Tuesday, May 23, 2017

bits and pieces

We finally got some rain, 2 1/2” between Saturday night and til about noon on Monday. Everything looks much happier. Sunday, after the previous night's rain and before it began again, I went out to the garden and dug up more potatoes and got two really big ones and a handful of smaller ones. I'm supposed to keep all the little ones for seed potatoes for a fall crop, so say all the country boys in the neighborhood.

Since so many of you were interested in the roasted tomato sauce, here's the recipe I found on-line:

5-6 pounds medium or small tomatoes, stems removed
1 medium head of garlic, peeled (you can chop the garlic if you want but can keep cloves whole if you'd like)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Place the tomatoes on large baking sheet with a raised 1-inch lip. Add the garlic cloves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Use your fingers to mix well to coat. Top with torn basil leaves and season with kosher (I used pink himalayan) salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 4 hours or until tomatoes are soft and bursting (it was 3 hrs and about 20 minutes or so for me so keep an eye on them). Allow to cool then pour into a blender in batches. Pulse 2-3 times then blend for 1 minute or until desired chunkiness. Pour into quart jars or pour into freezer bags to freeze flat. Will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week or 4 months in the freezer.

a moth and a butterfly

You might remember my birthday was last month. I think I mentioned it in a previous post. Our usual celebration is a movie and dinner but we had to wait until the following Friday since the movie I wanted to see, Guardians Of The Galaxy II, didn't come out til then and it even starred my only still living heartthrob, Kurt Russell. I'll spare you the trailer because if you are a GOTG fan, you've already seen it. However the other thing about my birthdays is that I buy my own present. This year I bought a small stone sculpture by fabulous stone sculptor Jennifer Tetlow who lives and works in North Yorkshire, England. I've followed Jennifer's work for several years and I really love her aesthetic so I finally am the proud owner of one of her pieces...Flutter.

my pink crinum lily

One last item of note...another surprise in the mailbox, Barbara at Kittrell/Riffkind Gallery sold another piece for us. I guess if she's going to keep doing that, I need to start making some new work.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

continuing train wreck, tomatoes, and snakes

I'm trying very hard not to be consumed with what's going on at the White House and our government but how can one not be?! Still, re my last post title, I figured everyone was getting tired of the political stuff when I posted that and the next day things just basically blew up...again!...with the appointment of the Special Counsel to continue the investigation at the FBI. I'll spare us all the ongoing blow by blow and just do a re-cap later. I don't know about you but I need to think about something else for a few days so I'm glad it's the weekend.

Now for something completely different...yesterday I put up 6 3/4 cups of tomato sauce (for a total of 17!). This was my third effort at tomato sauce. The first one I pureed the tomatoes and garlic and spices and then cooked it down to about half but it never got as thick as I felt it should be. Gave up and froze as is. Next I tried slow roasting the tomatoes and garlic and basil for about 3 1/2 hours and then pureed it and it was perfect and very tasty. 

pre-roasting and slightly out of focus

So I did that again. While the tomatoes were roasting I put up 6 cups of skinned cut up tomatoes (for a total of 26!) and I still have 32 tomatoes to deal with and they are still ripening on the bushes.

Last week when I laid out the limestone slabs I aggravated an old back injury so I haven't been doing much out in the yard, well, I haven't been doing anything out in the yard. I thought it would be better in a few days but it has actually taken all week to subside. So of course we had a small job to do early last week, nothing fancy, just sandblasting a shower enclosure, but it entailed lifting and moving heavy glass. Probably one of the reasons it took my back so long to get over it.

And speaking of work, an art consultant who has not contacted me for the last 7 years has asked for a proposal for a project that won't happen til next year so we are in the very early stages of budget proposals. I used to get a lot of work from this company and the jobs were always very nice ones that I enjoyed working on but they moved on to another glass art company that does a wider range of technique than we do including color. I figured they weren't even showing our work to potential clients anymore so it was a pleasant surprise and sort of ironic since I had finally voiced the idea that I was actually completely retired.

I was dog sitting my sister's dog this week while she was out of town and Wednesday, both dogs were doing that cautious curious stance they do when they see something they aren't sure of looking at something behind the bucket of parrot feather at the edge of one of the flower beds so I went over to see what they found...

an adult coral snake

Coral snakes, the most virulent of the vipers with the exception of the black mamba, prefer to hunt in the mornings or evenings, and are shy, non-confrontational, and reclusive. They have small rounded heads and even smaller mouths and it is rare for them to bite a human. Most bites occur when people try to pick them up but because their venom delivery system in not very efficient they basically have to chew on you awhile to get enough venom to do harm. As such, when I run across them I generally let them alone. This one I poked with a stick to get it to move deeper into the foliage out of reach of the dogs.

