Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year to us all!

Some of us have already seen in the New Year, and some are working up to it.  And some of us are planning a nice quiet evening with a movie and a glass of wine, and will probably not make it to midnight.

This morning brought one of those wonderful skies, with the ice particles high up in the air creating sundogs.  I saw one, they look like a very bright chunk of rainbow, which disappeared in a few seconds, then reappeared twice as bright, for just a few seconds, in the eastern sky.  We get these at sunset, usually, in clear cold weather.

I tried a picture, which involved stepping out onto the frigid patio, ow, but I think the camera didn't see what the eye did.  Anyway, this is this morning about 8.30, great last sunrise of the year with a sundog barking through the wild cherry branches. 

So, the hounds of spring on winter's traces, at least that's the plan for the new year!  HNY, all!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fifty years across the ocean!

Celebrate with me!  today marks fifty years, count them, since I set foot on these shores to live happily ever after.  

Still remember the excitement of approaching the harbor -- we came by ship, figuring it was a lifetime opportunity to actually travel, rather than cruise, on a ship, which it was -- seeing the Verrazano Narrows bridge still under construction, the Statue of Liberty, and then actually docking at the end of a street!  

So used to ships that docked far from city centers, in their own dockland, that it was amazing to look down and see traffic, and cabs waiting for people to disembark, and people waiting to greet passengers. As soon as I stepped ashore everything just felt right. It even smelled right, as if I'd come home.  I swear I was born in the wrong country!

And despite all the ups and downs life has handed out, not a moment of nostalgia for the UK, just gladness that we had the sense to do what we did, leave and carve out entirely new and better lives for us and Handsome Son, who was still several years into the future.

Indeed, it has been better, going from being wrong class (UK still rigid in the 60s) wrong sex (ditto) and wrong religion (ditto) to being an equal partner in whatever was going on, able to achieve practically every ambition I've ever had, and I've had a few!

Handsome Partner, then husband, was invited by a  number of institutions to do postdoctoral work, being an atom scientist in great demand after Sputnik, and I secured projects as a modern language person, also in demand because of the postwar realization that more languages were needed in the public schools.

Interestingly, members of both sides of my family emigrated from the UK to the US in the 1850s, arriving in the same New York harbor I did, and settling somewhere in New York state, not in touch, don't know more, Mom being the historian of that family lore. So I'm both first generation and possibly eighth, but who's counting.

Anyway, I now have to stop because the chimney sweeps are at the door, chop wood, carry water!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Cirque de Dolliver

Great good wishes from all of us, visiting friends, Handsome Son, Dollivers, Minivers and Marigold and Duncan. 

Outside the birds are noshing on their Christmas seed and the squirrels are having a great time banging and dragging on the container, like little dogs, really.

The ficus tree is acting the part of fir, complete with little ornaments.
Duncan is maintaining a low profile, not wishing to be part of the throng this morning. He notes that Marigold is skulking under the ficus, watching the antics outside.

Elton is celebrating upstairs with the rest of the minis, since his piano space is occupied by the creche, but joins us anyway, with a selection ranging from Good King Wenceslas to Jingle Dolls.

Merry Day, everyone, and if Christmas is not your festival, Merry Wednesday!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Voices and Faces of Plainsboro the Dollivers' review

This month is the gallery showing of many of the products of the Voices and Faces of Plainsboro project. funded by the county cultural and heritage commission, which was a year in the making, with workshops, video recording of personal history and memories, all ages and many parts of the community taking part.  Note, in the last picture, the Dollivers applauding the imagination that put a stepstool near the children's books, to make sure they could get up and see.  Fine arts, including printmaking, book arts, audio arts and writing all featured in the activities, and the gallery displays the gist of what has been happening.

I taught the adults' book workshop, and took part in the Faces display and the self portrait, so I recur here, like Waldo.  The Dollivers came along to add weight to my presence, and pronounced it better than good.   It's a wonderful display, many lives intertwined and reacting in this space.  If you're in the neighborhood, the exhibit dates have been extended to cover January, too, so stop in and enjoy.

Here's a montage to browse and enjoy.

The Dollivers and the Christmas Reveal

The Dollivers insisted on new holiday duds, since the Minivers evidently rode roughshod over Boud and got their tiny little dresses, what's that about...so we went to the local library to see the lighted tree (the gifts underneath had already been delivered to local agencies to give to kids), and to undertake the Big Reveal.

