Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year's Greeting to everyone from all the Ds and friends and animals

You know how it is in any large group, there are a couple of rugged individuals who don't want to pose.  Big Old Doll refused to leave her rocker, now ensconced on a very nice little quilt made for me long ago. She holds onto the arms of the rocker like grim death, as if someone might swipe it.  And Elton is busy on some errand involving other bears and bars, I think.

So all the others are rounded up, Bed Doll, Greensleeves, the entire Dolliver Kennel population, plus tiny dolls and various bears who invited themselves in.  A bit blurred, because I got caught by the failing light, keep forgetting it gets dark early, and the spare bedroom is not all lamped up.

And we all wish you a very good 2017, with perhaps less excitement than this year brought.  My New Year's Resolution is not about that staple of the bookstores, self improvement, but about just being good to me as well as to other people!  This may include fresh flowers in the house now and then. There's a chance that this resolution will be kept.

Not that I'm altogether hung up on dates and years.  They're only an invention, really.  I still haven't finished arguing about the millennium, which was not 2000, but 2001.  Anyone who can count should know that, but a lot of people didn't care, and thought it was nice and decorative to have that round number. 

Anyway, perhaps it's about time I stopped arguing that particular point..but all you have to do is realize that 2000 years would bring you to the end not the beginning of the year.  But very few of us celebrated it that way, sigh.  Yes, I'll let it go now. Otherwise a big hook might appear from the margin...

But thank you all, blogistas, commenters, emailers and personal chatters who follow in here, and enjoy.  That's why I do it, and it's great to know someone is reading out there!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Post Holiday Nice Simple Food

After the lovely feasting of the last few days, with all kinds of extras just because, it was good to cook something simple today.  And Handsome Son may be over for dinner tomorrow, so he can have some, too. Thinking of seafood pasta for our main course, in fact it's marinating in lemon juice with lime slices right now, but this soup, with hot biscuits, will come before.

This is chickpea and tomato soup, with added yogurt whey, curry leaves, rosemary and some chicken broth.  Very easy to make, no chopping of onions, even.  And not long either.  We are at the time of year when I have no more farm tomatoes, and use canned ones, since the tomatoid objects in the "fresh" food section are not really worth it.

The hot biscuits, this time with fennel seeds added in, waiting to bake, are a good partner for the soup.

So here's today's lunch

I did have a bit of chocolate for dessert.  Just to finish it off, neatly.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Catnip Capers

'Twas the night before Kitmas
And all through the house
Not a quiet moment anywhere
Since the kits found their mouse

Told it was catnip, they mewed "We can dream
Go away! let us play!" 

As they tussled and swiped 

and made off with their swag
Until the mouse took on the look of a rag

At length, all blissed out, they called for a truce
Pawsed to thank Santa Kate
Then with no further mews

Both sank happily into a dormant and a little bit glassy eyed  state.

So kitties and Dollivers, Elton and Boud
Wish you and your family a catnippy mood!

Enjoy the holidays, be of good cheer
For the end of this poem is finally near...

Monday, December 19, 2016

What you do when you lose it, your signal, that is

For various technical reasons, mainly that my friend next door unplugged the system he lets me into, while he works on the electrical upgrades he's doing, I had no signal yesterday and today. I'm at the libe, undaunted, blogging and tweeting and all the usual activity today, including dealing with an amazing buildup in the email inboxes.

But by last evening, no libe access, xfinity too feeble to carry a signal, I wondered, having watched a wonderful episode of Zen (have you seen it? great series about a detective working in Rome) and read a bit, what next.  And thought ah, here's a chance to do a little bit in advance of next Sunday's Christmas big deal meal.  

So I hauled out the Silver Palate and found a candied ginger carrot recipe.  Would never do this usually, since I don't go for veggies made into candy, but oh well, try it once.  It involves butter, brown sugar, caraway seeds and powdered ginger, and it now all done and sitting in the freezer ready to be reheated . We'll see if it's popular enough to repeat for special times.

