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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Breakfast Sausage

We have often gotten a pig from someone local to us over the years that I have lived in Iowa, and this year was no different.  Oddly, we haven't done a lot of sausage but last weekend we had an unexpected brunch that we hosted (all the family home and it was Father's Day, so no room at the local eateries for those with a big party).
Here is the sausage that we made:
  • 2 pounds ground pork
Combine all the ingredients and chill for 1 hour. Use within 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. For immediate use, saute patties over medium-low heat in a non-stick pan. Saute until brown and cooked through, approximatel

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice

I love the long days this time of year.  The longest day of the year!  While the day is, technically speaking, an astronomical occasion, its historical and cultural significance extends far beyond the relative length of the daylight. The word solstice itself comes from the Latin, from sol (sun) and stare or sistere (to stand or stop), and its celebration dates back to ancient pre-Christian tradition. For the Greeks, it would, according to some calendars, mark the start of the new year—and the month-long countdown toward the Olympics. It was, too, often the annual occasion for the festival of Kronia, to honor the god Cronus, the patron of agriculture. The day was marked not only by the typical feasts and games, but by an even more remarkable occurrence: for once, slaves could participate in the festivities along with the freemen, joined in equality for a single day.
For the Romans, the solstice was the occasion for another unique exception to everyday life: on the first day of the festival of Vestalia, married women could, for one day only, enter the temples of the vestal virgins. There, they would be allowed to make offerings to Vesta, the goddess of hearth and home.
Many Native American tribes celebrated the longest day of the year with a Sun Dance, while the Mayas and Aztecs used the day as a marker by which to build many of their central structures, so that the buildings would align perfectly with the shadows of the two solstices, summer and winter. In many European pagan traditions, the solstice was called Litha, a day to balance the elements of fire and water, while for the druids, it was, simply, midsummer, a night and day with properties like no other. According to tradition, certain plants—St. John’s wort, roses, rue, verbena, and the like—acquired properties on the year’s shortest night that they wouldn’t have if picked at any other time. And on this evening, if you were very lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of faeries, who favored midsummer to reveal themselves to the common folk.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's Time For Local

Last weekend I made a dish that used only things that we had either canned from our CSA last year or had gotten that week from them.  It was just a good feeling to know that what we were eating was supporting people who lived in our community.
One of the things that I love about our CSA is that they partner with other farmers in the area and offer a range of things that are grown in our neighborhood.  I like everything about that.  I like staying a bit away from factory farming.  I like the one stop shopping aspect of it.  For about half the year I really do not shop much because in addition to vegetables, we get eggs, fruit, chicken and pork through our CSA.  We could even get coffee this year!  Okay, that is roasted locally, not grown here, but there is something about buying food outside that is appealing.  We go to the Farmer's Market mostly because we love the atmosphere.  We do get some things that we don't get enough of from our CSA, like melons.  In any case, it is just nice this time of year.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

The short story is that if you are a fan of Tim Burton movies you will enjoy this movie.  It has all of the essential elements that he brings to the table, which for me is that a very creepy story is told with a certain combination of flair and humor so as to lessen the creepiness and augment the elegance in a way that is charming.  The costuming is up to his usual standards, which is outstanding, and the set design and sound are spectacular.  Miss Peregrine alone is just astounding to behold.  Her dresses match her demeanor and her physical presence to a tee.  The problem is that the story is long and convoluted and so if you cannot wait to get to the plot points upon which the story turns, you will definitely find this to be a slog of a movie.  I watch this sort of movie for the diversionary entertainment of it all, and so I was in no way disappointed, and I believe it can be that way for others.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Parenthood

Raising children is something that you really learn to do on the fly.  I had a much younger sibling growing up and I babysat a lot, so I definitely had a reasonable idea about the logistics of caring for a baby and young children.  What none of that prepared me for was the decision making aspect of parenthood.   And it turns out, that is the part that really matters.  My spouse and I have had some agonizing decisions to make over the last almost three decades of parenthood, and it is almost like we are starting from scratch each time.  So much of what we do as parents is largely without a play book, and it requires a partnership that is rock solid to manage to stay together, stay balanced, and hopefully do right by your family.  So I really appreciate everything about raising kids with my husband, and one day a year, give him a shout out.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sixty Years of Marriage

Today marks my son's fifth wedding anniversary and we are celebrating my parents sixtieth.  My spouse and I have three decades under our belts.  It is something that we apparently do for quite some time in my family, and while I think that while in almost every way the celebration of a marriage is really up to the two people who participate in it, the ability to stay together as a couple over hard times and good ones is something that we as a society should indeed take note of and support.  For one thing, it makes family gatherings relatively uncomplicated.  Or at least less complicated.  There is always the tension between your family and mine, but on a number of occasions we have successfully brought both sides of the family together, and that works well.  The other is that humans need people they can count on, and long term relationships lend that kind of stability to us.  I happen to know quite well that when the going gets rough, quite a few people get going, and you are left with the few who matter.  Handling adversity is all part of the life we lead.  So raise a toast to those who manage to do it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rosewater (2014)