This morning while I was watering I happened to notice this...

Likely the same one, getting a drink from the water lily pond.

It has been so dry here, haven't had rain in weeks, that the bees are swarming the same pond and it's filter.

One last picture...

toad in a hole

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

at the risk of running off all my readers...

Trump met with top Russians in the Oval Office, one of whom is generally considered to be a spy and the other the ambassador, excluding the American press from the meeting that the Russian press attended during which, in a fit of braggadocio, Trump passed on some extremely secret intel, code-word intel, that not even all our own people were privy to and not shared with all our allies, jeopardizing not only people and operations in the field but also an important source of intel as they may now think twice before passing on new information to us making this country less safe. You understand this, right? The president of the United States jeopardized the citizens of this country that he swore to protect as well as an important intelligence source and jeopardized the agent in place just so that he could look big and brag in front of the Russians who are NOT our friends. What's worse is that he probably had no idea of the sensitive nature of the information that he was blabbing to the Russians because he thinks national security briefings are boring and he doesn't pay attention.

It is true that a president can choose to declassify information, and that is Trump's indignant reaction to the uproar of passing sensitive intel to the Russians but this was not done after a period of consideration or meeting with security personnel to discuss and decide if it no longer needs be classified. No Trump 'declassified' this intelligence on the spur of the moment to inflate his ego.

Then, the next day after this revelation, Comey reports that Trump had asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn's connections to Russia which Comey rightly refused to do and which eventually got him fired.

And today, while Trump was singing the praises of Turkey's president, Erdogan at the White House, Erdogan's bodyguards were beating up American citizens protesting near the Turkish embassy. Trump's response? Crickets, because that is exactly what he would like to do to protesters.

You would think that in the face of this obvious attempt at obstruction of justice and Trump's casual leak of extremely sensitive information to our national foe that put our intelligence gathering at risk and his blatant disregard for American citizens that Congressional Republicans would finally be moved to put country over party but you would be wrong. Apparently, you have to lie about having sex to garner impeachment proceedings.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

an ordinary Saturday

Every time I think it's getting hot enough out there that working outside all day is no longer an option and I start to stare at the slab of wax on my work table, another front comes in and cools it off for a few days and I'm right back out there. I'm done with all the major projects for this spring...new raised bed and improving the area of the garden, get the garden planted, get the blueberry bed in, new flower bed, remake the end of another flower bed, so now it's just maintenance...watering, weeding, getting new things acquired in the ground, repotting others into bigger pots, digging up all the pecan trees the squirrels planted, trimming around the beds, cutting the dead wood out of the shrubs, that sort of thing.

Yesterday, I finally completed a task I started last November. I didn't start out the day with that intention but since my path across the side yard has changed the scattered mayhem of the sandstone paving slabs, which I had traversed several times already that day, finally got to me. 

Depending on the season when I am walking over to the shop, I either walk down the driveway to walk in the sun or I walk across the grass close to the house to walk in the shade. You might remember that last fall I unstacked the sandstone slabs and laid them out helter skelter in preparation for reconstructing them into a short walkway. Short because the original walkway that these comprised was at the city house and it was a short cut from the sidewalk to the front door and the driveway. Anyway, yesterday I found myself putting together a jigsaw puzzle with no picture to guide me. Wouldn't have been too hard a task except that the pieces were all really heavy.

There's always small open areas where the stones don't fit exactly so I drug out my glass doorknob collection and rummaged through it and selected some to fill in those spots. We used a lot them in the city house but since moving out here we haven't, so far, bothered to change any out. 

I have one old glass doorknob that was an exterior knob and probably faced west and has turned purple from the ultrviolet rays of the sun.

I going to get up in a minute and start to make some tomato sauce and maybe put up some of the peaches I picked up on Saturday. The local orchard didn't have enough to open but if you messaged them they would hold some for you to pick-up. I'm happy to now be on their call list. These are the white flesh peaches and so sweet and delicate. I made a pie yesterday and still have too many to eat before they go bad so I'll be putting some of them up in the freezer too.

But back to the tomatoes...Marc made a great tomato pie and we've been having them with lunch and I've been giving them away and cutting them up for the freezer and still I am overwhelmed with tomatoes. My daughter took a whole window sill's worth home with her yesterday and I replaced them immediately with that day's pick and then some. I thought I would only get about 6 or so but I actually had the biggest pick so far.

