Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chocolate Cake, Ballroom Dancing and Yoga

First, important stuff, here's a three minute microwaved chocolate cake I tried from a recipe on Ravelry, a knitting site. Yes, I know, unlikely, but there are some good cooks on there. I mean, it's not like getting a recipe out of Plumbing and Pipefitting Journal. Though I did get a great cornbread recipe out of Bird Fancy years ago, definitely good enough for human consumption.

Blogista Minimiss is one of the great Ravelry cooks, though I think this one is not her recipe, and there are other suspects, too. Anyway, I thought I'd try it out on HS when he come for dinner tonight. There will be other stuff, too, such as spicy chicken, jasmine brown rice, etc. But I have to wait and see how the cake comes out then. So here it is, on a seasonal Chrissy plate. If we like it, I'll let you know.

The yoga came about from having some time to spend at the libe yesterday, and figuring I'd catch up on some magazines, including one on yoga. Some lovely peaceful features about breathing and getting calm and all that, which were great, but oh well, they were situated right in the middle of heavy duty advertising about expensive high tech equipment guaranteed to make your yoga better. I know they need advertising to keep solvent, but, as I say, oh well. Irony abounds.

Ballroom dancing is evidently coming back into fashion, if today's radio program is anything to go by, and I guess Dancing with the Stars, which I've never seen, is part of the fashion, and there was on today a funny pro-am couple (no, really they do have pro-am just like in golf!) talking about it and what fun they have and how her day job as an academic fits in with getting all foofied up in chiffon and heels and makeup for her dancing life.

It reminded me of tv shows from my youf in the UK, early days of tv, when there was a lot of ballroom dancing on. I imagine it was a pretty cheap production, since the events were happening anyway, and they had to fix lighting and cameras and the entertainment was gladly laid on by the dance community, as they call themselves nowadays.

Have you noticed how everything's a community? the blogging community, the left handed crocheting community, the three minute chocolate cake community, even if the people have never met each other, wouldn't know each other from Adam. Or Eve.

Anyway, the ballroom dancing: my totally favorite couple, who won all the time, with the same fixed smile and tilted head and she had these great big teacosies of chiffon swirling around her partner, who vanished into her dress, they were Violet Barnes and Sid, I think Higgins. Anyway, her name just blew me away and sticks with me till now sixty years later, she came to mind while I was listening to the pro-am dancers on the radio.

Since all my coordination is eye-hand, with none left over for things like knowing where my feet are without looking down at them, I fall back in amazement at people who can dance, fast, on slippery floors, and hardly ever fall down.

Did I mention that in those days all tv was live? and now and then a couple did come to grief, skidding across the floor in a welter of chiffon, spike heels flying, patent leather shoes flailing to get a grip, while the band played stoutly on and the sparkling turning globe overhead knocked hell out of the camera lenses which in those days couldn't handle sparkle. And of course all this excitement took place in black and white, color not having advanced to the general consumer market yet.

Speaking of color and excitement: a wonderful Christmas gift arrived yesterday, perfectly lovely hanks of merino handspun, one in pink with sparkles (!) one in a green/ochre/yellow variegated. Currently making a little gift with the green variegated, which I'll show off when it gets t the point where you can see anything. Ash, thank you! such a treat to have firsthand yarn, beautifully spun, and dyed. And a surprise, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meet Pete, aka he followed us home, can we keep him

Meet the new feller around here, Pete the Penguin,just temporarily, before he takes off for Christmas loot to a friend. The Dollivers liked him pretty much

and plan a sendoff party like when we did the teddy bears for Haiti way back when.
And he insisted on doing his Bogey imitation. Everyone's a ham

Here's lookin' at you, kid!

But he's actually quite a friendly little guy,

and is very glad all his parts have been assembled in the right order now so you can see who was unglued yesterday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanking done, gifting in progress

One last thought about the Thanksgiving this year, which was very very good, wonderful atmosphere, very homey, at the buffet place, lots of nationalities represented, big groups, small groups, single people, all looking cheerful and tucking in to an excellent setout, complete with whole turkey to carve at will, standing rare rib roast for meat people, which I'm not, whole baked salmon, and I dunamany other choices on all the eight steam tables. Country walk in the sunshine along the river afterwards to counteract the effect. Nice.

