Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hi from the Other Side

Gita on Tuesday for and Nelson City in general was nowhere as traumatic as I envisioned; it arrived later and took a path further south, so we got rain and wind, but the rain wasn't as hard nor long, and the wind was much milder than our usual Sprint/Autumn wind. The one noticeable difference was wind usually blows from the west here, while Gita brought it from the east.

However, the West Coast and Golden Bay, northwest of Nelson, were hammered with heavy rain and landslides. You may have seen pics of Takaka Hill Road having fallen off in big chunks. These, together with State Highway 1 from Picton to Christchurch via. Kaikoura, the route damaged in the Nov 2016 earthquake, are some of the popular tourist routes, (two are also our main arteries,) so if you know anyone hoping to holiday in New Zealand and drive around the South Island, urge them to get updates. Takaka Hill in particular is going to take some time to repair. (The hill is, incidentally, where the marbles for our Parliament House came from, and was used in LOTR films as backdrop for folks running in stunning scenery.)

* * * * *

I'm really fired up about the RAW project, and I'll tell you more when I have a clearer picture, but I need to read up on tied weaves. You know me; reading words about weaving make my eyes water and I read a paragraph several times before I realize I've been reading it many times. (Ditto with my own posts!)

Because it's a big project, I don't want to use pick-up, and I hope to weave with one shuttle at a time. The look of the draft isn't going to be fussy or complicated, but I want to insert/superimpose shapes in distinct colors. I wanted to relearn, in particular, tie-down threads in twill, not how to draft them, but how they behave/look.

I checked every place conceivable for the workshop sample today to no avail. I also realized I did not save the Pebbles draft, another S&W, which makes me so mad because I always intended to weave a bigger piece based on it. I wove that sample on a table loom, so I made the draft in and worked off a lift plan, and I wished I had posted that at least. Instead, I posted the treadle plan, and the only reason I can think of is I usually save drafts in treadle plan so I did that without thinking. Useless!

While looking for the missing sample, I came across a woodgrain sample I found particularly attractive, and thought I could modify that for the black Merino Mohair warp. But when I was ready to work on it, I changed my mind and chose to modify the hellebore draft, but for a strange reason; the flowers looked like faces, and the cloth, a bunch of folks who have passed on looking back in a quiet, but not sad, way. And I found it visually terribly appealing. I don't know if I'm going to weave all three or four pieces on this warp in this treadling, but most definitely one, maybe two.
See? I'll have to come up with a more cheerful name/concept, though.

Threading is easy and in one sitting I finished half. The downside is, it's half mohair, and the fiber fly around and make my skin itch and nose stuffy. I remember now why I don't weave with this yarn often, and when I do, usually as the weft. It has a glorious sheen so dull wefts suit best, but I'm also thinking silk.

Tomorrow morning is my fourth session of the Adult Art class; in the afternoon I'm going to show Rosie how I make sauerkraut. So, threading and sampling on Saturday; I hope the loom works.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Fired Up/Nelson will be Closed Tomorrow

Yesterday while doing something completely different, (I can't remember what,) I had an idea for a RAW submission; it happens to be something I've wanted to make for a couple of years and I toyed with the idea of submitting it to Changing Threads, but I could never "see" what the final piece would look like, and I kept putting it off. Yesterday I began to feel a very strong urge to finally make this piece, and today when I sat down, ideas kept flowing. (This had something to do with the sudden energy; Kaz showed me pictures before she posted. :-D)
Thinking Summer & Winter or another tied weave would be one option, I looked for few samples I have done, and after remembering they were in a special place because I always intended to revisit tied weaves. (Special places are never a good idea for me; I can never find anything leaving me with an empty feeling, "it was supposed to be special.") Then I remembered I have another sample somewhere, but special or otherwise, I couldn't find it for the life of me.
My samples are filed according to fiber contents, roughly, but after checking every shelf thrice, I still can't find it.  I'll try again tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, Ex-Tropical Cyclone Gita is heading to Nelson. It's the one that brought huge damage to Tonga among other places. We've been warned to get ready since last Friday, and Ben's work is closed, he was told today.

