Monday, December 31
Wednesday, December 26
Monday, December 24
FRESH BAKED CHRISTMAS COOKIES
from finish to start! I made only four kinds this year, just the old standbys.
My husband insisted that I include this shot that he took: a rare Cookshop Cook sighting!
I have a thing for cookie cutters. This is only a small percentage of my large collection! Here they are all washed and dried and ready to go into action.
and everybody have a WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!
Sunday, December 23
I wonder if it is possible to draw any conclusions about families by looking at how they decorate their Christmas trees? Visiting a friend recently, I realized that her tree was almost completely feminine in nature. Peopled with angels, fairies (like this one), pixies and ballerinas; draped with ribbons, pearls and glittering crystals it is a girly-girl tree if there ever was one! And females do outnumber the males in that household. In my own home, where I am the lone outpost of the female...our tree has a more masculine look: mostly Santas, gnomes, toy soldiers and gingerbread men hanging out here, and red and blue shiny balls.
So, after thinking about this for a while I went out and bought myself a sparkly-winged long-tressed Christmas tree angel! I haven't yet had her infiltrate our He-Tree, but I'm slowly working up the courage.
Saturday, December 22
Friday, December 21
Thursday, December 20
I love hearing all the different instruments singing together. Of course I was alert to catch one sweet voice in particular. P is a first violin but there were no solos. I think I may have caught just one recognizable tone or two, hanging in the air. Anyway, the orchestra performed beautifully at their Winter Concert!
Wednesday, December 19
PEACE LIKE A RIVER
For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of nations like an overflowing torrent; you will nurse and be carried on her hip and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
What a beautiful verse! Such a rare and wonderful God-as-a-mother metaphor. But despite all the hymns and songs to the contrary, I've never felt that peace is really a primary association with rivers. They so often seem to be rushing past, filled with dangerous rocks and broken branches and strong currents, flooding their banks and wreaking havoc on the countryside. Peace like a still pond I could understand, or even, peace like a shining puddle after a storm! But then you wouldn't get the beautiful extended metaphor of overflowing blessings pouring upon the land.
Anyway, this is a shot I took yesterday of the Brandywine River in Greenville, Delaware.
Tuesday, December 18
Monday, December 17
O THE CHICKEN AND THE IVY...
I was at a party recently with my neighbor who runs this featherheaded flock, and we started chatting with some people who had not met Fay before but knew of her chickens (they're famous in our neighborhood.) "Ah, yes, The Chicken Lady! And now, who are you?" one said, turning to me politely. That was easy: I'm the woman who lives next door to The Chicken Lady!
Saturday, December 15
Friday, December 14
EARLY MORNING GLORY
Moist chill in the air
sunrise bee clambers stiffly
from her morning bed
Taken about a month and a half ago. We had an unusually warm autumn, but now the flowers are gone.
Thursday, December 13
Wednesday, December 12
NEW YORK CITY NIGHT
Horns and sirens sing
flocks of people surge past-
lights pulse in the dark
Just back from New York. As usual after such a day I am tired but at the same time fizzing with impressions, feelings, ideas, dusted with residual energy from a city that never sleeps....
Well, so much for that. I'm off to bed now.
Tuesday, December 11
Monday, December 10
Sunday, December 9
Saturday, December 8
ANKHS A LOT
Yes, we made ankh-shaped sugar cookies the other day! A warm-up for the big Christmas Cookie bake-a-thon which is fast approaching. I bought son H an ankh cookie cutter a few months ago when I was at the Brooklyn Museum because he's in an Egyptian phase and their gift shop specializes in all kinds of Egypt chachkas. Finally we found some time to try it out...delicious and festive! I am sure if the ancient Egyptians had thought about it they'd have made ankh cookies too, don't you think? Hey, maybe they did! Here's the recipe.
1 cup softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine, then add:
2 1/2 cups sifted white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix ingredients till well-blended.
Chill dough 3-4 hours before rolling.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll and cut. (Sprinkle with colored sugar at this point, if you want.)
Bake 8-10 minutes or until gently colored.
Cool on a rack.
Makes about two dozen cookies, depending on the sizes you cut.