Then in the mail a card from a friend I haven't heard from in a long time, overjoyed to see her writing on the envelope, partly about Tgiving, partly condolence, but with a great insertion? accompaniment? inclusion? word escapes me, but anyway, there were included two pix she took in the summer of 2009, I think, when she visited, just very happy and a great present to me, so I took a pic, only moderately successful, but you get the gist. I'm rarely in pix, since I take them around here, so this was nice for me, too.

Tgivings I have known. We will draw a veil over the ghastly ones where we had to go to an employer's event, and the ones where insistent people sandbagged us into joining them even when we were pretty sure it wouldn't be a good thing, etc., and segue quickly to one terrific one many years ago. I was single, HS was not there on this occasion, and I invited two women friends, one whose grown children could not get home till the Friday, one who could not get to her mom's at all, not enough turnaround time off from her job.

I did the main part of the meal, turkey, all that, and laid the antique cherry pedestal table with the antique linen and lace cloth and candles, all very posh. The young, broke, friend brought a tiny box of very good chocolates, perfect choice, the best she could afford in the amount she could do, and the other, not a cook, brought ready cooked veggies. So all went happily, with the wine and the laughing and the total lack of traditions weighing us down.

We adjourned to the living room, which was through a big entryway, so you could see the dining room, and had coffee and maybe a bit of liqueur, who knows, when suddenly one of the guests said, Liz, your table's all on fire I think. Whereupon we all fell about laughing and she said, no I think it really is.

So we looked and the candle had burned down behind our backs, set light to the cloth, and everything was burning merrily! I slung a pitcher of water over it, shoveled the remnants out to the back yard and we went on with our party. The table now had a new scar to add to its two hundred year history, and that was known as the Thanksgiving Where We Burned Down Liz's House. What they call a barn burner, I guess.

This year, much more sedate, and this weekend with gifty knitting in progress, the fuzzy blue scarf to go to a friend who doesn't read in here, so I'm not spoiling the surprise, and the weird black object is the body of a penguin I'm making for a friend who is nuts about penguins and went to see Happy Feet as part of her Tday! She doesn't read in here either, so all is well.

Yeah, I'd say that all in all, all's well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

After the Parade, the Thanks

Before I go out to join HS at the restaurant where we will have our Thanksgiving dinner, I'm just thinking about what I'm thankful for this year.

Thankful for the life of HP, and how we all, HS, doctor, nurses, health aides, friends, neighbors, all helped bring it to a quiet and peaceful close.

Thankful for the loyalty and friendship of HS who has quietly buoyed us all up all these years.

Thankful for the friends who respected our decision about how to celebrate this year, even though it's different from their celebrations.

Thankful that I have a nice home and can pay my bills!

Thankful to the loyal music friends who made room for me without missing a beat, when I was finally able to get back into playing after years of absence.

Finally, thankful to all the friends including you, dear blogistas, who are steadfastly there for us on all the Thursdays, not just this one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving wishes on their way...

On the grounds that some of our blogistas are already into Thursday where they live, and a lot of them don't celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow anyway, and under great pressure from the Dollivers and the Little Dolls, not to mention the Animals, wild and tame, and the Tinies, we present our ta-daaah Thanksgiving Wishes Parade for your pleasure and enlightenment.

Leading our parade are the animals, with Olivier the puppy keeping up staunchly despite being in the company of lions and other scary hanimals that eat puppies

Then the Tinies organized themselves, not without some discord and pushing and falling down and getting up again

The Little Dolls, old hands at the photo game, organized their act with almost no stage management, which was just as well, since the racket from the Dollivers' dressing room was enough to scare a wild turkey.

