Sunday, October 30, 2011

Altered Book Club

Old Lace and Anything Old was the theme of the round robin book I had to do a spread for this month.  I was at a loss for what to do until I saw some words on the white board we use for words that have given my youngest some trouble spelling-wise.  They were "bomb", "seamstress", "famous", "themselves".

As I showed my two girls these words, randomly accumulated on the white board over a week or two and now serendipitously grouped together, we thought as one:  a mysterious message with a steampunk edge. Words written in pencil on a torn shred of paper, crumpled and stained, blowing across the sidewalk.  What could it mean?   Who is the seamstress?  Where is the bomb?

I found an image of a woman.  Is she the seamstress?  the bomber?  someone famous?  At the top it says, "Did she fall or was she pushed?" (the actual title of the part of the book that is the base of these pages).  At the bottom it says "Time's up".
On the left page, a vintage image of two children wearing pith helmets and "going on adventure" attire.  Across the top a brown strip repeating "tick tock" multiple times, and then strips of old notebook paper with the four evocative words written in pencil.  Across the bottom of both pages a strip of old upholstery rickrack stuff.
It's interesting how sometimes these altered book pages are exercises in composition and technique, or making use of whatever images or materials one has, and other times -- a self contained world appears, with setting, characters, conflict and plot.

Linked to Masterpiece Monday at Boogie Board Cottage

Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Shiny Pretty

Our next door neighbor is getting new dining room furniture and light fixture, and look what she was getting rid of!

Twelve candles or lights or whatever you call those, and an abundance of glass prisms.  This will be a nice improvement over the 1970's builder grade brass coated fixture over our dining room table.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lantern Festival

When my girls were younger, our homeschooling group would celebrate a Lantern Festival each November 11, Martinmas Day.  During the weeks between Halloween and Martinmas each family would make their own lanterns -- some out of card stock or other paper-based material, some out of more sturdy materials, some meant only to last the day and others (like mine) that have lasted almost 20 years.

At dusk we would gather at a local park, that has a covered pavilion overlooking a small lake, and we would share with one another the simple food each had brought -- baked potatoes, bread, hot cider and cocoa.  Stories would be told of the origins of the Lantern Festival, St. Martin, the light that begins as a tiny flicker and grows through the year to warm the Earth, and stories of sharing, like the folk tale "Star Money".  After the stories all of the children and parents would one by one light their lanterns from a common flame and we would all walk around the lake, the reflections of the lit lanterns and their bearers breathtakingly beautiful as the group gradually strung itself around the lake -- singing (sometimes arcane un-sing-able pentatonic Waldorf songs, and sometimes "This Little Light of Mine"), until we found ourselves back where we started, at the pavilion.

These pictures show lanterns my family made.  We used to have about 9 or 10, but I have only saved two.  They were easy enough for even my youngest girls to make, when they were toddlers, but can be sophisticated enough for a teen or adult to make.  Simply tear colored tissue paper randomly or into shapes like stars, and glue on to a glass jar with modge podge, watered craft glue, or even a glue stick until the jar is covered.  Tie a piece of twine or yarn on to a canning ring that fits the mouth of a jar to make a simple handle.  A tea candle placed inside the jar will light it up like stained glass, and the length of the handle and the material of the lantern ensure there will be no danger for the child who carries it.

linking to Well-Made Wednesday at An Oregon Cottage,  Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage, and Show Off Your Cottage Monday at The House in the Roses.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Freezing the Malabar Spinach Harvest

Last week there were rumors of impending chance of frost, so I hightailed it out back to the garden and harvested a good bit of the malabar spinach.  Malabar spinach is a vining leafy plant that I think originated  in India, and thus tolerates our extremely hot and humid summers, as well as drought conditions.  The small leaves do well in salads as fresh greens, and the larger leaves take the place of spinach in cooked or wilted recipes.  And it will seed itself, which makes it a wonderful economically efficient plant!
I pulled out the thick mid stems of the larger leaves, and then blanched them for a minute or so in my big stock pot of boiling water, drained and packed into quart size freezer bags.
As you see, that huge pile of leaves blanched down into 5 freezer bags.  We ended up not getting a frost, and I still have a lot growing in the garden.  I'll try to harvest some more this week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This must be how the rumors start . . .

Last night, just before being picked up for a birthday gathering with friends, I went to check on the chickens and found Crazy Nellie dead -- dead -- dead, blocking the door to the hen house.  Fortunately the other three hens were already tucked in on their roost for the night (because you DON'T want your chickens to have access to a dead chicken lying around, the little cannibalistic dinosauritas).  I got some gloves and a plastic bag and hauled that sucker out of there.  Now I know what "dead weight" means.  Sheesh, she was heavy!

She was close to 6 years old, so she has lived a good, somewhat productive life (she was called Crazy Nellie for good reason -- her little feeble chicken brain seemed to have fewer cylinders than your average chicken brain, and when she would molt she would hole up in the hen house like a pms crazed woman, not allowing any of the other hens to come in at all).  But we loved her and we will miss her.

I placed the bag with the chicken (which did not fit well in it -- her feet stuck out the top) by the garbage bin, for my husband to figure out what to do with whenever he would get home from working late.  When I came back to the kitchen door I almost stepped on a little gift Ophelia the huntress garden cat left -- a dead chipmunk, with head neatly severed lying along side.  Scooped it up to place with the chicken.

And I thought, this must be how those rumors get started . . . the ones about voodoo rituals and animal sacrifices.  If the neighbors were to see our garbage . . . .

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October Morning

This morning was one of those amazingly exquisite Memphis October mornings, balanced so finely between summer and autumn, the air so clear, crisp and dry -- the sun so bright, but lower in the sky, casting the longer shadows of autumn -- the sky a bright, deep blue -- the temperature down in the low 50's.
But the flowers still strongly blooming, monarch butterflies and honey bees visiting the purple asters and swamp sunflowers.  This afternoon it was close to 90 degrees.

The Halloween decorations have to squeeze in amongst the flowers.  Global warming indeed.  Our average frost date is supposed to be October 15.  But our leaves are barely showing color, barely beginning to fall.  The autumn decor looks strange to me amongst the "summer" growth.  But it will not last.  Tomorrow will be another warm day, but the weather service says rain on Tuesday and down into the 30's by Wednesday night.  So for now, we are poised between seasons -- neither fully Summer, nor completely Autumn.

(You can see our half-painted house here -- we are painting the brick "Betsy's Linen", which should help the stone around the entry "pop" a bit.  The as yet unpainted brick is on the left of the doorway).

Linking to House in Roses Show off Your Cottage Monday.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Autumn is finally beginning to blow into our part of the world (yes, I know this picture was from early September, but it is more characteristic of October -- and today).  I chose these curtains for our dining room specifically for the way they billow when the windows are open and the wind blows in from the east.

I have been really busy the past few weeks and have not managed to take pics or really post.  Busy taking 18 yr old on college visits.  Busy haranguing her into completing college and scholarship applications (why  does a Nov 1 deadline mean "you only have x weeks to get this done in!!!" to me, but means "I have a whole x weeks to get this done, so relax" to her?"  She is so mellow.  And I am so . . . not.

I've also been working to set up a 5 part Shakespeare workshop with the Tennessee Shakespeare Company, located here, for our group of homeschool teens.  The tricky part is finding a venue/locale for this.  We thought we had it all situated but the church which agreed to host it is unavailable for 2 of our sessions.  And as we are a secular, inclusive homeschool group -- hosting churches (at no charge) are hard to come by here in the Bible belt.  In all fairness, many churches already piggyback various classes, schools, pre-schools, events, etc in their spaces.  We found a library locale for one of the sessions, but the libraries here do not allow more than one reservation of space a month per group -- which I can understand, as the libraries are one of the few public spaces available for groups.

And, I have our usual homeschool planning and facilitating for both the 18 and 14 year olds.

And dealing with the garden.  And Trixie Lou-dini, who keeps escaping from the back yard.




Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I have been harvesting my basil and making pesto.

Stripping the leaves from the stems.
Into the food processor, with garlic, parmesan cheese, and sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts (which have become so expensive!), and olive oil.

I freeze my pesto in ice cube trays.  After they are frozen I pop them out into a freezer bag.  That way I can  have pesto ready to use in tablespoon size portions.  I also like to freeze chicken stock that way (you can see some in the second tray along with the pesto), as well as tomato paste from the can.

The other night I cooked some frozen ravioli along with fresh green beans in the one pot, tossed it all up after it was cooked with about half a cup's worth of pesto, some sautéed bell pepper and red onion slices, and fresh grated pecorino romano cheese.

Linked to Tuesday Garden Party

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Roots Cooking Tonight

By "roots cooking" I mean like "roots music":  heritage cooking -- southern style.

I've got a big pot of a "mess o' greens" (turnip greens and malabar spinach, cooked low and slow with onions, some diluted ham stock/glacee, vinegar and a bit of sugar; pork chops; blueberry-corn muffins.  I'll add some broccoli and some leftover rice to dinner.  We have to go to yet another prospective college thing here in town tonight -- otherwise I would have fixed some southern style succotash to go with it.

Aah -- just finished eating (sorry, no picture).  The greens were melt in your mouth tender and sweet, asking for a few drops of hot sauce.  And the pork chops?  Browned and then braised in a covered pan in pan juices and a bit of diluted orange juice -- they could be cut with a fork.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

altered book art

The theme of the book I had for the round robin altered book group was "Christmas Off the Beaten Path".  Due to traveling to east Tennessee to do some college tours with our 18 yr old, along with a week of one crisis after another (including, but not limited to, our neighbor next door having a major house fire) I ended up doing this one the day of the meeting.

The right page says "Winter Celebrations" and the left page has words that I circled from the text on the page, and then painted around to create "found poetry".  The words, when linked together, evoke a Solstice/Christmas mood of renewal.