Saturday, July 25, 2015

Little Kid Art Over the Years

(Note:  next blog posting will be in two weeks--August 8th.)

We used to wonder about what I might call Little Kid Art for which school children were given Styrofoam meat trays on which to produce a collage ... or macaroni for necklaces.  I figured that since it was all supposed to be fun, those in charge thought that good materials were the least of it ... although my own mother had the opposite view.  She always gave my brother and me good paper for our artwork.  We both had our own red sable brush, not something made from pig whiskers.  She figured that using good materials gave one a sense of self-worth.

But somewhere along the way kids have been told that whatever they produce is just Jolly Marvelous.  That's because we mustn't tamper with their sense of self-expression which would stunt their growth.  Rather than directing them in any way, we must let them go along at their merry pace.  Well, I can see some sense in that.  But, I can also see the advantage of raising their standards by expecting more from them than meat-tray art.

A friend and I once judged some local student art, giving prizes for watercolor, drawing, and painting.  The painting turned out to be mostly acrylic, not oils.  Nothing wrong with acrylics but oils are an excellent medium and not hard to use.  The drawings were done with pencil and pen-and-ink, as you would imagine.  The "watercolors" were done with colored pens.  No tubes of paint.  No brush-work.  Just colored drawings.  My friend and I had a hard time finding any piece that was actually done with watercolor paint, using a brush.  The students probably went from pre-k poster paint to colored pens, never venturing into watercolor at all. 

I suppose little kids in the Old Days were busy doing other things:  bringing in the cows, helping make the family's candles, walking miles to/from school.  I know almost nothing about one of my great grandmothers except that she lived in Maryland and produced a truly beautiful needlework sampler--her own embroidery--in 1829 when she was either nine or ten.  She was surely given some direction in handling the medium (embroidery) ... as well as in doing as good a job as possible so that she could feel pleased with the result.  She surely was not simply given a needle, some "twist" (embroidery floss), and told, "Susan, go for it!"

Just something I wanted to say!

Sorry, discoloration in all these photos is really my reflection in the glass.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Gallery of Photos: Garden Tour Time

Under gloriously sunny skies, it was garden tour time again this past weekend in nearby Westminster--a benefit for Westminster Cares ("Neighbors Helping Neighbors").  Reflecting the height of summer beauty, the gardens speak for themselves.

Thanks, C., for your company!

And thanks, too, to the gardens of Mary and Gordon Hayward (#s 1-6), Fran Renaud (#s 7-8), Cyndy Fine (#9), and Ann Kebbell (#s 10-11).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cooking for One

Yes, I was one of those who had a large dining room table and came up with dinner party recipes for six, eight, or ten of us.  I had a fine collection of cook books and enjoyed plowing through them for tasty combinations.  (All on an electric stove and no dishwasher.)  Of course, I also fed the family three meals a day for I don't know how many years.  I made sourdough bread, zucchini pickles, yogurt cheese.  We grew our own tomatoes, green beans, lettuces.  Even then (the '70s and '80s) we were concerned with eating as organically and locally as possible.

Then things shifted and I found myself cooking for one.  Over the years, bit by bit, I've gotten rid of most of my cook books.  On yet another downsizing roll, I've now discarded even more.

Here's what's left.

In fact, they no longer fit my life style.  I no longer give dinner parties.  Nor do I know anyone here in my age group who does.  If people do happen to get together, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's potluck or take-out.  (Mostly, we opt for lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant.)

But cook books have two main flaws for the single cook.  All the recipes serve 4-6 or 8-10 or 10-12.  Not simply one!  Of course, I can cut the recipes in half or in quarter, but then, if it calls for cream, say, I'm using such a small amount, it doesn't pay to buy it and have it go bad in the fridge while I'm thinking what else to do with it.  Or, a recipe calls for 5 egg yolks.  (Which makes a cake I can't possibly eat by myself ... and I don't really know anyone who eats that sort of thing anymore.)  Then there are the egg whites to deal with.

