December 2012 Doodles

I spent December 2012 away from home. Doodling was a tried and true way to reduce stress and regain objectivity during the trauma and drama of hospitals, holidays, and family. Most of the doodles were done on 3x5 note cards using the back of Kleenex box as a writing surface.

Enjoy the December 2012 doodles below! Doodle posts for previous months are here.

September 2012 Doodles

I graduated to more color (pencils and markers) and the use of fabric for some of my doodles in September. The fabric was a lightweight, fused (rather than woven) fabric - somewhat like interfacing. I found strips of it while I was cleaning out - not sure what it was originally purchased for. The first three items in the slide show below are the ones on fabric. The others are on paper. Enjoy the September doodles!

Doodle posts from previous months are here.

Dahlia and LED Water Light Photographs

Seeing the Bruce Munro light installation at Longwood Gardens inspired me to do some experimentation with LED water lights. We purchased a package with a submersible LED light that changed colors and came with 100 clear acrylic pieces to reflect the light in the Longwood gift store.


Looking around for a subject - I decided that my dahlias were prolific enough this year to sacrifice one for the project.


The first series is of the whole flower - positioned over the light and crystals. Just as in the Bruce Munro pieces, the longer exposure for the photograph intensifies the color.

The second series is of petals. The crystals are more visible. The petals almost give the image a painting type texture.

Recipe of the Week: French Toast Bread Pudding

Want the smell and taste of French toast but need it for a crowd? Try this baked version.

For each serving: 

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cinnamon and other spices to taste 

Spray the baking dish with cooking spray. The dish must be large enough to not boil over if the liquid bubbles while cooking; place it on a large cookie sheet if there is any doubt. Cut the bread into pieces. Whisk the other ingredients then pour the mixture over the bread. This can all be done the night before and the whole thing put in the refrigerator overnight. Put in the oven then turn it on to 350. Cook for about an hour. Serve hot drizzled with maple syrup.

Some modifications to try: 

  • Use flavored coffee creamer in place of milk (skip the sugar, vanilla and spices).
  • Substitute 1 tablespoon chia seeds for 1 of the eggs.
  • Use sweetened almond milk to replace the milk and sugar.
  • Use molasses or honey to replace the sugar.
  • Make individual servings and let people add their own spices, dried fruit, or sugar. Note - as pictured above made in a Corningware grabit (I used molasses for half the sugar, added raisins and orange peel, replaced one of the eggs with chia seeds….yummy). 

New Foods

Usually when I do my grocery shopping, I focus just on what is on my list and, since I am very familiar with the grocery store I go to every week, I don’t look at anything else. Just this past week I was distracted in the aisle where the nut spreads (like peanut butter) were displayed and found a lot of spreads I didn’t recognize. I decided to try one with the very long description: “Lemony Flaxseed Spread with Ginger and Honey.” It sounded like it would be good on toast or pancakes.

I got home and decided to slather some on the last of the sweet potato bread.

Wow - it had more kick than I anticipated!

Maybe the combination of ginger and chile pepper is even greater that the spices individually?

Whatever the case - this is a successful experiment in the sense that I am using less butter on toast (i.e. this replaces the butter) and I’ve also used it instead of maple syrup and butter on pancakes.

Maybe one of the keys to eat less fat and sugar is to lean toward more ‘spice’!

Leaf Etchings

Have you ever made leaf etchings? They’re easier to make with crayons than with a pencil. The trick is to hold down firmly and complete each section completely before moving on. No going over the leaf a second time since it generally shows that the leaf has moved slightly.

Can you name the trees from the etchings I show below? They are all very common trees in Maryland.

<< Tulip poplar'




Sycamore (just one edge because the leaf was too big for the paper) >>




<< Maple





Oak >>







….Another way to celebrate the ending of the summer….the beginning of fall.

Ten Days of Little Celebrations

Back in mid-August I posted about finding things to celebrate each day. It’s been remarkably easy for me. Here’s what I’ve recorded for 10 days:

Sunlight through the trees. Being out and about on a late summer morning with the sun making an ordinary forest of trees look magical.

A family birthday. Not one where everyone can gather to celebrate. This was a savoring of relationships that last a lifetime.

Butterfly stake and solar powered sunflower for the garden…. and the sunflower lit up the 1st night! We had gone to the nursery to buy azaleas; we’d read they could be planted in the early fall or early spring. We were advised that in our area the fall planting is not advised (winter too harsh). While we were there we looked at the various garden ornaments and bought two of them. They’re both visible from the window over the kitchen sink.

