Friday, January 30, 2015

Hard-won knowledge, human and squirreline

So I had to scan and print some documents, important stuff for the HOA, and there's tax season coming up where you can't get the forms from the IRS any more. You have to go online, download and print.

So Handsome Son and I got to work last night  scanning and printing.  The scanning went just fine. The printing hardly went at all.  All the hardware worked fine, all the little lights and beeps and machines talking to each other.  But the printing was so faint it wasn't there.  

Many workarounds later, involving two sets of cartridges and two printers, and adjustments to the software, and all the permutations thereof, and still no success, I said to HS I didn't want to waste any more of his time, I'd postpone the printing until I got my temper back and tempered my language somewhat.

Then it occurred to me that the printer and scanner setup is in a room that gets colder than the rest of the house.  And when I had my downstairs fireplace insert working to warm the place, the thermostat didn't come on for ages.  

The houseplants upstairs love this, they don't mind a bit of cool, but I wondered if the actual ink in the cartridges had gone thick and slow, like oil in a cold  Anyway, I brought them downstairs overnight, and tried again to print this morning, and it actually worked. Such a low tech solution to what we both assumed was a high tech problem.  Throwing our energies into the wrong place.

Where the squirrel comes in is that the other day, you'll recall I caught him knocking down and dragging away the suet holder and being foiled by the fence and the weight of the suet block.  I put another cake of suet out, separately, which he quickly found and tried to swipe.  Again too heavy for him to get under or over the fence.  So he abandoned it.

This morning crowds of birds at the big suet block he'd abandoned and forgotten, while the squirrel applied his whole strength to yanking around the almost empty holder, tossing it, stamping on it, throwing it around gnawing on it to open it, and seemingly unaware of the whole free block of the stuff three feet away there for the taking...

As I watched him this morning, probably cursing in squirrelese, I thought, yeah, I know you you feel!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Freecycle, what it is, how to find your local group

This is not a commercial for Freecycle, anyway, it's nonprofit, but a local friend reminded me that I'm often asked what the heck it is, since I bang on and on about it in here.

Here's a link to show you what and where and all that:

Go here

Chocolate and Light Bulbs and Rings and Things

Handsome Son comes to visit this evening to transact a bit of family business, and while he's here I will Feed Him.  He's going to get a newly made bowl of cabbage and pumpkin soup, followed by corn pancakes.

Then after we've done our paperwork, he's going to accept his father's commitment ring, from when Handsome Partner and I exchanged rings in a nice private ceremony, as a commitment without a legal piece of paper. 

It seemed good to offer his ring to his son, whose exquisite tact with his parents' rollercoaster of a fifty year relationship deserves some token of respect!  You last saw this ring on HP's hand in the picture I took right after he died.

It will go with the signet ring his dad got from his own father on coming of age, made with Glasgow high carat gold, very significant to two Glaswegian men.  HP gave this to HS at my suggestion, years ago, so they could both enjoy the exchange, rather than just leaving it to his son when he wasn't there to see it.

And the dark chocolate is too dark for my taste, given to me, but will work for him.  Also lightbulbs, since I replaced a lot of mine with LED ones, bright white, which I love, and which have shown up some dusty areas I need to attend to.I also have the curly mercury laden ones which he doesn't want and I will offer on Freecycle.

Speaking of Freecycle, I gave away a bag of my clothes this morning, including some nice crisp dress shirts and good sweaters and various other items, and the picker up emailed me back with the most appreciative note, saying they're exactly right for her plans to interview for a new job in the next few weeks, she's so thrilled.  So am I.  They had been just hanging there, nice but not exactly my style, so now they're in a happier home.

So today is full of quiet drama in one way and another.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Frittering away time in the kitchen again

I ground a pound of barley into flour and now I have another type to choose from. Barley has a great flavor, sort of nutty and deep, not at all a neutral flour.  

Here you can see the oil shimmering in the pan, a tip from Jack Bishop to tell when it's really hot enough but not ready for the smoke alarm

 And here's the first side, cooked less than a minute, corn works fast

I used it to make corn fritters, still working out of the freezer, and the pressure's on.  The batter for the corn fritters worked for two days, and I found it was just as good the second day. Barley holds up well.  You don't need much in this recipe, so I have plenty more for other dishes.

I have a personal goal each year to finish up all last year's farmshare before this year's gets under way. This means my meals continue to be amazingly healthy and veggieful. Lunch was a bowl of pumpkin/cabbage soup, followed by corn barley fritters.  And there was a bit of chocolate after that.  

