Saturday, September 17, 2016

It seems so long ago

It was just August, wasn't it? I mean like, yesterday, right? 
But somehow it is now the middle of September and I haven't blogged at all. 
Well, let's get caught up so that I can start posting in real time. There's been good stuff happening around here!
I was in California for 10 days which explains a lot of the absence.
I got to spend time with my (still) completely adorable nephew, but not enough of course. 
He is very interested in:
1. moving dirt from one pile to another
2. carrying rocks around 
3. loading up drawers of his toys and then dumping them out
4. pushing empty 5 gallonl buckets down the driveway 
5. the gardeners and 
6. chocolate pokey
While I was visiting he was still working out how to make a water bottle with a straw work. Lets just say there is a lot of backwash. He's a good veggie eater too, everything from spinach and kale, to poblano chiles and guacamole. 

We also visited the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo for a great origami exhibit.
I used to go here way back in the '90s to visit the Temporary Contemporary. I wouldn't  have recognized the neighborhood. It has completely changed. For the better - there is a Metro stop right across from the museum. LA is getting public transportation!? Who knew? 
We got an extra little treat because the museum was hosting a free exhibit of the Kubo and the Two Strings movie. I had seen the trailer and would never have guessed that it was a stop action film. The exhibit was of some of the sets and dolls of the main characters.  
What I enjoyed most were the planning boards for each character. Fabric, clothing, foot ware, and accessories were all explored in miniature. 
Here they recreated typical Japanese fabric pattern with a rubber stamp! Love it.  

I was also treated to a wonderful night at the Hollywood Bowl. Yoyo Ma's experimental music group the Silkroad brings together an incredibly diverse group of musicians who make fantastic music together. And I just love the Hollywood Bowl anyway. It was a lovely evening. 

And I got some more type. That is a beautiful little batch of 36pt Cooper.  

The return to Philadelphia was tough. It was a hot hot hot summer and humid as "walking into a dog's mouth" was the best description I heard. And just as gross too. I can't remember the last time I had to have my air conditioners on for so long. 

Of course in all of that heat I decided I needed to try to make ketchup.
 My farm share has been as abundant as ever. The week before I left I received quite a lot of tomatoes, plus several from my garden. I also happen to have a cookbook in the lab that is in need of conserving with no less than 5 ketchup recipes. I used those and several I found online to invent my own thing. I cooked it up and canned it before I left for California. 
When I came back I had a few days off so I opened it all back up and cooked it down to the right consistency on the stove for ten hours. yes. ten.
 Yes. that's crazy. However, the canning and boiling things down later plan isn't so dumb. I think I'll make another batch and can it now, then come February when I need 10 hours of heat in my kitchen, I can open the cans and boil it down then.
How did it turn out? Meh - not so great. It's fine. It certainly isn't as good as Heinz even though it is more natural. But I don't have the right flavors yet. Close - but not quite. I think this is too sweet, it needs more zing. I'll keep trying. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Busy Busy

Well, first of all, its' been hot. 
I mean really hot. 
Like Swee'Pea can't handle it and so he is melting in front of the air conditioner kind of hot. Poor baby. 
Jacques, on the other hand, does not like the air conditioners, and so when they are on, he pees on my bed. Yup. It has been a challenge to keep ahead of his little brain - I tell ya. 

Before we get on to current events I have to do a catch up on a post I've been trying to post for a few weeks now.... My front steps!!! 

After a few seasons of snow and freezing and general weather, my pathetic little patch job on the front steps has given out. 
It was really bad. 
Lota of loose cement and dips and missing pieces. Thus the big orange cone. 

Step one: research online and find Qickcrete, a resurfacing concrete. Yay! 
Step two: filling all of the deep problems and missing parts with patches of thick Qickcrete. 

Step three: resurface the entire width of the step with the same material. So that it looks MUCH better. 
And you know, there is something about wet concrete... people just can't resist making some kind of impression on it! 

So I used violet leaves pressed under bricks.  
The results are kind of, meh - 

But I tried something new. If I decide I really hate them, I can use more Qickcrete to cover them up! 
      The "mostly dry" front steps. I am so glad to have this task off my plate. 

Back to more of contemporary times in Philadelphia - we survived the DNC! 
And it was hot for the DNC too. Even worse than right now. It did not let up. Oy vey! 
The DNC was an interesting week. My place of employment was involved in PoliticalFest which was really cool. We had a lot of visitors and a lot of press. Because I work right smack in Center City Philadelphia, Wednesday morning I walked right into this! (see above)
That is only one block of Police Presence. There were quite a few more.
Later in the day we found out that Joe Biden was having breakfast at a pub a few blocks north of us. The Philly PD pulled out all the stops. I had to make a huge detour to get to work. Still, as annoyed as I was to have to make a detour in the 8am heat of 85°F + 185% humidity, it was kinda neat to know that someone that important was within less than 100 yards of me. 

