Sunday, November 29, 2015

Candying citrus for the holidays

At our last Bountiful Basket we received lots of tangerines and lots of lemons. I'm always at a loss as to what to do with bunches of lemons. I can only drink so much lemon water. And citrus in general, while I enjoy it, I do not like preparing it. I hate getting sticky when peeling the rind and I don't like dealing with the seeds. Then a week later a BB friend gave me her tangerines, and suddenly I was overflowing with citrus.

In my mind, the implicit contract is that if a friend gives me some of their Basket, I will eat the produce, and not let it go to waste. I began peeling four of the tangerines and it was slow going. The effort didn't produce much fruit, since the tangerines were small. There's got to be a better way.

There is: candy them.

I looked at numerous recipes and the only difference is that some said to blanch the slices before boiling them, to reduce the sourness of the rind. Others said that step was not necessary. Being me, I chose the path of least resistance, and skipped blanching.

Since my usual process when receiving a Bountiful Basket is to soak the produce in tepid vinegar water for ten minutes to clean them, I did not wash these. But otherwise, DO wash them thoroughly. One YouTube recipe gal said that the pesticides reside in the rind so organic is best. Something to think about. Use fresh citrus without blemishes or bruises on the rind. Again, you're eating the rind. Plus, you want them to look pretty.

What you need is citrus of any kind. I used tangerines and lemons. Oranges of course will do. As a matter of fact, you don't even need the fruit. Many recipes described how to candy the rind only.

It helps to have a sharp knife to make even cuts without a lot of juice loss. My knives were kind of dull and I had to hold the tangerine firmly to slice it and I lost juice and form. You see some of the slices below look a little squished. Slice them about 1/4 inch.

Deal with the seeds. My advice is to buy citrus that's seedless or nearly so. You can tell I have low patience for kitchen work, lol.

The recipes varied slightly on ratio of sugar to water. I used a 1-to-1 ratio. I poured in to my skillet 2 cups water to 2 cups sugar. I used regular, white granulated sugar. Some recipes advise using a deep stock pot. Others say a wide pan is OK. I used a wide pan but I'd use a deep stock pot next time. I didn't like the steam going all over the place. The steam is sugar water and it made the stove top sticky. It would be easier to contain the steam with a narrower opening.

Stir the sugar in the water upon initially pouring-in but refrain from doing that after there are bubbles appearing in the water when it heats up, said one recipe. It will crystallize.

Boil moderately high for a few minutes then moderately low. Cook until the rinds are translucent. As I went along, I just tasted one or two of them at different stages. When it was soft and sweet, I stopped.

Take them out and drain them on a grate over wax paper or a larger cookie sheet. You want them to get really dry. Some recipes say this stage takes a few hours to a few days. Others say after the initial sugar juice is drained well to pop them in a very low oven for a few hours. I did not have a cooling rack or grate to put them on so I made do with a colander. Cooling rack or grate or mesh of some kind is better. You want the air to circulate well.

When they are dry but still tacky, you can put them in a ziploc or a large bowl and tumble them with a bit of granulated sugar to give that crunchy effect. I had ended up using all my sugar in the boiling and forgot to leave aside a few tablespoons. Some recipes say add the sugar at the end, others stop here. It's a personal preference. I thought it wouldn't be the same without the added crunch of the sugar at the end, but the slices were delicious the way they were.

However the small amount you see here is indicative of the fact that I ate most of them right away! Despite the long description here, the recipe is very easy. Slice, boil/simmer, dry, eat. They keep up to two weeks in the fridge. Oh, and DON'T throw away the sugar water! It makes a nice syrup in and of itself!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Taking food photos

I love, love, love photography. I love taking pictures and I love looking at pictures and I love making pictures into art with all the new digital possibilities available these days. In a few minutes a friend is coming over with her camera and we're driving the county to shoot pleasing scenes. It was a stupendous dawn, vivid with pinks and oranges and the temps are already in the 60s. It is a perfect day for it.

