perfect, green, time to do this. And Linda experienced in home care for an invalid, on top of other work commitments, just a great person to touch base and talk with today.

Speaking of invalid care and caretaking, Thursday I was at the local libe and met Ruth L., a terrific person who takes great care of an aged husband with a lot of needs, but aside from being a physio, is an artist, an embroiderer recently nominated for the Golden Thread Award of the Embroiderers' Guild, I must check this out more, it sounds very impressive.

Anyway, she and I were talking about our lives and times, and I was in the midst of explaining what the Shakuhachi master who came to the Recorder Society last year to demo the Japanese Shakuhachi flute and culture had commented. One of the bases of playing it is to recognize that whatever other sounds or noises happen during the playing, which is not tunes, more of a meditation, are not to be seen as interruptions. They become part of the experience.

Once you get this idea, you can see how even huge and seemingly bad things that happen are not an interruption of the life we should have had. They are part of it. Anyway, I was in the midst of saying this when one of the libe staff interrupted to greet us and just make sure to catch us when she had the chance. We've both done art projects with her and don't see her half often enough.

After she moved on, we both realized she had just illustrated what I was talking about! too cool. The rocks in the river that make the music.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beach and Patio Reading

a.k.a. Reading that Does Not Matter at All. But is fun to read lying on the beach or the patio, knowing that book will quite soon be resting on your chest going up and down in a gentle rhythm. Yes, we know you're not asleep, just resting your eyes..

Some of these you could write yourself, they're so predictable, but they're fun anyway.

Katie FForde is one of today's picks. First of all there's endless innocent merriment to be had wondering how in publisher's name she pronounces it. Fuffawd? Fump? one of those English names that sounds quite different. Probably pronounced Chumley...

Her heroines are usually interesting women doing jobs that sound fun in the pages of a book, or living on houseboats or something that I'd hang rather than do in real life, but am quite happy to have my heroine up at two in the morning bailing, whatever that is.

Naturally, it's wildly hetero, and even ends in marriages all around, but you can't have heroine says nope, I'd rather have my own company, or, even less likely, says nope, you don't get it, this lady IS my partner. But given those restrictions, fun stuff to go to sleep by. Set in England, so one heroine always puts on the late night BBC news which lulls her off right away. I love touches like that.

Then there's Merrill Markoe, a sitcom writer who is also very funny on the page. Her What the Dogs Taught Me, I think is the title is putdownably funny. You have to keep putting it down to laugh. Like how she's learning how to have dogs as pets. How they keep watching her fully expecting marvelous things to happen any minute, and how guilty she feels when all she's doing is reaching for a kleenex.

This one, Turning in Circles, is dog related but I'm not into it yet, haven't finished sleeping to FForde.

Speaking of dogs and their impact on a household, this morning I got a wild hair and actually approached the bottom plate of the refrigerator, which is 21 years old, I doubt if anyone ever cleaned under it before. And found that that little plate actually pops off.

I had put off finding this out for several years, since I have a lot of trouble with unscrewing stuff, hands not liking it, and specially Phillips head dealies. So imagine my surprise, gosh, when it just popped out, on spring clips. Hm. Could have found that out a while back.

Then I proceeded to sort of fish out a large amount of fluff and cat hair and pens (juggled there by cats) and little plastic milktops (juggled there by cats) and ant traps, and various vital notices and letters which had fallen off the door in days of yore, and a chewtoy. The last occupant of this household who had any interest in chewtoys went to the great Doghouse in the Sky about 15 years ago. That was the sainted Buff.

He was a kind of family member as much as a dog. Found in north Jersey as a stray poking around the garbage outside a restaurant, passed around various friends whose landlords threatened to throw them out if they kept him, he ended up at HP's then apartment (we were only marginally in each others' lives at that point). That day my dear Kerry, dog of my heart, had had to be euthanized, and HP said, well, look you're not ready for another dog, I know that, but just come meet him, he'll cheer you up.

Famous last words. I went over there, this shaggy little cairn terrier-like dog ran to me, put a toy down on my foot and sat back expectantly. So that was the end of me. He was on his way home with me in minutes.

And never again offered to play with me. That was strictly for the job interview. He used to look at me if I threw a ball or stick, as if to say, hey, I'm not your servant! get your own ball! sheesh...

Then my life and career changed dramatically after I'd had him a few years, and I was away far too many hours in the day, so Buff went to live with HP to cheer him up, since he was living alone, out of work longterm very much against his will, on disability, the start of a long decline in health, and he became the center of that household, but I had visitation rights. Buff was like a traveling therapist to this group. Lived to about 15, we estimated, not knowing his age on arrival in our lives. Worth his weight in chewtoys.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring hopes, eternal

A while back I showed you the Martha Stewartesque stacking planters which I seeded with seed carpet. They would be a lot more successful if the weather hadn't turned cold, rendering the squirrel-deterring peppermint oil null and void, and if the squirrels had not upended them FIVE separate times, all requiring rescue, replanting, and now I'm resigned. Either they grow or they don't, and there are small signs that they will, unless Martha wants to visit and fix it all up.

However, now is the time to think about food in the garden, and I have embarked on a new way of doing the upside down veggies. Last year's upside down tomato went great guns until the tomato blight hit and my tomatoes, along with those of unfortunate local farmers who earn a living from these things, were lost totally to the blight. How it found my little hanging planter is one of those mysteries of nature, like how do Japanese beetles know it's July l, time to eat your roses?

Nonetheless I'm trying again. But instead of the official tomato planter which I found incredibly awkward and difficult and heavy and curse-inducing to maneuver, particularly overhead, I'm using readymade hanging planter things, which I cut out at the bottom a bit to accommodate the roots of the veggies, and I decided to plant the tops as well, so that they might look nice as well as functional.

So here are pictures.

And I had a rush of brilliance, about time, and used S hooks to stage them, also to bring them down low enough to work on. I got a set of these last winter, sure they'd come in useful sooner or later, and they did.

Soooo, we have tiny tomatoes, the kind HP loves and I don't, Roma plum tomatoes, the kind he tolerates and I love, bell peppers (extras went into ordinary containers out back on the deck, for comparison purposes, also because I ran out of hanging planters and room to hang them), with wave petunias one lot of white, two of mixed mauvy purply.

Vegetables upside down, not easy to see in the pix yet, and the flowers right way up, similarly not easy to see in the pix yet. Purply not my fave color, but it goes well in the context, and anything's better than red in the garden. I really dislike red flowers, don't ask me why, probably very Freudian.

So here are my spring hopes. Again. If'n the creek don't git up (around here that's not actually a joke, since I live in a floodplain) and the squirrels don't git up there either, I will post progress pictures. That's if'n we have any progress.

Baby rabbit wondering if he can climb up that high.

It's amazingly hard work doing a few little containers. You feel as if you've been heaving rocks for hours, what with finding the tools and lugging the bags of soil, and fixing the containers and dropping them and picking them up and sweeping up the results and making the tea.

Meanwhile, here are cherry bushes which are supposed to give me actual fruit

Cherry bushes and iris

Which reminds me that it's time for another cup of English Teatime.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Journal updates fyi

We have two journals in circulation

Treasure Everywhere



and they have both managed to fetch up in Calgary together, but will proceed early next week to Mississauga, and one of them will go out fairly quickly to Wisconsin, but our Miss. participant is taking pity on the Wisconsin lady, and holding off a little bit on the second one so you don't get them both falling on you at once, having probably thought about an entry for one at a time!

Do remember, though, that you can create a page and then just glue it in when the journal arrives, or write your entry and rewrite if you like in the journal, or create a drawing or whatever you're up for, and add it in when the journal gets to you. or if you have afterthoughts, ship them to me to insert when the journals finally get back to me. It's all good, as the cliche has it...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three Perfect Pearls

The kite was me! flying free in the sky for a while!

Back home again yesterday afternoon, after three perfect weather days at the shore. Considering we had wet miserable weather right up till I left, which resumed as soon as I got back, this was either brilliant judgment on my part or um, lucky.

I always take reading with me just in case, and this time it was the Treasury of Lynne Truss (you know, the Eats, Shoots and Leaves writer) which was just right, funny, incisive as always, just right for reading on the balcony, with a little glass of white wine at the end of a day of hiking in the sun.

Three comic novels, and many of her columns. Including a quotation from Virgina Woolf which was news to me about a stay she'd had alone in the country: three perfect pearls. Meaning the days. That was exactly the analogy I needed for this trip.

I always stay at the same place in Cape May, the Montreal Inn,

which is not paying me to say this! because it's not wildly expensive, unlike the foofy victorian b and bs downtown, Cape May being a restored Victorian shore town, complete with horse drawn carriages, old time trolleys,

wonderful gardens, gingerbread galore on the buildings, and very very expensive accommodations.

With flowers growing out of old brick walls

Without a beach view. No balcony either.

I always take a walk around town, though, since it's a federal regulation that you have to bring shore fudge home with you for your family, and that's where all the good candy places are. Also the horse carriages

and interesting tourists like the two ladies with a Yorkie each, wearing a little cotton dress, the Yorkies, not the ladies. I asked if that was resort wear, and they burst out laughing, yes, that's exactly what it is -- dogs in their shore gear.

One of them, the ladies, not the Yorkies, examined the pouch I wear around my neck for my cellphone, and asked technical questions about it, very intrigued. And said, listen, I was just on my way to the yarn store, I will definitely get some yarn to make one of those. Just single crochet, then an attached chain stitch, hm? yes, I can do that. And she trotted off, leaving her friend holding the two Yorkies who were quite dignified despite the little dresses, to get her yarn for her new project.

Meanwhile, back at the Inn, what I get is a balcony overlooking the Atlantic, no buildings between you and it, and you can sit and just enjoy whatever is going on.

It's a lazy person's place -- the first afternoon I watched about a dozen dolphins frolicking about right in front of me, no need to go looking.

And on my second morning, I noticed, as I drank my coffee and stretched out in the sun, that the road below me was being closed off. A 10K run was about to pass in front of us, great show -- many many runners, including some seriously good ones who make you think oh, I can do that, and less great ones who show you just how hard this really is, and wheelchair athletes,

and moms with running strollers, and whole families running in varying ways,

and one great sight of two runners propelling a totally disabled man, who could this way take part in the race.

Good humor all around, and the firetruck,

acting as potential ambulance, following the stragglers who were down to a gentle walk, at about one mph.

All the runners were slender, even the less experienced ones, and most of the watcher up on the balconies, munching doughnuts with their coffee were, um, more generously built! but we all waved our doughnuts and cheered lustily for our favorites, like the two young boys, maybe about ten years old, moving with determination, and the whole families, and the older women laughing and running at the same time.

One of the wonderful things about this shoreline is that there are beachfront public roads, all beaches are public,

you can never have a hotel building right on the sand in such a way that only their guests can get onto the beach, unlike some regrettable places in Florida.

As well as watching dolphins in the water, there are cormorants flying overhead, and human anglers on the beach. Fishing was evidently very good, since they all found something while I was watching, even the humans, the least adept of all the animals out there fishing. Note the striped bass caught, poor guy, by a human just a few minutes before I strolled down the beach.

The angler was very excited to be in a photograph, and carefully selected the ocean as his background.

In defense of the fisherman, though I normally hate fishing and hunting, around here people really do eat their catch, either deer or fish, so that's something. Not trophies.

Cape May is an odd place, since the people who go for the Victoriana, special events, olde tyme concerts and trolley rides and dressup dances and historical tours, have practically nothing in common with the people who go there, like me, because it's the premier raptor watching spot in the whole country.

Birder doll at the Cape May Bird Observatory, dressed in typical not-a-fashion-victim birder style.

We are on the eastern flyway that birds and monarch butterflies use as their main route north and south, and Cape May is especially interesting in that the freshwater marshes and ponds run almost to the ocean, where all the saltwater life takes over. You can walk from one to the other in about a mile, across Cape May Meadows.

Forster's terns in both locations, to them it's all the same place.

And it has been a whaling place in the past

In the fall, I have been here in butterfly migration time, when all the shorefront buildings and fences were covered in resting monarch butterflies, and the sky was full of them, flying amazingly high in the air. Not so many nowadays, but they are reviving.

Up on the hawk watch platform you can see cormorants flying up the coast from Maryland and Delaware, and all kinds of exciting huge birds overhead. Also people with a lot more knowledge than I willing to ID birds for me. I spent a valuable time this time around with a gentleman who has been birding for over 70 years and pointed out all kinds of birds and animals I would have missed but for him.

And the trails, walkways built across the marshes, give access to areas where you can see wonderful animals, like this turtle,

and this black snake,

without disturbing them. Some people are disturbed by suddenly coming on a snake, but I love them and seek them out.

And the sea makes art as the tide ebbs

And in my last few minutes of balcony time on my last evening, a bald eagle flew lazy circles high in the air, as a grand finale to my birding trip! it was like the fireworks at the end of the Fourth of July celebration, Sousa in the background, all that, and a living postage stamp flying over me! blogistas from other parts of the world are most probably aware that the eagle is the iconic US image, used mainly on our post office logos, and personified as Sam the American Eagle on Sesame Street...

And so home to family, who did very well in my absence, but were happy to be presented with fudge and tshirts.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Doth the Busy Bee

The bearded iris buds started opening up this morning. In less than an hour they were open, and bees were heading for them. Okay, boys, they're open, let's get'em.

I leave for the shore for a couple of days tomorrow, leaving HP in HS's good hands, with willing neighbors as backup if necessary, and, as you see, the garden is in good hands, too.

Back in a few days no doubt with pictures of sea creatures to puzzle over.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Endings and beginnings

I don't usually talk about my own health in here, except on the rare dramatic occasions when I fall down and end in the hospital! but I do have continuing problems with my hands. A combo of arthritis, what my doctor calls normal wear and tear for an artist in her seventies doing hands-on nursing care for an invalid, and trigger thumb and finger, both thumbs and first two fingers on each hand.

What happens is that pressure, even moderate pressure, can cause them to lock up so that the fingers and thumb are frozen in place, and need help with the other hand to thaw them out, so to speak. But much worse is the pain in the thumbs, which is on some days almost disabling, since every move needs my thumbs.

So I've had to look at what I can delete from my life and what I need to preserve my hands for. In order to have HP continue to be at home, where he is very happy, doing well, and having a life, I need to be able to continue to attend him, including hooking and unhooking the lift morning and evening, fraught with pain when my hands are playing up, and all the dressing and turning and reaching and exercising and so on that he needs. So that has a priority. I really want us to continue to be together in our own home.

On other fronts, I have noticed much more trouble after an hour of tapestry making, so I have retired that for the moment at least, and have had to cut back on knitting, though I can do that for a while. The painting was fine, no pressure on holding a brush, etc., though the framing was not so fun, but that's done now. So painting can remain. And drawing. And printmaking. Spinning is done, I think. And carding. And unraveling sweaters! At least for now.

I'm doing various remedies short of the surgery that might be in my future if I'm unlucky. Including arnica pills, which are helpful, and hot and cold hand baths, and I suddenly realized, after being reminded about resistance exercises, that when I do my free weights, my hands tend to do better. So I've put that back into my life, too, tended to get left out of the day's work, considering all the other stuff needed around here.

Cooking is fine as long as I avoid picking up heavy stuff or my nemesis, a stack of dishes all at once.

So I've figured out the art and homecare and cooking side of life. But then there's music.

And one of the culprits in my hand pain is the flute. It's a silver instrument, heavy for my hands, needs to be held at a kind of unnatural angle, wonderful sound, heavenly to play, and has been a huge adventure. But I had to say good bye to it.

She left today to return to her owner, having given me a couple of years of great pleasure and exploration and self teaching and a door open to a whole new sound. It was wonderful, and now it has to end. I went through a similar wrench when I had to give up violin because my body just couldn't do it. That's how I came to playing recorder, in search of an instrument I could play forever.

So, on the ground that it hurts less if you do it fast, the bandaid approach, I quickly packed her and shipped her home. She will go to another person later this year, the owner tells me, so this is good. I would have had to give her up sooner or later, so it may as well be sooner, I guess.

It twere well to be done, twere well to be done quickly, or words to that effect, according to Will S., except I'm not planning a murder here. But it was very very reminiscent of saying goodbye to a beloved animal. A musical instrument you hold in your hands gets to have a relationship with you. I thanked her as I packed her in her case.

So that adventure is done, and I am telling myself it will make a place for the next one. That's what I'm telling myself.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vowell, Rumpole and Vegas, and Other Parts of Speech and Writing

One of the things that's so nice about the written word is the accoutrements that go with it. You know how David Sedaris goes on and on about how one of the attractions of learning to smoke as a young man was the actions and gestures and accessories that went with? the lighters and cases and ashtrays and so on. Reading has similar things, but much better.

One of them is the bookmark, of which I am the proud possessor of a number of handmade varieties, by artist friends. A new one arrived today, with a hand tied tassel, the bookmark painted, drawn on, and with words on it created by the artist, perfectly lovely.

One of the things I like to do for HP who continues to read, albeit more in the intent than the execution, is to make him bookmarks, often from special postage stamps that arrive from furrin countries, such as Canada, and need to be kept and enjoyed somehow, aside from framing. Or strips from failed paintings, of which every artist has quite a few, or stray sections of needlepoint which ended up not working out as planned but working finely as bookmarks.

And you will see from the Sarah Vowell book left lying open face down that I had been reading that before the mail came bringing with it the new bookmark which is now peacefully marking my place, thank you MC for saving me!

So, the moment's reading, out of a lot of other reading: if you have not encountered the brilliant and funny Sarah Vowell, just do it! she is a terrific researcher, but is a very funny and sardonic writer, never changes the facts to make a joke better, because the facts are often quite funny enough to let alone.

But she knows how to write a simple declarative sentence then walk away. She has a musician's touch. In fact she does play recorder, enthusiastically if not finely, and was on This American Life celebrating that fact a while ago, playing a wobbly solo. I loved her for this, since she wasn't too proud to play knowing she wasn't Michaela Petrie standard (note to non recorder fans, Petrie is the worldclass recorderist everyone wishes they were, the Heifetz of recorder playing, unless you want to say Marion von Bruggen is better).

Anyway, Vowell's writing is very fine. She also does commentary on This American Life and her strange little hooting voice kind of undercuts the sheer horsepower of her intelligence but you get the impression she doesn't mind that, either.

Her latest book, on the Puritans and their times, is hugely worth reading, for the history of it, and the depth of her knowledge as well as the readability. No reason historical discussion can't be entertaining as well as accurate. And she scoots back and forth showing examples of similar human actions and reactions, all the way from Magna Carta to 9.11 and back, to illustrate her points.

You don't have to be American or a fan of American history, to appreciate Vowell.

Then at the other end of the scale, there's Speed Decorating by Vegas, which is a be sure to miss this one, unless you like pictures, which I often do.

Not too much new or inventive here, but here and there are nice ideas for color schemes. Decorators even ones who claim this is simple and quick, have much greater ambitions for their surroundings than I have, so I tend to go, well, will you look at that, rather than hm, MUST do that immediately.

Now and then there's a great idea. Like in a tiny bathroom of which I have two, where to store toilet paper within reach, which I do by slipping three extra rolls onto the toilet plunger! with the parlous plumbing of this house, the tp, plunger that is, is a necessary accoutrement of the bathrooms all of them, and the tp, paper that is, slips nicely over there, doesn't roll away or attract playful kitties to yank and roll it away, and covers up the blatant function of the plunger. That idea was not in the Vegas book, but I probably got it from a magazine in the doctor's office or something, among the seven year old Sports Illustrateds.

And then finally, great bedtime reading, unimportant, totally entertaining, very literate, very funny, a collection of Rumpole of the Bailey, that tearaway old barrister who still believes in the presumption of innocence and the belief that judges ought to be made to earn their living in court when he's there.

It's a Christmas based collection but I figured there's no law against reading it in May. Highly recommended.

So there you go, a small sampling of the deadtree material that has passed under review recently chez Liz!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

I'm leading with a picture of a Shelley (English) antique china teaset which is leaving my collection to go to a new home as part of someone else's Mother's Day celebration. I love Shelley particularly, and passing on pieces like this is very much like sending a beloved pet to a new home! you want to be sure it's in good hands and will be enjoyed and cared for, and in this case, I know that's true.

The thing is that this is a time when I am slimming down possessions, even beloved ones, because I need to have fewer physical objects around, and because at some time, these possessions will need to be accounted for in some way after I've shuffled off this mortal coil, and HS will have enough on his hands without figuring out this kind of thing.

So everyone's happy.

I used long ago to have an antique business, mostly mail order, with collectors in the middle and far West who loved good pottery and porcelain and small objects. I could identify excellent items, buy them reasonably and resell them. And there were people I really liked who would write back (this was before email) to say, oh, that breakfast set was so lovely, I just set it up on the table and gazed and gazed! that kind of thing made it fun.

What was not fun was the sort of collector who is rapacious and wants, as another dealer commented to me, not just to collect but to own all of one kind of thing, very anal stuff. And I became careful about not being part of someone else's mental health problems! I must say though, that never once in all my years of dealing via mail with people I'd never met, was I stiffed. Never once. There's an integrity even about the most aggressive collector that bears copying.

By the same token, people got to know that what I shipped was genuine, was in the excellent condition I'd claimed, would arrive well packed and undamaged, and they'd like it. The other thing that got to me eventually was the packing, aaaarrrghghgh, packing fragile valuable items was to dealing as framing is to painting: a horrible necessity!

The person who will be the next custodian of the Shelley set (you never really own an antique, you just get to take care of it for however many years you can give it), also got into some very creative enterprises many years ago when I was newly divorced, working hellishly long hours, with a young son to feed, and a house to run, and very little time to cook.

She is a fabulous cook, and had her eye on a lovely Irish Belleek first mark set of china, you know the shamrock kind, very finely made, translucent, the real thing. I had a price on it, and what she came up with was that she would cook, her choice, meals for my freezer, wrap and seal and label them, and put her prices on them, then deliver them at intervals to the freezer, a big chest freezer left from my days as a serious veggie gardener.

So her numbers would add up to my needs for the Belleek, and when she finally got to the total, not only were we well fed with great stuff, such a treat to come home and pick out homemade food to heat and eat, but she became the owner.

It was very cool, the official handover of the crate of china, and her husband commented wryly, well, I didn't really think it would add up this fast! she had simply cooked extra when she made family dinners, and Handsome Little Son and his mom got the extras, excellent idea. But she and I had faith, and it was a side business for her in a way. Worked for all of us at that time.

After I got out of dealing, I continued teaching adult workshops on antique recognition and care and feeding, wonderful fun. At the time since I had an active business, I had a lot of examples of the items I was teaching about, their history and how to spot them, how to know if they were genuine, and so on, and I would help class members ID their own possessions, too, which excited them hugely.

Finding out how to find a signature on art glass, or how to interpret silver marks or porcelain marks was a great adventure, and I sold people, at cost, I'll never get rich, magnifying flashlights so they could examine their own jewelry and silverware.

Once people got to know me they would also bring in valuable items just to let me see, and it was huge to be able to handle real 18th century English silverware, or early American wares with a history. The teacher learns from the student, very often.

And then there are people who are convinced that everything their grandmother who lived to be 100 owned must be valuable. Especially if she lived on a farm! but then they'd bring me Fiesta ware, pretty, moderately collectible, but by no means valuable antiques.

They simply couldn't believe that maybe people gave grandma gifts to the end of her life, or she liked new china and treated herself. I would gently explain the difference between family value (this was long before the phrases family values) and dollar value, and would get them to see that treasuring it because it belonged to her was at least as good as having something with dollar value.

I used to do appraisals, too, once in a while, some of them great fun, like the times I was able to show people that the furniture they'd had in the family for decades had secret compartments they'd never found, or to see how casually some people handled their antiques which had come down from the getgo in their own family, so were simply part of their own history. There are families around here who literally had their items from the original maker! and they have the right attitude to them, just use them, with care, not exaggerated, but like them.

One wonderful original sampler I saw in a hallway of a lady for whom I was doing an appraisal for estate purposes, just near the kitchen door, and I stopped and just gazed. She said, yes, you do recognize the name on there, she was my ancestor, and I hang this where I can see it as I come and go from the kitchen. Now that's the way to go! this particular piece, large, lovely, very very early, would have easily brought six figures at Christie's, but would never make it there!

This was never a fulltime occupation for me, not enough variety in it to fill my needs. Usually I had at least one little enterprise going beside a fulltime job. I'll tell you sometime about the miniature needlework club I created...

Then there was a period when I was supporting myself with several enterprises, great fun, highwire act! I was young enough that I could afford to buy my health insurance, but later that all changed as I passed the critical age of 50 and it became so much more of a burden, that I got back into fulltime work with benefits, until I was able to strike out again.

But with the antiques, after we sold the house I had all this stuff in, I did keep a few specially nice items just to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo, lilac time in this hemisphere

Cinco de Mayo today, which I'm told is not that big a deal among Hispanic people as we seem to think it is. Like St Patrick's Day, not a huge partying day in Ireland, very unlike the way it's celebrated in the US. As a friend of mine once said, it's a day you have to go to mass and pin a sprig of shamrock on your lapel and go to work!

But whether or not we celebrate hugely, the lilac is now officially out and the whole neighborhood smells wonderful from the bush next door to us, from which I larcenously took a sprig to put in the living room for Handsome Partner to enjoy. And post here for you likewise.