This movie, which is based on a book about a journalist who was detained in Iran after a contested election, is exactly the sort of story that Jon Stewart would have highlighted when he was the host of the Daily Show.  He took a leave from the Daily Show in order to write and direct the movie.
Maziar Bahari was a journalist and filmmaker who returned to his native Iran in 2009 in anticipation of upcoming elections.  The hard-line sitting president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is opposed by  his popular reformist challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.  As Bahari sees, Mousavi has strong support among young, educated and urban Iranians, while Ahmadinejad, in addition to appealing more to the poor and unlettered, has bolstered his support with massive government hand-outs. Though Mousavi has been leading in the polls, there are ominous signs on several fronts, and he loses in a tainted election.
While he’s covering the election before being arrested, Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) gives an interview to one of Stewart’s colleagues in which he jokes about being a spy.  After violence erupts after the election, Bahari is arrested.   Later, in prison, he will try to explain to his brutal interrogator, a man he nicknames Rosewater for the cologne he wears, that this was all a joke and "The Daily Show" is satire, not news.
The concept of spy talk being offered up for laughs, though, is obviously one that Rosewater can’t grasp. And no wonder: it’s entirely outside the frame of reference of a pious torturer whose life is dedicated to the defense of Iran’s theocracy and its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In one sense, the two mindsets we see colliding in that interrogation room–one medieval, one modern–form the crux not only of “Rosewater”s drama, but also of Iran’s ongoing struggle over its identity and place in the world.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Martinez Gin Coctail

Here is another gin cocktail made with Hendrick's gin.  This is an excellent trend that we have been on, that is what I have to say about our post-England cocktails.
Character:
Bitter , Herbal
Skill Level:
Novice
Ingredients:
2 Parts Hendrick's Gin
1 1/2 Parts Sweet Vermouth
1/5 Part Maraschino Liqueur
Dash Angostura Bitters
Dash Orange Bitters.
Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake hard over ice. Strain into martini glass and garnish with orange zest.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sheridan Inn, Sheridan, Wyoming

Sheridan, Wyoming is the site of many a pitched battle between the US Army and the Sioux, the Crow, and the Cherokee around the time of the Civil War.  George Custer was famously killed just north of the city, and the old Fort McKenzie is now a VA hospital.
The Sheridan Inn, one of the great historic hotels in the United States, has been renovated and yet maintains it's nineteenth century charm.  As one of the original Sheridan,  hotels, constructed in 1892, the Sheridan Inn was conceptualized and developed by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. As part owner, “Buffalo Bill” directed hotel management, and even auditioned new members for his touring company show from the front porch.
Each of the twenty-two rooms have been revitalized to reflect on “Buffalo Bill” and twenty-one other key characters in his life.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Receiving Blanket Mania

There are some things that are very satisfying to do, and one of them is to turn out a highly useful product in a short period of time for a low cost.
Here is the story.  I have been in a number of quilt stores in different cities.  That is a really nice side effect of having gotten back to quilting about a quilt a month (on average) for the last year, leading to my sense that once again I am indeed a quilter.
A very real part of quilting is the community of people who share the obsession with fabric.  We have local shops and we support them, of course, but when we are out and about we check out what other shops have and there is always something designed by somebody local and there are favorite patterns that my own shop doesn't have, and there are fabrics that I can't resist and haven't seen at home.  So it is really just a side effect of all that that I went down the rabbit hole of making oodles of receiving blankets.  I saw them in two different places, asked about the pattern, got a mini-tutorial at the Quilter's Fix in Sheridan, Wyoming and came home to make enough to have a stand at the farmer's market should I choose to.  Feels pretty good!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Scanxiety

I am living this life.  Or at least an approximation of it.  I am not going to have routine scans, but it is not because of the anxiety they might cause, but because they are not really indicated,.  However, my cancer does have tumor markers, so I am now getting those every three months.  For some reason, I did not really dread them when I was getting them every four weeks over the last year and a half.  Intellectually, I knew that about 25% of people with my kind of cancer do not respond to treatment, and then another percentage relapse early, and those two things are associated with a very poor outcome.  Somehow I more or less dodged that anxiety.  My tumor markers dropped into the normal range early in treatment and have stayed low since, and that is a very good thing, but as of March, I am no longer getting chemotherapy, so it is literally a waiting game.  I am patient with some things but not many, and tolerating the anxiety related to doing nothing is something that is a bit of a work in progress for me.  So wish me luck with that.  And with everything else as well.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pouch Making

The really great thing about taking a class is that you can garner enthusiasm for something that you really never thought that you would want to make.  I have been on a class-a-month binge for about the last year plus, and it has been really quite good for both my project completion rate (which was ok in the past, but has really come pretty close to 100% for all started projects, and definitely 100% for completing at least one of the things that were learned in a class.  It has also stretched my sewing skills.  Admittedly, I started at about zero there because I have made only a handful of things over the past 40 years so it is not an exaggeration to say that I did not really know how to use the zipper foot or where to change the needle position on my sewing machine.  So making these pouches was really quite fun and also pretty fast.  They are functional as well as beautiful, and I hope to make some for holiday presents.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Harder they Fall

Oh my gosh.  I took a tumble this week that shook me up, both emotionally and physically.  And when I say tumble, I mean I fell hard, putting one of my front teeth right through my lip and if that hadn't been such a disaster I would have focused more on just how badly I injured my knee.  After much bleeding I was able to get my lip more or less under control but I did not feel any better.  I was pretty badly shaken up by just how quickly I went from jauntily approaching my car after a truly wonderful trip to Montana and Wyoming to being splattered out all over the pavement, dripping blood and being pretty sure that an ER visit was in my very near future.  Such is the shock that one is getting old.  That my reflexes are diminishing at a faster rate than I care to acknowledge and that I really do need to be pretty cautious when I am laden down with luggage.  It took the jaunt right out of my step.  So while an ENT surgeon and 12 stitches could make a vast improvement in my smile, my spirit is taking longer to mend.

Friday, June 9, 2017

About Time (2013)

This is a playful movie about time travel.  Tim is updated on his super power of being able to go back in time by his father, very charmingly played by Bill Nye, on his 21st birthday.  He uses the skill to essentially learn from his mistakes.  His efforts to woo a girl are subject to a number of do overs until he gets it right (which could come off as creepy but manages to be fairly charming), and avoiding embarrassing moments.  I can definitely see the appeal of this.  For example, I would definitely do my approach to my car, when I ended up flat on the ground, bleeding profusely, having put my front tooth straight through my lip.  In the do over, I see the place where my shoe got stuck and I go around it.  Problem solved.  So it goes with Tim, up until the time when he discovers that sometimes there is no good option, and how is he going to move forward.  The movie is both light and serious, deals with love, family, work, and meaning in life.  What's not to like about that?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Two Crabs by Van Gogh

This painting is in the National Gallery in London, and should definitely not be missed if one is nearby it.  And the museum is free, so no excuses.
This was likely painted in 1889.  Van Gogh had spent the last months of 1888 living and working with fellow Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. He had hopes of founding a utopian artists’ collective, but his health and relationship with Gauguin quickly deteriorated. In December, he was taken to the Arles hospital after a self mutilation.  It is thought that Van Gogh painted Two Crabs right after his release from this hospital. He’d gone through a traumatic experience, but, as he explained in a letter to his brother Theo, he was ready to “get back into the habit of painting.”

It’s this transition period that Two Crabs captures so well. Its composition is made up of vibrant hatching brushstrokes called “taches.” The crabs’ crisp edges and van Gogh’s juxtaposition of complementary colors make it seem like the scene could move. The green, sea-like background undulates while the upper crab flails its legs. With the ground tipped almost vertically, the crabs look like they could tumble out of the painting at any second. Whether intentional or not, van Gogh was in effect illustrating his own tumultuous and uncertain situation at the time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Baby Bloomers!

I am not much when it comes to sewing, and this is most certainly not false modesty.  I was forced by a college friend to figure out why I feel that so passionately.  I am really pretty much of a dilettante when it comes to crafts in general and I have made very few things that anyone would actually wear.  But I have made well over a 100 quilts of various difficulty and sizes, and while I am not fantastic at it, I am definitely good enough.  So what, I wondered, really was the difference, and then it dawned on me.  It is that quilts are meant to lie flat.  They are 2-dimensional by their very nature, whereas clothing is meant to function in three dimensions.  I know tricks to get stuff to lay flat, not to drape beautifully.  So when I was encouraged to try to make some baby bloomers for my upcoming grandchild, I was somewhat trepidatious.  But it turns out I totally over reacted.  These go together like a breeze (seriously, three pairs an hour is a very attainable pace) and they look adorable.  So if you are looking for baby gifts to make, this pattern is spectacular.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dr. Strange (2016)

Ok, anything with Benedict Cumberbatch in it is at least worth considering watching.  I have watched all of the Marvel based movies (or at least I think that I have), but that is less out of fandom and more out of the fact that I have four sons and I want to stay somewhere within their movie watching sphere.  Even though we are more spread out than we have been for awhile, we still see each other with some frequency and we are in touch in other ways as well.  I found Dr. Strange, well, strange.  It was not your usual Marvel story (well, except for the brilliant gifted scientist who suddenly looses his mortal abilities and then acquires super hero ones to replace them).
Strange never grows much as a character but Cumberbatch appears to haveconsiderable fun with the role. I couldn't get past the fact that “Doctor Strange” is essentially the story of a white man who travels to an Asian land, whose culture and people he doesn’t quite get yet somehow he manages to realize he’s a natural at magic, with occasional flashes of humor.  Like when he points out that really, the downside of the spell should come at the beginning with a warning, rather than after you have tried it.  Bring on the special effects, world saved, come back for more later.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Blue Venice by Manet

There are, to be sure, many better photos of this painting, but it is the photo that I took, so I am featuring it.
James Tissot, a painter, and also a great collector, owned this painting first.  Tissot and Manet travelled to Venice together in the fall of 1874, and Tissot bought Manet’s Blue Venice on March 24, 1875 for 2,500 francs.  Manet badly needed the income.  Tissot hung the painting in his home in St. John’s Wood, London, and did his best to interest English dealers in Manet’s work.  Manet died on April 30, 1883; in 1884, while Tissot owned it, Blue Venice was included in a retrospective exhibition of Manet’s work, organized as a tribute, in Paris.  By August 25, 1891, Tissot sold the picture to contemporary art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831 – 1922), and in 1895, Durand-Ruel sold it as Vue de Venise (View of Venice) to Mr. and Mrs. Henry O. Havemeyer, New York, for $12,000.  A prominent art collector, Mrs. Havemeyer (1855 – 1929) named the painting Blue Venice.  After the deaths of the Havemeyers, their youngest child, Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), owned Blue Venice from 1929 until her death.  She had founded The Shelburne Museum in Vermont in 1947, and Manet’s painting entered the collection there in 1960, where it remains today.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Black Sheep Bistro, Vergennes Vermont

Wow, we really had a great meal here, which is saying something because it is a relatively small place that was packed and we were a medium sized group and the combination can be hard to pull off.  We spent the extended Memorial Day weekend in the historic Basin Harbor resort, located at the bottom of Lake Champlain on the Vermont side, with gorgeous water views and the Adirondack Mountains.  The one drawback is that it is pretty far from some of my favorite places to eat in Vermont, and none of us were up for extended drives after dinner.  This gem of a restaurant is an easy drive from there and while the menu is not extensive, everything that I tasted on it was delicious and well prepared.  The restaurant also serves fresh made bread, flavorful butter, creamy mashed potatoes, and french fries with aioli in an unlimited quantity to the table.  So if you crave good carbs, or at least appreciate them, this is your place.  And the salads are good too.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dr. Thorne (2016)

The combination of a Trollope story and Julian Fellows is just too much to pass up, and while it was no Downton Abby, it really is quite enjoyable, and streams on Amazon Prime.
Trollope is the master of creating complicated characters who reside within entirely believable dilemmas that are partly of society's doing (he was a Victorian, after all), and contributed to by their own shortcomings.  Fellows loves to bring such stories to life, and I can only hope that this is a revival of this sort of story coming to life in the mini-series format.
Doctor Thorne is a well respected physician in the community that he lives in, and he is raising his brother's daughter.  What we find out in short order is that she is born out of wedlock, has a peerage parent who has abandoned her and that her father was killed by her uncle.  That is a lot of scandal to survive under but the dear Dr. Thorne shields her from much of that growing up, and she is a perfectly lovely young woman by the time the story begins.  There is love, family, and above all the power of money, all wrapped up in a well costumed period setting. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Corpse Reviver (A Gin Cocktail)

I had some wonderful Hendrick's gin cocktails when I was in England.  The thing about associating your national heritage with a particular type of liquor is that you can really explore that as a visitor.   For example, when you order a gin and tonic, the question is not just what gin you want but which tonic.  There are many of them and you may have a favorite amongst them.  Here is our first attempt to recapture some of that fun.
Character:
Bitter , Herbal
Skill Level:
Novice
Ingredients:
1 Part Hendrick's Gin
1 Part Cointreau
1 Part Lillet
1 Part Lemon Juice
Dash Absinthe
Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake briskly over cubed ice. Double strain into cocktail glass. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This is a highly respected novel in what has come to be known as the Neapolitan Quartet.  Everyone I know who has read it loved it, and I was given the whole set of them while I was in the throws of pretty intense chemotherapy, and just was not able to get into it.  I thought at first that it was me, that my frame of mind was just not right,  It took me several starts to read this first book and as I reflect on it, I think that it is because it is just a very messy book.  The lives of the young women involved are very complicated and it is a variety of things that make that true.  The first is the oppressive patriarchal community that they grow up in.  It is almost suffocating to read about, and yet that is a reality for many girls around the globe, even in the first world, and truly in the third world.  The second is that it is very easy to be overwhelmed with the privilege that one has in growing up in the late 20th century.  The opportunities are not what they could be, but they are far superior to what they have historically been.  Then there is the struggle to find one's voice and purpose.  I finished this book while on an idyllic walk through the Cotswolds and have been thinking about it ever since.  It is that kind of book.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Passengers (2016)

This movie was nominated in two categories--Best Original Musical Score, and Production Design.  It did not win in wither category, but in an effort to watch every movie nominated, this was on my list.  I do love Jennifer Lawrence, so there is that.  Unfortunately, neither of these attributes can carry this movie, which is just kind of creepy at it's inception.  Chris Pratt's character accidentally wakes up from his induced slumber 90 years too early.  He was hibernating, along with 5,000 other passengers, on a ship that is taking them to a new planet to populate a new civilization, but 30 years in he wakes up.  So no new planet, and living the rest of your life alone.  Well, he does that for a year, and then he decides to wake up a passenger to play house with him.  No, he does not wake up someone with the technical skills to possible do something about their situation, but instead wakes up what has to be the hottest girl on the ship.  So very creepy.  And it really doesn't recover from that low, even though it attempts to.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Unraveling the Silk Cocoon in Suzhou

