Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Holiday

With family coming in tomorrow for Thanksgiving and at least part of the weekend, I am not going to be writing any more this week.  So I wish everyone: 

A very happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Chores

I would imagine if I asked 10 women who are retired what they did today, their answer would be cooking and cleaning.  Or maybe cleaning and cooking.  

That's what I did today with a great deal of help from D.  He prepared the dressing, the squash, and the mashed potatoes, and I prepared the creamed onions, the gravy stock, and the cranberry sauce.  He raked the "back 40" (the area behind our garden) and mowed the lawn - as he said with the snow that's coming today was the last day to do the final outside chores.  While he did that I cleaned (mostly dusting the high up places in the family room and vacuuming) and ran an errand. 

Tomorrow is baking day for me: apple crisp and cookies - and then the gravy and Panko topping for the creamed onions.  D helps with the crisp by peeling the apples, and I hope I can enlist him to help with prepping the remaining vegetables.  After that, I think we'll be ready.

Ready for the snowstorm?  Probably.  We've checked with D's sister, and she'll come when the weather permits, and tomorrow we'll make sure our daughter will wait until Thursday before driving.  

Thanksgiving will wait for them; they are among the reasons we celebrate it in the first place - and I bet all of those 10 women I asked about their day would say the same thing about their Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2014


The Thanksgiving flurry of activity is really picking up - or at least it is in my brain.  Today was house organizing, a bit of cleaning (it's actually okay in that respect except for one surprisingly dusty place to tackle tomorrow), laundry, bed making, and a lot of list making.

Here's a first.  This year I made the usual lists of all items we are going to serve, and the dishes in which they will be placed.  Then I added the re-heating of pre-cooked food, (we prepare almost all the vegetables, dressing, and potatoes beforehand), the sequence for re-heating (a combination of guesswork and experience), AND the method of reheating.  It's that last bit all about re-heating that is new on my list.  

It occurred to me that I never figured out when to start re-heating which items or how the re-heating was to be done.  Whether something was going to be put in the microwave, on the stove top, in the toaster oven, or in the regular oven was a toss up year after year.  It always created some anxiety because invariably something was forgotten.

Will it work?  Who knows.  But I do like making lists! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Singer Sewing Machine

No, I don't have a photo - yet, but my mother's Singer sewing machine (1928 model, I believe) came home this weekend in its newly refinished cabinet.  The cabinet looks lovely, and all I have to do is have the machine re-wired if I want it to be functional.   

I never learned how to sew on that machine even though I think mother may have tried to teach me.  My memory is that I was never able to get the bobbin thread to cooperate.  By "never" I mean I probably tried once or twice and then gave up.  I had little interest in sewing clothes at that time.  Why should I?  She did such a good job at it that there was no need for me to work at it.  

Besides reading and drawing was far more fun, less work, and more satisfying.

Times change, don't they?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Change of Pace

Today I'm tired out by wonderful activities and the start of a new "art" quilt - no story this time.  We'll see how it goes.
In the meantime, I wanted to show you Clive, our pet clivia:

It's been a little over a week since I showed you the tightly shut, very green blossoms.  The blossoms are much larger and are not as tightly packed as they were a week ago.

You can clearly see the hint of orange at the tips of some of the blossoms.  Wonder if any will be open for Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Now, Will the REAL Final Painting, Please Stand Up?

Okay, I was so sure when I wrote last night's entry that I was showing the final of my painting, but when I finished and looked at it again, I knew I had to do something about the color of the building behind the musicians.  So I immediately got out my paints and went to work.

The result?  Even after rag-rolling* the wet paint, by the time I went to bed I was convinced I had ruined the work entirely.  The rag-rolling helped, but the color was still so far beyond god-awful I didn't think anything could save the painting.  
Just imagine how I felt.  This was a painting I had started in Vermont in August and one that I truly felt in my bones that I had to do.  It took a very long time to do for a number of reasons, but I was remained committed to completing it  - which I had finally accomplished.  And I had destroyed it.

A good night's sleep brought the answer once again.  I went back to the studio, carefully thought over what I had come up with during my sleep, took a deep breath, and picked up my tools.  It took a while, but when I had finished, I looked at the painting in a mirror and then straight on.  The offending color had been turned to a beautiful, rich, but very dark brown.  It was slightly mottled (all on it's own without rag-rolling) instead of a flat color.  And it was o.k. - too dark, but O. K.!!

So once again, I'd like to show you the finished "French Quarter Notes."

Oh, and you may notice I fiddled a bit in the background, too, until in my head I heard the voice of another student in the class, "Put the Brush Down.  Turn your Back and Put your Hands Up.  NOW!"  So I did.

*Rag-rolling: the term I use to describe using a rolled-up, wrinkled paper towel to blot up wet paint.  It blots but also leaves the impression of the wrinkles - easy added texture.  I don't know what that method is really called, but this works for me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"French Quarter Notes"

It's official; well, to me anyway.  "French Quarter Notes" (previously masquerading under an assumed name) is completed, and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet!  Notice the official title of the painting; I try to use a sobriquet for my paintings until they are finished so I don't jinx them.  Silly, I know.

Well, here it is:

Remember that while I say it's finished, I am sure that Sharon will have something she wants me to do, but I still feel very happy that it's done!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Metallic Watercolor Paints for Instruments

The end is coming closer!  Last week I experimented with my new metallic paints and discovered that they aren't to be used by themselves - at least in this painting.  They do not carry color effectively.  Sound strange?  

When I practiced on scrap paper, I found that even the metallics that looked the darkest on my palette, couldn't be seen very well when used by themselves on watercolor paper.  However, once they were layered on top of appropriate colors the shine became evident.  For example, the tuba below has several different yellows, a couple of browns, and orange.  The metallics don't show at all in the photograph.  But if you were to look closely at the actual painting, you would see the sparkle of the two metallic gold paints I used on top of the "regular" colors I just mentioned.

The only one I used in this painting that seemed to be able to carry it's own color is the darker of the two silvers I purchased. You can see it clearly on the drum where it is used by itself across the outside surface of the drum.  

Getting those instruments painted is a huge part of what was left to be done.  Is there more to do?  Oh yes, I made a list of things to work on in class tomorrow and only hope they will all be accomplished.

Now I feel I can say that this painting will be completely done by Christmas.  Thanksgiving would be nice, but I have to be realistic!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Return to Knitting

Off and on for a month or so, I've been looking for a black wool cardigan.  I have an off-white Aran cardigan I made for myself which gets a lot of wear, but a black sweater would be very welcome.  I was very disappointed to find a lot of  ready-made wool-plus-cotton-plus-nylon-plus-other-synthetics but very few pure wool sweaters in the basic black, long sleeves, cardigan style I was looking for.  I finally decided I'd just have to make myself one so I toddled off to my favorite knitting shop, Trumpet Hill, with pattern in hand.

Black yarn was found (I actually didn't allow myself to be seduced by violet or fuchsia or turquoise as I had the last time I thought I'd make myself a black sweater), but when the saleswoman went to get the additional skeins I would need from the back of the store, I did allow my eyes to wander.  Mistake?  Yes, but not dire, this time.  I picked up a skein of a black yarn with hints of gray in it - beautiful.  And the hand?  it was as silky soft and smooth as one could wish.  Nervously I turned to the helpful lady and said, "I suppose this won't do, will it?"  

"Why not?" she responded. "It's pure wool and the right weight."  My heart leaped - until she said, "I'm not sure we have more, though."  Off she went to the back to check and came back with her arms full of this lovely yarn!

I did wind up changing patterns and have now started my first top down sweater. In case that sounds strange, it means you start knitting at the neck and work down to the waist - no separate sleeves or sides - it's all one piece.

Here it is on the kitchen table.  In this picture the color is more accurate than the next one.  It is black and the gray seems almost blue; it reminds me of a crow's feathers. The pattern is a simple stockinette stitch; I didn't want to get into my beloved complicated stitches with black yarn.  It wouldn't show up well and therefore wouldn't be worth the extra work.

In this picture the yarn looks dark gray with lighter gray mixed in.  This one I'm including because while the color isn't correct, you can see the shading much better.  Fortunately, to my way of thinking, the shading doesn't pool (all the light gray clumping in specific areas which happens if the light color is added in regular intervals).  It remains random.