The fritters are simple, Craig Claiborne's, not half as fussy as the America's Test Kitchen ones I made a while back, and, in fact, just as good.   Egg, corn kernels, bit of flour, seasoning, then sauteed in the cast iron trusty pan.  They're supposed to be deep fried but that's something I never do, and find sauteing works just as well anyway.

Claiborne is supposed to be, or have been, this fancy dancy food person, feuding and posing and all the shenanigans that go with the High End Food World, but his recipes in fact are very doable and down to earth, made for actual people to cook, not test kitchen cooks.

Ever since Sue mentioned that the crazy quilting group of which two of my commenters in here are members, anyway, them, talk about my blogs, I've been sort of stunned, to think I'm providing them with raw material. You just never know.  And here I was thinking I was talking to myself most of the time.  It's great to know I'm not!

Now I wonder if they'll make corn fritters, or just say, well, how about that..

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Movin right along, the Dollivers decide to cook

The storm having come and more or less calmed down, about ten inches of snow, not much wind, but not the huge event we were promised, the Dollivers decided that the emergency was over, so they needed to get to work in the kitchen.

Yogurt on the menu here.  Studying the thermometer to bring the milk up to close to boiling, before cooling it back down to lukewarm, and Call Me Michelle ready to add the starter, which in this case is a bit of Dannon left for the purpose. Usually it's just some of my homemade yogurt, but I wanted a change of texture.

Blondie Firstborn, not actually working, just supervising, is keeping track of the activities.  The others are still sleeping, after the excitement of the emergency preparations.

And on the patio, the suet cake I hung yesterday for the hungry birds was yanked down and run away with by a squirrel this morning. I just happened to look out and see him making off with it towards the fence. 

However, his plans fell down when he found it was too heavy to climb with and he couldn't get it under the snowbound fence. So he dropped it, and now there's a crowd of juncoes having a great feast back there.  

Still snowing, but it's looking more and more like a big snowstorm rather than a historical event. I won't bore you with snow pix, everyone knows what snow looks like..

Monday, January 26, 2015

Keep Calm And Find The Batteries

So, since once again we are in the direct path of a big storm, this time snow, high winds, possible thunder, up to a couple of feet of snow, and so on, I figured I'd better just check to make sure I have a flashlight where I can find it. State of Emergency in the state since early afternoon, storm here already, to go on into the foreseeable future, well at least till tomorrow night.

We rarely have power outages, but there's always a chance.  So I remembered my Survival Kit, very dramatic, given to us during Andy's last days on earth, don't ask me why, the timing seemed very ironic, considering. But anyway I thought I remembered a nice big flashlight in there.

Opened the bag and there was a mask, waterproof matches, sign to put in window or car seeking help, a brick of five year shelf life food what can it be, bags of drinking water, aluminum blanket for warming person, little first aid kit, towelettes, battery operated radio with LED lights.  No flashlight.

Then I remembered I'd hung it in the coat closet so I wouldn't forget where I put it...well, to be fair, this was a few years ago, and stuff has happened since.  And there it was.  Dead as a doornail.  Nothing daunted, went into the battery drawer and found every size and shape of battery except, you are already onto this, the size it takes.  Right.

So I knew I had a flashlight upstairs, went and checked that and it works fine.

At this point the Dollivers got in on the act since they have advanced survival skills with living around two cats, and insisted on posing.  Blondie Firstborn pretended to faint so they could practice their revival skills, but they all rose above it, she's such a showoff.

And I thought, ah, little battery radio, good stuff, try it out.  Batteries dead as a doornail.  So back to the battery drawer and found two new batteries that fitted, yay.  And discovered, on pushing all the little buttons that not only can I get the New York station that is probably best for storm news for this region, but the base of the radio is a little LED flashlight, very bright beam.

So I'm ready for anything now.  More or less.  The radio can hang around my neck so I don't have to go in search of a light.  If I remember it's there, that is, and don't lose it in the bedside table or my pantleg, longtime readers will know what that means, new readers can feel free to scroll back through my misadventures and find out.

Seriously, friends, though I live alone, I have at least six neighbors in the immediate vicinity, i.e. feet away, I could call on if necessary and who would bang on my door and come in to investigate if they thought anything was amiss.  So though I'm prepared, I'm not unsupported!  Handsome Son will probably be marooned at home until they get dug out, but he has neighbors, too.

Just wondering if this will be curtains for the rest of my cherry tree, though. Oh well. Hoping all the people will be okay.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Glasses. Out to Get Me 6WS

Yesterday was one of those starts-out-simple-gets-complicated kind of early mornings.  I woke early, took my early morning pill with the entire glass of water they insist must be finished, switched the pill bottle with the one that alternates with it daily, put away the day's bottle, fell back asleep again.  All very usual and uneventful. All done on automatic.

The scene of the crime

Woke again ready to get up, feel about for my glasses without which I'm a bit hampered, and there they weren't.  Usually they're on bedside table, along with the book I read last night.  Not there.

Searched the floor all around the bed in case dear Duncan had knocked them down, which he sometimes does. Pulled out the massive bed a little way in case he'd hidden them back there, something he used to do as a kitten during the night. 

 Possible culprit

fleeing the scene of the crime in case she gets blamed

Not too farfetched an idea, since he's started with some kitten behavior lately, such as burrowing under the blankets and playing with my toes, ouch.  No glasses there.

Stripped the entire bed in case the glasses had got in there when I fell asleep.  Decided, since the bed was now stripped and no glasses in evidence anyway, I may as well change the bed, did so.  No glasses.

 Put your glasses on and peer at this picture.  Clues here.

Couldn't imagine where else they might be. Not in robe pocket, how could they have got into a drawer by themselves..but anyway I opened the bedside table drawer and they leapt out!  had evidently slid in and got partly trapped in there when I shut the drawer earlier. Completely invisible to the seeker who had no glasses on.

Duncan exonerated, I put the glasses firmly on my face -- I had actually checked my face several times in the course of the search because I've been known to lose my glasses on my head, sigh -- and went off for a restorative cup of coffee.

I think it's glasses revenge for fainting on them and bending them a while back.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Giveaway gift for lucky random commenter, Grow Your Blog Day January 25

Here's what the lucky random winner will receive, to be announced February 15th.

Image of two acorns on twig, goldwork including purl and plate, total image size 3 x 3 inches, stitched on Belgian linen.

Please note that all you need to do to enter is comment on this blog on January 25th.  No need to have a blog of your own, no need to sign up as a follower, unless you're dying to do that, just comment and you're in. Your comment can be about anything you've found on the blog, or whatever you love in stitching or any other art or craft, it's up to you.

Mark your calendar, tell your friends!  Some readers don't know how to comment, but do respond via my mailing list, so I will include you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Possible visitor, possible little snack with cup of tea

The art materials may be picked up today, and I asked the picker up if she had time for a cup of tea, maybe, and just in case, I made a cake last evening.  More civilized to offer a bit of hospitality in addition to a donation.

This is chocolate almond cake, invented by moi, using almond flour in place of most of the ap flour in the recipe. I had to put in a bit of ap flour because the batter was very thin.  And it worked out okay, moist, nice, a bit crunchy with the almonds. I tested it out of course. This is that universal chocolate cake recipe that is named crazy cake or some such name, see it all over.  It's quite adaptable.

I'm not a chocolate fan myself, but so many guests are that it's a good one to make and offer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Before and After. Martha's arrangements somewhat more organized

So acting on the urgent need for midwinter fruit, I remembered that I had frozen and stored farm apples in the chest freezer next door, courtesy of good friend, since my own freezer was jammed.  So I moseyed off to retrieve them.  

And remembered that since the freezer is in his outdoor storage closet, he stacks a lot of items on top of it.  Since my wrist is not yet up to moving heavy items, I had to catch him home and get his help, given willingly, to remove all the stuff so I could lift the lid and get into my apples.

The stuff involved auto parts and tools, gardening equipment, picnic items, a pogo stick (!) and various electrical gizmos. And I did get in and find the desired apples.

So home again, here's my favorite dish waiting to be filled. 

 I did make a slight error in the amount of butter for the topping for my apple crumble, Martha recipe, and found I had no oats for it either, having made them all into flour. And I added in walnut flour, great with apples.

So I soldiered on anyway, and it turned out well enough that when we had afternoon tea in the middle of sorting the studio, a lot of it vanished, son playing an active role in this activity to restore his strength.   

The reason it turned out well was that the apples had such flavor, frozen same day as picked, wonderful apples last year, so I could have missed out on more ingredients and still had something good to eat.

And then it was empty again...

Speaking of missing out and being careful not to, note the button on my blog up there about Grow Your Blog 2015.  I'll be posting a special post on that day and invite you to come in, comment, and be in the running for a little giveaway.  

Haven't decided what it will be yet, since I work in many media, but it will be an original artwork by me of some kind.  I'll pick randomly from comments in mid February, date to be announced on  Grow Your Blog Day.  And I'll be glad to visit your blogs, too, if you have them. 

No need to have a blog to enter and comment, though, all readers are eligible.  Last year I discovered some wonderful blogs I hadn't come across before, through this blog party, so I invite you to do the same.  The Fearless Leader of this event is Vicki at Two Bags Full, and if you click on the button, you'll find yourself at her blog.

And, following on the great suggestion at Comptonia, one of the blogs I found last year and have become a devoted follower of, nemmind the grammar, please let me know if any weirdness happens when you comment in here.  Sometimes Blogger installs a function the blog writer is unaware of and I really appreciate a heads-up.  

I do have comment moderation installed, and I'm very quick to read and publish your comments.  But I don't use those awful guess the word and type it in things. If that appears, please tell me and I'll remove it.  

And I do allow anonymous comments, but please do what a number of wise commenters do and insert your name into the body your post so we know who it is!  I'd rather strip out spam than miss the comments of readers who don't happen to have any of the online IDs called for.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cats, Hobbyhorses, Meditating and the Monkeymind 6WS

Recently I've reintroduced meditation into the morning routine, and notice that the cats notice instantly when I start, then sit with or on me, and the second I stop, jump down and stroll away,even if I'm still just sitting.  No idea how they know, but they are tuned in.

They are naturals at not doing anything but let things pass before them, exactly as meditation aims to do and mine so rarely does.  

My monkeymind, never stopping its headlong rush in all directions, gathers up all the hobbyhorses from the fields and leaps on now this one, now that one, and creates dialogs some funny, some indignant, all irrelevant. 

What's that galloping by?  horse? monkey?

 I have to remember to let the ideas go on their way, not to follow up new art ideas, if they're good they'll come back,  not to continue dialogs from decades ago, and resume the breathing and counting, and most of all not to judge whether a session has been "good" or not.  It just is.  That's the hardest thing of all for me to grasp. 

It was a monkey riding on a horse..

All these animals milling around get in the way!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Midwinter dessert

Midwinter, warm food required.  So I made a pot of soup from green beans,frying peppers and bell peppers , with the shells of the garlic from roasting garlic, big sprig of curry leaves, the last of the Worcestershire sauce, must put it on shopping list, and made a great pot of green soup.  With croutons from the trusty castiron pan. One helping for lunch, three more in the freezer, one in the fridge.

Then I finished up the current pancake mix, the almond flour one, which came out fluffy as ever (half cup of ap flour, one cup almond) and stuffed two pancakes with frozen berries, poifect midwinter fruit.  

You see one done and one waiting to be flipped and finished. The rest of the berries in the dish, and I spooned the juice over the finished pancakes.  Ina Garten has nothing on me!

I don't buy "fresh" fruit in winter, since it isn't, and it tastes like items which have been puffed with various preservative gases and shipped thousands of miles to my store. After you buy fruit which really is fresh from the farm, it ruins you for the substitute apple- and peach-like things in the stores right now.

Anyway, leaping nimbly off one hobby horse and onto another one, I have a herd of them in the paddock, I'm about to make walnut flour this afternoon.  

The trick with oily nuts like almonds and walnuts is to grind them just enough to reduce them to powder without doing that one extra second which will make them butter.  It's okay if that what you wanted, but right now I would like to add to my flour repertoire.

To wit: lentil, split pea, oat, chickpea, almond. I might consider peanut flour, too.  I hate peanut butter, so I have to be careful not to make it by accident.  Okay, off to bring fodder to my hobby horses milling about out there.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The studio journey goes on, light showing..

More work in the studio today. I've found that the best method is to decide before going up there what I'm going to tackle, so that I don't get into a blur in a minute.

 Stretchers, printmaking and watercolor paper in rolls, and some great roofing paper which makes excellent prints, plus assorted plexi pieces for plates, mats and matboard.


Today it was about frames and stretchers, and framing material, and in the process I found a weaving I did ages ago and had left on the picture frame loom.  Since I wanted to donate the frame it was on, I removed it from the frame, and found I quite liked it, so it now has a place downstairs.

Since people are often interested in dimensions, this piece is 38 inches h. by 14 inches wide.  It's crocheted in double crochet, constructed like the shopping bags I made, then I stretched it on the frame then wove in raw roving -- you see that top and bottom,  and yarns, the yellow geometric form on there, then finished it with brass chain draped in front.  All the materials were donated by other artists!

I'm donating enough materials to set up a nice monotype making program for adult artists!  inks, extender, plexi plates, brayers, plastic aprons, matting and framing materials.  And a ton of really really good paper, the kind that's hard to afford.  

Also rubber stamps, liquid acrylics, kids' easy printmaking scratchboard, sun printing paper, stickon dots, all sorts of fun! all ages catered to...

Anyway, this is getting to feel better now, though it's hard to close the door on my past art, even though it will open the door to the next adventures.  I have to remember the nautilus, my iconic image, where the sea animal completely closes off the last compartment of
the shell while building the next, bigger compartment.  This is a nautilus moment.

And I thought it would be good to reward myself, so I ordered a climbing yellow rose from White Flower Farm, unfortunately named Golden Showers, somebody should explain this to the good folks at WFF, but it's beautiful anyway.  

I had one many years ago and remember what a great performance it put on for years. So now I can plant one against the highest part of the fence on the patio.  Pix will happen in the spring when it arrives. 

Along with more adventures in art, I expect.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Another friend has moved on

Please join me in giving thanks for the long and wonderful life of Marian Morgan, commenting here occasionally as Annie 

We have known for some time that her remaining days were limited, but she still valiantly emailed and posted, and sent me my annual Advent Calendar, and it was only a couple of weeks ago that she asked me to take her off the blog mailing list, not enough strength to read here, but she had loved it. 

Annie was one of those people who always got it.  Loved 1066 and All That, Gorey, George Price, and other humorists I loved too.  Such a friend. We had an actual written correspondence for some time, since she had lost a number of friends to old age, and I offered to stand in and exchange letters, great pleasure for both of us.

She had a life full of incident and experience, some good, some not so much, lived in several countries, and her last years were very happy with husband Barry.  Her daughters will look out for him now.

I used to say I wanted to be like her when I grew up!  amused her hugely.   And there was a running gag about a sweater coat she could simply not get finished, and I persuaded her that it had iconic status at this point and shouldn't be finished. She liked that, and acted on it.  Or rather didn't act, leaving the sweater coat in its perfect state of incompletion.

Send up good thoughts for her and Barry and her two daughters, and grand children.  And her many many friends who have suffered a great loss this morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday breakfast

Remember that cornmeal and sugar topping that was surplus to requirements in the Moosewood cookie caper? it found a home in these pancakes.  

Along with more cornmeal and a cup of almond flour, which I'd made in my coffee grinder, leaving quite a few crunchy bits, and the usual other ingredients.  This made a lovely light pancake, well, quite a few, enough for several breakfasts or desserts later.  

Trail of good honey, real honey, from actual bees, not that supermarket impostor which can be labeled honey and still contain corn syrup, gah.  Amazing that they are allowed legally to say honey as long as they don't say pure or one hundred per cent.  The sugar lobby's clout, I suppose.  However we can read labels and buy only the very good stuff with the flavor.

And, amid the frenzy of freecycling fabulous cookbooks, expensive, unread, to various happy people, I thought you'd like to see my own favorite.  

Well, you could have guessed from its condition that it's well used.  Food stuff on most pages, notes everywhere. Spine fell off years ago and is now a bookmark. Pancake recipe from there, and various other simple and good stuff, too.  What you might call unpretentious.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

How Did I Get Into This? 6WS

The Sorting of the Studio is getting past the idle thinking stage and into the execution part.  To date I have two gigantic bags of paper to recycle, and large numbers of old print photos and slides which I will never again have any interest in seeing.  

I did hold onto a few pix for Handsome Son, though, didn't count on the emotional meltdown of finding pix of Handsome Partner younger, still walking, cheerful, but I struggled on and just saved a few.  Also found a pic of the Great Me on the day I graduated from the uni, gosh all that hair!  so young!  

And sorting HP's tools and toolbox, amazing that they should have such emotional bandwidth, too.  A friend is taking the box and some of the tools I won't use, this morning. This is good. They'll be in good hands.  I'm amazed at the number of screwdrivers we amassed between us, and pliers and hammers.  I guess when we blended households we didn't thin out the tool department.

I needed to rest after an hour, hadn't realized I'd tackled the hardest part first, but now I'm ready to resume.  I have plans for quite a few items already.

Next I'm bagging and boxing items that are kid friendly and can be freecycled.  A lot of my printmaking inks and materials really need to be in adult hands, partly because of the quality, partly because of the techniques they need.  But I have an idea for those, too.