Pixlr is my favorite photo editing program. I use their borders, styles, and overlays a lot. I'm too heavy handed most times, which is why I like to participate in Pixlr's weekly challenges. It reins me in and gives me a goal. I can also compare my work with others who are participating in the challenge and see where I stand. (Usually at the bottom).

This week the challenge was taking food photos. I looked through my archives and found three I'd work with plus one I took this week. I always think other people's photos are cool and that mine stink. So I was disappointed in my choices but I worked with them anyway.

This one is of a Tuscan picnic. My friend and I were hiking up and up to get tot he top of a hill to see a castle and we stopped along the way to have a bite of bresaola and focaccia bread with fizzy water while resting on the stone bench.

Overnighting aboard schooner yacht Wendameen, a turn of the last century schooner, doesn't mean we go hungry, A repast was prepared for us of beef stew, corn on the cob, tortellini salad, and biscuits.

Another Italy trip, another repast, this time in Orvieto. Olives, wine, breadsticks, pea salad, tomatoes and frutti dimare, or seafood salad. The seafood was octopus, mussels, squid, and pickled veggies. We ate it atop the roof patio of our hotel.

This was breakfast yesterday, French toast made of a baguette and pomegranates with its own juice.

Pixlr featured the one of the Schooner Yacht Wendameen dinner on the deck. They liked the edits, which tells me something, because I restrained myself. I didn't use a thousand overlays and over-process the picture for once, lol.

I was personally proud of the French Toast picture. It's hard to shoot food. Most of the time it just looks gross, if you don't do it well, and by well, I mean professionally. Composing food is hard and making sure the butter dripping and each pomegranate seed is just so takes work. Setting the right depth of field is hard and ensuring there are no stray utensils or distracting background things also takes an eye.

But, they picked the Wendameen photo and I'm just as happy.

BBC: How to Photograph Food

Nikon: Tips for taking great food shots

Friday, November 27, 2015

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving

It's the holiday season and then shortly it will be the New Year. 2016. Wow. I remember the 1999 Millennium panic like it was yesterday. Come to think of it, I remember Flower Power of the 1960s, Race Riots in the 1970s, high collared, ruffled prairie shirts of the 1980s, and the grunge fascination of the 1990s like they happened yesterday. The decades pile up.

Yesterday I looked in the fridge and what did I see? Withering cukes, not too tasty to me. Yet when they arrived in what is likely to be our last Bountiful Basket, I'd vowed to use them.  Since I had a package of stale Pita pockets (I buy them that way, they're usually marked down only 50 cents at my regular store) I decided to make raita.

The Pitas being stale already meant they wold become great Pita chips. All you have to do is take a Pita disk, brush or rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with flavoring, garlic salt would do, or in my case I used lemon-pepper salt. Then cut them into triangles. Pop them into a preheated 375 oven for 10 minutes or so and you have a nice chip. Watch them carefully as the done-to-burned moment comes in a flash.

Raita is a cool yogurt dip favored in Indian cuisine because of so much heat inherent in Indian dishes. Curry, Tandoori=spicy...raita is a usual accompaniment to cool the palate.

I used my plain yogurt, and splashed out the yogurt water pooling on top. It makes a thicker raita. Chop cukes small, salt, and let drain or blot. I mixed in some lemon juice, lemon-pepper salt, and the cukes. Let set for a while to let flavors blend. Here is a photo of the result-

Additionally, I made Lentil Soup, Brown Rice and Pea salad, Asian Slaw with mayo-mustard sauce for wraps, and figured out what to do with 15 tangerines from my Bountiful Basket and my BB friend who gave me hers too- I'll candy them.

Also on the docket yesterday was a promise to myself to push away from the computer and read a lot. These are my books currently on deck or in various states of progression:

The Anatomy of Evil is by Will Thomas and part of a wonderful detective series called Barker and Llewellyn. It is a series set in London in the late 1890s where Barker and his sidekick Llewellyn solve a number of crimes on the gritty but not gross streets of the city. Well written and fast paced, it occasionally features Charles Spurgeon, the Director of the newly instituted Scotland Yard, and other notables who had lived at the time.

One Minute After You Die by Erwin Lutzer is a biblical look at what the Bible has to say about heaven, not heavenly tourism where someone comes back and gushes out what they have allegedly seen while they were 'clinically dead'.

I'm in the middle of Angels Evil & Elect by C. Fred Dickason. Apparently Dickason was known for his biblical, scholarly studies on angels, and so far I find it illuminating and fascinating. Ever since I listened to a John MacArthur sermon on Revelation and he pointed out just how much the angels do (execute all the judgments, for example) I have been fascinated with these kindred creatures. Kindred in the sense that they are created by God but are not human, yet we both worship Him. The holy ones among us both, anyway.

The Nov-Dec issues is my last issue of TeaTime. A friend at work subscribed to it as a Christmas gift for me and I enjoy the magazine tremendously. I'll probably re-subscribe in February. The word search, lol...I have been placed as para-support in second grade this year in addition to being in Kindergarten. Occasionally the teacher makes a word search out of the vocabulary words, or holiday word searches for the kids to work on independently. When a student can't seem to find a word and comes over to ask me for help, it's fun. I get addicted. Apparently word searches are relaxing and soothing for kids. I find them to be so as well. I like to do the search while watching an inane show to keep my hands busy and my mind half-occupied.

Speaking of televised inanity, during this week of vacation I've watched

Today's Special: "In this super-feel-good foodie comedy, young Manhattan chef Samir rediscovers his heritage and his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food." I wouldn't call it a comedy, but it is a nice movie.

Quartet: "At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents." Featuring Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Michael is a visual feast, and auditory triumph, and a sweetly affecting movie.

Famous Nathan: (documentary). "A Coney Island-inspired, densely-layered visually dynamic documentary portrait of the life and times of the original Nathan's Famous, created in 1916 by filmmaker Lloyd Handwerker's grandparents, Nathan and Ida Handwerker. 30 years in the making, Famous Nathan interweaves decades-spanning archival footage, family photos and home movies, an eclectic soundtrack and never-before-heard audio from Nathan: his only interview, ever as well as compelling, intimate and hilarious interviews with the dedicated band of workers, not at all shy at offering opinions, memories and the occasional tall tale." An interesting film about a grandson's search for who his grandfather really was. He never found out, but along the way we learned of Nathan Handwerker's backstory from 1892 Poland to immigration to the US at the turn of the century, a rags to riches by the sweat of your brow kind of story that never gets old.

TV, The Man in the High Castle: an alt-history television series that depicts if WWII had been won by the Japanese and Nazis. The US is divided into threes, the left coast being the Japanese spoils, the east coast being the Nazi's, and the middle strip a neutral zone. The show is visually stunning, with an America of the 1960s that looks much the same as it actually did, until the camera pans over a payphone dial with a swastika in the middle, or a poster of the Fuhrer. The series examines oppression and freedom, and it's chilling.

Battle Creek, starring Dean Winters. I like Dean Winters. He's like Donal Logue, everywhere, great at everything, yet unknown. He is a rumpled, old fashioned detective in Battle Creek Michigan resentful of his new partner, a spiffy, technologically adept FBI agent. Fox has canceled the show already and either by the end of the 13 episode series I'll agree with their decision or mourn yet another one-season wonder cancellation like Hope Island, Terriers, Enlisted, and The Finder.

Beachfront Bargain Hunt: (HGTV) Because I like beaches, bright colors (the Hitler tv show and Battle Creek are dark, metaphorically AND literally) and also because I like being mentally critical of whiny, entitled rich people who think having only three bathrooms isn't enough and having to walk across the street to the beach is a burden. I also enjoy looking up the buyers afterwards to see if they are a) divorced yet, b) overextended already or c) renting their 'dream property' instead of living there happily ever after.