This is the latest map I can find. See the top of the South Island where the water eats into the land in a V-shape? Nelson is slightly above the bottom of the V on the right side. The greatest danger is expected near the water, areas worst struck the day after the Super Blue Blood Moon and last Sunday, rain, tide, storm surge. We're up a hill so we're not expecting that, but a) we left the basement as is with the carpet waiting in the garage, and b) prepared, sort of, in case of water stoppage and/or power outage. Ben says there were a lot of empty shelves in the supermarket tonight.

Oh, if I were to go ahead with this RAW project, I need the big loom so I must get cracking with the black warp. One of the unrelated samples gave me a nice idea; I think the black warp is going to be another twill series.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Yeah, I Live Like This

On the drive back home that fateful Wednesday evening, (you may all laugh,) Barbara asked me what I do; she might have meant if I work outside of weaving, or weave somewhere else, but I didn't have the presence of mind to say, "read, fume, and waste oxegen," so I said I live in my basement, (true, as it had been very hot until then,) and when she asked if I work with textiles all day, I said yes. She lives next door so she can see what I don't do. But I'm a half-lier.

I might have whooping cough; might not. My symptoms are different from Ben's so we thought it's a a regular cold, although my regular seldom includes coughing. The thing about those of us who had a terribly healthy childhood/young-adulthood is, (say, someone who saw a doctor once between ages 9 and 43-ish?) we are so nonchalant about seeing doctors because it's really usually nothing. My parents were like that until well after 70. Ugh. This morning Ben and I were laughing in exasperation we've become "those people" who are never 100% well any more!

Anyhoo, recovering (?) from a couple of real ugh days, today I did some abstracts in my sketchbook, and then these on watercolor paper.
That I'm terribly near-sided works well with these; I take off my glasses and work with the paper about 10cm away from my face; when I sit up straight, the shapes are blurred but not how colors are distributed/positioned. I've been interested in movements, how the different colors travel across the A5 paper, and my eyes do exactly what I need them to do.

Not sure about where I'm going with these, though.

I may have mentioned an interesting do-if-you-like assignment in the MOMA course. From memory, the instructions were to take pictures of a familiar/interesting object from different angles; cut them up; past them together to create an image showing the object. Something like that. Of course I immediately thought of my one-time failed attempt at cubism, and was fired up.

I shot my camera and printed them out wallet size in B/W. The weather earlier today was so changeable and all my shots were very dark, so the hardest part was cutting them up, but I tried a couple of images.
The first one I just picked up cut pieces and pasted one after another.
For the second, I pick up pieces and pasted, and for subsequent pieces, thought of placement in relation to what's already there.

So far they look like quirky-but-not-successful Surrealism collages, but I'm interested in the Cubist look, so I'll keep going. I've doodled some Picasso portraits last year and saw how difficult abstraction à la Cubism was, but also saw some clues. Today I just cut the camera shapes in full, (i.e. the whole of what was included in each photo,) but next time 1) I might try a more controlled approach, i.e. not paste until I have the bigger picture, 2) maybe not cut out the shapes unless necessary and/or cut further, i.e. not keep the whole of what's in the photo.

It's great fun; I recommend it. But I don't know where this is going.

While reading last week's MOMA course material, (which have been between super interesting to surprisingly revealing to why-oh-why,) I wondered once again if the artist himself/herself thought all that before executing the artwork. I'm sure some did/have, but some art writing/descriptions go so far into the artists' mind and I can't help but think some are way-off, the-writer-needs-a-shrink type speculations.

That lead me to think about how I work, where my happy place may be, balancing a) enough thinking and design time to feel I'm making each piece special, b) a measure of productivity, ergo, c) overall "job" satisfaction or perception of self-worth living this life, and other stuff like d) speed of stash reduction, d) pricing/money, etc. Because I spend too much time thinking; I know this.

I'd love to be weaving just now but I sort of can't. Well, now that I went downstairs to take the pic, I could, just not put a new warp comfortably on either loom. I don't blame you if you can't tell the difference between the usual state of the room vs today.
Our basement, (not the weaving part but the bottom of the stairway and a tiny storage beside,) got flooded in the latest, second rain on Sunday, although it might have started a week ago Thursday in the first and we didn't notice. This part was a gun room (!) from the original owners and has a lot of concrete, (good for stairway, don't you think?) including the floor. The door to the weaving space is wooden but used to have three locks plus and a deadbolt. The carpet/underlay was never secured to the floor but just cut to size and fitted in the space. It's not a big deal; we've taken out them outside to dry earlier in the week, but they waited in the garage today as we were expecting showers. We hope to disinfect the underlay and wash the wool carpet with vinegar on the weekend, and put them back just on the stairwell but probably not in the storage.