Another example:  I recently re-read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea in which she mentions making biscuits.  Ah, biscuits, I thought.  They sound good.  So I got myself a quart of buttermilk and made a good dozen.  But I only needed 2/3 c. of the buttermilk. It never much works to freeze buttermilk ... and I don't like drinking it.  As for the biscuits, I had two for breakfast and put the rest into a container which I suppose will end up in the freezer.  Can you imagine the French (my role models when it comes to food) taking a biscuit out of the freezer and eating it?  They like things to be fresh!  

Then, too, by the time I've adjusted a recipe to my single-status needs, I've left out a lot of ingredients I don't even get because I can't use them up--which means the final product only half-heartedly resembles the original recipe.  So, why even bother using recipes anymore?  Or keeping cook books?  We can always go on-line to hunt something up.

There's also the seasonal issue.  When it's tomato season, I can't remember where that tomato recipe was that I once saw.  Or, later, that acorn squash dish that looked possible. 

What I need is someone to come up with The Single Person's Seasonal Cook Book.  Small amounts.  Listed by season.  Not requiring ingredients that are only sold in prescribed amounts that will just spoil before I can think what to do with them.

As you see in the photo above, I am still keeping my favorite cook books but probably more for sentimental reasons than anything.  I do still enjoy sitting down and paging through them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Up, Up, Up and Outta Sight

As a precaution against winter blues, I recently gave some thought to extending my time away this next winter and going off for a few weeks before heading to my spot in Santa Barbara mid-February to the end of March.  (A Minneapolis woman has it before then.)  But in looking on-line, I came up with big sticker shock.  Of course, Key West, which is walkable and colorful (good photos), was totally out.  But so were St. Augustine, San Antonio, Santa Fe, San Clemente, the Caribbean, etc. all with plenty of nice places for $200 and $300 a night.  Even the tiny accommodation I had in Hawaii only four years ago had gone up by a good $1000 a month.  (And a friend said her place there went from $1900 to $2800 a month in just a year's time.)  I always wonder:  how can people pay that!

Where I stayed

And then people seem to justify such high prices by saying, "Well, things keep going up," as if that was news I'd never heard before. I can tell you one thing that doesn't keep going up and that's income.  Mine, yours, most people's.  In looking around, I wanted a place that was warm, sunny, where I didn't need a car (just more expense) and could walk to town for groceries.  Also, a place I could reach by train or plane.  (Since I wouldn't be taking my car.)  Just for the fun of it I started pulling place-names out of an internet hat to see what the world offered.  I didn't try Moldavia or Bulgaria which I figured were cheap, but I did look at Split, Croatia, which I know nothing about but which turned out to have "reasonable" accommodations, meaning under $100 a night.  As did Nicosia, Cyprus, where I stayed once--guest of a friend.  An interesting city, half Greek, half Turkish.

Of course, that would mean paying air fare to Europe (as well as going through that highly unpleasant experience these days of flying) ... plus transportation from here to Logan Airport in Boston.  Only a very few years ago hiring a driver from here to Boston cost something like $150 one way plus gratuity.  Now the price is $320 one way.  Sticker shock!!  I remember one year when I flew across the Atlantic for less than it cost me to get to Logan.

Then (same subject, different example) I recently read that the minimum wage required to rent a two bedroom apartment in this state is $20.68 an hour ... and that 40% of the households in this town do not make that much.  We used to say that one paid a quarter of one's income on housing.  No more, my lads and lassies.  I could easily move to an apartment in town that would take 100% of my income.  (And they call that good housing for seniors?)  (Maybe they figure you won't mind using up all you made by selling your house, but, I ask, what happens when you get to be 83, you've reached the bottom of the pile, and they turf you out?)

Well, as we're gradually bumped out of one market after another, let's acquire a few flexibility skills.  For instance:  it would seem to me that not all these vacation rentals are full all the time.  So rather than being empty, why not fill them by really decreasing the price!  What do you say to that!