Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Country

I am sad.
I have been down since the murders of nine church members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th, 2015.
This was a hate crime.
This is domestic terrorism.
This was a horrific attack on people, who I can imagine, opening their arms, minds, and hearts to a young white man who walked into their sanctuary. The following weekend I was in Massachusetts with a very good friend not paying any attention to the news. I was happy to see her and spend time with her. She is recovering well from surgery. It was a wonderful weekend.

But since returning home to regular life, the murdered people of this community have been on my mind. And today, the news has reported that since the Emmanuel AME murders, six black churches have burned down. The latest incident happened last night. A church burned by the KKK 20 years ago was once again ablaze. They are saying it was hit by lightning.

I am sad.
I am scared.
I am afraid for what is to come.

President Obama's response to the Emmanuel AME murders was barely masked anger:

Jon Stewart's response was outright anger:

Mine is a deep sadness for the loss of the incredible member's of our American community. It is a detrimental loss to us all. The victems: (copied from

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) – Bible study member and manager for the Charleston County Public Library system;
  • Susie Jackson (87) – a Bible study and church choir member
  • Ethel Lee Lance (70) – the church sexton
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49) – a pastor who was also employed as a school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University
  • Clementa C. Pinckney (41) – the church 
  • pastor and a South Carolina state senator
  • Tywanza Sanders (26) – a Bible study member; nephew of Susie Jackson
  • Daniel Simmons (74) – a pastor who also served at Greater Zion AME Church in Awendaw
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45) – a pastor; also a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School
  • Myra Thompson (59) – a Bible study teacher.

Rev. Pinckney was the same age that I am. 


Out of sadness, frustration, and respect, I watched President Obama's eulogy for Rev. Pinckney:

"Reverend Pinckney once said, 'Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven't always had a deep appreciation of each other's history.' What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can't be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart."

Before I watched the eulogy I was composing an angry post in my head: why are we still fighting a war that was supposed to have ended 150 years ago? But now, I want put more effort into living with an open mind - and an open heart.

Yesterday I walked by a church and saw this Eugene O'Neill quote:

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Quest

I am in the Berkshires at Melanie's again.  I took the train along the Hudson River to Albany and she picked me up there.
I love the train.
Three hours of this view:
And don't even get me started on the leg room! Ahhhhh....
So yes, here I am at Melanie and Doug's lovely home and I always show this view from the kitchen window: 
This time, I thought I'd show a few alternate views.
The back of the house from the back yard:
Melanie's parlsey, sage, rosemary and thyme garden: 
which also has an enormous patch of chives! And the blossoms are incredible. I'm going to pick a bunch, take them back home and make chive blossom vinegar. yum yum. 

My shadow, facing the south paddock.  

Horses in the south paddock:

And finally, Oscar, the resident fur-ball of chez Doug-n-Melanie.
He is very sweet. Lots of chirps and purreows (where they half purr and half meow).

Why am I here? Well - to visit of course! - but also to go to Harvard's rare book collection and look at a book.
Yes - A book. As in one book.
Remember this post?: Well, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to investigate the moveable parts of this book. I looked on WorldCat and found that Harvard was the closest place that had one in its collection. [As it turns out - there is also one in Washington DC, but it is affiliated with Harvard so it is a bit misleading - and that's a different blog entry I think. ] I contacted Harvard, and made arrangements and  took the opportunity to visit Melanie, who is recovering from surgery, seeing as how I was in the neighborhood anywayz. (It's a three hour drive from Melanie's to Harvard).  
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to make special arrangements to view the book under the supervision of one of the conservators. LL was incredibly generous and obliging for my visit. She offered to give me a tour of the main conservation lab, which was mind boggling. I felt as though this was the Rolls Royce of conservation labs - meanwhile I'm in a Pinto. One of the conservators was working on some of Edward Lear's watercolors. [you know - The Owl and the Pussy cat went to sea   in a beautiful pea-green boat]  The water color was beautiful! I had no idea the man could draw as well as write poetry. I wasn't allowed to take pictures so you'll have to take my word for it. 

After the tour I spent two precious hours examining their copy of the Sundial Book under LL's supervision. What an amazing thing to be able to do. To look at a book that is almost 400 years old, almost 10 times as old as I am! Awe doesn't really describe the feeling. Luxury to live in a place that can preserve such pieces of cultural heritage is ... humbling. 

