Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Not your mother's Proust

I just came across this the other day had no idea that A La Recherche du Temps Perdu had been translated into graphic novel format.  This is Volume One, not sure if any more are out.  It's a highly labor intensive work.

I thought it probably caused an outcry in France when it came out, but in fact I find it a really good idea. Those of us whose misspent youth involved reading the original in French, swimming happily in the prose with only the least notion of the architecture of the work, are thankful for this version.

It makes the underlying structure very clear and much more comprehensible, all to the good.  And the graphics are very sensitive to the meaning and movement of the work.  It's amazing how well this works.  Very high level graphics, very good translation.  I really recommend this if you haven't come across it yet.

And, to jog your memory, this is the novel where Marcel Proust tastes the madeleine 

and his entire limbic brain opens up to cascades, waves, oceans, of memories triggered by the sensation and the taste.   

But there are also some amazing observations of nature and relationships, which you have to stop and think about.  

This is why the original is so hard to get through, because it keeps on stopping you dead to think before you can turn the page to go on.  It's the milk train of novels.  Then when you get back on the train, you are a bit disoriented about where you are in the journey.

Awaiting my reading pleasure, Muriel Spark, Frances Brody, all good company. But first to finish the journey of Proust.  You may have noticed that my own drawing is in abeyance for just now. Not for lack of trying. But it takes more emotional stamina than I have right now, because of dealing with the loss of Marigold.  But in a few days, it will return.  I will feel right again once I can draw.

Monday, January 29, 2018

First snowdrop of the year

What with losses, reorganization of the household around one cat, and various other more normal things, this has been an exciting few days. Not improved by the sewer company, whose employees, though willing and friendly, have zero information but tons of confidence.  No emergency, just a billing snafu.

Saga, involving several emails, long fruitless wait on the phone, listening to stories of how wonderful a company they are, finally busting them on Twitter, which did get a quick, if uninformed response, companies hate to be embarrassed on Twitter, anyway it was about a check I sent that never cleared my bank.  I have two accounts.  One check cleared, one never made it. Except the day after I complained, suddenly it was processed....hmmmmm.

This was in the middle of their claiming it never arrived, and demanding that I send images of front and back (how? if it never arrived..) and failing to help me get into my website account.  

I pushed until their IT admitted they had failed to enter my second account on my section, finally did it, and then had no idea how I should navigate to get in...eventually I broke through all their defences, their Twitter helper having no idea how to enter a nickname, their FAQ silent on the issue, what it was,was it assigned, should it be created, etc., their IT just leaving a voicemail saying just sign in, yeah, got into the accounts, found both are up to date.  Nothing lost at all.  

Then comes another email, saying I still only sent one check, they couldn't tell me for which account, and still wanted info.  I pointed out rather astringently that it was up to them to search their own accounting at this point, since both checks cleared, were correctly processed, and why were they still working off information from weeks back, huh, huh?

I will definitely post to Twitter a full accounting of this if I get one more email demanding I do something, when they are the folks being paid to do it...folks, no use being nice if you know zero about what you're doing.  Especially to someone already close to the end of her tether.  We're done here.  

This is the same company that, when I tried to switch to direct debit a while back the last time they failed to process a check, put me through numerous screens to fill out with info, until finally admitting that direct debit had not been implemented for my region yet..that's why I'm still writing horse and buggy checks.

But, as always, Nature has a remedy: out on the patio, the first snowdrop put in an appearance, just the bud.  So welcome. She knows what she's doing. Nature gets the job done!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Succulent propagation the ultimate slow motion calming hobby

I keep my succulent nursery on a west facing bookcase under the kitchen window.  That way it's in bright shade, I see it every morning while the kettle boils and I'm feeling as low as I usually do in the morning.  They are a little stab of pleasure, seeing how they're slowly, slowly, coming along.

Propagating succulents is not hard, but very very slow.  They are perfectly willing to reproduce, but on their own time.  First you carefully take off a leaf from a parent plant, mine were a bit of gardener's larceny from the plants next door, then you leave it alone for weeks.  That lets it scab over at the stem end.

Then you rest it on top of a mix, whatever works for you. I've found no difference between potting soil and coco fiber, supposedly the great stuff.  Weeks go by, then you might see a microscopic plant or root starting at the stem end.  And you leave it alone again.  

