Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 2

Day 8, August 19. Last night when Ben went to retrieved my mail ordered arthritis massage oil from the PO Box, he stopped by the supermarket because he wanted me to make butter chicken. 😃 It's something I learned during the first lockdown, and secretly I think it's the cream that makes us love it. This morning I did the Day 1 marinade part. The recipe doesn't require turmeric or paprika, so it's this color.

It started raining last night, and it's been a tad cold, so I studied my free-form knitting, trying to see what's going to happen in the next few cm.
 
Day 9, August 20. It took me a better part of the day to make butter Chicken. I didn't have some of the ingredients, had a extra of others, so it's slightly different from how it might have tasted the last time, but pretty close to how we remember from the countless takeaway trips. I added extra amounts of most spices, plus some Kashimiri pepper to give it a bite. I told you the last time, it's called butter chicken, but it calls for no butter, but a generous amount of cream.
 
Day 10, August 21. We've been having rain. Usually the day starts fine, sometimes brilliant, so I'm determined to go outside after I clean the kitchen, cook dinner and watch the 1PM update. Except sometime between cooking dinner and the end of the update, without fail the sky turns gray and the wet stuff comes down. First gently and pleasantly, but soon so dark I need the lights on to finish cooking. Golly, talk about not encouraging me.

Today, after the rain stopped me again, I oven-dried the unidentified citrus peel. I don't know who among you remember the flavoured coffees of the 80's - roasted coffee beans came with orange peel, almond slivers, or vanilla something, and we pulverized them in stylish electric grinders. That was my intro to coffee.

I don't know if these will work. They are, as usual, extremely bitter but not very fragrant. If it's no go with coffee, or tea, I'll think of something.
Day 11, August 22. Today was supposed to be, if you believe the Internet, the only non-rain day sandwiched between a week's rain on both sides. It was actually sunny and warm and still and lovely and I'd planned on both of us going outside most of the afternoon.

Except now we plan our days around the 1PM update, and there was none today, and by the time we found there was none, Ben decided he wanted to work on something we committed ourselves to back in May; it's called the lost wax method in jewellery making our friend Tom
is facilitating. We do the wax, he casts the metal, and we polish and wear.

Ben and I talked about our projects A LOT in the meantime, but the more I read about how it works the more unrealistically ambitious I got, and spent yet another afternoon searching images online, while Ben, well, he just sat down, got started, and finished one ring.

I get the feeling the ideas I have for the project is more suitable to pottery or even rock polishing than lost wax, but we'll see. Ben's now talking about possibly getting our own tool or two. 😃
Day 12, August 23. I wanted to keep working on my lost wax project, and went looking for my sketchbook. I'm not big on sketchbooks because most of my pages end up messy and unattractive and I prefer backs of bills and envelopes so I can throw them away when finished. I also cull my pages pretty enthusiastically every decade or so. When I do use them, I work chronologically rather than by subject, so there usually only one currently in use.

At first I couldn't find the current, and picking up an old one, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few interesting pages. I sometimes date my pages but not the year and suddenly I felt the need to mark when I worked in each on the black plastic cover. That was the big part of this afternoon.
I flipped through several sketchbooks, trying to sort them chronologically first, (which turned out to be hard, looking up my blog, trying to remember when I travelled, etc,) then marked start and end month/year on each. It turned out I'm on #5 (A3 horizontal) and #6 (A4 vertical) since the start of 2010. I didn't dare go back further lest I'd waste more time. I did doodle some wax project ideas, but nothing spectacular.

I remember working on these collages - I made five a couple of years ago. I can't remember if I followed instructions on a MOMA modern art online course or I was reworking a Cubism idea I learned in 2013 in Japan. I remember hating them when I did these, but today they all look kind of interesting, something I might develop for something else.

