Tuesday, October 30, 2012

after Sandy

 Hunkered down yesterday, watching the wind gust and blow.

This morning tree limbs and branches everywhere.

But it's nothing compared to what's going on in New York and New Jersey.

“Although the wind ...”

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

                            -poem via The Poetry Foundation

Monday, October 29, 2012

flowers in the house

 It will be a wet and windy couple of days, so I was glad to bring the last of the flowers inside yesterday. Usually I put them in simple vases, jugs and jars but this sweet vase was calling for attention.

A single rose, sedum, hydrangeas, and autumn leaves mingle summer and fall.
Jump over to Jane's for Flowers in the House from around the world.

I have stacks of books everywhere. This one is pretty typical of my reading--a mix of fiction and non-fiction, with poetry, magazines etc. mixed in. I have not read Cloud Atlas yet, but I will this winter. The Canon is a wonderful book on the basics of science; perfect for someone like me who is interested in, but never studied science. I've read it before, but of course I've forgotten almost everything. It came to mind when I was in New Mexico near Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was developed, which brought up incredibly disturbing thoughts. It was the astronomy section of The Canon that helped me understand thermonuclear fission and fusion, the power of stars that

alone can start with the simplest lightest atoms, like hydrogen and helium, and forge them into the whole periodic palette of the elements, into all the Rubenesque beauties with their thickset nuclei--nickel, copper, zinc and krypton, silver platinum and gold... (from The Canon)

Also in the stack is Image and Imagination, Georgia O'Keeffe which juxtaposes black and white photos taken by John Loengard of the artist and her surroundings, with her paintings.

It is early morning in Massachusetts and our power has already gone out briefly, so it may go out for a longer time once the storm effects really reach our region. If you don't hear from me for a while, that's why. I have books, bottled water, candles and peanut butter--I'm ready for anything. Stay safe, everyone.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

on Santa Fe and expectations

I did not expect to like Santa Fe--assuming that excessive money and "style" (a word that makes me grit my teeth) would have leached it of character, that it would be an overwhelming experience of bad art, high prices, exploited Native Americans, Navajo blankets, and turquoise--a caricature of what it once was. There was quite a bit of that, but Santa Fe's essence as a lovely, interesting, historic town prevailed.

 I enjoyed wandering the streets and visited four of the museums--Georgia O'Keefe; Indian Arts and Culture; International Folk Art; and Contemporary Native Art--and am sorry I didn't have time for the four or five others--an astonishing number of museums for a large town/small city.

The ubiquitous strings of chilies, simple adobe buildings, touches of bright color, and use of natural materials harmonize beautifully.

I came thisclose to bringing home a string of chilies.

Monday, October 22, 2012

here and there

I came to New Mexico because I wanted to see new landscapes. Different colors, textures, light. Sometimes the Northeast feels so crowded and insular, and come November, dark and cold. I've been dreading winter.

Tomorrow I will go home and enjoy the last weeks of autumn. I'll try to be positive and look forward to the good parts of winter--the warm and cozy books, fires, hot chocolate, snow days ones. I will think back on pink hills and green chili enchiladas and be grateful.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

vistas, New Mexico

I rhapsodized about New Mexico's varied landscapes in my last post, but didn't include pictures of them. My little point and shoot camera and I cannot do them justice. For example, the above is another picture of the Taos Pueblo. Taos is at 7000+ feet altitude, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are more than 13,000 feet, but you get no sense of that from the picture. They look like big hills.

I am better with the closeups. 
However here are some vistas, to give you an idea:

 The leaves on the cottonwood trees glow. It's strange to see all that vibrant yellow against the stark mountains.

Just a taste of what I've seen. Do an internet search for "New Mexico landscape images" for more and better.

"The skies and the land are so enormous, and the details so precise and exquisite that wherever you go you are isolated in the world between the micro and the macro, where everything segues under you and over you and the clock stopped long ago."
                                                                  --Ansel Adams (on New Mexico)

Friday, October 19, 2012

landscapes, New Mexico

The most striking thing about New Mexico is the constantly changing landscape. Pink mesas. Deep gorges. Gray buttes. Alpine meadows. Snow-capped mountains. White sands. Massive cottonwood trees whose yellow leaves glow as if lit within. No wonder Georgia O'Keeffe was so inspired.

Above pictures from the extraordinary Taos Pueblo. You can read about it about it here and here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

a quick hello from New Mexico

Saint Pascual, adobe, chiles, fresh tortillas, new friends. 
Heading into the mountains today.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn Monday

My Massachusetts kitchen.

When I asked you to guess what color teapot I bought, I forgot there was a red herring on the path--the future (possibly red) Catskills kitchen influenced some of you.  I didn't chose it with a kitchen in mind, but to complement the mugs I always drink tea from. 

For several years my husband got these mugs, which I adore, for me for Christmas. However my teapot was white with blue flowers which clashed, but it never occurred to me to buy another one until it broke.

You can see that I chose orange, which many of you guessed. I like to carry a small pot of tea, a mug and a book to my favorite reading chair. It's nice and heavy, has a removable infuser, and I love the warm color and chunky shape. Right now I am re-reading West With the Night by Beryl Markham, which is fascinating and beautifully written. The pile of books in the picture is my growing winter reading collection. I panic at the thought of a reading shortage.

My weekend was good, but no time for details now as I have work to do and tomorrow I'm going on vacation. I hope to post from the road and to keep up with your blogs, but if I'm absent you'll know why. Since you are so good at guessing, where do you think I'm going? My criteria was, in the U.S. and a different (from the northeast) landscape. I'll make it easier and tell you I was influenced by an artist.

Enjoy your week.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Catskill weekend, looking forward

Now that the store is closed this will be the first Catskill weekend in more than two years that I have free time during the day. One thing I won't be doing is cooking. World's ugliest kitchen has been demolished. That's okay--all l need is a coffeepot (and coffee to put in it).

Of course food plays an important part in my plans. I look forward to a Saturday morning waffle at the Pakatakan Farmers Market. It's the last market of the season so I will stock up on pesto, apples, cheeses, and more. I want to prowl around Andes and have lunch at Buttercup, a new restaurant. Take a glorious rollling hills/red barns/autumn leaves drive to The Bibliobarn via Bovina so I can get something delicious from Two Old Tarts. I might even check out the travelling exhibition from The Eight Track Museum that opens Saturday. (Do you remember eight tracks?)

And you know I'll be spending time here. Maybe I'll see a bear.

Hope you have a lovely autumn weekend. (Or spring if you are on the other side of the world.)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Neruda, a question

All leaves are this leaf,
all petals are this flower,
and abundance is a lie.
For all fruit is the same,
the trees are one, alone,
and the earth, a single flower.

             Pablo Neruda

When I read that I thought of how I sometimes look at one of my sons, and see him when he was two, climbing the concrete dolphin at the Cobble Hill Park and laughing, or at the Botanic Garden running beneath the cherry trees, or on the old green couch listening to me read Blueberries for Sal; and I see a million other specific moments--they are all within him--he is an adult now, but he is still that child, that moment, those moments. 

But I don't look at him and see all boys. What is Neruda telling us?

It could be seeing the world in a grain of sand, like Blake; but I don't think it's that either.

I can't explain what it means, but I can feel it, I can almost grasp it--it takes me somewhere beyond itself; the way music does, but which words rarely do.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn Sundays

 My autumn Sundays are planned around football. I do chores and cooking early.

 Yesterday I made mac & cheese. This super-easy recipe is adapted from one I found in the New York Times. You don't have to pre-cook the noodles.

1. In large bowl mix together 1 cup cottage cheese, 2 cups milk, salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

2. Add 2 cups or so of grated cheese. I like to use sharp cheddar, and I throw in whatever's around--goat cheese, parmesan, blue...I then add sauteed mushrooms and baby peas if I have them, but that's optional.

3. Add 1/2 lb. uncooked elbow noodles. Mix everything together.

4. Pour into buttered 9" pan. Cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove foil, stir gently, bake uncovered for another 30 minutes.

I also made banana bread. It has a bitter taste though. Did I add too much baking powder? Does baking powder go bad? It's pretty good with peanut butter on it.

I'm fall cleaning and that includes a 3-day sale in my Etsy store. 50% off everything for 3 days. Enter coupon code FALL50 at checkout. Contact me for international shipping rates. I don't like to use this blog to sell, but thought in this case it was worth mentioning. Hope you don't mind.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

book love

I love reading essays--they are compact, intimate, informative and thought-provoking.  I read everything by John McPhee, Joan Didion, Anne Lamott, Susan Orlean and Diane Ackerman. For food writing I love M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, Laurie Colwin, and Calvin Trillin. Trillin is humor too, as is David Sedaris. Thoreau and Emerson, of course. Virginia Woolf. E.B. White. Peter Hessler's collections on China. Anne Fadiman, Gretel Ehrlich, Annie Dillard. And so many more...

Styles vary--some, such as McPhee, put a little distance between writer and reader. Others are conversational--I think of them as friends in a book. Anne Lamott is like that. The late, great Laurie Colwin. Here is the opening paragraph from one of her essays in Home Cooking:

"How depressing it is to open a cookbook whose first chapter is devoted to equipment. You look around your kitchen. No chinoise! No flan ring! No salamander! How are you ever going to get anything cooked? What sort of person is it who doesn't own a food mill?" (Laurie Colwin, The Low-Tech Person's Batterie de Cuisine)

Opening sentences from a few writers, to show you how tone can vary:

"In January of the current year (1870) while dining in Paris at the house of an old friend of mine, I received from M. Du Camp, the well-known writer and expert  on the statistics of Paris, quite an unexpected invitation to be present at the execution of Tropmann..." (Ivan Tugenev, The Execution of Tropmann)

"No one perhaps has ever felt passionately toward a pencil." (Virginia Woolf, Street Haunting)

"The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place." (Rachel Carson, The Marginal World)

"I have been campaigning to have the national Thanksgiving dish changed from turkey to spaghetti carbonara." (Calvin Trillin)

"It's May and I've just awakened from a nap, curled against sagebrush the way my dog taught me to sleep--sheltered from wind." (Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces)

My shelves are filled with essays and narrative non-fiction. Two excellent anthologies are The Art of the Personal Essay, edited by Phillip Lopate and the Norton Book of Nature Writing. I highly recommend the Best American series that comes out every year. I am stocking up on winter books (as though I  will be living in a 19th century wilderness or post-apocalypse bunker) and will treat myself to the 2012 Best American Essays, Science and Nature Writing, Non-Required Reading, Sports Writing and Travel Writing. Do you enjoy essays?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the scarlet kitchen

My mention of red kitchen cabinets has emails flying; faxes, tweets, telegrams, and letters with stamps on them too. Design gurus quoted and astrologers consulted. My sanity questioned. So let me give you context.

The little black dress of Catskill real estate is a farmhouse with 20 acres. We looked at many of them in our search for a country weekend house. So charming, just what a reader of this blog or visitor to my store, might picture me in. 

Then we saw this.

and this.

Heavily wooded, roaring waterfall, bluestone slabs, ferns and moss galore--
 it felt primeval, we fell in love.

We hated the boxy cedar 1980's house with the world's ugliest kitchen.
But houses can be changed, and we've been chipping away at it for a decade.

Last year we replaced the odds and ends of furniture in the great room. (Yes, I have to call it that. 80's, remember?)

The dining area opens onto the great room. The kitchen is behind the wall with the picture on it, and that wall is coming down. My theory is that barn-red cabinets would harmonize with the rustic old dining table, red chairs and rug, and provide a nod to the area's dairy farms.  Red cabinets mixed with cream, and dark soapstone counters. But who knows? Maybe natural cherry. Or concrete and stainless steel. Anything except the current shiny laminate the color of Silly Putty. I don't plan to post much about this process, would rather explore other regions, but I promise I'll show you when it's finished.