And, of course I collaged a little, napped a little, wrote a little, and got started making my Christmas gifts. Last Friday I was invited to a sumptuous dinner at a friend's church and it was relaxing and wonderful. Tomorrow I'm going on gadabout with a friend to take photos of the scenic places in the county, after buying a muffin and coffee of course to sustain us for the drive. Next Friday I'm headed to a Christmas White Elephant Party. So all is well both at home and in my thriving social life. LOL. How are things with you?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cucumber casserole?!

This was a fantastically perfect weekend from start to finish.

Friday evening was warm and bright, and I'd come home to a clean kitchen and tidy house. I love it when I keep things up during the week.

Saturday was rainy and drizzly but that is just fine for when you want to write and study and take a nap, which is what I did. I made cream of mushroom soup also, but I've never mastered that particular soup and it always comes out very strong. But I eat it anyway, despite the pungency of the mushrooms. I cut up a cantaloupe and enjoyed the zing, along with some lavender tea. I started watching the TV show The Flash. It was better than I expected. I like the innocent, real life but slightly off center cartoon feel to it, and I enjoyed the action sequences because they are without blood and are interesting. And the science, discussions going from real to almost real to could be real, all in an instant, lol.

I had a long nap, which I'd expected to have. On Friday at school was the quarterly reward party for all students who achieved a high benchmark of good behavior. We got inflatables and each grade had a solid hour to clamber up and scream down. But what that meant for us para-pros is that we stand at each entrance and exit of the inflatables cheering the kids and keeping an eye on safety. Standing in the sun for hours on uneven ground always does a number on my back and yesterday was no exception. It sapped my strength, but it was well worth it to see kids just having fun and being rewarded for their efforts.

Around 8pm a friend brought over the Bountiful Basket I'd bought, she was sweet to pick it up for me. It contained butter lettuce, cantaloupe, honeydew, what seemed like 4lb of grapes (sweet and tangy!) tomatoes, onions, kale, cukes, apples, bananas, plums, and more. I washed it all and looked up some recipes. I don't favor cukes but I found a recipe to use up three of them, cucumber casserole. I decided to make kale chips and cuke casserole on Sunday. In the recipe where they say add wheat germ, I substituted quinoa.

Sunday dawned bright and warm. October in GA is simply spectacular. No humidity, bright sun that still has strength to warm, and clear skies. Temps usually range from low to mid 70s and nights around mid 50s. Perfect. The birds were chirping all day long, and it was a delight to listen to them.

I did make the cuke casserole and kale chips, along with marinated grilled tofu and tuna salad with grapes. Netflix has added one season of the Great British Baking Show and I am enjoying working my way through it. I hate baking myself but I like seeing their artistically created presentations and learning about baking even though I never do it myself. I love the GBBS because the music is nice. Unlike Masterchef which is like the Flight of the Valkyries - on steroids - every week. Also the contestants are nice and genuinely like each other. No sabotage, no snark, no snideness. The judges are gentle and encouraging while still being firm. Not the least reason, the show actually teaches something, which used to be the point of cooking shows. Remember, I grew up on Julia Child and Galloping Gourmet. Plus, it's pretty. The setting on that English estate is gorgeous. I like the hominess of the tent and the quaint rustic touches, not like the space age kitchens of American TV with 30 foot ceilings and imposing stainless steel everywhere.

I crafted as I watched the baking show. A few weeks ago at a second hand store/dented merchandise (like Mardens or Job Lot) I had found crafting stuff from Martha Steward and Artist Loft. I'd bought gilding papers and some paints. I decided to make a basic one-signature soft cover book and use some of the tissue paper and gilded leaf papers I'd bought. I never had used gilding sheets before but hey, I decided to just throw some on there and see what happens. Here is the result, not finished, but 80% done. I'll wait for the book to dry and be pressed, then I will add end papers on the inside and a bead to the thread.

