Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks

 The photo above shows the Oriental Methodist Church communion table, laden with harvest beauty. Below is the overflowing cornucopia from St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church. They added twinkle lights!!!
 Our community Thanksgiving service was Sunday evening at the Catholic church. Such a lovely service, lots of music and scripture reading. Below are more decorations from that sanctuary.
 

I've been negligent in my autumn journal. Here's a new page. I attempted some lettering in the style of Susan Branch and discovered how very HARD it is. She must have endless patience and amazing skill, not to mention years of practice.
 And this page below is just a silliness I put in my journal. The ink ran a little; it's hard to read.
 I distressed the page to make it look old and tattered, as if from some ancient traveler. It says:
"I swear it is true. I boarded the train, began to read 
this strange book that lay on the seat beside me, fell into sleep, 
and woke in a place and time foreign to me. 
The only object that transported with me is the book."

I showed you the lovely, deep red coverlet and pillow shams I bought at the thrift store. Suddenly, the lamp in that bedroom no longer seemed to suit (on the left).
 

I covered the shade with some fabric samples I've had for a coon's age. Now I think I need to paint the base, yes?

 On Sunday afternoon Adam and I visited a friend nearby who hatches chicks and loves to swap things. A lady wanted chicks from her and offered some raw alpaca fleece. My friend had no need for alpaca, but she likes my soap ... so we had a giant 3-way swap, and in the end, I received 3 bags of fleece -- two bags of white and one bag of gorgeous dark brown.
I long to learn to spin, but I don't have money for a spinning wheel. Spinning can be a pricey hobby. I don't want to buy cards either, but I have two nit combs, the kind you use to remove lice from a child's head. I've been combing small amounts of fleece with them while watching T.V. It's so relaxing!
raw alpace fleece
combed fleece

 Here's a nice ball of alpaca fluff!
Here's a youtube video of a beginner like me, who found cheaper ways to process your fleece.

Last night Philip, Kara, and Julia arrived for Thanksgiving, so we're busy and cooking and playing with dogs and all manner of family things right now, so I'll sign off, wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are spending it, and with whomever you are eating. May you benefit from a thankful heart and contentment in what God has given you!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fruitcake from Afar and Christmas in a Jar

 Adam's mother is a wonderful cook, and each year she sends various goodies to family and friends. Today a package arrived with a moist, delicious fruitcake, plus some beef jerky (which Adam has asked me to hide most of, so he doesn't eat it all right away), lots of her homemade caramels, and a fun book too! I'm looking forward to the fruitcake.
It came all the way from central Nebraska to the North Carolina coast.

Henny Penny posted a Christmas jam recipe on her blog, and I made a batch this afternoon. I'll put the recipe at the bottom of this post.
 See the space in the bottom of the jars? I did the "upside-down" method of sealing, and this jam is so thick, it didn't want to come down after I righted the jars. It's very yummy -- cranberries and strawberries.
Bless my hubby's heart, he's been working SO HARD to repair our roof. The entire roof is old and honestly needs to be replaced. However, only this edge (shown below) was causing leaks inside the house. He repaired it once, but it still leaked.
So he removed his repair, removed the gutter, and inspected -- he found a mess!
 Above you see new flashing he put on. The edge of the metal roof was rusted and crumbling to bits. Previous owner had applied more roofing, several layers, but it was a soggy mess. Adam removed all the bad metal, shoved new metal flashing way up underneath, put a second layer under that and wrapped it under the fascia board. He sealed it all with tar and other things I know not of. (He had tar all over his hands.) Then today he painted that roofing paint over it all -- two layers.
I'm quite proud of him. It's been a long, discouraging repair. He did his best job, and he did a thorough job, and it was a pain in the neck, using only an extension ladder by himself. We have rain coming tonight; we shall see if the house responds well to this treatment!