I also found that reading a Barbara Pym in bed makes for much more calm dreaming than even the most peaceful audiobook. So that's something to be said for no wifi.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ice conditions require baking

Since the first half of the day was about ice and snow and freezing rain, it seemed like a good day to decide to be active indoors. Particularly since my neighbor brushed off my sidewalk, steps, and car before he took off for the day. 

I caught up on baking, both wholewheat bread and banana bread, and took out the yogurt cheese I'd had draining in the fridge for a couple of days.

The bread is from the Healthy Bread book, except that I change up the flour often.  You need 7.5 cups for this recipe, makes four sturdy loaves. Today I used 4 wholewheat, two all purpose and one and a half oatmeal. Cups, that is. I left the oatmeal as whole flakes, interesting to eat, rather than grind into flour.

The banana bread, baked in my trusty castiron baking dish, worked well.  I like to add stuff in to the basic recipe, today golden raisins and crushed walnuts. When I've used golden raisins I've been dusting them in the flour first, so they won't sink in the cake.  But they hung onto the flour, and tasted okay but didn't look so pretty.

So this time I mixed them into the mashed bananas, sugar and egg, beat them all together, then added in the flour, baking soda and salt whisked together.  Baked about an hour at 325F.  Worked a treat. They blend very well. So this is how I plan to do it from now on.

Then put up the oven heat to 450F for the bread, and baked that, in the usual nonstick casserole dish, about an hour.  I bake in the same dish I mix it in, works nicely.

I had put some whole milk yogurt, Dannon my favorite, probably because it was what I ate all the time as an au pair in France long ago, up for cheese a couple of days ago.  

This is where you turn the whole big container into a cheesecloth-lined strainer, sitting on a bowl.  Cover it, sit in the fridge for a day or two, so the whey strains out.  Then the solids make a lovely cream cheese.  I use it everywhere you might spread butter or cream cheese, and it's tangy and more interesting than either of them.  The whey is now in the freezer ready to use in soup.

Perfect for afternoon tea, as here.  As I picked up the tray to carry it through, the fork flew off across the room with a clatter.  I'd never get a job at the Ritz at this rate.

You did know that afternoon tea is what they serve at posh UK places to visitors? that's the name. It's not high tea, that's a kind of workman's supper deal, a knife and fork meal you come home from work to, involving meat and other stuff.  Poor man's dinner. So now you know.  And if you see establishments advertising high tea, you know they don't know their onions. Or their afternoon tea. The food might be good, though, so try it anyway.

So today's baking yield will go, some across the street to Rajiv, who is a keen fan of banana bread, some for Handsome Son, some for me. The bread, a couple of slices of lovely crusty stuff to neighbor for tomorrow's breakfast, to substitute for those "English muffins" he buys.  They remind me of hockey pucks, no matter how much jam you put on them.  

And since banana bread has bread in its name, I might have some toasted for breakfast, too. The bread police are out brushing off cars.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Birthday and future excitement

Last year I marked the day with a series of art suggestions for blogistas to try at home. This year, different stuff.  I was invited to offer another Artist In Residence series at the local libe, Plainsboro Public Library, gift to the township from me, and today I suddenly came up with a cool idea.

Artists' books, a series of four sessions of demo and teaching, for anyone who wants to try their hand.  Seemed very appropriate since it's taking place in the library.

This kind of thing:

Here you see some of my own books, some made from pages of my drawings, some from monotypes, a couple of small portfolios, these are fun to make, and in the top right corner, one made from a single sheet of paper.  And there are more forms, not too hard to create for a first attempt.

Can't guarantee that in one session you can learn the more tricky techniques, but it will be a good intro. And some of them kids will be able to do, in fact I've taught one type already to people of all ages, who did fine.  I have some excellent books to bring in with me, showing clearly how to make a range of forms.  And we'll xerox instructions to take away.

Speaking of first attempts. Ambitious mom last summer at the make and take paper weaving I conducted for the Festival day in September, looking over the more advanced samples I'd brought in of paperweaving.  I made samples that kids could actually make that day, too.

