A Long Catch Up

Yesterday the pond man came, took out all the fish, removed all the sludge, plugged back in a UV light, fixed the leak, power washed after pumping all the old water, and put some very happy fish back in. Plus he moved one of the lotus to a better location. It is a great relief that he will be here to take care of any problems. Pond looks terrific….never seen it look so good.

I am going to be all over the place here so if you haven’t got a drink, get one, or read this all later when you do have the time and the drink.

Do you ever have a piece of clothing that you just can’t let go? This shirt is it for me. I have made two from the pattern my seamstress friend in Hobart made for me but the original that is getting so thin just needed one more set of patches and stitch. Maybe the next time the front gets covered with grease spatters that don’t come out, I will consider the rag bag, but not now. It is waiting in the closet for a special occasion of leaving the house and sitting opposite someone else sipping a drink. Could be quite a while.

I did not have any more of the grey worn out pants to cover the front again (that fabric went into covering journals). So I found bits of the very first Flax clothing line pants I ever bought.

I did a bit of stitching around the patches so they did not looked so marooned on the surface.

And I completely finished the Social Distance book.

It closes up like a portfolio and I used small red buttons with a black waxed linen thread wrapping it closed.

Each of them was given a red heart.

I might stay with this cut out idea a bit longer…just need the right bit of writing.

And speaking of writing, I am going to write a story to go with the Stoat Land pages. I think that there are few phrases that carry as much magic as, “Once upon a time.”

So because the two concertina sets of pages are tied together in their valleys on each side, I have an opening between them. I think that opening would be perfect to have removable pages of text. So reading all the front section along in order left to right by pulling pages and reinserting them when you go to the back side to continue the story left to right, the text for that side is on the back of the page of the previous side. I may tie a string to each page so it gets back where it belongs. And I love the idea that the ending is on the back of the beginning.

I was just going to have it pictures but when I drew the cow in the cart, I thought it needed to be a story about leaving home and going off with a stoat. And I still like the idea of having pictures that are loosely arranged in the order of the alphabet. I have no idea why the cow is in the cart…both “c” words that I couldn’t shake is my best guess.

I have to admit that this book is reminding me a bit of those books and/or illustrations of people trapped in mental institutions. Many years from now this one may find its way into the same archives, but for now it is giving me as much diversion as I am sure their’s did them.

My drawings a day continue…six whole days finished since my last post of them.

Pairs of tiny deep

purple trumpet blossoms peek

out from heart-shaped leaves.


A coreopsis

stunted by the sad practice

of poor gardening.

Invasive mint plants

are especially welcome

to the mint julip.


Tip of the grape vine

reaching out to hold on til

the grapes start forming.


I picked off a small

branch of our corkscrew willows

from along the drive.


This is called crown vetch

a rambling wild welcome weed

growing all over.

And I did make some more Anzac cookies and took the suggestion from the Montsalvent page to use a glass dipped in water to flatten them a bit before baking. They are delicious!

I need to start thinking about lunch. It will be the last chicken noodle soup from the freezer.

More cooking days ahead.

Til later.



Interesting Week in the Kitchen and Elsewhere

This week I felt the need to bake. Bake using very old self rising flour and even older instant yeast. Why waste the good stuff, right? Well I now have a very salty dough that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or until I decide what to bake next. The pecan sweet rolls are okay…just salty.

And today thinking about Australia I decided to make my first ever Anzac Biscuits (cookies) in honor of their holiday of remembrance coming up this Saturday.

The last time I had Anzac cookies was when I was put on a bus in Katherine, NT and sent on my way with those cookies to snack on while heading up to the Katherine Gorge. It was a gift trip/tour from the Northern Territory Craft Council for teaching workshops in their area. I loved those cookies.

And I remember that on that bus ride there was a woman driver…..a no nonsense driver. She stopped the bus at a camel farm. She said we had to stay on the bus and just look at the lone camel through the window. She said that she used to let the people off the bus there for a closer look but one day an American woman said she knew camels and camels knew her, so she could get close and pet the camel. The camel bit the woman. The driver glared at me and said that it was because of that American woman that no passengers were allowed off the bus to look at a camel since. Isn’t that funny! I don’t think I look any different than an Australian woman but that bus driver knows things. I smile when I think of her and am very sure she never thought of me again.

So back to now. I found the recipe on a Google search. I had all the ingredients in house. I was confident that if I made a mistake like I did on that stuff in the refrigerator it would be fine because Lee and I went very, very early to the grocery store and got almost everything on my list. Paper products, no, but enough of everything else to keep me out of the store for the next month. I found meats, breads, eggs, fruit, vegetables, flour and plenty of wine and beer. I think if my calculations are correct I am paying more per ounce for beer than wine.

So I mix up the cookie recipe. Check to see that 125 grams of butter is one half cup and 175 degrees Celsius is 350 Fahrenheit. I like this recipe because the soda gets added to the hot butter and syrup so I can watch it foam up. I might just do that with other recipes that are such sticklers for keeping dry ingredients together.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Oops, sidetracked and smelled burnt sugar. Rushed to remove them from the sheet.

Lee says, “They smell burned.”

I say, “Yes, I may have left them in too long. But let’s think about this, Lee, when is the last time we even had a burnt cookie?”

He agreed and picked the blackest one for himself after they cool down. I ate two other very dark ones to make doubly sure they were edible…even just edible. It is a good thing that my oven has hot spots and not so hot spots. Better than half the pan are just overcooked with dark bottoms. The rest are what most people would call burnt. I paid attention to the second sheet of cookies….none overcooked.

I do remember that years ago when Lee’s uncle had some sort of intestinal cancer, he was told to eat burnt toast often. So these could be something good for us.

If there was someone else living in this house that wasn’t either deluded or suffering from dementia, that person might suggest I stay out of the kitchen for awhile. But here we are, perfectly content to cook and call it “good.”

Also beside the early shopping and baking, Lee and I cleaned house again. It is the day every two weeks when our cleaning lady would be here. We are paying her to not come til things look safer and think we can do this ourselves for now. I do notice that Lee needs more help steering the vacuum around. And I don’t mind doing that because it takes me away from cleaning those bathrooms. Those have been officially put off until tomorrow.  Vacuuming, dusting and washed kitchen floor was enough for now.

I took a picture of my mixing bowl. I bought this at a garage sale before Lee and I were married over fifty years ago. This is the perfect bowl for mixing bread dough and big batches of cookies. Even meatloaf tastes better if it started out in this bowl. Maybe I have been giving it too much responsibility lately. I am going to leave it in the cupboard under all those dinged up stainless bowls for awhile.

To further amuse myself I started drawing into the leaf patterns in a concertina book that I stitched back to back in the grooves. The poor little critter on the lower edge started out to be a cat and quickly got changed to a weasel like animal. It is a stoat. Do you remember how the weasels and stoats took over Toad Hall when Toad was put in jail for stealing a car? I am talking Wind in the Willows here. Remember? Anyway, I am making the stoat a regular in this visual narrative of nothing in particular….just Stoat’s Property. I simply draw whatever occurs to me to fill in the spaces between the existing patterns from the contact printing. It is just doodling. But now I have the idea to have something on the pages that will start with a letter in the alphabet. There are lots of images on the pages but at least one of them will have something starting with the next letter in the alphabet.

The starting page.

The next two pages that need to be filled in when I get back to it.

See how that bear got there?

And when my stoat was more of a cat? Anyway I am entertaining myself with this.

The drawing a day continues. It is definitely making me a better drawer so I hate to give it up. Sometimes I groan at the thought of going outside to find something, but am always glad that I took the little time it takes to do these while listening to the news.

From garden to stove

my healthy thyme plants carry

their flavor with them.


Such a delicate’

little weed with yellow blooms

among shamrock leaves.


Once the leaves pop out

the dogwood blooms begin to



Lovely maple seeds

blown away from their branches

for dancing with wind.


And the latest on the Social Distance book.

The pointy parts are the top and bottom of a portfolio type binding that will be covered in black later. The poem is the center of the opened portfolio and the two sides with the arms outstretched figures lay over on top of each other. So if the book stands up with the long part of the portfolio cover laying out front and the two side sections of the portfolio open out to the sides, the figures are keeping their social distance….but when closed they are close and are reaching for each other.

Here is how I worked that out when I wrote the poem.

I almost put an extra page behind the open figures to give a nice background to them but then realized that that extra page would prevent them from embracing so am going to go without it.  Technically I am not sure this is a book, but it does have text, illustrations and a way of holding itself together and being narrative. Here is the poem again.


Social Distance

We are told to keep a social distance.

Six feet away from anyone else.


They say that’s how far the virus

can travel on our spoken words.




I don’t want to be social right now.

I don’t need to speak to anyone.


And with just one look

they will know to keep their distance.


Because their over there should be

nowhere near my over here.


For now I will be distant and alone

until someone is allowed to get close enough


to hold me.


I am liking working with words again. And for some reason on my facebook feed is Billy Collins reading his and others’ poetry each evening during this social distance time. He is so soothing to listen to and I am so glad he chose to do this. Usually I can not listen because it is at a time when Lee needs attention and we are eating. But I can go find him again later when it is just Billy and me. It really is lovely.

Better go and finish up the book while Lee is being taken care of.

I will say that I might now be getting bored with the cut out illustrations. Like having to do screen printing in my classes in college, I hated that the image was there due to only having something not there. It was either ink or space. Here it is the same way…hard to give form and therefore much “feeling” to the illustration. It is a bit too just plain graphic for me to get excited about. Might try one more bit of writing to illustrate this way and then go back to something else. Stoat’s Property, Wildflowers, Drawings a Day with Haiku…maybe something altogether different…..

Til later.

Let’s Talk About Form and Function

This is a book I made this week that has the pages working as illustrations in support of the text of a poem. Here is the poem.

The Perfect Time for Writing

I have waited for this perfect time for writing.

The gift of hours

alone in a room

with only the sounds of birds and breezes

coming through an open window.


I hold my pen

over the first blank page

while grasping at fleeting thoughts.

None stay with me

long enough to get on the page.


Nearly one of my hours has gone.


I was sure that if I came here

to this room

armed with a blank pad of paper

and a pen eager to race along with me

then I could write about something.


Something that did not require

more waiting.


The text is the priority of this book, so the illustrations must be in service to that text. They cannot be more important or visually make themselves more important.

So here is my thinking process. I only want one signature stitched to a black soft covered book. Card stock make up the folios and the inside of the covered soft cover. I needed the cover to not be stiff but gently contain the story and spaced pages.

I wanted the pages spaced because I wanted to create a feeling of moving through a space….in this case a room to get to the text.

We start with the front door.

Then the window.

Then the pen held at the slant of writing.

If I had just used the two folios against each other I would have lost the sense of space. So there are short spacer folios between them and in behind the one between the pen cut out and the poem there is even another glued to the back of the short folio but with its fold facing toward the foredge.

So at the top edge of the book it appears to flair out from the spine.

Looking close you can see that all I did was put two short spacer folios close together between the two main folios. Remember this book only has four separate pages. It is bound with a simple pamphlet stitch….three holes with the tied knot out the back of the spine.

Now the interesting thing for me was that while I was binding the book and jabbing that pesky needle into the holes, I pricked my finger, hard. At the time the opening first page was just a blank page on each side and the second page had two rectangular holes at the top so it could be the door.

Because this first page was the one with the poem on its other end I had to decide whether to make another page and start again or get rid of the blood all over one section on the upper part of the page.

Simple. Make two more rectangles below the other two and now I have a window….the poem does make reference to a window. Then cut out the blood stained section to be the upper door window and put two long architectural slits in the door to even look more like a door.

So now the viewer enters a room with an open window and sees a pen in the writing position….all before reading the poem.

This was fun to figure out. It is what I am tasking myself with now.

A group of friends in Australia and myself have decided that we should try to make books each month. And then share the results with each other. None of us are blank book makers….the book has to be about something. We learn different bindings and different ways of illustrating our pages in the process.

I am thinking that because I already do a drawing a day and am working on the wildflowers book, I need to find a different way to illustrate. So I am trying these cut outs that let the text come through in glimpses more or less.

So yesterday I had time to do my next poem. It is very timely.


Social Distance


We are told to keep a social distance.

Six feet away from anyone else.


They say that’s how far the virus

can travel on our spoken words.




I don’t want to be social right now.

I don’t need to speak to anyone.


And with just one look

they will know to keep their distance.


Because their over there should be

nowhere near my over here.


For now I will be distant and alone

until someone is allowed to get close enough


to hold me.


I like this bit of writing. It seems to suit me right now and maybe several others as well. Because I was writing in the apartment and not near my studio I used some of my writing pad to draw out and then tear out my ideas for how this book should reinforce the text with the cut outs and the form of the book itself. Here is some of the pages of thinking visually.

In a few more days I will have time to get this book put together and will show you the end result. There is absolutely no place to make a mistake or drip blood in my plans so I will have to be extra careful.

Also here are the the last four days of drawings a day.

Ornamental bush

that has either pink or white

blossoms along stems.


A dandelion

that is now completely spent

and still beautiful.


I only bought two

small pots of this ground cover

that covers the yard.


Rabbits left this one

lone clover blossom for me

to draw this morning.


I just want to return to one more thought on illustrations in the service to the text. Remember Kidnapped or Treasure Island and those gripping illustrations by N.C. Wyeth? Those pirates with buckles on their shoes and wide leather belts holding up pants on heavily-muscled torsos? None of those would be in our memories if the words had not been written in the first place. Those pictures illustrated the powerful text that carried us through the story. They were not picture books….they were illustrated classic novels. At no time would we have considered trying to read the story by looking at the pictures alone.