Labor day with hot dogs and corn on the cob and watermelon. Food and celebration go together.

Finding treasure under a bathroom sink - a long lost spritzer of leave-in-conditioner. Isn’t it wonderful to find something you forgot you had….and actually decide it’s something you want!

Black swallowtail caterpillars. They showed up on my parsley plant. Earlier in the season, I might not have celebrated. But I enjoyed photographing them and they’ve already made their cocoons --- and I still have about half my parsley plant left.

Getting rid of stuff via donation. I almost filled the porch on the pick up day. It’s good to clean out at least once a season.

Talking to family on the phone. I started out calling one then another called me almost as soon as I hung up from the first call. For a family scattered all over the country - it’s good to catch up on what’s happening in our lives.

Finding out that a friend who had been very ill is better. It’s scary when a friend is seriously ill…and cause for celebration when they improve.

Doodling oninterfacing-like fabric). I have been doodling on scraps of paper but discovered some scraps of interfacing as I was cleaning out. I celebrated the results of sharpie and interfacing doodling!

Gleanings of the Week Ending September 8, 2012

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles I read this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article:

Stalking Sharks - researchers monitor movement of sharks off California’s coast

In Bike-Friendly Copenhagen, Highways For Cyclists  - one third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school…and they are extending the existing infrastructure out to the suburbs.

Birds hold 'funerals' for dead - experiments with western scrub jays

Face of America: Spirit of South Florida Montage - high energy montage of clips from Wolf Trap's upcoming Face of America: Spirit of South Florida, set to appear at Wolf Trap National Park (article at National Parks Traveler here)

Raw Veggie ‘noodle’ dishes - a step beyond spaghetti squash. If you don’t want to invest in a spiral slicer, try putting your veggies horizontally in your regular food processor and using the grating blade; the opening in my processor is large enough to make 3-4 inch ‘noodles’ this way (see zucchini and sweet potato noodles at left)

Learn the Top Native Plants for Your Backyard - beautiful and usually require less maintenance!

Grand Canyon National Park - the guide from National Parks Traveler.

Wow! NASA Video Shows 'Mind-Bogglingly Gorgeous' Solar Eruption

Green Money-Saving Tips: Cheap Ways to Be Environmentally Friendly - 10 tips (scroll over the images in the slide show to see the accompanying text). The 8th one (make your own cleaning supplies) includes of link to recipes for cleaners!

Cheers, Voyager: 35 Years of Exploration - the most distant human-made object was launched 35 years ago on Sept. 5th

Longwood Gardens Light Tracks Photos

A few weeks ago at Longwood Gardens I decided to try some photographing the lights by intentionally moving the camera during the longer exposure.

I experimented with making different shapes - can you see the D and S and O? Of course - most of the light tracks are just squiggles. Enjoy!

For more traditional photos of the lights at Longwood see my earlier post.

August 2012 Doodles

I did so many doodles in August. Looking at the Zentangles site, looking at botanical print books from the 1800s and book illustrations from the early1900s (which have been scanned and made available online) gave me so many new starting points. So - I did some culling from the pile and came up with some groups to share. The collage below is the ones that have a botanical theme; they also show a beginning influence of Zentangle type drawings.

My overall favorite of the month is a "sun."

The ones I liked the best from some of the illustrations from the early 1900s were corner or border elements. they have a bit of a botanial look...also lots of spirals.

Doodle posts from previous months are here.

Learning Something New

Our learning expectations for children are huge…consider setting a similar expectation for yourself. It’s quite a challenge to come up with something as significant as learning to read. Everything else seems like a less significant step but, just like learning to read, it is not as hard as it appears as first. So - forge ahead with the audacity of youth toward whatever new thing you want to learn.

Here are some examples from my own experience:

  • Sometimes learning is enhanced my multi-media. What started out as an interest in botanical prints from the 1800s - looking at books from that era on Botanicus and the Internet Archive, has been supplemented by trips to gardens and classification sites. What a glorious thing the Internet is for finding just the piece of information you are looking for.