All gowned and bagged (they say bound and gagged) and impatiently tooting the horn to get going, 

we proceeded to the library where they stayed in their bag until Boud got her camera out and act together.  Which was more than they could say for Blondie Firstborn, who climbed out of the traveling bag leaving dress behind, and displaying her hand knitted silk undies to the world, shrieks, leaping, back into dress.


So here's the Christmas Reveal, red felt dresses accessorized with lace courtesy of Judy T.   Merry Season to us all!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The supplies arrived, fellers!

Last evening the UPS man staggered to the door with a giant box, marked HEAVY, as if you needed help in realizing this, containing the winter's supply of absolutely best quality bird food for our patio friends, courtesy of honorary granddaughter Heather.  Not only is there a great supply, she thoughtfully arranged for it to be selected in several smaller amounts, so that I could actually lift it!  good thinking.

I installed the first lot in the feeder this morning, first seed it's had since last winter, and before I even finished putting the cap back on I could hear birds excitedly tweeting the news around.  As I was thinking, gosh you'd think they'd never fed at the feeder before, I suddenly realized that a lot of these birds were born in the last season and so never had fed here before! no wonder they're excited.  Ooh, Ethel, look at this, it's, it's, it's a buffet for us!  no tickets, just fly up and dig in.  Whoa!

And I had hardly got the door shut after me before a pair of woodpeckers, a pair of tufted titmouses (mice?) a flock of juncoes and a pair of those redbreasted housefinches that look like dyed sparrows, were all pushing and shoving and arguing about first dibs.

These are just the first responders.  Still to come are the nuthatches, bluejays, wrens, cardinals, doves and maybe yellow warblers, which stay all year.

The cats are happy with their new floorshow and airshow out there, and I'm so pleased to sit and drink tea and watch the circus! Great gift, thank you!  And even as I typed that, the wrens arrived,and the chickadees.  It's a winter madhouse out there, I tell you.  My pictures are of the unnatural calm  and quiet before the trees disgorged the crowds, flocks, and coveys.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Long, strange trip!

Lovely day in progress chez Boud.  I feel like the Queen, what with birthday flowers courtesy of sister dogonart, see pic, they're beautiful, and electronic cards, and emails and texts -- early morning greeting text from an early rising friend caught me in bed drinking my coffee and eating cookies for breakfast, birthday special.


Well, they're nutritious cookies,oatmeal, peanut butter, cocoa,etc. I made the batch last night but couldn't be bothered to bake so I made no-bakes and they're okay.   On a scale of 1 to 10, about a 6, but fine if you are not in the mood to bake,but are in the mood to eat a cookie. Recipe on request, out of my Amish cookbook.

Then later today, Handsome Son arrives, ice permitting, but the roads should be better by then, the snow having turned to wintry mix, candies all over the roads, bearing ingredients and tools to make us dinner.  My job is to pour wine, light candles and sit at the table waiting to be fed.  Perfect!

Did you catch my queenly wave? missed it?  here it is again...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Small Dolls Take a Stand

We small dolls have conferred and come up with our demands.  We want a greater share in the running of this blog.  It's always with the Dollivers, those giants  with all the good outfits, and what about us, we ask?

We are small, but we are mighty.  And if the Dollivers can have their special moniker, so can we.  Henceforward we are the Minivers.  

And Boud finally broke down and made us new outfits, all tricked out in red with lace, for the season, breaking her own rule, she told us bitterly, that Christmas is not celebrated until her own nativity is over with.  

So here we are, guarding the creche and the other bits of toys Boud sees as appropriate for the scene, we ask you, we will have to get to work there, too.  

Meanwhile, we are the Mighty Minivers, and we have a theme song, which Elton hasn't mastered yet, more work there, too.  Since wood features largely in our composition, much stronger and more powerful than that feeble yarn of the Dollivers, our song is to be Wooden Heart, you know, Elvis.  With a change here and there since we do have a wooden heart, but to each his own.

You did know that we were in a movie?  Mrs. Miniver!  yes, that's part of our extended family. Just so's you know we're not just any old wooden dolls waiting to be discovered. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Exercise, hated word!

In the winter weather, especially right now, with ice everywhere and unlikely to thaw, my favorite walking has to be put on hold.  This is too bad, since it's a great lift of the spirits. I like moving out of doors, and it's really tough to stay cheerful when I can't. 

So I do other stuff. 

I have my lovely Rodney Yee a.m. dvd, which is about fifteen minutes of yoga, which my cats like very much, climbing all over me, and looking up into my face when I do downward facing dog, perhaps they're looking for the dog.

