Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dollivers and Friend painting en plein air

The Ds. sandbagged dear Maureen J. to join us on a painting expedition to the same park with the lake where I used to take Handsome Partner, when he was still able to get into my car.

They made sure they were remembered, organizing themselves into their carrying bag along with my painting gear.

It was good to be back in that park, with the lake, birds, lovely peaceful spot, old trees giving plenty of shade. Handsome Partner loved to sit by the water here, watching birds.

Today we were only slightly deterred by the fact that the benches I planned for us to sit on in the shade were this very day being painted, and still wet when we got there. I guess the township thought it was a good day for painting, just as we did. Of all the parks and all the benches and all the times I've been there before, etc.

We'd had a nice lunch locally, so we were ready to work.

Maureen J held the two Ds.,like babies, for a brief photo op, to please their fans, and they appreciated the consideration,before they got down to serious artwork.

Maureen, being a considerable artist herself, set up in her car for her painting, since sitting on the fence didn't appeal. But I stuck it out sitting on the fence, most unusual for me, amid cries of dismay from the Ds.

Note the arteest berets they are wearing for this adventure.

Bette Davis claimed the painting, more me, my dear, and Blondie Firstborn preferred the sensitive lines of the drawing..they pointed out that though I'd arranged good weather, I had totally fallen down on the issue of the benches, where they'd planned to pose and paint and that. Everyone's a critic.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Food ahoy!

That was the cheerful call to the dinner table of someone who nearly became my mother in law.  Good thing she didn't, because she was lovely, but her son was definitely Wrong for Me.  Anyway, today's lunch was very good, so good that I ate it before I thought of a pic,which tells you something.

Chicken breast, pounded flat with a mixture of flour, garam masala, turmeric and black pepper, sauteed quickly in olive oil, with steamed edible pod peas from the farm, and a nice spoonful of onion jam as a condiment. First time I've made onion jam, and it was really good.  The four cups of chopped onion you start with boil and cook and simmer down to about a cup, very good stuff with cheese, or meat or fish or practically anything, if you like onions.

Strawberries for dessert with a sprinkle of sugar.

So now you see why there wasn't time for pictures...also a neighbor stopped by in the middle of the cooking -- I've learned to switch off the burners when he appears at the door --to chat about the cable guy and would I be around when he needed to come, which I will.

And I discovered that one of the open wifi signals I've been picking up for years is his!  this is a good friend, and he was very happy about it, even apologized for the times it loses its connection, hence the visit of the cable guy to fix the wires for the wifi, don't ask me to explain this...but all came out well from the convo.  Imagine being sorry that the signal I was pirating on wasn't up to snuff!! but there are several open signals around here, people being sophisticated about which to close and which don't matter.

Another friend dropped by last night and hearing that my attic fan has broken down, naturally you don't discover this until it's close to 100 degrees in the loft, which is my studio, said, just buy one, and I'll install it. Don't pay anyone to do this, I've done my own and I can do this.  And she has -- she's rewired her own house, not to mention installing appliances and cleaning her own chimney! so I'm in good hands all around.

And people ask me if I plan on moving to an old folks development!  not likely.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Dollivers Down on the Farm

Call me Michelle and NameMe drew the lucky numbers and went to the farm to collect this week's share.

They hitched a ride in last week's basket.

Strawberries, this must be the best season ever, edible pod peas and on the free table wave petunias, free for the taking to CSA members. Jill Stultz, the Farm Lady, graciously accepted the Ds., and agreed to hold them for a photo op.

This family is all so good looking, you feel as if you'd stumbled on the soundstage of a musical about farms!

Home again, the traveling Ds. requested another take of the pic, this time with their produce artfully deployed around them.

The fact that it's in the high nineties F., with high humidity did not bother these divas.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day puttering about

I did my Memorial Day observation on Saturday, by walking the labyrinth in honor of the war dead and one veteran in particular, the father of a friend, this veteran having died just a few hours earlier, so today I'm doing other things.

Hot humid thundery weather required food that fits. Such as plain yogurt with a lovely strawberry sauce spooned over -- the rest of this week's strawberry farmshare, mashed gently and cooked for a minute with brown sugar, then cooled -- with the contrasting Bad Food hotdog and trimmings.

