Tuesday, November 30, 2021

TFL to displacement activity cooking

Partly triggered by ideas from Clarissa, I committed two experiments yesterday, both edible.

One was to add raw chopped onions to fishcake mixture  l was already toying with using sweet potatoes rather than white. And  I  went and added in a handful of raw spinach. An egg, baharat, salt. Small can of tuna, drained.

I don't deep fat fry, but I sort of roasted the cakes at 400°f on an oiled baking sheet. About half an hour, turned midway 

Pretty good supper. Interesting combo of flavors. I wondered if the sweet potato would work, and it did. The onions and spinach cooked through. This beats deep fat frying, which I don't like doing

Then Clarissa made a great tart crust using just ground almonds, caster sugar and one egg white. 

So I tried that, because it was a chance to do something I've had in mind for ages, using the upside down nonstick muffin pan to form pastry shells.

But I found that my dough was way too sticky to work. I'd ground regular sugar to make caster, and whole almonds. Almonds vary, eggs vary, and she was pressing hers into a fluted pan, not rolling it. Anyway I added flour until the dough was dough, used a crumpet ring to cut out circles, and see how it went

350°f about 25 minutes, left them to cool in place.

Then lifted them off, sampled the little one. Really nice. Very crunchy, not too sweet,  good almond flavor. 

So these are now in an air tight container until I get the ingredients for filling them. I hadn't thought that far. Ran out of sugar, a first, so the rest is on hold till reinforcements arrive.

I'm really pleased with the upside down pan idea, not mine, saw it somewhere. Next time, to get a shallower shell, I can use a smaller cutter. I'm definitely doing this again.

And I've been studying toilet replacement parts for the leaking unit upstairs. I think it may be possible for Gary to fix it if he ever gets time again. 

We both suspect the base gasket of needing to he replaced. I can't do that, since it entails unscrewing all the works and lifting off the tank, a bit beyond my strength.  But since it leaks only when flushing, we both think some seal isn't functioning under pressure. With luck I won't need a plumber. 

Then the overhead light he fixed for me downstairs jumped off the clips holding it in place. Twice. I think it's a lousy design, and I'm ordering a different, bigger light with a different installation design. I can't keep asking him to run in and snap it in place again!

I haven't seen him for a week to talk to, but I think I'll go ahead, order the new one, and ask him to install it. Then when he unhooks the first light which is now hanging down, but light in weight, not dangerous, I can return it for a refund. And maybe it will all stay fixed. 

I feel better now I've made a couple of decisions. Action always helps my frame of mind. 

Monday, November 29, 2021


That's the number plate of the Two Fat Ladies motorcycle and sidecar, on which they drove all over the UK and to other countries, in the course of their cooking/tourist TV show.

They got the plate because Two Fat Ladies  is  bingo slang for number 88! And  TFL are the initials of their show. Never missed a chance at a joke. They've long been gathered to their ancestors but we can still see their four seasons on YouTube.

They're worth revisiting for the comedy alone, and  their reminiscences of their wildly colorful and well connected lives, into which cooking appeared quite late. And nsfw humor which got past the  censors, and goes over a lot of heads, judging from the YouTube puzzled comments.

Their food is rich, expensive and uses only the best. They leap in a fishing boat to get their fresh catch, pick mussels from rocks, go game shooting, ew, and cook for a wide range of diners, unlimited budget.

Pony clubs, the Cambridge rowing eight, the clergy of Westminster cathedral, a boy scout camp, a Welsh male voice choir, there's no end to the locations. And the views on their way there, make you want to go there.

I watch them, scions of the one percent, the way Mary watches a TV series about California real estate glamor types. Another world, fun to see, but really anthropology. There's interesting cooking, though, because they really are professional experts.

Just watched them cooking for barristers at Lincoln's inn, Rumpole's stamping ground in fiction, Clarissa's in real life. She was a celebrated and very young barrister, various things happened and she became a private chef.

Just seemed a good sequel to watching Rumpole. 

For the barristers, they make among other things, beef Wellington (named for the NZ city) or beef en croute, or what they say, beef in pastry!

Loads of fun. I note their vegetable and fruit cooking mainly,  their fish being different varieties from what's available to me. They also grandly refer you to your butcher to discuss cuts of meat. I don't think that's in my world. Nor references to titled neighbors -- on the next estate!

I get some great ideas to adapt, though and pick up tips and reminders. Also they're funny, worth the price of admission.

So that's keeping up my scattered spirits, what with the upcoming surgery, next week, a new plumbing issue which is more complex than I thought and may mean an expensive replacement, and continuing issues with the newly installed light. 

These too shall pass. It's the meantime that's the bother, as always.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Mt Clemens Pottery Co and other homegrown arts

Those dishes I referred to over Thanksgiving, I finally did some research. They're from the Petal line of Mt Clemens Pottery, probably from the 1930s.  

The pottery was founded in 1915 by local businessmen to boost the Mt  Clemens, Michigan, economy. Did well for quite a while, bought out McCoy Pottery eventually. It finally closed in the 1980s, after a series of buyouts, takeovers, and legal struggles overcame it.

These are vintage, not antique,  inexpensive for collectors, and, I like to use them all the time. 

The other smaller dishes, are Paden City Pottery. This was another investment venture, three farms in West Virginia bought in the early 20th century to create a new city, named Paden City, where the first business was the pottery, founded in 1914.

It ran until 1963, after producing art pottery, very popular at that time, as well as dinnerware.

And there's my favorite Shawnee Corn design bowls, very good humored. I served the corn and peas in them.

Shawnee pottery, in Zanesville Ohio, also home of McCoy pottery, was founded in 1937, a relative latecomer among Midwestern potteries. I can attest to how sturdy these bowls are, having survived nearly fifty years in my hands.

The early twentieth century saw a lot of growth in pottery and other ceramics, ranging from the wonderful Newcomb Pottery, of Newcomb College, now part of Tulane University. providing art related training  to women, 

This piece is in the Metropolitan Museum

and Rookwood Pottery of Cincinnati, producing art pottery now commanding five figures at auction.

Enough raw info for you to do a bit of detective work if you're in the mood. The Arabic numbers are not dates, they refer to catalog design numbers.

My little collection of Rookwood pieces. You can detect their age from the number of flames on the stamp, among other features, such as shape, glaze and surface design. 

The turquoise and cream piece is probably influenced by the design of Shirayamadani, a famous Rookwood creator and master potter. Not his work, but it has features he would like. It's a wonderful glaze combo, high gloss like water on top, matte and velvety to the touch on the pedestal.

The green vase is art nouveau style, with a wonderful soft glaze, and the yellow one has raised relief figures and a higher glaze in a soft color, which you want to keep looking at. 

Theseus are minor pieces, beautiful, not museum quality. Rookwood lasted from 1880 to 1967, and was revived in 2004. My pieces date back to 1914 and thereabouts.

These brief notes are just about a few Midwestern and southern potteries.  But NJ, Trenton, my neighboring city, has a whole social history of its own,  pottery, immigration, skulduggery, economics,  natural resources all connected. For another time.

I used to teach antique recognition  in adult school back in the day, so that my students could have the pleasure of learning to recognize good stuff when they saw it at fleamarkets and garage sales, like detectives.  Anyone can buy at auction after someone else has has the fun of finding and identifying. But it's much more fun to be them! 

I also had collectors in other regions of the country where the pickings are much slimmer, who would happily buy from me. They knew my identification would stand up, and would buy based on my written description and guarantee. This was before digital cameras, very horse and buggy. Another time I'll tell you some stories about my life in the antique world.

Meanwhile my evening is going to crime

A jar of sunshine

Yesterday, power of concentration and focus not working well, anxiety about various household things, I made apricot sauce for the Christmas ham.

Simple recipe, sugar and water, dried apricots simmered till tender, blended smooth, dash of vanilla, done. 

And really good, not very sweet, nice to oppose the saltiness of ham. Also the lovely golden color contrasts with the color of ham. In the freezer now. 

It's the first day of Hanukah, enjoy if you observe it. Long ago my son came home from nursery school singing the dreidel song, and with a little dreidel. I wasn't sure if it was a religious item not for casual handling, so I took it from him until I could ask a friend. 

She said what sort of mom are you? It's a TOY, give it back to him right now!  So my education was improved and he went on to adapt the dreidel song to all kinds of contexts. One time he was making worms from clay, singing oh flatworm, flatworm, flatworm, I made it out of clay..

So that's us today. Happy Sunday, beginning of Advent, too, if you celebrate it.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Threads and patterns

Here's a wonderful French blog, Fils et Aiguilles, by an accomplished embroiderer, Yolande. Check her out. 

She introduces a different type of stitching with each post. Infrequent, and all the more welcome. The only tiny drawback is that I want to try, or revisit, every stitching type she mentions. 

Each post appears in three languages including English, no need for translation apps which never get stitching terms right.

Her title means threads and needles, works more rhythmically in French in that order, where English prefers needle and thread for the word order.

It's impossible for a translation to differentiate between fils, plural of fil, meaning thread, and fils, singular, pronounced differently and meaning son. This results in some hilarious versions, as you can imagine, in a context where threads are referred to all over the place.

Then the forecast snow recalls to mind  fractals, the ever-recursive shapes, which basically create the universe.  

I first found out about fractals, the Mandelbrot set, to he exact, incredible mathematical  discovery, (or construct? not sure what term to use), back in the 90s, when the Swiss institution of mathematics seriously involved in fractals used to leave their then brand-new website open to interested non-math people.

I then made quite a bit of fractal-based art at that time,  using a complicated computer set-up at the college where I took classes, puzzled my teachers and won a couple of purchase prizes in exhibits from equally baffled jurors who loved the work while wondering what it was and how it was done.

