Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Rose for Oliver

I went out this morning, coffee in hand, to the patio and found that the yellow rose, in bud for weeks, finally bloomed.  And right after that heard that Oliver Sacks died this morning.

A world famous figure, neurologist, writer, all around brilliant man, but also a perennial learner who wasn't above corresponding with the likes of me on a subject he touched on in his book Musicophilia.  When the paperback edition came out, he asked if he could quote me in there, did so, acknowledged me along with much more famous people, and sent me a copy.

What a privilege to be able to touch even briefly on such a life.  I owe him personally, because he took up arms against the notion that people with synaesthesia are in some way lacking, when in fact they are among the super blessed.  Some of my own observations of that phenomenon are what we discussed, and he was among the very few people who did not dismiss them out of hand.

So this rose

and the drawing I made from it today, are for you, Oliver and the work you did, right up to the moment you left us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

DIY goes out and tackles the sun

I've been thinking idly on and off for years about how to deal with the brutal afternoon sun which comes over the roof and beats down mercilessly on the front of the house from an angle.  

I have a curtain set up inside the storm door to draw in the afternoon and keep the brightest light and some of the heat out, but it feels unfriendly to shut people out like that.  So finally I had an idea and here it is in action.

As you come down the street from the mailbox

Three yards of 60inch wide waterproof canvas, I installed a couple of hooks inside here, slung a dowel across between them, these I had already, only had to cut down the dowel to suit, then pinned across, twice per green stripe, vertically, straight pins, to create a rod pocket.

Here's the inside scoop

Then I slid the dowel in and climbed up, yet again, and put it up.  The wind got into the act and I stapled and tacked the drape on each side so it doesn't flap about uselessly against the door.  Simple stuff. One of the neighbors stopped by before it was finished and admired it and thought she might try something like that at her house, too.

Not totally free, this time, had to buy the fabric.  But cheap still, and I like the effect of it blowing in the wind, very nautical.  Or shabby chic, perhaps.  I didn't hem it, just cut to fit after it was hung.  I doubt if waterproof fabric can fray.   

Total time expended, if you don't count the years of musing: about 45 minutes, cursing included, and many trips up and down stairs to assemble tacks, stapler, hammer, saw, stepstool, scissors, fabric.  Total cost about $6 a yard for the fabric.

And my watch cat approves of his new cabana. He likes the color scheme.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wandering about at the Preserve

Nearing summer's end, it seemed like a good day to stop doing stuff and just be there. So I packed a lunch and went off to the Preserve to hike and see whatever was to see, and not draw at all.  Just watch and let stuff happen.

The bench I was aiming for, at the end of a long trail and in need of sitting down, hot day, was gone!  vanished.  Who knows whose idea that was.  So I went on a bit, through the butterfly area, not too many today, just a couple of sightings and blessedly found a nice concrete thing dating back to when the Preserve was a quarry, just right height to sit on and spread out my lunch, and overlook the lake.  In shade, too.

So, listening idly to ducks and watching fish jumping for a while, I heard screams of joy from somewhere and wondered where the playground was.  Then, on my way back, retracing my hike, I found  -- summer program at the Preserve, run by a naturalist --  a doughty band of froghunters!  screaming with joy at finding them and missing them, and splodging about in the shallows, and getting all wet and muddy and happy.  

Wonderful time for them. This stream runs through the beech wood, and is a great place for all kinds of amphibians, rich in salamanders, too, under the fallen logs.  

Those pipes in the picture are the conduits from the lake, or maybe to it, there's running water constantly feeding what is now a lake, was the main quarry.  This side is the safe shallows.  The other side of the path this was taken from has a drop off to several hundred feet of water.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Labyrinth walk and reminders

I walked the labyrinth, mainly for the family of a recently departed friend, but other dear friends got added in as I walked.

Entering the labyrinth
And on the path, as always, there's a significant object to find and carry to the middle of the labyrinth.  This time it was a beautiful carapace from a cicada.  Beautiful, and now empty, it had served its purpose.  

A great reminder to us, when people go on before us.  They're complete now, no further need for their body.  So I carried it to the center and left it as an offering.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Freccycle SOS, see why, what happened 6WS

Nancy, a Freecycler from way back, posted an urgent invitation to come and help with her massive Golden Delicious apple tree which has thousands of apples ripening all at once, a positive tsunami of them.

So I went over with a bushel basket and in no time had about as many as I can use -- they're small, were not pruned out to reduce the crop, but are as their name implies, delicious -- and had plans to spend some time processing them for the freezer.  A winter's worth of crumbles and sauce.  And an invitation to go back and continue if I would like to.  I dug some iris divisions, the purple and white bearded heritage ones, that I'd promised her way back, because her mother used to grow them, so I finally made good and took them over in the same apple quest trip.

Before I cut them up, though (no peeling, way too small and fiddly) I used them as the model for the day's drawing, too tempting, a bushel basket full of apples, how often do I see that.

And after a couple of hours steady washing and  chopping and pushing about and labeling and bagging, while listening to a Peter Wimsey murder mystery, the freezer now has paid its way, since I couldn't have accepted them before having a freezer like this to house them.

That was yesterday's Freecycle bounty. And here's today's picked up from a different town, different direction, it's all go:

In line with my home-decor-without-money theme, I really like the idea of setting up a vignette like this, with the easel, which was the Freecycle item, holding up a charcoal drawing which I had standing on the floor for lack of a home on the wall.  

The two paintings on the wall are my locally dyed works, and one will be in a group show as of next week.  And the easel will house a rotating display of art that I fancy seeing better, or just giving it a turn. You see the Dollivers supervising the whole thing from the vantage point of their apartment in the bookcase.

This month's Bite Club is about Rozane Gold, her three ingredient approach to cooking, never used her books before, so I got the 123 book and plunged in.  Since our fearless leader, Diane, strongly suggested that instead of finding familiar themes to cook, we venture into things we haven't ever made.  

So I ventured totally, and used the current two redskin potatoes to make latkes!  yeah, I know, very familiar to some friends, never encountered by me.  Very very good, fun to make, too.  Quite time consuming but there was no hurry.  I made about half the recipe, I think, judging from the weight of my potatoes.  

I felt very historic doing this one.  See it in the background, cooking, while I show off the dessert

And while I was at it, I went back to an old favorite, to use up some prune plums, and made Marian Burros Plum Torte (Tart in some books), and liked it yet again. 

Dinner looked like this, end of a wildly active and successful day

 One of the latkes is destined for tomorrow's breakfast, just showing you the whole output here. Nice glass of merlot, of course.

Planning on sitting down this evening. After I have a walk, that is.

Friday, August 21, 2015


After a dramatic thunderstorm during the night, which kept on coming back and doing an encore, woke up this morning to find the patio all decked out in diamonds. I  noticed, since the old cherry tree branch was weighted down with water, and I could see into it, that there's a great crop of wild cherries starting.  The birds will love this in fall and winter. Not good for humans, though, too tiny and bitter, all pit no cherry.  Birds and squirrels also eat the thorns on the wild cherry, in the depth of winter when food is at a premium.

So here they are, sparkling, and the houseplants thrilled with their shower.  Click to enjoy better.

I've been realizing that though the patio is not spectacular this year, full of wild flowers and marigolds and various unshowy plants, it's proving to be a much better nature center than when it looked a lot more exciting.  The petunias attract clearwing hummingbird moths, actual hummingbirds, several species of butterfly, all kinds of birds rummaging in there for insects,the herbs are a big bee magnet, and all in all, it's a Good Thing TM.