It was late when I relinquished the kitchen back to Marc, too late to come up with or fix anything for dinner so we settled for this...

Friday, May 12, 2017

because apparently working out in the yard and going to yoga doesn't get me tired enough

image via: yogasmoga.com

I think I figured out where I went wrong. I had been so good about doing my 5 sun salutations a day for well over a year. Then I discovered a regular yoga class was available and started going twice a week, which I am very good about, and I started thinking that because I was going to do yoga later on those days, I didn't need to do my routine at home in the morning. And once I stopped doing it two days a week in the morning it was easy to forget on other days. Sleeping til 8 or later which I seem to be doing lately doesn't help when the day is demanding attention. So I'm trying to get back to every day even if it's nothing more than the basic 5 even if it is class days. I'm managing about 4 out of 7 but this week I did something different.

image via: hercampus.com

Two of the regulars at yoga have been doing the kick boxing class held at the same place on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as yoga and they've been cajoling me to come try it so I finally relented and went last Tuesday. It's stretching and then warm up with calisthenics the jumping jacks about did me in and holding plank and push-ups and the like and then more of the same with weights. He was handing me the 2 lb weights while everyone else was getting 8s so I reached for the 5s. It hasn't been that long since I stopped working out at the gym and even the 8s would have been fine. And then, finally the boxing part.

Everyone there is, of course, younger than me by at least a decade or more and the cute young man who teaches the class, when he was helping me get boxing gloves on, asked if he could respectfully ask how old I was.

67”, I told him.

Oh, my mom's age”, he says.

So we partnered up and took turns giving or absorbing (with big pads) blows...left jab, right hook, then quick blows in succession, then he added a round house left hook, then a right side kick and by the time he added in the left knee, I was tired and having a hard time remembering the whole sequence. But it was fun and I'd think about doing it on a more or less regular basis except for the fact that I already drive into El Campo twice a week and this would make 3 times a week and depending on what day, three days in a row. And the cost. It's a $15 drop in for an hour. I'm not saying the cost isn't worth it but it's a little pricy for me every week combined with the yoga.

But my first two weeks are free so I plan on going one more time at least.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I wasn't planning on publishing another one so soon but holy fucking cow!

In another move to undo everything the Obamas did, Trump has moved to rescind the school lunch nutrition guidelines loosening the restrictions and allowing the funding to be cut even though for some kids their school lunch is the only real meal they get every day. But hey, the vendors will be able to make more money serving sugar and fat disguised as food bereft of nutrition.

Trump signed an EO revoking another of Obama's EO, the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience, giving local Alaskans and Tribes who use those waters every day a say in how the federal government managed those waters so that private interests can't use and abuse the Bering Sea without input from the people who depend on it for their lives and livelihoods.

Reince Priebus, Trump's chief-of-staff, admitted in an interview with ABC that Trump wants to restrict the freedom of the press (that he considers unfair towards him), wants to restrict the 1st Amendment and has considered a constitutional amendment as a way to achieve it.

Trump, who swore to uphold the constitution, has been calling it 'archaic. Out of date, and not good for the US' and thinks something needs to be done about it to get rid of the checks and balances to make it easier to get things done ie let him act by decree, as in being an authoritarian as in dictator.

Trump has invited Philippine president Duterte, another authoritarian he admires, a man who has authorized the extra-judicial murders of 4,000 – 8,000 (depending on who you talk to) people in his country under the guise of ridding the country of drug dealers (and anyone who opposes him is labeled a drug dealer), to visit the White House.

Besides being completely unqualified for being president, Trump is also ignorant of our country's history asking in an interview, “people don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?” and thought Andrew Jackson, who had died 16 years previous, was “really angry” about it.

In another act of childish revenge, this time against President Jimmy Carter who has been a vocal critic of Trump and who the Argentine government announced they were awarding that country's highest honor, the Order of the Liberator General San Martin for his tireless humanitarian work, Trump's administration contacted the Argentine government directly and pressured them to withhold the award.

Trump has announced he is ending Michelle Obama's girl's education program Let Girls Learn that aimed to increase the educational opportunities for young girls in developing nations because, you know, Obamas.

Once again, because Trump can't immediately get his way, frustrated at the slow pace of the legislative process and the need to compromise, he wants to shut down the government in September because the bi-partisan budget deal did not include any of the cuts he wanted or money for the wall (though he did get his military increase) and change the legislative rules to 51 votes as opposed to the 60 votes the Senate now requires.