And between bouts of knitting a hoodie for a Dolliver, in alpaca yarn, I struggled to make a drawing. To see why it was a struggle, and how I eventually emerged from it (!), go to Sorry about the low tech -- blogger is incapable of completing a link today. Many many attempts have failed. Sigh.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day and Asparagus Soup

This being the cusp of the national Memorial Day holiday, officially to honor people who died in wars, but functionally a weekend for picnics, opening of the beach season here in NJ, I usually try to find something appropriate to do that doesn't glorify war, but does remember the people.

So this weekend, since I'm already walking the labyrinth in honor of the father of a friend, who left us just a few hours ago, I'll add in the intentions for the war dead. He was old enough to have remembered all the major wars, so it was part of his life, too.

Then on the frivolous food side, I decided to continue the tradition Handsome Partner and I had, of eating Bad Food for the Holidays. We ate, well I still do, very healthy stuff, no red meat, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, whole grain bread baked at home and so on. So a couple of times a year we would bust out. Hot dogs and rolls, potato chips, pickles, mustard, ketchup. Wonderful when you only have them a couple of times a year.

But before the Bad Food breaks out, today was Asparagus Soup day, using the rest of this week's farm share of asparagus, with homemade vegetable stock, and a bunch of croutons from homebaked bread, tossed in olive oil, pepper and salt, and served sizzling into the bowl. Much more where that came from, too. A couple more quarts in the freezer now. I only seasoned the soup with salt, since I didn't want to drown out the flavor with my usual mad shakes of spices. The big pot was a wedding present from HP's mother, back in early 1963, has a steamer top and lid, too, and has been used almost daily ever since. I must have made a vat of soup in it.

Happy Weekend to everyone! Good opening of the summer to them it refers to, sorry, people in Oz and NZ..

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Opening Day!

The farm's opening day,first day to pick up CSA shares, was today, and to celebrate the day, the farm decided that strawberries and asparagus were a good start to the year.

My half share was a big punnet of wonderful strawberries, all perfect, smelling of heaven, and a double handful of fresh picked asparagus. I bit the top off one, and it's just as green tasting and great as it it supposed to be. Strawberries will always be a poignant reminder of Handsome Partner whose favorite fruit it was. Smelling it as I hulled and rinsed them was full of memories of all the years he's been so happy to be presented with a bowl of fresh picked farm strawberries, which he used to say was both his favorite color and best flavor.

The rainy weather kept the Ds from taking part in the ritual pickup, but there are 24 more weeks to go. So they posed on the bushel basket my half share comes in and decided this would be a nice summer home, until I broke it to them that it goes back to the farm next week, to be replaced by another, which will in turn be replaced, and so on, so we don't get to do the country decor on the basket.

Miss Avis Lydia Poupee, a new ALP to join the Ds, has been officially taken over by Bette Davis, who decided that her superior expression was just right to go with an aging diva, they would understand each other, and commiserate with each other over being reduced to living in a basket.

ALP was up to that point not impressed with her accommodations after traveling internationally to get here, where was her dressing room with the star on the door? her dresser? but now she can grumble along with Bette and they'll compare press notices. The other Ds are happy to let them get on with that, as long as they can have their best profiles in here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Dollivers meet the Alpacas at Swallow Hill Farm

Dreads and Blondie Firstborn won the lottery to go on today's adventure, to visit an alpaca farm in the beautiful Sourland Mountains of New Jersey. You will notice that Dreads is wearing Blondie's hat and dress, and Blondie has on NameMe's gear. We will draw a veil over the shenanigans that concluded with this distribution. And the dogs' insisting they could, too, take on great big Chesapeake Bays, just let them try. But I explained that they might scare the alpacas, so they agreed to stay home and guard the other Ds.

Weather perfect, all very well arranged by our local embroiderers' group, which includes people who are multicraftual, knitters, spinners, stitchers, crocheters, all were there for the guided tour. Swallow Hill Farm is named for the swallows zooming about through the barns, over the fields, among the people, and return usually on tax day -- April 15. This year they returned true to form, so that's one thing that hasn't changed in our environment. And this is protected land, so that won't be lost to development

We learned a ton about alpacas, their temperament and history, met a lot of them, all named, including two pregnant ladies and their girlfriends and the boys, kept separate usually. They're friendly, very very smart, and loved posing for pictures, allowed us to hand feed -- gentle mouths, they just lip the feed off your hand -- and they make all kinds of interesting noises, from singing to the kind of snort that people make when they fall asleep in an armchair.