I escaped the Philadelphia heat and Thursday DNC craziness to drive up to the Berkshires for Melanie and Doug's Wedding Par-tay! 
And what a weekend it was! 

Melanie had an opening of her work, a solo show, which I did not get to spend enough time with. But what I saw was gorgous. So many new pieces and so many fabulous new books. Yay! Yay! This show seems like a milestone for her, a chapter in conclusion. :)

The Wedding Party was wonderful. They have an enormous space and were able to pitch a tent, have a live band, a pig roast, and and and. It was really fun. And I somehow manage to give myself a black eye. sigh. Let's just say that flat file cabinets - the metal ones? They are really hard and they really hurt when your face lands on them.

An additional bonus in North Adams (which did not over-shadow the Wedding Par-tay) was that I found a schoolmate from UArts also had a show at Mass MOCA.
Alex Da Corte was such a nice young man. (Do I sound my age or what!? Ugh.) Well! he was/is. He brought me a dozen Gerber Daisies for my MFA opening! If that isn't a sweetie? I don't know what is. It was so nice to see that he has continued his bright streak in the art world.
Sunday morning, after a lot of coffee and laughs about my fresh black eye, Melanie and I did "The Short Walk" which hits about 100yrds of the Appalachian Trail.  So I can truthfully say to people, "I hiked the AT this weekend." Ha! 

Then it was time to head home. I had to stop at Barnes and Noble to pick up the new Harry Potter! 
I managed to restrain myself until I was in New York. Then I had to stop at a rest stop, get a cup of coffee and read at least a few scenes of the first act. Gah! it's amazing! NEW Harry Potter stuff! Eeeeeee! 

Ahem, (one week later) I finished the book on Friday and I don't think I'm quite as excited as I was. I really need to talk to some other people who've read it, who KNEW it was a play (because they were paying attention) and who LOVE Harry Potter as much as I do. I shall reserve judgement until such time. I'd love to see the play. I can't even begin to imagine how on earth they are going to put this production together. 

In the garden....
Ah my garden. It was completely overgrown by the time I got home. In some good ways and some not. The brick walkway is completely covered. But my basil and tomatoes have finally, (finally!) done their jobs.

Unfortunately I missed my Night Blooming Cereus.
Sunday morning I discovered the spent bloom.  
As far as I know it is only the second time it has bloomed in the seven years I have cared for this plant. And I missed it. Bummer. In case you don't know, these only bloom one night. in the year.  They are so beautiful and the scent is indescribable. Sigh. Finger's crossed for next year.

Sunflowers have also finally started to bloom. It's sad that I am so allergic to them. :(

As a treat to myself I purchased some Orange "Cone Flowers" aka, Echinacea. I love the firey orange/red/yellow colors. I've planted them next to the purples and hope they take and reappear next year.   

My farm share has been abundant this year. I've made two batches of pickles! The haul form today will yield quite a few more goodies. I can't wait.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Deja Vu

What a sad week we had.
Too familiar - I was just writing about all of this - last July. 

 I don't remember when I heard the news of Alton Sterling's death. What I remember was my reaction. My first thought was, not this again. Then I caught myself. This is yet another tragic death in a long line and I should not be so dismissive. I had to find his name and make a note of it.  I did not watch the video. I know I cannot watch such things. I cannot watch something which will take someone's life where I am helpless to do anything about it. I looked at the film still and listened to the commentary and reminded myself not to become desensitized to how often this happens. That each incident involves a life.

Thursday morning my alarm radio went off to the audio of the video taken of Philando Castile's murder. I was surprised at the calm tone of Diamond Reynolds' voice  - and then jolted by the officer's screaming. As the facts were relayed to us sadness poured over me. Philando was described by a mother at the elementary school where he worked, as a Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks. They were pulled over because of a broken taillight. He had a permit to carry a gun, which he was in fact carrying. There was a four-year-old child in the car. Dismay becomes an understatement here. Profound sorrow that this keeps happening stayed with me all day. I returned home later than usual in the oppressive heat, and as I walked past my neighbors shop I saw he had put a sign in the window. It was scribbled with a black marker in such a way that the anger is unmistakable.

After dinner and spending more time listening to the commentary about these two deaths, I wanted to and needed to write here about the murders. I went outside and photographed my neighbors shop window. When I tried to access my camera card I found it was completely corrupted (see my last post). I accepted that little hiccup because I knew I would have all weekend to recover the images and still write my commentary. Perhaps it would give me some time to really consolidate my thoughts.

