Monday, December 31, 2012

"Ohmisoka"

In Japan, we have a word for the last day of the month, "misoka" and in the old days all bills were due then. Today is "Oh-Misoka" or the Big Misoka, and in addition to bills, if one borrowed something during the year, if one has become indebted to someone, the borrowed items were returned and polite "Thank you's" were conveyed to those who helped you.

By the way, the month of December has a nickname, "Shiwasu" or "teachers running"; the month is such a busy one even teachers, who are usually dignified and cannot be rushed, need to get a move on to finish everything that is required of them.

And on the home front, we do, as it were, the whole Spring Cleaning in one day. In the dead of the winter. And I hear winter came early this year and the northern half of Japan has had February temperatures and snow falls this month. Of course many mothers plan well and start cleaning incrementally, but even fathers help on this special cleaning day. Most families finish cleaning sometime in the evening, and then we sit together and have a super simple bowl of soba (buckwheat) noodles either as part of dinner, or near midnight. Soba noodle is nothing special, we eat it all the time, but it's slightly more brittle than other noodles, so since the Edo Era we've been eating it on Ohmisoka evening to sever our ties with all the bad things that happened during the year.

Whereas the name "New Year's Eve" seems to me to mean only the day, or evening, preceding The Big Day, it is an important day in its own right in Japan, and we don't get drunk, but sit with family, eat mandarins, maybe watch the telly or a movie, shoot the breeze and chill out. And some people go out even later to be at a shrine, or the top of Mt Fuji, at midnight. It is an important day, and even when I was 31I got in hot water because I wanted to go out with Ben to see a famous shopping area selling Hagoita, decorative Japanese racket for a genteel version of badminton-like sport; it wasn't so much the actual cleaning, but the absence of common sense for him to ask me out on Ohmisoka and for me to want to go that absolutely enraged my mother. Needless to say, I didn't go. (Though I must add, at a younger age my brother was allowed to go out with friends.)

So Ben and I did your ritual/symbolic cleaning today. And it's a good thing because the house really needed it. He also made a pasta dinner, but we might have soba too, at midnight, just a small bowl.

I printed out my 2013 Things to Remember,
put up the map of Italy on the stash room wall,
 and the Riverside Shakespeare on my bedside.
I sprained my ankle before lunch and cleaning, and it was so loud Ben heard it in the other room. Or maybe it was my yelping he heard. I didn't break anything, I can walk, and cleaned the house thus, but it's a little swollen and, how can I describe it, it vibrates when I hobble. So I couldn't weave my purple piece even though I really wanted to. 

The water turned grainy brown at around 4PM and I had to ring the City Council. I really didn't want a plumber to have to come to my house just before 5PM on New Year's Eve, and in the end the water cleared, but I'm fringing the cashmere scarves, and I'm not sure if I want to wash them tonight.

And way before all that, at the start of the day, I sheared Ben. He has new glasses and they require very short and tidy look. More than his old pair.

There is three and a half hours left of 2012 here. Thank you for your company, and I shall count on some more in the coming 2013. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feeling Jane's Love

Ben found an envelope from Jane in the PO box this morning. And it's so lovely. A card with a small bookmark, with a message and the list of contents: eight threads, (5 meters each!) from her working box, either used recently or her favs, in a delicate bag; a small hot pink noteboook, the same size she carries to record inspirations, (a kindred stationary lover,) a set of photographs about Jane, (the one showing her bookmarks I've taken out to show you below the threads; another set of inspirations from Lapland of Finland; her business card with interesting words, and a tiny crocheted flower.

Her personal photographs and how she came to be interested in weaving is wonderful - exactly the kind of things I love to learn about another weaver. It turns out we both started with handmade looms. I had forgotten about mine; in college I worked out how I can weave a relatively large piece (hanky-size) of plain weave cloth and had my then-boyfriend build a frame about A2 size, (double letter size,) and hammered in tiny nails all around it myself. Even then, I tried to make as flat a cloth as possible using the skinniest knitting yarns I could find. From memory, one was orange! 

I've been thinking a lot about Heather's felted broach, achromatism, and texture, and Jane's threads and the bookmark on the card fit into my thinking; not exactly achromatic but lovely and possibly more to my taste our summer light. 

The small size of the notebook and the photographs make me wonder, too. I write big and my eyesight is bad, so I tend to prefer larger things, (at least A5, roughly half of letter size,) but I can carry Jane's photographs and notebooks so easily, and I look forward to taking Jane along to Japan next Feb,. In fact, I think I'm going to take all my envelopes to show my mother. 

And Finland, oh, Finland. If you celebrate synchronicity, you will smile when I tell you I also received a card from Maria today; you know, she's from Finland, though I don't know if it's Lapland.

I appreciate the thoughts that go into these envelopes. They are lovey, personal, touching, and very, very special. Thank you so very much. 

* * * * *

"A Day in the Lift of Looms" Version 4; let's do it. Take loom pics on January 1, 2013; post and send me the links or send me pics. It's a Loom Pic Fest, so no theses required.