Christmas Jam

In a large non-aluminum pot:
12 oz. fresh cranberries
20 oz. frozen strawberries, thawed
4 cups sugar
3 oz. liquid pectin
Combine berries and sugar in pot over medium/med.high heat, stirring often, until boiling. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add pectin. Return to a high boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Immediately put into sterilized jars and seal.
Makes seven 1/2 pint jars.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Illustrations

I wrote a short, simple children's story, one designed to be read aloud, perhaps as a good-night story. Nothing fancy -- the story of Punkin, a hen, and a mouse that she befriends. I typed the story, copied it into a homemade book (made with mixed media paper), leaving room on most pages to add illustrations later.
It's later. I finally bit the bullet and started coloring with pencils and painting with watercolors. Here's what I have so far.



The little red mushroom seems rather out of place, but there it is.
I added text around it to make it fit in better.
I sketched Punkin first, to get her right.
I wanted this first picture of her to give a perfect impression to the child seeing the story.

Here's Punkin, or "Punky," as I call her.
I did some watercolors and some sketches. 
Since the book is just for me and the grandkids, 
I figure I can do what I please.


The mouse below I sketched from studying
a mouse Julia drew for me. Hers is so good.
I cannot sketch animals from my mind;
I must have a photo or other image to copy.

This is the real rat hole in our coop.
This baby mouse I compiled from images on google.
That's it so far. Let no one think that we have a grandbaby on the way yet -- we do not! But I will be ready when we do!
I've been working on herbal teas. These are two I've put in tins so far. I also did some peppermint today. The one on the right is dried leaves, so they're rather crumbly. The thyme leaves are green.
I've been drinking thyme tea for 24 hours, and I believe it's helping me keep a cold at bay.
I went to the thrift store today looking for a book I'd seen there. (Drat!! It was gone! It was Susan Branch's Christmas book.) Instead I found this lovely bed spread and two shams, all for $8.
Isn't it lovely? I adore that deep red color. This is on the guest room bed. It cost less because the edges are a bit worn, but otherwise it's in beautiful condition. I will donate two other blankets, attempting to keep from being a hoarder.
That's it from me today! 
I'm loving this painting activity. 
It's very relaxing. I'll never be a real"illustrator," but if I have fun and make books for little grandies, that is all I want :)
Eight pages down; about 22 to go.

All artwork, images, and text are copyrighted by M.K. Christiansen

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rainbow Yarn and Thyme Tea

It's definitely chilly out there now. We had a freeze warning Friday night! Adam's been making soup and nice comforting dishes for us to eat.
I bought some very on-sale yarn at Michael's, and couldn't resist this beautiful skein for $5.
 Have you seen these? They have whopping HUGE "Big Cakes" skeins, and they have mini-skeins called "Cup Cakes." So cute!
 I don't know what I'm making with this one, but I'll enjoy gazing at it on the shelf until I do!

I read online that making tea with thyme leaves is very healthy for you. Adam says thyme is what you feed bees if the hive has a mite infection. It's very antimicrobial. I clipped a handful of fresh thyme from the herb bed, combined it with some of my yummy herbal tea, added some good honey, and it was quite good.
 Look at the good green thyme in there! It's supposed to help with fibromyalgia and other ailments. I'm quite achy much of the time.

This next is for Kezzie, a bloggy friend who resides in England and loves adorable clothes and especially pins (brooches). Kezzie, you'll be proud of me for bravely wearing this pin to church today. My mother will recognize it also. Isn't this cameo lovely? It was hers, and she gave it to me.
 I paired it with this simple pearl necklace. Mother, do you remember? Betty Jo Temple gave it to me as a high school graduation gift. I still love it.
 Lastly, I wore these pearl earrings, a gift from a friend in my 20s.
 A local store is now carrying my soap!
 At last, we "bit the bullet" and painted our living room floor. Here are before and after photos:
 

This time of year becomes SO busy, now that we are heading inexorably toward Thanksgiving. It seems to be one event/concert/service after another, with lots of company sprinkled in between. 

You'll all be glad to know that Adam has sold TWO of his concrete leaves at the farmer's market. And Julia has sold many of her beautiful Kitty Cat card sets; I will need to get more printed soon. It was so cold yesterday morning at the market that I sold two bulky infinity scarves and two hats. One was a great slouchy hat. Here's the pattern. It's very slouchy, soft, knitted, and has a thin elastic band around the edge, so it stays on well. I've already started second one.