On Friday morning my radio went off with the announcer saying,
"Twelve police officers were shot .... "
I immediately thought of Bangladesh (two weeks ago) and as he was saying,
" ... leaving five dead..."
  I thought... oh lord, what country did this happen in now?
" Dallas, Texas," he concluded. 

My country.
MY COUNTRY!!! This is happening now in MY COUNTRY!?? 

This does not happen here. We do not attack our police force in the United States.

 But why this horrible incident happened - I had no trouble understanding that. There is a clear correlation between the two police shooting deaths of black men to a black man attacking and killing police.

That does not make ANY of it okay.

I listened to the radio all day Friday and Saturday. I researched guests of various news programs, I read articles on Black Lives Matter. I have a million thoughts about where we currently find ourselves and why, and a million questions about how I fit in to all of this and what my role is. But I don't think I can write about all of it now. If you are wondering about where I probably stand on all of this - read my posts from July 2015. That should give you some idea.

While the events this week have been horrible, I have some hope. Finally, finally - people from all parts of society are talking about some of these issues, that certain parties have categorically denied, exist.  We are talking about how this could happen and what some of the underlying causes could be - gun control maybe? Maybe this is finally the tipping point that will allow us all to begin a dialogue about this enormous problem.

I hope.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Big Trouble

 That would be what my camera card just gave me. A bunch of digital gibberish. Which means I cannot show you images of how I fixed the front steps! Which means my entire card is corrupted!  Which is to bad because I did a fabulous job on the front steps (if Ah do say so Mah-self). I can post "after" pictures no problem. It's the before I'd really like to have - for full effect of my success  of course. 

I googled a bit on how to fix this problem and I have a few options for tomorrow morning to see if I can recover some of the images. I'm not too worried... I am pretty good about taking the images I want - but then sometimes, I'm not so good, and I do not yet have all the images from this past weekend.  I also need to find a new card for my camera so that I can continue taking pics while I'm trying to recover the old images. This is not as easy as you might think - I have an antique! A 2004, Canon Powershot G6. 7.1 mega pixels. Don't laugh - this was high tech in its day! And I LOVE  this camera. So many wonderful features. We have a newer version at work (it might also be an antique by now, seeing as it is almost 4 years old), that has a lot more bells and whistles, but I still prefer my old faithful. I do have the camera on my phone. It's not as good as my little Canon, but it will do.

If you haven't heard... we're having a heat wave here in Philadelphia. Ooof. It's hot. It is the kind of indescribable hot we can only get here. It's the kind of hot I wish I could explain to all of my California friends when they ask, "How do you survive the winters?" and I say - it's not the winters that are the issue. It is waking up with your sheets hot. No chance of dry hair since you finish blow-drying one side and the other is drenched with sweat. You might as well hop back into the shower.  It is the kind of hot where you know the back of your dress will have a sweat stain by the time you reach the subway a block away, even though you are wearing the flowey-est thing in your closet.  It's so hot and you have become old enough you don't care about pretension so you have no problem whipping out a fan in public and fanning the heck out of yourself as you pretend not to hear the three-year-old turn to her father and ask, "What is she DO-ing Daddy?" And Daddy to his credit states simply, "she is fanning herself," as if what I am doing is perfectly normal and not eccentric at all.

It is so hot I woke up for the second day in a row at 4am, couldn't get back to sleep and so by 6am I had dragged the window units up out of the basement.
Swee'Pea is a big fan.
Jacques not so much.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Me 'n Daddy do a Art Project - or - My Father's ABCs

My Father can draw. 
And I'm not talking - oh, he's good at Pictionary - I mean my Dad can really draw. No training, he does not have to work at it - it comes naturally. You know the black and white drawing of my house on the right on my blog? He drew that. It is an enviable skill, one I have to work very hard at. He's a lefty. Maybe that explains it.

We've been talking about doing a collaboration for a long time. The ideas we tossed back and forth never seemed to resonate for both of us. During my visit last Christmas we talked more about it and proposed an alphabet. We still tossed ideas back and forth. Then, when they visited last month, we went to Chanticleer and he was inspired:  an alphabet of flowers. 

He has been unstoppable. Apparently letters E-N are in the mail to me, currently I have A-D. But what do we want to do with it? Make a coloring book? Write verse to accompany it? We are leaning on coloring book considering the current craze -  and to that end I decided to sit down and see what I could do with "C". 