Like these

Some of these are in corporate and public and private collections, some bust up and collaged into new work. Some probably lying around somewhere, I'm a maker, not a conservator!

Back to the Swiss math institute,  a lot of people caught on to fractals, kept crashing the website, and the math institute regretfully closed it to non faculty or credentialed mathematicians.  

They were very polite, very sorry, but explained they couldn't do international research when their website kept crashing! 

Here are their mathematical fractals, the top left being the Mandelbrot set

You don't have to grasp the mathematical principles to love these shapes. Just Google in fractals and go.

Speaking of how they're everywhere, some of our blogistas have had overnight storms of fractals, this kind

In the past I've cut out some pretty complex paper snowflakes for winter decorations, all given away in the course of teaching. I might make a few to hang in the patio window now that I won't be opening it much in cold weather.

 I'm remembering being an early adopter of conputer assisted art, often fractal based, and having questions from exhibit curators and jurors and visitors about what the heck they were seeing, recalls how it was a whole new concept.

Very hard for people to look at my photographed  abstract images, and grasp that they were not a picture of an object.   No physical object existed, it being an image capture of what was on my screen. It existed only on my ever increasing collection of big floppy disks. Each image took an entire disk.

Since there were only two printers in the country which could print this massive range of color and shape, the nearest in Colorado, my instructors devised a way to install a 35mm camera into the guts of the computer set-up, so you installed the reel of film by touch, and took pix.  This was long before screenshots or scanning were thought of. 

Then I got the film developed at a local photography place. The people working there became fans! They were the first to see how the images appeared as photos and would go see them exhibited. 

There was a lot of misunderstanding of the concept of computer assisted art at that time, even exhibit jurors saying they wouldn't accept it into shows because "a computer made it". I used to explain the computer was just a great big fancy pencil. The artist made the work using it as a tool.

And I still entered my work, describing it as a print, which indeed it was. They accepted it, not realizing that these complex images were in fact created with the help of a computer. I think they were expecting  cartoons or simple graphics or something.

The software had a base ramp (display) of sixteen colors, each of which had the possibility of a million variations of hue, intensity and luminosity. Short version: more options than the human eye can perceive. Even shorter version: heavenly playtime, endless choices.

I worked intensively in computer-aided art for about eighteen months, at which point I was hungry to handle physical materials again, and moved back into monotype making and other tactile work.

Which was just as well, because the college then replaced all the art department PCs with Macs, at that time the graphic industry standard for ad design, so my equipment vanished. 

The faculty were interested in equipping students for careers in advertising, not so much for the fine arts. Probably pressure from the county funders to show employment results.  But they had already done folks like me proud. No complaints here.

When I started this post I thought I'd just show you stitching and snowflakes! Shows what happens when I start thinking.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Resting Friday

Around here shopping isn't a thing, so the aftermath of Thanksgiving is about remembering to support the local food bank, enjoying lovely sandwiches of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing, and loafing.

Which includes watching Lucy Worsley on YouTube doing great historical dox complete with dressing up, when she's not wearing her own great gladrags.

I love her coats and jackets. Being tall and very slender, she looks great in anything, but here's a design feature I absolutely will swipe next chance I get. I'm already figuring out how to do these pleats.

And here's the perfect jacket length for her

Back to the feasting part, I set up music in the background, my favorite period. 

Lovely peaceful music, written at another time of plagues and unrest and population movement, same reason I watch Lucy, a sense of proportion and the reality of history.

Before he left, Handsome Son did a big favor, brought down what I grandly think of as my entertainment center. 

It's been up in the spare bedroom, but I don't tend to go up there in cold weather.  So it's now next to the fireplace, where I'll watch DVDs over the winter. 

The VCR slot works, and the DVD player is a Freecycle score. I had two, gave one away.  Tv probably 30 years old, very cutting edge at the time.  Works for me.

So this was us yesterday, late afternoon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021


Today I'm roasting the turkey breast, turning the (canned this year) cranberry sauce out into a favorite dish, finding the cooked sweet potato in the freezer, searching for the red tablecloth, seeking out the serving dishes, remembering how many handy pie dishes are now plant saucers, and wondering yet again how come cooking for two should entail as much chaos as for ten. And yet it does.  I've become that old lady who lays the table the day before!

It's nice to use the Shawnee corn dishes, the Paden City platters, the other ones whose name I forget, the cheese board, all American as can be.

And this is only the main course. Handsome Son is in charge of drinks, crackers and cheese, and pie of his choice, almost certainly pumpkin, and the required cream. That all comes with him tomorrow.

In times like this, read a bit of history and we realize they're not really all that unusual, it's good to find things to be thankful for. And let's not do shabby comparisons. I'm not impressed by a person feeling better because others have it worse. 

But I am thankful for our good humored blogistas, now joined I see, by a couple of blogistos, welcome gennumen, for Handsome Son, local and loyal, nice neighbors, ability to walk the neighborhood daily, roof over head, solvency, so much.

And for the generous talent of Maggie Rudy, whose Thanksgiving wish I send you here