Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I think when you live in a town as cute as Granville it's written in the municipal law that one must decorate for the holidays.

Hope you all have safe travels and meaningful celebrations.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life after the dissertation is written...

I am alive. Just tired.

And celebrating.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricanes in Ohio?

Sunday started out a little breezy, sunny, warm - perfect weather for doing laundry and hanging it out on the line.

About 4pm the wind started to blow, and blow, and blow. Coming through the midwest the remnants of Ike met a cold front and the result was a crazy storm where there was no rain, just wind. Lots of it. Fast. For hours and hours.

And the power flickered, stayed on for a few minutes, and then went out. I watched as the shingles blew off the house across the street and branches came down everywhere. You know how they say that tornadoes sound like a train bearing down? I can now confirm that particular sonic characteristic. They say that wind gusts in the area were up to 75 mph.

Now some of the trees are cleaned up (including the large maple tree down the road that was turned into the shape of a blooming onion). Most of the power lines that were lying in the street are now back up on the lines, even if they are not yet live.

We've been without power at our house since Sunday afternoon. It's now Wednesday afternoon. At least we have running water (unlike many houses in the area that have wells and don't even now have water). We have a hot water heater than runs on gas, so we can enjoy a hot shower in the morning. That's good. Bill's school has power and internet, hence my ability to post.

We found a home for most of the freezer contents but the fridge is a lost cause. Today's task is to venture in and throw things away.

They say that power may not be restored until Sunday. That would be a full seven days without power. It seems doable, right? I mean, if I can charge my laptop at someone else's house or off the car battery then all's good. It's strange. I can't explain the low level stress of not being able to cook or plan on what to eat. The garden is full, but it seems impossible to do anything other than to try a macrobiotic raw thing. Then there's the weird-ness of it being 8:30pm and just feeling like the best thing to do is go to bed and get up early to work as soon as it gets light.

I don't use that much electricity in the course of a day, but I do need it now and then. We're just not set up to work any other way. We need more technology that enables energy independence, even on a household level! And it's going to require a serious shift in how we live. Even after three days I can tell you that much.

Camping is all fun when there's not work that needs to be done, deadlines that have blown by (pun intended), and nothing is they way it is supposed to be. I'd love to sit around and play cards and do charades by candlelight. But I want to get my work done and each day that goes by and I'm not able to work, or that I have to spend money to buy food while simultaneously throwing food away, things just get more frustrating. Life is strangely on hold but also strangely filled with immediate panic and anxiety.

Luckily the roof is fine.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating locally while writing a dissertation and other tales of wonder and superhuman skill...

Unfortunately I choose to finish my dissertation writing just at harvest time. I've been trying to balance eating, cooking, freezing, canning, etc. with needing to be spending 95% of my waking hours working on the last bits of research and writing it up.

I've been so inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's book that I want to do what I can to make it so I can eat locally as much as possible. So, it's usually a game of trying to write until I'm absolutely thick-headed and then trying to cook or preserve whatever just came in. Or, usually, whatever came in several days ago and needs to be dealt with or abandoned for compost.

Making pesto late at night? It's what I do these days.

Yesterday we made several quarts of a beautiful pink vegetable broth, using up some old shriveled beets, corn cobs, herbs, etc. That's in the freezer waiting to be used for winter soups and risottos (risotti?).

We also have lots of frozen pesto, and tomato sauce; shredded zucchini, berries, and sour cherries. Shallots and onion live in the basement along with fingerling potatoes.

We've planted fall beets, lettuce, chard, Tuscan kale, cabbage, broccoli, and spinach.

Today I picked pears, tomatoes, raspberries, hard squash, and potatoes.

And last weekend, I canned my first peaches. It was a bit of a splurge in terms of time, but I figured it would be a little present to myself. Only one jar didn't seal but I've already eaten it! Not too bad for a beginner, tasted good!

Here they are, looking beautiful in the sunshine. Next to them is a big vase of sunchoke flowers. The plants back in the garden are glorious: 8 feet tall and covered in these yellow flowers, which, strangely, smell just like peanut butter to me.

This is a photo of what my kitchen counter looks like these days.

Note the gargantuan scale of some of the veggies. That's Bill's nano, just to give you a sense of scale.

Sometimes I get to sleep too. Once in a while.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I want my "Democracy Now"

So this morning on NPR the protests in Thailand got more coverage than the protests of the RNC in the Twin Cities.

I'm frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc.