The bad part about reorganizing and tossing is that once you start, the place looks worse than before, until you make a bit more headway than I have to date.  Next weekend HS is coming over to lend his time and strength to move big stuff out, yay.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Time to look at a few books

In the enforced abstinence from making art, or much of anything other than a fuss, I've been reading, figuring I could use the time fine that way.  Once I'd got the hang of operating a Kindle or a paper book with one hand, surprisingly tricky when you can't hold the K with one hand and push buttons with the other, or when the paper book keeps wanting to jump out of your good hand, or shut by itself.  And the helpful little cats were on the scene at all times, planting a paw on the word I was reading, such accuracy.

Anyway, I read a bio of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge, no pic, now back at libe, and found that GH was so private that her bio is very very dull.  

Aside from being married to a man to later in life became a QC, that's a posh sort of lawyer, and whose work therefore was not discussed for the benefit of bios, and of being a person who never gave interviews, wouldn't write anything other than her books except for the occasional blurb, she was actually not a very interesting person in life.  Terse at best with anyone outside her family.

Odd, since she wrote some of the best laugh out loud farcical scenes in literature  in Frederica, Reluctant Widow and Faro's Daughter, to name only three faves.  I guess all the interest was poured into her work.  

So I supposed I shouldn't complain, having revisited all the above novels for light relief during the last few trying days, and just last evening burst out laughing yet again at Aunt Lizzie in Faro's Daughter, having a breakdown at Deb's latest exploit.

Then, since Hodge has been described as the literary successor in the Regency genre to GH, I thought I'd read some of her novels, too, as well as her bio of Jane Austen.  And found that she can sort of write a plot, and sort of keep it moving, but has not one particle of humor.  She misses a lot of the point of GH, in other words, sigh.

And she tends to be of the had I but known school of writing, very annoying stuff, not respectful to the reader.  Oh well, I tried.  I did read Marry in Haste and got fed up of the endless mental hamster wheel of the heroine, then I tried Rebel Heiress which was faster moving, better done, but still pathetically earnest.  She's worth a look, in case she's to your taste though.

Her bio of Jane Austen is meticulously researched and she clearly has great sympathy with what she knows of Austen, but again, all the power of Austen is in her own words, not in a bio, so perhaps this was not surprising.  

And Austen was never a name dropper or a big saver of correspondence, that goldmine for a bio, in fact had her sister destroy their letters.  So this bio gets an A for effort if only a C plus for execution.

However, you'll have great fun if you read Andy Miller.  I'm halfway through his "Year of Reading Dangerously," and it's a wonderful mix of his daily life and times and struggles and his attempts to keep up his literary education.  

He creates a list of books he means to read, and has at times claimed already to have read, and schedules them to actually read.  All the ones I'd heard of I'd read, and the others I'd never heard of anyway, so this was an interesting discovery for me.

Very happy that he did eventually realize in mid-read of Middlemarch that he was in the presence of greatness. He even documents the point at which that happened.  I heart this, since I had exactly the same experience, except at a different point for me, the scene with Rosamund and Dorothea, where I suddenly stopped reading and realized this is a genius showing me what great writing can be.  Anyway, that's why I push it on people just in case they can have this experience, too.

Miller is funny, witty, full of allusions and quotations, many of which bypass me since they're of the UK since the 80s., a closed book if you didn't live there or like pop music or watch their tv programs.  But it doesn't really matter, still great fun to read. And his analysis of what he reads is just spot on, carries you further than you imagined into the significance of the work and its context.  A major critical brain, disguised as an editor and accessible writer.

He has the great idea at one point of walking across London, with Beckett going in his ear, as an accompaniment, and a farewell to the London he knew as a student then a young working man, partly as a ceremony, partly to grasp Beckett better.  

I really took to the idea of choosing something that you could listen to while walking a specific place, so as to inform both the book and the place at the same time, having them illuminate one another.  And I am thinking about how to implement this once we get the sort of weather than lets me get out to walk.  

I also notice the synchrony of Beckett and Billie Whitelaw, who died recently. I was amazed to find when I read her obituaries a few days ago, that the actress I knew was only in the first part of her career, getting seriously into it with Beckett's work later, and making her name there, rather than on the BBC series where I'd seen and liked her.  That's what happens when you move away. You lose track. Anyway, finding this out meant that what Miller said about Beckett and Whitelaw made sense in a way it wouldn't if I'd read his book last week.

All his choices are novels, he points out, but only three are by women.  He plans to pay attention to his gender bias. He doesn't seem too worried about genre bias, though. I like the gender bias observation. 