And because of their visits, the general feeling around it is one of more peace and ease.  I wander out with a cup of coffee in the morning and just enjoy. That's when I often do a daily drawing, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Glorious August! farm lunch

August, now that the heat's abated a bit for now, is amazing.  The mornings are perfect to be outside, everyone's so happy!  and the food's not bad, either.  Also my friend did fix the shower faucet in no time flat, once he'd shopped for the right one, doh, I had not realized I was trying to fit a square handle onto a round faucet, so to speak, very slightly wrong, but enough to not work.  And he gallantly refused even to be reimbursed for the new faucet and the trip and the work.

Here's today's lunch: farmfresh tomato salad, just doused with fresh ground black pepper, together with salt redskin potatoes, a la Deborah Madison, spritz of olive oil, champagne vinegar.  I'd already made inroads on it before remembering to take a pic.

 Dessert is totally ripe cantaloupe chunks with  baharat (see here ) from my Ottolenghi adventures, sprinkled over.  It just gets better in the jar. You open it and the scent is so many layered.  Sprinkle it over practically anything! Or just breathe the scent, for instant calming. Better than lavender.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Plein air at the Turning Basin Park

Today I spent the morning, at least until I got too hot, drawing with me mates in a plein air session. Very small group this week, since the heat's difficult for a lot of people.  We consisted of one watercolorist, one photographer (who took pix of me at work, I believe, and promised to send them!) and moi.

To see the drawings, if you're interested, go here

But to see pix of the actual place, here ya go.

Bridge also seen in drawing on Art the Beautiful, interpreted of course!  bridges over water a favorite subject.

 Elizabeth painting

 Towpath where a lot of walkers and bicyclers pass by and show an interest

 Elizabeth working so intently she's unaware of my sneaking up on her.

Surprise discovery of the day: a fresh sheepskin drying, pegged out at all corners, and we wonder whose project it is.  If any local readers know, please tell us.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Late summer flourish of petunias

I seized the day and went to the garden center to see if there were any petunias to rescue, late in the season, I know, but I tend to have this urge to prolong the flowers.  The petunias I brought home a couple of weeks ago have been very happy, but their neighbors left behind at the center a bit sad looking. I picked out the best looking ones, and got a deal on it, late season.  

And brought them home, stripped off their withered foliage, planted them in new potting soil and they're in place on top of the fence, at least some of them are not yet, since I ran out of steam after a bit.  The established petunias I brought in from the outdoor place, figuring it was time I got to enjoy them, too.  I moved a pot of marigolds and lavender out there instead.

Extreme light contrast defeated my tablet's abilities, but you get the gist. The marigolds and other plants on top of the fence are looking tired and a bit ragged, so I put them down on the ground in honorable retirement, and now the fence looks cheerful again.

I got the natural version of a standing o as I worked on this - while I was still potting up the new petunias, a hummingbird clearwing moth started work busily on them, then once in place on the fence,  a pair of Carolina wrens, a monarch butterfly, a cabbage white and Mrs. Cardinal showed up to play among them.  My nature preserve seems to be doing well.

Since I was on a roll, the antibiotics are kicking in, feeling better, I dashed off a little drawing of the end pot of pink petunias, pilot pen oh, alliteration, on Bristol, and at that point sanity overtook me and I came indoors.
The heat index was nearly 100F.  so it was time to stop and come in to brag about what I did. And to remember that I'm still getting well, not totally there yet, and I should sit and read a good mystery.

My genius handyman artist friend is going to come over later and as he put it, "see what's up" with my shower faucet, meaning probably fix it in about 30 seconds.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Signs of life returning

I was felled a few days ago with what turns out to be two things at once, I got lucky, a tmj flareup, first I ever had, and strep throat, again first I ever had. Both of these things cause wild pain in your throat and jaw.  I will draw a veil over the last couple of days, the impossibility of sleeping at all with that level of pain in your throat, gah, and the higher pain level that happens when you try to swallow.  And since I am now safely onto antibiotics and various other things my doctor rxed, I'm hoping for better days.  

I'm glad I insisted that I thought I had strep (having studied on the internet at 4 a.m.) despite the nurse and doctor and assistant all assuring me it was unlikely in adults.  But Dr V. swabbed my throat anyway, and did a rapid test.  Called me back half an hour later to say, well, I got a surprise, you do have strep.  

