Testing this and that…

Recently I bought one of these awesome Rinse Well thingies.  AKA, “The Watercolor Toilet.” Hah!  Because when the water in the well gets dirty, you push that little button and it disappears into the well and fresh water automatically refills the basin.  It’s a silly little tool for lazy artists who don’t like to get up and change their dirty rinse water.  It’s not perfect.  The well is a bit small if you’re doing a big splashy painting, but it’s perfect for dainty dry brush work that doesn’t require a huge pigment load.  Also all the dirty water doesn’t disappear so the fresh water in the well is slightly tinged with whatever color was there.  But it’s still a cool thing that will work for certain things I do in the studio.  I like it.  Because I like cool tools.

The other item I’m testing is the switch back to the creation of jpegs on my iPhone.  Apple sneakily changed the default file type from jpeg to a proprietary file type they claim is better called HEIC (pronounced “HEEK”) in their last major upgrade.  Well that’s a heiccup if you ask me because those HEIC files would upload anywhere and couldn’t be converted without paying for and downloading a conversion app.  Grrr.  What the HEEK Apple?  So it turns out it’s easy to make your phone switch back in your  settings under “camera” then “format” choose “Most compatible.”  That’s it.  And don’t we all want to win the award for Most Compatible?  All except Apple.

False advertising

This summer we raised Thai Eggplants to use in curries. Specifically Thai Green Curry. We had to raise them because, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, they are not to be had in any market at any price here in California, in spite of their presence in this photo on the entry door of a local supermarket. Just above the geeen tomato…

Problem solved

Uncle Si had plenty of wisdom to impart but perhaps his best bit was, “Most problems will solve themselves if you just leave them alone.”

Here’s a perfect example. This cart return is possibly the worst piece of engineering I’ve ever seen. As originally designed, the carts would roll right back out every time I tried to put them in since the return was high in the middle and low and open to the parking lot on both sides. Presumably this was to encourage drainage, and if so, that goal was met. I’ve never seen water standing in this structure. However, the PRIMARY goal of keeping carts from rolling willy-nilly around the parking lot was completely unmet by this feat of engineering.

For about 5 years, I would heap disdain on the designer of this useless cart corral each time I shopped here until one magic day I noticed that the asphalt had heaved at the junction with the concrete of the cart return a good 1.5 inches…enough to stop the carts from rolling out! Thus did the problem solve itself. Now I think of Uncle Si and his infinite wisdom every time I shop here and return my cart.

Waxing Elegant

Hardy, har, har.  I’m currently reading a book, a PUBLISHED book, wherein the author has used the phrase “hardy laugh” twice and the title phrase of this post once…so far.  I’m waxing eloquent and enjoying a hearty laugh at his expense.  Actually, I think I’m going to give him a pass on the use of waxing elegant instead of eloquent because it would be in character for the narrator/main character of the book to make that kind of gaffe, but the the continual enjoyment of hardy laughter by the characters is a brig to fare.  Spell check is obviously to blame, yet again, for not being able to catch typos that accidentally form other legitimate words, or the misuse of words that sound similar but have completely different spellings and/or meanings.  When are they going to come up with Phrase check?  Or Homonym check?  Or Does this writing make any sense at all check?

Where have all the editors gone, long time passing…

I’m about to jump off that bridge too far, but before I do, may I recommend The Elements of Style by E. B. White? I recommend it to all, not just to the aspiring writers among us, because it’s some of the best writing around about how to write and at the same time some of the best writing around, period.  That’s no easy feat.  E.B. White.  Ahhh.  Some writer.

Read any good books lately?

Postscript: that’s twice for “waxing elegant.”  Maybe it’s a Southern expression?  Could be one of those idioms that pinpoint the geographic region where you learned to talk?  That they might one day use to create a quiz like this.

 

Britex report

So I did promise to report on the fabric shopping adventure.  I bought a white slub knit, and gray sweatshirt fleece, both remnants, neither of which I’ve even thought of sewing up but both of which should make useful additions to my day-to-day wardrobe when I do.  Britex is wildly over-priced so I wasn’t too tempted by anything that wasn’t on the remnant floor.

It was a lovely day of shopping with friends in the city in spite of getting drenched by the pouring rain in the middle of the worst drought in a generation.  You can see the Britex bag in the background of recent posts featuring my dress form in her scandalous state of deshabille, which really shows in the most recent post of the jacket I recently made.  Shameless hussy.

High Anxiety

Just a few thoughts on why it is that I’m always feeling anxious when working at the computer, and why I’m not alone.  I thought about this quite a bit recently when my trusty laptop died and I had to upgrade to a new version of Sibelius music scoring software, a program I’ve been using for years, because the old version on which I am quite competent just doesn’t run on the Mac platform. With the death of the old laptop, we are now all Mac, all the time with a new MacBook Pro Retina 15″ laptop replacing the last link to the PC world in our little world of computing.

Consider knitting for a minute.  I learned to knit when I was 10.  I wasn’t very good at it at first, but I got better through practice and now I feel confident I can knit anything if I just follow the instructions.  There are new and better tools now and lots of interesting techniques out there of which I was completely unaware back when I learned, like circular needles, Entrelac and Moebius knitting for example, but if you gave me those same needles and yarn from 1968 (or 1668 for that matter), I could still knit with them successfully and make something useful.  Also, after a knitting interregnum of almost 20 years, I was able to take up my needles  and start knitting again as if I had never stopped.  K2tog still means knit two together.

How different with computers:  I first started working with computers at 16 in high school and did some simple programming, first in Fortran on CARDS and then Pascal in college.  The language, tools and techniques I used then are of absolutely no use to me now and probably would be unrecognizable to anyone under the age of 50.  After I took about 8 years off from computers between college and working in a library, I was unable even to start up a computer and make it run a program, much less do anything useful.  Unless you use computers every day, you are constantly out of date.  Even if you use them every day, you are out of date if you don’t upgrade every program at every opportunity. The new skills required don’t build on the old skills in the virtual world in same way they do in the analog world.  Old tools have no utility.  There is no mastery built of long experience, there is only the constant fear that the small world of utility you have created for yourself will collapse at any minute if your computer crashes and you will be starting all over again at ground zero in a new world that is several magnitudes more complex than it was last time your computer crashed, taking with it all of it’s comfortable software.  This creates a sense of dread looming in the background at all times as you work with the certain knowledge that your skills are woefully out of date and when the inevitable crash comes, you will not be able to do at all what you can easily do now.

This is one of the reasons I prefer knitting, which, by the way, I often describe as the original binary code.  Just knit and purl.  That’s all there is.  Everything is built upon a base of knit and purl, from the simplest cotton washrag to the most complicated Estonian lace shawl.  So, I’m going to take a deep breath, shut down the computer, and go finish my latest knitting project, the instructions for which I admittedly downloaded from the Internet, and very easily from the lovely Ravelry.com site.  Slip one knitwise and call me in the morning.

Celtic Braid Mitt

 

Sweet Violets and Healthy Vegetables

Sweet Violets

One of the requirements of any new home was that it have a place to grow violets.  I guess the new house passes muster.  This is the second display of this magnitude we’ve had since we moved here in February and some of these plants are still sending up new blooms stalks!

Another requirement was a place to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and zucchini.Zucchini Sprouts Garden Boxes 2014

Check, check, check, check and check.  As you might guess, there are a few other things to check off the list, but vegetables and violets are a very good start.  We got the white raised planter boxes from New England Arbors.  We’ll see come July how they perform for raising vegetables.  We know the Tomato Boxes  can raise great tomatoes because we’ve used them before.  And there’s always the Farmer’s Market in case of crop failure on any front, but I do love putting vegetables on the table at noon that were still growing on the vine at half-past 11.

Fresh eggs

Fresh Eggs

 

The next best thing to having your own chickens is having a friend with a few too many.

Here’s an omelette-making secret I picked up by watching the pros do it at a buffet brunch:  put only the cheese in the middle.  Any vegetables or meat should go into the pan first and be cooked or reheated to your satisfaction first.  Then drop in the beaten eggs and proceed with standard omelette procedure.  When it’s ready to fold in half, put the cheese in.  Give it some time on each side to finish cooking and melt the cheese.   So much better than having a pile of mixed vegetables and cheese 2 inches high inside plain eggs.

Post and Toss

Or, this why I don’t do sculpture.  Or, why moving is good, bad and ugly.

Sawdust cow

 

This little cow was my first attempt at sculpture in at the tender age of 6.  I remember this being an assignment in first grade and that the sculpting medium was starch and sawdust.  Can that be right?  I also remember my poor little hands cracked and bled from working with the stuff.  How we suffer for our art.

Why my mother saved it and gave it back to me 30 years later is a mystery.  Why I kept it for 20 more years is an even greater mystery.  I assure you it is now where it belongs, in the trash.  Why the cow has a dark shadow on it’s back is not a mystery.  I believed at the time that was what the teacher wanted us to do.  It had something to do with shadows from the sun.  I think I got it backwards and we were supposed to shade the under side of the cows darker because the sun came from above.  Perhaps I was fascinated with the hairs growing out of the teacher’s chin and missed the point of the dark shadows lecture.  Who can say?  I do think it serves well as a reminder that 3-d art is not my strong suit and that letting go of things is healthy.  Letting go of things is healthy.  Letting go of things is healthy.

Oh, did I mention that I moved???  And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several months?  It’s good to be back.

Many Thanks

Pida bread

 

There are so many blessing for which to be thankful on this day I hardly know where to begin so I’ll start small.  My new-ish Breville mixer is such a step up from the new generation of Kitchenaid stand mixers that I’m actually thankful my previous mixer bit the dust so I could find this gem.  It powers through even whole wheat dough, although today I’m just making Pida Bread from my 2-2-2 Good Bread recipe:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Bread Flour
  • 2 cups Bread Flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water, divided

First, notice only one ingredient is not 2 of some standard measurement:  the water.  Now on to the method:

In 1/2 cup warm water, dissolve the yeast.  Measure out 1 cup of room temperature water in another pitcher and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in mixer bowl and stir well.  Drop in the butter in small chips.

With the dough hook installed and the mixer running at the recommended setting for kneading bread, slowly pour in the liquids.  Knead for a maximum of 10 minutes in the machine.  Once the dough is formed and starting to become elastic at about 5-8 minutes, I like to take it out and finish the last bit of kneading on my bread board because I have never outgrown the joy of playing with dough.  When the dough is smooth and elastic, form into a ball.  Oil your rising bowl, place your ball top down first to pick up a little of the oil and then turn it upright and cover lightly with a damp kitchen towel.  Allow to rise in a warm spot for about 90 minutes.

Divide and shape.  If making baguettes, I shape 2 of them directly as the shaping into the baguette form adequately deflates the dough. I then place them on a baking sheet dredged with cornmeal and then sprinkle more cornmeal on top.  Next, cover with waxed paper or the kitchen towel again and let rise for 30-40 minutes.  Slash just before placing in oven to allow a good oven spring.

If making pida rounds, I divide the dough, round each half into a ball, gently press flat into a circle to deflate and round it up into a ball again, then let rest for 10 minutes to soften as the rounding and deflating energizes the gluten and it will fight the final shaping unless you let it rest.  After the 10 minute rest, I take each ball and press into a well-greased 9-inch cake pan.  Make the traditional pattern of slices on the top with a sharp knife.  Brush with milk and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cover and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Bake either style of bread in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

For easiest slicing and a crustier crust in either style, allow to cool and then reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, but also delicious sliced immediately and always slathered with butter!  I also have it on good authority that the baguettes make nice French Toast.  It makes sense since if there is any left over, it gets stale overnight and stale bread makes the best French Toast.

Most of all, I am thankful for all the wonderful people in my life with whom I love to break bread.  Many thanks and love to you all, wherever you find yourself today.