Particularly since so many classics by men are those tiresome quest novels, where it's all so obvious, so one track minded, so, what can I say, Y-chromosome....after a few thousand pages I really didn't care any more about the white whale, or Ishmael, or any of it.   The point had been made over and over in slightly varying ways.  It's all a bit bankrupt, really.  

Worth trying, everything's worth trying, but there are times when it's okay to stop reading, since the writer has now had as much of your attention as you plan to give in this life.  Anyway, I think this, and found to my surprise that Miller stopped a book or two for reasons similar to this.  And I was amused by his, very fair, I think, take on Dan Brown the da Vinci Code writer.  

I literally refused to pick up that book, figuring that anyone who thought Leonardo's last name was da Vinci, I ask you, did he know nothing about the period, was not going to be worth going on with.  I notice Miller slips in a little reference, without underlining it, that shows he knows Leonardo's name is just that. Surnames rarely used at that period, but occasionally the place of origin used in conversation.  It's like referring to "my friend Bill from Manhattan" and from then on calling him Manhattan.

Still to come, not yet opened, "There must be some mistake" by Frederic Barthelme, whom I've never read and now should, having read a great review of this book by writer and friend Katherine H.  See her poetry in Red Spork Poetry for an adventure in good stuff.Go here

So this is what I'm up to, between knitting a little for my wrist, quite helpful that, and sorting the studio ready for the Great New Phase.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Moosewood barged in and took over Martha

After I'd browsed a bit, I decided to go with Moosewood, since I'd never made anything from their dessert book and wondered if it would be any good.  

I have eaten at the original Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca NY years ago, and mainly it was good for the atmosphere, aging hippies with grey ponytails and relaxed fit jeans, but sort of sweet.

Anyway, I figured that since I had all the ingredients in the house for cornmeal cookies, I'd make them.  Particularly happy that I had a lot of lemon zest in the freezer and could use it right here. Now, working backwards from tasting to making: they actually taste fine, crumbly, a bit crisp, nice from that viewpoint. 

But the recipe left a thing or two to be desired.  For one thing there's no way on earth I could have got the fifty plus cookies they claim out of this one recipe.  I made mine just a little bit bigger than they said, but barely got 30, just so's you know.  

And there's a point where they say to stir the batter after all the ingredients are beaten in, until it's smooth. You could stir this till hell freezes over and it would still be crumbly.  Way too dry ever to get smooth.  And I had to really model the cookies in my hands to make them hold together well enough to bake.   

As for their instruction to make quite a large amount of topping material, sugar and cornmeal, and dip a glass into it, press down on each cookie to shape it and leave some topping..  Well, the glass didn't hold a crumb of it. So I ended up sprinkling and pressing in the topping which worked okay.  And I have a large supply of topping now for the next time I need that particular mixture, maybe for dessert pancakes or something.

I do wonder if the person who wrote up the recipe had ever actually made these cookies, though, beyond knowing the ingredients.

However, me I am not complaining, as HP's Ecuadoran health care worker used to say.  The cookies did come out fine in the end. So there's a nice supply of them in the freezer now, ready for afternoon teas in the cold weather.  

And a little supply across the street on a friend's step for her to come home to, little treat on a bitterly cold winter's day, and who knows how her commute is, what with snow and maybe ice.

Elbow room in the kitchen

Today and tomorrow's lunch is this dish, created from precooked and frozen cabbage in cheese sauce, from the farm share and frozen in meal size containers, with a can of tomatoes, diced, poured over, the final Vienna sausage chopped in and chunks of sharp cheddar.  Fresh ground black pepper over, and it will do fine in a 180F oven for about half an hour or less.

But note the wide open spaces next to the stove now.  I did get the microwave moved over and here it is, looking much better, since, I finally realized, across the corner it echoes the corner cabinet shape, much better appearance.  And it uses a formerly useless corner space, too deep to reach into easily.

And it's safer and more functional to have that open space by the stove.   Observant blogistas will have noted that the open spaces have inspired me to pull out a cookbook from the newly installed bookcase, and since the weather is frigid,  bit too cold for me to get out and breathe, baking cookies from Martha Stewart might be just the ticket.

Monday, January 5, 2015

More zero budget home improvements

Once again, I figured I'd better do something about the counter tops, which are surprisingly small considering the footprint of my kitchen, and more and more cluttered.  I realized that a little bookcase upstairs in the hallway could be emptied into another bookcase with vacancies, and it could be hauled, or slid, down, to accommodate the books and other stuff filling up my kitchen counter and causing all kinds of acrobatics in the course of doing simple stuff.