Tree cutters came this afternoon with the biggest truck AND tree-crunching mechanism attached at the back: my first thought was, Nelson, hills, don't you have more easily maneuverable vehicles? I thought they came for me as I'm supposed to have two trees trimmed because they are too close to the power lines, but it was for my neighbour. I was terribly embarrassed about the state of my place, as usual, not that there was anything I could do then. Two other neighbours came out to have a look see, and we said hello, but one couldn't help but look up at our property. I cringe to think how others see us, me, I wasn't raised like this, and today I really cringed to see our place from someone else's perspective. Our place seldom look OK, but this summer it's most definitely mental-health territory, so old-injury/diabetes/whooping cough notwithstanding, I have to solicit Ben's help this season to make some visible-even-to-those-who-don't-live-here stuff happen. 
A kingfisher came for a visit, possible looking for the tree that was growing right into the power pole, now gone.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


Friday morning's insomnia was a whopper: I was wide awake by 1.30 and until well after 5.30. First I did the very wrong thing of staring, without my glasses, (so, about 10cm away from my eyeballs,) at the same FB posts over and over again, refreshing the screen in vein, and reading every single comment on the one political group I belong to. (I do belong to just one political group!) Then I moved onto Pinterest and looked up "handwoven shawls" and came across this stunner, (I hope you can see it without an account,) and spent the rest of purgatory admiring elegant plain weave pieces.

After about an hour's sleep the alarm went off so I got up, dazed and a bit delirious, which I think worked to my advantage. While going through the morning motions, I knew I still prefer to be weaving something rather than nothing. Even if there are too many scarves in this universe. At the same time I have this mantra, something a much senior (in career) weaver said early this century: "you have 16 shafts, (this was somewhat rare/new back then in NZ,) show us what 16 can do." I was lucky to have gotten 16 so early in my weaving life, but also true, I've been lazy in exploring and 4 and 8 especially, and this contributes to my finding what I do limited. Or lazy and boring.
As a compromise, I contemplated weaving a variation of one of these gems, with two colors in the weft; with 16 shafts, I can manipulate 14 different spot positions. Although..... unless I did something regular with relatively short repeats, (and in my head I was making all kinds of random-seeming placements,) I would have to spend so much time designing treadling when these can be done more easily with a pick-up. And far more flexibly. Soooo... this may be the next cluster of projects on the four-shaft, while I'm still in the dark about what to do with the black merino/mohair mix on the 16. Still, I have one more executable idea.
Another thing I've been contemplating all summer is log cabin where the warp moves on the color wheel, but for that I may need to buy a few cones of cashmere; (I'm running out of colors!) and buying more yarns at this stage is as needed as a hole in my head, so maybe not. It looked better in my head anyway.

I went to the second of ten adult art class, (dislike the name,) and it was better because Mark the teacher really does allows us to do whatever we like. I haven't brought anything home because I've been working on A2, I think, paper and he keeps them all for us and makes the available the following week. This week we drew objects with pencil and/or charcoal and/or white conte (??) pencil, and I worked standing up, with my paper on a low cabinet because I was smudging and rubbing and making the table-for-two shake so much. The charcoal didn't smudge smoothly to my satisfaction so  started wiping them with baby wipes, which worked well.

We got to see some detailed photos of his panels in the article, and goodness, there are fantastic details in layers, especially in the white parts. I now want to ask the school if I could come look at the panels.
 This was my model for Week 1, an giant antique drill bit.
This was for yesterday, the plate/tray part of an antique scale.

