Monday, February 24, 2020

On Sundays She Tends Her Orchids


I have eight of them on our dining table -- a location that seems to agree with them as seven of them are in bloom right now and one is covered with buds.


And every Sunday I water and fertilize them, do a search and destroy for scale (it is always lurking,) and appreciate anew their exotic beauty.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

And Speaking of Fiction and the Truth Therein ...





I picked up a novel to begin reading and, only a few pages in. was struck by the horrifying appropriateness of the following to the current situation in our country. The administration isn't rounding up the Jews, but in plain sight they are purging from the government any who value truth above loyalty to the Orange Embarrassment. They are demonizing the "Other" and there are little children, separated from their families and kept in cages. We are at a tipping point.

from The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

"It started so slowly... coming toward us like a river shifting from its banks, one centimeter at a time. One lie, then the next. Lies so big there had to be a reason to tell them. there had to be a purpose, maybe even some truth..."



". . . (He) is toying with the world...With one hand he negotiates peace; with the other he sets us on the path to war. We all see it. Right before us... And we do not look away."



"The excitement of resistance two years ago when it had seemed certain that the Fuhrer's inordinate excesses, his purges, his insanities would yield a revolt among his own ranks and knock him out of power, had been flattened into quietude by the steady, unsleeping machinery of the Reich operating in plain sight."

And here we are...


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Reading BIG, Reading small . . .




"I think that's the longest I've seen you take to read a book," said John the other day. 

I've been pecking away at this weighty (in both senses of the word) tome for weeks now. The ideas are so big that it works best for me to read a bit, usually after breakfast,  and have the rest of the day to digest what I've read before moving on to the next bite.

Well, what would you expect from a book subtitled A Brief History of Humankind? 

There's a lot of ground to cover--a hundred thousand years, give or take--during which Homo sapiens--that's us--emerged as the dominant life form, sending into oblivion the other humans such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, along with an appalling toll of animal species. 

Harari traces the path of this juggernaut Sapiens through prehistory and history, arguing that it was the evolution of imagination that allowed Sapiens to cooperate with one another, to believe in intangibles like gods, nations, and money and, ultimately human rights.

It's a fascinating look at where we've been and how we got where we are. It also provides some sobering questions about our future (as if we didn't already have enough.)

One of many books I also read, almost like a palate cleanser while I was consuming the banquet of Sapiens, was Elizabeth Gilbert's Pilgrims. A collection of excellent short stories about modern day Sapiens, each story is a microcosm of the human condition--the imagination and the capability for cooperation (for good or evil) that got us where we are today. 

I found myself thinking, as I often have, how much truth there is in fiction.



Friday, February 21, 2020

Snow Day


Kids all over western North Carolina were thrilled yesterday when snow closed the schools. And I was a bit surprised to find myself doing a little happy dance too as I cancelled my writing class.


I enjoy my classes. And this class will be made up. But somehow this cancellation felt like a little mini-vacation. 

Woo hoo!


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

In Search of Meaning




On a day when the person in the White House is commuting the well-deserved sentences of a gaggle of white collar criminals, it seems reasonable to wonder about the Meaning of Justice, of Right and Wrong, of Good and Evil. 

Perhaps the young people who knocked at my door earlier, wanting to talk to me about the Bible felt they have the answers. 

But I'm pretty sure that they and their Bible-thumping ilk are part of the problem-- enablers of a corrupt regime and an evil man.

I was polite to them, nonetheless, telling them that I had read the Bible, as well as a great deal of history concerning it and the texts from which it derived and the various translations that had ensued and the errors therein.  Than you, but no thank you, I said.



I could have gone on at length but I was in the midst of house cleaning. Besides, it's useless to argue with members of a cult--be it religious or political.



And I have some more research to do on state  and local candidates so I can vote on Thursday--early voting here in NC.  Nationally, I'm torn between Warren and Klobuchar. Need to look into K's history a bit. I suspect I'm drawn to her because she's such a wholesome contrast to the Orange Embarrassment.

 I like Sanders' ideas but am concerned about his health. And I'm still of the opinion that he was the spoiler that gave Trump the win in 2016. Also, like Biden, he's another Old White Guy. If I knew who his VP choice might be . . . I like Mayor Pete but would prefer someone with more experience. 

Electability is the thing, of course. But trying to guess who would be the most electable is difficult. 

I hope it isn't Bloomberg. If it is, we might as well concede that the Presidency is for billionaires only.

But if it it is, I'll vote for him. Though I'd prefer the proverbial yellow dog . . .




Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Update on Reconstruction

 

Work continues, somewhat slowed by lots of rain, not to mention other obligations. Justin is having fun on the exterior . . .


while continuing with the mundane block-laying on the interior.