In this first photo of the cover, I laid down black and white tissue paper with a design that looks antique newspaper. Then I'd printed a picture of a fir tree from the internet onto antique book paper torn out of a Spanish dictionary. Last I used the gold leaf the make a frame around the smaller fir tree paper.

Single pamphlet stitch. Here is a tutorial for a five-hole single pamphlet stitch but mine is even easier, a three-hole stitch.

I started on the outside ("start sewing where you want to end up") because I want to add a bead or feather to the outside of the book where the stitch's tail is. Cover is card stock, inside is whiteish artist paper.

Tomorrow is a work day but a teacher work day, no kids will be coming to school. We get to arrive half an hour later (you wouldn't believe how much of a different getting there at 7:45 is compared to 7:15, or maybe you would). The weather looks to be nice ahead, and after this relaxing weekend, which will continue with me reading my book to some instrumental piano music shortly, all seems well in Comerlandia.

Have a good week everyone!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Helvetica, moms, soup, and cities

I enjoyed this visually graphic post about Ten Fonts that Designers Love to Hate. I am with them on Comic Sans. That particular font evokes a visceral reaction in me every time I see it, I hate it that bad. Unfortunately, most teachers love to use it, so I'm surrounded, lol. I had never heard of Bleeding Cowboys font before, go figure. And I was sad to see Helvetica dismissed, solely due to ubiquitousness. I prefer to stay loyal to the things that last and last. Try life WITHOUT Helvetica.

Helvetica lives! They even made a movie about it!

It's a quiet Saturday around here. It has been raining for a few days so the air is cool and the ground is muddy outside. I got a first wind, lol, and cleaned and vacuumed and did dishes and did laundry and even polished the furniture before 9am today. It feels like I have the whole day ahead when my chores get done early.

My friend is going to FB message me when she is ready for me to meet her and pick up my Bountiful Basket she has gotten in the city. She picks up at the site and I meet her halfway to grab it from her before she heads home. I am looking forward to some fresh and good produce. For a change of pace, I will probably make soup.

Here is a UK Daily Mail article about a Utah mom who sang to the tune of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah song but changed the lyrics to share her feelings about being a mom. She has a great voice and the lyrics are dead-on. The video she posted of herself singing it has garnered millions of hits on Youtube and Facebook. It's nice to see there are moms who love being moms. Hallelujah to moms who unashamedly love their job!

Utah woman with the voice of an angel sings her own version of Hallelujah with lyrics being about a mom... and now she's rightly famous
A Utah woman with the voice of an angel is a viral sensation after her version of ‘Hallelujah’ with lyrics about being a mom racked up more than two million views. Shannon Christensen Abbott posted a clip of herself singing Leonard Cohen’s famous song on her Facebook page recently. But she changed the lyrics to reflect her hectic lifestyle as a mother to young children, including: 'It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it.'
I'm going to play with my photos today also. I have pictures of just about everything. Except...a cityscape. All the times I was in NYC or San Francisco or Miami or Fort Lauderdale or London or Montreal and all the other cities I've visited, even Portland Maine where I lived near for thirty years, I'm shocked I do not have ONE cityscape picture. I have a sunburst one of the street in NYC where the NYC Public Library is, and one top of the skyscraper pic of San Francisco, but that is about it. I'm amazed at the oversight. I'd wanted to play with cityscapes and light but I guess not.

Here are my city pictures and you can see that I took them with a different theme in mind and not the city landscape I now wish I had.

I was fascinated with the heavy door and the gilding, not the city.

I liked the colonial-ness of this Portland street

The closest thing I have to a typical cityscape,
but Portland Maine is a small city and so are its buildings

I framed this to show all the funkiness of San Francisco, contained in one shot
The County Fair is finishing up tonight. It is a very big deal around here. This fair is actually mainly an agricultural fair, given that our economy is so heavily based on agriculture. Of course there is a fairway and funnel cakes and rides and music to go along with the cows and the tractor sales and the sheep show, too. I have some old fair pics I'll probably noodle around with later.