These are the first ones I started, months ago. The big leaf is the aloe next door to it, shoving its way in.  I had bloodwork done Friday and the tech was amazed to discover I use aloe in the kitchen for burns.  She promptly decided to get one herself. I asked her how often she gets medical advice from her patients!  She's a terrific hemo tech, no problem at all with my tiny thready veins, and she's interested in new ideas.  She's good.

Anyway, back to echeveria. Once it finally starts to be big enough to see, you still leave it alone, very little watering needed, since the baby plant is getting moisture from the parent leaf for ages.

These I started from fallen leaves off the parent plant.  The leaves are starting to wither as the baby plant takes the moisture. Notice almost every one has grown.

And during the winter, they get a bit leggy, echeveria, that is, and I twisted off a rosette from the top of a parent plant which I'm fostering for the winter.  See here, the baby on the left doing well, while the parent in the middle, nothing daunted, has put out a new rosette on the scab of the old one. And all the fallen leaves I rested around them have started new plants.  By spring this will be a visible arrangement.

And, either you get all excited and engrossed about this or, as a friend of mine recently commented, after bending double to get close enough to see the tiny baby plants, you're easily pleased!  Well, I am.  In the larger scheme of things, it pays.

Friday, January 26, 2018

After sad day, chop wood, carry water

First day of being without Marigold, one kitty breakfast served, and Duncan looking around for the second dish so he can swipe some.  Me automatically leaving room for Marigold next to me, or on top of my book,  on the sofa while I read.  Oh well.  Great thanks to everyone who posted, called, texted, emailed, notes about Marigold. And particularly those who did it a second time to see how I was doing.  That was so very helpful. Not just animal lovers, either.  Some people who would never have a pet really came through, too.  Anyway, you can't know how much it's appreciated, so take my word for it.

Meanwhile, since it's winter and it's good to Be Prepared, I made an all purpose amount of ginger lemonade.  Very good for all kinds of ailments, as well as being just a nice drink to have around.

All kinds of containers and paraphernalia waiting to be filled and labeled.
Simple syrup with fresh ginger chunks (I buy ginger root from the Asian store, peel and chop and freeze it, keeps for ages just fine), sugar and lemon juice, again I squeezed it fresh and I froze it.  Bring to boil, then let cool, add in water in which I've had fresh lemon slices steeping in the fridge, my usual drink.  And leave the lot overnight.

Then decant into one carafe for the fridge and several more containers in the freezer. Each with a cargo of lemon slices and ginger chunks.

And it's time for another pot of soup.  I needed to get finished with the lemonade since I needed that pot for the soup.  

This time it's carrots, kidney beans, scallions, onions and garlic,  seasoning was turmeric, home mixed curry powder, salt.  Packet of chicken broth beads.  I usually saute all the seasonings, including the chicken broth beads, for a couple of minutes before adding in the vegetables, and liquid.

Special tip to cook: before shaking down the packet of chicken broth beads check whether you had already torn it open.  Or be ready with a brush and shovel.  Mentioning this for a friend.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Marigold left us today, very quietly, comfort food later

Marigold left us this morning early, peaceful.  The vet's office was very considerate, vet herself in special purple scrubs, not usual color for her, and the table was set up with a pink blanket.  All very respectful and kind to both of us.  

And I found that while I was with her, they burned a candle outside in the reception area, with a notice explaining a euthanasia was happening, and for everyone to keep their voices down. It was a very good touch.  Vet left me for as long as I wanted with her after she died, after covering her body and leaving her head for me to pet.  Couldn't talk, but I did thank Marigold for all those years of sterling loyalty.

I do think rescued animals know what we did for them, and never fail to thank us.  So I was glad to be able to give her a peaceful easy death when she was ready. 

Hard day.  Next door neighbor gave me a hug when we met as I got home, and put away the carrier for me on the high shelf in the storage area I can't reach.

Next order of business, comfort food.  

Apple crumble, with oatmeal topping.  Seen here with the cook's privileged first slice already dealt with. I don't use a recipe for this any more, other than to check the oven temp. Plenty of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, sumac in the fruit, fruit macerated then the fruit into the baking dish, liquid reduced in small pan, and poured back over.  Topping of molasses mixed with white sugar, melted butter stirred with oatmeal and oatmeal ground to flour.

This is a kind of all purpose food.  Good as dessert, good, since it's oatmeal and fruit, as breakfast, too. Keeps up a person's strength.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Last Day for Marigold, 2002-2018

Marigold, our beautiful sealpoint Burmese friend, is sleeping on the sofa right now, on her last day.  Tomorrow early I have to say goodbye to her.