Tomorrow we find out what is to happen to our Levels after Thursday.
Day 13, August 24. Photo Day 14. I worked around the hellebores until it was too dark to see my hands. While I was outside Jacinda announced Auckland will stay in Level 3 until Sunday, then Level 2 with some extra cautions; the rest of us Level 2 until further announcement on Sept 6.
Who doesn't like new shoots, eh, unless one is so far behind in spring garden prep. I have mixed feelings about these beatiful babies because we didn't even trim the one rose bush visible (if I get on top of the footstool) from the house. Never mind, today was better than yesterday.
Day 14, August 25. Ben had a time-in-lieu day, so we had a rushed t rip into town, starting with Skunk Granules at the Mega Store, (yes, there is such a thing,) donation at Salvation Army, (I had winter things and today was a already spring,) Volume, and food. The benefit of Level 2 shopping is one doesn't linger; we spent less than five minutes in five places, 15 in two, (15 minutes in Volume felt like punishment, though,) but almost a normal 50 minutes at Countdown, (because they allow two people to go in together.) Besides Stella and us, I saw exactly two folks with masks: a staff at the Asian Food Market and a shopper at Countdown.

A student musical (?) show was cancelled, which is very disappointing since our young friend heads to Uni next year, and it would have been the one and only chance to see him on stage. Unless the group thinks of something this summer. If I'm not mistaken, though, exam season is upon them.

We finish two weeks of Level 2 as of tonight, and best case scenario, just short of another two weeks. I need to catch up with yesterday's announcements, because you know, I was otherwise occupied.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Days of a Plague, Season 2, Week 1

I am uncertain if it's worth my keeping a diary for myself during our second, milder "lockdown", but for symmetry's sake, I voted for it. So here goes.
Day 0, August 11. Photo Day 4. At around 9.15PM, Jacinda announced family of four tested positive in South Auckland, so Auckland Region would go into Alert Level 3, the rest of the country into Level 2, as of noon tomorrow, Wednesday, for the time being until the end of Friday. For a week or two, we've been repeatedly told resurgence is a matter of when not if, so here we are. And with election looming, there is of course conspiracy theory from opposition she and Top Doc waited to disclose.

On the one hand the country is familiar with the practice because we'd been free only 102 days. On the other, Level 2 has been hard to recall as it was short, and in my mind "the milder of two between 4 and 1." Nevertheless, other than food shopping, I shall stay put for now.

Kate, with whom we had dinner exactly a week ago, was successful in growing a coffee plant to the point of collecting cherries, peeling, roasting and making two cups. She thought we might be able to start a plant from Ben's green beans, even though it would take a long time to germinate. (Clearly she hasn't tried sowing hellebores.) So I asked Ben which he wanted to try and "for starters" and he gave me Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Brazil.
Day 1, August 12. Photo Day 4. I've been pretty good about getting out into the garden these days. But today, with updates at 1PM and 4PM, I dithered in the kitchen just like I used to the last time. The only other thing I did was to have a look at what I hope is the start of a ume plum tree I discovered on Monday, blissfully unaware what might happen in a couple of days. Some time ago Esther​ gave me a pit; though we weren't sure if we can germinate it, this one is in the right position in the right pot, so here's hoping.
Day 2, August 13. Photo Day 4. There was only the 1PM update today, so afterwards I went outside. (And I was pretty pleased about it.) Among other things, I moved some self-seeded hellebores into pots. I usually move them to less crowded, better-suited positions, but I'm still weeding and better-suited positions are not ready for the babies, and ones I moved were too close to the path they got in the way of more work in the area.

These, though, are one of the two pots in which I sowed seeds from my plants last year. I'd never been able to successfully sow seeds from my own plants but back in June I found both pots full of babies. One pot is going strong, all leaves healthy and true leaves popping up all over, but in this pot more than half the leaves were eaten. Can you see some naked stalks? I flooded the pot in the kitchen sink, hoping the culprits would suffocate or surface to be picked out. Which is why the leaves and pebbles have black specks of dirt.
The other pot. I wish I could remember which pot has the interesting pink and green seeds from the "past best-before" rack, and which my most favorite slate, which doesn't produce seeds easily and whose self-seeded babies don't survive.

So utterly sick of American-style parlance and conspiracies by politicians and folks. Stupid is more contagious than the virus.
Day 3, August 14. Photo Day 4. I had a completely slack day, gazing at the screen off and on most of the day. (I've been watching UK's archeology program Time Team chronologically; I started this some years ago but got diverted when there weren't as many episodes online. Now, where there is a will, there are episodes.)

We had updates at 1PM and 5.30PM: we'll stay with Level 3 for Auckland and Level 2 for the rest until the end of August 26 unless otherwise announced.

I did manage to bake an OK spelt/rye bread, (something I started during the last lockdown,) and on the fly, made this crumbled cake. Not a crumble, just a cake that crumbles and falls apart. Tastes great, though, with a combination of bitter organic raw cocoa powder an online pharmacy gave us (!!), and my bitter citrus marmaladey concoction.

I could have gone outside for short spurts and I imagined how happy/proud I'd feel, but I didn't. Didn't even knit. Or fold clean laundry.

I oscillate between acute alertness and a complete void/empty-mindedness. I guess they don't call these "Alert" Levels for nothing. It was the same last time, and though I tend to think of the first lockdown as having been unproductive, I did cook a lot and weeded a bit. I just didn't come up with a tangible project other than a diary here, nothing in weaving or drawing I could point to today as a fruit of my labour from that specific time.

I have been wondering about belated, post-lockdown "lockdown" projects, (some are interesting I might still give them a go,) so needless to say as soon as Jacinda mentioned levels, I wondered if this time I can be "good" and stick to a project and if so what that might be.

So far I haven't come up with anything, and not feeling particularly guilty, partly because my hunch is, this time around it's not going to be long for those of us outside Auckland. Fingers crossed. But also, we had a mild winter and an early spring and I have been in a panic trying to catch up with the weeding/transplanting/already-somewhat-too-late pruning. Also, I've been slow but successful in finishing a few long-standing projects dotted all around the house, and would really like to get them out of the way, off the floor, so I don't keep tripping over them or having to vacuum around them.

At another level, as a psychological (??) experiment, it feels more right ("more right"???) to record what I do organically without interfering/manipulating the... what... flow. Also, that's what I did the last time, and for symmetry-sake...
Day 4, August 15, the day known as The End of War Day in Japan. Once again I had a sluggish start to the day, gazing at screens, watched more Time Team, while imagining how good I'd feel if I went outside. After the 1PM update, (it wasn't even Jacinda,) I made chicken curry for dinner, didn't get around to marmalade but washed the fruits, and cooked cannellini.

Ben picked up a big screen from work so the study looks a little nerdy.

It's cool enough tonight we'll light the fire. It's been warmer in the evenings, with fire it's often too hot and without, too cold. Tonight it'll be nice to have fire, watch a bit of telly, and knit some.
Day 5, August 16. We are both tired. We slept in, uncharacteristically late for Ben. We didn't do much all day. Perhaps I was tired because I wasn't doing anything. We had two cold but calm, sunny days perfect for gardening. I also thought we should go do our favorite walk around the airport. But we didn't.

Tonight we found out Ben's friend's wife passed away after long illness at a ridiculously young age. My friend's mother-in-law passed away from Corona. In the last fortnight a former colleague passed away after a long battle with cancer and an estrange uncle on Mom's side also passed. And a weaver shortly before that, and I found out in the same week another weaver had passed in the last year. And another friend's mother about a year ago.

Is it because we are older so many folks we know are passing? Is it Internet that tell us of these so quickly, even about people we don't know so well?

I feel as though we all need to re-prioritize our lives and do what's important, what please us, but I'm not sure I know what they are at the moment.

Take care, folks.
Day 6, August 17. Ben had the day off; he got up as usual, and smoked pork. I got up late, but not as late as the weekend, and started making bitter marmaladey concoction. We watched Jacinda's 10.30 announcement, (election is delayed by one month to mid-October,) ate, watched the top doc's 1PM update, then we both went outside to weed. Oh, I turned off the stove while we were out, so it's cooking again now.

In the last week I've been sent two seed and one bulb catalogues. They are lovely to read and fantasize, but I don't do bulbs well, and I have leftover seeds, so I'll sow them and limit my wish list to just a few, like cornflower.

Truth to tell, I started thinking about the garden late last night and had an annual panic, which kept me awake until 4! We'll never catch up, but we are 3 hours * 2 person closer tonight.
I had ants in two pots last summer so they had a good soak. Otherwise orchids may get fed only when I remember to get orchid food, and are divided every "several" years. :-D This one, after water torture over multiple days, suddenly showed flower buds in May, which is freakish early. The earliest they've flowered in 20+ years has been late August, but this one has been going for three weeks now. I have three others with buds but they are in various stages of early-ish to normal, which means I'll have orchids blooming until nearly Christmas.
In case you thought this guy still a little tentative, nope. Some orchids seem beaten up because they sat in the windy-and-rain-swept side all winter while we had firewood on the more gentle side. I might move them now since most of the firewood is gone.
Day 7, August 18. Today I was tired all day. Besides cleaning the kitchen carefully well into the afternoon, knitting this side of 9PM! was about all I did. Yikes.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Like a Pro: Timeline

I copied the italic portion of the timeline from May 3 post for my benefit. It's been a little unnerving not gauging life against Corona/levels timeline in this strange year. As many of you will agree, time in 2020 seem to pass so quickly and so slowly at the same time, and since June 9/Level 1 I've felt as if I lost an anchor. Strange because without anchor/calendar is how I've lived my life for the last several years, and it is not to say I enjoy a plague lockdown, but I also can't hide this strange new comfort I find in the collective, national timeline.   

* February 3, Diamond Princess quarantined at Yokohama.
* February 28, first confirmed case in New Zealand.
* March 5-14, there were five positive cases for ten days, prompting now-celebrated Ashley Bloomfiled to reject all kinds of measures because, "We [are] not there yet," which is why I am not a fan. Always reactive, even when proven wrong, (need for testing, PPE guidance/rules regarding supplies to medical professionals, and lay people wearing cloth masks,) he's adamant. We could have done even better.   
* March 21, Jacinda announced the four alert level system. Two cases, #40/#41, tested positive in Nelson.
* March 23, Jacinda announced we would be entering Level 4 on March 26. (In retrospect, with each of her announcements, we entered Level 2 on March 21, Level 3 on March 23.)
* March 26, we started the "initial" four weeks of Level 4 isolation.
* April 28, we moved to Alert Level 3. The most notable change is the reopening of food pickup/delivery.
* May 14, we moved to Alert Level 2. Reopening of different organizations are staggered; school on Monday, bars a week later. For all intents and purposes, most businesses are open under a slightly loosened social distancing rules. Focus has moved to tracking.
* June 9, we moved to Alert Level 1. This allowed us to "go back to normal" within the borders, while the borders stay open only to returning NZ citizens and residents, and people with special dispensation, mostly business-related. 


* August 11, Day 102 of no domestic transmission, one family in Auckland had four members test positive, though there were no immediate connection to overseas travel. Jacinda announced Auckland Region will go into Level 3 and the rest of us to Level 2 starting midday August 12 to the end of August 14 unless a different announcement followed. We had been warned for some days that the resurgence is a matter of when not if, and I can't help wondering if they knew something, or it's just that other places have had genuine Second Wave around that time. All I remember is Viet Nam, on their day 101.
* August 12, Ben started working from home again.
* August 14, Level 3 for Auckland and Level 2 for the rest of the country will continue until the end of the day August 26 unless otherwise announced.
* August 30, Auckland moved to Level 2.5 while the rest of the country remains in Level 2.  
* September 22, areas outside Auckland moved to Level 1. 
* September 24, Auckland moved to Level 2. 
* September 25, Ben resumed working at work, in town. 
* October 8, Auckland also moved to Level 1. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Déjà Vu

On Day 102 of no community transmission in New Zealand, yesterday, one Auckland family tested positive; Auckland Region went back to Level 3 at noon today, the rest of us Level 2, until midnight Friday or until further notice. Ben and I tried to recall what Level 2 meant; Level 4, the most restrictive, is easy to remember, but Levels 3 and 2 were shorter and not as clearly defined, we were in them for a shorter time, and Ben's work had further stipulation. I'll leave Ben to tell me what/how to do this; I'll just cook and weed, again. 

That 100 day mark must mean something, either to the virus or human psychology; Viet Nam had a positive on their Day 101, remember?

Ben started working from home this morning, but his computer at work assisting remote access from home had a problem, so he went in to fix that, and stopped by the supermarket. He said the bigger already had a queue, (they are more organized, I think,) but the smaller, our preferred, had none so he picked up a few basics, and potato chips and chocs, on his way home. We learned from the last lockdown Chez B&M has enough dried beans and frozen... 1/3 bag of squids, no shrimp this time and rather little veg... that we'll be OK at least until the end of next week. Although fat and juicy humble onions won't go amiss; I just started a grocery list, something we seldom do but became a routine during the last lockdown.

Our return, (and I didn't think of this when Victoria went back, where we'd so love to visit again,) to living with Levels made me think of a discussion had with friends, and I'm asking myself a question hitherto completely heretical, but here we are. While I'm all for precautions and quarantines to protect us now, when there are whole communities uninterested/against prevention/eradication of Covid 19, when travel is so easy, and when... (Oh, I do hate to alarm you but, again, here we are,) viruses have been found even on frozen food packaging originating in South America, stored in Asia... if we seriously hope to not have Corona in New Zealand, we'd have to go into a semi-permanent border closure and import ban, don't we? And we don't know how many sleeper cases there are. So... in a way... what's the use?

And that's coming from a person among the least affected by seven weeks of Level 4 in all of New Zealand.

On the other hand, I'm amazed how much Kiwis travel. In the said Auckland family where four members tested positive, two were in Rotorua visiting family/friends and tourist attractions last weekend. With symptoms. Very early on there was a couple who tested positive and the female visited Rotorua a week after returning from overseas while the male went to a big oncert.

So Ben and I are as "homebodies" we they come. I know there is a big push to promote travel/tourism/local businesses. I also know one of the authorities in Otago University never liked the too early promotion of domestic travel. (Our borders are still closed, except to returning Kiwis and business folks with special dispensations, like film crew and yacht race peeps. Don't get me started on them.) But... heck, my mind is bent.

I've been spending much time weeding; I'm not finished with the agapantus, have started on a couple of other areas, but moved on to more time/season-sensitive areas. Yesterday I abandoned all else and hunkered down on the hellebore area. In the evenings I've been obsessed with that weird knitting, and unravelling. I found both pleasing and surprising within 12 hours my head is totally back in the lockdown mode; I can't explain it, but I'm both distracted and super-focused at the same time. This morning I have been in the kitchen, looking at the screen for most of it, planning meals for the next few days, looking at the weeds I was going to pull out today and yet immobilized to do much else but to wait for the 4PM announcement/update.

Be safe, everyone. Protect yourselves and your loved ones.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Let This Be a Lesson

The left is V3 which I made more or less spontaneously one evening while watching the telly. V6 on the right took me all afternoon, with some counting, some recording, and a wee bit of planning against my initial intentions.

V4, V5, (such a poor imitation of V3 I undid it right away,) and V6 were all intended to improve on V3, mainly the ill-defined outline of the cable's left edge as it curved. The minute pencil and paper came into play, I started "thinking" and trying to outdo my intuitive side.

You can't see it in this picture, but in V6 the pattern on the right started in a numerically strategic progression which made so much sense but looked oh-so-ugly.