The text is the priority and any way I create an illustration or binding of the book, it will be in service to that text. And it is going to be fun to do.

Til later.





Busy Productive Morning

Yesterday I put down ten of the fifty bales of pine straw….then quit. I was going to go back at it this morning but it was too cold. Two hundred bags of pine bark mulch was delivered at the same time as the pine straw and all that was placed next to where they were digging up some pipes near the well that quit giving water the other day. All fine now.

So because it was a bit chilly to be outside this morning I decided to iron, grind coffee beans for the week, make up a meatloaf for day after tomorrow and put together my favorite tomato soup. This was all done before eleven this morning. When finished with everything including the clean up I treated myself to a coffee with half and half and one of these charming French sugar cubes my daughter gave me for Christmas.

So now I am going to give you the recipe for a very, very good tomato soup. I found this in an Asheville magazine called Plough to Pantry. I don’t think they are in business anymore…sadly.

This is their Tomato Bisque.


1 tbsp Butter

5 slices of bacon

1 cup chopped onion

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

5 tbsp all-purpose flour

5 cups lo sodium chicken broth

1 quart (32 oz) can chopped tomatoes with liquid

3 thyme sprigs

3 parsley sprigs

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup half and half

2 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

Note: I keep cut up cooked bacon in the freezer in a zip lock bag to use as needed. In this case I remove a handful for the soup. So I just have to add about a tablespoon of bacon fat with my butter to the pan, and add the onion, carrot and celery plus the garlic.

Here is a bit of useful information: If it was just onion, celery and carrot, it would be what the French call a “mirepoix”, when you add the garlic it is then something that would be called an Italian mirepoix. I found that interesting and learned it from a local chef giving cooking lessons.

If you are cooking bacon from scratch, cook til done and drain, leaving a bit of grease behind to join the butter and vegetables.

Cook that for about 8 to 10 minutes and then stir in the flour to coat.

Notice my old wooden soup spoon here? I knew someone that felt it was necessary to replace wooden spoons long before they got this ratty looking. I feel that each pot of soup gains some sort of information from the previous soups so would never dream of replacing this old favorite.

Now add those tomatoes and here is where I differ a bit. I add the entire six cups of chicken broth from the carton….why bother to put just a cup in the refrigerator waiting for a better purpose than this soup? Mine also is not sodium free. Give this a good stir and bring to a boil. I add the salt at this point.

While waiting for it to boil you can tie up those herbs but I find a better way is to just pop some in a tea bag for loose teas and then tie it off so you can fish it out of the pan.

Then simmer 30 minutes with the herb package. The recipe never said whether to cover or not. I prefer to cover for the 30 minutes because I do not want to see any of this soup evaporate into thin air.

When the 30 minutes is up remove the herbs and use your mixing wand to pulverize everything. Finally stir in the half and half (I use fat-free) and the bacon bits that you should have chopped up after it cooled and drained. Pepper to taste.

This is very good. We had it for lunch and have enough left for two more meals waiting in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the soup for much later.

Now in making my meatloaf, I keep it super simple. About a pound of ground beef (whatever you can get from the store during these times of not much available) gets put in a bowl with one regular can of diced tomatoes and one egg. Before I mix that together I add a bunch of saltines, maybe fifteen squares, that have been crushed in a plastic bag by a rolling pin.

Because there were very few boxes of Lee’s favorite saltines in the store last time, I used a bit of oatmeal to make up for the juicy canned tomatoes that I did not drain….this is making sure he has enough crackers for his soup.

Add some salt and pepper, settle it all into a loaf pan, cover and refrigerate til later. I can get two meals out of this with just enough left for the coveted cold meatloaf sandwich with catsup. Tomorrow we will have it with roasted vegetables. Old habits of how I was raised to cook on the “cheap” have kicked in with this new way of shopping and not getting all you want while trying to not waste one little thing in the refrigerator.

Also I am keeping up with the drawings a day.

Bright pink azaleas

blooming a safe distance from

hungry, pesky deer.


Deep red-flowered bush

whose name I can’t remember –

something like “anise”.


This is vinca vine.

Up north called a crepe myrtle.

And here that’s a tree!


It’s a random weed

with a deep yellow center

in hairy pink blooms.


And the latest pages in the six way wildflower book.

Now because I have less than three hours left of private time while Lee’s minder is with him I am going over to the studio and work out how to do a book centered around a writing I did last week. I want some movable parts with some layers. Since the poem will only appear in the back and down the page, I am thinking of a door that opens then a peek through a window where the poem is visible. I am obviously still avoiding cutting those bush book pages…..

Til later.