Sunday, February 28, 2010

HIlarious Babelfish Translation.

I was amusing Miss T with YouTube this morning and encountered a video I made showing a 360 view of a walk in Spain a few years ago. I found that I had a comment, which was in Spanish.

Gracias, son todos mis recuerdos tambien, muchos anos caminaba este camino y cada vez de nuevo estaba fascinado de la naturaleza.

So, I went to Babelfish to translate it.

Thanks, are all memories also, many anuses walked east way and every time it was fascinated again of the nature.

The funny thing is that the translation I guessed at - speaking no Spanish - was probably more accurate:

Thank-you, this brings back memories, many years ago I walked the Eastern Way, something something... fascination of nature.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thank You God For Hot Water!

The power and internet and phone are all back up after being out for 30 hours or so. What a miracle it is to be able to take a shower in hot water in a warm house. Life is Good.

Although, we did quite well in the interim. This is a picture of dinner last night with candles. It was cozy. I could get used to that - if we could have cooked and bathed, too.

Here is the background to this story. It rained and was windy all day Thursday, nothing unusual. We went to pick up Daughter of and Miss T from the airport at 10pm. Cranky went into meet them and I waited in the cell phone lot. The plane was about 1/2 hour late and as I waited the wind was tremendous - it made the car shake wildly and the sign near me shake in the wind. I thought how nice it was to be in a warm safe car and attributed the wind to being close to the ocean. Daughter of arrived and I picked them up. She said it was the worst landing ever, the plane fishtailed as it descended because of the high winds. We later learned that the wind at Logan was 60 mph and, nearer home, at Beverly, was 67 mph. On the Beaufort Scale this is classed as a Violent Storm, Hurricane winds start at 73 mph.

We drove home, noting that the driving was a little easier than coming because the wind and rain had let up. But, soon after we hit the final stretch, route 1A, we realized all the lights were out on all the houses and stores and so were the traffic signals. Cranky started to worry about the sump pumps, which are all that stand between us and an indoor, subterranean pool, with appliances and furnaces etc. floating in it. We drove on and suddenly the car ahead of us stopped. So we stopped trying to figure out what was happening. After a bit we realized there was a tree across the entire road. A car came from the opposite direction and was able to drive around the treetop by driving off the road. The car in front of us did the same and so did we. We started to realize how much damage had been done because we had to drive slowly to avoid large branches all along the way. We got through Hamilton and on the other side, there was a huge tree completely across the road, so the Police were diverting traffic.

A conversation with other people there who were also trying to get to Ipswich was kind of scary and we started to wonder if it would be possible for us to get home at all. Route 1 and Topsfield Roads were impassable, as well as Mill Road, and all the back way to the west of Hamilton. So we all trooped off looking for a back route to the East. At 1.7 miles from home we encountered another tree, tried another route and found another tree. Finally, we backtracked and were able to get to Essex, and thence, home. But Heartbreak Road was blocked on one side and Argilla (the only other path home) was nearly blocked as well - we drove on someone's lawn to get around the fallen tree. By this time it was nearly 1:30am. It took us 2 hours to go the last 5 miles. We later discovered that the worst of the storm was between 10 and 10:30, so we were out at the worst possible time.

Once home, we discovered ankle deep water in the basement, which was actually good news because it meant the water hadn't gotten up to the elevated level of the washer/dryer/freezer/ or furnace. We have a gasoline generator, which The COG immediately turned on. We found some candles and flashlights and, finally, got to bed. Not that we slept very well because we were afraid the generator was going to run out of gas at any moment. But it took us through the night, and at about 6 am, I went out in search of gas and coffee.

Which took a long time because, although most of the major roads were passable (some of them down to one lane because they were still clearing trees) the signals were out and all the gas stations and Dunkin Donuts etc. were dark. However, I did finally find gas and coffee. Spent the afternoon at the Mall, came home to eat by candlelight (having bought warm chicken and lettuce for dinner).

Early to bed - I think I went at 7:30 - and at 2am we woke up. I think that the lights going on must have woken us.

We heard that 1 million people in New England were without power or phone, 100,000 of them in the towns around us. The paper said it was a 'storm surge', which I guess means that it was not predictable.

So, now we are back to normal.

So lovely having Daughter of and Miss T here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Doll Carrier

This is the doll carrier I made for Miss T., who arrives tomorrow. It perfectly fits the 12" doll I bought.

I didn't have a pattern for this, so I had to figure it out as I went along. Consequently, it took much longer than it needed to. But I really enjoyed making it. Note, in the first photo, the little mattress and pillow I made to go inside. Also the velcro closure.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

John Keats

I just realized that today is the 189th anniversary of John Keats death, in Rome, aged 25. Here is a reading by Ben Whishaw, from the wonderful soundtrack of Bright Star.

Doll Quilt

Daughter of COG and Miss T (Granddaughter of...) are coming in a couple of days. Miss T is very attracted to baby dolls and I have bought her one. It's a 12 inch doll and I bought a little push chair to go with it. I also bought a basket to make into a bed. I made a mattress and pieced a little flannel quilt. I can't believe the amount of energy that went into this little bed. I cut waaaaay more pieces than I need for the quilt, and carefully cut each animal patch, so the animal would be centered. It's cute in the end, but I'm not sure it was worth all the work.

Except I really enjoyed doing it.

I also made a little carrier like a Moses basket, which I'll post tomorrow. That took even longer because I had to figure out what I was going to do at each step of the way - the consequence of working with no pattern.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sings of Spring

This morning, I sat in the sunshine on my deck, drinking my tea, listening to birds sing and watching the Dog of COG run around sniffing things. I was perfectly comfortable without a coat on.

I also took this picture of a crocus by our house.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dogtown, Boulders and Inspirational Carvings

While the poor old COG worked today, the Son of and I took Dog of COG for a walk in Dogtown.

Dogtown is the site of an early settlement of Cape Ann and has a really interesting history. Abandoned as a settlement in the 19th century, it is now a huge wild wooded area owned by the adjoining cities as a recreational area. In places, you can still see remnants of stone walls and the foundations of early houses.

Geologically, it's a terminal moraine, and it looks as if some giant baby threw their boulder/blocks all over the ground. One of the odder things about it is the Babson Boulders. During the Depression, Roger Babson, a local millionaire, hired unemployed stone masons to carve motivational sayings on about three dozen boulders. We only saw a few of them -- 'Truth', 'Work', 'Kindness', 'Spiritual Power', 'Loyalty', and 'Be On Time.'

And, that's the Dog of COG standing in front of 'Courage'.

Other stones we will look for on future trips in better seasons are 'Get A Job', 'Help Mother', and 'Never Try, Never Win' amd more and better, besides.

If you are curious, there is more information and better pictures at Wikipedia, Click Here for the link.

Note: this is an additional site, addressing ViVi's wish to see what's on all the Boulders: Click Here for Babson Boulders

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ipswich River in Snow

The snow we didn't get last week, we've gotten today. I took the car in for servicing and walked home, stopping on the way to take a couple of pictures of the Ipswich River in snow.

Someone told me that recently 49 states had snow on the ground at the same time, only Hawaii was snow-free.

Monday, February 15, 2010

One more thing about John Keats

Nathaniel Hawthorne (who looks so much like Brother Enward in this famous picture) wrote a short story in 1845, called "P.'s Correspondence" which was one of the earliest works of alternative history. The story was about what Keats later life would have been like, and what poetry he would have written, had he not died so young.

I haven't read it, but it's on my list.

"Mr John Keats, five feet tall' Sails Away

A poem which I have loved for a long time, by Thomas Lux.


on the Maria Crowther,
a cargo brig,
of 127 tons bound for Italy,
Naples, the sun
which was thought would cure his cough, his lungs.
The day: Sunday, 17 September 1820.
With him: Severn,
a painter, his nurse-companion;
Mrs. Pidgeon, a pain in the ass
and cold; Miss Cotterell,
like Keats consumptive
and "very lady-like but a sad martyr
to her illness," wrote Severn;
the captain and crew.
This was not a pleasure cruise.
Second day out: the sick
and the nonsick get seasick
and 'bequeath to the mighty sea their breakfasts.'
Storms, water by the pailful
in the sleeping cabin; calms, nary a puff.
A squall (Bay of Biscay),
a calm again (Cape Saint Vincent),
then, one dawn, Gibraltar, the African coast!
Then, Bay of Naples,
Saturday 21 October -- ten days
during which not one porthole opened
it rained so hard and long.
Welcome, Mr Keats, to sunny southern Italy.
Then, by wagon, on roads ripe
with malaria, to Rome
from where in the two months plus
he still has lungs
he does not write again to Fanny Brawne,
whom he loves,
though he does write about
her to a friend
the famous sentence: "Oh God! God! God!" (in whom
he had no faith) "Every thing
I have in my trunk
reminds me of her
and goes through me like a spear."
And the better but less quoted
next sentence: "The silk
lining she put in my travelling cap scalds
my head." The verb choice "scalds"
perfect here (literally he had the fever,
figuratively...). the tactility
fresher, the melodrama cut
by an almost comic hyperbole. It is
more Keats than Keats,
who died 172 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days
ago -- this tiny man
John Keats,
who wrote some poems
without which
inch by inch -- in broken
barn, light,
in classrooms (even there!),
under the lamp where what you read
teaches you what you love -- without which
we would each,
inch by hammered inch,
we would each
be diminished.

Bright Star

Finally watched Bright Star last night. What a sad, sad, short life Keats lived. And he felt he was a failure when he died - asked that his tombstone not have his name, but, instead, say 'here lies one whose name was writ in water.' The last words of the last letter he wrote (to Charles Browne from Italy on Nov 30 before his death in Feb 1821) were:" I can scarcely bid you goodbye, even in a letter. I always made an awkward bow."

And yet, he wrote Ode to Autum, which many consider to be the best poem ever written in the English Language.

And Fanny Brawne? She married 13 years after Keats' death to a man 12 years her senior. She was survived by 3 children when she died in her 60's. She left behind the letters Keats had written her.

Ode to Autumn

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 5
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease; 10
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day 25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Treat

I made a special Valentine's Day dessert today - Coeur a la Creme. You make a lovely cream cheese and yogurt and lemon peel and sugary goop and pour it into cheese cloth in a heart shaped mold with holes in the bottom. Leave it overnight to drain, so it's firm. Then serve with raspberry coulis.


Love and Houses on Valentine's Day

The COG and I drove our Mini up the coastal road to Portland to celebrate Valentine's Day. I saw this house and fell in love. The first and second pictures show more detail. The third picture shows the whole property of house and attached stables/barn whatever.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"There is no Frigate like a Book, to take us Lands away," Emily Dickinson

Or in this case, Lands near home. I've spent some hours lately in Salem and, as usual, it made me remember a book I had enjoyed as a child - 'Tam Morgan, The Liveliest Girl in Salem". It's still in print and I thought it would be fun to reread it.

I remember liking a lot about the book, but I didn't love it, although I can't remember why I didn't love it. And I have to say that upon rereading it I had very mixed emotions.

As in all my favorite childood books, the heroine, Tam, was a red-haired orphan who was always in trouble. If these favorite heroines weren't orphans, they were neglected or even mistreated by their supposed caretakers. I think I loved these books because I instinctively knew from an early age that in adulthood I would have to overcome the stigma of a happy childhood in a stable, two-parent family. Girls like Tam, and Anne and the rest of their sisterhood gave me valuable pointers.

Tam was motherless. Her father was alive, but he worked long hours as a ship builder. Tam was responsible for cooking and housekeeping and, frankly, she wasn't very good at it and had a tendency to go off playing around the docks with her best friend, a boy. She had bare feet and her clothes were always a mess and she only washed herself on Saturdays. All the neighbors thought she was shockingly badly behaved. Midway through the book, her father marries and brings back her 2 little brothers (6 and 4ish) who have been reared by an aunt since their mother died. The new stepmother is pretty and nice and soon Tam is minding her manners and enjoying wearing pretty dresses and, generally, acting like a girl.