We have to go on a stricter ketogenic diet at least for the next couple of months. I was so enjoying reading flavourful normal cookbooks I'm loathed to go back to anything with "Diet" in the title, but such is life. I don't like the acronyms nor the screamy-shoutiness in Ketogenic FB pages and groups, so I'll read up online and go back to the lower-keyed Blood Sugar Diet books, (of which we have a few,) and modify them to take out as much carbo as humanly possible; at least that's the plan for now. New rude surprise: we're not only "off" onions and beetroot, but also tomato for the time being!
I started making mental notes of what else we need to rid from pantry/fridge, and reduced the frozen blueberry stock while at it. I love the similar-but-not-same patterns. (Not OK that I still see this as Ben's diete; it works just as well for overweight, grump weavers!)

Thursday, February 8, 2018


Heyho, folks.

Life for an anxious, mildly-depressed hermitess hasn't been easy. I've been thinking of too many things; reading possibly too much, (for me, that is; in the collective human experience, probably not enough and/or not the right stuff;) finding no inspiration/enthusiasm anywhere; overwhelmed by "this is not what I want to be making" dread; escaping to half-hearted housework, (not bad in itself, but if I'm going to clean, I really should clean with gusto.) Ben's diabetes control is not going so well, to which I react in two ways, a) "ultimately it's not my problem," but b) it's not just a moral failure but an intellectual one; we know better. The garden most definitely looks like the residence of a scary old hag in children's picture books; convolvulus does such a great job.

I had a right old temper tantrum at JB's after dinner on the night of the last post, kind of a cumulative eruption of stuff I've been thinking about. So a fortnight ago today I was wondering what an "emotional breakdown" looks like, but didn't search because I was afraid of what I might find. Also contemplated if I needed horse tranquilizer instead; this appealed to me more, a deep sleep and a restart. Can't explain any more than that; haven't talked to anyone about it; I can't remember the big picture, but I do know part of it was discovering how far/long I've disengaged from Nelson's art scene.

So that happened.

Ben's been coughing for a month and it turned out he has Whooping Cough! Apparently there is no age limit to that and apparently it's been going around town. For about ten days I felt punch-drunk from my tantrum, but last weekend Ben had near-39C temps for a day and a half, followed by me, though not that high, for a day, and earlier this week I felt punch-drunk from the weekend. We're fine now; Ben's properly medicated although his ribs/sides hurt from all the coughing, and good or bad I'd forgotten the details about my tantrum. Is that good or bad??

We had a hot, and rare for Nelson, humid January, worst on record, followed by some crazy rain/tidal surge around the Big Bloody Moon, and now we're heading for some Feb Hot, but it hasn't been as humid and evenings/mornings are cooler so I'm coping better. I even managed three hours of weeding one day, and it shocked me how little I got done; that'll be my life for this autumn/winter, and I think that's OK. I've attempted to go outside several times since, but anxiety/"other pressing stuff" or in one case, 38C temps, (mine not the atmosphere,) got in the way.

Life goes on; I'm better at doing something rather than nothing, (this being the reason I think I'm not depressed, just grumpy, OR I'm better at managing the mild end of depression. Whichever, whatever works.) Abstract doodles have become superb distraction/therapy; they make me concentrate on the moment; stop the noise except the cicadas; are taking longer to complete, and unlike the faces last year, I go back and look at I've done often.
I did these shortly after my tantrum and for days they alarmed me, but today they look, oh, bright. I'm more interested in the shapes now.
I tried out some cooler/calmers colors but the shapes got wilder, some like ink blots. I'm still doing the same things I started out with: draw an outline/shape, start a line from somewhere on the outline, draw until I reach somewhere on the outline. Repeat if necessary. Color in.
After I started to leave some shapes white, I got curious. I drew a few on 120gms inkjet paper so I could cut them out. They were interesting but the sharp ends kept sticking to my clothes and breaking so I pasted these here. I need heavier paper for future experiments.
I also drew some on watercolor paper; I think I just wanted to see how saturated the ink pen ink  would look. These sheets are A5, so each section is A6, (or 1/4 of A4,) while the daily squares are usually 1/6 of A4. I'm not sure where I'm going with these but may try with watercolor.

I haven't woven since I took out the banged wefts from the cashmere warp. I promptly put on that black merino-mohair warp on the big loom, and came up with more-or-less-the-same pretty/fussy twill drafts with weft options, both for straight forward weaving and clasped wefts, but there's the problem: they are more or less the same as my previous stuff. And who needs another lukewarm scarf in this world.

I've been so keen to weave but every time I go downstairs, mental pictures of the end products tease/haunt me to the point I am debilitated. And unlike other times, it hasn't helped to look at other weavers' lovely work. What's with that??? Oh, but have you seen this????? 

Refinery is looking for proposals for exhibitions and I reread their new forms. Hum. The Suter started art classes for adults, beginners and not-beginners, and because I've had zero tutorage in painting, I enrolled in the beginners. I went to the first class last Friday. The teacher is an ex-high school teacher and a lovely guy, but in adult classes, constantly soliciting input disrupts the flow, becauses every student a question/opinion, some oh-so-many-more than others, and so far my reaction has been hohum. Also started MOMA's free online course on Modern Art. It's had interesting and hohum parts, nothing yet startling and new to me, but then no reason to give up on my third week. There was one "try this" kind of an assignment I want to write about later.

Changing Threads is happening again and I looked at it some time ago but, you know, I never got "fiber art" and didn't feel energetic enough to give it a go, (the head stuff, not the making part, which I noted.) But Refinery is doing something new, (I think,) and this outside art stuff may be the thing for me; they want to see the artwork by my birthday, (55 days to go,) so that could be a sign from above/below/backstage. Or just a coincidence.

Oh, I do so exhaust myself with my own lukewarm outlook.

* * * * *

There is one thing I need to clarify: my comment about the Suter shop. I knew this would be a difficult one to get across accurately so I sat on it for months but still may have got it wrong.

When we first came to New Zealand, we were told, on average, Kiwis live in the same house for seven years. That's the average, and we knew people who never finished a school year in the same house as the one they started in. As well, I don't know if this is a New Zealand thing, how times are changing, or where I'm at in my life, but relationships of all kinds don't seem to last as long as I thought they were supposed to, especially where business is concerned. Also, I'm that person who never knows when to leave a party.

What I've been mulling since Andrea left the Suter, on hearing my friends' concerns, and seeing different emphasis in gallery stores while travelling South, has been this: have I had a good run at the Suter and is it time for me to leave? Are textiles not what they want any more? (I have had galleries tell me textiles are too hard, so no thanks, including at the Red years ago.) And I am aware how much I've dislodged from the real world. So I wondering how accurately I read signs.

The shop manager's name is Ailsa; I just looked up, because I can never remember how to spell it. It's pronounced like the lioness; I asked someone in the early days but I can't remember and all these months later I'm too embarrassed to check. Ailsa really has a lovely smile, the sort I associate with peace of mind. So I didn't write to diss her. But I'm still frustrated with the situation. And I hate their new forms.

* * * * *

So, yeah, JB, I have been trying to keep a low profile, (not hard when you're not even 150cm,) from myself more than any-thing/body else, but thanks for the text.

Now on to prepping Art with Mom Session V, this afternoon.  (Last week we did blind contours of buildings/structures/cityscapes and painted them in abstract/emotional colors like, "after all the children have left". She hated it; I love them.
(Mine. Top right, me losing patience with Mom losing patience with the task. Theme: plotting a revolution. In fairness, she was tired and I was pushing her.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Post in Need of a Title

I finished weaving the piece on the big loom yesterday morning. After an overnight rest, the left selvedge looks scalloped; disappointed because this warp behaved well on the loom. I'm a bit scared of wet-finishing. 
Mom's third Skype "design" session with me was about colors. (After I rang her to remind her of our appointment.) I don't know if she's enjoying these; she hasn't said anything, but I like that after all these years, I'm accumulating interesting pages, (at least pretty?) in my sketchbook. 
I haven't felt overly enthusiastic about working on the clasped weft warp; it's sat waiting for me like this for a few days.
I'm trying to convince myself a merino/mohair mix approximately 60cm wide is the next good choice. I don't like black, but I did go through a buying-black phase. You know, New Zealand, black? But this yarn has a lovely sheen that will contrast nicely with yarns without sheen. I wished I could still weave wider than this; I love the umph of a 75cm-ish pieces, for e.g. but my body can't handle the width any more, so a compromise.
I measured and counted cashmere warp ends Mom dismangled (get it?)/abandoned. One, I think, I made for her and put on the loom made of purples, red and lemon yellow. The other, she made and put on a loom narrower than the warp required so I transferred it to a wider loom. She decided she didn't like the colors. I don't mind making warps or putting them on looms for her, but I wished she'd take planning more seriously. She's just taken another warp off the loom, one I wound on the back beam and was ready to thread, cross and all, with verbal and written instructions explaining how I used the reed as a raddle so she'd have to take the ends out to thread, or something like that, I don't remember things after I write them down; she apparently didn't understand what I had done, so she's going to thread and wind front-to-back. 
Ooops,  just bumped into the beater. Darn. Time to take it all out and start anew.
I've always wanted to be the kind of old lady who brought preserves or similar as a wee gift, and today I packed my pickled beetroot; we're going to JB and Ali's with Duane and Barbara next door, such good people,) but we have a wee drive there, ergo the attractive paper towel and plastic bag.