Where you see the bars, that's only on the people side -- doors at the back are open so the alpacas can come and go in the field. They're curious about people and obliged us with closeup views. They're almost ready for the annual shearing, so we saw them in full coat.

Patricia Flanagan, owner with husband John, also spins and weaves and knits, aside from running the farm, caring for the animals, hosting groups, and generally being the sort of dynamo most of us only dream of being.

The family dogs, large and boisterous Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, were kept in the den, because not everyone likes big happy dogs jumping at them. I wouldn't mind, but the Ds were relieved to find they didn't have to meet big dogs as well as big alpacas.

I reminded them that alpacas were their source fiber, among other animals, and that this was a kind of pilgrimage for them, so they consented to pose with my purchase of yarn spun from the fleece of Lily, whom they'd met. Which Pat obligingly put on the swift to make into a ball all the easier to knit with.

Pat has a crew of knitters who make great hats and scarves and scrunchies and animals for her shop -- which is part of the living room most of the time. And she tells me they ship all over the world, so blogistas who want a true and wonderful experience of this part of the world need only go here to learn more.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dollivers Welcome Their Canadian Cousin

Just arrived from Canada, is my Lucky Penny Doll, created by sister Dogonart, and introduced to the Dollivers who are a bit puzzled about this. They have dolls in Canada, too? we thought dolls were only in New Jersey...

Elton is thinking about a new medley to play in her honor, probably Oh, You Beautiful Doll, and Canadian Capers, for a start..

And the Ds. are getting ready for a Big Expedition on Sunday, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, click to enlarge for a better view of Lucky Penny, and to help me figure out a good name for her.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Song without words

Abandoned coconut on park bench

Words to live by

Cats in the studio, catbirds outdoors, good companions

The Return of Toad

This morning, this friend greeted me on the path next to my newspaper. First toad of the year. I love to see toads around, usually a sign that they're surviving here. When I had a community garden, I had a resident toad, whom I provided with the traditional clay pot to live under. Toadore and I got quite pally, and he was unflinching while I hoed around him, never bothering to duck.My cats have other ideas. They are totally terrified of toads.

One once got into the living room at the condo, I think carried up a flight when I brought in houseplants from downstairs, and suddenly appeared on the rug, about the size of your thumbnail, like a piece of living jewelry. The current cats crashed into each other in their anxiety to escape, and ended up hiding behind me, while I scooped him up and returned him to the outdoors.

They explained that guarding from wild animals was not part of their job description, as described at the shelter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scarfing it up and French as She Is Spoke

The cashmere yarn that featured in my recent socks is riding again, in the form of a one row lace scarf which is destined for a friend who doesn't know about this yet, so don't say anything. This is possibly the simplest lace pattern ever: multiple of four stitches, each row knit four, then the pattern: yarnover, knit two together, knit two, do this combo to the end of the row. Repeat the row till you either run out of patience or yarn, whichever happens first.

And while I knit I'm listening to the radio,and being reminded once again that it's a big mistake to use foreign phrases if you don't know how to pronounce them.

Recently I've heard more than one news person refer to what they thought was a coup de grace, sorry, no circumflex accent available in my memory banks, meaning the blow of mercy on the battlefield, where a soldier kills a comrade to put him out of terminal pain.

Which is fine, if you don't think it means the best part of the show! or if you don't pronounce it as coup de gras, which is quite different. Gras means fat. So it's the verbal equivalent of cheering on the spectacle of someone being beaned with a can of Crisco...anyway today's lovely offering was mise en scene, meaning , more or less, stage set, mise being from the verb mettre, to put or place. Anyway, the theater person in question talked about mise en sein, not understanding how to pronounce scene. Now the mise part is about putting,and sein is, um, a boob. So he was congratulating a film maker on his brilliant boob job???

Doesn't take much to amuse me! I'd probably be disappointed if North American speakers stuck with their own language. Or if they finally renounced the belief that you never ever pronounce the last few letters of any French word.