Here are V1, V2, V3. I didn't realize we've been doing this for this many years. And one of my looms still has the same warp as 2011! I'd better get a move on.

December

Didn't do much, except complain about the dud cashmere warp and the heat. And cooked and ate a lot of veggies and legumes.
From far left: two faced twills in three pale blues wefts, a nice piece but utterly unexciting; Christmas Present motif with autumnal wefts, OK but structurally unexciting enough for Santa Fe; an experiment in "do as I say, not as I do"; I keep telling mother to not change colors if she wants to show off structure and yet I went ahead and failed/aborted; same structure in one weft because I was too tired to think of something fresh; leftover fabric in much simpler draft but with more rapid changes. Conclusion: I do love close-up structural interests and in that vein, only the last swatch was successful. Which requires my "bold" attempts to be more structurally finicky to keep me happy, and yet be, ummm, bold in appearance from some distance.

Next up: pink baby blanket
in this draft,
which is this draft turned and doubled,
a draft I've wanted to weave for as long as I've had this book,
which has been a long, long time. And mine.
I've not woven much of 18DPI or sparser in a while so the thought of 6 EPI freaked me out and I sleyed at 8 EPI, so the piece will be more rustic than luxurious in hand, but that's OK, I'm pretty ruthless when it comes to using my woven cloth, and this will stand in good stead for years to come. This is a wide warp, though, and though I'm weaving standing up I can't see from one selvedge to the other unless I kneel on the bench!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kiwi House Pants

I'm such a single-tasking simpleton, I think I could be a good gardener if I didn't weave. Or a good cook if I didn't weave and didn't garden. Or I could do none of these and study and get a higher degree. Or read.

I've always known about my single-minded nature, but weaving is what I've chosen and I've focused on it to the exclusion of everything I could exclude in my life at one point. But food, cooking, heath aren't mere hobbies or interests; they are, ummm, life, and I can't feel good about being a bad cook even if I somehow decided I'm a great weaver, the latter can't make up for the former.

I'm slow to understand things. I need to read things many times and I need a lot of practice to get better at things. But I don't like practicing. I'm also lazy.

EDIT: This is a stage I wouldn't mind getting to, but it's a scary prospect, too.  It's a dangerous territory for us Lazies.

* * * * * 

I'm amazed how much I'm enjoying cooking. I go in spurts being interested in food and then not at all, but I'm trying not to overdo it so that this spurt will last longer. And because we don't use as much oil or cook starch, washing dishes is fast, requires less detergent, can be done in cold water, and in this heat, it's a welcome task. I'm also pleased how quickly we got used to smaller portions, and not having much meat/fish/starch or any alcohol wasn't a choice but something that just happened. Again, I think the heat helped feeling very satisfied with salads and other vegetarian dishes served cold, and fruits.

We have no intention of becoming vegetarian; I would never even contemplate depriving beloved of bacon, and I would feel very sad if I were to never have smoked salmon again. And we love cheeses. But even our other dairy consumption has decreased. It'd be interesting to see what happens when the climate is kinder.

Even Ben started cooking and serving small portions and we don't go through as much food. Who knows, we may be rich next time this year!

* * * * *

Have I mentioned the heat yet? We have been having a heat wave. Just last week Nelson was astonished to have 20C at 7.30 in the morning, but we had a blustery, glare-sunny Christmas Eve with our shady cold house 28C in the early evenings, and right back to 28C at 8AM Christmas Day with no wind, just glare, still 30C at almost 1AM. Nelson doesn't get this hot, at least this early in the summer. Our house might get up to 25C once or twice a year for half a day max in late Jan/early Feb.

Boxing day, yesterday, was cooler but much more humid in spite of a Heavy Rain forecast. Goodness me. I didn't want to waste another day looking at multiple screens imitating sloths.
I sewed a couple of Heat Wave house pants/PJ bottoms for Ben. He has no heat wave clothes, and was quietly suffering in thick synthetic long shorts, and I've wanted to make these crazy pants for him for years. I made a few mistakes so two pairs of the simplest PJ bottoms took a little over half a day and I didn't have time to go downstairs to finish what I wanted to, but I'm pretty pleased with these, and I'm going to make a couple of more today. None as funny as these Kiwis, though.

I wish I were better at sewing. Like knitting, the logic and mechanism of construction has fascinated me since Fifth Grade, and I enjoy reading about pattern construction and sewing techniques very much, but my delivery is "Good Effort" at best. Some parts, it's better if you don't look closely. But I like the idea of making something nobody else has, altering patterns or adding something to make things for Ben and me knowing there's something unique, (at least un-usual, as in not standard,) about it. And I keep hoping many practices will make me better. Automagically. Without effort. Only fun. 


It's been a cool morning so far, ever so slightly overcast, but I doubt we'll get rain. Not a bad day for a Pants Day!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unintended, Yet...

I didn't set out for my Weaver to Weaver envelopes to arrive on a specific day, but I've been told those to Europe arrived on or around Christmas Eve. Here's one I sent to Ela.