And related to that, Trump is threatening, again, to shut down the government if Democrats don't stop being happy about the budget deal and stop hurting his feelings (I kid you not).

Trump walks out of an interview when pressed for proof of his claim of the Obama ordered wiretapping.

A woman who was present during AG Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings who gave an involuntary burst of laughter when a Senator described Sessions as fair to all people regardless of race or orientation, an outright lie which can be proven by looking at his record, was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for...laughing during the hearing. So, head's up people, laughing at or about Jeff Sessions is a criminal offense.

On order from Trump, all TV monitors will be tuned to Fox News (where before they tuned into a variety of stations). Only Fox News will be allowed on the White Oak Campus of the FDA. The station on the monitors is unable to be changed. Pay attention, this is Trump tightening his control over what people see and hear and if it isn't complimentary, it will be censored.

The Republican House passed their version of a health care bill, TrumpcareII, which will cause millions of people to lose their health insurance, got rid of the pre-existing conditions protection which will cause rate hikes and crappy coverage for millions more (excluding themselves, of course, who would continue to get that protection), slashed funding for Medicaid and gleefully celebrated with high fives all around for doing it. Edit: Due to the uproar, they passed a bill excluding their exclusion.

Trump has added 25 more National Parks and National Monuments to his list to their status reviewed.

The Republican held N Carolina House just voted to let people drive through protestors if they are blocking the road...state sanctioned assault with the intent to harm and possibly murder.

If Trump gets his way there will be no funding for libraries continuing his and the Republican party's effort to uneducate the American public.

In their continuing drive to undermine workers, the Republican House just voted on and passed legislation to end time-and-a-half overtime pay even for union workers, allowing employers to give workers time off instead.

Trump continues to be in the same place at the same time as Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, this time in New Jersey where Trump is playing golf this weekend to 'save us money'.

Trump signed a religious liberty EO allowing discrimination based on religious grounds and gave churches the right to politicize without losing their tax free status.

With the noose getting tighter re Trump/Russia, Trump and his White House, who did not vet Flynn before giving him the position of National Security Advisor, continue to blame Obama for Michael Flynn, a man Obama fired in 2014 and, along with then AG Sally Yates, warned Trump against during the transition.

In an attempt to discredit Sally Yates and smear her reputation hours before her testimony to the Senate re Trump's and his administrations ties to Russia, Trump may have broken the law regarding intimidation of witnesses.

Scott Pruitt, Trump's pick to head the EPA, has declined to renew the terms of 5 scientists on the review board and plans to replace them with businessmen whose industries are affected by the EPA regulations.

A reporter was arrested, after receiving zero warnings that he was in danger of arrest, for repeatedly asking HHS Tom Price questions about Trumpcare. Alarmed yet?

Trump fired Sally Yates as AG for refusing to support his unconstitutional Muslim ban and appointed butt-kisser Jeff Sessions. Trump fired US Attorney Preet Bharara for refusing to resign along with 45 other US Attorneys without having any replacements confirmed thereby interrupting ongoing cases and investigations including Bharara's investigation into HHS Secretay Tom Price. Now Trump has fired FBI director James Comey after demanding that Comey end the Trump/Russia ties investigations and grand juries and Comey refused. Are you noticing a pattern here?

The day after Trump fired FBI director Comey, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a closed door meeting, no American reporters allowed.

Once again, party before country Republicans refuse to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate Trump/Russia ties.

Monday, May 8, 2017


At first it was one tomato, then two tomato. Then three tomato, four. Five tomato, six tomato, seven tomato, more! There are so many! I skinned and cut up and froze 18 or 19 of various sizes, have given 8 away, have 13 on my window sill, and that's not even counting the ones we have eaten.

and then I picked 14 more...

and my first potatoes!

One of the plants had died back so I dug down about 6” and gathered these. I'm sure there are more deeper but the surrounding plants are still green if starting to look a little the worse for wear so I'll wait a little longer before digging up the rest. 

Also banana peppers and zucchini are being picked.

And now the okra is sprouting and the green beans are sprouting but the onions, well, let's just say I won't be getting any onions this year, still not growing.

Just call me Farmer Jane.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

they all told me it was a scam...

when I ran this by my artist friends on FB but I didn't want to believe it.

I don't remember if I posted about getting an inquiry about one of my Botanica's that someone wanted to buy. Now, there are all kinds of scams out there and a major one is tricking artists into selling a piece and I am well aware of them but they usually involve the buyer sending more money than the amount of the purchase in order to cover unknown shipping costs and once the money has been deposited in your bank, either by cashier's check or credit card, then you are supposed to return the excess amount to the buyer just to find out that the cashier's check or the credit card is fake and the artist loses the piece of art as well as whatever money they were tricked into returning. I know all this. I even told my neighbor who was suspicious of a transaction for a piano she was trying to sell that it was a scam.