I'd like to believe that my childish memory of liking the book was from her pre-girly behavior and the part I didn't like was the girly Tam at the end. But I'm not entirely convinced of it. The only sop to my feminist consciousness is that there's a pretty, very girly girl named Felicity who becomes a friend of Tam. Her prissy behavior gets modified to be more like Tam's tomboy behavior and that is considered to be a Good Thing in the books. So, in the end, the female role model presented is polite and pretty, but at least, it is also adventurous and out-going.

And why not? There's nothing wrong with being polite and liking pretty things, as long as you aren't polite because you are swallowing rage at the Patriarchy etc.

Apart from the story, it was fun to read this book set in old Salem - actually in 1789. I know this because in the book George Washington visits Salem - which really happened. And I know that, in the real world, after spending a few nights in Salem he rode on to Ipswich, where he had lunch with the Important Men of Ipswich, including the Heards, and then on to Newbury where he spent the night.

So that was kind of fun. And, also, Tam and her father go to Marblehead to pick up her little brothers and to meet his new wife-to-be. Marblehead is described as a kind of huggle muggle fishing village, much less grand than Salem. As I was in Marblehead a few days ago, it was fun to read about. And the author had clearly taken pains to be somewhat historically accurate, as she credits the Peabody Insitute and the Essex Museum, which have since merged to become the Peabody Essex Museum.

I'll just end with this quote, which seems apt:

"The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and good bad books, create in one's mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life, and which in some cases can survive a visit to the real countries which they are supposed to represent." George Orwell.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steamed Puddings

We were all psyched up for snow yesterday and none came. There were lots of cancellations, kids sent home from school early... no snow. Everyone is kind of puzzled and the weathermen are all a bit sheepish.

Anyway, it was a perfect day for a steamed pudding. Basically it's a cake batter, a little thicker and heavier but still pourable. You put some kind of sauce or syrup in the bottom of a basin, then pour the batter in on top. Cover the basin and put it in a steamer for 2+ hours. To serve, you turn it upside down so the syrup that hasn't soaked in pours down the sides.

Americans don't steam puddings this way, but they should. The cakey part is warm and moist, the syrup part is hot and sweet and the kitchen is full of steam and warmth and goodness. A very satisfying thing to do on a cold winter day, when snow is forcast. Even when it doesn't actually appear.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cranky's Mangatar

The COG will never do his own mangatar, so I did one for him using a picture of him smiling on vacation in France. It's so cute I fell in love with him all over again.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brian Cox Masterclass with Theo

Possibly the best Hamlet soliliquy ever.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Poem of the Day

My Grandmother's Ghost

She skimmed the yellow water like a moth,
Trailing her feet across the shallow stream;
She saw the berries, paused and sampled them
Where a slight spider cleaned his narrow tooth.
Light in the air, she fluttered up the path,
So delicate to shun the leaves and damp,
Like some young wife, holding a slender lamp
To find her stray child, or the moon, or both.
Even before she reached the empty house,
She beat her wings ever so lightly, rose,
Followed a bee where apples blew like snow;
And then, forgetting what she wanted there,
Too full of blossom and green light to care,
She hurried to the ground, and slipped below.

James Wright


My beloved friend Lulu died this morning at 94 years of age. She had a rich, full life, was very active until the end. She died at home, surrounded by people she loved.

I will miss her. I can't imagine Ipswich without her.

Here's a story that tells something of her wonderful spirit. When she decided it was no longer safe for her to drive last year, she sold her car. Her Christmas card showed her sitting on a motorcycle with the caption that she had "traded in her sleigh." It was a typical example of her wit and her approach to life.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And another thing....

The Orpheus Trail, by Maureen Duffy, is in the first person - the aforementioned historian/director of a small museum. He is supposed to be a man, a widower, and be starting a new relationship in this book.

What's weird is that it was unconvincing as a male POV. I can't tell you exactly what it was that made it so, but it was a particularly female sensibility in some way. I had a lot of trouble with that, too, although I could have finished the book if not for the Hated Plot Device.

