Saturday, June 30, 2012

Martha S. Need Not Apply

The thing with a heatwave is that you have to be indoors more than usual, by a long way. Brief forays to shop in the early morning, to the mailbox in the afternoon, and you're done for the day. Particularly when your assigned parking place is in full sun all day. Currently north of 100 F. on the patio, so I'm not on the patio.

On the other hand, you can only do so much sorting of socks, so now and then you are forced to do a bit of Martha S. around the place. Just to keep up the tone.

Here, courtesy of various beaches and HS and other friends, is my shell collection, used to give a focal point with summery tints, well Martha might say that.

I'd just say it's a handy way to use a giant glass salad bowl and assemble, then see, the shells all at the same time.

And then there's the cool idea I happened on, while I was looking for something else.

I found my little collection of beach glass, so I abandoned what I was doing before, and went in search of a nice glass container, courtesy of Dogonart many years ago, I forget what it's original intent was, but it's been a home for teabags, raspberries in season, flowers, and now it's a neat holder of a tealight, courtesy of Ash, and the aforementioned beach glass.

Very nice on a hot summer's evening to have all the lights off except this one, while I watch an exciting Morse murder mystery.

Today I was planning to be packing an artwork to ship, from my show, only a crimp happened in the arrangements, when I discovered that the nice stout box and packing peanuts I'd carefully put aside for this purpose had evidently been taken for garbage by my cleaning people. They are usually wonderful at spotting what's art and what's garbage, and this is the first time they've goofed. So I have to start again with a new box...when I can get out to shop, after the heat breaks.

And then there's the paper molding nicely in the loft. Too hot to work up there, but the paper loves it, drying like a maniac. And the plans for more stitchery, adapting one of my own drawings. Brand new idea, nothing to show you yet, but I expect you'll be happy to wait!

Oh, and since I will be in company for tea a couple of time in the near future, I made a nice batch of lime squares, courtesy of MC's recipe card handwritten for me eons ago. Originally for lemon squares,but I thought since I had limes and no lemons, I'd try it. I sampled it and it's okay.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Men At Work

You know how you wonder what happens when the light fixtures in tall buildings need to be replaced, or just a new bulb installed.  Here's how they did it this week at our local libe.  The kind photographer taking pictures of my show for magazine purposes understood that we don't always have heavy equipment in evidence right next to the artworks...

But I really fancy one of these lift things.  Just think how handy it would be to reach the top shelf..I speak on behalf of height challenged people everywhere.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Celebrating Handsome Partner

HP's birthday today. If he'd made it to now it would have been his 80th. So hard to even believe he's gone, but it's a day to remember good things, and celebrate him and be glad I knew him.

This afternoon I'll walk the labyrinth for him, and for me. Time to grieve a while, let it be, then let it pass. Not up for pictures today.

But this morning it's about coping, doing physical work. I painted another wall, next to the hallway I finished a few days ago. This one wall per session thing works very well.

Since I have a meeting this evening, so I'm not free, Handsome Son and I are having our celebration of HP on Friday, with dinner at our favorite buffet restaurant. We decided some time ago that since HP died on HS's birthday, August 8 last year, we would remember him on his birthday, or close to it, rather than that day, so that the way is clear for HS to celebrate his own birthday. I think this will work. Aside from anything else, I'm a bit better at remembering the birthdays of the departed than their days of dying. I'm hopeless at remembering birthdays of the living, so bear with me! it's not personal.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Staff of Life continued

Quite soon I will have run out of bread alternative ideas and will have to bake a batch of my usual loaves. But just one more idea here: the mixture for my usual hot biscuits, but instead of making them individual bits for baking, I spread them with an oiled spatula on the baking sheet, baked them that way,

then scored and split them into rectangles.

These oddly enough taste different from the individual ones, and I like them better. The recipe is my healthy one, used it for years, from the Silver Palate cookbook. Except for my adaptations: olive oil instead of canola, my own buttermilk made from a spoonful of lemon juice added to milk to sour it.

So now the dreaded breadbaking is postponed for a day or two...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer stitching and reading

Summertime and to stitchers the first thought is: ah, the light level is high enough for me to do the fine work. So I'm in the midst of several pieces, which I do depending on what mood I'm in! the turtle continues slowly as turtles do, if I feel like handling big fiber and big mesh, the nametag piece is filling in nicely, soon I'll be putting my name and guild name on it, metal thread couched on, and this week I embarked on a bit of blackwork.

