Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Josie Does an Experiment

While Meema was putting away the groceries, I did an experiment. I got out my fingerpaints and my scratch pad and paper and brushes and water all by myself. The experiment was this--I made a pattern on the scratch pad and then copied it onto the paper and painted it.

The scratch pad is all black but there are lots of colors under the black and you can scratch the black off with a pointy stick. That will be my pattern.

The finger paints are for making dots with your fingers, but my experiment was also to try using a brush and water on the finger paints. It worked!

 I used black marker to copy the pattern I had made on the scratch pad, then I colored in the colors that were on the scratch pad. Experimenting is fun and I did it all by myself!

Sunday, February 5, 2023

A New Life for Discards

John's been back in the shop, and he's come up with a fine use for odd bits of common 2x4's. He glues them together then turns them into bowls.

Have you ever looked at the grain on a 2x4?

I mean, really looked?

Kinda fascinating, I think.

I wonder what caused the little bobble on the right-hand side of the V above?

There is so much to see if you only look. 


Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Old Corn Crib

 A re-post (it's been a busy day) from 2009

The corncrib was a relic of the days when the previous owner of the farm had grown field corn to feed his cattle, his mules, his chickens, and his family. The corn was harvested after drying on the stalk in the field, and the unshucked ears were stored in the small slat-sided building that was lined with rodent-proof woven wire to protect the precious golden bounty. Nowadays, the corncrib stood empty, but for a few ancient moldy cornshucks. (Art's Blood, p. 123)

This, of course, is the original of the corncrib where Elizabeth and Ben found the unhappy Kyra. It's functioning today as a toolshed and a carport for our little utility vehicle but in 1973, when we bought the upper part of the farm from Clifford and Louise, the corn crib brimmed with fat dry ears of white corn -- Hickory King, I think it was.

Corn was the staff of life on the small farm. Every so often Clifford would take a bag or two of the whole corn to a mill in Tennessee where it would be coarsely ground -- shucks, cobs, and all -- and mixed with cottonseed meal and molasses to make feed for the cows. Every day Louise would pull the shucks off a few ears and toss them to her chickens who would eagerly peck the cobs clean. Nell the mule was the daily recipient of more ears (but not too many, lest too much corn make her 'rank' (overly frisky and unmanageable.) The fattening pig, who lived mostly on buttermilk, foods scraps, and garden waste, would be fed ears of corn during the month or so prior to butchering to "harden up the flesh."

And this same corn, shucked and shelled would be taken, not to the big mill, but to a nearby little mill run by a belt attached to the rear wheel drum of a tractor. The owner of this improvised mill would take his pay in meal -- in a little measure specifically for the purpose. This fragrant meal, which was freshly ground in small batches twice a month, provided the best cornbread in the world. Eaten midday -- hot and steaming out of the wood stove, dripping with home-churned butter, it accompanied an array of vegetables, fresh or home-canned, depending on the season, and a very modest taste of some sort of meat. The leftover corn bread might go to the pigs or the hounds, or, dunked in chilled buttermilk left after the day's churning, provide a light supper.

"You keep the mule to plow the corn and you grow the corn to feed the mule," Clifford told us. Man, animals, and corn -- their existence was interwoven.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Reading While Waiting for Spring

Tender, brutal, heartbreaking, hopeful, Ward's intimate portrayal of an African-American family, living and dead, in present day Mississippi, is rightfully highly acclaimed. It should be a part of the national conscious and conscience. The governor of Florida would probably ban it from classrooms. 

To read this is to be moved, to understand, to some small extent, the dilemma of a person of color in a White dominated world, and to be amazed at the restraint shown by most of the Black community in the face of so much continued injustice.  

Man's inhumanity to man is also on full display in Rutherfurd's  Micherner-eque take on London, from the earliest inhabitants over 2,000 years ago, through the Romans, the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans and beyond.  It's over 800 pages of fascinating history, and it's also a novel, following several families through the centuries, chronicling their fortunes as they rise and fall. I found it engrossing reading.

Historical fiction was some of my favorite reading as early as junior high, kinda painless learning. I highly recommend both of these.

Oops--I inadvertently hit PUBLISH before setting the date for the second. And can't undo it. So this is Thursday's post a little early.



This was my earlier attempt at capturing the amaryllis. Pretty crude--I think the bunnies were making disparaging remarks.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Josie Still Working on Thank You's

Josie was sick all last week with some unidentified virus--not the flu or covid or anything nameable, according to the pediatrician. Her folks kept her home and away from the aged grandparents (us,) not wanting to spread the contagion. It took about seven days to run its course but as of yesterday, Josie's back in school and feeling fine. 

So yesterday, we returned to the writing of thank you notes for those kind folks who donated to her school's fundraiser. Three to go but we only got one done today. (I tried to suggest that 'thank you for helping my school' would be more graceful than 'thank you for the money,' but she was in favor of brevity. And as she reminded me, she's only in kindergarten.

When she finished the picture and the note for Janet, she wanted to paint some fruits and vegetables. When she finished the apple, she very proudly pointed out that she'd left a little white highlight like I'd showed her weeks ago.

She went on to do an orange, a blueberry, a strawberry, a potato, a banana, a chocolate bar, some broccoli, a tomato, an eggplant, and a slice of pepperoni pizza.

I'll be picking her up Wednesday and Friday and am confident we'll get those last two thank you notes done!


Monday, January 30, 2023

Taking Some Time Off

Busy searching the house for classified documents ... meanwhile, here are a few pictures.

A path of light through the woods

More watercolors and snow on the far-off Blue Ridge.


Saturday, January 28, 2023

More Than the Sum of Its Parts


 I kinda feel like I posted this recipe previously but can't find it so here goes.

We are big fans of collards and have been forever, long before kale came on the scene. There was a time, I recall, along about the first grade, that I didn't like collards but when my mother told me that Vance Smith (a boy in my first-grade class that I must have had a crush on) loved collards, I gave them another chance and have eaten them happily ever since.

My family always cooked them in broth with some sort of meat--fatback or hog jowl. I add onion, garlic, a tiny bit of sugar, red pepper flakes and serve them with chopped raw onion and vinegar. Sometimes I stir fry them. Mighty good, either way.

Then I saw this recipe on the package of greens (yes, a shortcut--chopped greens) and found another thing to love about collards.

Mixed with cooked potatoes and a little milk, the greens are elevated to, well, maybe not quite fine cuisine, but seriously and surprisingly good. Maybe an American version of England's Bubble and Squeak? Whatever--it's delicious. Would be a nice base for a fried egg too.

Here's the recipe:

3 pounds white potatoes, cut in two- inch chunks


2 TB. Olive oil

16 0z. chopped collard greens 

1/2 c. chopped red onion (or more) with more for garnish

1/2 to 3/4 c. milk

Cook potatoes in salted water to cover till tender. Drain in colander and set aside.

Add olive oil to drained pot, heat over medium heat, add greens and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir till wilted.Add onions and cook another few minutes.

Add the drained potatoes to the greens and mash well. Stir in 1/2 c. milk. More milk and more salt if desired.


Friday, January 27, 2023

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

It's probably not for everyone but I was enthralled by the pinball-like plot of this book. If you liked The Time-Traveler's Wife (which I did), this might be for you.

Kate has dreams--vivid dreams of a life in 16th century England --and as her consciousness shuttles between modern day Manhattan and the world of Will Shakespeare (in which she is the 'dark lady' of the sonnets), she finds on each return to 'real' life, things have changed-- sometimes small things, sometimes past events that she remembers turn out not to have happened.

For me, this was compulsive, highly enjoyable reading. If I've piqued your curiosity, there's an excellent review that will tell you more HERE


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Learning Curve

Our amaryllis gave us weeks of enjoyment and I took lots of pictures. Now, while we wait for what looks like a second flower stalk on its way, I'm trying to use some of those pictures to help me learn how to deal with that tricky mottled shading. (A previous attempt, working from the actual blooming plant, showed me I had a long way to go.

I also resurrected a picture taken many years ago at the Grant Distillery garden in Scotland--a Himalayan blue poppy--the most amazing shade of blue and one I tried to replicate without success. I'll try again, but first I'll do some color samples till I find what works to show the wonderful transparent glow.

It's almost a form of meditation. I get so deep into the picture, paying such close attention to every curve and line, that sometimes I forget to breathe.  And the imperfection of the work is beside the point. It's the doing that matters--process, not product.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Amazing Maurice

Not since the rats of NIHM has there been such an endearing gang of rodents. A group of rats (plus one cat), suddenly have the power of speech as well as enhanced intelligence. In search of the good life and the means to fund it, they decide on the old pied piper dodge. The rats will infest a town and Maurice, with the help of a seemingly dimwitted youth who plays the penny whistle, will see that they are rewarded generously for 'getting rid' of the pests.

Of course. it being Terry Pratchett, there is word play aplenty and social commentary and philosophy interwoven in this hilarious take on an old fairy tale. Highly recommended.

Sir Terry wrote about 70 books. I have lots to look forward to.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A Favorite Old Story



This is a re-post, inspired by a recent email from Lynn, the heroine of the story.

The Diaz family had fled Castro's Cuba (this was 1962) and were now settled in Gainesville, Florida -- very poor and just beginning to learn English. They were lovely, hardworking people and so kind to us four college girls who lived next door.

At some point I found out that the family had been given clothes by a local church group and were delighted with the windfall -- but there had been nothing in the assorted garments for Senora Diaz. Alas, in a few weeks there was to be a big dance party in the Cuban immigrant community -- and Senora Diaz had nothing fit for such a fiesta.

I went home that weekend and asked my mother if she had any dresses she'd like to pass on. She obligingly made up a parcel of several nice dresses she was tired of -- including a dressy number in mustard-colored, black and white dotted silk. There was a draped effect at the hips and jet beading at the bosom and, as I recall, a flounce or two.

I'd never liked the dress at all though it had been a favorite of my mother's for several years. But now, perhaps because it was out of style or possibly because she just felt like she'd worn it to enough parties, she was passing it on. Still, it was probably with a bit of a pang that she parted with this frock.

When I returned to Gainesville, and before I got over to my neighbor to deliver the parcel, I had a visit from a high school friend on break from Agnes Scott. Lynn was staying with us for a few days, just in the middle of sorority rush week.

And a plan was formed. Why shouldn't Lynn go to my sorority's rush party? Why shouldn't she present herself as the daughter of the best friend of the National President -- as an iron-clad legacy. And why shouldn't she look and act . . . rather odd?

We dressed Lynn in the yellow silk dress (it was a casual tea -- everyone else would be in Bermuda shorts.) The dress was about two sizes too large and so hideous looking that Lynn could only be convinced to go through with the caper if we had a friend waiting in a getaway car at the back door of the sorority house. 

Lynn was magnificent -- she made herself look and act like a sorority girl's worst nightmare. She introduced herself as Mozella Beasley and was loud in her desire to pledge this sorority, assuring everyone that Aunt So and So (the National President) had assured her that she would be welcomed.

Lynn played the part perfectly till she found herself surrounded by a ring of incredulous sorority girls -- all the sisters had left the other prospective pledges to come see this supposed legacy -- at which point Lynn broke and ran for the back door and the getaway car.

Those of us in on the joke were hiding behind the punch bowl, weak with laughter. The rest of the sisterhood were left looking at one another and wondering what in the world they could do to avoid pledging this social misfit.

"She's so tacky!" wailed one sister, stretching the word 'tacky' into about five syllables. "Did y'all see that awful dress?"

Those of us in on the hoax kept quiet and as days went by, eventually the sisterhood breathed a sigh of relief when Mozella Beasley was never heard of again. I assumed the story would go no further -- certainly that it wouldn't get back to Tampa, especially since the name Mozella was that of a friend of my mother's.

And the yellow silk dress went to Sra. Diaz who was delighted. I saw her wearing it the next weekend to go to her party. She had altered it to fit her plump little body and it looked terrific with her dark coloring and Latina flair -- an amazing transformation.

But imagine my surprise on receiving a call from my mother yet a few weeks later.

"Vicki, I just had an odd call from Mary Will Eastland. Her daughter wrote her about the rush party that you all took Lynn to. Tell me . . . what funny old dress of Mrs. Lane's was it that Lynn wore?"

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Inspiration Is Where You Find It

 And no, he isn't missing a leg. The one on the right is his left hind, the right is (presumably) hidden behind a front leg.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

January Treat

I couldn't resist these lovely heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store. When I got home, they seemed to be telling me I needed to make a tomato galette--never mind that I'd considered this a summer dish.

So I did. And it was very, very good.  Even without the fresh basil garnish I would have had in summertime.

I gave the recipe on a previous post HERE.