She declined dramatically in the last little while, and is now in advanced kidney failure and needing dental surgery which can not be done in her frail health.  So rather than drag her along miserably with pain meds, antibiotic shots and various other ideas the vet suggested gently, I think it's kinder to let her go.

She came to me as a dumped stray, and all attempts to find her owner failed, so, since she was going into her first heat, I had her spayed, by the vet who said, if you spay her, keep her! don't give her up.  You did your best to find whoever "lost" her.  Same vet I'm taking her in to tomorrow, to bookend her life.

I brought her initially to Handsome Partner Andy's home, when we were a couple with two homes, and his Dalmatian, KC, took to her as if she were a puppy, grooming her with a massive tongue, leaving her soaking wet with love!  KC was in her last years then.

then when we had to join our households because of Andy's declining health, my cat Duncan joined the the group, and to our amazement, they formed a Gang of Two, playing and wrestling and  keeping each other occupied all day long.

She was Andy's therapist when he came home from the rehab, seen here, first day home, worn out and sleeping in his chair under the afghan I made for his return

and kept guard over him for years, up till the moment he was dying, then she came and sat with me, and has never left me in the six years since.

So she has a lot of history in this group, and has more than repaid anything I ever did for her.  Just the pleasure of seeing such a beauty around the house was a lift.  Aside from seeing her regularly stand off Duncan, more than twice her size.The RBG of kittens.

Hard to say goodbye, but better than trying to extend her life beyond what her body seems to be able to tolerate.  She's been signalling to me that she's ready.  The only thing is that I'm not.

 Remains to be seen how Duncan adapts to the loss of his partner in crime.  He's also aging rapidly, now 14 and with health issues. We'll see.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Day 22 LJAB ink drawing, weeds in wind

Windy cold weather and weeds blowing about. This is today's drawing, medium size brass calligraphy pen, Chinese home ground ink. Initials inserted like another plant.

This was done similarly to a watercolor painting.  Bold strokes, no going back over anything, no bitsy little movements.  Then drop ink into chosen spots, to add dimension and movement. At least that's the idea.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Snowdrops, always a happy sight

Out each day since the bitter cold abated, to poke about and see if my snowdrops are starting yet.  I planted a new batch in the fall, to add to the sturdy six that come up every year.  And today there are a few little noses showing.  Here's a drone's eye view.

Not sure if they are the old guard or the new arrivals.  I had to replant a couple which had heaved to the surface in the cold, despite the warm coat of leaves, but they were still growing fine.

And this reminds me that it's time for a walk down to the park to see if I can find any witchhazel in flower.  That time of year. It's exciting that some plants flower in deepest winter.

Since I started this post, I took a walk, and found the witchhazel as hoped, now sharing space with the catkins

The sedum already has tiny rosettes buried deep under the leaves and pachysandra.  It never sleeps.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Afternoon tea chez Boud

Yesterday was an Afternoon Tea day chez boud,with a guest I've been wanting to invite for ages.  One health thing and another have held things up a bit, but she was here, and a good afternoon was had by all.  She's a stitcher, so there was much catch up to do, about people and an exhibit she saw recently which I didn't.

I like it when people are uninhibited about wandering about looking at the stuff on the walls. And when they suddenly spot the Dollivers, if they've seen them many times on the blog,but never been personally introduced.  It's fun to see what you've read about, I'm told.

So the table, why not have a Valentine's theme, bit early, but so what, and everyone else did it already.  My doctor's office was all done up in hearts and things weeks ago.

Missing from the picture: hot buttered teacakes, large pot of English breakfast tea, uncovered sugar cookies and banana bread.  Oh, and guest.  She came shortly after this scene.  

It was particularly nice since she's an actual tea drinker, happy to have refills.  I love that.  A lot of people sort of drink tea but one cup is a lot. And she allowed as how it was ok to have a little something to take home, for a dessert some time.

Another much postponed tea will happen with the other friend who has had hitch after hitch, and the date for that is still tba.  The Dollivers can handle it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dolliver and dpns

So I'd seen a lot of loose talk in other blogs and on Ravelry about sock knitting and I thought it would be nice to replace a pair of my handknitted socks that I had worn out.  I tend to walk a lot and that definitely has an impact.

I got out one of my favorite simple patterns, for a toe up, Moon's Holler Stock Sock,   here  and found some nice celadon green cashmere yarn.  Harvested from a sweater from the thriftie, unraveled.  Several people have receive scarves from this lot, very welcome. 