At this point things is a bit better, still wobbly, but that's okay, it's moving in the right direction.

To prove it, I got back into doing a little drawing for #drawingaugust, namely the little native cherry sapling I planted in the spring for the wildlife, and to succeed my old cherry when she finally falls down.  Glad my hand has stopped wobbling enough to do this! click to see better.

But alas, I'm infectious, so I have to postpone being around people for a few days, out of social responsibility. That includes asking my friend next door to help me with the shower faucet.

This is one of those simple if you can manage it things:  I noticed that the shower was only going to lukewarm, wondered if my water heater was giving out, but the other shower and various places for water were all heating nicely.  

So I got brave and popped off the front plate of the faucet, unscrewed the handle, praying water wouldn't gush out, and found that the inside of it was broken, the piece lying in there.  No wonder it wasn't turning.  Sent away for a replacement, and yesterday attempted to install it.  Well, when you're running a fever, and generally well under the weather, it's probably not a good time to do this.

So I installed it once, and when I pulled it out to start the water, it came right off in my hand. Oh.  Did it again, and now it worked lovely, changing temps just as needed, and when I went to push it back in to turn off the water, it wouldn't turn off.  Removed the tap and went in search of a tool to bang on the stem to turn it off.  Which worked, but isn't a good method for daily use.

At this point I think I've reached my level of 1. patience and 2. ability to do a simple task.  So when I feel better I'll ask G. to fix it, which he will do in thirty seconds, laughing the whole time.  Anyway, I do have another shower to use. 

And that's the big dramatic news chez Liz this morning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Herbs Ahoy! The Dollivers display their catch

So today, since I still have pesto galore from last year, still good and still usable, in the freezer, no need to make more, I decided to pick and freeze herbs as they are.  I left them on the stems, since I often want to just lay stems on top of roasting vegetables, and anyway I can always chop and process them when I'm using them.

The Dollivers claim to have done all the gardening and harvesting and picking and wrapping and labeling and so on, and here they are, sitting on the little chest freezer newly installed in the kitchen and filling up rapidly, panting and holding their scissors and tape and pen.

I picked basil, sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, peppermint, thyme, chives, parsley, and probably other herbs that escape me for the moment.  Then I wrapped them in ziplocs, tightly, rolled each labeled one in a rubber band -- this is proving a great way of freezing so as to retrieve items -- and arranged the lot in a kind of cylinder so one band holds all the bags, and you just turn it to find the herb needed.  

Not alphabetically, since my ocd doesn't run that far!  I pretty much picked as I remembered where the herbs were, and bagged them the same way.  But I did write the labels on scotch tape and stuck that on instead of labeling the bag directly.  I have too many containers with so many crossings out as they're re-used that it's hard to tell if I'm opening squash or shredded zucchini or apple dice.  This way I can take off the label when it no longer applies. Gosh, I'm clever.

Anyway, the Dollivers are proud of their expertise and made Greensleeves stay back in charge of the dogs in the D Kennels, since dogs are banned by them from freezer prep.  G. was perfectly happy for a quiet afternoon for once, with just bears downstairs and dogs barking.  And the Ds left their hats behind, so she's been trying on, but don't mention it to them.  Elton also took the afternoon to practice a few chords and changes.  I suspect he couldn't think of any songs that fitted with the freezing of the herbs.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Expedition to Brainerd Lake

Though this sounds like a real enterprise, in fact it's about a five minute drive away, and said lake, fed by running water like most lakes around here, is at the foot of a municipal park.  It was a favorite destination to drive HP when he was still more or less on his feet.  I have pix of him happily sitting by the water enjoying the views and birds.

here's a view taken from the bench he liked to sit on.

Oddly enough the bridge you see in the pix is not a rustic footbridge -- this is NJ, and it's a major highway with an endless river of traffic and noise. But the sound of the moving water is a great antidote to the traffic sound, and it's a peaceful place to sit.