  • Sometimes learning is a physical thing. Years ago I decided that it would be better to use my mouse with my left had rather than my right so that I could have a notepad and pen on the right side of my work area (I am right handed). It took about a week to get good at it and a month to be entirely comfortable. Now if feels odd to use a mouse with my right hand.
  • Sometimes learning is via experience. You just have to try it. I’d never dug up iris rhizomes before. I knew in theory how to go about it. The sheer number I found in the old flower bed was a surprise but one I simply dealt with by adjusting the amount of time I took to complete the task. I am looking forward to enjoying the flowers next spring.

The bottom line is that continuing to learn new things all the time is an integral part of living. It’s the way we become resilient to whatever changes come our way!

‘Stuff’ with New Purpose

I’m in the mode of getting rid of ‘stuff’ - all those things I’ve accumulated that I don’t use currently and can’t imagine using in the future. Of course - there are sets of ‘stuff’ that I use partially and that presents a dilemma. One such example is my collection of Blue Tulip Depression Glass. I use most of the pieces frequently - but not the cups. I like larger mugs for my hot tea or chocolate - not smallish tea cups. I certainly don’t want to get rid of the cups….so my idea was to find some other use for them. Here’s what I did.

I arranged the cups in a drawer and then put necklaces, pins, buckles, and other small objects into them. It is better for the necklaces to not be hanging and this keeps them gently cradled and organized. Another plus - the drawer looks quite lovely.

So - I’m celebrating the beauty and new purpose of the tea cups today!

Keeping Cool in the Summer Time

August in Maryland - it’s hot. Today let’s remind ourselves of some ways to keep cool in the summer time. 

  • Eat and drink cool/cold foods. Save the soups and chili for winter. Go with cool/cold foods when it’s hot outdoors.
    • Smoothies. See the post from earlier this month. These are a wonderful icy treat that can be different every day. Yesterday mine was a banana, ice, almond milk, and 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavoring. Today its frozen tomato, orange and 1/2 teaspoon lemon flavoring.
    • Salads. Eat veggies while they are still cool from the refrigerator. Think finger food like: cucumber slices sprinkled with seasoning, cucumber slice ‘sandwiches’ with basil leaf and deli sliced smoked turkey filling, celery with peanut butter, broccoli or cauliflower florets. Or combinations of ingredients with your favorite dressing. Most salads are fairly quick to prepare and with a little prep ahead of time are about the fastest meal around.
    • Fruit. Watermelon is the best it will be in August. The hybrid seedless forms don’t have the marvelous flavor of the older melons but are still tasty. Peaches are also in season. Again - eat them still cool from the refrigerator.
    • Ice cream. In moderation because of the fat and sugar calories. I’ve almost converted myself to the frozen banana with milk substitute.
    • Iced beverages. Water - lemon water - herbal tea - watered down juice. Keeping hydrated with something cold is a great way to keep cool. Combine the idea of smoothies and iced beverages by putting your iced beverage in the blender; you’ll ‘drink’ the ice along with the beverage that way.
  • Be active early in the day (when its cooler). Plan the day to be outdoors in the morning. It’s cooler and it will be more enjoyable. Walking, jogging, gardening….it all is better in the morning.
  • Water your skin. Every time you wash your hands - dry them on your forearms before the towel. You’d be surprised how much cooler you’ll feel. Splash your face too if you are very hot. Carry a mister for children or yourself in very hot weather.
  • Go barefoot. Shoes may be required to protect the bottom of your feet or if you are out and about…but go barefoot at every opportunity.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. By this I mean ‘not tight’ and ‘breathable’ --- also lightly colored.
  • Seek shade. If you are going to be out in the sun - wear a hat so that your shade moves with you. Even if you are wearing a hat, stand in the shade whenever possible.


Photography experiments

Today’s blog posting shares some results from some recent photography experiments.

1 hydandia leaves.jpg

The first one is quite simple - some hydrangea leaves photographed on a white kitchen counter top with shadows from natural light from the window on the left. The way the shadows accentuate the shapes of the leaves and the intersection of the shadows of the middle and right leaf intrigue me the most about the image.

2 hydrangea.jpg

The next photograph is of a hydrangea flower - taken with natural light using an old television stand for the black background. It turned out that it provided a very flat black even if it did make for a rather awkward position to be photographing (i.e. essentially lying on the floor). 

I did an earlier post on Blue Tulip Depression Glass. This is a photograph of a salad plate from the set photographed on a drying rack covered in deep red tissue with a small halogen light source shining from below.  

The image to the right is a gladiola photographed lying on a black deskpad using light from a halogen lamp. The flower looked pinker with natural light but I liked the color shift caused by the difference in light.

5 gladiola veils.jpg

This is probably my favorite picture of the group. The swirls and puckers are gladiola petals with a background of black felt taken with natural light. To me, it is easy to imagine that they are swirls of fabric - around dancers just off the frame.

July 2012 Doodles

I’ve started experimenting with some different kinds of doodles - ones that go beyond just putting a pen or pencil to paper. This month I’ve been working with slices of cardboard tubes (from paper towels or toilet paper) and stapling them together into a 3-D doodle. I’m still adding to it but will eventually decide it is ‘complete’ and attempt to paint it. The photo at the right is what it looked like at the end of July.

The slideshow below is a selection of pen/pencil and paper doodles from the month.  Enjoy!

Recipe of the Week: Smoothies

Summer is a great time for ice cold smoothies. All they take is a blender that is strong enough to process ice and some creativity with things you probably already have in your refrigerator. The basics are easy: 

  • Choose your ice. It can be water ice or a frozen form of one of the ingredients. Frozen bananas are my favorite for fruit smoothies. Frozen cherry tomatoes work well for veggie smoothies.
  • Choose your other ‘solid’ ingredients. Most blenders have a ‘fill’ line for non-liquids and it can get messy if you fill beyond that point. Seasonal fruits and veggies are all good choices.
  • Choose your ‘liquid’ to enable smooth blending. I almost always use a bit of lemon juice then add water or tea or juice. Again - do not overfill the blender.
  • Blend the ingredients first using pulses until the icy part is beginning to break up. Then run the blender on medium and then high. The smoothie should be thoroughly mixed, smooth, and frothy.  
  • Enjoy your smoothie. 

Remember serving size and avoid adding ingredients that will add a lot of calories. For this reason - I rarely use fruit juice for the liquid to get to the fill line in my smoothies.

My favorite fruit smoothie right now is a frozen banana, blueberries, a splash of lemon with water. I may add some fresh mint to my next one.

The pictures show my favorite veggie smoothie: frozen tomatoes, green onion, a splash of lemon juice, 4 drops of hot sauce, garlic and herb Mrs. Dash and water. This veggie smoothie is essentially a lunch salad in a glass! Next time I’ll try to remember to add a couple of fresh basil leaves.

Summer Living

July is the middle of summer. The top 10 things I like in summer are: 

  1. Watermelon
  2. Cherries
  3. Grilled corn on the cob
  4. Gardening on the deck - basil, sweet potato, stevia, mint, parsley, rosemary
  5. Walks around Brookside Gardens
  6. Reading a good book in the cool indoors on a hot afternoon
  7. Going barefoot
  8. Waking up at dawn
  9. Meeting a longtime friend for lunch
  10. Photographing flowers

Many of these depend upon being about to stay comfortable even when it is very hot. By July - we all have implemented strategies to stay cool. Here are a few of mine (over and above being in an air conditioned house/building): 

  • Do any outdoor activity as early in the day as possible. I like to get out and about and done by 9. Yes - this means getting up at dawn or maybe a little before. Being a morning person is quite an advantage in the summer.
  • Drink plenty and lots of cold drinks. Lemon water with chia seeds (almost always my first breakfast), herbal tea, and smoothies made with frozen fruit.
  • Close drapes and blinds to keep the sun from shining into a room. Outside light is wonderful but there is a down side if the sun is actually shining through the glass - wonderful as it may be in winter, it is thwarting the air conditioning in the summer.
  • Minimize heat sources such as lamps and computers. Even relatively cool fluorescent bulbs put out some heat. Put the computer into sleep mode when not in use and turn off printers and other equipment except when they are needed.
  • Cook on the grill rather than using an indoor broiler or skillet. If you do cook indoors, minimize the heat added to the kitchen:
    • Select foods with minimal cook time like stir fry
    • Use the microwave to heat veggies
    • Use a crock pot rather than the stove top to make soup or chili
  • Turn off the dry cycle of the dishwasher and run the dishwasher at a time when you will not be in the kitchen (maybe as you are on your way to bed if it isn’t too noisy) 

So - the overarching strategy is to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day and be conscious of actions that minimize what the air conditioning has to overcome. With these strategies in place - I can enjoy all my top 10 activities…and more! 

Recipe of the Week: Pancake Toppings

Pancakes are a quick meal - and not just for breakfast. My husband and I enjoy them as a ‘Breakfast for Dinner’ at least once a week.

