Friday, April 14, 2017

Small News Item for Local Readers (if any?)

A small addiction to fine clothing was triggered at the Ark on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.
A local woman wandered in for a quick browse after buying greens, tofu, and snack bars at the supermarket across the street. She discovered that today (Friday) all clothes were half off and the red slashed $1 items were actually 2 for $1. She found many gray and steel blue clothes (so flattering to her myopic eyes and calming to the "high" coloring of her cheeks) in cashmere, linen, and silk, some skinny jeans for her skinny teenagers.  The single highest priced item was $9, a lovely ruffled, quilted light spring jacket. Serendipity intervened when her beloved husband called to say he was nearby and did she need a ride.  She accepted happily, pushing down a bit of trepidation at his anticipated reaction.  All was well after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trees and Plants from Little Bits

Everything wants to live.  This includes the bits of stored energy in citrus and avocado seeds, cuttings of herbs, scraps of vegetables, rhizomes like ginger and turmeric.  Some of the strongest tomato plants are volunteers that overwintered in soil or a compost pile.

Short lists of plants I started from stem cuttings, roots appeared a week or two after soaking in a glass of water, After pots appear I planted up in soil, some edible, some decorative:
Thai basil, sprigs from restaurant
Mint lemon balm
Green basil
Green onions
Romaine and endive lettuces
Rose, one time cut flower started sprouting new leaves and stems
Natal palm, super pretty trailing plant (discarded clippings from husband's bonsai)
Purple wandering jew (found on sidewalk next to street planter), pictured below
Purple heart, pictured below

Plants started from leaves or stems, rooted directly in soil:
African violet
Willow branches, from dumpster dived weding arrangement, became trees over 6 feet tall
Sections of corn plant (tropical plant), pictured below

Image result for corn plant

Plants started by pushing fresh seed in a pot with soil:
Avocado, didn't bother with the suspended on toothpicks method
Orange and lemon pips (once gave a miniature citrus orchard to a coworker)

Plants that have mini me's:
Mother in law tongue/ snake plant

Plants with runners:
Lily of the valley
Wild ginger (pictured below)

Plants started by pushing parts under soil:
Sprouted garlic cloves in the fall
Sprouted onion bulbs
Turmeric rhizomes
Ginger rhizomes

Today was warm outside, so I potted up some of the above. With a little luck, we'll see some sprouts that will add beauty and life to our shady, concrete "patio." 

My back up plan includes ordering caladium corms

to plant from the aptly named Happiness Farm in Florida. They always spring up in festive explosions of color.  I order the combination of the large leaved varieties.  My only regret is that I have not been able to overwinter them.  Even our furnace closet doesn't keep the corms from perishing.  Frugal and chilly, that's our winter. So I reorder and look forward to the beautiful burst of color over our long summer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lazy Woman's Load--Dumpster Diving Failure

I was on my way to pick my daughter up from school, when I noticed a selection of perfectly aged terracotta pots and saucers set out in an alley.  I've been wanting to repot my plants as work and to pot up some rooted cuttings, one found on the sidewalk, the other rescued from the trash by a coworker.
I got a strong plastic bag from my backpack for the saucers, nested several pots and put them in seemingly sturdy, doubled brown paper bag from a nearby recycling can.  My optimism, or should I say greed, did not pay off. Sadly, the bag busted at the handle and keep ripping more and more. I didn't have time to look for another bag, as I didn't want to be late for pick up.  I set it down along with the saucers in another spot.  I came back the next day and everything was gone. A more clever, better prepared scavenger will be enjoying a beautiful spring planting.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trying Something New

For a while...did some tinkering with a new to me template.

Like like seeing a selection, but the flipping makes me a little dizzy.
I suppose I can change back if I remember how. What do you think reader?

Pansies are my mother's favorite flower.  She had a pair of earrings a long time ago that were pansies. She set them in a piece of tissue. Somehow it and they were accidentally thrown away. She remembers and regrets that loss some 50 years later. I buy her living pansies to plant out in the spring.

Last year I found a silver and abalone shell ring under our stove.  I didn't even know it was missing from my jewelry box.

I suspect that Wisteria had been trying it on and it found its way there or  ???
I was so happy that I wore it the next day.  I was out visiting a high school with Clement, going to a coffee shop, finding a mirror in an alley, getting newspaper from a box to wrap the mirror in.  So gloves off and on all day long.  I got home and shock!  It was gone from my finger.  I called the high school and coffee shop, nothing.  So sad that after a happy reunion, it was lost again, this time forever.

A few months later I was at the gym at work, when I saw a large, handmade, silver and turquoise ring on the floor next to a treadmill.  I picked it up and turned it into the security guard in the lobby. He asked for my name and I gave it.  And then nothing.  I wondered if the owner claimed it and if she was happy to get it back. It reminded me of my loss and my sadness and attachment to my own beautiful ring.  I wonder if someone found it and if it was giving her joy. I wonder if someone found my mother's earrings and found them as special as she did. What happens to things when they slip away from us?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Habit Replacement

I am trying to replace a bad habit of night time snacking while parked in front of a screen.  I nibble stuff I do not even like, when I am not even hungry.  Mindlessly eating away while watching a movie or reading favorite blogs.

 I have been taking up mending or hand sewing projects while on the sofa watching TV.  I know I can also do squats or sit ups if I'm feeling perkier.  That hasn't happened yet. Sometimes, I just want to see and absorb a film or documentary, rather than multitasking.  In that case, I brew a cup of herbal tea and cup it in my hands and sip.

 At the computer, it is difficult to be "busy" while one hand is clicking away. (Ushering away an unpleasant mental image flitting through.) Last night it occurred to me to bake bread.  I winged it.

 I sliced a thin patty of raw yeast, crumbled it into warm sugar water, incorporated as much flour--one cup at a time-- as would comfortably fit to make a nice dough. I took my bowl in front of the computer and kneaded away with my left hand, until the dough was elastic.  I let it rest in an oven that was slightly warm.  Our apartment is rather cool, so that helped. I was not expecting much, after my slapdash method of not using an exact recipe.  Thought if nothing else maybe I'd be baking a flat bread. I rubbed it with oil. It doubled up.  I punched it down and subdivided into smaller sections (so they would bake up faster, as it was getting late).  Kneaded each again, formed into rounds, let rise again, and baked.  Tap, tap, sounded hollow. Done.

Of course the little breads smelled very good. Of course I was hungry.  And of course, I mindfully enjoyed the smallest one with a bit of butter.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Three Sweet Recipes

In the late 1970s, I joined the Doubleday Book Club. The book that has seen the most use is the Doubleday Cookbook, Volume 2 by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna. So much use that the spine is completely cracked in 2 places and oil spots the edges. Absolutely revolting and shameful that I abused it and left it in such condition.  The section I turn to the most frequently is the cookie section. Two recipes in particular are in heavy rotation. I adapted to our taste. The third recipe is for puffy pancakes.

Clement favors the lemon wafers which are described as "nice and tart" and they are!

Lemon Wafers

1/2 c butter
1 1/3 c sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 c unsifted flour
1/4 t mace (I never used it)

This fills 2 cookie sheets. I use parchment paper to line them.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter until light and fluffy, then beat in sugar, mix in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in lemon juice and rind; mix in flour, and mace. Drop from a teaspoon, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.  bake about 15 minutes until cookies are lightly ringed in brown.  While still warm, transfer to wire racks to cool. About 55 calories per cookie.

After these are done I follow with Wisteria's favorite Tollhouse cookies.  Same parchment paper. Lemon flavor doesn't seem to transfer.

Tollhouse Cookies

1 c plus 2 T sifted flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c butter
2/3 plus 2 T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 egg 1 (6 oz) package chocolate chips (I substitute dark chocolate that I've chopped up)
1/2 c  coarsely chopped pecans (I don't use)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift flour with baking soda and set aside. Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.  Mix in dry ingredients; stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by well-rounded 1/2 teaspoonfuls on lightly greased (I use parchment paper) baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly edged in brown.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.  About 65 calories per cookie.

Clement loves pancakes that are like little puffy pillows, especially on Saturday mornings. I like to experiment with different sizes of spoons for ladling onto griddle.  Littler pancakes are cuter.

Basic Pancakes

1 c sifted flour
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1 egg lightly beaten
3/4 c milk
(I add a splash of vanilla)

Sift flour and baking powder.  Combine egg milk, oil, and vanilla.  Slowly stir into dry ingredients only until dampened--batter should be lumpy. Use big spoon that hold about 3 T's worth. Fry on hot oiled griddle.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface, turn gently and brown flip side. About 80 calories per pancake, more with delicious maple syrup.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Winter Fun on the Sled; or in the Bed: Reading

Our parents took us sledding on a hill in Humboldt Park, which was one of many places named after Alexander Von Humboldt, German explorer and naturalist, 1769 to 1859.  He influenced Charles Darwin, John Muir of the redwoods, and others with his web of life/global interconnectedness point of view. I've been reading an excellent book about his life and travels written by Andrea Wulf.

Winter is a time of reflection and reading for me.  I thought I would gather up some more favorite books you might enjoy as well. I always liked reading a cross section of books by the same author if I really liked the first. I love fiction, but as I have increasing difficulty reading small or medium print, especially in the evenings. And so, I find myself appreciating books with pictures more and more.  In no particular order, except for the pile up by the side of my bed:

*If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home and The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley. I've seen British documentaries hosted by her and enjoyed the mix of history and juicy, gossipy presentation, endlessly compelling.

* Creative Space and Time: Making Room for Making Art by Rice Freeman-Zachery. I loved her voodoonotes blog, which sadly seems to be gone--why? There it showed her beautiful art quilts, embellished clothing, colorful, whimsical home. She has written other books, which I heartily recommend as well.

*The Secret Birds, The Wonder, and others by Tony Fitzpatrick. He is a Chicago-based artist and writer.  I went to see (twice) his exhibit of bird collages at the DePaul Museum.  Beautiful paintings/assemblage using ephemera like cigar wrappers and matchbook covers of nightclubs that no longer exist.  I love Joseph Cornell's shadow boxes and Fitzpatrick's work is reminiscent in its dreaminess and ache for things you can't touch, places you can't go.

*How to Catch a Frog: And Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival, and  DIY and Prints: 50+ Designs and 20 Projects to Get You Started  by Heather Ross.  The first is a combination, a memoir, and just when it becomes painful to read, interspersed with how-tos at the end of each chapter. The second, a project book with bonus gifts; with a golden chapter on how to create designs in photoshop; many of her sweet patterns of unicorns, toadstools, princesses, mermaids, etc, to photocopy & use for crafts; a dvd with cute, downloadable designs of hers. 

*The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen Notes and  From the Larder by Nigel Slater. I wish I could pull out the delicious foods photographed and eat them up.  Barring that, I must resign myself to following the short, not too complicated recipes to satisfy my appetite.  I like the spirit of improvisation, if not this then that, use what you have, thought process he presents.  Lovely writer, several years ago, I read his memoir, Toast, spanning his childhood and adolescence.  Tart, bitter, sweet, in turn, like many childhood memories are. 

*Decorate Fearlessly: Using Whimsy, Confidence, and a Dash of Surprise to Create Deeply Personal Spaces and Be Your Own Decorator: Taking Inspiration and Cues From Today's Top Designers by Susanna Salk.  Gorgeous, imaginative interiors to drink in.  Two of my favorite picture books to savor. Our own living room is inspired by the Peacock Room. Cough, cough, inspired, if not realized. 😅

* The Yestermorrow Clothes Book: How to Remodel Secondhand Clothes by Diana Funaro, published in 1976.  I haven't read it  yet, just looked at the photos and illustrations.  Models have sexy Addicted to Love/Robert Palmer vibe.  Not the black dresses, but the vamp makeup. I love that era of fashion!
The chapters headings include mending, decorating, recycling, remodeling dresses, transforming lingerie and loungewear into street clothes, refitting and redesigning sweaters, reworking coats and jackets, altering and updating jeans. Lots of hippie refashions like turning pants into skirts, patchwork, inserting flash of print onto sides of jeans.

Addicted to Love/Robert Palmer link: