Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Textiles, tea, life changing touches and a new mystery

Yesterday was an excellent HGA  Textiles and Tea presentation by Jessica Pinsky, one of the few people who really are dynamic in their approach to life and art. 

Originally a painter, she switched to textiles, weaving mainly, to get nearer her materials, to handle them directly rather than with a brush or other tool.  

I definitely identify with this, since spindle spinning to me is working in closer partnership to the fiber than wheel spinning, and why I prefer it. 

She's based in Cleveland, now directs Praxis Fiberarts, which she created, working with Cleveland Institute of Art, which she kept referring to as the CIA (!) and with the community. She teaches at CIA, too.Here's what she describes as heaven, the Praxis workspace

Her own weaving is mind-blowing, the kind that makes you immediately want to run and get warping. I'm far from a traditional practitioner, never interested in "real" looms, but the need is the same! 

Woven side to side, the one on the right is barely more than 12 inches a side. The left is about 45 x 36 if I remember correctly. A true painter at heart, the size isn't uppermost in her description, the concept is. She commented that the left one is the only piece she's ever made that really is what she had envisioned. Art usually changes as it comes into being.

The series above is about spaces, leaving spaces in the warp to examine how fibers, like people, are similarly made and behave differently.

This is the series on labor and delivery, and the loneliness of the body once the baby has left it. In her case, twins, long, difficult labor, emergency C-section, narrow recovery. 

During the labor she said this concept came to her, for when she would be able to execute it. The babies are now two, and she's done it.  She and her wife are very much engrossed in their family right now, and her own art is waiting a while.

Here she's talking about different behaviors of similar textiles in different circumstances.  The lower one is very much math based, Pythagorean, to he exact. She commented that her math teacher would love to know that yes, she really did use Pythagoras in later life!

And she's  fearless in her approach, probably because of her coming to it from painting rather than the occupational therapy and art therapy a lot of weavers come from. 

They tend, broad generality here, to be much more technique, planning and tool based rather than design energy  based. She has the concept then looks for the fibers that will work, including mixing commercial yarns with her own spun fibers.

The very best weavers, my biased opinion here, like Archie Brennan and Sarah Swett, are fine artists who are accomplished in easel art and like to work in textiles and continue with a wonderful painterly approach. They understand the technicalities but are never governed by them, nor interested in repeat production.

Back to Jessica. She's growing indigo now, the dye plant, partly as a practical matter, partly as a community project, partly as a political statement. 

Here's the garden she's organized in Cleveland, and artists working on it. There are many other such indigo gardens starting up, and she's eager to see other cities take part.  During lockdown, many participants, now about 200, started and grew plants in their homes, until they could transplant them into the garden.

Indigo has a long history back to Africa, where it became terribly coopted into the slave trade, and in Japan, where it's a revered ancient  traditional dye material. I trust that African American artists also get their say, and ownership,  on this developing indigo story. 

The fiber arts don't have a good track record of inclusivity and intersectionality; we have to do our bit to remedy that.

Back on the ground again, it's too hot for serious reading and viewing, so Austen is on hiatus briefly while I enjoy this

Very much along the lines of Maisie Dobbs, Bess Crawford is a WW1 nurse, who finds herself being an amateur sleuth.  Very readable to my tired mind.

And I warmly recommend this recent addition to my life

Stainless steel thermos. The answer to needing a cup of hot tea in the morning before navigating the stairs. Or in the middle of the night for that matter. It takes the contents of my teapot with milk added.

Swish boiling water around it before filling with tea, warmed milk added. Done. Still lovely and hot next morning.

Still heat waving here. And now we have a water restriction advisory. A major water main a few miles north, ruptured, affecting the whole region. Four days to repair it. So sorry for the men digging. 

It's probably more a function of our ancient pipes than weather, I suspect.  Up to now I haven't lost pressure or noticed anything off color about the water. It's always something..

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Winnowing wins

Today being so boring, way too hazardous to be out in temps that felt like well over 100° f, and just not in the mood for ANYTHING,  I ended up listening to an old Christie audiobook and  sorting a few drawers near where I was sitting. 

This became interesting as I happily chucked papers and miscellany into the recycle and the thriftie pile. 

It also unearthed some bits of crochet that might go well in something or other with the mini Tunisian squares. These were from my granny square period. Using up  superfluous embroidery thread. 

Suggestions would be warmly entertained.

And even more exciting, I unearthed two Cross pen and propelling pencil sets. One engraved with my name, leaving gift from a long ago job, the other was Handsome Partner's work award for something. 

In the box to the right, the supply of graphite sticks that are stored in the barrel of the pencil, while I explore the pencil to see if I can get it to work. See the parts there? There's a built-in pink eraser, even. It plugs the container for the leads, and disappears when the pencil's assembled.

Both needed a little something, one pen needed a refill which I also found and installed, this is amazing.  One pencil needs repair, I think,  because, though it's loaded with the little graphite sticks, I can't get the lead to advance. I have a very nice pen and pencil set, one from each original set.

I've sent away for a refill for the other pen, and I find it's worth sending the nonfunctional pencil to the makers for repair. So it's parceled up ready to go in the mail when weather permits.

I looked them up and found people get all excited about this age of set. It's considered desirable! Vintage! Not sure how thrilled I am that my leaving present from midway in my work life is now vintage, but oh well. 

They're both from the late 70s, early 80s, 10k gold filled, made in the USA.  And they'll save me from shopping for pens and pencils for the foreseeable future. This is good.

I'll offer handsome Partner's set to Handsome Son first, once it's functional, because he does like what he considers antiques from a quaint era, namely his parents' youth.

I went to YouTube to learn more and found there's an entire community of vintage pen enthusiasts, with a Cross pen subsection. 

Such reverence, and technical know how,  it's like stumbling over a group of old watchmakers at their benches lovingly restoring old timepieces, same devotion.

It's taken seriously, and the comments on the videos are so technical I'm not sure what they're saying. This is multiracial and age mixed, however, it definitely seems to be a man's clubby thing, full of arcane jargon and in jokes. 

You can just see them at home holed up in their little workspaces, task lights on, happy as clams. I bet they've done fine with lockdown. 

Anyway that was a surprising afternoon's learning. I tried a few ideas to fix the pencil before concluding that it needed an Expert With Tiny Tools And Knowledge. It was fun trying before I arrived at that decision.

I also watched a great Textiles and Tea presentation, Jessica Pinsky. I'll blog about that tomorrow, needs its own space and mood. 

Same old biscuits with a change

So I'm bored with a lot of things right now, baking being one of them. And not wanting to heat the kitchen anyway. 

But I had to make some bread-adjacent food today, and got more interested when I remembered that container of chai spices in the freezer.

Big pinch of them in the batter, half and half whole wheat and bolted whole wheat, only three Tbs olive oil, usual buttermilk, made by souring milk with lemon juice. 

Broken one is cook's sample. And they smell wonderful! Perfect for cheese. Not jam. Just savory ideas.  Lovely scent of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, caraway and other notes as the posh cooks say.

Sometimes a bit of novelty draws my reluctant self along. That and a touch of hunger.

I wonder how many recipe ideas come from the cook, fed up of the same old same old, desperate to get interested again. 

That and kitchen mishaps forcing a bit of inventiveness. Someone long ago in a medieval kitchen totally ruins the whole ox. Quick, what can we cover the burned bits with? Sauce? Whatever that is, let's try it.

Then let's cut bits up tomorrow and mix with veggies, cover with mashed turnips because potatoes haven't been introduced here yet, and call it Ploughboy's Pie. 

No, not Playboy, that hasn't been invented either. We need to wait for Caxton to get on with that weird machine thing, so we can read at the table, not Playboy, the newspaper,  and annoy our families.

This is how my bored mind works.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Just grumbling. But there's the horoscope..

It's been hot and humid here. Like a lot of other places. This evening before going to check the mail and do some recycling, I checked the weather, as you do. Feels like 99, huh? I've been feeling like 99 for ages. The sun's down and it still feels like 99.

And after getting those few tasks done, looked ahead

That bright hot pink (!) area? I live right there in the middle of it. 

But there's always the horoscope. Today is about the best flowers to buy for your sign

I like horoscopes because they're not full of Ten Ways You're Ruining Your Life type of writing. The Five Mistakes Older Women Make in Fashion, Thirty one Foods You Should Never Eat. And so on.

Instead horoscopes tend to be encouraging and optimistic. I read them for practically every sign, just to cover everyone I know. 

There was a move a few years ago to reorganize the horoscope listing, dumping Sagittarius and moving other signs up to fill in, except for a couple of weeks assigned to something unpronounceable. I haven't heard anything about it lately. I felt really unnerved about it. It felt personal.

But then, us Sags don't believe in astrology.

And the heat goes on..

As we always say, very predictably, it's not the heat -- finish the sentence! Ninety percent humidity in the middle of the night is no picnic. Even the ants are too tired to carry away crumbs.

However I still get hungry, and here's a three day lunch supply of steamed broccoli and butternut squash over garlic flavored couscous. 

Less than fifteen minutes on the top of the stove. Good for not heating the kitchen. 

And here's lunch with a glass of the sun tea I made yesterday.  Nut of Irish butter on the food. Bit of Thai basil on top.

Turns out the inferior tea I got the refund on makes a fine sun tea. So there's that. Lemon wedges in the carafe.

Meanwhile waiting for a couple of deliveries. I checked the tracking system.

To translate: both packages arrived at the depot about ten minutes' drive from here in the middle of the night. Then they traveled to about twenty minutes drive from here.

Whereupon they were gathered up and swooped west, across the Delaware river, into Pennsylvania, across state lines, where they were left, about an hour and a half away.

From there they will come back by stages to my front step, ten minutes from their original in-state starting point two days ago.

This is from the department of Don't Ask Me, I Only Work Here.

I'm very sorry for the drivers leaping in and out of trucks today.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Abbrs. + Othr pzls

Today being very hot, too hot to go out, it was hot enough to brew sun tea. Which I did. Loose tea in the container, out in the sun, infusing and infusing. 

It's the subpar tea that I got the refund on, maybe this will be a good use. Worth a try. I strained it into a carafe. With the handmade Mickey stirrer, present from a glassblower friend.

Here it is, just cool enough to handle. The lemon slices are from the freezer so they're acting as ice cubes as well as flavoring. It's in the fridge now. I'll check it when it's cold.

Lunch was several small pasties, leek, potato, Thai basil, parmesan. Little sprig of the basil, for garnish, now that it's growing fast enough to pick 

Same sprig flavored the leek and potato soup later for supper. Yes, heavy emphasis on leeks since I accidentally bought enough to supply a small commune.

And today, speaking of ordering leeks, was Misfits box building day, where I order up and find I've gone way over the minimum, no fears I won't qualify. Posh name greeting from them, only because I have to use the name on my credit card. The order will arrive Friday.

Also it will soon be fireworks for the Fourth, and handsome Son and I go every year to a great spot he found where we can bring our chairs and see the show without needing to be in the crowds. 

It's a little grassy area a street away with a sky view and the company of a few other clever people who don't like crowds much either. Parking is right there, no crowds to navigate when we leave.

So I asked him to check when the show will be. Usually not on the fourth, that's a prime expensive booking time for the fireworks people, townships tend to fit around it, so you have to check each year which night they got.

Now, he has the same frugal gene as his mother's side of the family, and it shows up in his texting.  Not a wasted syllable when you pay as you go.

This just arrived and after a few tries, I broke the code.  I think it means he's on it.

Not that this took a lot of the day. That was mainly spent doing laundry just in case there's a power outage, listening to a Christie,  Murder is Easy, while I Tunisian crocheted tiny mitered squares, just because I like doing them, no other aim. And catching a bit of Sarah Millican on YouTube. And waking with a jolt to realize I'd been sleeping.

Very leisurely day, really. Maybe a bit of Persuasion this evening. 

Summertime..or smrtm, as the case may be.

Persuasion and the unpersuaded

Also Happy 89th Birthday to Handsome Partner. Still in mind, ten years after you peacefully left us.

Last night was Persuasion time. I had planned on watching one of the library DVDs, but on the way got sidetracked.

Watched part of a 70s BBC miniseries 

As you see, sets full of more or less accurate furniture, very well organized and nice to see. Costumes lovingly made to fit by someone who knew how and had the fabrics and budget for the job. 

A far cry from the low budget costumes of the more recent productions such as the Romola Garai Emma, poorly made, ill fitting, just a sad show, pulling down great acting.

Moving along, the hairstyles here were created by someone who seems to think Austen was writing about the later 19th  century rather than the early 1800s of the Regency period. I guess they had a good time getting carried away, so there's that. The simpler Regency styles wouldn't have been as much fun. 

Alas, the production itself was pretty much local repertory theatre, sloooow,  inexpert, actors suddenly starting to act on command at each scene change, not being already in persona. Actors clearly feeling they were in costume rather than the good actor who's just wearing clothes. It was worth checking out, though, just to see what Austen inspired in different producers and actors. 

And I did love the settings. And the horses. Wonderful carriages. I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying it.

Then I stumbled onto a truly inspired production, a Saturday night theatre BBC radio version, just cracking along, very intelligently acted, just as full of life as I think it oughta be. 

Saturday Night theatre was a regular BBC offering before TV was really a thing, and some great actors and playwrights can be spotted there, some before they got famous.

When I started this summer Austenfest, I though there might be enough productions for a few nights' viewing fun. Now I realize that it was a bit naive, like going to the library and thinking maybe there will be a couple of books in here.  Spoiled for choice, moi.

Summer got here. Woke at 2.30 am, to switch on a fan. Checked the weather. 90% humidity, temp high 70s. That's as cool as it got, after daytime heat index in the 90s f.. No wonder I get tired in this weather. Just breathing takes work. But all's well. I have air conditioning. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Red plum alert, raspberries too

The black plums having all gone into jam, I can now attend to the red plums which have been ripening on the counter.

I made one of those Melissa Clark Figgy Demerera Snacking Cake deals. No figs, no Demerera sugar, but that's fine.

It occurs to me that my Inner Me needs four workspaces to make a simple cake.

The instructions

One lot of ingredients

The plums

The buttered, floured, tray.

But I do get plenty of steps in, whipping back and forth.

And I get a cake organized with red plums.

And sampled, with a cup of tea. 

I have ordered another supply of tea, this time Scottish Breakfast, in honor of Glaswegian Handsome Partner whose 89th birthday is tomorrow. He stopped ten years short but who's counting.

And I have this year's raspberries, so expensive but I'm worth it, in the freezer for some purpose TBA. Three pints. Picked by the farm yesterday a few hours before I froze them.

It's a short season, just a few days now, more in September when they bear again.

If you have ideas other than jam,  please let me know. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Soup kept happening

I found myself the hapless prawn of fate today, suddenly making more soup than I ever have at one go before.

First, Hungarian cream of mushroom soup. Pretty much the same as any other c of m, but it had paprika. It's really good, so maybe the paprika was a good idea. Also I made a cornstarch and milk thickening, so the cream of part was particularly good.

And garlic scapes are the usual garnish nowadays, still growing like mad.

Then while I had all the tools out I thought why not make that leek and potato soup I've been talking about, before the potatoes get past it. I didn't get all posh and call it vichyssoise. This is more homey, doesn't talk furrin'. and it used all the potatoes and most of the overstock of leeks.

No pictures of the process, you've seen it before, but here's the upshot in the freezer

There's more under there. Ten helpings of mushroom and l and p. No need to make soup for a while.

My neighbor stopped in again today to continue the restaurant review of the plum jam which he says is perfectly balanced! I'll  never reach this peak again. Maybe I'll quit while I'm ahead.

I also sorted a load of lovely silk and linen and velvet and organdy scraps for freecycling. Or the thriftie. There's also some batting in there. 

I'm improving the shining hour. Or something. This activity was  accompanied by an audiobook of At Bertram's Hotel, a favorite Christie.

I wonder if this cooking and winnowing and reading and not making is related to my horoscope. It's humbling to think of all the planets organizing themselves in order to warn me against my friends, and to make soup.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

What's more lovely than a day in June

Today was triple A. Weather sunny, low humidity, in the 70s.  Neighbor ran over early, toast in hand, to tell me he was in heaven with the plum jam. "I'm LOADING  it on the muffin, look!" Evidently he liked it. 

Then I listed on Freecycle an HP inkjet printer in its original box, my unused backup, worked last time I tried it. Complete with cables, installation instructions etc. 

Picked up by afternoon by a lady for her special needs students to use. Everybody happy. I fervently hope it works for them. 

Then off for  ice cream at the local hand dipped place, first in two years. Butter pecan. Single scoop. Sugar cone.

Served at the window, benches outside to sit and enjoy.

Off to the park

And a stroll by the lake, hundreds of darners ( brilliant blue slender dragonflies), mating joyfully in flight, attending to what I think is a nursery, clear jellylike material floating at the surface, they're prodding at it, l have to learn about this. Also beautiful ginger colored tiny dragonflies. We are blessed with many species.

Here's how it was today. The bench is where Handsome Partner and I used to come and sit while he could still manage a few steps, and where much later I came after making arrangements for his cremation, at the funeral home a short distance from here. 

I've also come here to draw and paint with an artist friend now gone. But it's not a sad place, just a quiet one, with good memories. I also did a couple of hilarious photo shoots with the Dollivers here modeling little black dresses while hugging trees. Speaking of trees

 if you love woodland fairy tales and fantasy, this might be a habitat for gnomes.

Home to chat with neighbors and read Persuasion. Waiting on a couple of library DVD productions of it. Yes, of course the Ciaran Hinds version is one of them. Obligatory.

In the middle of the reading and chatting, a hefty man with a ladder showed up asking if I would let him clear the gutters. Another big guy doing good work around here.

Evidently they're clear, good. I wasn't aware of a problem anyway. He put back my furniture and departed with the ladder, and I continued with the history of the Elliots and their impending move to Bath. 

Captain Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds in my mind, hush up) hasn't made an appearance yet but Anne's all of a doodah already about the prospect.

She might not be the only one..