Next??? Cable TV!

If Food Network and HGTV started a joint new show, it would kind of be my life this week!

A very jiggly batch of local, sustainably raised beef bone broth, courtesy of the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, delivered to an ailing dog buddy yesterday, on the way to Michael’s for more paintbrushes.

Several requests for the scoop on last week’s dinner party which — Ooops! — I forgot to take pictures of. Fortunately, I needed lunch today so will include details, below.

A very vivid — read that painful — reminder of one of our old family stories on Sunday.

And a welcome hour or so in the company of the late Tony Bourdain while I waited for paint to dry last night.

First, the reason I won’t laugh at an old Dave story anymore.

Dave was 10 when we moved to Tennessee. We lived in the middle of nowhere, between Fayetteville, TN and Huntsville, AL. It was a bit of a change from Atlanta.

No pizza delivery. Minimal grocery stores. A 45 minute round trip to the KFC.

And no stove for the first 4 months we lived there.

We spent a fair amount of time hanging out at TGI Fridays and Red Lobster in Huntsville.

Other than being raised by a foodie dad, this may be one of the big factors in my journey to local food fanatic.

Anyway, one night we went to Red Lobster. I can’t remember what my junior sea food conniseur ordered but he asked for horseradish with it.

Expecting the creamy horseradish sauce he was used to at Fridays, he took an enthusiastic bite.

You’ll have an accurate grasp of what happened next if you recall the old Bill Cosby routine about belly buttons and the kid that flew around the room backwards and landed on the floor, flat as a piece of paper, with “nuthin’ but his ole eyes buggin’ out!”

Straight up, grated horseradish was clearly not what Dave was expecting.

So, Sunday, when the miracle happened and we left the dogs home while we went out to lunch, I ordered sushi at Noodle (Decatur) which is one of my favorite hang outs. Knowing that Bill wouldn’t be home for dinner, I ordered with leftovers in mind.

All was well with the world. About half a Scorpion King roll (which has a lot to do with shrimp and crab and nothing to do with scorpions) with a bit of pickled ginger, plus a hard-boiled egg * and a chopped avocado tossed with capers and trout roe**  plus a pair of chopsticks from our personal stash and I was ready for a feast.

Until a bit of that lovely, organic avocado turned out to be about a pea-sized chunk of straight wasabi.

Dave and Bill Cosby had nothing on me. I literally thought the top of my head would come off. Hence my oath not to laugh about Dave again! (Well, not about the horseradish!!!)

Last night, an awesome pot of soup with beef and pork broth plus some local artisanal sausage from our friends at Pine Street Market and leftover roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and tiny potatoes. With more stashed in the fridge for feeding the Friday lunch crowd.

In the meantime, some staging help  for a friend with a charming house on the market in a great area of town. Some chair seats to recover and art to swap out. Another round of de-personalizing. And some spare linens with a relaxing, Caribbean sort of feel to them.

But, back to my favorite things from the tapas party last week.

We started with assorted French olives and some half-sour pickles from the Farmers Market. A bit of crab broth made of Florida stone crab claws, with a small scoop of rice, some asparagus and bunapi mushrooms, and a bit of trout roe**.

Little canoe shaped endive leaves stuffed with really good, Spanish, Ortiz Bonito del Norte tuna courtesy of our friends at Zingerman’s. You dress yours the way you like it. I do mine with some of the excellent olive oil it’s packed in, fresh lemon juice, finely chopped parsley stems and freshly crushed peppercorns.

And hard-boiled eggs, which I’ve finally figured out how to get right in the Instant Pot! *

Here’s how I do it, in our 8 quart Duo pot:

Add 1 c. water to the inner pot. Place one of those cool egg trivet gizmos, with 7 eggs, into the pot. We use more or less large sized, pasture raised, very fresh local eggs.

Secure the lid and set the pressure release knob to “sealing”.

Set unit to pressure cook on medium pressure for 3 minutes, with the “keep warm” feature turned off.

When it sings the little song that lets you know it’s done cooking, set the timer for 5 minutes of “natural” pressure releasing.

Prepare a bowl of ice water.

After the pressure releases for 5 minutes, switch the valve to “venting” and cover with a kitchen towel. When the little pop-up thing goes down, which will take about 3 – 5 minutes more, open the lid and transfer the eggs to the ice bath with tongs.

I’ll admit, I had to practice a while. I read lots of directions and played with the time. This is the process that leaves me with perfectly done, easy to peel eggs and time to sneak in a bit of painting between steps.

Peel eggs just before serving. I drizzled mine with garlic infused olive oil, added a tiny scoop of the trout roe** and sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes and a bit of flaky Maldon finishing salt.

Round out your feast with some local, artisanal charcuterie, in this case copa, and crackers, as desired for your guests. I used Georgia Sourdough crackers with sea salt, thanks, again, to Pine Street Market. The gluten-free crackers with seeds work, too.

As for Tony Bourdain, he was in the Dominican Republic enjoying what reminded me of the island version of Chopinno, named for the tradition of everybody chipping in what they had. In this case, somebody had some veg and somebody had some bones and so on. It’s a really good way to eat!

For now, though, back to painting the cosmos. And, probably, me!

 

 

Re-membering

Last night I spent about three hours gathered around a picnic table (Which is also known as the dining/art table at our house!) sharing food and wine and stories with a dear friend.

A friend who has been out making some new stories recently, having to do with shiny jewelry and some interesting travels. A subject, I might add, she and I will be returning to later!

You will be delighted to hear that the beasties were excellent hosts and laid quietly under the table hoping, no doubt, that if we were going to drop things on the floor they’d be paper-thin slices of copa, or even tiny leaves of endive stuffed with tuna, as opposed to, well, roasted brussels sprouts.

We re-membered ourselves through several knee surgeries and a couple of romantic break-ups and a passel of dogs and way too many episodes involving dry needles on her part and four-letter words on mine.

It felt, rather surprisingly, like summer camp.

Perhaps it was the picnic table. Or the weather. Or the moon.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve been on a bit of a camp nostalgia tour lately.

You see, long before I was the chair of the camp committee or the camp nurse, I was a camper. And a counselor in training and a counselor and program staff.

And, as I’ve mentioned, it was always my job to remember all the words to all the songs from one summer to the next.

Today, I remembered some more words. You see, I went to camp in the 1970’s. And some of the songs we sang came from the Broadway musical, Jesus Christ, Superstar. (Which turns out to be a bit more complicated than I expected, as well.)

Oddly, I am, in this moment, in the midst of painting projects having to do with both Mary Magdalene and the Holy Mother or, in a more inclusive sense, Bella Mama.

I got more than a bit behind today. It had to do with the technical challenges of live streaming and the need for a nap after last night’s lovely dinner.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure yet where all of this is headed. And I’m way okay with that. I do know that painting the elements of creation dripped (literally) with stories of camp and with more than a few tears, which we add to the paint.

The camp I grew up in had a very ecological orientation. It was also strongly oriented in what we might call the archetype of the Divine Feminine, though I had no notion of those words in those days.

I had no idea then that when we picked the trash and the odd pickle out of the dust pan on our turn to sweep the dining hall, so that we could return the earth to the earth, we weren’t simply being neat.

We were, in a very real sense, becoming people who would, one day, vote.

When we sat under the full moon, filtered through the branches of ancient long leaf pine and turkey oak trees, and called circles around the fire, we were doing as women had done from the beginning of time and calling it good.

While, at the risk of being redundant, becoming people who would, one day, vote.

And some of us, at least, have undoubtedly become grandmothers, making marks on canvas saying, “I am here,” and teaching our grandchildren that they are here, too, in the midst of a world that needs us all.

So many things to re-member.

A word which, in Hebrew, also means to re-mind.

Which is, when you think about it, not a bad day’s work.

Even if I am a bit behind on the actual paint thing.

 

Freddy is Fine! (Again!)

You know how every family has its own peculiar language?

Every tribe?

Every profession?

The vocabularies are different. Words that are meant to be verbs inexplicably become nouns. And vice-versa.

Try proof reading a techy resume if you’re not sure where this is heading.

Scrubby brush takes on a communal meaning you didn’t know you didn’t know until you did.

Then there’s the secret code for labeling the bone broth in the freezer.

I’ve had one of those experiences over the last 48 hours or so.

First, a story.

I spent many summers as the Camp Nurse.

It’s an interesting job. Everything from helping a young woman who is breaking your budget because she has a severe case of cramps, and is going through a bottle of children’s Tylenol liquid a day, and doesn’t believe she can swallow a pill, to coating a kid head to toe in Calamine lotion so he can spend one extra day working up the courage to take the swim test… it’s an adventure.

For the uninitiated, M&M’s are the way to go for kids who “can’t” swallow a pill.

And, in case you wondered, you leave the bar-b-que fork in the kid’s leg on the way to the ER instead of pulling it out somewhere in the middle of a national forest with no 911 service.

But, all of that aside, here’s the first thing you need to know, just in case you ever want to be  a camp nurse. Or a school nurse. Or perhaps even a grandmother.

The first words out of your mouth, when you have to call a parent, are, “Freddy is fine!”

Then you ask which ER they prefer for a CT scan. Or whether Freddy has a history of broken bones.

Let me say, again, Freddy is fine.

I, however, am exhausted in the post stress crisis sort of way.

Flashbacks are definitely involved.

Last September, when lots of us were on the pilgrimage road with the Black Madonna, many of you prayed along with me for a critically ill friend in the midst of hurricane Irma and I am grateful, still.

Last night, my nice new cell phone had what another friend of mine would refer to as a come apart.

Everything beeping and ringing at once.

My friend, it seemed, was being taken, alone, by ambulance to an unspecified hospital somewhere in the northeast part of Georgia with symptoms frighteningly similar to her adventure last year.

Let me say it again. Freddy is fine.

Her “tribe” went into action. We found her. I did, as is part of my designated role, the phone calls to the moms. Three generations of women scattered around Georgia and Florida, making it better.

The miracle-working neurosurgeon from last fall was located, much to his amazement. And hugely helpful. (I’ve had some practice!)

I began to feel better when I got the text pic of her in the ER with her own clothes on. Things are a bit more critical when they start cutting them off with bandage scissors.

And even better, still, when I talked to her while she was on her way home last night. My friend. The same one I’ve known forever.

She slept a lot today.

I did, too. And had weird dreams. And ate potato chips. (Non-GMO in avocado oil!)

My loss box is rumbling again.

I’m behind on everything. (At least the things my Intentional Creativity sisters believe in being behind on!)

I need to paint but all I want to do are prayer dots. So, one of my work-in-progress canvases (the one known as Apothecary) is getting a new coat of black gesso. Then come the dots. Dip. Dots. Pray. Repeat.

For today, last year’s prayer dots.

Freddy is fine. (And has a follow-up appointment scheduled!)

Freddy’s tribe of beloveds are fine, too. If a tiny bit worse for the wear.

Blessed be.

 

 

 

Grammy does math class!

I spent a big chunk of today at the phone store. Not, just between us, my idea of fun but nothing has blown up yet so we’re claiming a win on that.

I spent much of the week thinking about math.

This, if you’d known me for 40 or 50 years, would be something of a surprise.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid and it seemed like every state we lived in had a different “new math” system. I was pretty confused.

The guidance counselors told my mom that, by the time I got to middle school, it would start to make more sense.

Not so much.

My math teacher in 7th grade was a nice guy who had long yellow finger nails, reeked of smoke, and responded, “Figure it out,” to just about every question.

In 8th grade, I took algebra I, ahead of schedule.

In 9th grade, I took it again. My teacher was the freshman football coach and the sponsor of the chess team. You guessed it! We drew football plays on the chalk board and played chess.

My 10th grade geometry teacher was a retired military pilot. We told war stories and made paper airplanes. I survived by drawing very neat proofs.

In 11th grade, something bizarre happened. My teacher wanted to do math! Sadly, she responded to every question with chapter and verse version from the Algebra one text, seemingly not realizing that I’d spent that year on football plays and chess.

By some major miracle, I survived enough Calculus and Statistics to wind up with a whole lot of alphabet soup after my name.

And, mostly, math in my day-to-day world has meant recipes and fabric yardage for quilts and the proper ratios for raw dog food.

All that changed this week!

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure whether what I was learning was math or science, wonders of the world or philosophy.

It did have numbers.

This week I learned the Fibonacci sequence!

And, suddenly, I’m a fan of math.

The cosmic pattern for nautilus shells and star galaxies and sunflowers and fiddlehead ferns and a whole lot of ancient buildings that are still standing, the photo above is my first attempt at a Fibonacci spiral.

I am, surprisingly, moved by this ancient wonder.

I am moved by the sensation of making the swirls over and over.

I am thrilled by my painting, rudimentary though it may be.

And covered over as it already is.

Some things just wonder me.

Here’s the best part…

The Fibonacci sequence has to do with building things on a secure base, be they buildings, or family relationships, or social structures.

We North Americans didn’t do so well with that when we built a world that essentially ignored the important base of the indigenous peoples who lived here already.