At school we received a bulletin sent from our Superintendent (who is one of 4 finalists for State Superintendent of the year!) regarding the dangers of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). As the State Coordinator at Georgia Emergency Management Agency-Homeland Security (GEMA) said, and I paraphrase his bulletin, given that poultry farming is a multi-billion dollar industry within the state of Georgia that touches either directly or indirectly every Georgian, and given that there are now many avian enthusiasts who won birds (especially chickens) in their backyard, a case of HPAI will significantly impact our beautiful state. This is something we want to avoid. If you own chickens, turkeys, or other birds please heed the warnings. I am told by farmers and state officials that there have been many meetings in GA lately about the increased risks. The reason the GEMA Coordinator sent the bulletin to the Superintendent is because the school systems are an area where information has been lacking, yet many teachers are also farmers who own birds of some kind in micro-farming endeavors.

So that is my Saturday morning. I hope you all have a great weekend yourselves and enjoy the time, but better yet, redeem the time. (Ephesians 5:16).

My cat is very sick

My cat Luke is doing very poorly. He has been sick for a while. More recently, he's had several hospital visits this month. This week, he has been at the vet since Thursday. He has been declining fast and I was hopeful that the two day visit to the kitty hospital with fluids IV and meds to stimulate appetite would be what he needed to become stabilized. But sadly, no. Today the vet said she would like to keep Luke the rest of the weekend. He won't eat and he has lost a third of his body weight. Poor thing is skin and bones. I think I am about to lose my best friend.

Saddest of all though, is that not just Luke, but all 3 cats have been diagnosed. Bert is showing symptoms and not doing great, and though Murray is not showing any symptoms yet, he will. I fear the empty nest.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Recommended books: Adventure and seagoing

I watched a short documentary (11 minutes) titled "9/11 Boat Lift". It's narrated by Tom Hanks and it chronicles the largest sea evacuation in history- the lifting of 500,000 Manhattanites desperate to be rescued from terrorized, smoky, ash-laden lower Manhattan on 9-11/2001. All the more incredible is that this rescue was not organized, it occurred naturally as mariners of all stripes- ferry boat captains, tug boat operators, harbor pilots, and recreational boatmen realized that there were many fellow humans stuck on an island needing rescue. Manhattan is an island and no one realized it more than did the Manhattanites the day they closed the bridges, roads and tunnels. There was no way off.

Thinking about seagoing mariners and rescue operations and such brought back to mind some great adventure books I've read. These are non-fiction but read like narrative. They're interesting, factual, and  heart breaking in some cases. Here is my list for you to peruse, in case you're looking for some good ole yarns to read. The link brings you to and the blurb is also's.

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
In 1857, the Central America, a sidewheel steamer ferrying passengers fresh from the gold rush of California to New York and laden with 21 tons of California gold, encountered a severe storm off the Carolina coast and sank, carrying more than 400 passengers and all her cargo down with her. She then sat for 132 years, 200 miles offshore and almost two miles below the ocean's surface--a depth at which she was assumed to be unrecoverable--until 1989, when a deep-water research vessel sailed into the harbor at Norfolk, Virginia, fat with salvaged gold coins and bullion estimated to be worth one billion dollars.

Author Gary Kinder wisely lets the story of the Columbus-America Discovery Group, led by maverick scientist and entrepreneur Tommy Thompson, unfold without hyperbole. Kinder interweaves the tale of the Central America and her passengers and crew with Thompson's own story of growing up landlocked in Ohio, an irrepressible tinkerer and explorer even in his childhood days, and his progress to adulthood as a young man who always had "7 to 14" projects on the table or spinning in his head at any given moment. One of those projects would become the preposterous recovery of the stricken steamer, and the resourcefulness and later urgency with which the project would proceed is contrasted poignantly with the Central America's doomed battle in 1857 to stay afloat.
Did you know that Herman Melville's story Moby-Dick was based on a true story? Here it is:

