Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fare Thee Well

Dear The End,

Tonight, all around the world, one will stand on the threshold between this year and the next, and one will wonder "where has the year gone?  what have I done?  and, who am I?"  These are the questions, because one is never sure, and one always feels a little sorrow in parting.  And so, one thinks of Auld Lang Syne.

To prevent toppling towards melancholia, take two of these, and call me in the morning.


Curly Eyes & Laughing Hair.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

many times, many ways

Dear Christmas Eve,

Here we are, readying to celebrate the end of the year in the double-header of Christmas and New Year's.  I am making pies; mincemeat and pumpkin.  Come by for a slice....

I also enclose a little music, and a recipe, for Almond Paste, which you could use to make Marzipan, or Marchpane.

Christmas calls for Marzipan, or "march bread."  I could find no definitive etymology for the name.   I do have two nice recipes for almond paste:  One, and Two.

The main difference between almond paste and marzipan is the ratio of sugar to almonds.  Marzipan has more sugar, and the sugar also gives it a texture more suitable for rolling it out or making little shaped fruits or pigs. To clarify, take almond paste, knead it with powdered sugar, maybe a little rose or orange water, and you have marzipan.

I made my almond paste by blanching almonds, then pulverizing them in the food processor.  I added honey until it held together, plus a pinch of salt.  It can also be made with egg white and sugar- I have made it that way, too.  Both types are terrific. 

I know, it's a busy time, but if you get some made, hang on to it, resting in the icebox improves it, and there will be a nice cookie recipe using almond paste/marzipan in an upcoming post.

Until then,
Cheerful Holidays!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

To a Winter

Dear Turning Ones,

     I offer today, a fine Robert Burns poem, and two images.  The poem, I imagine, you've read before: as you read on this occasion, I will think of you, on the edge of now, looking both forward and back, while the sun shifts slightly away from the solstice, and harks towards the vernal equinox.




To a Mouse
On turning her up in her nest with a plough.
November, 1785

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

I hope you read it aloud- it is so lovely and musical.  If you'd care to hear another voice reading it, try this.  If you'd like to ken just what some of these Scots words mean, try here.  If you are feeling like a little more Burns, you might join a Burns Club, or sign a guestbook, or begin planning your first Burns Supper.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Dear Curious,

Look what the climate crisis has dragged in:  a 6,000 year old woolen tunic.  It was in Norway,  under the melting ice.  It's beautiful, and its finding is terribly sad.

Here is a hood made of straw- also in Norway.  There are many other charming images from this same artist- see them here.

One more article of clothing for your consideration: a famous blue raincoat.

Until the next curiosity....

(Wait, wait...'anthropocene?')

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Una Chevrolet Suave

Dear Drivers,

Thinking about new wheels?  May I suggest a Blue Chevrolet....

Happy Trails, motorists!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anxious to be Perpetuated

Dear Longing to be Stirred,

My dear, loving reader.  Everyday, they are writing books for you.  Won't you read one I know you'll like?  Not long ago, I read a copy of a book printed in 1902.  Let's pause to let that number resonate.


The book was from the library- can you imagine how many readers had reverently turned each feathery, burnished page?  The corners were worn to near transparent velvet.  The beautiful paper, darkening to ochre at the edges, had a soft laid pattern.  If there were but 4 readers a year, that makes 444 readers.  I joined the other readers, across time.  The privilege was palpable.

The book was written in 1831.  Let's repeat that number, too.


It was set in, and the story began, in 1482.  Shall we?


It is about a building that is celebrating its 850th anniversary. 


Are you ready yet to rush to your library?  To be a part of this astounding and interwoven arc of time?  Let me attempt to further entrance you, by giving you a list of chapters that form a poem all their own:

An impartial glance at the ancient magistracy
The rat-hole
The story of a wheaten cake
A tear for a drop of water
End of the wheaten cake

One more instigation to read this dense stack of 505 pages- a passage from the tome itself:

           "...architecture was the chief recorder of the human race; that during that space
      no thought that went beyond the absolutely fundamental, but was embodied in
      some edifice; that every popular idea, like every religious law, has had its
      monuments; finally, that the human race has never conceived an important
      thought that it has not written in stone.  And why?  Because every thought,
      whether religious or philosophic, is anxious to be perpetuated; because the idea
      which has stirred one generation longs to stir others, and to leave some lasting trace."

Oh, yes, you'll want the author and title:  Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo.  If you feel like over-achieving (and I hope you do!), you might re-read sections of The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr (see my post titled: Divertimento),  and another wonderful book on the philosophy of architecture,  The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander.  These three books will make your living spaces double in size, without hanging mirrors, adding rooms, or knocking out walls.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I woke up this Morning, and You were on my Mind

Dear Listener,

I want to be on your mind. Please put me there, and Valerie June, too.

You remain, as ever, on my mind.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Way Back Machine

Dear Sherman, My Boy,

Set the Way Back Machine for 1971 and accompany me to a long time ago.  Happy Birthday!

your sister.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Skating to make you Swoon

O Lucky Ones!

An unexpected treat for today!  This wonder woman is positively inspirational-  Michelle Steilen will be your hero, too.  After you have watched several times, click through, to her shop, and buy yourselves your own pair of skates, beautiful skates! 

So, so good!  Let's watch it again....

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Olive Branch

Dear Pals,

Athena was awarded Athens in a contest with Poseidon, because she planted the first olive tree there.

We know two dear souls, living not far away; and every year about this time, they invite their friends and family to help in their olive harvest:  One picks for a morning, breaks bread and then ambles home, knowing a little of the life of the campesino.  The next day the olives are pressed into oil.  It was a delight to spend the hours among the colors and scents of the trees. 

There are olive trees in Greece they estimate to be more than 3000 years old. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

leaves of the season

Dear November Days,

     Take a look at these autumn leaves.  We made them yesterday at a local place for making, Boyd & Bradley and Dudleya.   Read a little more about them, here.


     The leaves are Nuno felted- which means 'cloth' in Japanese.  It is distinct from other types of felting in that the wool fibers are wet felted onto a woven (in this case silk) inner layer.  This allows for a much thinner, lighter felted item. 

     Another freshly raked pile of Autumn Leaves for you to jump into.  Notice how lovingly he plays his guitar- he is almost waiting for the notes, rather than playing them. 

     Oh, here's another one:  This one is beautiful dialog of sounds.  A love letter, really.

     I know, it's just too much, too wonderful, but here is Les Feuilles Mortes.

     No one's watching, take just one more....


     And, Sisters, take a little piece of the space Grace Jones has hacked out of the world of men and sexual power, and keep it, for yourself- take a little bit of that strip tease:  Because she gave us that, and it isn't for men; it's for girls and women everywhere.  And all that you do, too, each day, too, is just like that, it isn't just for you, it's for all of us, when you poke a little stick at the gigantic, sleeping, lumbering stereotypes, inequalities, and injustices that we live in the shadows of.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Early Night

Dear Idle Hands,

It's here, isn't it?  The time of early darkness and indoor evenings.  There are so many good things to do, while the radio plays, and the night closes in.  If you haven't yet, do try knitting.  Try a cap first- I did; about 16 years ago now.  After knitting scarves, pillows, sweaters, capes, cowls and fingerless gloves, I still like knitting caps best of all.  Let the knots be, don't unravel it more than two or three times, finish your cap, and wear it this winter.


I checked this gorgeous book, Glorious Knits, out of the library, by Kaffe Fassett.  I know he will inspire you, too.  I was so taken with his subtle and ingenious color shifts that I bought the book.  Kaffe Fassett tells in his book about how he came to knit:  He visited a weaving mill, and was enraptured by the colors.  He bought about 20 yarns and needles "on the spot," and someone taught him to knit on the train home.  If that alone doesn't make you love him, he used all 20 colors in his first project:  A cardigan!  Truly a fearless and bold knitter to model oneself after.

My hat is less sophisticated than Mr. Fassett's knit patterns, but I am wearing it, with knots, and mistakes, and all the rest of the things that prevent people from completing their knitting.  Don't let it happen to you.  Knit on!  Here is a pattern to help you begin.  Hats and caps too easy for you?  Take a look at these fabulous head pieces.

If you cannot stand to knit, more's the pity; however, there are caps for sale.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Apple Blossom Sky

Dear Seasonal Ones,

Two folk heroes named John have been my lodestars since I was a wee bairn-  John Henry and Johnny Appleseed.  The first, for the very reason that I am writing to you now:  the grace and beauty of humanity must try to come out ahead of the machines that our clever monkey ingenuity have wrought;  and the second, because we must also try to leave a trail of seeds we have planted.

The tree is full; it is time for an Apple Tarte Tatin.  I offer first, the utterly disarming Julia Child.   Nobody says it better than her, and I hope you will take the time to watch even a little of her Apple Dessert episode. If you must multi-task, you may peel apples as you watch.  When you are done with her thoroughly enjoyable instructions, I will give you the hybrid recipe that I use whenever I tarte tatin apples.  Oh, by the by, if you think the video is good, the dessert is at least as good- I know, you are thinking, 'sure, they rave over anything with sugar in it at the Dodo.'  But, really, this isn't going to taste like anything you have had anywhere out- It will be better than the best restaurant and better than the best bakery you have ever tried. 

Tarte Tatin

This recipe is adapted from Donna Hay's beautiful dessert cookbook Modern Classics Book 2.  I got this book from a dear friend, who told me that Australian Donna Hay is a sort of Martha Stewart of the southern hemisphere.  Meet her here; you will two will get along fine!

4 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs water
3/4 cup sugar
4 or 5 apples

rough puff pastry (see recipe following)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and core the apples, cutting them into 4 quarters.  Melt the butter in a skillet with sloping sides of 10 inches or so in diameter.  Add the sugar and water and bring it to a boil over medium heat- once the sugar has dissolved, place the apples into the pan, core sides up.  The smooth peeled sides with be the top, once you invert your tarte after cooking.  Let the apples cook, without scorching, until the sugar has begun to color some- a light to medium caramel color.  This should take 10 to 15 minutes.

Roll the pastry dough into a circle that will cover your apples and fit your skillet. Lay it carefully over the hot apples and sugar, and put it in the oven for 20 to 28 minutes.  The pastry should be puffed up and golden brown. 

Let it cool for 5 minutes or so; now, here it gets tricky:  Put a plate over the top of the skillet, and then flip the whole burning hot sticky thing over, lifting the skillet slowly, so you don't fling caramel all over the kitchen.

Cut it up and eat it- it is best warm,  so just finish it all, or run what's left over to the neighbors house.

Rough Puff Pastry

This recipe is adapted from Judy Rodgers' cookbookThe Zuni CafĂ© Cookbook.  This book is a pleasure to read- Ms. Rodgers has a charming, gentle, guiding voice, and her recipes are terrific, too.  Dine at Zuni, if you ever get the chance. 

1/2 cup salted butter; cold
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Get a 2 by 2 foot space of counter to work on.  Mix the sugar into the flour well, and pile it into a mound in the center of your space.  Slice the butter into 8 or 10 square slabs or pats.  With your paws well into the mounded flour, pinch each slab into a much thinner square of butter- maybe 2 x 2 inches. Layer these pinched thins pieces with flour.  Don't worry, they will break and crack; stack them up anyway.  What have you got now?  A messy mound of flour and broken butter sheets.  Spread it out into a shallow circle of materials about 10 inches across.  Drip the ice water onto it, and then use a bench scraper or hard edged spatula to lift and fold the outside towards the center.  Fold it over itself enough to square it up into rectangle a little larger than a postcard.  Wrap it up loosely in waxed paper and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. 

Use a little flour on your space, and roll your postcard of dough out to about 1/2 inch thick- fold it over itself in thirds.  Repeat the rolling and folding, and then put it back in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes. 

Repeat the previous step two more times, using as little flour as possible on the counter.  After the third rolling and folding, leave the pastry in the fridge for an hour before using.

Would you like to dress apple, too?

One more Appleseed for you.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

In Scarlet Town

Dear Ones,

It is time for our sing-a-long.  My songbook tells me this song came over with the Pilgrims from England and Scotland and that folks have been singing it for 390-odd years.  We can make it to 400 years easily. 

Like all the good old songs, there are many verses and versions- I have given you the verses I used. Lift your voices up, and join me and all the many singers of the ages! 

Barbara Allen

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
Made every youth cry well-a-day
Her name was Barbara Allen.

Twas in the merry month of May
When green buds they were swelling
Sweet William on his deathbed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen

He sent a servant unto her
To the place where she was dwelling
Saying you must come to his deathbed now
If your name be Barbara Allen

So slowly slowly she got up
And slowly she came nigh him
And the only words she said to him:
Young man I think you're dying

As she was walking o'er the fields
She heard the death bells knelling
And every stroke seemed to say to her
Hardhearted Barbara Allen

Oh Mother, Mother make my bed
Make it both long and narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I'll die for him tomorrow

They buried her in the old churchyard
They buried him in the choir
And from his grave grew a red red rose
And from hers grew a briar

They grew and grew up the old church wall
Till they could grow no higher
And there they twined in a lovers knot
The red rose round the briar

As an encore, join me, and the VU in I'm Sticking with You.  While we are thinking together, of how diminished our world is without Lou Reed, here is a fine obituary by his wife, Laurie Anderson, from the East Hampton Star:

                   To our neighbors:

                   What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible
                   soft light.  Water surrounding us. 

                    Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though
                    we’re city people this is our spiritual home.     

                    Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to
                    Springs.  And we made it!    

                    Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled
                    by the beauty and power and softness of nature.  He died on Sunday morning
                    looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician
                    hands moving through the air. 

                    Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in
                    the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long
                    live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

                    — Laurie Anderson
                    his loving wife and eternal friend

Maybe next time we can sing the much newer (1815) "Foggy Foggy Dew."  Until then.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tune In

     I hope your house is filled with singing- not a performance, or a recording, but humming, and spontaneous snatches of song.  You know, something like this:  "Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work we go...."  Here then, are a few more songs no household should be without.









Tune in again soon, for a "sing along."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A few lines

     Dear All,

Did you ever 'see' a poem?  I bet you've witnessed dozens of them.  Here's one I saw late this summer.  Imagine that I am reading it to you, and that you cannot re-read it to see if I said "milkmoon" or "moonmilk."  These are the utterly delightful choices that people who write poems make on a regular basis.  Get yourself in on the action; sharpen up a Way of the Dodo pencil and watch for a poem.  You'll be glad you did.

Half as Much

There is a towering cactus;
long wavering limbs of blue, grey, green.
Cacto super gigante.

Growing at the end of one road and the middle of another,
and it blooms
at night
in heat
in summer
in street light.

Milkmoon trumpets
sound from greygreen arms.

A boy drove his car through the night
one hundred miles an hour
through a near telephone pole,

that carries the electricity that lights our
night dark rooms

and the lights went out
and a fire burned
and the cactus burned
and slumped
and ashed. 

And blooms were
beaten off and branches broken.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Your Path

     Dear Seekers,

Another little noticing that I want to offer you:  What you see there, right now, out your window, is someone's un-made sculpture, their un-begun painting.  Maybe even yours?

I know you'll want to know a little more about Ellsworth Kelly, so here's a potted Ellsworth, and here, for the primary text folks, is something more.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Missing You

Dear Fellow-Robots,

Of course, I miss the days we'd try to turn a double dutch rope, but now we can... what is it we can do, again?  Let me just check with Wikipedia on what it was we used to do....  In the meantime, enjoy the following visual and auditory message.

One more remembrance... I hope you are one of the lucky ones, and you will go to your HiFi and you will place your ears into the cushioned embrace of stereo headphones, plug into your receiver's 1/4 inch audio jack, set the disk to spinning, and ever so gently, guide the needle on its arm over to the vinyl groove.  What you will 'click on' here is an instantaneous, but pale shadow, of a transcendent auditory experience.  Just lie there, o fortunate ones, the whole 8 minutes,  near to the record player and listen to the sounds go to and fro in your head.  Do it for all of us.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

appropriately costumed

Dear Costumeless and Counting,

Counting the days, that is, until Halloween.  Perhaps you only need a little costume, just a one hour change from the rest of the year...?  I have three simple costume suggestions for you:

 Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.  Or Lyle, the Tattooed Man.  Martha Stewart will show you how, here.

Anime characters- you'll need one of these.

Or, how about going to the ball as a Smoker?   You will be the only one at the party, I'll wager.  But, man, you will look good, because these people sure do!









Happy Halloween, whomever you wish to be, and I'll see you at the Monster Mash- look for a smoking tattooed gypsy in pink hair!