Monday, February 28, 2011

a day with Jane

A couple of months back, my friend Debra discovered that a stage version of "Pride and Prejudice" was appearing in a nearby university theater. She got tickets, and it was going to be my Christmas present. She chose February 27th as the best date.

We weren't even sure if it was a musical or a play. A few days before I thought to look online for more info, and discovered there was to be a free dance class beforehand, and high tea afterward, to which you needed reservations - oh dear, we were too late for that!

Deb was going to make lunch, and then we'd go, but at the last minute we decided to rush off to the dance class instead. About 40 people showed up!  And different ages, which was very nice to see.

Here's Tom, the teacher, dressed in period costume. He was very amiable and everyone enjoyed themselves. My friend does Scottish country dancing, but I'd never.

The play was almost three hours long with a short intermission - and very faithful to the book's dialogue. In fact, I knew what to expect at every turn, including all the lines, which took some getting used to. But by the end, everyone felt it was a very satisfying production. 

Then, as we filed out, we discovered anyone who wanted to could attend the tea after all! There was plenty for all.  We found ourselves sitting with Louise and Denise, cousins, who enjoy high tea wherever they can find it, and we all had a great time eating cream cheese sandwiches of about five types. Scones, real clotted cream, three types of jam.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries, petit fours, eclairs, fruit tartlets, three kinds of sliced cake. Biscotti. And much tea, of every flavor.

It was pretty dim in our corner of the room, so I've had to mess around with these photos.

Tom, the dance expert was there, along with the costume designer for the production, and the dramaturge, who arranges things like this for each play they present - she particularly enjoyed doing this one. They were available to answer questions. Such a pleasant experience!

As we were going, Tom strolled over, and I took his picture.

Then Deb took my photo with him.

Great fun! And now I'll be watching the dance scenes more closely in my Jane Austen adaptations.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

this morning

"...I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

                                               - St. Matthew 6: 25-34

Saturday, February 26, 2011

trying to like Saturday

I've never liked Saturdays, for various reasons, but I thought it might help if I looked for something appealing in between the busyness.

delicious lunch salad

beautiful aparagus before roasting

and a cute kitty 

Friday, February 25, 2011

prodigious eyebrows

I was near Henry the other day when I noticed how very long his "eyebrows" are

Thursday, February 24, 2011

a "new" skirt

But do I like it? - that is the question.

I had an a-line skirt which I'd made from some oatmeal colored cotton flannel - it was okay, but every time I put it on, I would tell myself that it looked like pajama fabric - I guess because the color was so light. It was very blah.

The last time I washed it, the hem was coming undone. This was my chance to alter it!  I thought adding a flounce might be nice, so I poked around for some more flannel in my stash. The only thing I came up with was a blue and white plaid. Now, the original was oatmeal, and the plaid has white in it - they didn't look good together, but something kept telling me to go ahead and do it anyway, and see what happened.

You can see that it doesn't look like much here.  But there's a bit of black in that plaid, and I had black rickrack, so I thought it might help.

And, it did!   It was too long - I really prefer long, but it doesn't always look best, so I cut off about half of the flounce and hemmed it.  

There's a big expanse of the light-colored, plain upper section, and then the colorful plaid beneath.  I almost stole this idea from Anna, but her little flowers are tone-on-tone - mine were going to be cut from the plaid - it seemed a bit much; I thought better of it.

I don't really like it. If I saw this in a thrift store, I'd think This is definitely home made, and I'd never buy it.
(not that I avoid handmade things at the thrift store, but some items really "look it".)  But I think I should wear it at least once, and try to make an outfit out of it.

So I'll wear it to work tomorrow, and see how I make it through the day. See what funny looks I get from my co-workers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the down sides of working in a library

There are none, of course. Except.

There are so many books I'd like to read, but I'll never have time.

And we have so many cookbooks - how will I ever go through them all?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

bird plate detail

These two square plates were a Christmas gift from my friend, Cyndi Lou Who, the bird lover.

The large one

the small one

Thank you, Cyndi.

Monday, February 21, 2011

one of the better ones

Not all presidents are created equal, are they? Why we have this holiday is a mystery to me. But I do have a favorite.

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."

John Adams,  
President of the United States from 1797-1801

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.
Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
Who forgives all thy faults, Who heals all thy diseases,
Who redeems thy life from destruction, Who covers thee with favor and kindness,
Who fills thy life with good things; thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord does deeds of justice and restores the law for all the oppressed.
He has made His ways known to Moses, His works to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.
He does not strive always, nor does His anger burn forever.
He contends not with us according to our sins, nor does He repay us according to our faults.

For as much as heaven is high above the earth, so His mercy prevails towards them who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our offenses from us.
Just as the father has compassion on his children, so has the Lord compassion on those who fear Him.
For He knows the stuff of which we are made: He remembers that we are dust.
Man's days are like grass; like the flower of the field, so he flourishes:

the wind has scarcely passed over him, and he is no more; nor does his place know him any longer.
But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity unto eternity towards those who fear Him,
and His justice unto their children's children, unto those who keep His covenant
and are mindful of His precepts, to observe them.

The Lord has established His throne in Heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, all ye His angels, ye that are mighty in strength
that carry out His commands, to fulfill His words.
Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts, ye ministers of His who do His will.
Bless the Lord, all His works, in all the places of His dominion:
O my soul, bless thou the Lord.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

some green, green grass at home

I've been seeing some of this for a few days, but I wanted to make it public.

Grass!    And it's really green!!

Of course, we still have a lot of snow -

Over a foot yet.  But there is such a thing as grass, after all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

menu planning revisited

I really was in the habit of menu planning, probably till I got bronchitis - and I hadn't gotten back to it. Getting out cookbooks, looking through the recipe box, trying to get a balance through the week - I never minded it, but it's so time-consuming.  Enter Leila, whose blog, Like Mother, Like Daughter, was recommended to me by Kathryn - and boy, now I can see a light at the end of the tunnel!

It's over on the right side of her blog, called Happy Home: Food Organization - worksheets with detail on how to plan your menus!  And how sensible!  I made a list of meals which I regularly make - some more often than others, and came up with thirty five, all quite basic, and good and familiar things. And just having written them down clarified something for me -  they were all right in the back of my mind at the supermarket, and in case I saw something on sale I knew the corresponding recipe would come to my mind.

I think I can find more menus to add to the list, but I don't need to do everything she suggests - there are only two of us, and my situation isn't drastic by any means. I just needed some sensible direction.  Knowing that I have over a month's worth (and I left out summer things like pasta salad, because it's winter now) of options - and all familiar stuff - is such a relief.  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a word about vaporizers

Since my bronchitis last fall, I've been using a vaporizer for a bit every day, and in my bedroom every night for at least three hours.  I'd asked my lung doctor about a humidifier and he seemed reluctant to recommend one. They need to be cleaned out with vinegar daily.

This one was eleven dollars, and is very easy to keep clean.  Dolly, who has sinus issues, also benefits from it.

It's my cold-weather familiar.

Monday, February 14, 2011

a sweet day

I hope everyone had a sweet St. Valentine's Day! 

simple things

I found a poem today printed on a card among my mother's things

I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread,

A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,

And in a leaf-laced square along a floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.

I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days: a curtain's blowing grace,

A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose fresh-cut and placed within a vase,
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair.
And books I long have loved beside me there.

I Have Found Such Joy  - Grace Noll Crowell

Saturday, February 12, 2011

raggety hem

The above photo is a bit surreal looking, but it was after dark and lighting in our hallway isn't too bright.

I'd made a skirt from some soft gray corduroy quite a few years ago - I had two large pieces and just made deep pleats, put on a waistband, etc.  It's been snug for a while and I recently got tired of that, so I cut off the waistband and side seams, and re-cut it into a moderate a-line.

It was hanging around for a while after that, however, because I couldn't figure out how to hem it. I liked the length it was - without a hem. I didn't have any matching hem tape hanging around here. 

Finally, I decided I was goofing around with this skirt too long, and I thought about letting it fray at the bottom. I did this last summer with another skirt, but it hasn't frayed yet sufficiently to tell how much I really like the look - but, you can think about a thing too much, and for too long, if you know what I mean!

Meanwhile, I've been watching a cute DVD series called Homestead Blessings, with a mother and her three daughters - farmers - who show you how to do all sorts of homey things like make yogurt, bread, candles, soap, etc.; and I was watching the quilting episode. They were talking about the so called "rag" quilts, where you sew right sides together, and eventually the seam allowances (on the front of the quilt) fray and make a fringe-y effect. And Vicki West, the mother, was snipping into the seam allowance every so often, presumably to facilitate the fringing process.   So! 

I decided to do that to my skirt! And I wore it that way to work yesterday. And I think it looks pretty cute, and I also think that I'm going to employ this method again in the future. I still don't know how the fraying will end up looking, or how long it'll take.

Here's a clearer picture.

I took this last photo in daylight.  All in all, I like the effect. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

St. Scholastica

Today is the feast of St. Scholastica, twin sister of St. Benedict, father of western monasticism.  There's a nice piece about her here, which is an accepted account of her, or what can possibly be known of someone who lived so long ago.

But I am particularly fond of this story about Scholastica, from The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris. It's not clear where the story originates from, and who knows how true it may be, but I'm not sure that's important.

"One winter night, Benedict's sister, Scholastica, was awakened by a song bird. How can this be, she thought, and she looked out the window of her cell. Three naked men were dancing in the monastery garden by the light of the moon. One whistled like a bird and made her laugh. The men were fair to look at, Scholastica thought, but she knew she needed more rest before the first prayers of the day.

Kneeling by her bed, she closed her eyes and sleepily said a prayer for the men - if they were men - that they might find shelter, clothing, and rest for their dancing feet, and if (as she suspected) they were demons, that they might return to from whence they came.

When she awoke, her cell was filled with the scent of roses. Where the men had been dancing, a rose bush had sprung up and was blooming in the snow. It bloomed all that winter, and it blooms to this day."

"Do not judge, that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged "
"Ask, and it shall be given you "        -  Matthew 7: 1-2a, 7a

St. Scholastica, please pray for us.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

felted lambswool mittens

These are lambswool, but I sewed them, from the lambswool sweater I'd bought a while back, and felted.

My instructions are from Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle - wanting to make something from this book during the holidays, I chose these. I thought the felted sweater would work better than plain felt, and I was right - I really like them!

There's a seam on the palm side, which makes the thumb move more easily, I think.

I was able to use the ribbing in the cuff area.  I sewed them by hand, because in my haste when cutting I forgot to include a seam allowance. Counting on the fact that my hands are on the small side, I figured it would work out if I carefully stitched it with a very small seam by hand. They fit fine!

They were adorned with fabric yo-yos, which I wasn't too keen on, but couldn't think of any other decoration, so I went with them.

And found some pearly buttons for the centers. They've been hanging around a while like this, because I've been meaning to add embroidery, but today I decided the heck with it - I'm wearing them!  It was snowing, and I like mittens with my snow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

a dear, dear friend

Back to the issue of plastic, but this is different. I couldn't find this dear angel the whole Christmas season.
I looked several times in the box with the window candles - I didn't see it.  But not it - him. This angel is a he, not like the female-looking ones we see today, with gorgeous robes and flowing hair. This one looks like a young man, not flowing, but STILL.  Serene. It's comforting to see him. How I missed him!

We've always had him in the family - I don't remember otherwise - so I guess he's from the 60's, or maybe even the 50's? I don't know much about the history of plastic. But I really felt his absence this year, and was afraid he had disappeared by mistake.

He's electric - he plugs in, with a night-light bulb inside.

I was putting away some extra bulbs the other day, and there he was, in the box with the electric candles where he was supposed to be! I was so relieved!  He wasn't lost after all.  He looks quite different with his light on.  But he always has that stillness

Psalm 46, verse 10 - "Be still, and know that I am God."

 He's still.  He knows.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

end of a lean week, and a grace

It's eight days, so a bit longer than a week, and I made a new recipe for pea soup. After sauteeing the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic, you add the herbs and sautee those for a bit - in this case, 2 bay leaves and some thyme. But rosemary or marjoram would do just as well, if that was your mood. It smelled wonderful! Then, at the end when the soup is done you add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. I don't know where I got this recipe - it was just scribbled hastily on a card, but I think this will be our *new* version of pea soup.  I forgot to take a picture of it, but it looked like any pea soup has a habit of looking.

On the subject of food, I discovered a bit late that February 1st was the feast of St. Brigid of Ireland, and I have a prayer of hers posted on my little bulletin board right here. It's from How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill, and I don't know how accurate the translation is, but it's a grace before meals and it struck me so at the time, that I had to save it.

I should like a great lake of finest ale
For the King of kings.
I should like a table of the choicest food
For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith,
And the food be forgiving love.

I should welcome the poor to my feast,
For they are God's children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
For they are God's joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.

God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.
God bless our food,
God bless our drink,
All homes, O God, embrace.

   -St. Brigid of Ireland,  451-525

I emphasized the last part, because it can obviously be used by itself - and I like it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dolly and the hounds of winter

It's known that animals can appreciate music. I can tell that Henry likes hearing it. But Dolly -

Dolly seems to really enjoy good music. I've caught her more than once with her little ear right next to the boombox, listening to classical.  We listen week-nightly to a jazz program which she also enjoys - here she is listening to Dave Brubeck. When my mother was alive, the two of them often listened to John Denver cds.
And when she's in a certain mood, she gets that "smile" and the contented air which cats do. 

I've tried repeatedly to capture this with the camera, and finally got it.  The other day I was playing Sting's If on a Winter's Night, and I noticed how she was obviously tuned right in to it.

Smiling, in that cat way.  I did say it was Sting, didn't I?  And the song was - The Hounds of Winter.  Oh, yes. The hounds of winter. 

So, was she smiling at the music?  Or imagining herself flying across the snowy landscape, chasing after the Hounds Of Winter?  Whoever they may be.

Either way, Dolly - enjoy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a lean week: Thursday night supper

Tonight, I made Polish Barley Soup which is very nice with an egg sandwich.

It's from this cookbook, A Year of Monastery Soups, by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette.

It's a good cookbook - the soups make large amounts, which is a nice thing.

This particular recipe is funny, though - I end up, in the course of the cooking time, adding about two quarts more of water than what I began with, and it's not called for in the recipe.  I've made it innumerable times, and have found that the barley doesn't seem to cook properly once the liquid starts looking starchy. So, when I make this I have to "hover", checking it often and adding water often.  I've tried ignoring it - the soup takes twice as long to cook. I've tried adding the extra water at the beginning so I wouldn't have to fuss - it ended up being watery!  An odd thing.  But we really like it.  And I tend to "hover" over soup, anyway.

So. It's good.

scenes taken from the warm inside

I took these through the windows, in between housework.

An iced-up ornamental cherry through the front window

baby trees in the back

on the side of the house, and

the same tree the evening before.

This I also took the night before of a pretty snow-covered tree, but the flash went off. I still like it - the foggy appearance, and our tree lights reflected in the window.

And yes, I'm putting Christmas things away, finally!