I'm loving this look.


                            Meanwhile, cleanup continues -- 


sifting through the piles of ash and discovering sad artifacts.



For those who asked after the big hydrangea that blooms so extravagantly, I'm happy to say she's alive and apparently undaunted.


If only our beloved country can survive the current regime-- its corruption, its shredding of norms, its attack on the environment and our national parks, its irresponsible and cruel policies--as well.










Monday, February 17, 2020

A Quilt for Chase


A new nephew meant it was time to put together a baby quilt.  Twelve little squares embroidered with simple  chain stitch images -- dog, cat, tree, house, car, boat, bird, fish, sun, moon, airplane.


It was such a fun little project and the best was sending it off and getting in return a picture of the new guy, waving at me.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sicilian Ricotta Pie


I made this as dessert for Valentine's Day. I really love it -- lighter and not as sweet as standard cheesecake, with a nice lemony flavor, it's a recipe I'll definitely make again.

I found the recipe online (credited to Nadia Fazio.)

              INGREDIENTS 

·      For the crust:
·      1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
·      1/3 cup granulated sugar
·      1 tsp baking powder
·      6 tbsp. vegetable shortening (I used Crisco)
·      2 eggs, lightly beaten

·      For the filling:
·      1 1/2 lbs ricotta, drained if very liquidy. I used a double cream ricotta--heavenly! No draining needed.
·      4 eggs
·      1/2 cup granulated sugar
·      grated zest of 1 lemon
·     dash of Tunisian 5 spice or cinnamon, plus more cinnamon for dusting

MAKE THE CRUST
·      

1.If using a food processor: In the bowl of the food processor combine the flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add the eggs and mix on low speed until the eggs are incorporated. Pour the mixture on a clean, lightly floured surface. Press together until a dough is formed (do not over knead), shape into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

2. Alternately, if making the dough by hand, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or use your fingers to mix the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Shape into a dough as above.

MAKE THE FILLING

1.            Place all filling ingredients  in a large bowl and using a wooden spoon stir until well combined.
2.            To form the pie: Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 9-inch pie plate. 
3.            Cut off 2/3 of the dough and reserve the remaining 1/3 for the top. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness. Dust your dough and work surface with more flour if it sticky. Carefully place the dough on the pie plate. 
4.            Pour in the ricotta mixture, then roll out the remaining piece of dough and place on the filling. Crimp the edges as desired. 
5.            Dust lightly with cinnamon and bake for 55 minutes until golden. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.

NOTES


Do make sure you chill your dough for at least 30 minutes (or even longer) before rolling. My dough was well chilled and it was still very fragile --perhaps I should have added more flour. I rolled it out but when I tried to transfer it to the pie pan, it fell into large pieces. I ended up just patting the dough into the pie pan. I wanted a lattice topping and managed to make some strips--which also fell apart.

 Perhaps one needs to be an Italian nona. Still, I cobbled together a ragged lattice top that looked pretty good when baked. And I was very happy with the way the crust tasted.

The pie is meant to be served cold and I made it the day before. The time in the fridge allows the lemon flavor to develop.

I had to talk myself out of eating a slice for breakfast--it's that good. 



Saturday, February 15, 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

Josie the Photographer


Library day! I am in a hurry.


I can get in by myself. And I will help Meema with the buckles. I pat her arm and tell her, "I'm here for you," when she has trouble making them fasten. Sometimes she gets growly at the buckles, especially when I have on a fat coat.


I have friends.


We zoom trucks.


I am learning to take pictures. Meema has to hold the heavy camera but I press the button. This is Meema holding one of the doll babies.


This is another one I took. I also know how to open the screen and which button to press to show me the picture I just took.  I am into photography.


Back at home, this pool of water gives me an idea.


I step in and Meema yells JOSIE!

Silly Meema, these boots were made for wading.


Later we made valentines but Meema said we both had too much glue on our fingers to use the camera while we were making them.

Here is one for you.






Thursday, February 13, 2020

Another Sunrise Sequence


This is about a third of the pictures I took yesterday morning. I tried to edit ruthlessly but there were so many subtle differences moment to moment . . .

the pinpricks of light in the dark valley . . .


the rose glow spreading across the sky . . .


and the drama
 as the heavy clouds overhead are illuminated.


That fades quickly . . .


and the mists begin to rise . . .


and the clouds become a pastel parfait--
layer on layer of soft color.


Then the gold appears, heralding the main event . . .


imagine the trumpets blaring, 
cymbals crashing  . . .


 maybe angels shouting . . .


just for a brief moment, then the clouds hide the sun . . .


and all is serene once more.