I've got so many thoughts permeating in my head this week about making and designing and training and permanence it's eye-watering. But it's late so I'll save them for another time.

Monday, January 22, 2018

New Week

Funny thing is, after the loom/computer was fixed and ready to go, I suddenly lost interest in this piece and didn't weave for a while. But it is a nice one, a quick warp, and otherwise I want to clear the loom for something more satisfying next, so I wove some more; another sitting will finish this and make a really soft longish scarf, and allow me to move on to the next warp, whichever that will be. Not sure what; I thought of weaving this kind of twill, but a wider piece, a flatter texture, and possibly slightly shinier yarn combination. 

That's enough for tonight; the rest is going to take a while to think and write. :-D

Thursday, January 18, 2018


If you recall, we had some changes in the way we deal with Ben's diabetes a year ago and "went off" carbohydrate. We did super well last summer, Ben's exercises included, and though we cheated sometimes, on the whole we did alright, maintaining our reduced weight, aiming for further reduction, and Ben's blood sugar level in the awesome-to-acceptable range, until November when we went South. We stayed in places with a kitchen if we could and bought veg, (mostly leaves-in-bags plus tomatoes,) and frequented Asian restaurants and ordered dishes without rice when we were good, but we weren't always good.

After we came home there were the holiday baking and good chocolates, accompanied by uplifitng socializing, but the sweets turned out to be easier to get off after the holidays; what's been harder have been crackers, (to go with cheeses and lovely bottled chutneys and relishes,) and seasonal fruits, (first stone fruits, my favorite, and then berries, something of Nelson's speciality.) I've kept up with sauerkraut and pickles, both making and eating, but it's been hard getting back on the "cheat occasionally" schedule. Or, the more we sin, the harder to feel guilty. My weight has fluctuated. Ben's old shoulder injury has worsened and he's had weekly dates with a lovely physio, making it hard for me to nag about getting on the machine.

Although we love cookbooks, (I read some cover to cover - they are the best winter bedtime reading,) neither of us follow recipes; mostly we learn about ingredients and flavour combinations from books and TV shows. Though we, I, have too many of them, last year we bought two which discuss more how to live/eat rather than list recipes.
Nicola Galloway's "Homegrown Kitchen" came out at long last around my birthday last year. Nicola is a Nelson chef/author; I first met her in 2007 when she ran supermarket tours for gym members to teach us how to read labels and what to pay attention to. I was flabbergasted by this young woman's scientific knowledge of nutrition and started to take her workshops in 2012, primarily for sourdough then, but I became fascinated by her wholistic approach to eating. Every few years I go back because she is constantly studying and experimenting, and her recipes are updated and often simplified.

I enjoyed my sourdough period, but I am now into simple preserving, (no sugar jam, for e.g.) and  lacto-fermentation. In class, she drops gems of knowledge as easily as she breathes, and this beautiful book summarizes her approach, which is a joy to emulate even only in parts. Some of her recipes are so simple and yet astonishingly delicious; some take a long time, (sauerkraut, e.g.) and may appear labour-intensive, in that you can't get home from work and whip it up in 15 minutes, but you can make enough to last several weeks/months, and the effort is worth it. It's that kind of a cookbook. She does food photos herself, and it's from a Nelson publisher, which is important in a small town.

Try her blog here.