She passed over the kids' samples, and selected one of the artworks  that was pretty much professional level, brought in to show that paper weaving can be an artform,  and demanded that I teach her five year old "that one".  Very crestfallen when I explained that first you need to learn to weave paper, then you can progress to more advanced ways of using it..but she was reconciled and her little girl had a great time.  She made herself a little pendant and went away happily wearing it.

The Artist Book AIR will involve folding, stitching, beading, stamping, drawing, all kinds of artforms, and will be sometime in Spring.  I'm thinking that at least one of the sessions might be ahead of Mother's Day, so kids can make a present. Or maybe mother can make one herself in the free time she requests that day. Most moms really like a bit of peace and quiet as a gift.

Several blogistas own one or more of these, gift from the artist, and they are pretty acceptable as presents. Blank pages if the person wants to write or draw or do her own sort of thing, decorated if you just want to create an entire artwork.

So now I have some planning and prep to do, including making a couple of batches of paper, wonderful for artists' books.

So if you're local, try to stop in, and I'll keep you updated on dates and times.  Most probably on the ground floor of the library again, where you can see me at work as you come in.  No need to register, just show up.

And if you're too far away to attend, I'll blog as I go and you can bookmake along if you choose.  So this birthday gift is a bit in the future, but there you go, time is just an illusion..

Birthdays, Christmas prep and clam chowder

This latest birthday, always such a surprise to get another, is working out a treat, what with nice things arriving, and wishes and so on, for days now, I feel like the Queen, except she's more used to it.

Anyway, I have finally grown up to the point where I will allow Christmas decor to happen before the Most Important Day, so here's the total of my splurge.  

 Woven stars for peace showered down on the three creches in there.  And decorations on the ficus, which takes a seasonal job working as a Christmas tree.

This dumpster table is one of the nicest things I ever swiped.  So adaptable.  Side table at Thanksgiving, and now Christmas decor table. It has the extra added attraction that the kitties are not interested in it, saving me many hours of finding and replacing little items that have been played under the sofa. And the Dollivers are not in evidence. Judging from the racket upstairs, they're kneedeep in outfits, looking for their red festive ones, and jewelry, too.

Awaiting the surprise

Handsome Son brought dinner over a couple of nights ago, since he's working the other evenings, a lovely dish of roast chicken breast over noodles in Alfredo sauce.  Dessert was his own home baked, and his own recipe, chocolate chip cookies.  And he made the tea that went with them.  And brought the interesting soft drinks that went with the main course.  It was all a surprise, hence the empty table!

Then today is bitterly cold, high winds, too, very quiet since the reno contractors can't work in this weather, thankfully for them, I expect, so it called for soup.  

Ages since I made clam chowder, though I've had a little can of clams waiting for the mood for ages.  And Roma plum tomatoes from the farm, in the freezer.  And fish bits to make into fish stock in a bag in the freezer.  And potatoes already in the house.  And my homegrown thyme in the freezer. So clam chowder it was.

Like this

The fish stock was the simplest I ever did: just heated up the fish bits in enough water for the soup, boiled the lot, and added it after straining out the fish, flavor surprisingly good.

I did rescue the onions and garlic before they charred.  One of the drawbacks of being the cook and the photographer and the food designer is that you sometimes lose track.

Then, since I don't like soup that is liquid with floating islands of solid food in it, I did blend it a bit, just to change the texture, but not to lose all the interest. I had already taken out the floating tomato skins, but I like to cook with them in place, good flavor there.  So here's the finished Birthday Chowder

 Perfect insulation in this weather, reminds me of what my mom used to refer to as the weather of the  "poor sailors at sea" always making me include them in my prayers at night in winter storms.  We were close to the North Sea, historically a rough and dangerous sea where a lot of local fisherfolk worked their catch, so it was more than theoretical.

So I now have a large container, soup, not fisherfolk, for Handsome Son and me when he next comes over, plus several small ones just for me, in the freezer.

