Sunday, November 29, 2009

The cat secretly likes to have her teeth brushed?

The E. Coli scare in west Portland has us all brushing our teeth out of bottled water, although I do wonder if that's really necessary. Since it's trouble enough to brush my own teeth with bottled water, I decided to skip brushing the cat's teeth today, and just give her the wipe-down part.

This is our normal routine: I scoop out her litter box, and as soon as I do that, she starts to run around wild, because she knows what comes next. Then I chase her around the house for a few minutes, playing hide and seek, until she lets me catch her. I wipe her down with a hot washcloth; this part she likes.

Then I brush her teeth. It's true. I've done this since she was a kitten. They even make kitty toothpaste with whitening formula, which I think is a little strange. But I digress.

After I brush her teeth, I put her collar back on, open the bathroom door and she zooms out of there like a speeding bullet.

Today, I wiped her down with the washcloth, put her collar back on, and opened the bathroom door. She sat on the counter, looked at me, looked at the door, and didn't budge.

I left the bathroom, stood by the door, she just sat there on the counter, looking at me. Did you forget something?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boiled Sea, Baked Earth

That's kind of dramatic sounding, isn't it?

I finally got my act together and started preparing the materials for my senior's book.

The soil from his family's S. Dakota farm (in the foreground) and the soil from the Oregon farm (in the back). There's a pretty dramatic difference in color between the two!

I tried pulverizing the soil first, but because it was damp, all I was doing was making lumps by pounding on it.

So I decided to bake first. Here are two trays of the Sauvie Island farm soil, ready to go into the oven. But I'm not sure if that was the right choice or not, because after baking, they turned into very hard granules.

Here I am, trying to pulverize after baking, using an old cookie sheet and a chunk of granite. I was making clouds of dust all over the room. And I still have lots of little hard granules. So now I'm wondering if I should soak the soil to make a slurry? The baking part isn't to dry the soil, but to maybe kill off whatever microbes are living in there.

I was glad that I broke up the soil into bits before baking—I found 2 worms!

While the soil was baking, I was also boiling and filtering the sea and river water. So here are the jars of boiled and filtered Pacific ocean, Willamette river and Columbia river. See how yellow the Willamette looks compared to the others. It also had a very different smell from the other two.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fruits of my labor, labor, and more labor

Despite losing half of the persimmon tree last year and another half of what remained this fall, I was able to harvest around 100 persimmons today. There are probably still 30 left on the tree, I'm waiting to see if they'll ripen some more. I'm not sure the tree will survive this winter though. The branch that broke off this fall left a pretty significant wound. Last year, the wound was pretty clean, this year, not so much. And we'll see if these persimmons turn out to be any good.

the 2nd and 3rd batches of quince paste! This was basically the quince paste weekend. I peeled, cored, cooked, pureed and baked yesterday. And then baked some more today. The little toaster oven was going all night last night and all day today. It really just doesn't set like the recipe says it will, although after cooling in the fridge, it's set enough for me. I also tried something else today—the top half of the paste seems to set more during baking, but the bottom half really doesn't want to. So today, I flipped the paste over and returned it to the oven, and the paste did not seem to suffer from it. So I think I'll revise (further...not like I didn't revise it already from the original) the recipe as:

Peel and core lots of quince; cover in water, add lemon zest from 1 lemon) and boil for ~20 minutes until quince is fork tender. Drain. Puree. Return to pot. For every cup of puree, add 1/2 cup of sugar (this is half of what the original recipe calls for). Add the juice from the lemon; add vanilla extract (1 Tsp for every 4 cups of puree). Cook and stir frequently for 2 hours. Line baking dish w/ parchment paper, pour quince mixture into dish. Back at barely warm oven (I had mine set to 150F) for 1.5 hours. Let cool. Flip the paste over. I did this by pulling the paste out by the parchment paper onto a plate, putting the baking dish over the paste and flipping the whole thing over. Return this back to the oven for another 1.5 hours. Let cool. Refrigerate. Cut into pieces, wrap and store in fridge. The 2nd round of baking (after flipping) doesn't seem to require another sheet of parchment. The finished paste lifted out of the pan very cleanly and easily. [Added Nov 24—I think a little ginger would be really terrific!]

I think I'll make this a new Thanksgiving tradition. Not that we had any old ones.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stories about color

OK, so this is a mishmash of stories about color.

Story #1, Quince Paste

I have a quince tree that produces prodigious amount of fruit every year. I've always given most away and then kept enough to put in cooking. I like to braise pork chops or chicken with it.

Last year, my critique group buddy Anne made quince paste from the fruit I gave her, and it was heavenly and looked beautiful, like a bowl of rubies! So this year, I decided to make some quince paste myself. Here's the basic recipe: peel & core 4 pounds of quince, cook and puree, cook for 1.5 hours, then bake for 1.5 hours. And enjoy the ruby red quince paste!

Here's what happened—2.5 hours to peel and core enough fruit to make 4 pounds (they're hard as rocks), another 0.5 hour to cook and puree. Cook for another 1.5 hours and bake for another 1.5's not done! So back into the pot for another 1.5 hours and bake for another 1.5, at which point, I really had to go to bed. Pulled it out of the oven and left it out to cool. It was not ruby red, just a dark shade of orange. This is now 9 hours later...I should've started much earlier in the day, of course.

And to my disappointment, the fairy godmother did not show up and a miracle did not happen—it was still not ruby red this morning. It still tasted good though, so I'm calling it a semi-success.

Story #2, My New Gloves

The Good Prince is red-green colorblind, a fairly common affliction. I bought these new gloves, bright magenta. I mean they screeeeam magenta. As we were going to the Met's Simulcast encore showing of Turandot tonight, I had my gloved hand on the stick shift, and the Good Prince noticed the new gloves and said "Blue gloves."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Pacific in my peanut butter jar!

The iconic Haystack Rock, above, and a couple and their dog, below. There is a dog in there somewhere...

The weather through the coast ranges was not pretty—raining cats and dogs in places and very foggy in the others. I wondered if it was really a good idea to go today, but figured that it wasn't going to get any better for another 6 months and so pushed on. When I got to Cannon Beach, it was actually relatively dry, just some mist.

However, it was very windy. And I had on the Good Prince's rain coat (the only rain proof coat we have between the two of us), which was of course giant huge on me and very billowy in the wind. I had images of me sailing through the air into the waves with the next gust of wind.

It must have been low tide, because it felt like I was walking and walking forever to get to the water, which seemed full of REALLY HIGH WAVES. The whole time, I was thinking, I hope my last thoughts are not going to be “what a stupid idea this was...”

Finally, I got out to where the water was and with the next in-coming wave, I scooped up the Pacific Ocean and quickly retreated back up the beach. My ankles got wet, but thanks to my water proof boots, my feet stayed dry, which was very nice. I was smart enough to bring extra shoes, socks & gloves, although what I really needed was an extra pair of pants. But it wasn't bad at all.

My plan had been to turn north towards Sauvi Island to pick up more water and soil at my senior's farm on my way back. But it was pretty dark already, and I knew no one was going to be home. The idea of rummaging through their barn in the dark seemed like a pretty bad idea—even though they knew I'd be there, their neighbors wouldn't necessarily know so. So I'll do that tomorrow in daylight instead.

So ta-da! The Pacific Ocean:

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's official

The new website is up, at the usual location.

If the weather permits, I go to the coast on Sunday to get some Pacific ocean water. I'll be stopping by my senior's farm where his wife has collected soils from the S. Dakota farm, their Sauvi Island farm, water from the Columbia and from the Willamette, all ready for me to pick up. I haven't heard from my senior's son yet...he was supposed to get me water from the St. Claire. Not sure what's happening on that front. May have to call or find someone else to get it for me.

I've gotten really good feedback on the book arts list over using the ocean water, river water and soil for the book, so that's been great. I've been forming a lot of different ideas in my head in the last few days, imagery-wise, as the website work was winding down and I could focus on the book more.

Tomorrow is my 2nd to last beginning Gocco class. Got a good deal for one of those 6' long folding tables at Office Max today so now I have a bit more table surface to work with. It will be better, I think. This will be the first time I'll have 5 students in the space (that'd be 6 people in the space including me); I'll find out just how spacious it REALLY is.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's #&%*$ brilliant!

And Jim C says so, so it must be true.

Can't remember if I've already mentioned this, but for my senior's book, I want to include water from the Pacific, the Willamette, the Columbia, and the St. Claire, and also earth from S. Dakota and Sauvi Island.

I've been looking around for small vials for containers and trying to figure out ways to contain the vials in such a way that, if they should spring a leak, break, or some such thing, the water would not damage the book or other books near it.

I also wanted the water and the earth to be accessible such that you can 'hold' the water in your hands, or the earth in your hands, and not feel too removed from them.

I've gone through so many different iterations on this theme (including using diaper filling, or some other form of water absorbent material), and even when Jim finally said that he thought the containment method would be acceptable, things just never quite felt right. I suppose that's part of the reason why I've been procrastinating getting started on this book.


As I was riding the bus today (there's nothing else to do on the bus but thinking up brilliant ideas), I finally figured out how to do it, and I can't believe it took me this long to think of it. Especially since one of my buddies is a papermaker.

So, drum roll please -- I'm going to have papers made with water from the 4 bodies of water and earth from those 2 locations. When you hold those pages, you will be holding the water and the earth in your hands.

It makes me want to jump up and down and shout IT'S #&%*$ BRILLIANT!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Putting things on the back burner my foot!

I am apparently unable to do that. So instead of shifting focus to start working on my senior's book, I've been putting in 8-10 hours a day for the last 10 days finishing the website redesign. It's almost all done, I just have 1 last page to do.

So of my original goals --

1. Learn to do layout in CSS
2. Learn PHP
3. I can't even remember what the 3rd goal was

I managed 1 1/2. I've got the CSS layout down. I got the gist of PHP, although without knowing a lot more javascript, I can't accomplish what I had in mind. So I'm leaving that to another time. (Just to clarify, quite a bit of those hours are spent reading the CSS and PHP manuals/tutorials. It wasn't all spent on developing the new website.)

But, I did make it so that if people don't have javascript turned on, everything should still function just fine. Maybe that was the 3rd goal...

I have the mostly done new website uploaded in a test spot, if you should want to take a look.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Website redesign

I've been needing to update my website forever but haven't had the time. My original plan was to do it this October after Portland Open Studios and before November, at which point I'm going to be working full time on my senior's book so that I can finish it by the end of the year.

But, between getting sick (I'm still coughing like crazy) and being on a grant review panel, the end of the month is here and I'm just getting started. So that's not getting done but I have a mockup for the homepage. Rest of the pages will follow the same style.

The grant review panel—what a blast that was! I met one of my favorites (Kay French) plus 3 other really terrific artists. Now that our part is done, I figure I can talk about it a bit. It was an amazing experience, although it did take a lot of time. I figure it was probably 30 hours of work by the time I read 29 applications, viewed the supplemental materials, and we had our whole day discussion.

So the website redesign will be on the back burner while I get started on my senior's book. But the plan is to get serious about learning to use CSS to control layout, The home page is completely laid out using the proper methodologies...not that it's that complicated a layout, but it did still take some trying. Next, I need to learn php so I can do a better job displaying artwork images.

But like I say, that will be on the back burner as I get ramped up on the book.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I'm going w/ a darker background to save energy!