Stay cozy and warm out there, folks!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Poetry Warning: Picking Apart Wilbur's "Objects"

For all two of you who might enjoy this exercise, I feel compelled -- I cannot rest until I do it -- to analyze Richard Wilbur's poem, "Objects." This new analysis is dramatically altered from my first one.


Objects

Meridians are a net
Which catches nothing; that sea-scampering bird
The gull, though shores lapse every side from sight, can yet
Sense him to land, but Hanno had not heard

Hesperidean song,
Had he not gone by watchful periploi:
Chalk rocks, and isles like beasts, and mountain stains along
The water-hem, calmed him at last near-by

The clear high hidden chant
Blown from the spellbound coast, where under drifts
Of sunlight, under plated leaves, they guard the plant
By praising it. Among the wedding gifts

Of Herë, were a set
Of golden McIntoshes, from the Greek
Imagination. Guard and gild what's common, and forget
Uses and prices and names; have objects speak.

There's classic and there's quaint,
And then there is that devout intransitive eye
Of Pieter de Hooch: see feinting from his plot of paint
The trench of light on boards, the much-mended dry

Courtyard wall of brick,
And sun submerged in beer, and streaming in glasses,
The weave of a sleeve, the careful and undulant tile. A quick
Change of the eye and all this calmly passes

Into a day, into magic.
For is there any end to true textures, to true
Integuments; do they ever desist from tacit, tragic
Fading away? Oh maculate, cracked, askew,

Gay-pocked and potsherd world
I voyage, where in every tangible tree
I see afloat among the leaves, all calm and curled,
The Cheshire smile which sets me fearfully free.

I'm reassessing my previous analysis of this poem, which felt trite to me, and too academic. A friend put me on a track that showed me a blundering error in my reading of the poem, which then opened the poem to me in new ways.

It seems to me the poem is full of contrasts. The free seagull, who knows nothing of our latitude and longitude, discerns the coastline with his "sense." In contrast Hanno (a Roman leader from Carthage) must hug the coastline on his exploration of western Africa, either using a periploi (guide text) or making one as he goes. Explorers label and claim the land they find. At the poem's end, Wilbur aligns himself with the seagull -- "fearfully free."

The poem progresses from idea to idea like links of a chain. The sea-scampering seagull leads to the coastline-jumping Hanno. Hanno, who searched for the island of the Hesperides (Greek nymphs of the dying sunset) and their golden apples and beautiful songs, was disappointed. He found instead an island of brutal, violent, ugly savages - the island of the Gorgons (another contrast). The locals called them gorillas. Here's a passage regarding his encounter with them:

In the recess of this bay [i.e., the Southern Horn] there was an island, like the former one, having a lake, in which there was another island, full of savage men. There were women, too, in even greater number. They had hairy bodies, and the interpreters called them Gorillae. When we pursued them we were unable to take any of the men; for they had all escaped, by climbing the steep places and defending themselves with stones; but we took three of the women, who bit and scratched their leaders, and would not follow us. So we killed them and flayed them, and brought their skins to Carthage. For we did not voyage further, provisions failing us.
The women's skins were taken back to a Roman temple and were preserved there for about 350 years, according to Pliny.

In his poem, Wilbur doesn't address this grisly aspect of Hanno's historical trip. Wilbur gives Hanno a mythical setting, --  Hanno hears the nymphs' "high hidden chant" on a "spellbound coast" where the nymphs guard and worship the tree of the golden apples. Wilbur's scene is imagination, not reality. In his poem, the object to be guarded and treasured is not the flayed and preserved skins of women, it is a tree of golden apples ... or perhaps a clay tablet that guided the way to an enchanted island.

These apples lead Wilbur to his next link in his poetic chain: Hera and Zeus's wedding. The apple tree was a wedding gift to Hera from Gaea. She asked the Hesperides to guard the tree and its apples in her garden. They became highly-desired objects, greatly valued and fought over among the gods and goddesses. Was this what Hanno was really searching for? 

Wilbur then stops, mid-poem. He seems to contrast what he's written thus far with his next link in the chain: a 17th century Dutch painter names Pieter de Hooch and his work. I enjoyed reading Wilbur's descriptions of de Hooch's work and viewing the paintings on Wikipedia. I could see exactly what Wilbur saw in them -- the courtyard bricks, the shafts of light, the sparkling beer, the cloth, and lots of tile. Everyday people populate the paintings, doing mundane things.