Plot Devices I Hate

I just stopped reading a book - The Orpheus Trail, a mystery by Maureen Duffy- because it employed a plot device I HATE. The hero, an historian/ director of a small local museum, has lots of information about a series of gruesome murders. He does not go to the police with this information on the weak excuse that he "doesn't have enough information" to go to them. Instead, he investigates the crime himself. This is despite the fact that the police repeatedly ask him for help AND the information he is withholding is clearly relevant to the case- he is receiving threatening letters, his cat has been kidnapped, and he has seen the last person one of the victims spoke to (whom he hasn't mentioned to the police), doing some suspicious things.

I don't very often stop reading because I am annoyed at the writer, but I just did. This had all the ingredients of a book I could have liked a lot, but the stupid plot device of the hero putting himself in danger because he doesn't go to the police is just laziness on the writer's part.

This plot device in mysteries is similar to the plot device in romances where the entire plot is a result of two people not talking about something that normal people would talk about and that would take about 2 minutes to clear up. Instead, there are 200 pages of angst because they don't talk.

I can't stand those either.

'nuf said.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reworked Mangatar: With New Glasses

I lost (suppressed sobbing) my favorite Chanel glasses in Brighton. I now have a new pair - black rimmed- bold statement glasses. I'm trying to move on (collapses weeping on desk).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dinner Out

We took Mother of The Bride out to dinner at a local restaurant called 1640 Hart House. The name is a reference to the building it's in, the oldest part of which dates back to 1640 and was built by the Hart family.

Sort of. The two oldest rooms were purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Winterthur museums, but they have been recreated in situ so they look old. The room we actually ate in was truly an old room with a huge walk in fireplace with a little fire in it.

It was a nice meal. The salad was made of ordinary ingredients, but it tasted wonderful. Mother of the Bride had braised short ribs which were a bit fatty, but looked nice. The COG and I had the same thing, as usual, sesame seed crusted tuna on a bed of arugula vinaigrette, which was really delicious. We shared two desserts, bringing most of both of them home. One was a Chocolate Gift, which was chocolate cake with chocolate between the layers and frosted with chocolate and a bow of chocolate, like a little gift. Really cute. And we had Caramel Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream. Yummy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sorting Books for Friends of the Library

A couple of times a month, I sort books that have been donated to the Ipswich Library. These are used books people don't want anymore and we sell them in 3 book sales over the course of a year. All of the tubs and boxes stretching to the ceiling are filled with books sorted since the last book sale. We are having a small sale this Saturday, so some of them will be sold to make room for others. You can see how much we need the space!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Kitchen Essentials

We needed a functional kitchen in Brighton, so I spent a lot of time making lists of things that are essential to me in the kitchen. Here is the final list. The only things we haven't gotten yet are a toaster and a mandoline - we make toast under the broiler and haven't shredded anything so far.

What do you find essential? Is there anything you'd add to the list or take off the list?

Chef's knife
2 paring knives
Bread knife
mid sized Santoku knife
silicone spatula
microfile for cheese
garlic press
measuring cups
measuring spoons
dishes of 8 (dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, pasta bowls)
8 mugs
cutlery for 8
8 water glasses
8 wine glasses
8 beer glasses
salt shaker
pepper grinder
pitchers large and small
tea pot
salad bowl and salad tongs
wooden spoons
mixing bowls
poultry shears
potato masher
mortar and pestle
small, med, lg saucepan
soup pot
grill pan
teflon fry pan
hot pads,
cork trivets
tea towels
food storage containers
tea kettle
Melitta Coffee Filter, and filter paper
espresso maker / Bialetti Moka Express 6 cup
knife sharpener/whet stone
can opener

Monday, February 1, 2010

In summary.....

I created 34 blogs in January. That's more than one a day, although I did skip some days. Now it's Februry and I have just created this pathetic excuse for a blog to fill space on February 1.

So I'm throwing you all a bone - this photo of a Stoat is one of the winners of the wildlife photography contest for the National Trust of the UK. I think it's adorable. To see all the winners Click Here.