Very old embroidery artform, and I've adapted it to what I feel up to. Regular single strand of polyester sewing thread, number 8 crewel needle, lawn handkerchief. I adapted the bird shape from a traditional work, and added in the branches and flowers freeform. This is great summer work, and the recent heatwave which is almost gone, just down to high 80s now, was an indoor opportunity for stitching.

And for reading and rereading. I don't look for a challenge in the summer, but get out my old Allinghams and Sayers and reread, and get DVDs from the libe to watch Albert Campion and Lugg, and Peter Wimsey and Bunter. I never wanted to marry Albert nor Peter, unlike a lot of women readers.

I wanted to be them! just think, wealth, position, but not prominence, adventures which you can buy your way out of if necessary, and always the faithful manservant. That's the part I like best. I'd love to have someone unobtrusively pressing and hanging my clothes, cooking my breakfast, bringing in the mail, fending off visitors and letting in welcome ones, and best of all, arranging all the travel requirements.

Peter wants to go to Nice? he just instructs Bunter to do it all. Inquiries, tickets, packing, transporting, porters, taxis, Peter just gets to smoke and ride. Perfect. And Albert even has a man who talks back and gives him no end of innocent merriment.

That's my fantasy. Of course there are actual ordinary men not financially wealthy, in this world who get all this done, and other privileges besides, and they are the lucky married ones...wife as Bunter, you might say.

Or as a secretary of mine used to say: I hope there's reincarnation, because I'm putting in to come back as a man!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bread, and other forms of avoidance

I always bake my own bread, can't remember the last time I bought any bread type stuff at the store. But now and then I just don't feel like making a batch, and I look for alternatives. Especially now, with a heat index of 104F. confidently forecast, just in time for the summer solstice, I don't want to put the oven on if I can avoid it.

So, the last couple of weeks have been a comic study in Other Things You Can Have When You Need Bread. Instead of toast for breakfast, oatmeal pancakes, very filling, fun to make, good honey drizzled over. Hot biscuits, some of which you've seen accompanying the sudden soups I made. Coffee cake, which does involve baking, but doesn't seem as oppressive. Regular pancakes, rolled and served with a bit of butter and honey.

Today it's Tibetan Flatbread, a Jacques Pepin recipe, done in less than 15 minutes, on top of the stove, easy, quick, and I'm glad I remembered about it.

A whole lot easier than nan, for some reason, odd since the recipe is rather similar. You can use this as a pizza base, if you like a really sturdy pizza, or in wedges just as bread, to go with whatever you put bread with.

Thinking of nan reminds me that Girija, my great friend from across the street, whom you saw at the exhibit opening, clasping a doll, and family, went to India this week for the summer, to catch up on relatives and friends and the larger population of Mumbai from the sound of it.

She came dashing across to catch me before I left the house, so that as she put it "I need to touch your foot before we leave." This is a huge sign of respect, particularly coming from another adult, and she bent and touched my foot with her hand, which really made me tear up. So I gave her a huge hug to go on her travels with. I will miss her, but she'll be back in August. Then we'll have tea and Indian desserts and I will look at many many pictures of her family,and friends and events, including a big engagement party. This will be fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Heavenly farm share day!

Riches on all sides!

great meeting about art commitments for the Fall, which will definitely work and be very exciting, not least because I'm back in the professional arena again after such a long time away. It's about teaching community art workshops and brainstorming a large program of same. And longterm plans for a joint exhibit of handmade paper with another artist. And other longterm plans for a group artist book exhibit. So cool. There was a time about a year ago, when I thought I'd said goodbye to all this joy.

And today was CSA pickup day, so you see the immediate result on my table: mixed green salad of several types of lettuce, including ruby, and English cucumber, dressed with a nice vinaigrette, shake of Parmesan cheese. Dessert is fresh raspberries picked today, with plain yogurt on top and a shake of brown sugar. Nice glass of paisano red wine.

Life is excellent!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Scents from Field and Fen

The patio is most of my field and fen, and mid June is a great time to sample all the scents going on out there, what with the herbs and the houseplants at camp in the fresh air.