Enter the Dollivers, in hats (the two new big hats courtesy of MC's grandmother, who would probably be astonished to see them here, and wonder why Boud isn't out there working with the pizzelle iron) appearing left to right: Call me Michelle, Blondie Firstborn, Hey Name Me, Dreads, and finally Bette Davis Clone. Marigold declined to be in the picture, since she's on the outs with Duncan just now.

Fluffy Sheba declined to be in any picture containing other cats, my dear, but we all wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

And for those blogistas for whom it's well, just a Thursday, we wish you a very happy Thursday in November!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Go here go there!

Thanks to my web guru Mary Anne, I have now unraveled the mystery of the link, which I don't particularly pay much attention to,since I don't like to divide your attention when you went to the trouble of checking in here, by instantly telling you to look elsewhere. But there are times when it's a useful skill, and this is one of them.

A couple of people have asked me about the "other" blog, my art blog, and I realized that this is a chance to practice on my new bike, the link.

So, to see Art, the Beautiful Metaphor (and to see the reference to the game of soccer as you do it!) go here. Thank yew! of course, today when you do that you are likely to see a ref to the Ds suggesting you come back here again. If this resembles a tax form maze, sorry, I'm just getting the hang of it, just like the tax people..don't get me started on the tax people, this is coming up for the season of goodwill!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dollivers to the Rescue

The Ds., noting the sadness around here, announced that a spot of gardening might be good for everyone, because if Boud's cheerful, there might be new holiday outfits for Ds.

So we cut the dead chrysanthemum foliage, now that a killing frost has finished the flowering, and hauled it out to the trees

to become ground cover for small animals and eventually compost.

And attended to the rescued plants and clippings from our friendly gardener next door, who brings his plants over for a plant clinic now and then. The tradescantia needed severe pruning before it croaked,you know how it is with trad., gets longer and longer and all the nice leaves are at the end and all the dead stuff is in the pot. So the plant went home with him and some clippings stayed with me to see if I can start new plants for him if the current one doesn't make it.

And the christmas cactus was dug up and thrown about by squirrels when he put it outside for a while, so some of it is in rehab here and I suggested how to replant the more promising bits, the ones with buds on them, and those went home with him. We pulled out the dead foliage from his daylilies, too, and he was quite surprised at the take no prisoners way I do this -- they're tough, they manage fine.

Also back there is the section of begonia that got knocked off when the cleaners were here, and which they carefully put in a vase for me to replant, nice of them, since I'd never have known if they'd tossed it, also the coleus is a refugee from the frost, a self planted one out on the patio, and the other begonia is from the clippings I took from the plant the wrens nested in, in case that plant didn't make it.

It did, and now I have at least three thriving begonia plants going. The aloe over there on the right was sent as a babe from a friend, since no kitchen I work in can be without it, sovereign remedy for the burns I inflict on myself every time I open the oven, no matter how many mitts and cloths and holders I use, and now it has grandchildren here in the pot, with great grands starting, too.

All in all, good work in the fresh air catching the last good days of fall between the rainy cold ones. Life is much better when you do this.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tough Day, knitted pillow result

Yesterday was one of those days where you're going along doing pretty well, feeling pretty good, when all of a sudden stuff just sort of falls on you.

I had gone along to the local assisted living place, at the invitation of their rec. director, who would like the occasional art event for residents. Just checking out possible volunteer opportunities for my near future.

She was lovely and the people were nice, and I realized it was waaaaay too soon for me to be around wheelchairs, however nice the frail occupants. I hadn't made any commitment, still haven't, but I think I need to postpone that for a while.

Another friend had dropped in at the house and suggested before I left for my meeting, smart lady, it would be an idea to think about doing an occasional art thing for Brownies, which actually might be fun, and not carry any tough memories, easier age group for me to be around right now. So I'll wait for her to make some contacts for me. Thinking miniatures from card and paper, or stamping, or stenciling, that kind of one session project for kids.