YouTube has videos of Amy Goodman's arrest, a non-violent protester getting deliberately pepper sprayed in the face as she stood merely watching police walk by, and the "pre-emptive" raids on houses in St. Paul (based on the suspicion that the occupants are dangerous protesters).

The RNC has turned my hometown into a police state. Before this they had already made it a Potemkin village. For more on how the empty St. Paul storefronts were filled just for the convention, check out this link to Minnesota Public Radio.

Why yes, Emperor, your new clothes surely are STUNNING!

Monday, September 1, 2008

my favorite joke of the year

People ask me what my dissertation is about. Well, some people do.

Although it's topically about music, the main idea is the same as the "Guys on the Bridge" joke from Emo Philips.

So, full props to him for his excellent punch line.

And now you know what I'm writing about.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oh to be 33 forever

Now and then I get a chance to step away from my writing.

I love my flower garden. Some of my zinnia plants are almost five feet tall. Who knew? My hydrangeas are so tall it's getting hard to see out our front window! Then again, my glads all died except for one. Win some, lose some.

(tall red zinnias are "Will Rogers" and the small are "Persian Carpet." Below includes "Envy" and "Purple Prince")

I love flowers I can cut and bring in the house with me. Max does too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't look at all the weeds!

This was today's bounty.

The first ripe tomato!

We've been eating yellow squash and zucchini for a few weeks now. The cucumber came in earnest just recently (despite the fact that this one is as big as a moderate size zucchini and much heavier). It's been so hot that the basil is starting to want to make flowers, so I cut back the tops and will make some pesto tonight.

We've already harvested yellow onions and shallots and these are drying in the basement after spending some time outside curing in various places. We had the windows in the house replaced last summer and so I've been using those old expandable window screens to dry onions with. (The ones you buy if your windows are a hundred years old and don't actually come with screens.) Open them up on a wooden clothes drying rack and you've got a great place to cure onions.

We've already harvested many of the beets we planted in the spring, and now the small potatoes are ready as well. (Hee, hee. Small potatoes. They're so cute.)

In case you forgot what the garden looked like this spring, you should scroll down and see the empty pictures.

So awesome. Just don't look to closely or you'll see that we also house lots of weeds in our garden.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bella Italia

For two weeks this was the view out I saw every morning when I got out of bed.

And this is what I ate for lunch.

Wanna see more? You know you do.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Anna is away from her life, please leave a message

Some people leave messages that they're away from their desks. These days I'm always at my desk. Always.

Except for when I get up to take a photo of it, of course.

This is my desk.

This is my desk on a dissertation marathon.

Note the flowers from my garden. Eh, it's too hot to be out there anyways.

I did get to have some fun last month, though. Can't complain. All you music nerds out there know where I am, right?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What you don't know about yourself could fill a wiki page.

Do you ever just Google yourself to take stock of what's out there, circulating through the tubes of the inner-nets?

Imagine my surprise.

It's actually pretty weird.

I am forced to admit that I do talk with my hands.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Max says, "Can't we turn the heat back on? It's been raining for three days and the house is so cold this morning."

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Sing it with me people!

"...it's making me wait..."

This is Jane's lovely garden. What you can't see are the potatoes, beans, peas, and other tasty treats that are growing beneath the surface of the dirt. Whoops, there's some asparagus. It must be spring.

My faithful readers (all three of you) must know by now that I love the before and after pics of plants in growth. You know, then, what's coming in future posts.

"...it's keeping me waiting..."

I'm so lucky that Jane is sharing her garden with me this summer.

These really are the good old days... (awww!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

See Jane Garden...

Look, look.
Look and see.
See Jane and Anna.
See Jane and Anna in the garden.
The garden has many weeds.
Jane and Anna pull the weeds.
Jane and Anna also talk about books.

Jane and Anna plant vegetables.
They plant potatoes and tomatoes.
They plant spinach and beets.
Hopefully Jane and Anna will grow many vegetables.
Yum, yum!

Funny, funny Anna.
Funny, funny Jane.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I've been working on this off and on for the last year, but I've been thinking about making this cushion for almost ten years.

This is the Shell Cushion, designed in 1925 by Vanessa Bell. The original can be found in the Garden Room of the Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex, the country retreat of Vanessa and Clive Bell and the gathering spot for their friends, the group of artists and writers known as the "Bloomsbury Group." (This is also the spot where designer Kaffe Fassett did the photo shoot for his most recent book.)

