Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Something New

I learned something today, and I'm pretty pleased about it. Have you ever bought roses that had drooping, floppy heads? This is nearly always caused by an air bubble preventing the water from getting up the stem.

Here's what you can do about it: fill a sink with water to a depth of a couple of inches. Submerge the roses in the water, and recut the stems while they are under water. Then, leave them for a couple of hours. This really works.

Monday, December 28, 2009

NaBloPoMo Here I come!

I have joined NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month, or WTTE) and I will be posting everyday for the month of January - which could prove difficult since I will be in the UK for half of the month. But still... I'm giving it my best effort.

Watch This Spot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas day.

The COG Goes Wild

Since 2002 the COG has wanted a Mini, like Sister May's. The best three days of his driving life were the days we drove the Oregon coast in her Mini. He has followed every consumer report about problems, reliability etc of the mini. He has spent many many many hours pointing out minis to The Bride on the road, in print, on tv, and on the internet, while driving his old Subaru wagon into the ground.

Last weekend they looked at cars, because they really need a new one. The COG insisted that they try every possibility even when it was pretty clear that it was down to three choices, none of them the Mini. Finally (and the Bride isn't quite sure how it happened) they found themselves at the Mini Dealer. There was a sale on - one day only.

They left without buying one. The COG became increasingly depressed on the way home. When he got home, he communed with the internet for a while. Finally, a defeated man, having lost all zest for life, he said to The Bride that he thought a Subaru Forester was the best choice. He proposed that she should call the dealer the next day and make all the arrangements. (She could hear an imaginary dirge playing softly in the Soundtrack of Her Life, as he said these words.)

' What about the Mini?' asked the Bride.

'That would be so impulsive,' said the COG.

The Bride looked him straight in the eye and simply said '2002 - 7 years'.

They are now the prospective owners of a dark silver mini clubman, which is on its way from the Port of New York.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Shoes: Would you rather.....

OK future of civilization (plus an end to hunger and war) depends on your wearing one of these pairs of shoes.

Which one would you choose?

Snow and Potato Soup

The Northeast has had one of the worst storms of the decade (or so the media are saying). Here, not so much. We got a significant amount of snow, maybe 8 or 10 inches, but it came down slowly and quietly. It was a lovely snowy day, at least for those of us who sat reading in front of the fire while the others cleared the snow.

As a way of doing my part, I made potato soup for the COG's lunch when he had finished. I have a memory of childhood - my mom making potato soup with lots of celery leaves for us on a snowy day. The way I remember it, she _always_ made potato soup on snowy days, but it's possible that it only happened once.

Oh, and the little bowl at the back has another childhood treat - Ambrosia. I couldn't think what to do with the 4 naked oranges I had after making chrystallized orange peel, then I remembered Ambrosia, which also had the virtue of using up the rest of the flaked coconut. I'm pretty sure that when Mom made it she added powdered sugar and she didn't add Grand Marnier, but it was delightful all the same.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cookies (and candy)

Yesterday, in a manic frenzy of holiday spirits, The Bride decided to make Christmas Cookies (and candy). After printing off a bunch of recipes and a quick trip to the grocery store to get all the ingredients, she began to cook. This is what she made, front to back and left to right:
Dark Chocolate Bark with ginger, raisins and nuts
Chrystallized orange and lemon peel
Chocolate-covered pretzels
White Chocolate Bark with crushed candy canes
Chocolate-Cherry Mice
Russian Tea Cakes
Magic Cookie Bars
Apricot Coconut balls

She isn't done. She's working on Rum Balls and Date Balls, too. She has already given away one tray and has plans for giving away a few more. That's the plan - to give them all away before she or the COG eats them.

On hearing about this cooking spree, a friend commented, 'there's A-type retirement and B-type retirement. You have just demonstrated A-type.'

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seasonal Music from The Muppets

The Carol of the Bells, muppet-style.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sailors and their Sweethearts

These 'popsicle stick'- like things are busks made of whalebone with scrimshaw designs. A busk is a part of a corset - it fits into a pocket down the middle of the front to lift and separate the breasts. These were made by sailors as gifts for their wives and sweethearts back home.

And these pretty ladies are whalers' wives, perhaps the very wives these busks were made for. (I wonder how many total yards of fabric are worn in that picture)

The busk on the left has a poem which seems to have been written by the sailor who carved it. Kind of an odd sentiment, not sure how I would feel if The COG presented me with such a thing upon returning from a trip:

"This bone once in a sperm whale's jaw did rest,
Now tis intended for a woman's breast.
This, my love, I do intend
For you to wear and not to lend."