Right now, strolling left to right, is spearmint, which grows because it wants to, and probably got here originally by hitch hiking with some other plant, and marigolds then this year's basil. Funny about marigolds. As a kid I hated the smell of them, just foul to me, but either they've changed or I have, because now I love the scent, a lovely dark grainy effect.

Then the herbs which come back year after year, in their containers, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage and more basil.

And this year's nasturtium which don't smell so strongly, but taste wonderfully peppery in salad. Then the houseplant stephanotis is about to burst into bloom, like orange blossom but better.

On the table is the rose scented geranium, always reminds me of turkish delight.You can use the leaves for flavoring in desserts and tea. The wild cherry tree is festooned with houseplants, and you'll see the Boston ferns, which used to be one, now flourishing as two. The dracaena, not in this picture, is moving right along as two plants, too. That was the one with the xrated surgery which I withheld from general view in here a while back.

And Charlotte, in charge of keeping the insect population in bounds, here in the architecture of her web, what an artist.

I haven't noticed much writing in the web, but we don't have a crying pig, either.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dill, Parsley and a Victory for the Little Consumer

This week's farmshare included a handful of freshpicked dill and Italian parsley, among other great things, so today I made pesto of dill and parsley. I figured that since they both go with similar foods -- fish, eggs, and that -- it would be a good pesto mix.

So, hauling out my ancient blender, the one with two speeds, on and off, and the makings, the herbs chopped with a big knife rather than processed, the crushed walnuts, since I'm not a fan of pine nuts, the parmesan cheese, the good olive oil, and then the work of a moment to blend it all, then flatten it into a ziploc bag, to freeze it.

This way the bag stands on its edge in the freezer, along with the other pesto mixes, and you can just break off exactly the amount you want to cook with.

Result: taste of summer ready for any time I want to use it.

The other item today is a report on a Great Victory for the Small Consumer, this little old lady living on Social Security for the most part. Leaving out all the forensic details, the short version is that I put in a mail order, using a check, last February for items from a giant mail order house.

This house will remain unnamed, because their lawyers are bigger and meaner than my lawyer, and because the point is not that they're villains but that there's enough stupidity in the world to go around. If stupid were a crime, we'd all be serving time.

Anyway, the check had my correct address on it, as did my order form. My bank statement showed that it was cashed in a few days. But the order didn't arrive. After a couple more weeks, I emailed them, and they said it had been sent and returned as undeliverable.

Whereupon I reminded them of the correct address, wrote a letter to their customer service people, requested a refund, telling them again the address to send it to. Fast forward over several more emails, which they now ignored, until last week, I had a rush of brains to the head along with a determination that I couldn't afford to lose this money, small to them, big to me.

So I emailed once again, asking that it be directed to their president's office, and here's what I think worked: I mentioned that I would hate to take this to our regional newspaper's Bamboozled consumer column,but would do so if I did not receive a prompt refund.

Magic. The power of the newspaper, I guess, even nowadays. Within a day I had a profound apology from a nice lady in the president's office acknowledging that they had sent the order AND the refund to a nonexistent address, which I had never given them, and that she had now done two things to secure my good will: via UPS Saturday, i.e. expensive, delivery, the check and the order, comped to me as a sorry token. Which indeed happened. To the correct address.

No doubt this lady would have fixed it ages ago if anyone had let her know about it, but I feel pretty sure that the threat was what brought it to her attention, whereupon she sprang to it. I thanked her, reiterating that I was at a loss to know why repeatedly supplying them with the correct address had not worked once! but I did say thank you nicely. I wonder if I ever want to order from them, if I should email my order to her..

So then I emailed the lady who singlehandedly runs Bamboozled, letting her know that the power of her name was enough to do this, no need for her even to take part! she was hugely amused and asked if she could use this in an upcoming column to show how consumers can fight for themselves when it seems hopeless, as long as they have a newspaper in their corner.

Who said the deadtree paper was dead?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Farmshare Day

Today was my CSA pickup day, and despite the weather which caused flood warnings, and some floods, fortunately none between me and the farm, I made it there. Pausing to chat with the farmstand lady who was busy tilting over plants and flowers to try and drain them off a bit, I picked up today's bushel basket.

Heavenly last strawberries, this must be the best year ever, all huge and full of flavor, along with cut dill and Italian parsley and basil, and a big bag of edible pod peas. Since the weather was pretty cool, and the peas were just past the point where they are sweet enough to eat uncooked, I said to myself, self, how about you try making soup with these?

Which I did, saving a few out for salad. I made the usual base -- olive oil with onions sauteed in it, but no garlic, too heavy for the flavor of fresh peas in the pod -- and for broth used a carton of water I'd used last time I steamed peas, and froze for just this kind of use, just a dash of salt, simmered it all gently a while, then blended it to get the texture broken down, then strained it to remove the extra fibers, and leave it all smooth and beautiful.

Spoonful of plain yogurt to add sharpness, homemade hot biscuit on the side. Perfect supper for a summer evening. Just beautiful. Nice glass of white wine to go with. Served on the table I made from the glass top of an old patio table, rested on the stand for my keyboard, hand hemmed tablecloth and napkin, tres posh. All my own work!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gifts from all sides!

Today brought a cornucopia of a gift from dear A., who is a talented crafter in all kinds of media, and decided she would like me to have her latest handweaving, a scarf in a silk wool blend, created on a table loom. I took pictures, which don't do justice to the subtlety of the colors in it, many, all blending and changing as you watch. It feels wonderful against my neck, a big point with scarves, and is just a great gift.

A, generous as always, added in several other items, all of which are now in use! a pin with three little fairies, which I'm currently wearing, a designer soap, scent now filling the downstairs bathroom, and tealights, likewise giving off a lovely scent. Even the card that came with the presents is an artwork, a lovely print reproduction.

I made a couple of pix of the scarf, to show you just the general idea. You can't feel it, but take it from me, it's a treat.

See how it looks different on different backgrounds?

The whole package was a treat, and thank you for doing this, A! you're a star. I'll treasure it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another Summer Weekend, another picnic

Last Sunday it was my embroidery friends, picnic indoors, on account of stormy weather out there, wonderful food, great chat, much viewing of excellent needlework, and a talk with a member I had not really met before. This was a real high point, since she is literally the only person I've met in decades who had studied both classical Greek and Latin, and we banged on for ages about it, and the various verb voices in Greek, and how it makes our own language all the more powerful, knowing many of the origins,and so on. What a huge treat and a great surprise.

Did I mention that on the trip to the alpaca farm with the same group, I had an Angela sighting? in the car there one of my fellow riders asked me if I had a sister or cousin, or maybe even a twin, living around here.

She'd noted my first name, realized I wasn't Angela, but someone who looked like her, and we had a wonderful trip screaming with laughter about the various Angela sightings,complete with people who ended up getting mad at one or other of us for not being the other! the fact that our voices are exactly similar, pitch, accent, everything, only confuses the issue even further. And of course the one time I met her we were both far too English to go asking rude questions, so I'm no wiser as to whether we are in fact distantly related! this caused gales of laughter among my outgoing colleagues!

So today, another weekend, another pickanick, to quote Yogi Bear. This time it was the recorder players, who all trooped out to a nearby historic park, and played in the pavilion, in consort groups then all together, before diving into a great potluck dinner. Some people came whom we haven't seen in years, great treat. Anyway, I took many pix, for the society's website, and thought I'd share some with you.

Some days I feel as if my life is one long lovely party!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fans, both kinds

So this morning, my two good neighbor friends showed up early to get to work to take out my busted roof fan and replace it with the one I'd bought, fervently hoping I'd got the right thing. It took two skilled people three hours to navigate the ancient bolts and screws of the original fan, which has been in a hot roof in all weathers for about 15 years, and to fathom how to get the new one, slightly different design, installed without leaving any leeway for squirrel entry into the roof, a big feature of our lives around here.

So, hot and tired and up and down two flights of stairs and a stepladder, over and over, because of testing the circuit, checking the new fan in the kitchen -- no need to lug it up two flights and then find it didn't fit -- and generally organize the electrical side of things, they hung in there and did it. I now have a working fan, hugely important, since it saves a ton of ac in the house, makes the studio, above whose ceiling it lives, livable in the summer.

In the course of this enterprise, Gary, neighbor One, took part in a conference call meeting with his colleagues, who I guess were unaware that he was taking part with his head in an attic, yanking on a fan while holding his phone with his shoulder...and neighbor Two,Helen, found all the right tools, handed them up, and conferred with him, giving advice on the electrical stuff.

They are both whizzes at this stuff, do all their own household renos, and I'm blessed to have them there. Between them there's an arsenal of tools for any occasion. But I'm proud to say that my studio yielded the required wire cutters and special screwdrivers and things that are usually in the service of art, but were willing to work in industry today.

They don't make art, but love it, so I was able to thank them with a little framed piece each as a thank you,which they insisted was not necessary, but I think they'll like them. So I'm a fan of the fan installers.

I didn't take pix, since I thought they wouldn't thank me for unflattering pictures of their rear ends, heads above the ceiling, dressed in grubbies suitable for the environment...

But while my house cooled wonderfully, with the new fan working just fine, I figured I'd better get to work on something really useful. My nametag for the Embroiderers' Guild. You have six months in which to create your tag, and two of my months are gone already.

I found this, probably in contention for the Guinness Book of Oldest UFOs. Unfinished Objects, for them as don't cruise the stitching and knitting world. This is a piece of I think 22 count canvas dating all the way back to my miniature needlepoint days, and it was a design I created to hold my, get this, aviator glasses! note the great organization of my floss collection...

Life intervened, and I only just unearthed it,still clean and blessedly with the size 8 needle still in it, since this is not an easy size to find, and I plan to continue the crazy paving motif, fill in between the slabs with, hm, don't know yet, and then couch my name over the top in a metal thread secured with, hm, don't know yet. So this is a very important task, really practical, and will advance our civilization markedly when I get it done.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

No good deed!

This is a great week chez moi.  What with the success of the art opening, and the sales I've made already, what a treat that is, a number of people stopped by and signed my visitors' book.  Including a delegation from my embroiderers' group.

Now, between you me and the thirty million people in forty five countries who read this blog, well, that's a slight exaggeration, but it's election season, where was I? oh yes,  I was about to say that I'd invited my embroidery friends to stop by, out of courtesy, because I was inviting people.

But I was quite shy about it, since they are so skilled, you should see their work, and so proficient in what they do, very fine projects, that I wondered if they'd throw me out of the group when they saw my wild and free embroidery. Anyway, they came, they saw, they loved it!  and even sent an email to the general membership to encourage them all to come and see for themselves.  And a mention in our official newsletter.  This is beyond great. 

And at last night's stitch-in, they asked if I would teach a workshop to the Guild next winter on freeform embroidery on silk!  turns out they didn't realize I had dyed the silk myself, and they had been searching for it in good fabric places. But I allowed as how I could dye them the pieces ahead of time in the studio, and then they could have the fun of the embroidery right away on the day of the workshop.  They seemed quite pleased about this, not being wild artists who dye anything that doesn't move and a few things that do...So this will be a huge treat, probably next winter.

I already ordered up the fabric -- found nice hand rolled and stitched China silk squares, just about right for their purpose, and the silk dyes, and the fixative and a bit of silk salt, for fun bursts of stuff.  I of course will have the life of Riley doing the dyeing, great fun, and it will be ready for their experiment.

So this worked out so much better than I might have imagined. No pix today, don't know how to take pix of excitement!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Dollivers Headline at the Art Exhibit

The Ds. showed up in force at the art opening this evening, joining a lot of artists and other friends, and a select group was assigned to attend a Dolliver, seen here gracing the scene.

It was a ton of fun, plenty of people came by, two of them committed to buy a piece, all had a great time.  The traveling journal showed up, too, and was duly handed on to the next participant, after everyone had time to open it up and admire and decide what to do.  Two people have now done entries, so it's moving along.

I was totally engaged with people and discussing the art and being photographed, so this is the only shot I got, and I was forbidden to take it, on the ground that I was supposed to be in it!  so the reportage is a bit short on images, but take it from me, it was a great party!  How many people have friends good enough sports to have a picture taken clasping a dolly?  I ask you.  Am I blessed or what?

Reading left to right: Shabnam with Dreads, Girija with Bette Davis, ze arteest, Stefi with Call me Michelle, Donna making NameMe wave, Maureen with Blondie Firstborn.