And as LL and I discussed - there is nothing like seeing a book in real life. Really. These images I am about to show, and the facsimile I've made - they are just not the real thing. And I do not know how to explain it.

Just to refresh your memory - this book was printed in 1624-26. It is all about how to set up sundials. The brother's who write the book were master garden designers - as in - they were masters of hydraulics and designed the royal gardens in England and France.

This original imprint still had it's moveable parts and they still worked!
The page that started it all - the sundail page.

Then another page that I couldn't make heads or tails of from online images.

And finally, the mind-blowing image:
and another view:
I can't wait to try to figure out how to make this! and I have no idea what it is illustrating. I'm just fascinated by these beautiful forms. The volume is in French, and I can't find a translation - and google translate is only semi-helpful.  I think there are some spelling differences as well as just some spelling mistakes in the type-setting of the original text - so that's not helping. It is a long and tedious process to try to figure it all out.  But I feel like I've hit a milestone in my Quest to figure out this book. I've seen almost all of the moveable parts. There is one, the volvelle, which is no longer in tact. There is a hole where there once was something. But now it is gone. There was a surprise on the same page - a piece which does not exist in the digitized version I have, shows up in the Harvard version. 
I want to visit the version in Washington DC and compare.  There is also a version at UCLA. Maybe when I visit in August I can make arrangements to look at that copy.
Right now, I just need to sit down in my studio and figure out how I can make all of them.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

It might actually be summer if...

  • it reaches 90°F by 10am
Oh yes, it has been very very hot this weekend. ALL weekend. I actually went to work on Friday (I don't normally work Fridays) just to get cool. It worked. Finally, there are thunderstorms this evening and I am sitting in the front door to keep Swee'pea in and enjoy the cool air wafting through my house. I guess I should explain all of that. Swee'pea is my indoor kitty. There are many reasons for this but I won't go into that. Suffice it to say he has to stay in, but it is so blooming hot inside the house, the best way to cool the whole thing off quickly is to open all the windows and doors and allow the air to pull through. I had a wonderful roofer who told me it was, and I quote, "Italian air conditioning." He explained that as I have two skylights in my house, if I could open them, they would help pull all the air through the house. The constant flow is what would keep the place cool - or at least help cool off. Unfortunately the only skylight I have access too doesn't open anymore. I should really revisit that. But still, if I sit in the front doorway I can keep the doors wide open, Swee'pea in, air flowing through, and blog! All good, and so! It might actually be summer if....
  • the indoor plants are all outside 
And lovin' it too: 
The aloe vera decided to bloom!  I'll keep you posted on the progress there. 
  • Shasta daisies and cosmos are blooming 
After a lull in the spring flowers I am so happy more cutting flowers are coming. Echinaceas aren't quite there yet. But soon... very soon...

  • the mustard has gone to seed:
I now have a field of mustard. I should probably weed some before the whole things goes to seed. Otherwise, I'll have a mustard lawn instead of grass. What a shame.  

  • I decide I must tackle the abandoned garden in the back before it becomes a jungle
 The result of the jerk who cut down the gorgeous maple is that the abandoned house behind me gets all kinds of sun, with no one to maintain it. This means anything and everything grows to the best of its abilities. 
And of course, under normal circumstances, this wouldn't bother me. Live and let live and all that. But there are a few issues. There are these "weeds" in Pennsylvania, that turn into trees. What they are is a pain in the neck. They grow seeds that every four-legged and two-legged-plus-wings ingests and poops all over the place.  I spend considerable amount of time "weeding" just pulling these stupid things out. If you don't get them quick, they turn into trees. I'm not kidding.
 Now, of course by writing about them now, it has just occurred to me to to google them.  The wikipedia entry is very enlightening:
So - this is actually THE mulberry that some kinds of paper is made from! I had no idea. I thought it was some sort of strange - name. WELL... this deserves more research... but not today... stay tuned...
because currently - they are still a pain in the neck of this home owner.  If you look back at the above image you will see how overgrown it is with those paper mulberries.
And see the "tree" to the right of the bee hive? that's a paper mulberry. 
and since I'm not willing to allow all of those plants to become full-fledged trees (because they will block all of my sunlight for my garden AND make tons more baby-mulberries AND cost a fortune to cut down) I had to go back to that yard and whack away at them. Now of course, there is a trade-off; I can see the ugly falling-down house very clearly. But on the bright side (literally) there is more sun in my yard because those "weeds" will not take over!
  • raspberries are ripening! 
Yippee!! Big fat ones too. I've only gotten a few handfuls so far, but after this hot weekend, I'm sure they will be ripe this week.  