If this poem is about objects, what does Wilbur have to say about them? Humans designate some objects as "classic" and some as "quaint." We label them. Some we guard like the royal jewels. Some we gild, like the apples, altering them from something common to something divine. Wilbur says to "forget uses and prices and names" -- forget these designations. Some old books we handle only with white cotton gloves in locked museum vaults. Some old books we allow to mold away in library basements. Wilbur wants the objects to speak for themselves, I think. Whether in classic stories or in human history, we've elevated some objects to a status of worship, and relegated others to neglect.

Think of the list of objects thus far in the poem: the equator, the gull, Hanno's periploi, the women's skins (which I think are certainly in Wilbur's mind), the apples. Perhaps I've missed some. Wilbur is asking what they are, if we forget the cultural attributes we've placed on them, if we allow them to just be. We might take Wilbur at his word, forget what labels, values, or limitations we've applied to these objects, and simply allow them so speak for themselves. What would they say? I'll leave you to thrash that out for yourselves.

Guard and gild what's common, and forget uses and prices and names; have objects speak. This, I think, is the first tenet of Wilbur regarding objects. 

De Hooch's art is a new thing altogether, contrasted with the "classic and quaint." De Hooch is a real man (unlike Hera or the Hesperides). His art, which he views with a "devout ... eye" (as the nymphs "praise" the apple tree), is a real object, depicting real objects. Wilbur describes the artist's eye as "intransitive," a strange word for and eye. The term intransitive is used to describe verbs "expressing action which does not pass over to an object; not taking a direct object." (OED) It seems Wilbur chose this word carefully. De Hooch is an unusual artist because he does not allow himself to impose any values on the objects in his paintings; he "forgets uses and prices and names." He allows the objects he paints to speak for themselves. At this point, the concept begins to make sense to me.

Apparently we humans are not very good at this. We like to bind objects and imprison them in their uses, define them by their monetary worth, name and label them. I believe this is what Wilbur is driving at in the poem. He enjoys De Hooch's paintings because they are free of this imprisonment by their creator. Wilbur says, of De Hooch's art, that it passes "into magic."

Wilbur then asks this question about objects:
For is there any end to true textures, to true integuments; do they ever desist from tacit, tragic, fading away?
(An integument is a tough outer protective layer on an animal or a plant.)

Do objects die? It seems sad, but Wilbur is admitting that the objects around us that we manipulate for our own ends, lack souls, lack spiritual substance. Unlike humans, when they cease to exist, there's no afterlife for your average clay tablet, painting, or even golden apple. (I have often wondered where is the Ark of the Covenant, on this planet. Surely it's somewhere? Just a few chips of its wood, or a little gilding from an angel's wing? When did it cease being valued enough that someone threw it into the dump? Isn't this what Wilbur is also asking?)

He ends with this wonderful statement: Oh maculate, cracked, askew, gay-pocked and potsherd world I voyage -- the entire world is an object, a precious, damaged, pock-marked and cracked object, growing older by the moment. Who values it? If the Earth could speak, what would it say? Have we humans carved it up, divided it into your-land and my-land, labeled it, used it, applied monetary value to it? Yes -- all of the above.

He ends by saying that he sees in every tangible tree ... afloat among the leaves, all calm and curled, the Cheshire smile which sets me fearfully free.

The Cheshire cat was free to disappear!I'm sorry to say that at this point I must drag Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland into  the discussion. I pulled out my copy to refresh my mind about the Cheshire cat, and in reading I discovered so much that's pertinent to our discussion. Alice's experiences have much to do with objects being misused. The Duchess is trying to hold a baby (which she passes on to Alice), a baby that won't be held because it's not a baby, no matter how you dress it in lace and bounce it on your lap. It's a pig, and it must be allowed to run off into the woods. As Alice notes, "it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes a rather handsome pig, I think." Alice proceeds to play croquet with the Queen and her friends. They don't have the right objects for the game, so they appropriate hedgehogs as balls, flamingos as mallets, and force soldiers to bend over double to be their arches (wickets). And most of the people present aren't people at all. They are playing cards! The Queen (of Hearts) keeps ordering heads to be lopped off, but everyone is confused about how to behead the Cheshire cat. How can you behead a cat's head if it has no body? And as the Cheshire cat disappears right down to his grin, of course, he can't be executed at all. He evades the Queen's manipulation.