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea examines the 19th-century Pacific whaling industry through the arc of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a boisterous sperm whale. The story that inspired Herman Melville's classic Moby-Dick has a lot going for it--derring-do, cannibalism, rescue--and Philbrick proves an amiable and well-informed narrator, providing both context and detail. We learn about the importance and mechanics of blubber production--a vital source of oil--and we get the nuts and bolts of harpooning and life aboard whalers.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
The astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, as Time magazine put it, "defined heroism." Alfred Lansing's scrupulously researched and brilliantly narrated book -- with over 200,000 copies sold -- has long been acknowledged as the definitive account of the Endurance's fateful trip. To write their authoritative story, Lansing consulted with ten of the surviving members and gained access to diaries and personal accounts by eight others. The resulting book has all the immediacy of a first-hand account, expanded with maps and illustrations especially for this edition.

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy. 
Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Sounds boring. It isn't.
Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day--and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution.

The scientific establishment of Europe--from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton--had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution--a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.
And for a change of scenery: this is one of the most gripping, heart-rending adventure stories I've ever read.

Into Thin Air
A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
I really enjoyed this slim but fascinating book:

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Filippo Brunelleschi's design for the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most towering achievements of Renaissance architecture. Completed in 1436, the dome remains a remarkable feat of design and engineering. Its span of more than 140 feet exceeds St Paul's in London and St Peter's in Rome, and even outdoes the Capitol in Washington, D.C., making it the largest dome ever constructed using bricks and mortar. The story of its creation and its brilliant but "hot-tempered" creator is told in Ross King's delightful Brunelleschi's Dome. 
Both dome and architect offer King plenty of rich material. The story of the dome goes back to 1296, when work began on the cathedral, but it was only in 1420, when Brunelleschi won a competition over his bitter rival Lorenzo Ghiberti to design the daunting cupola, that work began in earnest. King weaves an engrossing tale from the political intrigue, personal jealousies, dramatic setbacks, and sheer inventive brilliance that led to the paranoid Filippo, "who was so proud of his inventions and so fearful of plagiarism," finally seeing his dome completed only months before his death.

The Pillars of the Earth

Historical fiction set in the Medieval times, chronicling both the building of a cathedral and the history behind a little- known time when Empress Maud and King Stephen reigned. It was a time of anarchy, survival, love, and betrayal. Note: some sex scenes.

Happy Reading!

9/11 Boat Lift- an untold part of the terrible day

I love mariners. THIS is the heart of the ocean.

"The Great BoatLift of 9/11" became the largest sea evacuation in history. Larger than the evacuation at Dunkirk in WWII, when 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of 9 days. On 9/11 nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat in less than 9 hours."

Narrated by Tom Hanks. 11 minutes. Please watch, very interesting and emotional.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The chair that got away

Let the weekend begin! My landscape: ice water with Bountiful Basket lemons in good ole southern mason jar; laptop, and waiting for me later, my reading chair by the breezy window. Ahhh. Did you hear that sigh, Madison County?!

This weekend is one in which I've anticipated since June. Georgia summers are hot, no surprise. But in mid-September the humidity and heat breaks into the loveliest fall seasons anywhere. Temps lower to the 70s during the day and 50s at night. The air is clear and bright. It's refreshing and wonderful to be outside again.

That is what is predicted by meteorologists for this weekend. I can't wait.

It's a Bountiful Basket Weekend, so that means going to get the Basket Saturday morning, and then returning home to wash it all and process it. I soak it all in the sterilized sink in tepid water with a cup of vinegar mixed in (to kill bugs or germs). By process, I mean storage for lengthier life, and cooking the rest right away.