I saw "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" by Samin Nosrat at Volume just before Christmas, in the short time it took Ben to park the car, and we agreed it was just our kind of cookbook. Samin is a young American chef of Persian extraction. I've only got started, as a) you must put the book down and try as instructed, but also, because b) there is an exhausting amount of name-dropping, and c) so far precious little, (i.e. none,) of her wonderful food heritage. (We know a tiny bit about Persian cooking as one of the first people we met in Nelson is a mind-blowing Persian cook.) But the science sounds sound (!) and the illustration lovely, and it's improved the flavours of our meals exponentially.

Japanese diet is loaded with salt, (soy sauce, miso, pickles, and the list goes on,) so we are taught early on to watch our intake. I even went through a couple of decades of not cooking with any salt/soy sauce, opting to use them only at the table, but this started to change after coming to New Zealand and our meat intake increased. I read the salt part a couple of times and over Ben's holiday we had a protein blast, me salting meats/fish 15 minutes - 2 days ahead and Ben cooking/roasting in the barbie in the mornings, (as the afternoons/evenings were too hot to cook,) followed by three or four days of not having to cook and still eating well. And now we know how this works; well, Ben knows, and I know what to do, which is how nutrition works at chez B&M. I am repeatedly surprised how little salt is needed, and how it enhances not only the protein's flavour but also that of other seasoning, of which we also need less. 

Although I got started on the second, fat, section, I might move onto the acids; it sounds less dangerous after salt. Mom loves vinegars and in Japan we use them a lot, (as part of the umami, if you've heard of that late 20th Century buzzword;) and Ben and I put it in, (while cooking,) or splash it on, (afterwards,) practically everything. The book has recipes at the back, and we might skim through it, but again, this is a leaning-how-to-do-our-own-thing book. And did I mention the illustration is lovely? The edition I got at Volume has all temperatures/measurements in metric, except what is described in the illustrations.

And now to our little gems, hardly "recipes" but things quick and delicious: first is Ben's Asian dressing/marinade/seasoning. Mix equal parts:
  • sesame seed oil, (the fragrant kind, which is most products, but we once had a non-Asian organic product with only a faint scent;)
  • Japanese soy sauce, (the country of origin doesn't matter, but we have come across other Asian products which were thicker;) 
  • vinegar with weak/no scent, (we use rice vinegar); 
  • water
in a jar/bottle and shake well. If you don't use all up, the oil floats to the top and gets used faster so add more later. It's good for simple green leaves, tomatoes and raw/soaked onions, seaweed salads, and steamed beans; it's good for marinating or seasoning meats; but my favorite is seasoning mashed potatoes with regular spuds; cook potatoes; when mashing, add no butter nor milk, but this sauce and some water; taste. We tend to add more vinegar, but up to you.

Ben says when marinating chicken, adding maple syrup is good, too.

Here's mine: umeboshi seasoning. Umeboshi is salted sour plums, which come in different sizes and colors, (red, brown, yellow,) and different softness and sourness. For straight eating, the small, hard-fleshed ones are not as salty but fruity IMHO, but the softest, mushiest flesh is what I like for seasoning. Remove the pit/stone and chop or pound the flesh to make a rough paste. This need not be smooth or even. (I found some at a Nelson organic store labeled "Umeboshi paste", but haven't tried yet; you may be able to buy them already in paste state.)

The paste has a salty, sour flavour and you could season soups; I like to season chicken or pork. If you want to make rice balls, mix a small amount with rice while still steaming hot until the rice is pinkish; taste. Prepare a large bowl with slightly salted water; dip your hands into the bowl, take a small amount of seasoned rice and make tight, small balls. Dip your hands again in salt water and repeat. Serve rice balls warm or cold.

Here's my favorite, seasoned sweet mashed potatoes: I cut up sweet potatoes, (orange kumura is best, regular potatoes are OK, too,) into small chunks and either steam or nuke with a small amount of water; (if nuking, I error on the side of a bit too much water; cook at half power for 2-3 minutes; turn the pieces; repeat until the chunks are cooked evenly; discard some of the water if there's too much.) Start mashing, but about halfway, mix the paste so it mixes with the potatoes evenly. When nuked, kumura hardens a little as it cools, so I make it mushier if I have more than enough for one meal. A big kumura makes two or three meals' worth. How much paste depends on your umeboshi, your potato, and your preference, so taste while you mash/mix, but the flavour becomes a little less intense as it cools.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rain, Sun, Rain, Sun, Messy House and Terrible Garden

I've finished the second piece on the cashmere warp, (no pic as I started the next one immediately,) but I'm not crazy about it at the moment; let's agree to suspend judgement until I finish the third, last piece and can have a better look at both. With no plans/intentions, the first one worked surprisingly well; this is what makes the second one... ick. I haven't woven on the big loom.
I've done more abstracts, moving into curvy lines. I've been interested in creating movement through color placement and/or shape sizes. This pic is strange because I started with the bottom right square on the right page and moved up, so the big two-parter was finished last.

I made Mom draw, even though she tried to sabotage by saying she's not "the drawing kind"; "let's talk about weaving," she said, so we did, which took two minutes. I spent three hours prepping that morning, so I wasn't going to let her off easily. Mom was surprisingly good at it; I'm not sure if she managed to never look at her paper, (I had to learn to draw blind because it felt physically unnatural at first,) but we did a bunch of blind contours from extremely short to 90 and 120 seconds using dad's photos, (turned sideways and upside down,) and each other's face on the screen. We both tried really hard to draw slowly but we do tend to cruise along. We talked about seeing/imagining rather than aiming for realistic/traditional drawings, and how our drawings were not ends but merely means. And experimenting. I know she even enjoyed it as I managed to keep her on Skype for 90 minutes.
I didn't screen-capture what she did, but I also showed her how I put down colors and find faces, like I do on postcards. Next week colors with watercolor pencils.
In two days, I managed to work on four LJs to forward. This is from today; I arranged a vegetable forest on the spread, shot it, then glued the veggies looking at the screen, and later drew Little Red Riding Hood and a wolf. Today's LJ work took up the whole day, which is why I didn't get to the loom.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Moving On

I can't remember at what stage my loom was at when I last posted, except that it wasn't going mere hours after Ben fixed it. I had to take a break from worrying as I was overwhelmed by questions and advices, while wondering if I was going to face an existential crisis as a weaver. (I wasn't there.) Fear no more, Ben fixed it again this morning, and though I dreaded to try it for most of the day, I managed to weave in the end.
But before this, I sampled and didn't like the threading on the left end, so I edited it twice. The end result looks way too symmetrical for a piece I threaded spontaneously; (it's not symmetrical); maybe I need to plan spontaneity on paper, although I might try this again. It's a little thrilling.
During the week, I painted Santas; 3D coloring, and I can't stay inside the lines. All that remain to paint are the beards and hairs, then let dry and spray a clear coat. I'm going to leave their faces as they are. These guys are taking far more time than I expected but they have been such good company. I also wove 35cm on the clasped weft piece; doodled more abstracts; started knitting another beanie; mended a few things; and set out to make Ben's Tardis PJ bottom.
Instead, I practiced sewing by making two bags, (3D modelling!); I actually made one; wasn't too impressed; made another; really liked it; took the first one apart and reworked it. Again, I'm making these up as I go, and I could make life easier for myself if I followed instructions or at least planned ahead, but we'll see how I get on. These aren't big; I randomly bought four 20cm zippers so you get the idea. 25cm zippers looked so long in the stores but 30cm or even longer may be more practical for bags to use in sorting things inside suitcases. My sewing skills, however, has, oh, so much room for improvement.

I am ready to get back in to Letter Journals, and about time, too. I probably broke all kinds of rules not working on them promptly, but I was LJed out before I went to Japan; I did work on two while there, and carried several around the South Island, but more than that I hate to work half-heartedly. So I piled them up on the coffee table and felt guilty every evening. I don't expect to participate as robustly as I did last year but want to stay in. But first, I need to clear the bottle neck right here. 

* * * * *

You know we had drought conditions earlier in spite of rain forecast time and time again; I quickly got used to saving water at least for our pots and was amazed appalled how much water we waste during the course of a normal day.  And that's not even saving laundry or bath water. We bought a big bucket and I save the upstairs shower water before it's warm enough to stand under; that alone is enough to water the pots every two or three days. Then suddenly we've had quite heavy rain for days and now I don't know what to do with my dish water, let alone the clean shower water! Oh, dear.