Saturday, April 29, 2017

What's for tea? Bread and jam! 6WS

Astute readers over the years will have noticed that when I get onto an idea, I tend to go a little overboard.  You remember when I got the cordless drill?  the corner punch?  the wall painting gear? Not to mention learning various art techniques..

Same with food. I do love to make things like jam, preserves, pickles.  Something about stirring and saving and spreading on other food is Just Good.  People also like to be given this sort of thing as a little present.

So once again, it's jam, and no fruit is safe in this house.  Recently given three unripe mangoes, I waited a few days for them to ripen then today translated them into mango preserves with crushed walnuts.  Mangoes have plenty of pectin in them, very little sugar, no added pectin, splash of lemon juice, cooked down in a few minutes. Very Ritz.  And I used up the rest of the blueberries the other day making a very nice blueberry jam.  Small quantities, like all the best jam.

I gave half of the blueberry jam to the friend who gave me the mangoes, who after protesting, no, this is too much, conceded that she could easily manage to sample it, preferably before her husband sees it, so she won't have to share..

So afternoon tea is a little baked something, with a little homemade something on it.  Today just hot biscuits with the mango walnut preserve. The pic shows you both steaming hot. Preserve sounds posh, but it only means there's chunks of fruit in it, not a sort of roiling mass of fruitesque material.  You don't have to add the nuts, but I like inclusions in food as in art.

I add just a bit of extra liquid to the hot biscuits, so that the texture is good for splitting and jamming.  Technical point there. 

I like fruit just as fruit, wouldn't waste good strawberries on jam, for instance, but other fruit is good for a trial run.  To date recently I've made jam with figs, dates, apples, apricots, cherries, blueberries and now mangoes. And chutney with bananas and various other items. It's all in moderation, though.

And when you make a small quantity, you can have it practically ready by the time the hot biscuits are baked.  About fifteen minutes start to finish, biscuits now cooling and ready for action. It's not one of those old fashioned harvest home all hands to the kettle type of operation.

Nice afternoon tea, with a pot of English Breakfast, a split and spread hot biscuit, and an audio of a radio play by Ngaio Marsh, on the patio, under the feeder, with birds shouting from behind the fence because they don't like to feed while I'm there.  Some of them don't care, but the woodpeckers are very particular who shares their dining area.

Friday, April 28, 2017


Today, after I finished the series of artist books workshops, I paid some attention to the home front.  Since the temps suddenly went up to the 80s, it clearly was time for summerizing.

The attic fan kicked in several days ago, so I had to climb up and remove the solid panel I put in the opening over the winter, and replace it with the screening one I created to fit.  

And while I was climbing anyway, put back the sail in the window, now that the window has been safely replaced.  Just two tension rods, piece of striped fabric slotted through, sways in the breeze, nice.

Down two flights, I decided to get my cabana on, and a neighbor kindly noticed my getting out the stepladder and nipped up and installed the two hooks for me, and hung the newly threaded canvas up there.  I stapled it down the sides against the wind, and it was done.  

And I had to search to find my lovely blue solar light, which has been safely indoors away from renovations and snow, and neighbors borrowing ladders and tools and chucking them back into the storage area with energy, and is now re installed out there.

Least scenic, but most vital, on the patio, I dug down, removed leaves and debris and riddled out the condensation pipe for the air conditioning.

For reasons known only to them, the builders made this pvc pipe (not the metal one you see sticking up, that's different) emerge from the house wall several inches below grade, thereby assuring that it would rapidly fill with debris, back up, and cause flooding indoors...maybe they had an arrangement with plumbers, come to think of it.

As you see, I made a sort of French drain with screening to protect the opening, and rocks to mark where it is and keep the screening in place. Every year I dig it out and re do it, after a winter of earth and leaves drifting into the pipe.  

Like many of my inventions, there's a definite Rube Goldberg/Heath Robinson (hands across the ocean) touch. But they do work.

We are now Officially Summerized around here. And now I'm thinking about a bit of house painting.  

I like the half and half wall effect I did on the stairs, since the main needy area was the bottom half of the wall, and the contrast looks pretty good. 

I may do a similar thing with the downstairs bathroom.  Paint from the middle, more or less, downward to floor.  This will cover a lot of areas that could use it, while sparing me the task of emptying out all the art from that miniature gallery.  It's at least eight years since I got all the towel rails in the house replaced with ADA-compliant grab bars, and I still have not painted the resulting patches on the wall. 