Some Interesting Facts about New Bedford

Today, New Bedford is a fishing port, with a big fleet of fishing boats in the harbor, and that's the image I had of the town before our visit. I didn't expect the lively historic town, charming buildings and cobblestone streets. I also didn't realize that in the 19th century the town was famous/infamous for its attitudes to slavery.

New Bedford was a Quaker town. I suppose this isn't surprising as it's right next to Rhode Island, but it still surprised me. The consequence of this was that the city was run along Quaker principles, which were admirably consistent with modern liberalism. In the Quaker faith, men and women were seen as equals - which would have been important in a town where so many of the men were at sea for long periods of time.

Moreover, the Quakers were active abolitionists. New Bedford was the town that Frederick Douglas and his wife escaped to when he was only 21. I've never read Autobiography of a Slave, but it's on my list, now. The so-called 'underground railway' led straight to New Bedford. Escaped slaves were fed, housed, sheltered and provided with the means to support themselves.

There was an account written by a slave who was brought by ship with his master. The ship was at anchor by a pier and the slave, waiting until his master's back was turned, jumped out of the ship and ran into the crowd. He heard shouts - 'fugitive' and knew he was being pursued but the crowd just parted to let him through and closed again to foil the pursuers. He was safe and was provided for by the Quaker abolitionists who ran the town. There were an estimated 700 fugitive slaves living openly in New Bedford, about half of the African American population of the town.

It was an ex-slave who invented the toggle spear, which was such an important tool for the whaling industry - horrible to think about now, but a remarkable invention nevertheless. It's a spear that goes in and opens up so the spear can't be easily dislodged.

When oil was discovered in America in the late 1800's, whaling as an industry declined, although there was whaling out of New Bedford until the 1950's or maybe even the 1960's. But there was a rather rapid fall in the level of income of New Bedfordites and that is probably one of the reasons the historic town survives so completely. It's perfect conditions for later historians. A town that is filled with wealth and lots of houses, then a rapid decline in fortunes so that the existing buildings are not torn down and rebuilt but just continue, unchanged.

New Bedford

Saturday, the COG and I spent the day with the Son of... to celebrate my birthday. We went to the New Bedford Whaling National Park. New Bedford was the biggest whaling port in the nation during the 19th century and, for a time, it was the richest city in America, because of the whale oil. The old part of town has been wonderfully restored, cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings. We walked around for a while, had some lunch and then went to the Whaling Museum.

It was a nice little museum, bigger than we expected, and very sympathetic to the whale. There was a lot of information about whales, as well as lots of exhibits about the whalers and the history of whaling.

There were displays of beautiful things made of scrimshaw - pie crimpers, niddy noddys like the one shown here, boxes and baskets etc. The one I show here is a knitting basket made of whale bone with whale bone knitting needles. The collection of objects is truly amazing.

From New Bedford we went to a nearby winery - Westport Rivers Winery and did a wine tasting. They specialize in sparkling and white wines, (too much winter for reds) and they are really nice wines. In our effort to be locavores, we purchased several bottles.

Then, back to Falmouth on the Cape for a lovely dinner at The Glass Onion. This was a really special meal. Afterwards, we dropped the Son of back at his place in Wood's Hole and drove home.

A really great day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cushions for New Window Seats

I have finally finished the cushions for the new window seats. I always forget how hard it is to make boxed cusions. Not hard exactly, but how much I hate making them. I always remember mid-way through when it's too late to turn back. Then there was my broken finger - so they were started in September, but not finished until yesterday.

Still.... I think they turned out pretty well. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Narrow Escape

I learned today that had I been born Italian, my name would most likely have been Immaculata, because that's the feast day.

I consulted a Feast Day List published by the Catholic Church and learned that, apart from it being the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, there are only 3 saints on my feast day and they are all pretty obscure.

So..... something to be thankful for. I could have been Immaculata Patapia Macaria.

Though, I must admit the picture is working for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow of the Season - 2009

This is what I saw from my bed when I opened my eyes this morning. Only 3 or 4 inches, but it's one of those perfect winter days - blue sky, snow covering everything, not too cold.

Here's another picture of our backyard taken a little later.

Museum of Fine Arts

The COG and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts, as part of a day in Boston to celebrate our anniversary (37 years, what a miracle!) These photos are of one of my favorite things there. It's... well I don't know what it is exactly.... a big mirrored cube 10 or so feet in each direction. And the artist made all these silver bottles and created this infinity scene with them. Each side has a different set of bottles stretching back to infinity. I love it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Haircut



After, side view:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Useless (yet fun) iphone apps

Cat Paint is an app that lets you add cats and kittens to any photo on your iphone.

I submitted this example to a Cat Paint Galleryonline. Scroll down or look for the title "I can haz chocolate?"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nantucket Cranberry Pie Recipe

Here is a fantastic, very simple, but very delicious recipe to make while cranberries are in season. Or any other time, since you can use frozen berries. It's really more like a cake than a pie, but, really, make it. It's gooooooood and easy. Excellent for taking to a pot luck.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

For the Filling:
Butter to grease the pie pan
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

For the Topping:
2 eggs
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Place the cranberries in a buttered 10 inch pie plate (I actually use an oval or rectangular ceramic dish). Toss the sugar and walnuts over the berries.

Cream the eggs and butter with the sugar - I do this in the food processor. Ad the flour and almond extract and mix. If using a food processor, do not overmix or it will be tough. Scoop the topping over the cranberry mixture and level it out with a spatula. The topping will be very stiff.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden and beginning to pull away from the sides.

Serve warm (or cold) with ice cream or whipped cream or just cream.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Puzzling British Signs: Part 5

Found an old picture - blurred because it was so cold and I was shivering, but you can still make it out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Star Trek

Just have to share this bit of a review of the latest Star Trek film from The Guardian:

"The best Star Trek movie to date, except for Galaxy Quest."

Thanksgiving 2009 - A Locavore Thanksgiving

We had a locavore Thanksgiving this year. Turkey, veggies, the apples for the pie, the camembert-like cheese, even the wine were all locally produced.

The day started when the Bride got up and put the turkey in the oven. Then, Son of took the COG and Bride of to a wild cranberry bog in an Ultra Secret Location - we were blindfolded and driven in circles for miles. Although we weren't sure we would find any so late in the season, we found lots of berries. We picked about 2 quarts, shown here.

Came home and made cranberry sauce - the traditional kind. This was a sacrifice because The Bride loves cranberry orange relish, but there are no local oranges. Sigh. Still, the cranberry sauce was really good.

We started the meal with a trio of vegetable salads, in the French manner. We had a carrot salad, a beet and walnut salad, and a celeriac remoulade. Yummy.

Son of and The COG at the table. A word about the wine. It was local. It won an East Coast award. Opinions were divided between 'drinkable', 'nearly drinkable' and 'hardly drinkable.' Not worth 2 Weight Watcher points, at any rate. But it was local and that was the point.

Son of made the apple pie (local apples, flour from Vermont)(sugar and spice not local). It was a very complicated recipe. He did most of the steps before we ate. After dinner, he finished the pie and put it in the oven while we watched Star Trek (the newest movie) on our new Blu Ray dvd player. Midway through the film we had apple pie and ice cream. Divine! The movie was good, too.

About the Blu Ray player - all of a sudden, we have one. Not sure why. I think The COG was reading The Man Book chapter on Must-Have Technology, so he ordered it from Amazon. Fun to have, though.

Eating local is good to do. It's good for the environment, it's good for local farmers and fisheries and wineries etc. It's also interesting to eat as much as possible that is locally produced. We are lucky to have the Appleton Farm CSA (where nearly the whole meal came from) and the Gloucester Fish CSF, plus, access to local farms that have meat and eggs etc. But coffee, tea, citrus fruit, cinnamon, raisins, sugar, lots of seasonings (curry, cinnamon, nutmeg etc.) - these will never be local and I just don't want to live without them.

And the wine - that's a complex one. Supporting local wineries and distilleries (we just bought some vodka from Gloucester) means that they will stay in business and maybe they will get better. Certainly wines from California, Oregon, South America, and the Antipodes have improved greatly over the years. Maybe Massachusetts wines will, too. Or they'll discover what they do best and keep getting better at it. That's why we bought, and drank, the wine. There are already some very nice wines we've had from vineyards near Cape Cod. And we'll keep buying them but we won't give up wines from far away.

I guess the thing is to keep the list of non-local items as small as possible. Moderation. Balance. Harmony. Ohmmmmmm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Day, Another Cupboard

Only 'After' pictures this time. I"ve been clearing out all the junk we had put into the dining room while the reno was underway. Today I got rid of 6 boxes of Stuff. All of it Nice Stuff that I just didn't need. I also filled a box for the Daughter of COG and I put some things away for the Son of COG. Here's hoping I can talk him into taking some Stuff. Right now there are about 4 boxes sitting on the lawn by the road with signs - FREE Good Stuff - on them.

These are two pictures of a cupboard I've been working on. My goal was to get all my china into that cupboard. I've spent days making little organizing things for the inside - you can see the smaller shelves, for cups and little bowls, at the back of each big shelf. And in one picture you can see the stacking thing I made for platters.

I still have too many little pitchers and too many teapots, but I have far fewer than I had. So it's progress.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Absolute Dream

This is The Bride's Dream Space - A perfect union of form and function

Before and After- Glass Cupboard


Number of items broken during removal and replacement: 2
Number of items sorted out to be given away: 30

Internal conversation while painting: "How much glassware does someone have before loved ones start planning an Intervention?......."
Internal conversation continued: "But I didn't _buy_ all of it, some of it was gifts or inherited. Really. No Intervention necessary. Look.... I"m getting rid of 30 items. I don't have a Glassware Problem."

The pictures don't do this justice - the 'before' white background was dirty unpainted plaster. The blue shelf liners were 14 years old.

Newly Painted Kitchen

Jusst a couple of pictures of the newly painted kitchen, with the new island in the center. They aren't great pictures -lighting is tricky. I"m going to have the COG take some better ones.

Now all I need is a new counter depth fridge.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Mexican Breakfast", Helpfully Explained

Not sure what this is exactly. It says Gwen Verdon's performance of 'Mexican Breakfast' - that doesn't clarify much.

But whatever it is, the helpful explanations are cracking me up this morning.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Old Photo, Just Discovered.

The Bride's Brother, looking like a young god sometime in the 1980s.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Pet Blog

Not Cat of CoG, but someone's pet. Pretty amazing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

We interrupt this blog ....

Breaking News! Grumpiness is good for you! This is great news for the COG.

According to The Guardian, an Australian researcher has found that grumpy people are better at decision-making, less gullible, make fewer mistakes and are better communicators. Click here for the full article.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More things to do in Brighton

The black spots in this picture are surfers swimming out into the surf. You can surf in Brighton! Who knew?

When I say 'you can surf in Brighton', I mean it literally. "I" will not be surfing there or anywhere in the forseeable future.

Though, I can't speak for the COG, bless his adventurous little heart.

View from the front of our apartment

This was taken immediately in front of our flat, showing the view to the sea.

Man and Van

Isn't this a good idea! How many times have you wanted a nice man with a van? And they work by the hour, or half day. There was also an eco option, a man and a van that runs on old cooking oil.

Things to Do in Brighton

Something I would love to do in Brighton, were I going to be there on Nov 29. Click twice on the image to enlarge it - it says "A sumptuous evening, performed in full period costume in an evocative candlelit-style setting" and features performances of Bach, Handel, Purcell, as well as Four Seasons by Vivaldi. At the Brighton Dome, which is formerly the stables of The Pavilion.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Brighton Fashionista

I know you are all wondering what the fashions are in Brighton this year. I am sorry to report that it's the pantless look, plus either flats or Uggs or, sometimes, heeled ankle boots. These leggings are worn with t-shirts or sweaters that ride up over the bum at the first step taken.

I blame mothers for this - they clearly haven't read the chapter entitled 'Over My Dead Body' in the Mom Handbook.

Not that all the people wearing it are young. The women in the second and third pictures are old enough to know better.

The fourth photo - terrible picture, but I had to include it because of all the stripes going in different directions. Click twice on the picture to enlarge for full effect.

Notice the variation in the last picture, in which the handbag is worn in such a way that the bum is covered. In the same picture, on the right, notice the tights are made from a denim-look knit, perhaps intended to make you think they are just skinny jeans. And on the left, the tunic length sweater. I'd say the girls in this picture know there's something not quite right with the pantless look, but have succumbed to peer pressure.

Random Moss

This is just random moss growing on chalk cliffs but, from this angle, it looks just like Dog of COG.