I used to uncrimp the yarn, wetting, etc., and getting the fibers straight before I knitted.  Then I found that in knitting, it uncrimps anyway, and you can't tell the difference. So now I  just knit it as is.

This pattern is fun, because the short rowed toe sort of happens, and you find yourself with a completed toe cap. Very comfortable to wear, too, no stitching across your toes. Notice the nice stitch markers and their fancy case, gift of a Raveler.

So of course, Blondie Firstborn, the hat fancier, instantly recognized this as a possible Dolliver hat, and decided to try her hand at the dpns. 

You can use short circulars if that's your religion. I can't abide circulars, too much like knitting on a treadmill for me. I like the pause at the end of the straight needle, the reorganizing of the yarn, very leisurely sort of approach.  

And you get to do it several times per row if you use dpns.  I like to use four, a triangle of work and a working needle, if the pattern allows it.  Some people like five, working around a square.

I didn't like to mention that the Dollivers'  heads are way bigger than this toecap, but if she's willing to help, that's fine.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Woman proposes, God disposes

So last October I met an artist friend I hadn't seen for ages, and invited her to afternoon tea.  Pause while we set up a possible date. Then she got sick and had to postpone for a long time while she dealt with that.  Then she got back and we set up a date in the new year.  That turned out to be the bomb cyclone sideways snow day. So we postponed another week. That would be today. Then her furnace went south, and the only day she could get the repairman in is, yes, today.  We shall prevail.  I have now put her food goodies back in the freezer till the season thereof.

So this freed up a bit of time for other pursuits, aside from practicing recorder, which is incredibly rusty after weeks of postponement there, too, similar reasons.

And reading.  And I just finished another Joanna Trollope.  That's a good way of putting it, since she's a steady reliable predictable writer, a good cosy read.  This one was a bit irritating to start, until I got into the characters and stopped being so judgy about them. Good for a rainy day.

And the Printmaker's Daughter, nearest I could get to dogonart's recent recommendation, only thing by Katherine Govier in my libe, a novel set in the Edo period, which involves all kinds of famous rl printmakers. This should be fun, haven't started yet. 

The warm day and rain have washed away the snow, so I'm going to get waterproofed and go out in search of my snowdrops, just in case anything's showing yet.  And to cut a couple of branches from next door friend's catkin shrub, to bring in and force.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Out with a lot of materials, in with just a couple

Today I made it to the thriftie, and unloaded a large box plus four large bags of art materials for other artists' playing pleasure.  And, since I was there and fair's fair, I also found a couple of nice things to bring home.

Namely a little basket for a waste paper basket, just right for the spot where I've been throwing stuff before finding there was no wpb there.

And a silk/cotton mix cardigan in eau de nil.  Pearl buttons. Very nice with a white top and jeans.  I will feel, up to a point, all Lucia about this.  It's the eau de nil reference that does it.  Like her living room after she barged in on Mallards after poor Elizabeth had to sell and move.  

EF Benson fans will already have picked all this up from the color description, but the notes are for those who have not yet had the pleasure of the Lucia books.  And the amazingly good television series, starring Prunella Scales and Geraldine MacEwan.  And wonderful Nigel Hawthorne, doing Georgie to a t.  And a lot of other stars.  This was the  1990s version, not the recent one, which was a more bloodless and a bit dull.

The good part is that the dialogue on the tv series is almost word for word EF Benson's writing.  Such an ear.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bread to warm the cockles of your heart

I'm not entirely sure what these cockles are in the saying, but this bread probably fills the bill.  

One giant loaf, to be cut into four parts, three for the freezer and one for the fridge, first slice for the cook, warm, with honey on.

This is wholewheat and white, approximately equal parts, and I finally remembered poppyseeds for the top.  I always forget to do this until the bread's a memory.

And I highly recommend using a heavy nonstick casserole as a bread pan. I got this idea years ago from Jacques Pepin.

It makes a wonderful crust, and only needs sort of dusting out after the bread's removed. You can easily see when the bread's done when it pulls away from the sides, as seen here.

I think of this sort of bread as artisanal,  sort of crusty, hearty, really good for practically anything you use bread for. And definitely a good idea on a frigid old winter day.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Washing machine saga continued..

So, the good part is that the new machine fits the space.  The bad part is that it's frozen, and can't be tested for a couple more hours. Water used in factory testing freezes in the body, has to thaw before you can fill. 

