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.