I found a new feature since I was there a while ago -- a Rain Garden.  New to me, this is a great device for rendering runoff water from parking lots and streets, clean and filtered, returning it to the freshwater streams clean.  

 Here's the explanation and diagrams.

This one is near a parking lot, and consists of a sunken bed, with a lot of rocks and gravel and a pipe system for runoff to the lake (or the street if you're a homeowner and put it in your front yard) and the rocks avoiding standing water.  Good growing soil then mulch follow, and it's planted with natural shrubs and flowers.  This is a great idea, particularly since we have an ecological treasure under our feet.

About an hour south of here, in the Pine Barrens, or under them to be exact, is the largest freshwater aquifer in the western hemisphere.  Yes, surprising if your knowledge of NJ is derived from the Sopranos and corny NY comedians!  but nemmind that. We are reminded all the time that the storm drains feed directly back into our freshwater streams -- the water table around here is only about 30 inches below the surface, which becomes very obvious in times of great rainstorms, when it's well above the surface.  

A while back our local Girl Scouts did a nice stenciling project, with a turtle and a reminder not to throw anything into storm drains.  Every storm drain had its little motif.  Now they've been made permanent, with metal plates saying the same thing.

So here's how it the Rain Garden, another part of the freshwater conservation effort, looks, very subtle, fits right in.  

And the lake no doubt is most appreciative. This is a good fishing spot, which you can tell from the numbers of heron and cormorants and the occasional egret to be seen often diving and catching. The Rain Garden was financed by our state water company, yay, along with the work of garden clubs and the local municipality.

I did a little drawing of one view here while I was there, which you can see here

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Farm fresh doings in the kitchen 6WS

Many things to think about today: Handsome Son's birthday (celebrated last night with a big Italian dinner and chocolate cake, with afterdinner mints and prosecco to celebrate him) dinner courtesy of Liz's Kitchen, and a lot of fun it was to prepare and serve it to us both.  Very merry evening.

Also Handsome Partner's fourth anniversary, or possibly ten minutes, at times it seems to be so recent.  We celebrate him on his own birthday, so as to reserve today for son.  Seems fair!  It would amuse him if he knew.

And since the birthday dinner is done, and the son is off to the shore, I went to the farm market and the farmstand and came home loaded down with tomatoes and peaches and eggs and chicken sausage and energy to prep the tomatoes and peaches for winter use, or at least fall use..

I celebrated with a little drawing while waiting for the water to boil for peeling the toms and peaches.

But I did remember to keep one tomato and one peach for lunch, there is nothing better than a New Jersey tomato, right from the farm, just sliced and a bit of salt.  Followed by a Jersey peach, likewise, with a dash of ginger.  No need to fancy them up, they're fancy already.

And my new kitchen toy is getting massive use: the chest freezer I've been banging on about for years, and finally bought.  Less than 24 hours from deciding and ordering to actually starting to fill it!  It's about 5 cu ft, plenty for my purposes.  Lightning swift delivery.

The bottom is all natural dyes, so I can use them in the winter when there's not much foliage to get, and the rest is rapidly filling up with fresh fruit and veggies.  In the course of organizing my freezer from the top of  the fridge I found all sorts of nifty items I'd forgotten, sauces and things, so that freezer is all about pesto and herbs and sauces and various other condiment type stuff.  Amazed at how many little packets of curry leaves I found in there, now all in one bag.  Just bursting with gloat over all this.  And now when I make soup I can store it without risking life, limb and toes when I open the packed freezer to find it..


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Great Reveal: the Linen Dyed Skirt that the Squirrel Affected When it was Pants

The title takes care of the narrative for this blogpost, so I'll just cut to the chase and show you the ex pants skirt, dyed, altered to work as a skirt instead of pants, and with a pocket hiding the walnut stain!  quite happy with this outcome.

The zipper is now at the back, and it works quite well this way round. Note the little walking slit, front and back.  All clever stuff here!