Then there's weight training, which I do anyway, whether or not I can walk out of doors.  On my 60th birthday, I gave myself a big present: the Strong Women Stay Young book, and a complete set of free weights.   I think the fifteen years of faithful training I've done, with few weeks when I didn't do at least one session, has paid off amazingly.  Even after this miserable virus which hung on and on, I was able to get back into strength training, no problem.  My muscles had stayed pretty good.

Originally I did it because I was doing collaborative art with Stefi M. and I noticed, when we worked on a big piece, how much longer her arms held up than mine.  Well, I am a few years older than she, but even so, I really needed to get some upper body strength.

And then, pawing this week through my old tapes, which I play on an ancient tv/vcr, in search of variety in indoor exercise, I found my Eight Pieces of Silk qi gong tape, and I've started up with that again.  It's a  series of standing movements, very cheering and good stretching and breathing. 

It's intended for health purposes, rather than the religious version of qi gong, and it's about my speed.  I notice, speaking of strength and stamina, that I'm able to get through the entire tape, about 30 minutes continued movementwithout any stress.  

When I was first given this tape, many years ago, by a friend heavily into this sort of healing practice, training as a practitioner in fact, I could barely manage half of it.  So I guess this is good, too.  Particularly since just a few weeks ago, I was having trouble just walking the block.

And there's always Sit and be Fit, which I have on dvd, dear old Mary Ann Wilson (amazing number of people in my life with that name, all of them good) which includes a free weight session a bit different from my usual routine, so that's nice. And a lot of chair exercises for days when you just can't make it to your feet. 

In my fifties, when I decided that I wasn't very fit, and I hated exercise in groups, unhappy experience with Tai Chi, only moderately good experience with group yoga, I took a look at SABF and really liked her attitude. No spandex, no bullying, just pleasant and very well researched exercises led and demonstrated by the creator, who's also an RN as well as a geriatric exercise specialist, and wears slouchy socks and shorts and tshirts, not a Fitness Costume. 

So there you have it -- Boud's Gym!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The first casualty of winter

First measurable snow of the season started about an hour ago, and I heard a little crashing noise, saw a flurry of snow rising from the deck, and looked out to see the first casualty of the season.

Another big branch snapped off the ancient wild cherry tree. For the moment, it looks lovely, the way the branches have spread themselves over the fence, but I wonder how much of this old tree will be left by spring. 

I treasure it because it gives great shade, but I took the precaution last year of transplanting the cherry bushes from out front, where they were growing too tall, to the back, where though they won't give shade, don't spread like a tree, they will give cherries that either the birds or I can have, whoever gets there first.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Pecking Order

Today, at the leading edge of a wintry mix storm (I always think this sounds like peppermints and red and green M and Ms falling down) I've been watching birds, between bursts of frantic computer work doing my bit for my stitchers and my freecyclers and my other sites needing my presence. I feel so guilty about being out of action for so long and still not really up for either of the parties I was supposed to be at today, that this is a way of doing my part.

So I noticed the pecking order front and center.  I was alerted by a little glink glink sound, and saw the male woodpecker out there, surveying the buffet. According to Peterson's bird book, he says pick. Not in New Jersey, he don't.  Joisey boids say glink.

The suet feeder is the avian equivalent of the supermarket right before a storm, everyone crowding in to get their share and more.
The feeder is open on all sides, so theoretically any number of birds could play. However what they've decided is that it's One Bird at a Time, Please.  

And I watched with some amusement as the male downy woodpecker brushed everyone aside, including Mrs. Downy, while the Carolina wren lurked in the slats of the fence for her turn, watched by her mate.

 In the tree the pair of cardinals waited their turn, then Mrs. ate first, as Mr. courteously waited his turn.  The bluejay, usually not so hot at feeding suet, tends to skid off and fall down, managed it, and knocked enough down that he could finish it on the deck. Where a little flock of juncoes waited for the big kids to knock down food for them, too.

If anyone incautiously tries to join another bird at the feeder, even his mate, he's bounced right away, with a peck or two.

One thing they all do, which I like to see, is to retire to a branch above and proceed to clean their beaks carefully, suet being a messy food.   There's a great absence of squirrels, which I attribute to the bird feeder across the street, and the pumpkin still resting in my yard out front and attracting all the local squirrel population to tear at it and throw bits all over my path to be tracked into the house.

Okay, birds done, pictures marginal because shot through the window, sorry, now to get onto another purse which already has a destination. 

