Monday, October 31, 2011

turn turn turn

Life here at Acorn Cottage moves forward round the circle, with small signs of healing and repair poking through the detritus of daily life... In this season of spirit, here is music for cheer, both solemn, and silly, as you prefer, as well as a cartoon that stubbornly refuses to be embedded...


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dog is on watch,
there is danger at the door

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday snippets

Canned the farmers market tomatillos, turned into salsa verde. Was very baffled to have fewer jars filled even though using half again as much as last year. Apparently, some tomatillos are more watery than others, and when cooked down, yield less. I'll have to see if the last farmers market of the year (this weekend) has any more, four jars is not enough for my pantry. There are still the plums, waiting in the freezer, to be turned into this years plum sauce. K brought me a dozen tiny 4 oz canning jars, my favorite size for condiments like salsa and savory sauces - I intend to send some of them back to their household filled with various treats...
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This has been a really social week here at Acorn Cottage. C from Olympia stayed here for three nights, which was a real treat; I rarely have that much time to visit with her when I am up in that neighborhood. There was a sushi dinner with our pals I and K one night, a trip to Ikea (in which our plucky heroine came home with not only another light to keep the other smoke alarm from chirping, but a nifty and not-spendy LED undershelf light, which, with a little work, will eventually grace the niche over the sink here, stay tuned for further developments...), and no Olympia visitor ever leaves our fair city without a trip to Powells. We both sold books for store credit, and I was astonishingly restrained and merely window shopped, C was able to find an excellent cheese making reference book to add to her library.
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Yesterday E met me at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and we were most pleased to continue to explore how the changing seasons change the garden there. I was surprised to see how much was still in bloom, and sweetly scented! There were a few lingering gardenia blossoms, and two different osmanthus trees, one with white blossoms and one with orange.

As you approach the garden, decorative grillework set in the walls allows a glimpse of the world inside; the garden fills a whole downtown block, and mostly while inside you do not think about the surrounding city...

Covered walkways of stone and carved wood, wind around the rooms and courtyards and bridges of the garden; archways beckon to another courtyard...

leaves fall, and cover the reflected trees, while autumn color blazes bright against pebble mosaic paving

Do look up, there are decorative details everywhere, these are some of the most interesting rooflines in the city... look down and see the lovely, October blooming toad lily... (does Acorn Cottage needs a toad lily or two for the shady front garden?)
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I have long wanted one of the Bella Luz luminettes, have admired her work during my years working at the Country Fair, and finally decided to treat myself to a little bit of night-time beauty. Really, is a small thing indeed, to be another bit of brightness both literally, and in many more subtle ways.
this moon face looks so peaceful is how it looks between the cabinet and the sink
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Yesterday, before it rained, I raked the leaves from my front yard . My hand was tired, I had to rest a few times. But got the job done. I toted the piles of leaves to the leaf compost bin in the back yard, using the burden cloth made several years ago. Just a big square of canvas, with webbing loops in each corner; 'tis easier than lifting the leaves into a wheelbarrow, to just lay the cloth down near each pile and use the rake, then pick up the corners and carry the leaves that way. A real treat, to rake and scoop without hand pain. I woke in the night, wondering why my shoulders were so very sore; in the morning, remembered that labor which had not been possible for a long time now, and was happy to stretch and know that work will be more and more an option.
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dog is on watch,
there is danger at the door

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grace is not my middle name

In the shadow world, I look tall. I am struggling to be at peace with the need to have surgical investigation, and my terror of deep anaesthesia. G wrote an amazing essay, ".....Waiting Patiently - a dog's tale"; I read it with tears running down my face, and remembered that Her Own Darling Self is waiting and watching out for me on the otherside, and that gives me an anchor, should they send me into the scarey dark alone, which is likely.

Today I began to wonder how much of my fear is being attached to being scared; while I do not have the happy confident faith in a benign reality that some do, it does seem like it could possible to surrender to necessity with a modicum of grace. I'll always be an information-gathering, suspicious/aware kind of gal, resistant to being pushed; yet somewhere somehow is a pathway to be found. (no way around this but through) This is not the road I looked for, but it is the one I am on. You'd think, after all these decades I'd have made peace with that as well, since that is, in a way, the yang to the yin of my choosing to build a life that makes sense to me, rather than the one that was prescribed....
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In more exterior news, some progress has been happening around the homeplace.

Meeting with the hand surgeon today, and my recovery has progressed far enough to allow a return to my former regularly scheduled work; this is a happy thing indeed, for all that I will miss the freedom to be social at will. Soon there will be time in the workroom, and time with the torch and the kiln, and sketches on the table (not to mention all the other jobs that were left undone these months both here and in other peoples houses) This is coming just in time, as the year turns towards wintertime, and the air gets colder both outdoors and inside, having some income again will be welcome indeed. Not to mention sewing and knitting and garden work in what some folks know as free time...

Sunday last, a trip to the King Farmer's Market, almost the last one for the year of the local markets. Not a lot came home with me, but a few pounds of local cornmeal, destined for Sister Gigi's Sweet Corn Cakes now and again, and a bag of tomatillos, destined to be turned into salsa verde and canned in small jars, to go with said corn cakes...

Tired I am of the mismatched and scant; there will be new curtains for the living room this winter. Ikea yielded up three indigo bedspreads, that are thicker than the current linen, with a textured almost handwoven look. When cut and hemmed to size, will be a much better choice. Not sure if there is fabric here suitable to line them with, but should some turn up at some point, 'twill be easy enough to add.
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dog is uneasy,
looking at the door

Saturday, October 22, 2011

a resilient recipe

Last week I met S and B at the St Johns Bookseller, for an evening with Lukas Volger, who is on a book tour for his most recent cookbook "Vegetarian Entrees That Won't Leave You Hungry". While I am far from being a vegetarian, the recipe for sample salad at that event has now been added to the recipe box here at Acorn Cottage.

In short, Bulgar Salad with Kale and Feta is delicious!
1 c bulgar
2 c water
2 t cumin seed
1 T oil
1 small red onion
-- cut in strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos
½ t salt
¼ c white wine*
6 oz kale
-- cut in thin strips

3 green onions, minced
½ c cilantro, chopped
3 oz feta, crumbled
1 T olive oil
Bring water to a boil, stir in bulgar
cover, and remove from heat,
- let sit to absorb the water
while you prepare the rest...

Heat oil, then sizzle the cumin seed
almost immediately, add the onion
Cook onion till soft and browned some.
Stir in garlic, pepper and salt
Pour in wine, add kale, stir and cover
Cook till kale is tender
Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Combine with the bulgar

May be served warm or cold

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but once they are all prepped, it comes together quickly. By starting the bulgar first, the rest of the dish can be cooked while the grain is steeping; once it has absorbed the water, the other half of the dish is cooked and ready to be added.

I'd not had bulgar in a long time, and had forgotten how very easy it is to prepare. Since it is pre-cooked, it simply needs to be combined with boiling water and left to sit, in about a half hour it is rehydrated. Apparently bulgar stores really well, since the way it has been processed makes it more stable than uncooked wheat. This makes it a dandy candidate for the emergency earthquake shelf, since boiling water makes the water safer, and it need not cook for very long, which saves on fuel.

* as I'd no alcohol handy, I substituted water mixed with about a tablespoon of lemon juice, which worked well.

cracked and patched

Once a year, the Japanese Garden has a free day. And this year, it will be Friday, November 11, during this exhibit: "Mottainai: The Fabric of Life - Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan". I've long enjoyed Sri Threads, the blog of Stephen S, and his wonderful images and writings about Japanese folk textiles; this exhibit will include selections from his private collection. This is a MUST SEE for me, next month... anyone want to come with??

Judy Collins - Simple Gifts,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

a bright idea

'Tis getting cold here - yesterday woke up to the sound of the smoke alarm chirping... not because it needed a new battery, but because it was cold. Took me several years and a lot of searching to figure that out, and for the last few years it has happened all winter long on and off. Since to pull the batteries out would disable the safety equipment, I set the space heater up underneath, just for a half hour, and that quieted it down. But that is not a good solution, being horribly wasteful of electricity.

I then had a complete visual brainstorm, and the lightbulb over my head became Miss Lightbulb Lamp, to be attached to the wall directly under Mr Smoke Detector, and use the (wasted) heat generated by an incandescent light as a way of keeping the dang gizmo quiet! A trip to the hardware store yielded a suitable porcelain light socket, and a few simple additional parts. Since all the lights here at Acorn Cottage had been converted long ago to CF with a significant drop in the electric bill, was necessary to add a box of incandescent light bulbs .

And so, from idea to finished item - now to see if it will make a difference...

Of course, what would make a real difference would be to fix the huge gaping holes in the workroom ceiling (grrrr... I hates demolition boy, I does indeed) that the wind blows through, and that project is actually hopefully going to happen this year. G has some ideas about how to help me with that project, which will probably make a difference in the wintertime indoor temperature here.
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here's a tune for a sunny cold Tuesday afternoon...

Way Out West - by Mary McCaslin
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dog is curled up,
sleepy but awake

Monday, October 17, 2011

well that was fun

our plucky heroine, dressed for an afternoon of adventure...

Saturday I met with my friend S, and we headed out to see some of Portland Open Studios. The weather cooperated, giving us a crisp autumnal sunshine to tootle around N and NE, mostly in neighborhoods where I'd not done much prior exploration (now noted for future bike rides and photography rambles).

We started out at the studio/home of Richard Brandt, fittingly sided in new adobe plaster. His work ranged in scale from tiny orange-sized unglazed teapots to large architectural ceramics, the largest ones with a wonderful feel of archaeological artifacts from an unknown distant civilisation, gears and gizmos and mechanical fragments. If there was more mature garden space here at Acorn Cottage, and money in the kitty for ornamentation, one of his artifacts would have found a place in my yard. His assorted large scale ceramic chains were also really fascinating -
see the tips of my boots, for scale...
As we left, Richard pointed out the box of ceramic "bones" which he'd made, and encouraged us to choose one to take home, so one of his artifacts came home with me after all...

We saw whimsical collage art down in the industrial area, and stopped into a printmaking studio (Atelier Meridian) where Liv Rainey-Smith was demonstrating woodcuts and Carolyne Landon was talking about her upcoming Genesis app. While I am not entirely clear on what an app does, it looked like an interesting way to show someone (properly equipped with the correct technology) views of her artwork, in a structured but not necessarily linear fashion. I myself was more interested watching in the woodcut creation and printing, and noted for possible future enjoyment that the studio has various workshops and classes scheduled.
just out of the press...

The paintings of Shawn Demarest were full of the varied light of our region, and her imagery was so resonant to my inner life; I never tire of streets and roads and neighborhoods, the landscapes that my own stories play out upon, and she captured that glowing light so very well

S and I ended the day at the home/studio of her friend Bridget Benton. Her studio was an inspiring marvel of various workstations, that would encourage the least artistic person to use their hands and heart to create, and would tantalise any creative person to new efforts. (Made me want to go home and sort and tidy, to help my own studio become so appealing! - more lights, must get more lighting in my workspace) And not only did Bridget have her artwork displayed, but she also had set up a hands-on try out encaustic monotype station, so everyone had a chance to actually play. And pretty much everyone that showed up that evening did!
dappled horse with oakleaf
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dog is restless

Friday, October 14, 2011

pay attention

in which our plucky heroine had visual proof that she has not lost her marbles...

Actually a family tradition - my mother keeps a bowl of marbles on a table in their entryway, for just such confirmation, and here at Acorn Cottage, my marbles live in a wooden box at the back of one of the nightstands. (as young M once said: "there is silly, and then there is seriously silly")

Why is this relevant? Well, today was my first visit to occupational therapy, to help lefthand become stronger and more functional. I was sent home with a tub of alarmingly pink putty to use for strengthening exercises, and with several new modes of focused massage to be used on my lower palm, to soften and continue to flatten the scar. The most unusual involves a good sized handful of marbles, and a towel. By putting the marbles on a towel, they stay on the table, and the scarred area can be rolled about on top of them, varying the pressure as needed. It feels weird, but good.
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While out and about in the world, I pay attention to my surroundings, partially as a matter of safe travel*, and partially since the world is full of beauty, if only you look for it. Mostly I look around, and have often made a specific point of looking up, since even in the most dismal surroundings the sky is always there, and often lovely.

But I also look down, and at the world of the small, and the very small.
As a child, I loved creating miniature worlds, dioramas, and dollhouses. Some of that fascination with the small still remains, after all these years - my enamel and metalworking is, well, very small indeed, making good use of my short and clever fingers. And surely I am not the only one who looks at the tiny landscapes of moss and imagines what it would be like to walk there...
. .
a multiplicity of texture and color, greenlife finds a home along the edges
there are the pathways that we travel on, and the ones we never see...
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dog is resting now

* Situational awareness, sometimes described as the "Cooper Color Codes" is something that I've been practicing, in a rudimentary form, for many many years. It has seemed to me indispensable to pay attention to my surroundings as I travel about in the world. There is no way to know what dire consequences have been avoided by this attitude, for I've lived in, visited, and travelled through various less-than-savory neighborhoods in different cities for most of my adult life. While I never discount The Luck, alert attention is surely her most boon companion.

Today, while on the way to OT, the bus had just turned the corner into one of the transit centers when someone stepped out in front, off the walkway and into the lane, obviously listening to something other than the approaching bus, and watching a handheld screen instead of where they were going. I commended the driver on making a very short stop safely. Some of the other passengers actually applauded. The distracted pedestrian never noticed that they had narrowly escaped being flattened.

Do not be that pedestrian. The world is full of danger, and it is also full of beauty. Walk through it oblivious and you miss the beauty and increase your vulnerability. There are great benefits to remaining aware...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

whingeful Wednesday - scanner blues

in which our plucky heroine whinges on hoops of various sorts...

The computer here at Acorn Cottage has stopped recognising my flatbed image-scanner, though it is probably still a functional machine. Not surprising, since the scanner is at least ten years old, and the HP website doesn't even list drivers for it anymore. 'Tis very annoying indeed, being a useful piece of equipment for transforming sketches into data to share. I did try grabbing some drivers off the HP site that seemed like they might work, but ended up causing all kinds of hijinks that took me hours to track down and remove...

Sooo, the question is, should I attempt to acquire a new scanner, or perhaps instead take some time to kludge together a clever way to use my camera to capture images instead. The thing is, scanners nowadays have all kinds of elaborate programs designed to do all kinds of things that I do not need. I just want to grab an image so that I can then process it myself, no need for self-correcting, or email functions, etc etc... In fact, there is a clever Instructable about how to build some kind of "copy-stand" to hold a digital camera steady and photograph pictures, or even small flat objects like enamels... (that is what I used the clever copy stands in the photo lab at TESC, back in the day, though that was long before digital cameras were around)

Still, it irks me most mightily to simply toss such an elaborate hunk of equipment, with all the embodied resources, simply because "these electrons do not want to talk to these other electrons". Makes me a bit loath to invest again in another hunk of plastic and electronica, might not be the best use of my limited resources. Clever monkey says, forage for a solution, don't shop for a solution. Don't need to jump through the planned obsolescence hoop!
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Autumn is here, the leaves are turning colors. Baskets with yarn have been unearthed, and my hand, while still weak, is well enough to knit for a while. There is a pile of yarn earmarked for homeless hats, a project started and then set aside as knitting became too painful. The partial hat left on the needles now has another three inches added. This makes me very happy indeed.
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In the early part of my life, it was possible for ordinary folks to simply go to the doctor's office, and the cost, while not trivial, was bearable. I remember a few times, back in my young adulthood, when though I'd no insurance of my own, I needed to see a doctor and simply called and made an appointment. Got things dealt with, and paid the bill. Not a bill that took a whole week or two of income, or more, just for an office visit. "Wheel never stops turning ... That only matters to the people on the rim."

Finally after weeks of waiting, a new medical referral has been approved, and a new appointment made to see a different doctor. The worrisome symptoms first showed up 2½ months ago have only increased in the intervening time. Once there is an actual diagnosis, who knows what additional hoops will be needed to have whatever the issue is actually dealt with. Hopefully not too many, I am getting mightily tired of being a circus pony. But, in the meantime, there will be time for walkabout in the changeable autumn light, and beauty to find where the eye looks and the heart sees.

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dog is wary but curious

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday musings: transitions + plumsauce

In which our plucky heroine notices that the longer time spent away, the longer it seems to take to re-adjust...

I went north to spend time with G, and ended up staying for a week. Since we live not only in very different spaces, but many miles apart, there is always transition, the time necessary to adjust; not sure what to call it (though I am sure there is a long and complicated word in German for just such a specific sensation). The sounds are different, the scent of the air, and the great difference of being together or apart. I noticed it more on my return than ever before. The crowded streets and transit, the way my personal shields spring up so very fast, the vast difference between city and woods. Always attentive to what is around me, there is a huge difference between walking down a city street in the twilight, and walking down a leafstrewn path to the river, a huge difference between one set of eyes and two...
. .

It was good also to visit with some of my other northern friends, while G was at work. I had time to spend at the Menagerie, being fortunate indeed to stop by on a day when the pizza oven was fired up. Happy hands that are healing, helped prep the toppings. And there was a little bit more torch-time, J showed me how to make "twisties" (twisted glass stringers) and I was able to make one, and a few beads as well. The first time after my surgery, and all went well.

The next day ended up a long visit with B/K & C. I'd not been back to their house in years, and in the intervening six years time, they have done an incredible job of turning their front yard into a beautiful food garden, with curving pathways, raised beds edged in urbanite, and a mixture of fruit, flowers, and vegetables. I particularly liked the raspberry border along the sidewalk, apparently underplanted with spring flowering bulbs. Their fig tree, which was small when I lived there, is now huge, and starting to crack the driveway. But since their driveway has turned into part of the garden zone, being used to store amendments, nurture plant starts, and serve as a construction zone for garden trellises and suchlike, a few cracks are not troublesome.

Later today, after spending some time taming Mt Dishmore, my current plan is to use the feral plums to make...
Chinese Plum Sauce:
2lbs. fresh plums
- pitted and quartered
C sugar
½C vinegar
3T soy sauce
1T ground ginger
2 minced garlic cloves
1/8tsp cayenne
Combine all, and bring to a boil,
then simmer til the fruit is very tender.
Puree, then cook till very thick
It will take some time to cook down...
Keep watch so it does not catch and burn
When suitably thickened, jar and process

≈4 8oz jars - ¼" headspace - process 10 minutes

recipe can be multiplied

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dog is vigilant and slightly puzzled
head tilted, with ears up