But this inquiry was so real I was convinced it was legit. She was forthcoming with a back story. I checked to see if her email was on any of the scam lists...no. I checked to see if the shipping address was real...yes. I checked to see if the international courier service she wanted to use for delivery was real...it is. She said she was having trouble paying through PalPal, kept getting an error message, claimed she had just used her credit card to buy groceries and could we use a different service, Quickbooks/Intuit, which she used for her business which when I checked on it found it was a secure service so I opened a free 30 trial and sent the invoice and she paid it, the funds were transferred into my account so I arranged for pick-up with the courier service for last Thursday.

Two hours before the guy was supposed to come (and they supplied a name and phone number), I got an email with a not very professional looking invoice saying that I had to pay in cash in advance for the courier service, that the courier was not allowed to accept payment, and I could do that by going to Walmart and doing a cash transfer to the accountant whose name and Houston address they supplied (not the address of the courier service) and I was to fax or email the receipt and when they received it, then they would make the pick-up. So now I'm getting a little uneasy. I called the number they gave me for the courier, no answer. Before I could look for a phone number for the 'local' office of the courier service, we got a phone call from a woman in Austin whose job it is to keep an eye on the company's credit card for whom she works. She checks the charges on-line once a week and had just done that when she saw the charge to us and called to say they had not made that purchase and were contesting the charge. So, yes, it was all a scam. Later, when I did an internet search for the address they gave me for the money exchange, I discovered it was a real address but the house was empty and on the real estate market.

This woman/person strung me along for weeks! I cannot tell you how stupid stoopid and gullible I feel. What a fucking idiot, eegit, as they say in Ireland. Would I have sent the money if we hadn't gotten the phone call? I don't think so, I hope I'm not that stupid, but they had me totally convinced up until that point that this was legit. Surely I would have discovered the fake address when looking for the local number for the courier service as it was all getting very hinky there at the end. Just a different spin on the same old scam.

What I do know for sure is that I just had a big withdrawal from my karmic bank.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

a birth day and other assorted matters

OMG, my next list already has 10 items on it and it's only been 3 days.

On a more pleasant note, the two juvenile squirrels hanging out in the yard and romping in the trees are so cute.

You can't really tell from the picture but this little squirrel is about half the size of an adult.

And then on Saturday, this happened...

and then on Sunday, this happened...

peach dewberry

Friday and Saturday were so hot in the house even with doors and windows open, 84˚ 78% humidity, 83˚ 79% humidity respectively, that we finally turned the AC on for a few hours each day. I believe that's the first time to ever turn the AC on in April.

So I did go and get the last yard of dirt for the season last week and shoveled in enough to fill the raised bed with enough left over for the small extension of the flower bed in the Big Backyard by the banana trees. I want to round the other end to match. Today, I pulled all the gone by poppies out and added some compost and turned that in and I'll plant some bush beans later when it cools off.

Since we had no winter to speak of and a lot of things didn't bloom because of that (no daffodils, white iris, purple iris, no miniature gladiolas, the altheas though it might still be too early for them, it's all so crazy now), there will not be much of a peach crop this year. Not in Texas nor Georgia nor South Carolina. Growers are predicting only about 30% of a normal crop. So when I saw on FB Saturday morning (they are only open Saturday and Sunday) that the local peach orchard had peaches I dropped everything and headed out there and bought 4 bags. They think they will have peaches maybe only another two weeks. So that's where the pie came from plus I put up enough for later pies and still have plenty to eat til next Saturday.

Plenty of stuff is blooming though like some of the day lilies and one clump of nile lilies and finally the magnolia bud that was low enough to reach that we have been watching for weeks, opened.

Sunday was my 67th birthday. I'm sort of unfazed by 67, oddly since it took me til I was about 65 to get over the shock of being in the 60s at all. It's kind of freaky to think about because I'm still me. I don't feel that fundamentally different from my 50s. The day was beautiful, much cooler and dry. My sister came by, I planted two rows of okra in the new dirt, went and visited with a friend, made a pie, put up peaches, had two long phone conversations one with my son and the other with my brother and 3 out of 4 grandkids called too, walked the dog, picked tomatoes. A good day. A good life.

This small plant is only about 1/3 the size of the others, is a volunteer that came up under one of the broccoli plants in the fall garden, and has 20 tomatoes on it.