Monday, February 29, 2016

Sadie Hawkins Day and the Dollivers Decide to Do It. Propose, that is.

The Dollivers of course were very upset about not being included in yesterday's field trip to visit with famous dolls, but I explained that they are Working Dolls, character actors in this blog, not toy dolls, and this pacified them slightly.  

They signed up for in time for Sadie Hawkins day today, so that they can pick the boy dolls of their dreams and propose to them.  Then came the decisions on the profile shots to use.

Mailing in their votes, suffragette outfits, politically conscious

Good home cook making old fashioned shortbread

We clean up good, too
And we do like a nice car

Call me Michelle's glamor shot

Blondie Firstborn looking inviting

But we know how to make soap, too, not just a pretty face

Even dressed in our best we don't forget our pets

Should I break it to them that they will have to move in with the boy dolls and away from here, and where will their next outfits come from then? boy dolls not being famous as earners. No, some things are better discovered for yourself.  They probably assume they will import the boy dolls for me to attend to.

Elton wondered if this was a suitable event for his participation, but after they assured him they were in search of boy dolls, not boy dogs, he sat down at the piano and rendered an energetic Danny Boy, then a stylized Mendelssohn Wedding March, not too obvious.  He also wondered if there's a March Madness song, but couldn't call it to mind.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Visit to History, complete with Victorian house, dolls and quilts

Today a group of us, on a lovely early spring day, went north to visit with Lyna W., one of our embroidery guild members, in her Victorian house, completely furnished in period, colors, furniture from her family.  She is a major antique quilt collector and authority and a lifelong doll collector, equally knowledgeable in that world, too.  

This isn't her day job! she's a respected university professor in the daytime, quilt and doll authority and needlewoman the rest of the time.  And an equestrian, horse owner and rider, jumper until recently.

But I can only show you glimpses of one of the richest fullest lives you will ever see.

Here's her house, welcoming us in.  

And a couple of views of interiors.  Note her hand stitched quilt on the brass bed

Miniature makers who have played with Victorian miniatures will feel as if they're in a full size dollhouse!  authentic colors, furniture, atmosphere, just lovely.

And a room filled with her lifetime doll collection, which includes dolls from her family, including one who rode in a covered wagon in the American West, and dolls of France, Germany, the US, and all amazing, in showcases so you can see everything.  

Fully jointed Canadian modern doll resting under her quilt

Many of the finest clothes were made by Lyna's mother for her dolls, and Lyna herself stitched a lot of clothing for dolls.  Readers who are interested in dolls will recognize a lot of classics and some rareties in these pictures.

Lyna comes from a family of great needlewomen, and has a tapestry her mother made hanging in her workroom

Her collection of antique quilts came out of storage to show us.  These ranged in age from the 1820s to the early 20th century, from various parts of the country, many from Pennsylvania, some from the south. No lack of helpers to hold up and display the quilt tops and quilts.

See this backing? this is a centennial cheat fabric, printed to look like patchwork! prized item

In the foreground a Temperance Quilt! see the T?

Amazing opportunity to see and handle quilts of museum quality, some of which have been pictured in books and magazines. Quilting readers will recognize some of the traditional designs, but the early ones also had a lot of detail and great improvisational features as well as design expertise. And since they're in good hands, the condition and colors are as good as possible. Many early dyes were fugitive or ate through the fabrics, so some of the quilt tops need knowledgeable handling.

A good day was had by all, as they used to say in the parish newsletters!  Astute guild members will notice that this isn't the usual Guild blog coming your way -- it's a special post on my Field and Fen blog, but I wanted to include you in the mailing.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Family visit, good lunch, squirrels ejected 6WS

Today good news on the squirrel front: my neighbor announced he has caught the last of the squirrels which have been plaguing our building for weeks.  No wonder I thought it was peaceful today.  They are now transported to woodland far from here, unhurt, but ejected.

Son came over for lunch, and it went well:  carrot and pumpkin soup, lovely color. The soup was part of a big batch I made incorporating an Indian spicy vegetable dish with tendli I'd been given.  It was thick, very filling on a cold day

carrot, pumpkin and tendli soup

and a giant lasagna. I hadn't made lasagna in decades, so I thought it was time. 

