Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tulips, Violets and Bees, oh my!

This post is a week overdue. I wanted to post last weekend, Monday at the latest, but life got in the way. So this is a catch up post. 
Ahem, tulips are in full bloom!  And our miserable winter seems to have provided one positive thing... my tulips are spectacular this year.
Bulbs which have never bloomed have suddenly shown up.  A few that never even sprouted the last two years bloomed. Maybe I'm making things up... but that's my theory and I'm stickin' to it.    And since the blooms are that abundant I have decided it is okay to put some in a vase on my kitchen table.  Also, can you find the kitty in the above photo?He is in the chair behind the table. Because it is directly in the morning sunshine. 
He looks so handsome on that green chair... and he knows it! 

Spring time is a good time to start taking care of lots of garden problems.  Last year I finally finished my porch when I put the lattice back up. Unfortunately I ended up trapping an entire row of daffodils and aliums behind the lattice. That is on the "to do" list. Another chore, but thankfully not mine, was for Matt to bring a new hive to the yard. Sadly, yet another hive did not make it through the winter.  I'm hoping for good things this year.
Here is the new hive - all 12,000 of them.

And so far, so good.  I always assume that no news is good news from Matt. They seem to be happily zooming around out there.

They came in the nick of time too - the violets are also blooming like crazy.
Ever since I started my job, I've wanted to try some of the violet recipes from Martha Washington's cookbook.  She has several of them including: violet syrup, cakes and paste. And she even calls for violets be added to her haggis pudding. I will not be trying that recipe.
With the abundance of violets in my garden this year I decided I should just dive in and sacrifice all them to the testing of recipes and see what we get. 

I picked almost a pound of violets. I didn't actually think I had that many, but in the end I did.  I thought I'd start with something non-Martha that I'd seen and really liked the look of, violet tea:

So pretty!
How does it taste? Like light blue spinach water. No kidding. I started to suspect there was something wrong. How can so many people rave about this and it tastes like this? So I resolved to make the syrup (which takes 24 hours to steep) and see if sugar helps the flavor.  
 And because it's just too cute not to post: Swee'pea is a good audience:
 I also decided - what the heck? Let's throw some violets into some vinegar. I haven't found any recipes that make violet vinegar - but heck, why not?
Since the recipes originate from Martha's cookbook, I want to write a blog post for our work blog. So I did a lot of research this week, and I learned quite a bit:
1.  I have the wrong violets. I have, what I'm guess, are dog violets. Dog violets have no smell. If I stuck my nose in a big bunch of violets I would only get a tiny whiff of something which might be violets. Figuring my nose was just violet blind... I forged ahead with my project. As it turns out...
2. I discovered that the scent of violets actually paralyzes the scent nerves to that smell.  You can actually only smell them once, and then not again until the nerves are no longer paralyzed. The paralysis doesn't last long - only a few minutes... but still...
3. My suspicions of having the wrong violets grew when I looked through more of our manuscript cookbooks at work and discovered that none of those written in North America had a recipe for violet anything. Only Martha's and William Penn's mother's. (Both written in the early 17th century England). Hmmmm.... could it be that scented violets didn't exist in the "new world?"
4. Violets are the original official Valentine's Day flower. !  (roses are red, violets are blue...) duh.
5. There are a lot of myths including the violet:
  • Zeus turned some dame he was lusting for into a heifer that dined in a field of violets to hide her from Hera. 
  • St. Valentine is said to have picked the violets that grew outside his window, squeezed the flowers of the juice for ink and wrote on the leaves to his loved ones. 
  • Shakespeare uses a violet concoction to put his characters to sleep in Midsummer Night's Dream. He writes of violets quite a bit.   
6. There is a violet society in the US, the American Violet Society. But it seems to be shrinking. (sorry - couldn't help myself).
7. There is only one functioning violet farm left in the US - it's near San Francisco.
8. Violet tea is good for throat irritation and for mild constipation.
9. The violets that do smell, the sweet violet or, violet odorata,  do grow in North America and I can buy them from a place called, Bluff View Nursery and so I have ordered some.

I don't know exactly how I'm going to wrangle all of this information into a blog post at work. It doesn't all seem relevant. But it's all so interesting! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

You might be a book nerd if...

You might be a book nerd if you take a workshop to make your own bone folders (to make books with):
There they are! There are the 2 1/2 bone folders I made in the workshop today.  I say 2 1/2 because the one in the middle isn't finished - and I'm not sure I like it anymore. It looks a little bit silly, like one of those cheap letter-opener-samuri-looking things. And I just can't allow myself to be in a position to be embarrassed by my bone folders. Ahem. But no biggie - I can root around in all of my tools, I'm sure I have a rasp and some files somewhere. The question is how fine my files are. Because if they aren't fine enough I can't do the finishing.... but I digress...let me back up...
Yes! I took a fabulous workshop today through the Philadelphia Center for the Book with Shanna Leino.  I've taken a few of Shanna's workshops and she is fantastic. She explains everything thoroghly, gives great demonstrations, the workshops are well prepared and yeah - she's just great.  
She started the workshop by passing around her favorite material - elk bone:
and talked about different densities of bone etc. For this workshop we used moose bones. Apparently she knows somewhere to get them from hunters and everything has just been boiled in hot water.
So we chose the pieces which "spoke" to us from a big pile she had prepared and started filing. (The flowery bag is full of band aides)  
I chose this one to start with:
 It's a good 8 - 9 inches long. I sort of panicked because I had NO idea what shape of folder I wanted, so I decided to follow Michelangelo's philosophy - just grab one and "free" the bone folder from within it.
And it spoke to me:
To shaped the folder one starts with a ferrier's rasp (for shoeing horses - a very rough metal scary rasp), and scrapes the bone along it to smooth things out. This rasp is a dangerous weapon. I didn't actually draw any blood, but I'm pretty sure I rasped all of my finger prints off of my pointer fingers, maybe the sides of my thumbs too.
After the initial shaping is done, more filing is needed with different roughnesses (is that a word?). Here are the last two, the fine files, ready to smooth the whole thing down.  
 I had really wanted to document the entire process and I really tried with the second folder I made, but both times when I got to this point, I was just too excited to progress and completely forgot to take pictures.
The next step is to add decorations. Here are some of Shanna's beautiful folders:

I bought one from her many years ago that I love! The decorations are not as difficult as one might suspect.  They are pretty fun.   
We kept filing away all afternoon. In the end I think the class made some really gorgeous folders:
We paid for supplies so I took several pieces home so that I can make some more - I can't wait!
I am sitting outside because it is absolutely beautiful today (80°F! - more on that in a minute) and so of course the inspector had to come and check things out.  Apparently moose bone is delectable.  
Apropos 80°F and stuff - Spring has sprung around here! What a beautiful weekend!
The inspector monitoring his realm:

I actually had to mow the lawn yesterday! How do ya like that!? I liked it just fine.
But as usual, it's time for the annual negotiations with my basement dehumidifier. It decided to fill up with water and drip on the floor rather than down it's tube.

I opened things up hoping to let things dry out (which they did), but at the moment the dehumidifier is having a time-out. Maybe it will think about what it did and behave the way it is supposed to when I plug it back in.  
It really is spring though, because the spring fever of spring cleaning has really hit hard this year.   
Do you see those piles of papers? Those are the only piles of paper in the studio. This is serious trimming down from the overflowing chair-pile-of-papers and the spreading-out-like-crazy pile of papers on the floor, not to mention the boxes of papers still needing to be sorted from when I moved in five years ago! I've actually done crazy spring cleaning things like cleaning off all the shelves in the bathroom, cleaning everything that was on the shelf and putting everything back. Litter boxes also - cleaned those with vinegar so they don't stink. Daisy fresh they are! 
The only thing I took a good "college try" to and wasn't able to succeed were my taxes. humph. (those are taxes there - on the table): 
I really tried, but the discrepancy between my return when I've had an accountant and when I do it myself is just too big. So I'll be filing that extension tonight, waiting until May when all the accountants are back from their well earned vacations and then trying to find one. sigh. wish me luck. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014


say it with a big sigh... s p r i n g  

Ah, it seems like it might really be here. Even though I have several people in my life who have said it's not spring until after April [fill in the number] because my [fill in the relation] was born on April [fill in the number- again ] in a major snow storm. So. I'm still nervous. 

After this winter... I can honestly say this spring has never been more welcome. Even though it is still in the 40's at night and barely breaking into the 60's during the day, we are thrilled.
My five-year-old orchid that is happy in the bathroom with rainwater (only) has bloomed it's most impressive array yet. 

I am enjoying crocuses and daffodils in the garden. So many things have started growing, it's almost hard to keep track. Raspberry leaves have started, the roses have little green nubs and the forsythias are going to explode into bloom any minute now.
It was also the first weekend West River Drive was closed to automobiles; open only to "foot mobiles" - and we were an eager bunch. Lots of pasty-skinned people who needed to be out! And there is evidence of spring out there as well. Daffodils in the strangest places and trees that are going to be full of flowers any second now.

Yes, I think deep down, we are all sun-seekers. Jacques found this spot even though he knows he is not supposed to be on table tops.
He was forgiven because of the obvious enticing sunbeam.