So I'm resuming where I left off with V3. Who knows, the next few rows might ruin it, in a hitherto unkown way, but I trust my eyes to know better than my murky gray cells. Besides, this spontaneity is why I wanted to try free-range knitting in the first place, no?

Anyhoo, I am keeping a step-by-step record of this project in a separate post, but I felt compelled to remind myself of this good lesson.

Don't ruin thing by thinking.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Whoa

Have I mentioned it's been a mild winter? That was until July, when it turned normal-cold with annoyingly changeable weather. Quite a lot of rainy days, quite a lot of gusts, which means quite a lot of sunny days as well. And of course the rain-one-minute-sun-the-next days. Most annoying were heavy gray days when the sky just couldn't make up its mind so I'd run outside, in between chores, to see if I could... feel the weather. I was quite keen to weed if I could, otherwise loom or projects. I wasted a lot of time to indecision, but got a lot of chores. I swear, Nelson never used to have these sad, miserable, "Japanese" gray days, at least not this many. It's so dark inside I couldn't do art works or color matching even with the lights on.

I missed out in July, (you know I like it outside when it's cold;) I'm also mad at myself for doing something else or not much in May and June when we had better weather. Since the last week of July, though, it's turned warmer and I've been weeding. We are still the C Street Weed Reserve, but I feel more hopeful.

I talk about the weather a lot, don't I? It's a combination of being Japanese and my mom's kid, having grown up in Minnesota, and finally getting the hang of Nelson's weather around 2000 then facing changes like everywhere else since. And I just read we "remain on a La Nina watch."
Weaving: I last wove the teal-weft piece in the last post on the day after I posted the last post. :-D Warp ends started breaking that day and the tension got weird so I needed a break and... I haven't gone back. Soon! Above was the view on that last sitting; I have been thinking of multiples of wildly saturated wefts for the second piece. 
Knitting: I'm not sure if I reported back but I finished the orange cowl/snood by adding three rows of k-p-k-p, just so I can move onto the next project; I've been wearing it, though, on cold mornings/evenings, and it's nice so I think I'll keep it. The new project is an experimental scarf for Ben; I'm recording observations on FB and will collage in a separate post here.

The Sketchbook Project: Last week I decided I'll keep working on it but ignore the deadline. From memory, returning it late means mine misses the tour but will be available in their library, but because I don't even know if the tours are going ahead, I'll finish first and then decide whether I want to send it in or keep it. The main reason for the delay is I got stuck as to what to do beyond the design of the body. I'm also partial to a few layers these days.
This is the first three you see when you open up the book, unless I add more paper. The middle is white gesso. I've taken out all other shapes and concentrated on just the one, which I often think of as a self-portrait. In fact, I drew quickly folks rushing up and down Trafalgar St between 4.45 and 5.30PM one Friday afternoon years ago, so it's not me.
Left half of the center fold.
Right half of the center fold. The collaged piece is not glued yet because I'm not sure if I like it or if it belongs here.
The last three. I printed out a flipped outline so I can do random collage on the back and cut out the shape along the printed outline, but of course I glued the collage pieces on the wrong side. But I like the way the people are positioned inside this piece. And when bound between a cover, these are the last figures you'll see, so I might get away with it.
Another idea I may develop.


World: Hiroshima 75 years go today; Nagasaki, Sunday. I've had an unplanned deep dive into photographs of that part of Hiroshima-shi before the bomb so it's been a week of "remembering". Reuters reminded me of numbers I think I used to know as a kid plus some: 78,000 dead on the day, about 140,000 by the end of the year, in a city of 350,000. "By 2019 Japan had recognized the total of deaths from radiation illness and injuries in Hiroshima as 319,186 and in Nagasaki as 182,601." I told you about meeting a poet who was six years old that day: she went to a Hiroshima/medical archive in Tokyo in 1995 or 96 to discover people were not identified by name but by "Human:" followed by a number. When she finally located her family's record, it included her mother's three-month-old glaucoma op.

Not "Lest we forget," but "Let's not forget."

Now Beirut. Yikes.