You do know this is a good idea? not to fail to paint, I mean to replace towel rails with grab bars? installed by a real contractor who knows what they're doing. Since people if they fall in the bathroom instinctively reach for the towel bar to break their fall, it's good if it doesn't tear out of the wall on their way down.  You don't have to be old and decrepit to consider doing this. Also grab bars inside showers and on stairs here and there in addition to banisters.

I can do this bathroom painting with a minimum of prep, always a big feature of my home decor plans.  And it won't involve climbing.   I took a look through my paint supplies, and I must say, I had a great idea when I last used them, although I say it myself.

I marked them with the name of the area where I'd used them. This is much better than a color name.  No need to remember what color it looks like on the wall.  So I think my Staircase color will do nicely for the bathroom, give a continuity to the downstairs.  It's very similar to my Laundry Area color, so that saves squinting to see what color is which.  And I don't want my brilliant Kitchen and Spare Room Front Wall bright green in yet a third place.

So that's us.  As usual, after hours of climbing and running up and down many flights of stairs carrying fairly heavy stuff, I am ready to Just Sit.  Until I get another great idea.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring has Sprung on the Patio

A couple of cool wet days, and all the plants take on a surge.  Suddenly the patio looks like spring.

Japanese maple leafing out, oregano started, lambs' ears, iris suddenly putting on a show

 Potato in the foreground,  chives in the background

Pansies persisting despite frost and rain, young native cherry looking good, sage flourishing, yellow iris coming up, cherry bushes leafing out

 Trees ready to leaf out, changes the whole view suddenly

 Here after being trodden on repeatedly, buried in roofing debris, having 50 lb bag of potting soil deposited on it by builders, and being set upright several times, is my blue Rose of Sharon.  She's a surviiiiiiiiivor, to quote the divine Reba.

Later I went to the Preserve, without a camera, just to enjoy the sights and sounds, and any people I might meet.  And saw the first swallows of the season, swooping and diving over the lake.  And a tiny blue skipper butterfly on the ground. Goldfinches calling back and forward.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Asparagus is in! must be Spring 6WS

The joyful sign went up yesterday, and this morning I was over at the farm, to collect the first asparagus of the season. 

 Too early in the year for them to staff the table

 so they use the honesty system. 

As far as I know, it works fine, too, been doing this for years.  Quite a few small farm stands around here leave a box for payment rather than have a person there all the time. This is the only place that has a box to make change though!

And the buyer, and cook, gets the privilege of the First Bite. If you ever pick asparagus right from the ground, and bite off a top, it will, for a few minutes taste like fresh green peas. This had been picked for a few hours, so the taste was more like asparagus. 

Despite the cool damp weather, this is good.  I rationalize that the weather is good for the plants.  My potatoes are coming along nicely in their container, despite the attacks of the squirrels.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Homespun slippers, simple supper

Easter not having been celebrated yet, no, not a religious alternative, just fitting in with Handsome Son's work schedule, yesterday was a very quiet sort of day, hot but windy and cloudy, weird stuff.

Anyway, I made a simple supper, and there's more soup in the freezer now.  Just boiled orzo, my favorite pasta life form, in chicken broth.  Then strained the orzo into a bowl, dressed the pasta in that carrot pesto I'm still using up, and had a cup of broth to go with.  The rest of the orzo went into the leftover broth, and is now freezing for future soup needs.  This was the sort of cooking you can do when you totally don't feel like cooking anything.

Then a salad of a gala apple and a banana, sliced, plain yogurt, almond slivers.  Done.  Small glass of red wine.

And I finished up a pair of slippers for myself, from my homespun and hand dyed yarn. They are incredibly cosy, merino and coopworth. 

And they look like ancient artifacts!  not surprising considering they were made using ancient methods.  But it cracks me up to see them. I can visualize a neatly printed museum card next to them in the glass case.  Early footwear from northern European tribe, primitive spun and dyed from native plants, intriguing use of color variation.

And now, enough of this fiddling about in blogland, have to cook Easter dinner soon.  Cornish game hen, with Thai basil and garlic, mixed veggies, baked potato. Handsome Son bringing cheese and crackers to start, Easter goodies to finish.  Pot of English tea, possible video, since it's raining, so planned walk not on.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter from the Dollivers

Complete with jeweled hats, dresses and showing the current egg collection, complete with this year's additions

The Easter Bunny is in there, too and the Easter Kitten for some reason.  Happy Weekend everyone, whether or not this is your celebration, and specially Brits who have a Bank Holiday in honor of the season.