 This is on display almost 100% for tourists, but somehow I managed to enjoy it anyway.  We watched the entire process from start to finish.  The worms are gross, unless you are looking for a good meal from eating them.  Big and fat, and it is just hard to believe they produce such beautiful things.  The properties of silk are so magnificent that you can understand how they powered an international trade.  Watching the cocoons going through the numerous steps to become woven into silk made me want to know more about the Silk Road, and to travel along it as well.  The seeking out of beautiful things is very old indeed.
I could watch this for hours.  Each wound spool is 8-ply, so there are 8 cocoons under each one spool.  The store at the end of the tour had one thing that I wished I could have fit into my suitcase, which was a silk quilt.  So light and warm and really soft.  I loved some of the jacquard woven fabric, and did bring a meter of one home, but really, I do not quilt with silk and it seemed like giving in to a weakness rather than getting something that I would really use, but time will tell.  In any case, go to Suzhou for the gardens, but don't skip the silk factory tour. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Hiawatha Wampum Belt

I am posting a symbol of a peace treaty from early, pre-European America on Memorial Day, because the way to truly honor our nation's veterans is to search for peace.
This is a thing of real beauty and history.  I read a number of journal articles about wampum in general and this wampum belt specifically because my son was writing a paper on this belt and I read to him.  So here is the first cool thing.  This is essentially a treaty in visual form.  The five tribes that make up the Iroquois nation agreed to be allies rather than enemies, and this is the wampum belt that tells the tale.  The Onondaga are represented by the White Pine tree in the center, which is also the tree of peace.  The Mohawks are the guardians to the east, the Seneca are to the west, and the Oneida and the Cayuga in the middle.  Second cool thing is that the value the Iroquois put on the wampum beads they bought from the Algonquins fueled the economy.  They trapped furs, the Europeans wanted them, and the Algonquins wanted what the Europeans had.  It was a trade triangle, and it worked for a long time.  The final cool thing is that while wampum belts ended up in the hands of New York state through some not too nice things that happened, they were eventually returned to the Onondaga in the late 20th century.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Collateral Beauty (2016)

There are some excellent actors in this movie, and while it is a somewhat painful topic, the movie is well done from my point of view. Which is that of someone who has had a child with a brain tumor, and who is also faced with the personal threat of a foreshortened life.  These are things that make it very hard to function in the world populated by people who have largely dodged the majority of these unfortunate events, and who do not tolerate those who wear them so obviously on their sleeves.  So this is a movie that has great star power but poor reviews.  In most cases, they focus on the tear jerking qualities, and fail to look at it from an empathetic stance.  What can be done to help profoundly saddened people?  How to keep them in your life?  Because one thing that I have learned from my brushes with these situations is that they are profoundly lonely.
Will Smith plays Howard, a man defeated by the death of his daughter to a brain tumor.  He has no interest in life or work.  He is partnered with three others in his work whose fate he directly affects, and all is not well in the world for their business.  There is hope, but it hinges on Howard participating and he is not on board with that.  At all.
So his friends/business partners go about fooling him.  It is one part cruel, one part self interest on their part, and one part desperation to help unsettle their friend out of his crippling grief.  I am not going to go into the wisdom of this approach, but rather to applaud the motivation of helping the grieving to re-engage with the living in a way that is meaningful for them.  There is the potential for collateral beauty with grief, it can just be very hard to find some times.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Inuit Angekkok

The concept of a shaman, a holy man who is a communicator between the spiritual world and our own, is a pretty universal concept.  The Inuit shaman is known as an angekkok, whose role is to communicate between humans and animal spirits.  Animals are critical to the Inuit existence.  Their environment is not one in which agricultural cultivation is at all a possibility.  So they depend on two things.  One is their ability to stay warm, and the other is their ability to hunt and therefore eat.  These both depend on animals and  they use all parts of the animals they hunt, from the meat and organs for food, their bones for making boats and housing, and their skins and intestines to make clothing.  They ritually throw back anything that they cannot use to the ocean, to give it back.  They revere the animals that they hunt, and the shaman is responsible for maintaining that good relationship.  These masks are quite varied and beautiful, and are carved traditionally from driftwood that comes up on shore, as well as with feathers and bones. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Street Food in Shanghai

Dumplings, really good dumplings, with tender yet chewy exteriors and well balanced spices and flavors on the inside are something that I adore.  I had dumplings almost every day that I was in China recently, but I saw far more of them than I ate, and you really have to love a place where that can happen.
Street food in general is very prevalent in Shanghai, as are street markets, and even housed markets have options spilling out onto the street.  It is very apparent that food is important to the Chinese, and not just in the getting nourishment sense of the word.  They treasure good food, and they produce an awful lot of it.  My recommendation is to be a little bit daring about eating if you chance upon a visit to China, to completely avoid anything that is not regional Chinese cooking while there, and to really immerse yourself in what the country's cuisine has to offer.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rogue One (2016)