A new second hand store has opened up an eighth of a mile from me, and is on the street I go down to pick up my Bountiful Basket. If you're from RI this store is like Job Lot and if you're from Maine this store is like Marden's. If a truck carrying Nike's crashes on the highway and the boxed get damaged but the shoes are OK, they can't really sell the clothes as new, but they will sell them in bulk at a reduced price and off the booty goes to the 2nd hand store. Like Warehouse Deals. Inventory changes daily.

I am not a shopper nor a consumer and I strive to "want" very few things that I don't "need." But last Saturday I stopped in on my way home just to check it out. It would be good to know if there were useful things in this nearby store that I could buy inexpensively. There was the usual jumble of new clothes, 20lb bags of non-clumping litter, small kitchen appliances, expired cereal or candy in bulk, and in the back, some furniture.

I have a nice dining chair at my table where I spend a great deal of time. It's Italian, so that equals pretty and well-made. It's about an inch too high though, and the circulation gets cut off behind my knee. I compensate by wearing one-inch flip-flops so my feet rest ergonomically at the floor, but still, it's a good chair just the wrong height for the table and my legs.

In the 2nd Hand Store, I saw some chairs. There were nice upholstered chairs for $30, which is a terrific price since upholstered furniture is expensive. I hesitate to buy any kind at any yard sale unless I know the person, because I'm convinced the chair will be infested with rats or bugs. In one lonely corner I saw a dusky gray Lexan or Lucite chair that had no legs, but runners.

I sat in it. It feels like the glass slipper when it went on Cinderella. I sank into it and it was both sturdy but comfortable. I knew that I knew it was a good chair. It wasn't marked with a price but considering upholstered living room chairs and recliners were listed at $25 or $30, I suspected I could grab the chair for $15 or even $10.

Then I talked myself out of it. "You already have a chair. What will I do with the chair I have if I get this chair? I have no room for more furniture. Skip the chair. Make do."

I went home. I thought about it Sunday. I regretted not getting the chair. I have only felt that way once or twice. Because consuming things means they're consumable, and my life is eternal, I usually don't stress about making or not making purchases. But this one nagged at me.

I looked up the type of chair it was and to my dismay I discovered that it was an Ikea Tobias Chair, selling for $100-125. They apparently are much beloved and highly sought after. I KNEW it!

IKEA photos
They were closed on Mondays so I had to wait until Tuesday to go back. The chair was gone, as I suspected it would be. Someone else was not as dumb as I was and nabbed that thing up right away.

Losing out on that deal, and a really comfortable chair, will haunt me forever. Sometimes my frugality and my practicality comes back to bite me. And a good deal on 20lb non-clumping litter just doesn't feel the same.

Happy shopping and happy weekend!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Crafting: Vintage Graphics printed on old book paper

Here is a great idea for book arts and crafting I got from a friend on Facebook who had posted a HomeTalk article. Here is the article

DIY Book Page Art Magnet With Graphics

It's actually not just magnets, but greeting cards, book covers, book marks, and kind of paper art really. Here is what you do.

Select an old book bought at a jumble sale or library discard sale. I have several neat ones. One is a Spanish dictionary and one that is an oversized 1950s world architecture book.

HomeTalk pic

Tear out a page from it and put it upside down in the printer.

HomeTalk pic

Then find an image you like, either on your computer or on the internet. I really enjoy The Graphics Fairy for free vintage clip art and other graphics.

In essence, you're just using the book page as your printer paper.

EPrata photo
then once the graphic is printed on your book paper, you can do what you like to it. As a first try, I made bookmarks. I am still working on how to center my graphic on the book page. It was easier to make bookmarks because I could cut them up and not worry about the centering until I gained more experience with the process-

EPrata photo
You can see here that I glued the papers onto cardstock. You can, at this point, glue them onto magnets, or fiberboard coaster material, or cardboard, or whatever.
EPrata photo

I pressed them, let the glue dry and then I laminated them with my new Swingline Laminator I bought for cheap through Amazon.  Voila!

So easy! I can see already I am going to have to buy more printer ink! ;)