So I did this, using one hand, since the other's not reliable yet, and it worked fine. Also I was able to put a nice little flowering begonia on top of it -- moved from a similar location one floor up, it will be happy -- and now see the result.

Cost: zero.  Result: nice, books all accessible, teabags visible, clean cloths, for when those cookbook writers tell you to use a CLEAN cloth, right where I can easily get them.  Liking this.  Also it looks okay.  

One logistical puzzle in this kitchen:  I have to be very careful on that window wall not to set up something that will stop me from opening the oven door, which is on the left and surprisingly big.  And anything that will stop me from reaching to shelves on the right to get pots and items I use all the time.  This little bookcase fits all that.

Very smug about this success.  Next, but with some help, need two hands, I'm going to move the microwave over to where the books and tea were, so as to free up the counter right next to the stove, which is now almost unusable.  Safety issue as well as convenience one.

I have some nice pale yellow paint waiting application to the kitchen walls, when I get up the strength and general energy to do it, so that will be for another day. One wall at a time, usual strategy. I got the light fitting replaced first so that I could see where I was painting, not wanting to paint in a dull light then get a surprise to see a lot of missed bits.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pink, cream, brown -- outfit or icecream? 6WS

This has been amusing me for a while, the realization that I seem to choose outfits influenced by food colors.  

I was complimented recently on a cream turtleneck, pink cardi (with a Saks label, cashmere, from the thrift store) and dark brown pants outfit, and noticed that it's also van/choc/straw, i.e. the Neapolitan look!

And another favorite combo, tan, white and black, is exactly like Bassett's Licorice Allsorts...those sandwich ones.  

The vest I crocheted without a pattern, a simple double crochet, which I like a lot. But I digress.  And when I see a  pink and black combo I instantly think, ah licorice allsorts, britcandy.

Oddly, since in the UK when I was growing up, we didn't call that black stuff licorice. We called it spanish!  licorice was a kind of twig you gnawed on, getting your mouth all yellow, but it was cheap and nutritious as a substitute candy that your mom gave you when you yearned for something to chew on in those wartime and austerity days when there was no candy, no icecream, nothing that could remotely be considered a treat in the shops.  

And after you angrily refused a carrot, the nearest your mom could get to something sweet, she'd direct you to the shop to get a licorice root.  It did take hours and hours to chew on, probably a good thing for peace in the home.

So this is the sort of trivia I muse on when I'm picking out my clothes for the day.  Takes all sorts.  Or Allsorts.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Soup of the evening, beeoootiful soup...

Corn and pumpkin, from farmshare vegetables, seasoned with kosher salt, a lot of turmeric, fresh ground black pepper, sprig of curry leaves.  The liquid was a mixture of whey from cheese making or yogurt forget which, and water from steaming squash.  All good stuff.

And served with the very last of the prosecco, great supper. And with homebaked croutons on top, each with a dab of roasted garlic added, all tossed onto the soup to sizzle.  Very good for your appetite, that sizzle effect.

Today came the application for the 2015 Farmshare!  already....still dealing with a freezer stuffed with good food from 2014.  But it will be used up happily before the opening of the season in May.  So I'll sign up again.

But first, to the table.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Beginnings

Happy First of January!

And the houseplants are putting out encouraging new beginnings.  They are so microscopic that I have no pix!  you have to peer up close to see them at all, but they're there.  Later when they're ready for their close up, I'll provide one.  

The Norfolk Island pine has put out yet more growth, amazingly fast for this plant, which was so happy to be put in a smaller pot than the original owner had it in, and to have a pot to itself, not be asked to share with an ivy.  The ivy has done well, too.

The begonia's sprays of pink Spring flowers are already busting out in miniature, and I must check with the friend I gave one to last year, to see if he's observed that his are flowering, too.  He won't notice until it's pointed out, and he'll be thrilled.

And the sanseveria, snake plant, cutting I swiped from another friend last year after caring for hers on my deck all summer, and which I studied to see how to take cuttings, has put out, finally, finally, three tiny little shoots, yay.  The number of times I nearly gave up hope that they would ever grow, very glad I didn't get around to tossing them.  This is a slow grower.

I had to study how to do the cuttings and found that they will only take if you plant the little segment in the earth in the same orientation as on the plant, north and south exactly as they grew. Otherwise they get confused and don't grow.  I'm guessing something to do with the earth's magnetic polarity.

And today, looking up to make sure I got the name right, I found that they are associated with dragons!  apparently they are a dragon magnet, so I'd better look out.