I have to admit to a bit of Star Wars fatigue over the years, even though I loved the original three when they came out back in my youth.  This version seems like something that you either love or you hate.  The first point is that this is a much more culturally diverse crew of good guys than is typical.  The alien life forms were what amounted to diversity in a number of episodes, whereas here there is all sorts of human diversity.  The other is that the heroine is a woman.  She is both brave and smart and essential to the success of the plan to thwart the bad guys and sink the Death Star.  Finally, the movie is not adverse to losing some of the good guys.  There is less of an eye towards the next movie and more of a story about people who make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.
Then there are all the things that make this a Star Wars movie.  The epic space battles are well conceived and executed.  The Oscar nominations for this movie were for sound mixing and visual effects, both of which were won by other movies, but the nomination was well deserved in each category.  This is a must see adventure movie, and a nice trend in the genre.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Xintiandi, Shanghai

This is the neighborhood in Shanghai where you could be anywhere.  It is the neighborhood of international shopping stores that you would see in Madrid or New York, and for that it is altogether bland.  It is the one place that we paused in all the time I was in Shanghai to watch people on the street, and for that it was quite memorable.  We paused in the day across the street
 from a very popular bubble tea shop (there was outdoor seating on the street that did not require being a customer in any of the shops, which was both surprising and a welcome treat), and just watched the world go by.  The neighborhood is populated by well dressed, fashionable people who could also be from anywhere in the world.  China is the rising star, and you don't have to spend very much time there to be impressed both with what they have done and how swiftly it is all changing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Earth in Human Hands by David Grinspoon

There is an awful lot to be learned from reading this book, and while I know the author, and would have read it in any case, I am highly recommending it to people who have not read it.
The thing that I like most about it is something that is also true of the author in general.  It is optimistic.  The evidence for climate change is overwhelming and long standing.  It goes back literally a century or more.  So he doesn't engage with those who want to go down that rabbit hole.  It is all about how to address where we are and how to move forward, and he does this from the viewpoint of a planetary scientist. 
I liked the perspective of climate on planets over the time that we can study them, and the valuable information that we have from space exploration.  He and I have literally grown up in the age of being able to get out into the universe to explore it and not just sit here at home.  So that was a cool perspective, full of knowledge that I did not possess. 
So take some time and learn a bit about what the future might hold for our beautiful home planet.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Him? (2016)

James Franco is so good as the very undesirable appearing tech millionaire boyfriend.  At its core, this is a silly movie, with an overabundance of potty mouth and highly sexualized views of women.  Which is not really my cup of tea.  But there are some really good points driven home here that are worth paying attention to, especially if you are of an age where you might have offspring who might in fact bring home someone who is not exactly who you visualized your child ending up with.  I myself have tried to stay completely out of that game, and truthfully, my kids bear a greater resemblance to the James Franco character (minus the misogyny, of course, and the pervasively sexual art works) than anyone they have brought home on a regular basis.  This is a good lesson on keeping an open mind, and trying to find the point of attraction for someone that your 20-something falls in love with.  That is past the stage of high school crushes and into the realm of this could be the one.  If none of that applies, it is a light movie that probably shouldn't be watched with the family, but is good for a plane ride (where I saw it), or equally low intellectual energy times.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pushing Sixty

Here I am, pictured at a life changing moment for my brother.When he was six and I was fourteen we got a chance to sit in part of the Alaska pipeline and now he lives there, and has for a couple of decades now.  I feel like there have been quite a few life changing pinch points in my life and one of them is having cancer.
I always took it for granted that I would have time after my retirement.  That I could do more of the things that I love once I didn't have to spend a third of the day at my place of work.  Having cancer changed all that and it wasn't even a given (and really, still isn't) that I would get out of my fifties.  Yikes, that really sounds young to me.  So in a lot of ways it feels pretty good to be nearing sixty.  I am thankful to be alive.
When I turned fifty, I realized that I really needed to start doing the things that I wanted to do in retirement more if I expected to be any good at them when I had more time.  That is why I started this blog, I wanted to write more.  This past year I have really gotten back into quilting in a big way.  The way I was 20 years ago, but with a better sense of what I need in order to maintain the momentum that I have.  So today it feels good to have a birthday.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

New Parenthood Path

Today is the day that we celebrate the upcoming birth of my eldest son's baby.  I have spent most of my time thinking about this event focused on what I should make for it (and yes, that has been going very well), but now, as the event rolls nearer, it is actually time to think about what this means for all of us.
First and foremost, it makes me think of when we brought our first child home.  We were so bad at it!  We couldn't even hold the baby right, much less figure out what it was he wanted.  Which we were clearly doing badly because of the amount he cried.  Once we got a couple of weeks into it, we improved and he was more accustomed to being out of his warm wet previous environment, we settled into the sleep deprived haze that characterizes becoming a new parent.  It was never that way again (well, all the babies cried, and one of them more than the first, but I never felt as helpless as I did with my first).
And then there is becoming a grandparent.  I really liked what someone said to me the other day.  Her grandfather was excited about her being born, but he wasn't excited about being a grandfather--so he had her call him by his first name.  Which she did and still does.  So that is the route I am going to go.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen (2017)