The good part is that the delivery was done very promptly, within minutes of the window, and before the big storm we are promised.  The bad part was that I had had to move a lot of stuff so that the men could get round the corners and up the stairs.  

The good part is that one of them very kindly put back the big bookshelf for me, saving me a struggle, since Handsome Son not free to help. He picked it up like it was nothing.The bad part is that I had a lot of floor cleanup what with boots and icemelt being tracked in. 

The good part is that it wasn't too strenuous, since I'd had help with the furniture.  And only one artwork got knocked off the wall.

And Duncan, having checked out the men to permit them entry, retreated to the bed for the rest of the season. The bad part is one of the guys is very allergic to cats and he was coughing and sneezing.

So we'll see if SQ, that's the machine's name, lives up to her billing. This is the second machine in about three weeks, one for my tenant, one for me. I'm hoping for a break from buying washing machines now.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Roast vegs for the new year, crochet scarf as part of organizing studio

The freezing weather continues, cold enough for windchills registering in way below zero F, cold enough that the snow squeaks when you walk on it.  Just sayin. We do get cold here in central NJ, but we make sure to whine about it when it comes.

And to roast vegetables as a defense mechanism.  

Here are sweet potatoes, microwaved tender, peeled and added in to Granny Smith apple rings, with all the spices you see in the foreground. Turmeric, mustard seeds, kosher salt, fennel seeds, Bill Veach's #2 curry powder. And one Italian sausage, divided into little chunks shared with both dishes.  I like the orange sweet potatoes for this dish. The white ones are sort of meh. 

30 minutes at 410F, would have been 400F but my hand slipped.  This is enough for several meals, one big dish into the freezer.   I really like fennel seeds in this mix.  Not a fan of fennel in its vegetable form, oddly, but the seeds are fine.  Finocchio!  introduced to it by an Italian American, long ago.  And the apple rings I prepped days ago and froze ready for whenever I felt like cooking them.  I eat much better this way than if I had to start the prep from scratch in order to cook.  Learned this from Lidia.

And the other defense mechanism is to crochet a scarf.  

The crocheting keeps your hands warm, and the openwork of double crochet is really good for trapping warm air when you wear it wrapped around a time or two.  When I do the double crochet for this kind of thing, I send the hook through the opening below, not through a stitch, to start each double crochet. That way the fabric is very flexible. The yarn is part of what I saved when I was winnowing the other day, through my supplies.  

It's beautiful, handspun llama yarn, in variegated natural colors, made in Bolivia by a women's collective, and I paid fair trade price for it.  It has lots of vegetable matter, i.e. Bolivian bits of grass, in it, easy to pick out, but I like very much that they're there. 

Oddly enough, I didn't design the dark to lighter effect so neatly. It just came out that way as I worked.  This scarf will take up both large cakes of yarn, which is fine. I originally got it for a tapestry I was doing, and other fiberarts, but still had quite a bit to use.  I will probably join the two ends, turning it over once, to make another Moebius cowl.

So that's the Keeping Warm Scheme around here. Oh, and speaking of keeping warm, I finally got all my WarmUp America blanket pieces shipped off a while back, and a lovely postcard of thanks came today!  Never expected any acknowledgment, actually, figuring they're busy people, but the postcard design is a montage of blanket parts, people knitting, people holding up finished blankets, etc, very heartwarming. And if you want to take part, go here and see what's what.

Tomorrow my second washing machine arrives, I seem to be in the habit of buying washing machines, and today required moving stuff out of the way.  Including a giant bookcase on the bottom of the staircase, around which they have to maneuver the old machine down and the new one up.  

Hoping that Handsome Son is coming for dinner tomorrow night, because he can be recruited to put back the bookcase and help me replace all the stuff on it.  Largely shoes, since it's out of the way, but I can sit on the stairs to pull boots on.

It needs to go back up one step and turn.  Easier to get it down, for me operating solo, well, there was an exciting moment when I thought it was going to fall on me and trap me in the kitchen doorway, but moving right along.. 

And he can help lug all the bags and boxes of stuff to my car for the thriftie, currently two floors up, in the studio.  Nice stuff which has outlived its time in my life. Ready to move on.  He doesn't know any of this yet, but after a nice dinner, he'll be mellow about it.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Dollivers Bring in 2018

So the Dollivers, togged up in silk dresses, brought in the New Year with pink champagne, a first for all of us.

 Reminded me to change the year on my watermark.

And we all wish you a great New Year, with new dreams, new work, new days.  And to keep what was good in the old year, while making room for the new.