Signing off here as Li Ada, goo afternoo

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pre Mother's Day hike

Wonderful weather, perfect for the Preserve and walking there. I walked for a couple of hours, past bluebird boxes, in some of which are tree swallows like this guy

with many butterflies zooming about, bluebirds,here the rightful occupant of the bluebird box

wonderfully scented flowering trees

spring flowers still there, the canopy not having filled in yet to shade them out

and first sighting in years, a Baltimore oriole, a male. His sound is like a waterfall of sound, round, lovely notes, the Rampal of the bird world. I was so carried away listening and looking for him that when I caught sight of him, I wasn't able to get a pic.

For the first time in a long while I was able to make it all the way to the end of the big trail,

to the stone bench,

where butterflies danced all around me and I managed to seize a pic or two.

On the way back, I met a woman sitting at the side of the trail, resting an instrument case at the side of the bench, and fell into conversation. She's a musician, rehearsal this morning, performance this evening, and she had sought out some quiet and beautiful place to be calm. She asked me a bit about a bird she'd seen, and confirmed my suspicion that that wonderful bird I'd seen and heard was indeed an oriole. As a musician she said for her it's one of the most musical of all bird songs. Her vision is failing and she's trying to learn birdsong for when she can't see them so well.

What could be better for Mother's Day weekend. Tomorrow, Handsome Son will visit and that will be perfect, then I plan to hustle him off to the shore, to take advantage of the weather, which has been so unpredictable you have to seize the day, and it's his favorite of all summer destinations. I'll be happy to draw and stitch and read and rest my soul!

So if you are a mother, or have had one, or wish to be one, or are quite glad you're not one, or act in the place of a mother to someone who needs one, I think that about takes in everyone (!) enjoy tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Socked in

When I joined or rejoined various groups in the last few months, since I've once again been free to, I didn't quite realize that these monthly meetings might now and then all collide in the first few days of the month.

But if the calendar wills it,my first Sunday embroiderers come right before the first Monday evening artists, who are right after my Monday afternoon recorder friends, the day before my second Tuesday recorder society,which in turn is the day before my second Wednesday book group which barely ends before my Wednesday stitch in with the embroiderer buds starts. It was all supposed to be spread out a bit more than this. And now I have three commitments all falling over each other on the same Sunday in May. I have to learn once again to juggle. And here I thought I had it all neatly organized to avoid pressure and all that. Oh well.

Meanwhile, the other kind of socking has been going on, as I use some of the cashmere I harvested from the thrift store sweater to make a nice pair of socks. The white yarn is acrylic, best for heels and toes since it doesn't wear out as soon as you glance at it, unlike cashmere. But in order not to look like a sock monkey,I added in irregular stripes.

Here's Sock One in progress:

And in action:

Keen observers will note that the cashmere has not been steamed and dekinked. Longtime blogistas will vividly remember the endless banging on I did about my first Yarn Harvest,how the poor peasant washed and hung the fibers and tested and checked until finally they were mature, neat and ready for knitting.

That was before the poor peasant realized that once the new knitting was done,the degree of kink in the yarn was so imperceptible as not to be worth fretting over, despite the great photo ops the official Hanging of the Yarn presented, so nowadays I just unravel, wind and knit. And I don't think anyone has recoiled at my scarves and purses and other such items, probably because they know they won't get any more if they do..

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Indian event, food, dancing, singing, noise, wonderful

Last night I was invited to an Indian evening at the local high school, the South Asian Students' annual bash, with a dinner followed by a singing, dancing, standup comedy extravaganza. I can absolutely recommend this as an antidote to feeling down and wrung out.

The event opened with an Indian dinner in the cafeteria, all kinds of very good food indeed, no idea what I ate, but it was great, and the sound of munching took over from the endless phoning for a while...

My honorary granddaughter,

seen here posing with her parents, for several photographers, which is why they didn't all look the same direction (!) was a big part of the evening, in the singing group, really good a cappella,

and several of the dance routines, including the classical dance the one with all the bells on the ankles, very difficult stuff. This involved her mother dashing backstage several times to help get her into and out of complicated outfits.

The two MCs, surprisingly funny for kids, some great lines. And some great inside jokes Indians make about themselves -- this was a special treat, since though I have Indian friends, I'm really not into the inner jokes. Several were about Indian parents, delivered by kids who may have been born in India, but are really American in outlook now, and the parents present fell out of their chairs laughing. I also liked the "how do you know you're really Indian" jokes, including: I can prove it. "After school, you went to shoot hoops. Not Indian. I went to the library. This proves it!" and since this was the night before AP subject exams, it went over big!

I think spicy Indian food is an upper itself, and then the loud and wonderful music, which is great when you see the dance that goes with it, just lifts you up and keeps you there. And once again I was blown away by the sheer glamor of the dressed up girls and some of their mothers -- the ones who hadn't come straight from the commuter train, in New York corporate gear.

My friend, the mom, all glammed up in Indian clothes and makeup,was on pins the whole time with this and that, typical mom requirement on a big evening, and I was the grandma, just nodding and smiling and saying, oh she's lovely, and not worrying about whether she ate anything before the performance. Easy job, this grandma stuff.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Turtle Continues, and the Three Part Purse

This turtle is traveling at her own pace, nice and slowwwwww. But it's a great project for trying out stitches and colors and generally doing things from either long ago or never. I dug out a couple of needlepoint books I've had lying around for oh maybe 40 years or more -- the price on the Elsa Williams tells me it's practically antique, to renew my acquaintance with needlepoint stitching.

And those lovely crocheted pieces I acquired via Freecycle a while back? astute observers will have noticed that the new toilet in the Ds. TeePee Caper has a lovely lace thingie on the tank, very posh, and that the Ds are wearing lacy hats....and there are several summer purses in the works. Aside from various chests and things with beautiful runners on them, under glass.

One purse is this, a three part one, each part stitched up separately

and lined with some exciting Chinese type satin fabric from another freecycle. Crocheted loop for the eventual button, probably a nice tourmaline bead, and I still have to decide how to join the three into a single purse.

click to enlarge

And if it needs a handle. Each purse is a crocheted mat thing, probably a chair arm cover or maybe a dressing table mat. But I like their new life.

The other motivation for this slow steady work is that days are a little hard right now, what with closing the estate account for HP, and yesterday getting yet more preprinted forms from the state with his information on them, now no longer valid, and having to write and put them right yet again about the ownership of the property. It all drives home my singleness yet again, and though most days this is okay, some days it is lonely.

So it helps to just set stitch after stitch, listening to Anna Quindlen on CD with her latest book of essays, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, at least I think that's it, it's on another floor from where I now am.

She's an interesting writer, though blind to her privileges, but she's far from the only writer to assume that everyone's an affluent baby boomer, with too much stuff, and too many houses! however, she does get in some wonderful lines that are worth mining. Like her brief flirtation in the 70s with Fiesta ware and Roseville pottery, which made me guffaw totally, remembering my own similar one and the later recoiling!

I wish they'd got someone other than the writer to do the reading, though. Some writers have wonderful voices and are easy to listen to. She has this hoarse, nervous voice, reads like a metronome, and oh well. I've heard her on radio discussing her work and she's wonderful to listen to in conversation,but the reading seems to have put her into Reading Mode. She admitted that she hates to revisit her own work, and reading it aloud, even harder for her. So why on earth agree to do it, I wonder. At this stage she has plenty of clout to say, no, I think we should get Meryl Streep, or something.

I wonder if I should name my turtle..

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I'm posting a little painting/drawing, just a small fantasy, very unlike my usual stuff, and better in here than in the art blog, as a gift to me.

Today I did the last transaction at the bank, closing out the estate account for Handsome Partner. The officer was very nice, and said, oh, this is painful, are you okay? and I was much better after she said that. There are so many endings, and maybe this is the last, and then again, it may not be.

Then a while later, in the library, I bumped into one of my old art students from the years when I taught drawing at the adult school, and had a great catchup chat with him.

The symmetry comes in here: last time I saw him was at the hospital, where I was sadly drinking coffee in the snack place while waiting for the major surgery for Handsome Partner to be done and a verdict given. As we know, the verdict was nice try, but didn't work. His walking was in a lot of doubt.

So both our lives have gone in various directions, and today we came together again by chance. So though he didn't know it,he closed the circle in a way.

so I thought I needed a little present, a totally undemanding bit of playtime, so this little drawing resulted.