This film is largely cut from the tried and true teen drama tradition that has been going strong since The Breakfast Club made it's debut.  This one is stronger in that there is more grit, more real life trauma, but the same neat draw up at the end.
Hailee Steinfeld, who garnered an Oscar nomination for her role in the Coen brother's version of True Grit, further reveals her versatility as a whip-smart yet socially moronic teenager named Nadine. Her one and only friend since childhood is the perky and slightly better-adjusted Krista. Her older brother, Darian is the golden boy who can do no wrong. Her widowed mother, Mona (played by Kyra Sedwick), works hard to support the family as a frazzled mom.  The whole family is surviving the sudden death of the father, and no one is completely adjusting well to those roles.
Nadine is the typical smart kid who sees everything through narcissistic eyes, falls for the bad boy, but has a really decent kid who likes her for who she is.  She makes her brother's life unbearable, and then he makes hers just as challenging because he starts to seriously date her best friend.  There is a lot of material to work with here, and if you like the genre, this is a good one.  It also has Woody Harrelson as a not creepy teacher who actually helps Nadine to cope.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Finest Hours (2016)

This movie is a Disney rendition of an actual event that happened.  In January, 1952 during a Noreaster storm off of Cape Cod, not one but two ships broke in half.  Navigation around the cape was an issue, and the first crew went the longer but safer way around.  The storm made travel very difficult to get to the second wreck, but despite that, the Coast Guard commander sent out a small rescue boat to attempt to rescue the remaining crew.  The movie apparently follows the trip out and the rescue.  It was harrowing to watch this tiny boat go through huge waves and manage to get over the land mass in the ocean.  Chris Pine plays the pay-the-book Coast Guard captain who maneuvers his tiny boat and despite there being more than 30 crew to rescue and their boat being for 12, including the four of them, he says "We all live or we all die, we are not leaving anyone."  He is a do-the-right-thing kind of guy.  And he plays that role well.  Casey Affleck plays the highly unpopular but very knowledgeable ship maintenance man who gets the wreck into a place where they can be rescued.  It is an entirely different role than others I have seen him in and he is also excellent.  This is still considered the most heroic successful rescue in Coast Guard history.  Very enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Health Care For All


This is exactly how I feel about health care.  Today my younger brother would have been 56 if he had not died when he was 8 years old, and on this day I always try to picture him moving forward in his life on some other space time continuum.  He had polio when he was a baby, between his second and third immunizations, and while he survived that, he ultimately succumbed to complications of the disease.  He is a great example of how public health is important to each and every one of us.  Otherwise we would still be facing some of those issues on a daily basis.  We are a herd.  We live together and that means sharing burdens in order to get the good things that come with having a community.  Health care should be one of those things.  The House plan is going to lead to death and destruction.  Oh, but not for them.  Or their staff.  Just other people.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Koshare Kachinas

I got completely thrown off my goal of posting art this year.  In my defense, the rate at which the government has sought to enrich those who supported their election and not the people who they theoretically represent has been even more staggeringly awful than I at first anticipated, and secondly, I spent the entire month of February watching movies that were nominated for Academy Awards and that was an immersion in art of a sort (and I highly recommend it.  I had never done it before, but will try to do it again).
So here I am starting up again.
My youngest son has been taking an American Indian art history course, and since I read everything to him, I have been learning too.  The only Native American art that I had previously had knowledge of is the West Coast tribes, so the end of the semester has been a bit easier for me to follow.  I have always loved the Hopi Kachinas, but did not really understand what they represented.  The Kachina doll is a sacred object, and to make one is to pray to the spirit world.  This kachina is Koshare, which is the clown or trickster.  Like Enki for the Summerians, or Eshu for the Yorumba.  Koshare is represented at ceremonies, passing through the crowd and pointing out the foibles.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tian Zi Fang, Shanghai

 This is a super funky neighborhood which is hard to really give the feel of, but these pictures do do it justice.
The maze of streets are filled with little galleries, and it is an area associated with art and artists.
Tian Zifang is the earliest recorded painter in China. Mr. Huang reworded the last word ‘fang 方' into ‘fang 坊' meaning mill, quarter, lane or workshop. The stele with Tianzifang written on it was hung over the entrance of Lane 210 in 2002.
Chen Yifei, one of China's most renowned contemporary artists, took over two abandoned factory buildings in Lane 210, Taikang Road, and converted them into his oil painting, sculpture, fashion and photograph studios in 1998. The cross-street sculpture - 'Art Door' designed by Cheng Yifei now stands at the eastern end of Taikang Road, famed as the 'Icon of Taikang Art Street'. Monthly opera concert in Deke Erh Art Center become regular community gathering. Then resident artists from ten countries and regions followed suit. The name of Tianzifang is coined by Huang Yongyu, the dean in Chinese painting circle.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Family Stone (2005)