(If you are taking part in this project and have not sent yours yet, please be reminded to get them out on or before New Year's Eve.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012/2013

2012 is coming to a close. In 2013, I am going to:

1) Start thinking not in terms of what I haven't done, but what I have done, and concentrate on the quality of the job or the amount of joy I experienced while doing it. If I still feel compelled to record numbers, as I'm prone to, I won't use fractions with the denominator admonishing me how many times I should have done that task;

2) In the same vein, be less punitive. Be less angry about politics and social injustices. Let go of things; don't be a drenched duck; lighten up. If it helps, don't look back because I stew more than learn from the past. Don't commit to things; think carefully before I sign up;

3) Resume studying Italian. I think this every week but I'm doing this systematically, and my system is: do something every day, even if it's to learn one new word, go over the spelling of the days of the week, listen to Rai for an hour, or learn the location of a new town on the map. Something;

4) Draw regularly, even outside class. Also try to revisit some and consider what "finishing" means;

5) Start reading all the plays and editorial/tutorial comments in my Riverside Shakespeare from Page 1; skip Sonnets if I like. I've thought about doing this since 1982 when I graduated from college, partly because after three and a half years of intensive study, I never got that The Bard's words are pertinent in the modern age. I see his plays as a social commentary on his glorious times and him as the first bona fide blockbuster writer/playwright, but not related to my time;

6) Dye;

7) Become healthier;

8) In the same vein, stop watching so much telly or gazing at the computer. Do something with my hands other than typing; 

9) Clean house/garden; don't give up on the idea that my domicile should reflect what I make.

You may have noticed that I don't have weaving goals, other than 5). I've become more accustomed to multiple ideas running riot in my head most time and feel OK moving from one to another and back again. If something/s isn't/aren't banging at my door, I can always go knocking on my list. It's going to be an "Expect the Unexpected" sort of a year, 2013.

Merry Food

And peace on earth. Today and every day from this day forward. If only everybody wished for this...

We've been enjoying being thoroughly immersed in thinking of food, reading about, cooking and eating almost-vegetarian, watching and re-watching gazillion mostly-English cooking shows. (Mostly English by TV stations' choice, but we're not complaining.) I didn't buy an eye-candy cookbook for Christmas this year, but goodness me I have a lot of nice ones and more than a few I never really read; I have a few new low GI books which are good to read, (albeit, GI still surprising/confusing us from time to time), and Ben and I bought The Hairy Dieters, which in the UK has been deemed better than porn. 

The Hairy Bikers are funny fellows. I used to think they looked so unsanitary and unappetizing as soon as they came on I changed the channel; Ben had to watch when I wasn't around. For some reason we watched an episode of The Best of British about a month ago and suddenly I couldn't get enough. Though I wouldn't try their recipes, I love their baking the best.

This year we didn't save anything for Christmas. We got stuck into Panettone as soon as Ben came home with it on Friday, (but only the recommended slice of 1/16 of the cake at a time;) munching on raspberries and boysenberries as soon as we came home from picking on Saturday.But strangely no booz; we haven't really wanted any.

Eating healthily has also meant we don't use as much oil or flour and washing dishes has been easier. We got used to the smaller portions much sooner than we expected and feel full quickly. One of the strangest of all is that I've not had chocolate craving for... over a month.

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, though we had no special plans, we each assumed we'd have some kind of sumptuous meat, a salad, and some carbo. Turned out we had a windy, glaring-sunny, heat wave kind of a day so we changed menu: almost-dry-fried monk fish, orange kumara and walnuts, tabbouleh, and cucmber/yogurt sauce. Except I forgot the garlic in the last and it tastes like a healthy milkshake.  We used to make tabbouleh often but hadn't for a while; I don't like parsley too much and the way we were taught by our friend Margaret had a lot of parsley in it. I thought it would be a good thing on a scorcher of a evening, so I looked up a recipe. We didn't have lemons or lemon juice, and it was almost too late to go shopping, so I squeezed a lime and two lemons. We didn't have flat parsley so we used a lot of crinkly ones, which would have given a stronger, green taste. But then I didn't have olive oil so used flax seed oil which is blander but healthy.

When Ben was putting things away after our supper, he asked what I had used the soba/buckwheat for; I hadn't. I only made tabbouleh. But the bulgur packet was still sealed. Ah, that's why it looked slightly different from how I remembered! Oh, well, the texture was similar. I just hope we don't get sick eating uncooked soba.

And that's how it came to be that I more or less created an semi original dish. Though I may never repeat it again.

Today looks set to be hottter; it's sunnier and we have no wind. And it may sound strange to you, but I'm having a break from the kitchen duties today; we're having vegetarian leftovers and fruits for the next couple of days.  And more reading and talking about food.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Words/Triggers/Ideas

The Sketchbook Projects allows us to choose a theme from the following choices:

Travelogue
Memoir
Narrative
Atlas
Almanac
Chronicle
Sketchbook
Chapbook
Documentation
Photo Log
Undecided
Dwellings
Strangers
Participate
Diagrams
Warnings
List
Creatures
Dinosaurs
Upstairs
Mystery

It's a nice selection of starting points, but is prone to fashion. I mean, "Upstairs'??? When I first received the sketchbook, I was thinking along the lines of us all living inside our skins in the first instance and our clothing/cloth in the next, so I chose "Dwellings". But that's not what I think I'm doing. Or what I think I'm doing doesn't seem to reflect the idea of dwellings. Not that that's important. So shall I go with "Creatures"? Or am I working on... ""Diagrams"? And what the heck is a "Chapbook"? And yet I don't want to fall into ambiguity like "Undecided" or "Participate"; I don't want to be that lame. Yet.

But then the world might end tomorrow and I may not have to worry.

Further down, I noticed this morning there are a lot of explanations/descriptions I can add on my online profile. It's probably for sort and search, and I'm not too interested in overloading information outside of my (boring) Sketchbook. But, among them were these choices for my book's area of interest:

Architecture
Design
Fashion
Science
Travel
Abstraction
Family
Narrative
Portraiture
Color Study
Landscape
Music
Technology
Cartography
Memoir
History
Education
Nature
Engineering
Community
Interactive
Media
Othe

This list looks less prone to fashion, but doesn't include, "philosophical/metaphysical/existential/universal goo," which best describes my current stage of ponder/ing.

Still, I like looking at lists like these. 

* * * * *

Cally wrapped up the year. Or started to anyway. Which pushed to the fore yet another goo of mine; the 2012/2013 List post. I've been working on it for over a week but simultaneously going through mood swings, priority shifts and a relatively new-to-me quandary, "Are Lists Good?". Crikey, this will be one major paradigm shift if I decide, "No"!  A substantial portion of my life spent making, reworking, color-coordinating and revising lists will have been for naught. Still, living in a murky goo not committing, not deciding, not clarifying, not prioritizing and not listing appeals to me a little bit; at the very least it will match the physical environment I've lived in for a while.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Evan Appeal

I'm still emotionally stuck at Haiti 2010 and have observed Christchurch, Japan, China, Turkey, and the Indus Floods with something of a detached frame of mind, but we in New Zealand have special place for the Pacific Islands. Auckland, for instance, has the largest Pacific Island population in the world. Many Kiwis work/volunteer in the Islands and many Islanders come to New Zealand to send money back home. The latest, Cyclone Evan worries me very much.

Samoa had a bad flood/tsunami in either 2010 or 11, which decimated a tourist areas, an important cash earner for that nation. Evan went over the entire country this week.

Fiji has had tremendous political upheaval in the last couple of decades, hurting the populous and the tourist industry. It's only today we're finding out how Fiji is faring, (not well,) because a lot of folks were evacuated and power was out for a couple of days.  

Tonga has had political unrest of late and was supposedly in Evan's path; I understand they did better than Samoa and Fiji this time. 

And these are the larger Island countries who have resources, infrastructures and established (albeit at times tenuous) relationships with New Zealand and Australia as well as Japan, China and some with the US that I know of.

Even without extreme weather events, these, and smaller nations and territories like Niue, Nauru, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have been suffering from the rising waters, some territories reluctantly deciding to leave altogether in the next decade or two.

Many/most are devout Christian countries if that is a factor for you.

This holiday season, if you have a few dollars to spare, please include these folks in your option to give.

For starters I'm giving Kiva credit to my nephews and niece and talk to them about the Pacific, (we've been to the Cooks, Fiji and Tonga,) and how micro loans work so they can reinvest. Kiva has a relationship with Samoan organizations, and the Philippines; mustn't forget Bopha. I have a moral unease when I catalogue-shop for borrowers, but do prefer my meager help going to older women involved in what to me are worthy work, (food, textile, as opposed to selling fizzy drinks and cosmetics,) with loans going to the women's own businesses rather than their borrowing on behalf of their menfolk. and Kiva is so easy.   

My direct donation organization of preference is Salvation Army and they have their Pacific Island HQ in Honolulu. I'm hoping your local Salvation Army, Red Cross, church and other groups of choice will have something set up for Evan victims.

Thank you for reading.

Living and Thinking à la Patrick

Last night Ben caught me humming the last part of the SpongeBob SuqarePants theme song repeatedly while reading in bed, and asked about "Eric". I knew He wasn't "Eric" but I couldn't remember His name and we became increasingly awake and throughly annoyed annoyed. Thank goodness for Google. Suffice it to say, we didn't have to try to get to sleep wondering. Remember those days?

Ben hates SpongeBob. Probably as much as he hated "The Nanny". It's the voices, you see. Me, not a Big Fan, but I've always felt comfortable/frustrated/fascinated with/by Patrick and appreciated SpongeBob's patience. This morning, I found out why.

This is parts of an email I sent just before I found out why, to my drawing group, in response to a lovely email describing how one member works, and how we probably don't need to meet in Jan or for a while outside class. Bear in mind our application is for 2014, and we find out if we get a spot by the end of January 2013. 

* * * * *

So here’s where I come from. Half of me agree we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but I also understood/assumed if we didn’t get Refinery, we’d go after somewhere else. Which leads me to my need to discuss and gauge consensus/feedback at earlier stages in projects to make sure I’m not assuming things or at least gain a measure of understanding on how we all think individually and collectively. (sic: I'm learning the three of them already know each other possibly very well.) I’ve been told that setting the framework first is a Japanese approach by an American that worked a while in Japan; Judith Ritchie tells me it’s a weaver thing.

I’m away Feb/Mar,... (sic: and there's no guarantee I can return to the Friday morning class subsequently, it being the most popular time slot but I somehow manage eventually. ) But I’m VERY available after I mid/late Mar, especially if we meet in town or on the beach.

I’m a slow thinker, and it takes me a long time to understand what I read or hear, and longer to work out my ideas. As such, IF we are to have a common theme/idea/thread/concept around which to build an exhibition, if possible, I’d appreciate if the discussions can take place early. (sic: the other three are engaged in drawing/painting a lot more and a lot longer, whereas I had none between 1974 and 2008 and only go to Ronette's class.) So I’m in dire need of help from the group. I also must first establish mind pictures to really understand things.

I also get ideas and inspiration from discourse, (I even say things out loud to understand what I’m thinking, as in the last couple of days preparing for this email,) and from knowing people and their life stories, processes,... why people draw/paint/make, what they get out/make them happy, tastes in art/artists, etc. This explains,...why I seldom listen to music during the day but usually have the radio, podcast or audiobook playing.

I also have this thing about group exhibitions needing to look more than/different from an exhibition where a group of people bring disparately-worked pieces to show in a shared space. (sic: And we had one brilliant idea at the last meeting.)

... What I was hoping to ponder were 1) do we need a unifying concept/idea/theme, and if so can we throw some ideas around to mull over? And 2) related to that, is (sic: the idea we had) the only thing we work on at this time? And 3) how do you work, i.e. the kind of things I wrote here. I was going to suggest going to Jane Evans (by way of coffee in town,) and “shoot the breeze” to learn more about each other; going to Refinery/discussing the space was on my list, too.

So, that’s me. I hope you all have a lovely holiday. If you’re coming into town and have some time to kill but nobody to kill it with, drop me a line. Or call. Though I wouldn’t quite say, let’s Skype, until I’m in the Winterland.

* * * * *

So I'm interested to know. How do you work? How do you think? Which part do you spend a lot of time on?  What is your version of a good group exhibition? From the participant's point of view vs a viewer's? I didn't do well with my last group so I'm gung-ho in making this group work, for the group and for me.

* * * * *

Yeah, more food, cookbook, and foodie TV posts to come. It must be the season. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More on Food

I had downer of a weekend. Of course it ties in with my weight problem and body image. I've been so lacking in energy these last few years and I'm convinced it's not just aging, so I've been changing my meals and portions and trying to garden, walk and exercise more. (Then of course came the heaby-duty hay fever year.)

I also wondered if Ben's diabetes management would have been had I been a better cook, (of course it would have!) and felt terrible guilty. The day after I leave for Japan next Feb is Ben's 10th anniversary of diagnosis, and we've been reading newer researches and recipes for a couple of months so we can improve our lives and health. Ben's been crazy busy this year so his exercise regime had languished and his control has been not ideal.

Reading about food in relation to diabetes or weight problem is boring. There are words I can't pronounce, a lot of can't's, shouldn't's, and mustn't's, and not a lot of nice pictures. GI has confused us as there doesn't seem to be a simple logic. All beans are low except broad beans? Brown rice is much higher than than white? But then individual bodies react differently. And combination of food changes the numbers. Hot boiled potatoes are high but if you wait until they are cold they are low. And now gluten-free is in.

I don't know what prompted me but Monday morning, I felt so rotten I didn't feel like weaving nor The Sketchbook Project work, so on a whim I started cleaning and reorganizing our spices, seeds and dried herbs. Oh, what a joy! The lovely aroma of spices in particular lifted my mood and I cooked and baked the whole day. As usual, some turned out OK, some not so, but I felt OK again. 

* * * * *

There is nothing like the thought of cookbooks that make me switch off the telly. (That, and well-written historical novels.)  Last night I went to bed early with a new Rose Elliot Low GI Vegetarian book and The Vegetarian Epicure, 1972, bought when I was in college, probably '78 or '79. I admit that the latter, I always admired the illustrations but never looked up any recipes until, ahem, this year and made a mental note of the many simple but attractive bread recipes.

This book came decades before gluten-free cooking, and some recipes even call for extra gluten flour. The author promotes vegetarianism, among other reasons, because of DDT and "sex" hormones in land meat and mercury in seafood, yet includes MSG in the recipes.

In the section on Entertainment, she says to be ready for a second, lighter dessert about two hours after the meal. "This two-hours-later course is especially recommended if grass is smoked socially at your house. If you have passed a joint around before dinner to sharpen gustatory perceptions, you most likely will pass another after dinner, and everyone knows what that will do - the blind munches can strike at any time."

L.O.L.

* * * * *

You know I lust after cookbooks. Nelson Public Library has a canceled books sale on the first Friday of every November. I had such a good time when I happened upon it two years ago, I knew I would be in Japan that day last year, so I looked forward to it this year's sale since April. Well, on that very day last month, after the drawing class, I completely forgot about it and took a newspaper article a week later to be reminded.

Still, from time to time I prefer to delve into my old familiar cookbooks, and I'd imagine I'd be doing that in the next little while. I have more than a few I read cover to cover, and a few I so admire the pictures but have never read.

And then there are the Go To ones, aren't there? Mine is the 1977 edition of "Betty Crocker's Cookbook"; to me, this is not just a cookbook but a reference and my ersatz Mother for Western cooking, the kind I grew up on in high school and college outside the college dorm. My "aunt" is the 1978 "Joy of Cooking". In the last decade or so, a BFF has been Nigella's "How to be a Domestic Goddess". So I don't feel so sad about missing the sale. I haven't coveted the flash new ones in the bookshops or online for a while. (Though I did buy 3 new diabetes/GI related ones last months as ones I had were from the pre-GI era.) I'm going on a tour down memory lane.  

What are your favorite cookbooks? Which ones have you asked Santa for this year?

On Food

On Thursday, our little drawing exhibition group met at Annabelle's house for lunch. The meeting went well; we discussed the sort of things we'd like to think about in the next year, (provided we can get the small gallery space - we find out at the end of January). I can tell you we came up with some nice ideas. But I was a little flabbergasted and shocked and saddened.

Annabelle, besides maintaining a beautiful large, rural property and having raised four successful young-adult children, the last of whom left home only early this year and having a successful musician/music teacher carrier and who sews all her clothes, is also a phenomenal cook, and combined with her gardening prowess, our lunch was... let's just say so much tastier and healthier than café or pricey vineyard lunches. We had a tasty bean salad, a baked egg plant and cheese dish, (out of this world!), a salad, as well as two cheeses. And a home-made lemonade. And a dairy- and gluten-free walnut cake with homemade black current sorbet. Her family eats like that every day. And not only were they tasty, but beautiful to look at. (Catherine said we should be taking pictures first; even though I had my camera, I was in a hurry to plunge in.)

I love to eat, but I don't like to cook, or more precisely, I don't like to think of what to cook. I know about nutrition and try to cook healthily, but for me taste and look of food are hit-or-miss. As you know I love to read cookbooks, but like a lot of things in my life, I know the theory from books much better than I can execute.

Since time immemorial, "Meg can't cook," was one of my parents' mantras and they were relentless in repeating it to me as long as I can remember, including in front of my younger siblings. You know, taunting me about my cooking was fair game. Looking back, I wonder what the hell is so wrong with parents who'd actually relish teasing a kid, even if it were true.

I used to enjoy cooking. And even more so baking; I particularly liked fancy showing desserts. And I wasn't that bad. I didn't learn to cook from my mother but from American cookbooks in the first instance, and from my first homestay mom Kathy in the second, so my taste palate was/is different from my family's. But I was keen and experimental.

Eventually, I  bought it. Without knowing I did. I stopped cooking unless I absolutely had to; and talk about self-fulfilled prophesy, as time passed, I became worse. I can't even remember when as it was not a conscious decision, but sometime after we were married, sometime after we came to New Zealand. Besides, Ben's the better cook, so why bother.

Funny how a lovely lunch would bring back so much sadness.

Annabelle reminded me that eating simple, good food can bring so much joy into life. I have to do something.

* * * * *

Speaking of groups, some members of Strands/Group R are involved in a three-day Summer School in Nelson called Creative Journeys: Maria, upcycle sewing; Ronnie, art journaling; and though not Strands, Stella from the bookshop, jewelry from found objects. Jo is not teaching as she is in charge of the Admin this time.

* * * * *

Speaking of classes, I withdrew from Kay Faulkner's weaving workshop next April. The travel arrangement became just too hard to work out and... I couldn't be bothered. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crikey...

I couldn't sleep last night. And I remembered I must post the Sketchbook Project sketchbook in one month, by January 15. And I've done virtually nothing about it. And I don't feel so inspired about what to do in that department.

Bother...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Heather's Weaverly Love

I feel so loved. This is an envelope I received from Heather of Weaving Arts Thursday night.
It contained a piece of shibori-dyed piece of silk, (her first piece ever!), a piece of yarn from a jacket knitted some 20 years ago, and a hand-felted & stitched brooch in Black and White. And a letter.

Parts of the silk has clear distinct patterns and others blurred areas; it's easy to admire the clear parts but the color gradation in the less distinct parts are beautifully blue-y and burgundy-y and cloud-like. 

The yarn has got a lot of mohair, among other things, and a bit scratchy, but based on burgundy and gold, it has all the colors of the rainbow in small amounts and is a lovely study on variation and proportion.

The brooch made me think of the Silver Fern, worn by most/all New Zealand national sports teams in the first instance. It's full of texture and different values of gray and once again it reminded me that I do love achromatism. But wait...

I do love her card. Its' lovely, very special, and colorful. I feel the presence of the person/maker who packed this envelope most strongly from this card. I've been thinking of carrying it with me.

Thank you so much, Heather. I wish you a lovely holiday season. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday

After posting yesterday, I went looking for documentation on the old weaving programs I might have not thrown away somewhere, anywhere, in my stash room. I found none then, (but some outdated material later,) but I came across some old calendars I saved because I love the pictures so much.

I used to love selecting my calendar so very carefully about this time of the year, but I never really used then this side of... 2000?... so I haven't bought any in the last few years.
I remember the sculpture calendar well, but I always thought it was mask-themed because all the works in it are of human figures and many, faces. Looking at the pictures again, I thought it might help me think some more about portraits.
This is a page from the NZ MetService calendar; I haven't seen thei calendars in the last couple of years but they usually have fabulous cloud or lightening pics. This one, though, in person is much greener than it appears on my screen and looks all kinds of indigo.
I picked a few from the calendars and clipped some more from magazines and sat down to work on the Sketchbook Project but felt so uninspired I went downstairs to weave without putting things away. This morning my kitchen table was laden with colors. Bliss.

And for all of you Boro lovers, here's a pic a friend linked to on Facebook. Let's see, I said, " It appears 'new'. It says the base is an indigo-died pair of socks, then added were coins from Afghanistan and Hmong cloth, and finally a bit of Sashiko. The article is encouraging making socks more individual/original."

It's also been a morning of stress and "not"s. I kept feeling we were communicating in cross-purposes with the aforementioned weaver in need of help the whole time. I even got Ben to rewrite and recompile a sanctioned, publicly available code on the downstairs loom but apparently to no avail at her end. Renaming, en/description, installation/operation on multiple OSs and machines worked fine at our end. I think she's going to look for a real person to help.

I'm also wondering if I should withdraw from Kay Faulkner's class and forfeit a small cancellation fee. I haven't been able to get information from the organizer and because it's the first week of the school holidays flights are already selling out. I had Ronette write a letter on my behalf to apply for a scholarship/discount in... September so I hesitate to pull out but with  Christmas fast approaching and the trip to Japan before the workshop, I sense I can unload myself of a lot of grief if I withdraw now.

Lift, eh.

UPDATE: Said weaver is working through her loom problem and has had some favorable interim results. Yay! Here's to continued success, R! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday

I'm trying to assist a weaver in Melbourne restart her system which is even more complicated than mine. Hers is a Le Clerc loom retrofitted by Mr Throp, and our loom boxes are different. Anyhoo, I took some pics of mine to see if she can get a sense of what she needs and how the boxes are connected. It's not a pretty picture, but lacking new pretty scarves to show you, I thought I'd post them this morning. I drew a diagram so she'll know which pics show what, in very hard pencil, and had to enhance the pencil lines artificially. If I want to do a good job of something, I really shouldn't start at 10.30PM on a Sunday, really...
Diagram
Front View
Back of desktop - so many cords! I used to put my draft, converted into a lift plan WIF,
via a diskette from the front, but now it goes on a stick and fed from here.
2 parallel port thingies required - ergo only an old computer works.
Lift plan WIF data input into the black box.
Lift plan WIF data translated into ... lifting action??... and comes out of an inconspicuous hole and
feeds into the bottom part of the loom box,
Which selects which solenoid, (i.e. shaft) is lifted in each pick.
Bottom part of loom box from the right.
There are two screws that corresponds to each solenoid/shaft.
Another cord, from the back of the black box, feeds into the top of the loom box, under the black tape;
this section is usually covered with a black metal case. The top of the loom box coordinates
the shafts/pedal/air compressor action. Two blue cords feed into the pedal, and...
One last cord connects the pedal to the air compressor in the garage. 

I've only seen a purpose-built computer-controlled loom in person once, and I wasn't paying much attention because I was in awe of its 32 shafts. But my peripheral understanding, (you know, one glance and you pick up information you didn't know you picked up?) tells me it didn't have a black box and the computer connects directly, (i.e. physically) to the loom box. Many weaving software has loom control codes for major manufacturers' looms, so the draft data doesn't have to go though translations/conversions, either. (This happens after I finalize the draft on my laptop before I feed the draft into this loom computer. I need to convert mine into a lift plan WIF, and because of an unexplained anomaly, I need a blank pick line at the start because the shafts don't life on Line 1.) 

The 32-shaft I saw didn't need an air compressor, which is a distinct, understated, (get it?) advantage. Having fewer conversions and connections reduce the number of potential problems and my feeling is when problems occur it's easier to track down the cause and solve it on a purpose built machine. And this is why I live in fear this whole setup is going to come crashing down on my because a wee bit of wire wears down and it's so tiny we can't locate it. Or there are no more old parts. (My conversion software requires an old OS so we stopped upgrading after Windows 98.) My previous owner had to vacuum a particular the top part of the loom box often, she told me, but I've not had that problem. Maybe I don't weave as much as she did.

Just last week, 11 kept lifting sporadically when it wasn't supposed to. I couldn't figure out the conditions that made it lift. After an afternoon of investigation in the middle of a cashmere scarf, I found two heddles on 10, the bottom of which had not be cut cleanly, created a tiny loop that picked up a hook at the bottom of 11. So when 10 was up, 11 went up, too. 

Have you posted photos of how your computer-controlled is setup? Have you seen photos of a purpose-built setup somewhere explaining how they work? It'd be interesting to see how much simpler they are.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday

Picture of the day. I want to make this my profile photo.

* * * * *

I sent out my envelopes yesterday.  I hope my recipients like them. Turns out there were more paper than textiles, and all three are similar but not the same. They are the kind of gentle hints I love to find in my day to day life; the kind I might carry with me and doodle directly on, or on ideas based on, or do something similar to using my own starting points.

* * * * *

Friendly hello on my Facebook this morning from my first-ever-serious-job boss Bruce read: "Happy something or rather ... Thinking of you and Ben and hope you are weaving an unimagined trail of absolute chaos and mayhem over there and will do even better in 2013. Love Bruce and Judy"

I worked for Bruce at IBM, in Tokyo, in China Operation, the body that became IBM China; he was the second ever Kiwi I ever met and a big part of why Ben and I are in Kiwiland, though he, Judy and half of his clan have lived in Queensland, Australia for a number of years. Bruce was a-Blokes'-Bloke/Best-Boss-Ever/Semi-Dad/Big Brother/Mentor and A Big Influence as a young adult, immediately after college. Judy was the first person to order a commission piece, back when I was still a closet weaver in the mid 90's. I haven't woven her order yet as she knows art, NZ weaving and Japanese art/culture/history all too well, and I haven't figured out a way to mesh all my knowledge and skills to demonstrate some, if not all, of the above.

I had a lovely afternoon with their Oz Branch in Brisbane and disclosed to Judy for the first time that though her order had never been far from my mind, I have only recently come to feel I can start to explore what I could weave for her. I was astounded when Judy brought up a small piece of Kawashima I gave them one Christmas to go with a pot, and told her one of my Big Weaving Goals has always been to weave something that contained something of a Kawashima feel. A theme for 2013.

* * * * *

We had the last drawing lesson of the year yesterday, and I keep surprising myself by drawing faces. The wee group planning a tiny exhibition in 2014 is going to meet for a lunch soon. Yesterday I kept roaming from one bookshop to another looking for one good novel I would want to read, or one beautiful cookbook I can justify treating myself to, and I found neither. (Having enough at home I haven't explored being one big reason.) But an idea crept into mind; a book or a series of portraits.

Really?? Seriously?? Me??

We had to write very short bios as part of the application for the exhibition, and some in our wee group struggled as they had never done "artists" bios and we helped each other. Thinking back on that process, my thoughts hovered over artists' profiles and biography written by someone else, even by people who never met their subjects. Perception of/by another. Artwork vs writings by artists. My love of reading about van Gogh the Man vs stick-my-finger-in-my-throat dislike of his artwork.

I'm never happy with the faces I draw in class, (oh, alright, all but two or three drawings a year,) so I see how this is a potential Mammoth in the Room, but it's just an idea. And the format can be interesting: identical paper/size/media, different faces; a handmade book; some kind of a visual commonality; or a hidden message/symbol in all. But I want a small project; the one that is physically the smallest in the exhibition and have the appearance of the least thought and effort behind. To ponder in 2013.

* * * * *

Two cooking show have been on the telly this morning. I learned what an Italian meringue is; it has water in it! My cookbook lust is lifting its big head again; a baking one with beautiful photographs.

* * * * *

I hated the last cashmere scarf I was weaving so much I abandoned it; after about 80cm, I stopped that piece and started a simple scarf, nothing to write home about, but at least a "usable" scarf. Some self-flagellation with 2/26 100% cashmere and playing Mozart's Requiem really loud for a whole afternoon, I'm moving on, but to a similar idea. We'll see. It's not 2013 on the big loom yet.

* * * * *

Do please share with me your emotional/conceptual reactions to such things as profiles, biographies and portraits, especially about those done of you by someone else, whether the person knows you or not. Or you working on someone else. These are going into a new notebook, I think. Thank you very much for your help in advance.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More

Less may be more, but more is even more, yes? I think I've got enough now.  I shall sit on my envelopes tomorrow and post them on Friday.

Meanwhile, I've really been struggling with "edgy" pieces for Santa Fe and I think the latest cashmere warp has been An Expensive Mistake. My attempt at a more "graphic", less fussy look feel so... old. Pics when they come off the loom. Or not. I emailed the gallery to say there will be no more coming from me this year.

Pathetic. Embarrassed. Mad at myself. Looking forward to the next warp.