I had to stop knitting tonight because I want to take it in to the shop and possibly buy some more yarn.  I'm making the smallest size and I'm wondering if I should go up a size because I will be wearing winter clothing under the sweater.  If I do change sizes, I will need to increase some more and also purchase another skein of yarn.

There's always something, isn't there!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written!  I have been doing wonderful and engaging things - painting, quilting, having fun with friends, playing with grandson, visiting with daughter - you get the idea, I am sure.

D has also been busy - joining me in a few of the busy times I've mentioned and also doing his own activities.  Some of those activities take him away, and I think that's what has thrown me off my schedule a bit.

Whatever it is, I will sit myself down, give myself a good talking to, and try to get back into my routine next week.  For this week, it will probably continue to be hit or miss.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cooking Experiments

Now here's a new topic for this blog - cooking.  While it may have been mentioned in entries before this one, this will be the first time, I think, that I devote an entire entry to food preparation and enjoyment.

It's all ME's fault.

You see, one of her favorite vegetables is the turnip.  My reaction when she mentions (or when anyone mentions) turnips is to try to suppress a shudder.  At one point in my life, I was served mashed turnips.  Gleefully, I dug into them thinking I had winter squash.  Oh my.  No, no, no, turnips were not for me.  So of course, I lumped rutabagas (though I loved the word and a book called Rutabaga Stories when I was a kid) and parsnips in with turnips.  Actually, I had at various times in my childhood been served rutabagas and parsnips and hadn't like them at all.

Then in the newspaper or in a magazine I read that parsnips had suffered from the same overcooked vegetable practice that almost all vegetables had been given while I was a child (need I mention gray, mushy asparagus?).  That on the contrary, parsnips when cooked properly are not the soft, mushy things hiding in soups or stews, but they are instead a tender, slightly sweet vegetable.  So I went to the store and bought two parsnips, brought them home, and planned to put them in soup - but not overcook them.

Due to D's travel schedule for two weeks running no soup was made.  During that time (fortunately root vegetables keep longer than leafy, green ones!), I read the most recent Victoria magazine ( a subscription given to me by my sister-in-law N so I guess this is partly her fault, also) and found a recipe for root vegetables - note the plural, please.  

I thought of ME, and I thought of my ruling principle which is to be open to opportunities and new experiences.  Off I went to the store with the recipe in hand.  I had to wait until D was home again to cook those vegetables, but cook them I did.

Parsnips.  Turnips.  Beets.  Carrots.  The radishes were too far past freshness to buy, so we'll have to try them again some other time.  I did have to change the recipe slightly to omit some things that are not kind to us or to suit our tastes, but here's the verdict.

ROASTED root vegetables are absolutely incredible!  Both D and I were amazed and are happy to have more vegetables to add to our long list of favorites (beets and carrots were always okay by us).  Plus it also encourages us to try some other things that we haven't cooked ourselves.  Okra, for instance.  In New Orleans, okra is in almost everything, and it was never slimy! 

It shouldn't be such a surprise to me.  After all, my mother made hot cereal regularly.  She made Wheatena, oatmeal, Maltex and some others I have managed to forget.  I loathed them all even when she tried hiding raisins in the bottom of the bowl to tempt me (I am still not overly fond of raisins).  But now I make hot cereals using steel-cut oats, quinoa, wild rice, barley, grits, and Maltex (although not all of them at the same time!) and throw in apples, cranberries, honey or brown sugar or dark amber maple syrup or molasses during cooking, and then top a bowl off with loads of fresh fruit.  

Then there's my newest chili.  I found a recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean chili in one of the grocery stores, and since we like those two ingredients, I had to try it.  It's now earned a place in our regular soup/stew of the week line up!

Experimentation keeps our meals interesting, makes me use the produce that's in season and therefore, not as expensive, and keeps me aware of what we are eating instead of returning to the same old, high fat, high calorie, high sodium foods (though I'm not as good about the sodium as some people who put me to shame - E!).  I know enough to substitute or eliminate altogether things we really don't like or to add something that I think will enhance a dish.  The fact that I enjoy cooking helps a lot, of course, and having good friends to encourage one to try something new or a sister-in-law to broaden one's horizons through a magazine are definite pluses.

But turnips and parsnips?  Well, I'm just floored.  Thanks, ME and N!