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Posts from December 2008

Salvoes of good wishes

Hand-made Christmas presents from old jeans, fabric scraps, bells / Dec. 2008

"And we danced and sang and larked, until we could no more. And finally we chanted a song of ceremony, and separated; ending the day as we had commenced it, with salvoes of good wishes."

~ The Feast of St. Friend

Merry Christmas!

Bake on a nice day only


Make sure to follow the recipe -- especially the directions about baking on a nice day only / Dec. 2008

Today is baking day
It is a nice day
Measure, sift, beat
Pour, form, bake
Smell, savor
Two traditional recipes
A Baltimore Hot Milk Coconut cake
Croatian Almond Crescent cookies
Today is baking day
It is a nice day

Take care with the words

My new office curtains glow with color everywhere and brighten my days; I used a fabric called Sketchbook from the Drawing Room collection by Anna Maria Horner with unbleached muslin lining and black grosgrain ribbon trim / New Jersey / Dec. 2008

Elizabeth Alexander has been selected by Barack Obama to be his inaugural poet. She says: “Words matter. Language matters. We live in and express ourselves with language, and that is how we communicate and move through the world in community.”

this is your life. Get up and look for color,
look for color everywhere.”

~ from the poem Today's News by Elizabeth Alexander

Bread of spices

This year Older Bro created delicious gingerbread animals (horse/donkey in foreground; rooster in background); previous creations included a sturdy house and the amazing gingerbread train. Gingerbread is often translated into French as pain d'épices (literally bread of spices) / Dec. 2008

We had our traditional viewing of the movie It's A Wonderful Life. It seemed particularly timely this year. When there is a run on the bank (just saying those words makes me think back a few months to the specter of failing banks), George Bailey tells one of the men that the Bailey Building & Loan didn't foreclose on his house when he couldn't make the payments. The scene where Uncle Billy loses the bank's deposits to Mr. Potter because he's so excited about his nephew (Potter actually steals the money; he knows it's Uncle Billy's but he doesn't return it) is always too painful to watch and I have to leave the room. This year was especially bad — I feel like I've had my retirement savings stolen by Mr. Potter and his modern-day cronies. As Paulo said, it's all Potters running the world — are there no more George Baileys?

Of the palace of the Snow Queen


The fur and the cap, which were made entirely of snow, fell off, and he saw a lady, tall and white, it was the Snow Queen. “We have driven well,” said she, “but why do you tremble? here, creep into my warm fur.” Then she seated him beside her in the sledge, and as she wrapped the fur round him he felt as if he were sinking into a snow drift.*  / New Jersey / Dec. 2008

There is a thrift store on my regular walking route and a long, white cape has been in their front window for several weeks. The first time I saw the cape it startled me — it seemed so out of place in this part of the world — and “Snow Queen” popped into my head. Each time I go by I think about the poor Snow Queen missing her embellished gown and fur-lined cape. How had they ended up in this little thrift store down the block? Had the Snow Queen fallen on hard economic times? Was she just cleaning out the old stuff from her closet? Was there really such a thing as the Snow Queen? Well, yes — a creation of the imagination of Danish writer and poet Hans Christian Andersen. Published in 1845, The Snow Queen or Sneedronningen (Danish) is a story of the struggle between good and evil. An evil troll creates a magic mirror that only reflects the bad and ugly. The mirror is shattered and a fragment pierces the eye of a young boy (named Kay) making him mean and aggressive. The Snow Queen abducts him after Kay hitches his sled to her sleigh carriage (or sledge) and takes him to her icy cold palace on Spitsbergen. Kay's best friend, a girl named Gerda, sets out to bring him back, getting help along the way from a collection of characters. Eventually the boy is rescued — saved by the power of Gerda's love and devotion.

* from The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

I'll remember when the lilacs bloom


A young Mr. D served in WWII in the 3rd Army Anti-Aircraft Coast Artillery / Dec. 2008

I think of the people that come into our lives for a short period of time but leave a lasting impression — both for who they are and for how they make us feel. Mr. D was an older next-door neighbor. He liked to sit on his porch and listen to the radio and nap. He talked about the things he had done in his life including working at a Stetson hat factory in Philadelphia and running his own deli. And in the way of older people, he griped about how the world had changed since he was young. A Jersey boy who loved to get his hands in the dirt, his prize plant was an exotic banana-leaf plant with huge leaves. He loved helping me and would offer his skills, no matter what I was doing. A thriving lilac bush in my yard that he planted and watered faithfully during a dry summer stands as testament to his skills. One year he and his wife helped me plant tomatoes. He would dig a hole exactly the right size, add Miracle Grow and put the plant in. She would compress the dirt around the plant's roots just so, using her hoe. I was awed by their skills. I danced at a party celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. After several years they moved and we kept in touch only sporadically. A call last week let me know that Mr. D had died at the age of 86. I felt the loss for his family and for myself. He thought I was special. He was always glad to see me. Can we ever have enough people like that in our lives?

An ardent supporter of black and white


The finished hand-sewn cropped black and white houndstooth jacket (McCall's 5244) with sari lining and the perfect button thanks to A; attaching the interfaced collar to the body strained the limits of my hand-sewing enthusiasm / Nov. 2008

Schiaparelli's affinity with modernism was reflected in her own wardrobe, which was invariably black, white, or black and white. British Vogue for January 1930 described the designer as 'one of the most ardent supporters of black and white, and her enthusiasm is shared by many women who find this combination distinguishing and becoming.'”

~ an excerpt from Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973)

Fufluns' legacy of fun


Fufluns was an Etruscan god of vegetation, vitality, and gaiety — a perfect Thanksgiving deity / New Jersey / Nov. 2008

A common post-Thanksgiving-feast-activity is the breaking of the wishbone. Some say that the Etruscans believed that chickens were fortune-tellers because roosters crowed to announce the start of a new day and hens squawked to announce they were laying an egg. And that the Romans took some of the Etruscan beliefs including one that described the powers of the wishbone to make wishes come true and passed it along to the English who carried it to the New World and Plymouth Rock, transferring its powers to turkeys since they were so plentiful here. At this year's feast the third oldest and the third youngest took part. He grabbed one side of the bone, she grabbed the other side, they each made a wish and pulled to break the bone. Pappy got the bigger half, designating that his wish would come true. But Pappy, being the gentleman that he is, had wished for her wish to come true. I think Fufluns would have approved.

Houndstooth 1

A case of the blues: a hand-sewn houndstooth fleece jacket with patterned insert and copper ribbon trim made from an old Burda pattern; made of angled pieces (see the back side after the jump); the collar can be worn up for warmth or open / Oct. 2008

Yesterday's post mentioned blueprints. They are so-named because of the process used to print them called cyanotype where a photosensitive compound is applied to paper. When the paper is exposed to strong light the “printed” areas are converted to insoluble blue ferric ferrocyanide, sometimes called Prussian blue or iron blue.  

Prussian blue (also called Hamburg Blue, Paris Blue, Milori blue, Haarlem blue, bronze blue, celestial blue, cyanine, oriental blue, and potash blue) is a very dark blue, colorfast, non-toxic pigment. The discovery of this pigment (circa 1704) was important since it was the first stable and light-fast blue pigment to be widely used by painters and artists (previously many of the blues they used would fade or were prohibitively expensive). Prussian blue has been used as a pigment in printing inks, paints, typewriter ribbons, and carbon paper.

Solutions derived from Prussian blue are the basis for laundry bluing. Somewhat counterintuitively, it improves the appearance of textiles, especially white fabrics. Adding a blue dye solution (e.g., baking soda mixed with synthetic ultramarine, or sometimes Prussian blue) to the wash disguises yellowing and makes whites appear whiter. Need to brighten your whites and colors? Try Mrs. Stewart's Bluing (it's not-toxic and biodegradable, too!).

Continue reading "Houndstooth 1" »

What's in a name


Does the Blue Print Co. still make blueprints, I wonder? / Savannah, GA / Aug. 2006

The topic of nicknames came up. It seems they are less common for children today. In the past they were a necessity when children were named after their parents and grandparents and it made no sense to have everyone answer to the same name. I recall teachers who insisted that I would have to use my “real” name rather than my nickname when I was older. Of course I never believed them — nobody was going to tell me what name I could use. Many people don't seem to understand nicknames and how they are often shortened or personalized or ethnic versions of another name. An airline “official” insisted that 'Jack' was a nickname for 'John' but 'Lisa' could not be a nickname for 'Elizabeth'. Her ignorance cost me $50 as I had to have my ticket re-issued in my “real” name.

I have a name for any occasion. The name I use most commonly is a nickname for my second given name (also known as a “middle” name — though I always tried to attach it to my first name since I felt alienated from that name). The bank knows me as first initial, second name. The state knows me as first name, first four letters of second name (old computer programs only allowed a limited number of characters and it's never been fixed). Another government entity knows me as firstnamesecondname all-run-together (I went through a phase where I insisted on always attaching the second name to the first name). A credit card company knows me as first initial, second initial. Let them all call me what they will. I have secrets that they'll never know.

“Does anyone call Titi Merin Esmeralda?”
“Oh sure. People who don't know her well — the government, her boss. We all have our official names, and then our nicknames, which are like secrets that only the people who love us use.”

~ Esmeralda Santiago writing about finding out as a child that: 1. Her "real" name was Esmeralda and the name she was called was her nickname.  2. That she called her aunt by her nickname, "Merin".  3. That she was named after her aunt — they shared the name Esmeralda.