The pattern was reproduced by Melinda Coss in her (now out-of-print) book Bloomsbury Needlepoint. Although the cushion is now faded, Coss was able to take the cushion apart to find the original bold color scheme. I've tried my best to follow that color scheme using Appleton Crewel wool and a 12-mesh canvas. The only detail I omitted was the red criss-cross on the yellow centers of the orange blossoms.

What next, a cushion patterned after William Morris design? The Abstract-Patterned cushion from Charleston? I can't decide.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blizzard of 2008

The snow is melting away now but last week's blizzard broke records. To spite the frozen tempest outside, the Clivia bloomed even harder and it still looking spectacular after nearly two weeks of blossom. The second plant should be opening its blooms in the next few days.

The twenty inches of snow that fell here in central Ohio still can't dissuade me from my obsession with the coming spring. Things have gotten quite out of hand here with seeds and sprouts. So far we've got broccoli, tomatoes, lots of different kind of herbs, and a few flowers (monarda and calendula). The salpiglossis seedlings are looking a bit peaky, tho', and I'm wondering if they're going to make it. The picture on the seed package was so pretty and it said they were easy to grow but this is the second year I've tried and I'm still not impressed. Better to stick with zinnia, cosmos, and marigolds?

When I was a kid I remember one of our neighbors had a big porcelain claw foot tub outside next to the house. It was filled with dirt and they planted things in it. In the years since I've seen these tubs turned on their ends in the garden and used to create small grottos to house statues of the Virgin Mary. So, you can see why the idea of using a bathtub for things other than bathing might have occurred more readily to me.

And don't worry, we do have a shower stall.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Clivia Watch 2008

Clivia "A" has finally blossomed! And Clivia "B" is making steady progress towards the same goal. Not bad for a first-timer!

The keep the blossom stalk growing tall and graceful I didn't put the plant into the best sunny spot until the blossoms were imminent. Too much sun and I've heard that the stalk doesn't grow and the blossoms get stuck down in the leaves.

It has been snowing off and on for the past week, big pretty flakes that draw one to the window to watch. Here is the view out our south windows.

The barn belongs to a neighbor but we're happy to get one of the best views of it from our house. I'm not sure how old it is, but some of the main beams bear the marks of being hand-hewn.

When its snowing I feel more energized to get things done and particularly excited about cooking and baking. My latest experiment was this Cardamom Wreath.

The recipe is available in a variety of places, including this website. It's more of a subtle sweet yeast bread than a coffee cake, and it's perfect for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The recipe suggests topping with slivered almonds but I decided to try it on its own, although I did make the cardamom butter recipe that accompanied the bread since I had some orange zest left from the bread recipe. The bread keeps well for several days, especially if you wrap it in a linen tea towel and store in a bread box.

If you decide to make the bread I can offer a few bits of feedback: I started the wet ingredients in my kitchenaid mixer with the batter attachment and switched to the dough hook after adding the first two cups of flour. (If you start with the dough hook you won't be able to mix the butter, sugar, and eggs well enough.) The dough was quite moist and sticky so I kept adding flour while the machine kneaded and until I could handle the dough without getting stuck in it. I was worried I'd overwork the bread but it appears to have survived and is still soft and tender despite lots of kneading. Lastly, my ground cardamom was probably fairly old and it wasn't very fragrant anymore so I decided to use a mortar and pestle to grind some cardamom seeds myself (just remember to take them out of the pods first). The result was incredibly fragrant and fantastic but it didn't overpower the recipe. With the freshly ground spice and the orange zest my kitchen smelled wonderful!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I dream in color, specifically in olive green

Excitement is building here on Elm Street as we await the Clivia blossom that is sure to come soon!

That said, there's not too much to report from here. I'm wearing out my office chair from too much sitting and writing my dissertation. Perhaps that's why I dreamed last night that I was buying a Herman Miller chair (in an experimental olive green color!). I mean, we all have our own fantasies don't we? Dreaming about chairs is a whole lot better than dreaming about writing my dissertation, I'll tell you that much. I already carry a small notebook with me for any inspiration that happens when I'm away from the computer, don't tell me I'm going to have to keep it by the bed for all those dissertation dream insights! I'd rather dream about chairs.

So that's the kind of excitement we've got going on here.

We did host a Spaghettiplausch party last week for a few friends. I have to say that the Swiss do manage to come up with the very best in meal traditions that are intrinsically social. Indeed the meaning is built into the name Spaghettiplausch: "plausch" means to "chat."