Meanwhile, home from the assisted living meeting, I realized it was raining and cold and November, which is a month with at least four major anniversaries of deaths, birthdays of people who have died, wedding anniversary of two people long gone. And then I went to bring in the mail and there's another mailing, despite all my requests, from Hospice, this time a helpful book about how to survive the holidays.

This was all suddenly too much to handle, and I decided to put in place my recent policy of doing only what I'm up for and want to do, which entailed some cancellations. In the olden days I would have crawled out to fulfill commitments no matter how I felt, not feeling I had the right not to. But now I think I have the right not to.

Between reading MFK Fisher while being pinned down by two cats on the sofa under a throw, I knitted a pillow cover for the sofa, to replace one I wasn't much into.

This helped a lot. As did watching a bunch of old Bob Newhart shows on DVD, still funny after all these years.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, I did get a walk today, in the sunshine, had a nice chat with a freecycler and a neighbor and his son here visiting for the holidays, so today is marginally better. But oh well. Days like this happen, and I'm glad I can knit right back at them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winter Afternoon in the Studio

I've been talking with various people about possible volunteering using my art, ranging from Brownies and Daisies to assisted living residents, and came home all fired up to do stuff for myself, too!

Since it's the season of having made a few gifts, it's also the season of needing to wrap them. So I got a bunch of white tissue paper, and played at stamping and stenciling and sponging to decorate them, and dug out an old roll of kraft paper I designed up years ago and which will now find a use. What a luxury to be able to just work in the studio on the third floor without worrying about what was happening two floors down and running up and down to check.

The volunteer opportunities are still in flux, until I feel more sure about them, but meanwhile, the gift wrapping paper is uh, a wrap! now to go in search of my stash of ribbons all the better to tie them with.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Dollivers Get Culture and an Education

Trip to the local community college, my old stamping grounds, where I took almost all my studio art classes many years ago when they had a worldclass faculty, what an opportunity. I caught them at their peak, I hear. This is where I won my first prizes for student artwork, and purchase prizes as a serious artist, and where I've been juried into a number of regional shows over the years, too.

What drew my attention this morning, aside from Dollivers jonesing for a trip, why haven't we had a TRIP, we work so HARD around here, we need R and R, we are famous photo subjects, we should be mixing with our peers...was the regional photography show.

In line with my habit of trying to get out of my usual way of doing things, exhibit photography not being an ambition of mine, with the glorious exception of the years doing transfer imaging with co-conspirator Stefi, under the joint exhibit name of Unified Field, when we did get into juried photograph shows, made sales, even, which amused the heck out of us, photography being far from our minds at the time of working, where was I, oh yes, I went to this show even though I don't follow photography in galleries much.

Anyway, this was a pretty strong show, with a very good juror, Ricardo Barros, who wrote what I think is the best juror statement I've seen in ages, about what to aim for, why art should not be a contact winner-takes-all sport, why it's not enough to replicate what already exists (this does sell, a big temptation for the artist, since people want to own what they are already familiar with, rather than new work that makes them think twice) how you need to digest and then go forward from what's out there, making work in the present tense, and why he chose the pieces he did.

Also a careful explanation of how much time and trouble he took in the process. Very wise self defense. People can get very hot under the collar with jurors. I guess that's one reason you don't usually see them at the openings of the shows they juried.

So we wandered through the gallery, nostalgia for me,

but refrained from taking pix of the pix, out of courtesy, then had a walk around the campus

and in the rush of enthusiasm for pictures, shot a few nice cloud scenes, on the way back to the car,why not.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blazing needles

A few weeks ago, I was quietly wondering if I'd lost my knitting mojo, and my art mojo, and my general life mojo. and here I sit, just over three months since HP's death, realizing that my energy is returning, likewise the mojo to make stuff other than food.

To wit: three pairs of socks in rapid order over the last couple of weeks, and two scarfy things. One pair of socks will be a present, and both the scarfy things. I show you here a nice fuzzy blue one, closed, one end slipped through a slot

and open

to show you the length, which is 30 inches. Very nice project, and great fun to construct.

The slot idea is different from the vertical slit in the other scarf, also fun to make, actually easier if you're a beginning knitter who fancies trying this.

All the yarn, cashmere, silk, eyelash, fuzzy, etc. was either donated by people who totally gave up on knitting with complicated yarn they couldn't see properly, or thrifted and unraveled. My frugal Yorkshire soul gloats over this.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am in the process of thinking out a bigger wallhanging, and this wrapped circle is the first part of the thinking that I can show anyone.

The rest is still in my mind. I show it on the wall next to a vase to give you an idea of scale,but this is the middle part of something that may get much bigger. The interesting yarn was a freecycle gift (of course, you don't think I shop at shops, do you??) and the circle is the frame of a clock which gave up the ghost. The glass part is now on my rattan table, so my cup of tea doesn't fall over all the time, and the face and movement were put next to the dumpster and vanished in short order, no doubt someone who wants to get it working again. Good luck on that.

And the mojo to teach again is returning, and I have found myself scheduled to do a monotype demo/teaching evening at our local artists' group, my homeground, at the libe, sometime in the fairly distant future, and I'm meeting with a director of recreation for an assisted living place near here, where they might like to see some art, maybe try their hands. No commitment to that yet, but I'm going to meet and greet this week.

Back to playing music again, off this afternoon to do that, and yesterday a poetry reading. There's also a book group in the offing, which I will test out, never having been in a book group before. I've ordered the book to read ahead and see what their taste in books is about. Daytime group, catering to my hopeless sense of direction, doing much better in the daytime when my landmarks are visible!

All in all, I'd say things is improving around here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thank you all!

Just stopping in to say that as of a few moments ago, we hit our 25,000th pageview since they started doing stats on blogspot.

There's more in reality, since this blog was in existence several months before blogspot began to record statistics, but who's counting...and coming up on November 22 is the third birthday of Field and Fen! she hasn't done badly for a three year old.

The main thank you is to you, blogistas, who have taken part and joined in and generally added a ton of energy to this ongoing artwork! take a bow. Take twenty five thousand bows.

The Dollivers and Minis and friends applaud your efforts, in a Peaceable Kingdom pose, D style.

And we're closing in on two thousand comments. That's a lot of brain energy freely given around here. I've lost count of the number of emails from people who don't want to comment on the site here, but get in touch other ways. It's a lot!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Toys for Boys

The starlings are in full fall mobbing mode this week. A tree full of them

and a crowd of them in the sky.

A moment after these pictures were taken, there was a mass invasion of the patio by hungry birds rocking the feeder and tearing at the suet, until brave Marigold charged the window and scattered them all.

Meanwhile, the other fall activity, tearing up the sidewalks for no apparent reason, goes on. Toys for Boys, I always think, when I see guys stomping importantly about, swinging loaders and back hoes

and racketing about in trucks

and failing to put up enough detour signs so that people can figure out how to get home, to wit, the backup of traffic here

which would normally make this turn, wondering, hm, now what?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Story of Your Life

I was fixing up the memory on my cellphone the other day, removing people no longer an issue -- HP's doctors, nursing service, home health aides, hospice, supplies mfr.,employer, on and on, a lot of people on the modern equivalent of speed dial --and thought, well, this is interesting, it's a biography in parvo. Another change.

You can see the signposts of your life by seeing who's in cellphone memory, and now I look down my listings, and see son, friends, music connections, art groups, libraries, only one or two doctors, one pharm, much more peaceful sort of environment now. The electronic version of a sociogram.

Or your home desk. When I had the petcare business many years ago, where I visited homes to take care of pets, I would often do a quick drawing of the client's desk, since most of my clients also worked at home, and sometimes give the drawing as a gift. The desk was such an indicator of the person and her life, an indirect portrait of her.

Or the interior of your car. What's in there says a lot about who you are and what you're up to. Or, depending on how neat you are, what you've been up to in recent years...a while back somebody with an out of state plate that shall remain nameless suddenly did a U turn in front of my car on a bridge (!) and I had to stand on the brakes to avoid a collision.

I did avoid it, and as the car stopped abruptly,there was a cascade of items all over me in the front seat. Art materials, petfood, petcare files, spare shoes, rainboots, birding books, binoculars, books for the libe, clothing for the Goodwill,which is where I was headed at the time, water bottle, pens galore. Surprising how many things it unearthed.

Fortunately I had moved my firewood into the trunk before this (long story, apartment dwellers have no wood storage) otherwise I guess I would have been felled by a firewood in there currently, but you can see, still a rich loose moraine of items to contemplate. Pictures taken a few minutes ago.

Quick, what does the trunk of your car say about you? your desk? we will draw a kind veil over the catchall drawer in your kitchen, full of hammers and nails,and anonymous keys and matches and other such vital stuff. But your trunk, now, there's a bio in the making.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pizzelle! no,not a new pet

My friend and supercook, MC, who is divesting her mother's house of many many items now that they've moved to retirement living, presented me with some wonderful things this week.

One was dinner at her house, HS and I guests, always an event, in mid afternoon on Sunday. It was like a Thanksgiving type of invitation, wonderful food and company,and how imaginative. This is how she is, no surprise there!

As we ate dessert, pumpkin pudding with pizzelles to go with she mentioned that she was planning on offering me her mom's pizzelle iron. Aside from the fact that this is a really nice thing, it's also a link to earlier generations who made these, and what a treat for me to learn. She also gave me any number of tips, some of which I remembered, and put post-its on the iron itself to remind me of a thing or two.

So this morning was the Great Pizzelle Caper, and after struggling with the first few dismal failures, involving removing bits from the iron and starting over. And over -- see the tinfoil dish of failed bits, still delicious to eat, but oh well, not very recognizable -- I finally managed some that actually look right, if a little shaky, and taste very good. I added lemon juice to the batter dough, and really like the flavor.

But I must admit there were a few moments when I thought I would have to attend Pizzelle School to get into this, until, oh look, there are two that actually look okay! yay. Surge of confidence followed. So now I have a cookie container with a supply of pizzelle, very timely since I have company for tea on Thursday.

And I have the beginnings of a new set of kitchen skills. Not to mention that the iron is heavy enough to squash down one of the giant loaf things the Two Fat Ladies make, no more substituting cans as weights...a multipurpose kitchen appliance.

In the midst of this excitement a neighbor, good cook himself came in, and said, well they smell great, and I guess it's like crepes, you have to develop a touch, looking at my bumpy creations as he spoke...then he set to work and fixed my front door, installing the new latch I've had in the bag for ages. Wouldn't let me pay him, though it's his line of work, but borrowed my mat cutter in lieu.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fun with Two Fat Ladies

With one of their recipes, to be exact. That stuffed loaf recipe, for which they used red meat and mushrooms, but I used chicken and mushrooms. I hollowed out

half of a fresh loaf of my homebaked bread(unlike Jennifer, I didn't plunge in and tear it out into rags, but cut so that I have slices which I can use as bread, never ever waste homebaked bread), kept an end slice to use as a lid, and set to work with the stuffing. If I were serving more people I'd have used a whole loaf, but for me, half is plenty.

Chicken thighs, with garam masala, turmeric, onions, all sizzling and near caramelizing, then the chicken is added in with a little bit of salt, in one pan, while sliced mushrooms with olive oil and a few homegrown oregano leaves cooked down in the other. Kept all the juices from both pans and packed the stuff into the bread.

Some chicken and mushrooms left over for another purpose. Then put the lid on the bread

wrapped and taped it firmly in tinfoil, then in a kitchen cloth, then put the handy heavy weights on it that you saw on the counter when I showed you the hollow loaf, and went out to do errands.

Back an hour later, ravenous for lunch, sandwich now flattened, but still warm, juices all distributed, flavors likewise, sliced one part of it (saved the rest for other meals, this is very filling stuff)

and with a big glass of cold seltzer, homemade chocolate pudding for dessert, ahhh. It's good to be Queen.