I am not sure how I missed this movie when it came out, because it is packed with people that I like, and unlike many of my close family members, I do like a dysfunctional family oriented Christmas movie.  That was the short story of my whole childhood.  Also, for a moment my whole family was thinking that we had seen this movie already because we had  just watched Love the Copper's, which also stars Diane Keaton as the mother in yet another family which anyone with their head screwed on straight would avoid coming home to.
But come home they do.  In this case all five kids.  The golden boy of the family brings home a woman who is wholly unsuited to him and he brings out the worst in her.  Which becomes abundantly apparent under the scrutiny of his entire family.  But not to worry, they just picked the wrong sibling.  There are scenes that will remind you of Much Ado About Nothing, and once you get over being annoyed in the beginning, it is a good movie.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Jade Temple, Shanghai

.  In the western part of Shanghai, a very modern and flourishing city, there is a venerable and famous Buddhist temple, Jade Buddha Temple.   The Jade Temple is a traditional temple and active monastery surrounded by skyscrapers In 1882, an old temple was built to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Fortunately the statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928.
Here is one of the two really massive jade Buddhas in this absolutely gorgeous complex with multiple rooms with other beautiful Buddhas.  My sister-in-law and I were both struck by the peacefulness of this religious space that doubles as a tourist attraction.  It is definitely a place I would recommend for a Shanghai visit.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Galugadza'yi Mask, Kwakwaka’wakw

This mask, also known as the Crooked Beak Mask, is used in the Hamatsa Dance of the Winter Festival and was carved by the well known carver, George Wal.  I always thought the masks and artistry of the Northwest Indian tribes to be so uniquely beautiful and dramatic.  They are, but it turns out they have a darker side as well, and this mask is a perfect example.  The Hamatsa dance is also known as the Cannibal Dance.  The dance comes from the spirit of Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ (The Man Eater from the North End of the World).  In ancient times, this supernatural being lived far in the mountains with his family. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ would fly down into nearby villages, capture people and carry them back to his home to eat. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ killed many people. Few saw him and lived. Some lucky ancestors had spiritual gifts that protected them.  Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was unable to harm these people. On these occasions, as a gift for discovering him, he was willing to give them some of the rights to his ceremonies.  In some legends, Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was killed, and through his death the ancestors could claim his songs, dances and names.  Not so peaceful.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

I don't often blog about the crime drama aspect of my life, even though it takes up a goodly portion of both my reading and viewing life.  Recently I have been mired in the post WWI world, and this is just one symptom of it.  I just finished a Charles Todd book featuring Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector who often has auditory and visual hallucinations of a fellow company member who died in the war in front of him.  I have spent the last month reading a number of books featuring Maisie Dobbs, a detective in 1930's England who was shaped by her experiences as a nurse in WWI.  And now this, a series about a female detective in Australia in the years after the war.  Miss Fisher is very charming, a bit of a flirt, and always incredibly well dressed.  The costuming alone is worth watching the show for, but the stories are also pretty good.  They last an hour and are perfect for an exercise session--added bonus.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dreamland by Sam Quinones

This is an investigation into two converging events that can together to produce the opiate problem that is rampant throughout white middle class America.  The first is an extraordinary change in illegal drug delivery of heroin. A community in Mexico with access to black tar heroin.  They developed a network of men from the community who transported it to the San Fernando Valley, sold it to users in a concierge fashion, and returned home.  The drug dealers are not interested in immigrating to the United State.  They only want to make money and go home. They took the difficulty out of buying heroin by bringing it to the client.  No fear, no wrong side of the tracks.  When they got caught, they had very little heroin in their possession and were usually deported home.  They also had no interest in cornering the market, so when competition rolled into town, they let them. they spread out from Southern California, but to medium size cities without organized crime involved int he drug trade.  The other thing that happened was a massive increase in prescription opiates for chronic pain, which has led to widespread opiate addiction.  It is an interesting saga, told a little on the long side.

Duck Duck Duck

And one more duck, if all goes well.  We have been having our house tuck pointed for about a year now, off and on. Please note how beautiful the brickwork behind this nest is, because it has all been reworked. Apparently the process of this tromped down the mint bed just enough for it to be attractive to a duck couple.
So here is what is cool about this (and what may be it's demise in the end)--we walk right by this every day, as do our dogs.  What made ducks think this was a good idea?  I am a bit worried that they will abandon it altogether for this reason, but the ability to watch small ducklings grow up and leave the nest makes me hope that I am wrong about this.  I am pretty fascinated by birds, and love seeing them in the yard, and am happy to have a few families raised here every spring and summer.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Paquime Pottery (1100-1450 CE)


I really love this pottery that hails from the archeological excavation at Casas Grandes.  Above is the jar stretched out so that you can see the plumed snake biting the tail of the macaw headed snake, who in turn is about to bite the tail of the plumed snake.  The era that it represents is the Ramos polychrome era, which is most likely influenced by Mesoamerican rather than North American native tribes, but to my eye looks like some Acoma pottery that we have.  I love the colors, mostly black on white with some roan coloring to make it more colorful.  I love the fantastical beasts who are identifiable as snakes but also improbable.  I also love that people a thousand years ago made things this beautiful.  So here we are, back to some art very week or so.