This morning I finally demolished the last of the horrible upright yew bushes which have blighted our front path since the place was built. They are impossible for me to dig up, but if you saw across the trunks, they don't come back, which is a bad thing if you like them, because you can't prune or trim them and expect them to go on being green. But it's a great discovery if you want to be rid of them.

I've been working on these shrubs surreptitiously for years, since the HOA might come down on me like a wolf on the fold if they think I'm damaging their valuable (!) shrubs, yeah. In fact I've improved property values quite a bit, what with my own plantings and all the gardening tuition I've given neighbors, and the divisions I've planted for them, not to mention all the daffodils and daylilies and other things back in the woods looking very nice. Can you see I've worked up this speech in case I'm ever challenged?

So the yew is gorn, and good old pachysandra and sedum, instantly yawned and stretched and filled in the gap so that you can't tell anything was taken out. I have a couple of neighbors wanting pachy from me and hints on how to plant it (easiest thing in the world for groundcover, very forgiving) next weekend, which is great because I need to thin it, and will gladly give them bags full of it.

It will fit in with the lovely neigboring willows, now in spring green outfits.

Next week on Friday, I get to take a vacation!!!! two and a bit days at the shore, Cape May, my favorite, perfect birding time of year, hoping for good weather. Handsome Son will come and take over Handsome Partner's care, and I have no worries about that, since they get along well, and HS is a lot calmer than I am. He's got plenty of notes, did great while I was in the hospital, and that was an emergency, and this isn't, and the neighbors are also alerted in case he needs to call on anyone, all very willing.

My only concern is that this will be the longest car trip I've taken in quite a while, and I am rusty on the highways. I expect that will pass, once I'm out there, though, and I trust that part will be well. Must remember a lot of coins for the tollbooths, come to think of it.

Last time I was down I saw a pod of whales frolicking along the shoreline, just as I was standing on my seaview balcony wondering if I needed to take a cruise to see any whales. How obliging of them. Little black guys, I think pilot whales, according to the naturalist I hotfooted across town to consult. Im going to the same hotel again, since I know them, like the view directly onto the ocean, great to sit in the morning drinking coffee and admiring the view, and seeing what heaves into sight.

I will take camera and charger, will probably not take my computer, since this is supposed to be time off from ordinary life. At least that's the idea. I hope I don't go into withdrawal...but other than that, I can't wait to see the sea again, and hike the bird trails and walk Cape May Meadows, which lead across freshwater areas and ponds right to the ocean and saltwater life, amazing place. And so many birds you can hear the beat of their wings, very thrilling sound.

Back when I had a home petcare service, my clients used to wonder why on earth, after working seven day weeks with an endless stream of ittle animals, this is how home petcare goes, I would use a few precious days off to go watch wildlife! I used to explain, this is different, I'm not responsible, they feed themselves.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mayday, Mayday!

First of May, white rabbits, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, big Communist rally day, big day for putting little baskets of flowers on neighbors' doorknobs in mythical days gone by, first day for a lot of natural events at Plainsboro Preserve today.

First really hot day, nearly 90 degrees, and the emergence of the first tree swallows, flocking about, mating busily on a tree near their box, probably the honeymoon suite. I observed one female wanton tree swallow mating with two different males in quick succession, tut tut, and other prim worker birds averting their gaze, busy bringing stuff to put in the box, supposedly there for the bluebirds, but often squatted in by tree swallows, for the start of a nest.

First blue skipper butterflies, woken up by the sun, on the first little wildflowers,

first little copper butterflies, first tiger swallowtail butterfly swooping about, first flicker feasting happily on the first insects to emerge from the trees down by beavers, and first unofficial groundhog,

pausing to pose on his doorstep before diving into his living room.

Emergence, too of these little flowers, chickweed maybe,

which if you pinch and sniff those little pillow things in England smells like fresh apples, but here smells like overrripe peaches. Different chemistry, I guess.

Emergence of first chainsaw as neighbor saws off large chunks of the wild cherry they share with us on the patio, but they mercifully left alone all the bits that were not banging on their bedroom windows at night scaring them.

I forbore to mention that they will now have hundreds of suckers in place of the branches sawn off at ground level, which will not grow tall, but will fill up a lot of the patio, thought it wiser to let them discover this in the fullness of time.