Friday, December 7
days shorter, colder-
first fall of snow- shivering-
we root and hunker
For anyone who doesn't want to gain weight, this time from just before Halloween to just after New Year are what I think of as The Danger Days. Our bodies seem pre-programmed to want to pile on last-minute fat to get us through winter into spring. In the northern hemisphere, the seasonal changes alone probably instigate a lot of these urges (less light triggers depression triggers over-eating in many people for instance.) Our culture supports this basic instinct with holiday after holiday that necessitates food and drink and plenty of it. Coincidence? I don't think so.
It is so interesting how humans take the primitive urge and refine it, smelt it into a different yet still recognizable form. I'm not complaining, just pondering. I'd sure rather be a human with a plate of Christmas cookies and a glass of eggnog in my hand than one of these pigs fattening up to be the Easter ham!
Thursday, December 6
Wednesday, December 5
Tuesday, December 4
Monday, December 3
Sunday, December 2
EVENING GLOW ON THE HUDSON RIVER
I, the merest speck,
peer through a small glass eye, see
the large world glowing.
Yesterday was the artist's reception for a show I am currently in at Sherry French Gallery in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. A beautiful day and here is the stunning view from the gallery's windows. For more info on that show, click here.
Friday, November 30
Thursday, November 29
HAPPY CHICKEN CHASE
My neighbor Fay keeps chickens and they occasionally escape. This is a lot of frustration and worry for Fay, but is a great source of fun for the rest of the neighborhood! Son H was the first to spot a rogue chicken entering our garage just the other day, and the hunt was on! Many amusing ambushes, failed sorties and pratfalls later, Fay had (both!) the runaway chickens tucked firmly under her arms.
n.b. For all you chicken aficionados out there: I got a lot of response to my egg yolk comparison post from last week! Someone who wrote in, Paige Orloff, keeps chickens herself and blogs about them occasionally on her blog Tales from the Parkside. Enjoy!
Wednesday, November 28
Tuesday, November 27
Monday, November 26
Saturday, November 24
and eatin' and thankin', but back home again now. Here are P and H, who think they see some giant fish in a rocky pool on one of our woods walks. There is nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in streams. (My apologies to Kenneth Grahame for messing about with his famous quotation!)
Tuesday, November 20
vs. unnatural. On the left is the pale yolk of a battery-farmed egg from my local supermarket, on the right is the deep orange yolk of a free-range egg from my Farm Share. I've actually met those chickens, and looking at the contrast between the two eggs you can see it pays to know where your eggs come from!
On the subject of whole foods, a friend of mine has started a blog devoted to this subject: welcome to Blogland Ayala! I just LOVE when friends and relatives start blogs (you know who you are!) It's always a whole different look into their lives and thoughts.
Friday, November 16
is today's theme at Photo Friday. There was a horrific accident just scant minutes ahead of me on the highway yesterday. I was racing off to Henry's IEP meeting and had inadvertently cut it a little fine. Oh well, I thought, what's five minutes? Well, I guess it can be a lot! Traffic parked on the highway for about an hour, while emergency vehicles and police rushed to the scene. With such an obviously serious disaster just a short ways away...I doubt anybody could feel impatient or irritated by the wait. Medevac helicopters hovering overhead certainly put one's own little "emergencies" into perspective. Very sad and sobering, the realization that tragedy had struck, just around the bend of the road and the reminder that "In the midst of life, we are in death". Finally the Fire Police routed us off onto the median and back the direction we had come. Having no natural sense of direction at all I fumbled (extremely carefully) for my phone and got my personal pathfinder (my husband Paul) to direct me via a different route.
I arrived at the IEP meeting, shaken, tired, and over an hour late. I was just in time to catch the end of the meeting, sign papers and shake people's hands. I guess It's an ill wind that blows no good. - John Heywood (c.1497-1580)
Thursday, November 15
PORTRAIT OF HENRY
asleep. He's on a new medication that makes him drowsy in the afternoon so he takes a nap. Sort of like a very elongated toddler. What an angel (when he's asleep!)
We have his IEP meeting this afternoon. These are always very anxiety-provoking, as any special needs parent can tell you. If you have a chance to send out some good wishes, prayers, or light for us, that would be very welcome!
Wednesday, November 14
Tuesday, November 13
HANDS AND MINDS IN MOTION
At a recent family party for my mother's 80th birthday (Happy Birthday dear Mom!), a lot of the children were playing this lively round game. It involved sitting in a circle, clapping and hand motions. It seemed very fast and complicated, but uproariously fun. I was surprised (and pleased) to see nary a gameboy or portable DVD player in sight...just boys and girls playing real interactive games. After this, came a long session of hide and seek, and I saw some of the older kids hanging out, talking and playing cards in another room. So great for their brain development not to mention their social skills. (And yeah, just plain fun too!)
Monday, November 12
Wednesday, November 7
Monday, November 5
Some of the last harvest treasures from my farm share. I always draw on eggs I hard boil with a soft pencil. I used to just write HB on them (for hard-boiled) but I soon got bored with that prosaic attitude and now our hard-boiled eggs always have funny faces on them.
Friday, November 2
is today's theme at Photo Friday. Made me realize that most of my photos are about softness, stillness and repose. (Maybe it's time to get my thyroid meds adjusted!)
These men were practicing in a leafy glen in a city park. Like Robin Hood and his men in the forest. Strength training in a leafy bower! I wonder if the absence of that particular gym bouquet: sweat, hormones, and industrial strength cleaners, helps or hinders these pastoral athletes?
Thursday, November 1
Wednesday, October 31
My lovely friend Shawna shows off her Halloween style. A bobble spider headdress and false eyelashes with rhinestone trimming! I asked her to close her eyes so you could see the detailing on the lashes.. incredible! I have to say I have never ever seen the like. Shawna sure knows how to celebrate a holiday with panache, unlike myself. I dug an orange turtleneck out of the hamper and said "Done!" Flashy or quiet, have a Happy Halloween everybody!
Monday, October 29
Friday, October 26
hung like heavy moss from the rafters of Audubon's barn. I was visiting Mill Grove a few days ago, and my friend Eliza and I went into the empty barn, only later realizing this was not actually allowed. We are not criminals,just kerfluffle heads. Security is pretty sparse there, which is all to the good for us unintentional rulebreakers.
Thursday, October 25
how fast they disappeared. Inspired by a visit last month to Jordan Pond House, I made popovers for the very first time last night. They were extremely successful, to say the least. However, trying to follow the directions which instructed me to fill each cup halfway, I found myself confused by the tapering nature of the cups. What was halfway? Did they mean halfway lengthwise, or volume-wise? The last thing I wanted was overflowing batter charring on the floor of the oven (because I am too lazy to clean it) and so I erred on the side of filling the cups a little scantily. The popovers rose like crazy, but without enough volume to actually pop over (overflow) and I had enough batter left for two more after the original six came out. I smugly thought how nice it would be to have those two all ready for the boys' breakfast the next day, but a friend dropped in unexpectedly and soon there was not one speck of popover left over.
Which is, of course, how it should be.
JORDAN POND HOUSE POPOVER RECIPE
(this is from the recipe card that came with the pan I bought in their gift shop. I edited it slightly.)
1 popover pan
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter,
cut into six even pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400F and set oven rack in middle position.
Blend flour, salt, eggs, milk and melted butter until mixture is smooth and has the consistency of heavy cream, about 1 or 2 minutes in an electric mixer. (note: the batter can be made ahead and stored in the fridge but should be brought back to room temp before using.)
Oil or spray popover pan. Then preheat popover pan by placing in oven about for 2 minutes. Remove and place 1 small piece of butter in each cup. Place pans back in oven until butter is bubbly, about 1 minute. Fill each cup half full with batter and bake 20 minutes. Reduce temp to 300F and continue baking 20 minutes.
Makes 6 full-sized popovers (or 8 more slender ones if you are new to the job like me!)
Popovers are best hot from the oven, served with butter and jam.
Wednesday, October 24
Friday, October 19
You'd never know you were in the heart of my adopted city, Philadelphia, standing by the Schuylkill River enjoying the feel of the autumn sunshine and the plashy sound of oars as scullers row by. At moments like this I feel immensely grateful that I ended up in this beautiful place. At other times (fighting our suburb's notoriously adversarial school board for services for my special needs child) I feel less happy. However, a bike ride by the river has an amazingly soothing and refreshing effect on one's tired spirits.
Thursday, October 18
There is something about islands. Maybe people who are attracted to island living have an eccentric streak? Or aren't as concerned about mainstream (mainland) fashions or conformity. Whatever, I always feel some deep inner muscle unclench when I step foot onto an island. And I guess other people feel that too, then reach for their spray paint.
This is from last month's visit to Monhegan Island, but I just finished reading The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island which is set on Isle au Haut. It sounds like that island too has a very colorful population. And even has some colorful trucks!