My fingers are looking a bit scarred.  Sometimes, since I can't use pliers, can't do that pinching action, I will turn the eye of the needle straight down onto the top of my distressed old coffee table, and push the fabric down the needle, to save pulling and shoving. This works.  It has to be done on a distressed table, though I guess any table would soon be distressed if you did this enough.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Tribe!

Seems only fair to offer you my Tribe of Five, the people who either feel as if I've known them forever, or whose work really has an influence on mine.

Okay, going way back to childhood, whenAmerican magazines were a very exciting thing to come across, in post WW2 northern England, I saw a color feature in Life, maybe, some pictorial mag, with the work of then modern artists including Clyfford Still.  As soon as I saw his work I knew I needed to make art (not in those exact words, very young at the time) but I understand instantly what he was doing and why.  I still thank him for that.  If the name is unfamiliar, go here and see what I mean.

Then there's Milton Avery whose work (brings up my favorite term, vertiginous) doesn't look very real until you try drawing the same thing and you realize what massive insight he had.  Along with not worrying too much about not being well known outside the art world where world famous artists used to look for his approval.  And totally knowing what he was doing.  See here.  There's a small Avery in our local art museum, not far from the Nevelson, see below, in fact, except indoors, and I make a little pilgrimage in to see it now and then.

And Louise Nevelson, who looked the way an artist is spozed to and rarely does! I've been told I can't be an artist, I look like a housewife, heh! seriously, though, her work was very brave for its day and holds up still as a wonderful adventure and insight for the viewer.  There is a massive  Nevelson sculpture installed locally, nice for me.  A lot of my white on white and black on black artworks owe a lot to her.

Moving out of the art world, there's Father Groppi, a priest from Milwaukee who walked the walk, refusing to allow his parishioners to support him because they were poor, driving a taxi to earn his keep, and campaigning for single mothers and social programs at a time in the mid-sixties Wisconsin when he was seen as a dangerous subversive. Long before the Vietnam war protests, long before it became fashionable to be an activist priest.

Brave all the way through, and lived what he believed.  To me he's more of a model than a kindred spirit, but well, I've always looked out for the underdog, too, and done the sort of professional, ill-paid work that called on courage and energy to face down wrong ideas and support brave women, never mind the details, but the people who were there know them.

When he came to Princeton in the 60s to say a Mass, the crowds were full of men in dark suits, with ear wires, and I was photographed several times by them, no doubt to add to my FBI file -- dangerous furriner,talks funny.  But the real congregation was definitely a likeminded crowd where I was totally at home.

Then there's Girija J., my close Indian friend, who feels so familiar to me, as if I've always known her.  The difference in cultures and outlooks -- she's an Indian accountant, speaks several Indian languages, great cook across culture divides -- makes no difference to how close I feel to her, since the moment we met.

So there's my Tribe of Five!  the time span is about seventy years, from first seeing the Still paintings, to current friendship with Girija.

Okay, I did my bit.  Over to you, blogistas!!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lists, self help and me

I love lists of self help items,you know the kind of thing: Six Foods That Will Make you Hate Yourself After,   Three Ways to Ruin Your Life, all that. 

Self help books, too, I just love them. In fact in a previous life as a freelance writer I used to even write self help magazine pieces (and a lot of other items) for which people paid me actual money.   Which proves I was good at it, or possibly that they were desperate for filler, well, never mind about that. 
 I do remember one of my high school teachers, Mrs. Butler, to be exact, saying after I handed in an essay in which you had to give instructions on doing a simple task, writing exercise, that after she read my How to Iron a Shirt, she felt like running off and trying it!

So I'm credentialed, is all I'm saying.  And I totally click on those Yahoo links offering to explain to me how to get rich  and thin  and What My Dentist Won't Tell Me.  I don't actually take any of the advice.  It's just a harmless hobby. 

So I thought I'd just get in on it, and count on blogistas also liking those self help deals (which includes clicking on which Austen heroine you are and what kind of dog you'd be if you were a dog, I think I'd be a terrier).

So here's my request:  think about Your Tribe. Meaning what people current or past, living or dead  do you resonate with? your like minded souls.  And please comment to tell us your tribe, up to five people. You can say why, if you want to, not if you don't. Also, big favor:  please say who you think belongs in my tribe.  See? self help and mutual assistance is FUN.  So please do it.  I'm an old lady, so humor me so I don't run amok with my umbrella.

Also, see a great help-yourself-to-books idea from NPR, I love this: