Saturday, November 30, 2013

Appreciating Art Around Us

There is beautiful art all around us!


... on the bark of a tree!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saying Good-bye to an Old Computer

It was quite a shock when this old computer "died" a few days ago. I tried to turn it on, but something prevented it from opening windows... an update perhaps. (I no longer allowed updates as they weren't usually compatible with Windows XP, but sometimes they occur automatically.) I tried to reinstall the program, but was informed that the disk had been corrupted. At that point I turned it off for the last time.

I shouldn't lament - it's about 11 years old - long past the time most computers are used. It was my son's - bought with money he earned at McDonald's during his high school years. I had bought one in 1999 - so that it would work in the new millineum... (Remember our worries about Y2K...?)

But it wasn't fast enough for the games he wanted to play. Come to think of it, I still have the old computer we used before this one... I wonder if it still works!

After buying our first laptop - so that we wouldn't have to sit in the basement to use the computer - I went down there and used it mainly to type letters. Hooked up to our printer, it holds our Christmas letters and family resumes of the past decade.

Now that it has totally stopped working, I wonder if I should try to remove the hard drive and retrieve all that data - or simply rely on hard copies that are lying around. I may have made a backup of some of the important documents a while back, in anticipation of this day. (But I'm not sure!)

Part of me wants to go to the expense of taking it to a repair depot to see if the hard drive can be removed and put into a hard drive reader... But would we ever use it?!

I remember spending hours carefully removing all the data from my hard drive space at work before I retired. And I don't think I've looked at it since!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

First Snowstorm of the Winter!

Yesterday our first major snowfall of the winter arrived, covering the roads... and the garbage that had been put out for pickup.

Overnight our almost-bare ground turned into a "marshmallow world"... in the words of an old song!  

How many snowstorms on average do we get in a winter? I ask Terry.

Four or five, he replies.

Well, that's one down! Hopefully, if snow arrives early, it will leave early, too.

(Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out like that!)

Snow is actually pretty amazing - the way it clings to bare branches!

If we could just sit indoors and admire it, it would be quite lovely... But now the hard work begins!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Quilt-in-a-Day... Not!

For several weeks now I have been working on this "quilt-in-a-day"...

I have several quilt patterns that can, supposedly, be made in a day - not that I've ever done it!

But I do like the short-cuts the method teaches.

Cutting the fabric usually takes me several evenings or afternoons...

Then another few days to make up all the squares...

This pattern requires 160 of each square...

So progress is slow.

The fun begins when I start to assemble the pieces!

Suddenly, magically, the design emerges!

(Haven't reached that stage yet... so those pictures will have to wait!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Red Morning Sky

Yesterday's sunrise was spectacular!

Its reflection even shone on windows on my western horizon.

Then I remembered the old saying: Red sky in the morning... Sailors take warning!

Oh no, what was in store?! Until then I had been worrying mainly about my noon hour dental appointment across town. Now I had the weather to worry about, too!

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Happened to My Pottery?!

I have been struggling through my pottery classes -  trying unsuccessfully to make symmetrical "cylinders" such as mugs and bowls.

Don't worry, my pottery instructor has said after every imperfect attempt. It'll look great when it's glazed.

(Yes, but will it be useful for anything practical?!)

Not long ago, we glazed them. They looked pretty nondescript going into the kiln, covered with a powdery glaze.

But what happened next?!

They came out so changed that I didn't recognize them as my pots!

In fact, the symmetrical ones now look less attractive (in my opinion) than the wonky ones!

Lesson learned: Never fear failure. Imperfect pots can be beautiful, too!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Snow Again!

I shouldn't be surprised to see snow outdoors - after all, it's the end of November!

But it did make driving a little slippery...

It takes us all a while to get used to our new reality...

(I think it's time to put the patio furniture away!)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Squash Soup

My "squash family" portrait was done...

Nothing left to do but make squash soup!

Terry had recently enjoyed some at the Green Door, a favorite vegetarian restaurant, so I used the recipe from their cook book. It is simple and makes enough to freeze. (I used the two yellow squash in the middle of the picture!) The hardest part is peeling the uncooked squash. Another time, I might microwave it a bit to soften it first.

Here is the recipe:

  • Cook 5 cups of raw cubed winter squash in 8 cups of water, until it is soft. (About half an hour)
  • In a second large pot, chop and fry one onion, a leek and a large carrot in a little olive oil for a few minutes until soft.*
  • Add 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger. 
  • Then add 2 cups of the soup broth and cook until ready to eat.  (Also about half an hour.)
  • Puree the squash and water mixture in a blender. 
  • Then mix both mixtures together.


Comments: Terry enjoyed the soup as is. I added several spoons of salsa to my bowl to spice it up a bit. The recipe suggests optionally adding paprika.

*I added a second chopped onion in place of the leek.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Problem With Retirement...

The main problem with retirement...

... is that there isn't enough time to do everything I want to do!

Am I slowing down?

Or has life become too much fun?!?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Neighborhood Honey Locust Trees?

Years ago I was surprised when my Israeli neighbor showed me some long brown pods: These are from the locust tree. When the New Testament says that John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey, the writer didn't mean that he ate the insects. It simply meant that he was a vegetarian. He ate food that grew naturally in the area.

Her interpretation of "locusts and wild honey" intrigued me. Did he make these pods into a paste as his main diet? I guess we can never be sure: As unappetizing as it sounds to me, the locust insect is a Kosher food, too!

More recently, I was equally surprised to see that honey locust trees grow in our part of Canada. Someone brought locust pods to our botanical drawing class - pods she had found nearby on the ground.

I plan to draw a few - but should I also try cooking them? Are they the same species that grow in the Middle East? (I know so little about trees!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Learning to Glaze

I have reached a new stage in my pottery class... learning to glaze.

Once the pottery has been baked in the kiln for the first time, all the water has been burned out, so it is porous.

Now to dip it into one of the many buckets of liquid glaze. I have chosen a glaze that can be baked at two different temperatures. Some pieces will be baked at cone 5, others at cone 6. Even though they have been dipped in the same glaze, they should end up being different colors.

(The magic of it all!)

Here are some items ready to be taken out of the kiln.

I've learned that glazing - like the other steps in pottery making - is something that should not be done in a hurry! (I needed to rush to an appointment, so I didn't take enough time to do it perfectly. I'll see how it turns out next week - after it has been fired in the kiln!)

There is so much to learn! I have never been a patient person. I usually like to get things done and move on - but pottery making is teaching me to take time to do it right. As I work with clay, I'm discovering that it has characteristics of its own and I have to respect them!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Keeping Indoor Plants Under Control

I love to be surrounded by plants, indoors and out. I don't fuss much with them. Mostly, I just water them and leave them alone!

Occasionally I do have to divide potted plants, like this African violet (above) that has grown into two bunches of flowers.

Sometimes I have to trim back indoor trees.

I don't like to do it - they look unattractive for a while.

But before long, they usually recover.

If I don't want plants to take over the hallway or block the TV...

... it has to be done!