  • and finally, today the fireflies arrived  

I saw two! One in the mustard and one on the grass! Eeeeeeeee! I love summer! I really do. I didn't used to, but here on the east coast, after such a long dead time, the spring and summer are so full of new surprises every day. New things grow, bloom, and appear. And even though some things wane, new things come along to take their place. Its rejuvenating - even when the heat makes your brain absolute mush and it's twice as hard to get any thinking done. It's worth the trade off.
By the way, not my photo - I stole borrowed from the interwebs. 

Why do I need to think, you might ask? Well, lemme tell you...

Remember this post? If you don't have time to do it right the first time ...

Next weekend I'm going to see an actual copy of this volume! That is another wonderful thing about summer, time to travel. There is a copy of this volume at Harvard's Houghton University Library. I'm going on Friday to visit and see it. I am SO excited!
I've been doing a ton of other "research" - meaning - looking at amazing old books at the Library Company of Philadelphia. I'm trying to find out more information about how books that had movable parts in them were made. And so, incidentally, in my research I get to look at some amazing books. It is so much fun. Stay tuned next weekend. I'll share what I can; Houghton is pretty strict with their researcher rules. Can't blame 'em... they have good stuff. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Gloom and mish mash

Yes, apparently. June gloom in Philadelphia. Who knew?
My cousin David reminded me of this Southern California phenomenon when we talked on the phone this weekend. June, the beginning of Summer  presents morning overcast clouds for SoCal until about noon. It is not warm in the mornings! By noonish though, the clouds burn off and we are in for some sun and warmth. This is something that doesn't happen in Philadelphia, except for this past week!?  To be clear, our June gloom has been all day long. We've had cool, under 75°F, currently 62°F, all week and rain. I think Tuesday it rained all day long. A good soaking. So I'm not complaining. It just such a change from the weekend when it was quite toasty (at least 95°F and Humid - yes, with a capital H).  And I can not remember it ever being this cool, this long, after May, until well into the fall.
But my garden is very pleased.
The roses at the front have bloomed and held on for a while. 
While not quite as abundant as last year, I think I pruned a bit too vigorously, they are still quite beautiful. Miss Mary announced to me the other day that my roses "went viral" when she saw four people stopping to photograph them. :) Well, I'm glad other people enjoy them too. 
The nice weather has brought forth quite a few rogue plants after the peonies (see last post). This is an entire row of cherry tomatoes from last year. This little bush was so abundant last year, I couldn't possibly get to all the tomatoes. These already have flowers on them so I'm going to let them grow!
I also think there are a few critters around helping "spread" the seeds (as in they poop them out in other places in my yard).  
Next to the wooden table is a tall leafy thing. That is a sunflower I did not plant. There are two smaller ones next to it. Those are seeds squirrels dropped when they were running along the electrical lines - at the top of the photo. And even though I realized last year that I am allergic to sunflowers, I'm going to leave them. There are a few others that appeared near the ones I planted by the porch. I'm going to let them grow. I started a lot of teddy bear sunflowers and planted them. I hope to be able to cut them for inside. They didn't seem to bother me so much because the pollen didn't fall all over the place.  
I also noticed this evening --- the first garlic scape! Hot diggity!
Garlic Scape Pesto, comin' soon! oh yummy! 
The garlic patch has been over run by Chinese lantern plants. I do hope that won't bother them. I need to move the lantern patch to the back of the garden because it is quite prolific and interferes with all of my sunny garden space. But for this year at least, they are allowed to stay put. 
Last year I posted a few pictures of "where's Jacques". Can you find him in this image?    Well, he's right here, under the bench. The perfect spot. 
 That dinky tomato plant in the purple pot has also flourished.
 No fruit yet, but I'm not too worried.

I have not posted a recipe in a while and this one was so yummy and quick I thought I'd share. My wonderful farm share yielded Swiss chard, green garlic, lots of lettuce, green onions and strawberries. Since it was so warm last week we got a bonus week of our fruit share and I got four pints of strawberries! They were so ripe and delicious. Anyway... I'm not a fan of the Swiss Chard. To me, it tastes like dirt. There was nothing enticing left in the swap box by the end of the day, so I thought ok, challenge accepted: find a good recipe for this! And it's not too bad in this one. Maybe it's the bacon...
I found this recipe on for a Chard and Salami Frittata. And yes, I did say bacon, so lemme 'splain...
I didn't have salami. I did have bacon and I thought it would be delicious with either - or even an italian sausage or ??? I was just thrilled to have a recipe that was quick and sounded yummy in spite of the Swiss Chard dirt flavor.
As a bonus, since the recipe called for garlic, I thought I'd use my "green garlic" from my share. These are garlics that have not yet formed teeth. Its just a single bulb. Still garlic flavor, but milder. Plus you can use the entire stem - not the leaves but the stem for sure.  Yummy yum yum.
I substituted three strips of already fried bacon for the salami, and the green garlic for the regular garlic but otherwise followed the recipe.

 I may have cooked it too long because it was a little dry. 
 But with a little non-fat plain yogurt it was very yummy. 
 This is definitely something to make again - maybe with kale, or mustard greens or spinach, or whatever. Very easy.

And how's my nephew? oh he's fine. He spent some time with Grandpa last week.
 But it doesn't seem like he is quite sure about being with people other than mommy. 
He will be four weeks old tomorrow!

And since I couldn't figure out where to put this in the narrative, but really wanted to, here's a bonus:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rogue Peony

Behind the bee hive last year I noticed an awfully familiar looking plant. It looked just like the peony in the pot I had. When I examined the leaves, sure enough they were exactly the same. I thought, Well, lets let it grow and see what happens next year. I was right! The first peony bloomed today.
 Now, I did not plant this plant, you see. I put those I purchased in pots. I have no idea where this one came from. Probably I've been trying to kill it (by yanking it out every year) since I moved it. I don't know if a peony seeds would take so vigorously.  Thoughts?
Bottom line, no complaints! It smells amazing.  

 While I was trying to photograph it from my "deck" there was a photo bomb. 

Update on my new nephew. 
On Sunday morning he landed in NICU. He was jaundice. For many reasons that I won't go into detail about, this is not really a surprise. But still! This isn't supposed to happen to my nephew! This happens to other people's nephews!

But my nephew looks so groovy here in his blue light not to include this pic my sister sent. :)
 She's been able to stay with him the whole time. Today his bili* count went down enough that they will take him out of the blue lights. If the count remains the same he can go home tomorrow. I'm sure my sister is anxious for that, as are we all!
* I don't know what a bili count is. 

Finally, too cute not include...
My neighbors in their vintage Harley Davidson with side car. 

I heard the bike ('cause its LOUD and you can't help but hear it) and so I glanced out the window. Miss Mary was already stowed in the side car and they were ready to take off. It always takes a while to get that thing started so I had plenty of time to grab my camera and take a photo. Miss Mary doesn't like traveling in the side car much, but Mr. El bought her a helmet with a purple butterfly on it and it sort of makes it tolerable. He's 78 and I'm not sure how old Miss Mary is. But there you are.

Friday, May 8, 2015

In his own time

Today he decided he was ready.
My new nephew Liam Philip.
May 8th, 2015 3:47am
8lbs 20 inches

Friday, May 1, 2015

Touring Philadelphia

It's been a long time since I've toured Philadelphia outside of my normal travel paths.  But that's what I've been doing with my friend Darcy who is visiting for a few days. She is a fellow undergrad and study-abroad class mate. We've had as much fun taking trips down memory lane as walking around Philadelphia.  It's been 20 years since we studied in Denmark. How did that happen? It's also been fun for me to see the city through a visitors eyes again.

We started the day with the self-guided tour of the murals:
Recognize this one?

Of course we had to stop at Capogiro, voted the best gelateria in the world by National Geographic Magazine. I had the bacci and lemon and Darcy had stracciatella and mojito. The mojito will be stuff of legends.
 We made quick work of it.
 She's had gelato twice more since then. Once in the afternoon and then after seeing the Avengers last night, we of course, had to stop for more. She had the margarita and, uh, I can't remember the other,  but I had nutella and orange/cardamom. Hmmmm. delicious. 

 We've been foot-mobiling (we walked 13,000 steps on Wednesday) and using the subway, but this past week the Indego bicycle group moved into Philadelphia. Its a rent-a-bicycle program located all over the city and I can't tell you how excited I am about this. There is one right by my house and then another stand right next to my work. How convenient. I have my own wheels and so probably won't be using the program but it is great to know it is there. It's only $15/month. Shoot, that is worth it even if you are only visiting for a week. It has not taken long for Philadelphians to embrace the new program. I see them in use everywhere.