Lasagna ready for the oven
 This is the before pic. After assembly, before baking today.

Good thing I set aside yesterday morning for the shopping and assembly, since it took an amazingly long time to make and assemble. There was the shopping for good cheese that would melt -- I used fontina --the making of the meat sauce (never use hamburger, don't trust it, used vienna sausage), and the endless simmering of that with the onion and garlic and spices of all nations, and the boiling of the pasta, and the assembly of the cheeses, then the organization of it all into the dish, ready to refrigerate. Then another 45 minutes baking today.

 I forgot to take a pic when I served it, and shortly after that our inroads made it look a shadow of itself. It looked very sizzling and appetizing, though.  But there are still several meals there for me.  I might freeze a couple of them.  Good thing it went over well after all that intensive work.  If I ever make it again, in the next decade or so, I will make more meat sauce than this recipe said. And I'll use Italian sausage.

Dessert was a plate of those southern dropcakes I showed you, which went over very well. In fact the whole thing did: son requested caraway seeds to try in his own baking plans, since they were good on the dropcakes.  He then began to plan how to make his own lasagna, since he has a lot of the ingredients for a kind of facsimile, even has a glass pan he was given years ago.  It's a good sign when people want to recreate a meal they had.  At least I think it is.

Maybe he thinks he could do it better..being a pretty good cook himself. 

I need a couple of ready meals for the next couple of busy days, what with art commitments, then a trip to a quilt collector's home, and all kinds of other things going on on the home front. And prep for the first afternoon of the artist in residence series, which is almost upon me. So cooking will, pardon the expression, be on the back burner. And  soup and lasagna at the ready will be a Good Thing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Adventures with Amchur

Friend Girija gave me a little dish of spicy vegetable mix, one of which was tendli, new to me.  I looked it up and found it's ivy gourd in English, never heard of it.  It looks like tiny cucumbers, and is cooked by being cut in strips then spiced, then various other adventures.

Next I checked on some Indian recipes using tendli, and found several of them used amchur, which I'd never heard of either.  Turns out it's dried mango powder, citrusy but good for people like your blogwriter, who can't handle citrus fruit other than lemons.

Soooooo, I checked on the price, and about fell down with shock. Next remembered that Girija had instructed me firmly not to buy any spices before checking with her, since she gets them in India, much more cheaply than here, and is happy to share.  Sure enough, she had a ton of it, though I only asked for a teaspoonful, I now own a little bag of it and a promise of more if needed.

I had given her and husband a share of soup I made recently, using a dish of red hot spicy tendli mix she'd given me, as the spice base, and it made a great soup, with pumpkin and carrots, blended at the end.  No chicken broth in this one, so I could share with them, they being very serious vegetarians, religious observance for them.

Thought I'd better make use of then amchur, then, and today I created a sort of broccoli bake with milk and egg and cheese, flavored with amchur, fresh nutmeg and fresh cinnamon.  

Broccoli Bake before baking

And after baking

And it was interesting, worked well.  The amchur gives that fresh feel that lemons would give, or oranges.   I scattered some coarse sea salt over the top, not mixed in, because I like to have a little spark of salt now and then, and ground some black pepper over, too.

Baked for about 25 minutes at 350F.  Two full meals here for me. 
The moral of the story: be sure to have Indian friends! they are so happy when someone wants to cook with Indian spices.  Either that or take out a second mortgage and buy amchur online!  Girija promises me that next time she makes a complicated dish, I'm invited over to see the procedure.

Then this afternoon, I went all historical and made a little batch of drop cakes, so as to have a dessert for Handsome Son next time he's over.  Put them in the freezer to make sure they're not gone before he gets here.  

Southern dropcakes

These are from Home on the Range, by I think the person who wrote Eat Pray Love.  Anyway, an old Southern recipe, very quick, nice, made about a dozen, and I added a few caraway seeds on top, and a few crushed walnuts.  Crisp edges, soft interior. Nice small bite with afternoon tea. 

I made this one time before, to take with me to a couple who aren't up to catering any more but make a cup of tea anyway for me.  The husband is from an ancient Virginia family, and I thought he'd like the southern touch.  However, he growled that all the southern cooking he had at home was awful.  Anyway, he did try these dropcakes and admitted they were pretty edible!

Tonight being dark and stormy, with local police warnings about severity of storm, winds, flooding, complete with note about attaching small dogs to large objects and bringing them indoors, the local copshop are a bunch of right old Chapelles, I figured I'd improve the evening and blog. Supposed to be out stitching, but sigh, not tonight, not very safe driving.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

National Toast Day Celebrations

Today being National Toast Day, I made cheese on toast for supper, with a nice glass of red wine for a, um, toast...

The bread was new baked and I liked very much how it turned out.  I've started adding in seeds to my breads -- cumin and caraway to a recent batch of hot biscuits, which went over very well -- and today a pinch of cumin seeds and a pinch of fennel seeds to the bread, and I really recommend it.  Interesting flavors without doing much more to the slices.  The flour was  mainly whole wheat, but with a couple of cups of mixed all purpose and chickpea and barley, the last two ground up in my coffee grinder.  Nice texture to this batch.

Bread's very forgiving, and the crust on this giant loaf, now cut into six small loaves, five in the freezer, was really good, probably because of the different flours.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Six snowdrops, two views, three cheers!

Taken about a year ago then same flowers an hour ago on the patio

Snowdrops early March last year

Snowdrops late February this year

 I'll take it!  It's the same six flowers, never decrease, never multiply, just show up year after year.  Sometimes earlier, sometimes they bloom and fade all under the snow cover.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A la recherche du temps perdu, Boudly version

Since I joined Twitter, mainly for art purposes, I've also fallen into the company of Yorkshire farmers and tourist promoters, mainly in that part of the Yorkshire dales where I lived till I was nearly five. Formative years, particularly in the visual area.

So I see more and more pix of familiar landscapes, and familiar sounds of sheep bleating, and it made me wonder if the cottages where we lived, a terrace of pebbledashed houses, originally for mineworkers, is still there and unruined.  That whole area is now part of a national park, so it's preserved.  

I thought it was called Gribdale Terrace, since the place was Gribdale, but when I tried that out I got a regrettable picture of suburban bliss in Great Ayton, which seems to have bust out and become Big Ayton. So I may have the name wrong.  People there are trying to fix on it for me.  Maybe Dogonart can shed some light?  I was a bit young for knowing my home address at the time.

Anyway, it's not as if I took a bite of Yorkshire pudding and was transported back there, more that it's always in my mental landscape, blotting out many years that came after and were a litany of illness and woes, just as well to blot them out.

Yorkshire Hills, watercolor 1975

The painting I put up here, yes, art and not in the art blog, how about that, is how I remember the view from our back window across the rocks and moors to Rosebery Topping, which I climbed when I was three.  With a good bit of help, I imagine.  And you see that my memory showed it as it was to a little kid, those giant rocks in the foreground probably pretty small in fact.

But that line, those shapes are always there, and crop up all over the place in my art.  The painting is halfway up the stairs, hence the distortion, and under glass so I had to avoid multiple reflections.  But you can get the gist.  And the sound is always that of the skylark miles up in the air, and a few sheep bleating out of sight.

This was also the first painting I ever exhibited, and one of the few times I felt like doing a realistic image.  Those clouds are definitely authentic, so I think my memory held up pretty well.

Anyway, I'm in search of that lost time, just to see a pic, no particular reason.  One of my overriding emotions when I see pictures of that scene in winter, with Twitter farmer friends working out with sheep and pigs, is pity for anyone who has to tolerate that climate. 

Nothing colder and more piercing than the wind on a July day up on the moors...nemmind the winter!  No mountain range between there and Siberia.  Love to see the pix from the comfort of my warm home now, though.

That general area is known to a lot of tv watchers as the location for the Yorkshire vet series, All Creatures Great and Small.

So that's where I am today. Mentally, that is. And remembering what a huge impact childhood experience of landscape has for your life as an artist.  Or any other sort of life, come to think of it.

What's your childhood landscape?


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Four Annual Celebrations and a Funeral 6WS

The four  winter celebrations, all crashing about over each other this weekend are Chinese New Year, year of the monkey, Valentine's Day, and Presidents' Day which I count as two because Lincoln and Washington are jostling about having to share.

So the weekly family dinner had to acknowledge all of them, yesterday.  Big bowls of pasta e fagioli, because it's winter, followed by roast chicken (one in every pot, you know) with roast french fries, peas and carrots, and finally cherry and apple crumble. The cherries were in honor of the tree Washington never actually cut down, and the apples because Abe probably liked them. We noted Chinese New Year with an extra dessert of chocolaty wafer roll things from the Asian store, which also brought in the chocolate theme for V day.  And there were a few M and Ms around the place.

No pix, sorry, too much cooking going on!

However, I'm sad to say we had a little funeral today, as you see. My trusty old phone, the one that's been through so many adventures with Handsome Son for several years, then me for several more, is about to be replaced.  Now this is an odd thing, and don't tell me electronic items have no feelings.  

Last week came a note from Tracfone, the carrier I use, to say that they were going to replace my old 2G phone with a free 3G one, since the networks were all going to stop servicing the 2Gs.  Up to then no problems with this phone.  

And the very day the news came, she started to fail.  First she let me text but not send.  Then her navigation buttons stopped steering, so I couldn't call nor answer.  So I thought I'd better copy off my contact list quick. I administered first aid: took the back off, took out the battery and the SIM card, then replaced them in case they'd got jolted out of place in one of our adventures.  No improvement in the patient.  Her screen lights up bravely, but there's no action.

We think she knows her replacement is on its way, will arrive Monday.  Meanwhile, friend lent me a handset from his landline, because he doesn't want me to be without a phone at all, and here you see the funeral for Phone.  She served me well.

Reading clockwise, aside from the phone lying in state  in the middle of the hand crocheted shroud, you see her friends marking her passing.  Bottom left is the fireplace remote, then the Ipod touch, even older than Phone, then the ancient tv remote, then the handset standin wanting to be included, and the DVD player remote.

These are all ancient themselves,so it seemed tactful not to be too heartless about the passing of one of them.  She has a selection of purses which she will leave to her successor, depending on whether they will fit.

Sic transit gloria phoni.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tamarind chutney and begonia blossoms

I was supposed to be baking crackers and going to the library, and framing art and working in the studio and various other things today.  So I found myself making tamarind/date it goes. And here's the cast of ingredient characters posing in front of their script.

This is from the Edward Espe Brown book the Ds showed you the other day.  I have been wanting to use tamarind again for some time, found some tamarind extract at the Asian store, and thought it might be easier than the from scratch processing of the fruits that I did before.  After trying it, I think I'll pull back on the amounts next time around.  Or I might even make the pulp from scratch.

So today, since there was also a special on lemons, I was able to get into this.  I like the meditative aspect of making jams and pickles and chutneys, the kind of foods where you chop and squeeze and mince and  combine some very powerful and great smelling ingredients and stir quietly and let them blend. 

 Here in process, where you can still see the lemon peel and dates not yet softened to blend in

Here, almost cooked, and with mason jars sterilizing in boiling water in the background ready to be lifted out, drained and filled with hot chutney.  I sterilize even though I'm putting the chutney, once totally cooled, into the fridge, just because you never know.

This recipe made one small plus part of one larger mason jar of chutney. I made some adjustments to this recipe: added more dates after I saw it was too liquid at first (problem here was guessing how much was half a pound, since he didn't give a volume equivalent), and I added in more honey since the tartness was too much, then some granulated sugar to get the balance working better. Which it did.  He's good about reminding the cook to taste at intervals.

You'll see recipes for this which involve jaggery.  No worries -- it's the equivalent of equal parts of honey and molasses.  And this recipe has honey and molasses, so clearly he was onto this. And the flavors do better if they sit for a day or more after they're made, to blend and get acquainted.

This is spicy, sweetish, very tangy, and will go great with all kinds of foods.  A cheese sandwich is great with a spoonful of this added.  And when Handsome Son next comes over, there will be roast chicken and roast fries with chutney on the side.  If you're a meat eater, the red kind, it goes well with all kinds of meats, especially cold cuts.