And I have art news, which is also birthday type news, for which you need to consult Art the Beautiful Metaphor.  Last year I gave out virtual gifts to blogistas. But this year, it's a plan.  Seems like a good time to plan for events I will be doing next spring, and this one is new hatched.  Since I will be blogging about it, and offering it in person for free, it's a gift to my township via the library.

But, last for best, here is a marvelous bouquet which appeared this morning at the door, from sister dogonart.  The smell is wonderful, the downstairs all now like summer.  And since it's in a rectangular container, it has two sides.  Here are both

And since I can never resist forcing information on teaching people
see the stripey tulips?  tulips and roses and other flowers were all stripey in the middle ages before they were hybridized and made into solid colors.  

You see them in old tapestries and paintings, and Ronsard mentioned this in his poetry.  And now the taste for them has returned so they're sort of reverse engineering them to get stripes again, and they're lovely.  I hope you're taking good notes, there will be a quiz.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just never too old to love a parcel!

Such larks! to quote Dickens or someone.  There on the step a box, waiting for me.  Natal day is next week sometime, but this was sent early enough to be sure it gets here promptly.  And it did.

Soooooo, warned to open it on a counter, so does this mean it's a tiara and the diamonds might fall out if I drop it?  I knew it was not a doll, what a concept, a present that's not a doll.  Soooo, unwrap plenty of brown paper insulation.

Then come to bubble wrapped middle bit

Then get into that with care and see what emerged

It's perfect!  English bone china, lovely long pins already in place, semi precious stones in the heads, this covers several bases of my favorite things all at one time.  I wish I were as gifted at gifts as K is, but my part in this is just to say thank you, I love it! and had to open it right away, and not wait.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Early start on holiday doings

Today I got down to organizing a lot of small (physically small, that is) presents for local friends this year.  Party on Sunday, so I had to be ready ahead of time.

Stars are featuring largely this year, after an obsessive attention to making them from any paper at hand, or ribbon.  I tried fabric, but it didn't work so well.

Put out creche, few ornaments on ficus tree playing the part of a fir, and I think I'm done. Then I can just read, which is what I had in mind all along.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline Gets a Reprieve, and the Standing Rock Sioux a victory for once

Stars, they're all stars

Anyone who has been following the long and agonizing struggle to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing Indian sovereign territory, including their freshwater source and their sacred grounds, is rejoicing today at the announcement from Washington.

Months of peaceful protest on the part of the Water Protectors, acting on behalf of all of us, really, in the insistence on protecting our natural water resources, were met by violence from local and state police forces, using water cannon in subfreezing temperatures on unarmed praying people, firing rubber bullets and causing injury.  

Reporters were arrested for simply doing their job of reporting and taking pictures, the authorities illegally closed a highway with no right to do so, and in general there was a degree of lawlessness from the police, who described the protesters as rioters. Forgetting, perhaps that in the age of the smart phone, pictures and video demonstrating the falsity of those charges were flying all round the world.

So today came down the word that the administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, were not granting the easement needed to route the pipeline across the Indian reserved territory.  A new study was ordered, and the participation of the tribal leaders included in it -- this was not the case up to now -- to look for an alternative access route, and for the moment, victory is in the air.

Those of us who have been bombarding the Department of Justice and the White House with demands to look into the police conduct and restore order and proper treatment of legal peaceful demonstration, preserving that right, in the constitution, are happy this evening.  

We did our tiny bit. Nothing like the sheer bravery of the unarmed people facing down water cannon and rubber bullets and threats varying from criminal charges and fines, as well as being blockaded from supplies. At least we did what we could.  Nothing like the bravery of medics who were also hosed down in freezing weather and fired at while administering first aid to injured people in the early stages of hypothermia.  But we did what we could.

Cheers everyone!  good news for once for the native American heroes and the veterans, many of them also native American, whose wave of support this weekend seems to have tipped the scale. And we need to stay alert, to preserve this victory.

And to take the example of the tribal leaders who responded with dignity and decorum, graciously, certainly a model for us all.