If we were going to do a coloring book - the letter could not be black. That goes without saying because people are part-tick-you-LER about their letters and colors. When I mention this to him - he said (in a tone of - details!), "oh, you can just get rid of that in the computer." Well, no, not quite so easy. What worked better was putting his original composition on a light table and tracing it out. 

Here is his beautiful original drawing for C - California Poppy.
In writing this blog post I see I need to scan the original again for my records since I saved over it after trying to erase the black. 

After tracing it, I scanned it again and printed the drawing out on Rives BFK, a favorite drawing paper. 
Then I dug out my dusty but trusty Prismacolor Pencil sets.   
 It has been years since I have used these. They were my primary tool as an artist in high school and undergrad. I had forgotten how much I love to apply color with them.
They blend beautifully and seamlessly. I loved to draw with them because I had so much more control than with paint. 

What a joy to be working with them once again. They can be layered to achieve so many tones. 

In spite of how excited I am about this, I have not had time to color what with too much work and all.
This evening I have arranged to finish coloring outside. It is a beautiful evening, cool and dry, there is a breeze, and someone in the neighborhood is cooking garlic. Mmmmmm. :)
In about an hour the fireflies will emerge.
What a perfect evening. 

Monday, June 27, 2016


Whatever happened this winter was certainly good for the hollyhocks. These white ones have bloomed for the first time next to the shed. And they are gorgeous. I also have pink, lavender, magenta, and very dark purple/black. Lovely.   
The dahlias went from being planted to blooming in the blink of an eye. 
Those in the pots are happiest.  Wonder why? 

I managed to propagate the Chinese lanterns to other corners of the garden.
And they are also "blooming." I don't know if they are blooming or fruiting? I guess they are probably fruiting because there is a little berry inside there.  
And speaking of berries:
My raspberries are not letting me down. They are better than ever.  
Last weekend it was also time to add another box to the hive. I hope I didn't wait too long. We have a wonderful new retailer in my neighborhood,  Philly Homebrew Outlet which also sells bee-keeping supplies!!! So I went and picked up my very own box and frames. It was quite an experience. When I arrived they were just finishing a class on mead making. The guys working there were very nice, very helpful, even if they they were little toasted. How could you not be? Three hours, tasting different meads, on a broiling hot day in Philadelphia? Shoot, I'd be toasted too. 
The box needed to be painted. Left over paint from my bedroom came in quite handy.  
I also had to put the wax in the frames. I am suspicious about my success here. 
Someone at the Homebrew place said, Oh yeah, just slide them in - done! Weeeelllll... I don't think so. I think I need to use some wire to string them into place. They are sagging in the frames. 

 Once everything was dry I put the new box on the hive.

And what did I get for my troubles? A whopper of a bee sting. Oh man, she got me good. 
And I don't know what she was so mad about? I was bringing food and more living space! Hmph.  Actually there were two of them, one of them stung me and the other one chased me and then got all tangled in my dress. (It was so hot - no way was I putting any more on that the bee hat.) I did manage to extract her without getting a second sting. Thank goodness.

I know that doesn't look like much, but by morning my entire arm was so swollen I was a little worried. All of the joints hurt and I could not bend my arm. I went to the doctor and she prescribed an anti-biotic and a steroid. I knew it would go away because I had been stung two weeks before (totally my fault, I whacked the poor bee with the hive tool and hard - she got me back) and while it got very swollen as well, it wasn't this bad and it was on my thigh. My right arm is a different story. I ended up taking a little bit of the steroid which I hate. I've had to take it before and it makes me. absolutely. stupid. I can't remember if I just asked someone a question. 

When I had added the new box the jar of sugar water had been completely empty. It is totally possible that the bees were cranky because they were overcrowded and hungry. Since I was worried about them, I decided to check on the food situation on Tuesday evening. How much had they eaten? All I did was pop the lid, look inside, and assess the situation. A bee went flying into the box, and rather than trap her in there I let her fly back out and before you could say how-dee-do - she zoomed over to my hand and stung me on my finger. I couldn't believe it. But I was a little more prepared this time - I got the stinger out as fast as possible (faster than my arm), iced it immediately, dug around in there with pin to be sure that there was not stinger left, and promptly took two benedril. In the morning, even though my had was swollen, it was no where near as bad as my arm had been. I was also taking that steroid too - that probably helped. What actually helped the most, believe it or not, was shifting an entire collection of huge bank ledgers at work. 671 volumes of ledgers that weight 30-40lbs each. Maybe all the movement just forced the fluids out? Who knows. 

Conclusion: when I checked on the bees this weekend, I wore full regalia in spite of the heat. Socks, shoes, jeans, long sleeved T-shirt, fleece, headgear, gloves, and I made sure the smoker was working top notch.