Now while a Spaghettiplausch is not based around melted cheese like fondue or raclette (more's the pity since we lurve the cheese) it is still very fun! The point, as I understand it, is to offer a variety of different spaghetti sauces to try. And then to chat, of course!

We had four sauces for five people and we ate enough pasta to fuel a table of marathon runners! In addition to a meat sauce, we contributed one of my favorites - a Cantaloupe-Tomato sauce. I got the recipe from a friend almost ten years ago and I still make it from the notes I jotted down on a scrap of paper. Yes, I know cantaloupe isn't the first thing one thinks of as the key ingredient to a pasta sauce but once you try it, I'm sure you'll be hooked.

Have fun and throw your own Spaghettiplausch party!

Cantaloupe pasta sauce for 4 people

1 cantaloupe chopped into bite-sized pieces (the more ripe, the more easily it will break down when you cook it)

1/3 stick butter (the recipe I copied this from says 1/3 stick per 1/2 melon but I've cut back the proportions to 1/3 stick for a whole melon, IOW butter use in this recipe is fairly flexible and you can use more or less to suit your own tastes)

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

Saute the melon until it breaks down.

Add tomatoes, cook a few minutes more.

Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream (we use half and half and it works fine) and remove from heat.

Finish with a little S&P to taste. Serve over pasta (spaghetti and angel hair work well with this sauce).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clivia Watch 2008 Part 2

We're finally getting some snow here in Ohio. As long as it's not yet spring I prefer to have some snow on the ground.

Still, with seed catalogs coming in the mail it's hard not to start thinking about vegetable gardens and flower beds.

So, to measure the progress of the season I give you this week's Clivia report.

Progress has been made. (If not by me on my dissertation, then at least my plants are making progress. Ha, ha! I've actually been writing these days. Maybe it's too soon to label this draft as actual "progress" but the page count is getting higher every day. And that's a good thing. But back to the subject at hand...)

Clivia "A" is showing excellent progress towards blooming. I'm trying to rotate the plant everyday to keep the blossom stalk from leaning towards the window.

And Clivia "B" is now also showing signs of possible blossom production. I thought that this would be the plant to bloom this year since it is larger and possibly more mature. I suspect, however, that when I received it I repotted it in a pot that was a little too large and it has taken longer for the plant to feel pot bound enough try for a blossom.

I've heard that one must be careful with potting clivia, that their roots can pop a pot, so I know it's a bit of a risk to use such a pretty blue pot for it. I've lost several clay pots to Canna lily roots over the last few summers to know what I'm in for. But instead of being concerned about losing a pot, I admit I'm just more amazed that plants can do this sort of thing. And again I just sit back and watch them force open the pots: "CRRRAAACKK." Well, you know what I mean.

Stay tuned for more Clivia news next week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Clivia Watch 2008 Part 1

I'm new to being a Clivia caretaker. I bought two at a potluck plant sale before a Granville Garden Club meeting because I was in love with the tough green leaves and how gracefully they drape. Apparently they are related to the Amaryllis (hence the lovely leaves) and they are native to South Africa.

To see if I could force my two plants to flower this year I kept them for 8 weeks in our front entryway. The light is low (the window in the door gets north light but is shaded by our porch) and the temp is also low (probably around 55 degrees Fahrenheit) since we keep it closed off from the rest of the house. Now the plant is a few feet from an eastern window and the house temp varies from as much as 68 during parts of the day and probably around 58-60 at night (I wouldn't know! I'm in bed where it's warm!).

Just last week I saw the tips of a possible blossom emerge from the leaves.

In addition to sitting and watching my plant grow I've also done some knitting. No, silly! I don't really sit and watch my plants grow, I just check on them three and four times a day to see if they've done something new.

Here's a hat I made for the son of some friends. Since northern Minnesota is cold, and since I wanted to protect his little noggin with good thick wool, I picked Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted (85% wool, 15% merino) in "Forest Shadows." Since the pattern calls for the wool to be doubled up the hat turned out quite thick and warm indeed. I managed to coordinate the variation in the color with the two strands so it's not quite as speckle-y as it is shaded.

I had just enough left from the one skein of yarn to make the little pom on top, my only alteration to Alexis Riggs' "Toasty Topper," (pattern available free from Knitty.com. See how I'm learning the whole hypertext thing?) I was able to finish it during holiday car and plane rides, so it knits up quickly.

Updates on the Clivia will follow! Lucky for you they won't be the "three times a day" updates that I'm doing myself. Hopefully there will be progress to report!