I’d even go so far as to say that we’re not doing such a good job of building on a solid base in these days.

I’m clinging, though, to the possibility that there’s still time to learn. To start again with the ancient truths of harmony and relationship.

So be it. Amen.

 

 

What’s In Front?

There’s a writer named Natalie Goldberg who does marvelous books to help other writers along the road.

One of her most straightforward bits of advice is to write what’s in front of your face.

Here’s a glimpse of what that looked like in my world, today.

Amongst the mountains of frozen dog food to be sorted and stashed, along with about three days worth to be packed for a brief trip to Camp, there were boxes of the stuff that prevents heart worms to wrangle out of an online source, the usual door opening and water bowl filling routine, and, of course, treats, hugs, and brushing. Lots of brushing!

And, there are still dog directions to write for Camp, which I suspect is not quite what Natalie had in mind, but on the list nonetheless.

I’ve done the Don Quixote thing, tilting at windmills with UPS over a package that, shall we say, disappeared somewhere into the big brown kingdom, apparently never to be heard from again.

And was grateful to the folks who shipped it in the first place for shipping another, today. Fingers crossed.

My Muse painting, who appears first, below, and now hangs in our bedroom where she is in charge of dreams, did her job with enthusiasm last night, sending me a dream that involved standing in front of a room full of people I went to high school with (Blessedly NOT naked!) and telling them why I keep showing up here, and at the canvas, doing what I do.

It’s the one of those five people thing we’ve talked about before. (Click here, if you’d like a reminder.)

My alchemical consciousness has been high-fiving me most of the day!

Then there are blessed friends who’ve listened to me think out loud while I sort through .jpg after .jpg of images, all hoping for jobs in the changing landscape which is about to happen around here, on Facebook, and in my pocket where the new business cards from moo.com will live.

Here are a couple of sneak peeks:

IMG_3673

IMG_3706

There’s crab shell broth warming on the stove.

And paintings-in-progress figuratively leaping up and down, wanting play time, while brushes wait to be washed, eyeing me with one brow raised as I pass by their Mason jars of water.

Perhaps most of all, though, there are the two notes I re-discovered today, scratched in purple ink in my dog-eared copy of Ms. Goldberg’s The True Secret Of Writing.

The first appears on page 106 of the edition I have. It’s beside a list of entry line options provided to get folks from stuck to — you know — writing. My addition to the list:

The first thing I want my grandchild(ren) to know about me is…

You’re welcome to play with it! Grandkids you already know and love. The kind that are on the way, even now. The ones you long for someday. Or the honorary ones in border detention camps or trapped in caves or hungry pretty much anywhere.

And then another one, almost un-noticed, on the very last page of the book, under the note about the author:

Imagine you are seated in the lap of a Fiercely Compassionate Grandmother. Yours, the one you needed, the archetypal one, or even the one you are on the way to being. She asks, “What are you becoming?” and listens with love and attention to your most true answer. Then she whispers, “I will help you.”

I’d love to hear what comes to mind.

The most important thing, though, is that you know!

(To leave a response here, just click on the big picture of what the crab broth became, at the top of this post, then scroll way down, pausing a moment at the blog subscription box if you’d like, until you find the place for comments.)

 

 

Elsie and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Having re-arranged all the furniture in our house so that the rooms come closer to meeting our needs, it’s about time to move on to a bit of web site re-arranging.

As part of the planning process, I’ve been wandering through some of the dustier corners of what’s already here and pondering what needs to be freshened up a bit.

This particular post seemed almost to be jumping up and down for some attention.

So here, with a surprise twist at the end, is Story of a Quilter:

I must admit, with more than a bit of embarrassment, that I considered her somehow frail as I watched the fingers gnarled with the ravages of “arthur-itis” struggle to thread the slender needle known as a “between” through all those years of my childhood. Tying the knot was still another challenge, generally accomplished with that peculiar, frustrated puff of breath that ruffled the wispy hair on her forehead. And yet, the sacred family mythos holds that Elsie Hannah Royce Boardman, my paternal grandmother, raised six children, two orphaned nephews and countless flocks of turkeys, baked 40 loaves of bread a week on a wood burning stove, and once insisted that my uncle carry her to the Baptist church supper on the back of his motorcycle, lest the people of God be deprived of the pies she clutched in each hand on that long, bumpy trip through the cornfields.

As my cousins and I gathered and traded precious scraps of those myths, gleaned over the years, or perhaps it was only as I raised my own child, I somehow came to believe that Elsie must have taught herself to quilt simply so she’d have an excuse to sit down!

When I was a little girl, I got to help. Gramma would come to visit and she’d sort through my mom’s scrap basket, picking bits that caught her fancy. My job was to draw the pieces on the fabric using a very sharp pencil and a scrap of a Cheerios box, cut precisely to the shape of a hexagon. Then out would come the long, sharp scissors and Gramma would reduce the fabric scraps to a lacy honeycomb of my old dresses and bits of curtains and aprons. I felt important.

Years later, as a young mother myself, I decided to learn to quilt. I picked a pattern from a magazine, bought some fabric I really didn’t like, though it was the “right” colors, and began, laboriously, to cut. After a week or so I had a block done. I was frustrated. My fingers were burned from trying to iron what wouldn’t lay flat. And I still didn’t like the fabric!

I looked at my one tidy, borderline ugly block and realized with a shock that I needed 41 more, exactly like it. I put all the fabric away and went back to finish my Bachelor’s degree.

Graduations happened. Years passed. And then a few more. Eventually we moved back to Atlanta. Atlanta has a lot of used bookstores. One day, with a bit of extra time before an appointment, I stopped into one of those bookstores.

I sniffed deeply, breathing in all the books, wandering here and there, just looking. Then, down on a shelf near the floor, I spotted a book that was somehow calling to me, the way books do to some people.

Liberated Quilt-making by a woman named Gwen Marston. I sat abruptly, right on the floor, and started to read. Soon tears ran down my cheeks. Here was a book that understood!

The book understood how hard it is for some people to work with just three fabrics. And how overwhelming it is to make 42 fussy, perfect blocks, all just alike. It understood why many people think quilting is not for them. And then, as I kept reading, I found another way. Lots and lots of fabrics? No problem! Crooked lines? Sure! Lots of different blocks? Absolutely!

And the tears kept running down my cheeks as I realized that I might be a quilter after all!
It took a while. Several classes. A grasp of the importance of ironing as you go. No rules about color. (Well, only a couple!) What kind of thread. How to use a rotary cutter. (Miraculous!)

Mostly what I’ve learned is that I am an artist. That the colors will all work out if you stare at them long enough and throw a couple of extras in. And, if you like wonky quilts with crooked lines, plan them that way.

It turns out that the same is true for painting. And the journey has been much the same, as well.

I am learning again. And these days I’m even painting quilts!

Beyond the tools and tips and techniques and surprises like warped canvas frames, here’s what I love the most…

The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow. 

–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

It seems to me that our world could use a whole lot of folks practicing art these days!

 

 

WIP Wednesday

Welcome to Wednesday!

Today we’re going to do something just a bit different.

You see, somehow it’s 4:19 pm and I just realized it was Wednesday!

Very little sleep, two trips to see about new glasses (which I desperately need), a fast stop for lunch, dog food to order, a painting experience to plan for a friend with a big question, and a bit of wandering with some old friends through the kind of wilderness where it feels like somebody just yelled, “Tilt!”.

And, running beneath it all, a song I heard for the first time about 4:30 this morning.

Here’s the story. My Intentional Creativity teacher, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, is offering an amazing workshop that seems to have grown out of what happened when her long devotion to the Holy Mother crashed into the news about immigrant/refugee families being separated in many parts of the US.

If you’re reading this, the odds are pretty high that you, too, are appalled at what’s happening, especially to the children.

Shiloh’s workshop is called Bella Mama and, if you click right here on the title in the pretty colored letters, you can find out if it’s calling your name the way it did mine.

You see, I believe that the more hopeful energy we send into the world, the more hopeful the world will become.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s going to take a while but that doesn’t have to keep us from starting now! It is, as my paint buddies would say, a WIP, or work in progress. It’s also a Wednesday kind of thing.

And, as soon as I feed the very hungry beasties, I’ll be back to tell you about one other thing I learned today…

If you’d like an opportunity to do something more immediate and tangible to help the border refugees, some friends of mine have come up with a great idea.

Humanitarian aid workers are getting huge numbers of requests from the refugees for rosaries. To find out how to help, click this link for Rosaries for Refugees and read the pinned post at the top of the page. It’s easy and VERY affordable to send a dozen rosaries to folks desperately in need of hope and comfort.

When you think about it, as one of my paint sisters pointed out a week or two ago, we’re all pretty much works in progress. And today is a great day for that!

The art for today is one of the under layers of my Tree of Life painting. 

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher