Category Archives: Doings

Turtle Tales

One of the local schools was celebrating the children’s book author Dr. Seuss. And so of course I volunteered to come to the school and read one of his many stories. I picked a rather short story “Yertle the Turtle” as it did not have too many tricky verbal passages, and it fit in with my ulterior motive.

So I drew a copy of one of the images in the book. And after I read the story, (a striking tale of hubris) I asked the kids to draw this picture of a turtle. Whenever I have visited any museum in London there are always some students drawing pictures, it seems to be a requirement. I thought that these kids might enjoy having a go at drawing after hearing the story. All of the classrooms were equipt with a fancy AV system that projected this drawing onto a large screen tv. I also drew a simple line drawing of a turtle on the whiteboard (classrooms do not have blackboards and chalk any more). And I asked the various classes that I visited to draw any sort of turtle that they liked for me.

It took real bravery to try and copy the storybook turtle and a few students in each class I visited attempted this. This kid did both sorts of turtles and a bonus cat.

This first grader drew quite a credible turtle (I did show a hat on the sample turtle).

Also by a first grader.

Yet another first grader’s art. He wanted to be sure to include the context of pond and rock while still choosing the simplified turtle picture.

This careful sketch of a realistic turtle was done by a third grader.

I am only showing the pictures that students gave to me. I think some students didn’t like their drawings, that’s why they gave them to me. Other students were so proud of their work that they wanted to share it. The first graders were the most enthusiastic (they thought the story itself was hilarious) and willing to try. The fifth graders were the most reluctant to try, which was sad. I had wanted to share my love of drawing, and I hope that I gave someone encouragement to give drawing a try.

Church suppers

I could count on one hand (and have fingers left over) the number times we went out to eat at a restaurant when I was a child. But the one place where we did go was to church suppers. And so I retain a fondness for this sort of event. Unlike chef-driven restaurants, the food has a certain humble and sincere appeal. Driven by both a fund-raising need, and the desire to please and share, I am happy to be part of the experience.

Pteri went with me to this event, a full fledged church festival, complete with booze, booths of items for sale and dancing. It was a celebration of one’s (not mine though) Greek heritage, so on the menu this day was delicious gyros prepared by members of the congregation and a local restaurant.

This was a fund-raiser for a church school prepared by a parent’s group. This day they were serving my favorite, carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile, then slow cooked and shredded) tacos with refried beans and rice. It doesn’t really look that lovely, but it was quite tasty. They hadn’t counted on the demand for beer however, as it was a rather hot day, and they ran out. 🙁

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This was a different sort of church dinner, prepared by some men from the sister Spanish language church of this congregation. The guys had dug a pit, lined it with rocks, lit a fire to heat up the rocks, then buried the food on the hot rocks to cook it. They had made tamales, potatoes, chicken and pork. This was what they thought of as a perfect church supper back home. As the parent church did not condone alcohol, the men surreptitiously passed a bottle around.

This church food came from an Orthodox church out on the prairie, 7 miles from a small town (which is really far from anywhere). The area was settled by Czech farmers, and although most of them have moved away, lots of old-timers come back for a chance to eat this food. Kielbasa, haluska (some sort of noodle, onion and bacon dish), pierogi (potato and cheese dumplings), cabbage rolls, and borscht (plus some things I don’t know the name of) were on the menu.

And this was what was served at the most recent church supper I attended, with food cooked up by a local family-run restaurant and served by a parent’s group. This restaurant has been in business since 1959, which makes it quite an ancient establishment in this town. And served in a plastic cup was an excellent vintage wine.

It is interesting that all of these meals were based on immigrant/ethnic foodstuffs. All of these varied churches are looking to make a little money (sometimes very little), and provide a place for the community to break bread together. What could be a better excuse to get together?

Sports

It was time for the annual ice hockey game between the local expensive private college and the expensive private college from the nearby big city. One of my friends is an alumni, so we always go (I’m not an alum from either school, so I root for them both, secretly). We got there early this time rather than arriving at the last minute, so we wandered about the stadium, checking out the offerings.

It is pretty much de rigeur to have giant foam fingers proclaiming that one’s team is number one. This team is actually ranked #3 by whoever ranks these sorts of things, so get with it giant foam fingers.

And what sort of a sporting event would this be if they didn’t sell nachos?

Also available are the other great food groups, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, colas and beer (the most important item of the lot).

There are also the rather mis-named cheerleaders. They didn’t actually lead any of the cheers as they were located halfway up in the stands near the band, instead of in front of the crowd. And if what was being chanted was the school cheer, they should probably learn some more polite terms for addressing the opposition.

This time I remembered to get a shot of the action. One could also watch this on a giant television screen instead, as it was being broadcast on the local sports channel.

The school had just recently split from the previous beer company that sponsored advertised was somehow involved with the school, so if one had bazillions of dollars to donate, one could become the new name of the stadium. Just imagine ‘your name here’. 😉

Books

I love to read, and books are my Kryptonite. I do try not to accumulate them, but this is a fairly hopeless task. Of course my local library is a great resource, there is no way I could afford or store all the books I borrow from there. But there is one slight problem, the folks at the library insist on taking time off for Christmas and New Years. And what if I was stuck in the house and didn’t have anything new to read? Well I went down to the library and stocked up in anticipation of the holidays (and the snow and cold). It would be a disaster to have time on my hands and no books.

The wonderful thing about the library is that they stock a wide variety of titles, in all sorts of genres, fiction and non-fiction. So I can always find something to carry off and peruse, even if I don’t intend to read the entire book.

And here is what I carried off: a sort-of biography, graphic novels, classic and modern British mysteries, a cookbook, craft book and essays. I have varied tastes, what can I say?

And then there are my books.

These are the books I got in England, I bought the two end books, the middle book was a gift.

And these books were all Christmas presents (from me, to me). I had pre-ordered the bird book is from an artist that I know from the internet. The other two books were recently recommended by a member of my women’s art group. I saw them and thought ‘I must have my own copy’ (I do get greedy sometimes). I think that it is lovely and comforting to be surrounded by books, whether it is a temporary thing, like the library books, or a temporarily permanent thing, like the books I own.

Cooking class

I admit that I love anything that has lots of sugar and butter in the recipe (although it does not necessarily love me back).  One of my friends has taken a lot of classes at a local cooking school, and she talked about how much fun this was.  So I decided I might give this a go, especially as the class used my favored ingredients.  And I found out how simple it is to make toffee, particularly if someone else does all the prep work.  😉

They had toasted and chopped 10 1/2 ounces of almonds and separated it into chunky bits and dust.   We put 8 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of sugar, 3 ounces of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a pan and took it over to the induction stove top.

Here it is boiling merrily away.   Then we put in a candy thermometer, gave it a stir from time to time, and 25 minutes later it looked like this.

It is boiling hot at this point, so we carefully tipped in the large bits of almond (saving the fine particles for topping), and spread it out on a half sheet pan.   Then we sprinkled 7 ounces of chocolate chips over the top.   As it was boiling hot, the chips quickly melted and we slathered them over the top and added a fine almond dust over everything.

It doesn’t really look very appetizing at this point, in fact it looks rather like a large cow pie (although it smells much better).

Now it looks delicious!   As there were several groups of people in the class, we made different flavors of toffee and got to take home some of each.   So I have white chocolate raisin toffee, dark chocolate coconut toffee, dark chocolate and milk chocolate toffees.  Now all I have to do is package this up for friends and avoid eating all of this myself.

Fashion

I am not much of a fashion plate, I typically spend about a minute to decide my fashion choice of the day:  is it a short sleeve or long sleeve black shirt, is it denim shorts or leggings.  Then the ultimate deciding factor:  is it clean enough to wear?  But I do enjoy looking at fashion, and when I am on holiday I like to stay in a very fashionable neighborhood.

This was the view from my recent vacation flat, an atelier with worker bees busily making incredibly gorgeous clothing.   I’m not sure who’s design workshop this was (maybe Carolina Herrera or Stella McCartney?), but I found myself envying the people who would wear this and I wanted them to make one fitted to me,

 

And right around the corner is this ready to wear boutique of a designer.   I admit that I like the dark coat, but I would probably balk at the price for such a utilitarian item.

This is much more to my taste, although as they are not in plain black, I don’t think I could wear them.   (Also, I would probably resemble a sack of potatos rather than a goddess).  But I would definitely cut this fabric up and use it in a quilt.  Right in front of this shop the Petticoat Lane street market was going on, where one could buy a man’s shirt for 10 pounds (more my price range).  😉

 

Just up the street from the flat was this tempting display (okay, now I am being sarcastic).   Pretty much everyone has stocking cap for when it is really cold, or when one needs to rob a bank or gas station, but I suspect that this one might cost a bomb.  The hooded puffy jacket with the skirt might cause one to think that one was a recently escaped mental patient, so I think one should leave the price tags on the outfit.  (Does this remove the doubt?  I doubt it.)

 

American Football

In some places football is more than a sport, it’s more like a religion.   But as I grew up in a city with a fairly awful professional football team, and went to university with a terrible college football team,  I never became a fan. (Except that football is a great excuse for parties and boozing, so I guess I am a fan of sorts, sometimes).   My college was playing against the local team, and my friend didn’t want to go, so I thought ‘what the heck (or something quite similar)’.  I had been to a game of the same two teams about 30 years ago, so perhaps it was time to do this again.

And as this local university is a military academy, they had a military pre-game show.  It does require a certain talent to be able to jump out of an airplane and land in the center of the stadium.

It’s a lovely stadium, the sun was shining, and we had been drinking delicious Bloody Marys in the parking lot.

The teams had to do a bit of running about before the game starts, so there was no excitement just yet.

Whenever the home team scores a goal, a squadron of cadets comes out and does the same number of push-ups as the score.   And the score was rather large at the end.  😉

Halftime means that a marching band must come out, but I must say that I found their outfits rather drab, even though they were excellent musicians.  (Marching about in formation is certainly something everyone in the military does.)

After the game was over, I realized that I had not taken any pictures of the actual football players.   So here’s a picture that shows some of the football action on the giant stadium screen.   When one is at an game, the players are the ants down on the field.  When one watches at home, the television cameras always bring the action close.   And this game was being televised, so there were camerapersons racing up and down the sidelines.   All in all it was an interesting experience, but perhaps I shall wait another 30 years before I do this again.

 

 

Inktober

We here we are, just past the month of Inktober ( a month in which one does a drawing, in ink, every day of the month).  This year I decided that I would give this a go.   Why?  Well not because I am good at it, rather that I am bad at it, but hoping to become better.  And here are a few of the results.

This was one of the first drawings that I did.  The subject is Wyatt B.  I did a pencil sketch first, then used ink brush pens to make it truly inky.   I’m a novice at the pen, and I half like this, and half don’t.  I think I over-worked the picture, but it does look like Wyatt.

This sketch is of Freya B, done in an extra fine Sharpie, so I don’t think it came out too bad.   I usually draw dogs and I think this may be the first time I ever drew a cat.

This is a portrait of her brother, Thor B.  I did these first three drawings from photos that I took, as I am not fast enough to do animals from life.

As I usually draw pictures of dogs and since there wasn’t a dog handy, I made this from a photo I took in front of a fancy butcher shop.

I didn’t have any interesting photos to work from, so this is what I saw on the nightstand.

Once again I didn’t have a photo, so this is a drawing of part of the living room.  I worked hard on getting the proportions right, but I am obviously not very good at shading and filling in the backgrounds.   Perhaps that is something to aspire to when the next Inktober comes around.

Artists

When I was a young teen (which would put this at a very large number of years in the past)  I loved to walk the 2.3 miles to the local art museum and draw.  What I didn’t love was people coming up to me and asking what I was drawing.  (It would be the thing in front of me.)  So I was careful not to disturb these artists at work, but I did appreciate that they all were taking the time to get out and about and do the work of drawing what they saw.   Well done, random people.

This seemed to be an organized outing for this group of folks, as there was a large number of artists working on the same bit of statuary.

This solitary artist was making a large drawing of a small object (and doing a fine job of it too).

This young woman was in a different part of the hall of statues.   It’s a lovely thing that the museum provides these chairs (I used to just sit on the floor to sketch).

I don’t know why I think this, but I somehow got the impression that this young woman was doing this for a school project.  Perhaps it’s because the statue is so ugly.

This brilliant portrait of Sir Francis Drake was done by a five year old artist.   I wish that I had been this talented at that age.   I did tell her how much I admired this picture too.

Just off a very busy street, this fellow was doing more than a sketch.   He was painting the scene (there is a bit of license taken with the view, the sky was not very blue on that day) and I imagine that it must be hard to concentrate in this busy setting.

So I say bravo to all of these artists.  Out there in public and pursuing their muses.

Chili today

A reliable sign that it is officially Fall (besides looking at a calendar and the appearance of pumpkin spice flavored everything) is when the chili crop is ready.   There are roasting stands for green chili, and bushels and ristras (chili tied up in string) of the red.

So this is what they look like when they are fresh.

And this is what they look like in a dried ristra.  Well, what happens next?   To use this for more than decoration, one removes the stem and seeds, boils them for a bit in some water, whizzes them up in a blender, strains the pulp, and uses this to make a pot of red chili (or one starts with the frozen pulp from the grocery store which is much easier).

And voila, a pot of New Mexico Red Chili.   Actually, this one is not very traditional, because it contains beans.  A traditionalist would serve  the red chili and beans separately, so that one can put together a bowl to one’s taste.   But I made this particular pot for a reason.

My group of ladies made pots of chili of varying kinds as part of a charity fundraiser (mine is the puny pot on the end) held in a member’s empty barn.   I did try to make this a mild batch, but it didn’t taste right to me until it was fairly spicy (oops).  And the chilis ranged from hotter than mine, to one without any spice (I don’t know if one could even rightly call this chili).

And here is a very traditional recipe, from a cookbook published in 1971 by M’s favorite restaurant in Mesilla, NM.   And what I made was somewhat similar.

The mild-ish was a lie.

But a good time was had by all on a perfect Autumn day, trying all the variations and permutations of this humble dish.