Carroll's story is all hilarious, but Wilbur sees the Cheshire cat as a freeing image, an object than can escape human manipulation and the shackles we usually attach to everything we own. Indeed, the only other thing in "Objects" with that kind of freedom is the seagull, careening over the waves, free of maps, using instinct. Wilbur himself delights in being "fearfully free," and takes the gull and the cat as his inspiration. Like De Hooch, will the poet Wilbur be able to treat his words -- his art -- with the same "intransitive eye"?

This complicated poem has occupied a chunk of my mind for many days. I have not figured it all out, but I hope you've enjoyed wrangling it with me. If you have any enlightenment to add, please do!
[My earlier analysis had some pretty hilarious errors in it, on my part, which I've now changed. Many thanks to Linda Lee for setting me on the right course.]

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Good Morning, Friends!

It's a happy morning! I got a pomegranate at the grocery, and it snuggles well into my old bowl of cedarwood potpourri in the dining room.
November is the time to pull out the fuzzy socks.
See those sweet potatoes hiding back there? And the jars of spiced apple sauce?
The hosta seed pods are dry and ready to drop into the soil.
Their leaves are yellow and green.
But this fern is still happy, late in the year.
We have many crepe myrtle trees here. They give some of our best autumn color foliage.
And silvery lichen on the pale pink bark ~
More pink ~ the sunrise recently over stripped farm fields.
And from our porch, now wreathed in winter plastic ~


This morning while Adam makes pumpkin scones in the kitchen for our church's Christmas shoebox-packing party tonight, I'm in my "creative corner." He enjoys encouraging my creativity ~ what a blessing that is! My candle is burning, sandalwood incense is wafting, John Rutter's happy Christmas music is lifting my spirits, my sweet niece Lorien's picture is peeking at me through the aloe plant, and I've enjoyed visiting Susan Branch this morning.
Susan's first November blog post is delightful, chock-full of comforting recipes and photos of fall delights. Click on over! Now I'll read her "Hygge for the Holidays" post, an old one.
Susan showed a photo of the recipe above, Scalloped Potatoes with Sausages. Wow! It looks so yummy. She said it's in her Vineyard Seasons cookbook. Guess what?! That's one of the books I own! I looked up the recipe (above), and made a bookmark just for this book. 'Tis the time of year for "hygge" -- comfort, friends, warmth, hot beverages, happiness, love, cool-weather activities. 
And now, in smaller print and without photos, I wish to say that we bloggers, although we want to spread beauty and happiness around, do not have lives that are all as tidy and clean as a TV set kitchen :) We have troubles and heartaches like everyone, and our lives are slowly falling apart too, or as Susan Branch said today, we need beauty "to sooth our ravaged souls." Adam just told me that he put a tablespoon of salt into his flour for the scones, instead of baking powder, so he had to start over. We expect rain today, and we'll see if our patchy roof repair actually stops the leaks in our living room ceiling ... because the ceiling has black mold growing on it and Adam wants to repair and replace it, before company comes at Thanksgiving. One of our cars has windshield wipers that don't work, and the other one has an A/C leak that keeps the floor wet and moldy. I keep Lorien's sweet smile around me all day and remember her repeatedly because she died a tragic, sad, early death, and I want her brief life remembered and celebrated. We have lonely, needy people in our church and community. Adam volunteers for the Red Cross and for the Opioid Addiction Help Group because our world is full of tragedy and addiction.
All that to say ~ we bloggers try to keep our online parlors happy and beautiful not because our lives don't have messies too, but precisely because they do. In the midst of the messies, we stand on our soap boxes blog posts and proclaim: "Life is still wonderful, and you can choose to grasp hold of the beautiful too, if not today, then tomorrow!" Some of my friends are going through such hard times right now ~ take heart! One thing about life is certain: it will change. Hard times pass. God loves you dearly, through it all.
Blessings, friends! May you find beauty around you today, and may it lift your hearts.