Monday, April 3, 2017

March April mailbag on its way, about time, too.

I made a mailbag selection today, and they will be on their way as soon as I walk out to the mailbox. Different group of people each month, and I meanly hid the people's names so as to gin up the overwhelming excitement of the event, till your personal Reveal!

A couple are nice artish cards, and the recipients might like to convert them into notebooks. My mind's on books at the moment. You just cut paper, any old paper will do if it's for writing on, the size of the opened card, trim to match, then stitch it with the pamphlet stitch, and you have a nice little book with a very appealing cover.  The video is useful starting at the end of the first minute.

You don't have to use all the tools this person does, and you can just eye up the places to put the needle through. But this is basically the stitch you need.  Sorry about the background music, I really think a lot of craft videos are tone deaf on the question of music, but anyway..start about one minute in and see how it goes.

You can use crochet cotton or any sturdy thread, doesn't have to be waxed linen unless you have some lying around. 

And you can also take a readymade card and convert it into a postcard, as I did with one of these, because I had a perfect recipient in mind for it. I wanted her to see it right away, not after opening an envelope. So there's that possibility, too.

I do spend time with my collection of cards and original art, to make a selection I think the person will like and go for. The cats play an active role in this, too.  I think it's such a change to get something in the mail that is mail.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bags and books and featherweight things

I had to deliver two lots of artworks to two different places today, one early morning, one mid day, so this entailed getting out both artbags, one the ancient gray canvas one of student days, the other a more interesting one.

And it occurred to me that they were great canvases for painting on, as are my totebags for grocery shopping.  And that they might be candidates for transparencies.. so I took a pic or two, and here they 

Two sides of same bag, two moods!

Front and back of giant art bag.  The second one is a pocket, but it could be a bag in itself.  The only drawback to giant bags is that if you take advantage of the size, you can't lift them...

You know how easy this is, yes?  you take any old canvas totebag, tape it with masking tape to give yourself boundaries, then using liquid acrylics and a one inch cheapo sponge brush, you paint.  Then you peel off the tape. And you have a much more interesting bag than you had before.  You might also have something you could frame.

This could go in the art blog, but that's going to be a bit heavy with the shows and with the artist book capers, so I'm putting it in here.  And there's an invitation to create and teach a workshop, which I'm thinking about, and will get into over there, when I get there..

And I have two books to recommend, A Bird in the Hand, by Diana Henry, which doesn't sound very new and different, but it's great. She uses all the spices I learned to use from Ottolenghi in the service of chicken.  Really interesting stuff here. Worth a try.  

But, smugly, she doesn't have the one I invented I think, last Friday, chicken thighs, pounded thin, rolled up with sharp cheese and baby bellas sauteed with all kinds of interesting spices, spritzed with olive oil, showered with panko, and roasted at 400F.   Does this have a name? I probably only dimly remembered it from somewhere and thought I'd invented it, as you do.

On the food front, a neighbor stopped by to return a container, in which he had put two slices of banana bread, different recipes. Both wonderful, they became my afternoon tea. Nice chat on ingredients.

The goose feather resting on the chicken book is a find from today's marsh walk, probably a Canada goose. They're in nesting mode right now, so I was careful not to blunder through them.  They can get a bit short tempered if they think you're on their patch.

And the other book is one I really recommend, How to Read Water, by Tristan Gooley. This man is a wonderful teacher, brilliant and knowledgeable and capable of talking about his subject clearly and without reaching down. He has a great reading voice, too.  I heard his audio of The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs, and was very impressed.  He was on radio recently, and I got so engrossed in his anecdotes about water and how to study it that I'm now reading his book on it.  

So after doing the art deliveries and other errands, I took a walk along a nearby marshland, where there's plenty to see, and studied water patterns and little wavelets and how the shape of the banks and the breeze changed them, putting my newfound knowledge to work.  Anyway, do look at any of his writing, it's great.  

Today the birds were out in force, sunny, building time, and my favorite song of all, I heard the shout of the redwing blackbird.  It's not melodious, not a patch on some musical birds, but for me it's so redolent of Spring, and Shakespeare, and the smell of boxwood, and well, it's the real sign of spring here.  Other birds wander in early, but once the sound of the blackbird is heard, you know it's official.  Here it is, complete with rather fuzzy pic:

And that's a few of the things happening today around here.