And just to show I'm not the only worker around here, one of the upstairs begonias suddenly put out her spring pink blossoms, just what you need to see in the depths of winter.  So I moved her to a primo place, in the living room near the window along with the big plants. The other begonia, not blossoming, took her place upstairs and maybe that location will inspire her to blossom, too.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

An Angela Sighting!! this time by me, for the first time

An Angela sighting!!  Today we met, after many years of being mistaken for one another. The excitement was intense, since we were in  a group of my stitcher friends who all know the story. 

So here we are together, me on left, Angela on right. I also met her husband  who says he's pretty sure he could tell us apart!

 We were at a stitching event in the community where she now lives, and she just happened to stop by. So the long mystery is solved. She's Welsh with Yorkshire relatives, one aunt a stitcher who worked on vestments for York  Minster.

We exchanged stories of the many people who've mistaken us, one of whom tried to give me club dues owed to Angela, another who introduced Angela to her husband as her art teacher, and got very miffed when Angela explained she wasn't Liz!

I don't think our facial features are very alike, but our facial expressions are, and our voices are practically identical.  We agreed that we might be distant relatives, who knows, but in typical brit fashion, neither was interested in doing the research! And Angela pointed out that our eyes are different colors,so we concluded that people go by general impressions rather than little details like that..

She's a very good person to be mixed up with!  nice lady, and great company.


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Rule of Three Brings a Great Day!

So we had another snowstorm,a  surprise one, several inches, wet and heavy, but not traffic stopping.  And later this morning, after the sun had started to slide the snow off my car, I went out with trusty shovel, and pushed the rest of it onto the road, then trotted back and forth pushing a lot more out to where the plow would collect it. 

And suddenly realized I was doing the snow shoveling just as in old times, no pain, no stress, and was a great moment it was.  I didn't go crazy doing it, but just to be able to was a treat.  After a certain age you can't help wondering if any injury will ever really go away, and now it seems that my shoulder, for the most part, has decided to play nice again.  Yay.  So that was Great Thing One.

Then after shoveling around, I went to the mailbox and among all the junk mail was a local tax assessor's notice. Oh-oh.  Got it home, to see what this year's reassessment, first in many years, had done to my budget.  And discovered, to my astonishment that they're predicting a reduction in real estate tax!  this is a total first in all my years of owning property, unheard of.  This state has the highest real estate taxes in the nation, and for them to reduce the rate, well, I read it twice to be sure. And that was Great Thing Two.

And the beech tree, what a gift out there.  To see more, go to 

But here's a preview, beech tree, trunk wet from snow, sun coming out and creating shadows and shapes

This was Great Thing Three.

I rarely talk about exactly why I do these blogs, because it often seems self evident, but recently a question reminded me that maybe it isn't.  This was the question I've had many times: why do you just blog? why not convert it into an illustrated book?  it would be lovely.

Well, from the practical standpoint, eight years of blogging, even with editing for current interest, would, translated into paper, fill a small bookcase with volumes.  And kill a lot of nice trees. But from the standpoint of art, it would not be the form I'm working in.

The idea is that, aside from the permanence of the blog material, since, compared to printed volumes, it never goes away,  it's an artform in itself.  It's the way a writer and artist, that would be me, breaks through what people in the theater call the fourth wall.  That's when the actor turns and addresses the audience, bringing them into the action breaking the fourth wall between audience and proscenium stage.

In my case, the dimension is that of time.  You can continue reading this as it comes. You can look back, but you can't look ahead as in a book, since it doesn't exist yet.  I haven't written the future posts yet.  And this is a continuing artwork, given to you as a gift.  That's what the art blog is all about, a continually evolving form, where you're invited to come along, step in and out, read, or comment or not, respond or not. But it's being written by a person who is changing as you read.

Books have their place, as you know from my own large reading habit.  But the blog is a different form entirely, and stands for itself. It's not a Thing that you can shelve and maybe read or not one day, and meanwhile have to dust.

And blogging is the best way to celebrate a Three Big Thing Day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Lemon, Coriander and Cumin Trio

Making a soup from yesterday's cookbook, brown lentil, carrot and celery, but I had only red lentils, and pumpkin and watercress, so I subbed them.  

Pretty good, but the best part was grinding and admiring the spices, seen here.  In fact lemon zest (from the freezer, still going strong), coriander seed and cumin seed, seen in that order reading left around to right.  I ground the seeds in the coffee mill.

The scent is so good that I wonder if Nick Park can arrange for Wallace and Gromit to invent a techno-smell app. This little bowl is like a trio of sound, each scent distinct, then they blend when you sniff from a bit further away.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Espe Brown, Knives, Procrastination and Dollivers

The title is a bit shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings, to mangle a quotation. But it all makes sense, stay with me.

The decision to frame all the planets in the planet suite, as explained in
led inevitably to several other conclusions.  One is that I need to take a little break from headlong work in the studio, just to digest what's been happening in a very productive period, and to find my feet for the next pieces that need to happen.  This is while awaiting the frames on order and on their way.

So that meant learning to procrastinate a bit.  I'm not very good at this mostly, except where knives are  concerned.  I got into considering knives via Quinn, owing to a reference in her blog to Edward Espe Brown, a Zen priest and food person.  Not that I'm blaming anyone.  I'm just saying.

I do look on food as a meditative experience, and cooking as a process, not just a way of getting meals made.  So my attempt to just be, and to read a meditation/cookbook and kick back, seemed just about right for now.

So I checked out this book,  nice little essays interspersed with recipes some of which I already make, thought I'd invented, heh, nothing new etc.  But as I read, I realized after reading his chat about knives and sharpening and why you should, how can I do the process with blunt tools?   I thought, oh well.  No use just thinking about sharpening, I should just do it.  My kitchen knives are as blunt as anything. Not very Zen.

But Inner Self insisted that it's too much to do,there are tons of knives in that drawer, can't manage, sharpener too noisy, special snowflake and so on.  Outer Self said, oh shut up and check.  How many knives to you actually use?  welllll, chef's knife, one, poultry knife, one, paring one, breadknife one.  Whereupon Outer Self pointed out that means sharpening TWO knives.  Two.  The parer is sharp, the breadknife doesn't need sharpening. All the others can go to goodwill, never used.

So Inner Self heaved a sigh, got out the sharpener and in about four minutes give or take, the knives are sharpened, put where they won't bang into anything, the drawer is sorted, and there's a batch of knives to give away.

This is all your doing, Quinn, you and Brown.  The Dollivers were happy to pose with the book, far away from all the knives flashing about in the kitchen.  Anything for a quiet life.

However, learning to procrastinate has now been put off for a while..but the Ds probably have a few plans afoot regarding Valentine outfits, or maybe jewelry.

Monday, February 1, 2016

White Rabbits and Candlemas Day

February 1, which means Candlemas Day.  

Candlemas, candlemas, candlemas Day,
Throw All your Candles and Candlesticks Away!

And white rabbits, of course.  My inner Yorkshirewoman at work.

Yesterday I made apple streusel, which I made to use up all my Granny Smiths, plus try out my new cinnamon and whole nutmegs, and a new recipe, less fussy than Martha. 

I used oat flour (made from oats in the coffee grinder) so it's also gluten free for people for whom that's an issue. I macerated the fruit with the spices, a la Rose Birnbaum, then did a reduction of the resulting liquid which I added back in to the fruit.  

This was the first use of the new Ceylon cinnamon, and it's lovely, very fragrant and delicate, and not too hard to reduce to powder.  Also it marked the first time I ever used the nutmeg part of my grater. I'd forgotten what the inside of a fresh nutmeg looks like, very interesting abstract in there.

A few minutes  after the streusel was out of the oven, a friend stopped by with goodies from her kitchen, so I retaliated I mean reciprocated, with a hearty helping of streusel for her to share with her husband whose birthday it was.  

A few minutes after she left another neighbor stopped by with messages from yet another person, and left with a slice of it.  Then this morning I ran a helping over to the friend with the broken elbow (she's doing better, but very hampered), and visited a while.

All in all I'd better try this myself before it's all gone!  this is why I wonder when people who live alone say oh I don't like cooking for one.  I hardly ever seem to cook for one!  at least that's how it works out.  I sometimes wonder if my neighbors have some sort of surveillance mechanism, since someone so often shows up as something is cooling from the oven..