I try a different topping for my pancakes almost every week. Here are 5 favorites: 

  • Butter and maple syrup - This is the traditional topping in our household.
  • Sour cream (or plain yogurt) and orange marmalade - A dollop of each. I dip the pancake in each on its way to my mouth.
  • Sautéed apple and raisins in butter. Cut up the apple and start cooking it and the raisins before you start the pancakes. For an extra kick soak the raisins in apricot flavored brandy beforehand. Everything cooks quite rapidly. Sprinkling cinnamon in the pancake batter and the cooking apple adds to the flavor (and the kitchen smells wonderful too).
  • Warmed applesauce and molasses for a stronger flavor.
  • Strawberry chunks with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Or try whatever fruit is in season with the powdered sugar.
  • Banana pureed with honey in the food processor (add a little water or sweet almond oil to create the consistency you want for the topping). 

Just writing this has made me hungry for pancakes!

Treat Yourself to a Facial

A facial is quite a treat and something I am going to start doing more frequently now that I’ve honed my ideas about how to do it myself at home. 

  • There are lots of over the counter masks. My current favorite is one with kaolin, avocado and oatmeal. A homemade mask of honey, oatmeal and green tea could be worth a try too…maybe with some vanilla added to give it a warm aroma. Don’t skimp on the thickness of the mask you put all over your face and neck; it should thoroughly cover the skin. Plan a shampoo afterwards so you don’t have to worry about some of the mask getting in your hair.
  • Cucumber slices for the eyes always feel refreshingly cool. Alternatively - some moist tea bags (left over from the morning pot of tea) could be used for the eyes.
  • The best part of the facial is the relaxing part - lay on your back with your knees elevated with pillows and a comfortable pillow under your head and neck…on a neat bed…with a light blanket…music you love playing (it was raining when I did my facial so I just listened to the rain). The time can vary. Fifteen to twenty minutes seems about right. I set a timer so I don’t have to move at all until it goes off.
  • Afterwards - shower, cleaning off the mask thoroughly using a clean wash cloth.
  • To tighten the pores, splash your face with cold water.
  • Moisturize with your favorite commercial moisturizer or raid your kitchen. My current preference is Sweet Almond Oil with a few drops of Sweet Orange essential oil. 

At one time, I thought the best facials were at a spa but not anymore. I love taking an hour at home to get my skin feeling great without the bother of acquiescing to an environment I don’t control (and is never quite perfect for me).

See also - 10 Cosmetics from the Kitchen posted last December

Life without Electricity

We were without power from Friday, June 29 about 11 PM to Wednesday, July 4 about 4 PM - that’s 4 days and 17 hours or 113 hours. This posting is a first installment about the experience.

This is the longest time I’ve ever been without electricity at home and the first time to have a prolonged outage when the temperature was getting above 90 degrees Farenheit every day. The first few days were quite difficult because the outage was widespread. On Saturday morning we bought ice at a grocery store that was running a small part of the store on generators and bringing out pallets of ice. The next morning they didn’t have ice so we went to another store that seemed to be fully operational but they must have been on generators since all the stores around them were without power. We settled into a rhythm to go out to buy ice every morning before 7:30 getting more frustrated with our situation every morning; by Wednesday we knew that we were in the last 10% to be restored. The refrigerator items went into ice chests on Saturday morning and the freezer items (minus ice cream which had to be trashed) went into ice chests on Sunday. We managed to save everything except 3 eggs that broke (out of a dozen), the tortillas that got waterlogged from ice melt, and the cherries that absorbed water and cracked/burst. I’m in the process of cooking all the meat. Yesterday I cooked a brisket in the crockpot, barbequed pork chops in a casserole dish in the oven, and a meat loaf. Today I have to do something with the chicken. The ice chests have dried out and I’ll put them away today.

There were some things I came to be grateful for: 

  • We have a finished basement. It never got above 78 degrees Farenheit although it was humid and the air was very still.
  • We are on city water and never had a problem with water pressure. People with wells had quite a challenge.
  • We have a gas hot water heater. It was so hot, cold showers would have been tolerable but it was nice to have the heat.
  • The grocery stores made a valiant (and successful) effort to make ice available.
  • I had a good supply of physical books to read. 

I always go into some level of self-analysis during and after an abrupt change like this. How resilient was I? In some areas I did well: switching my reading to physical books rather than e-books, staying still and drinking more water and herbal tea in an attempt to stay cool, and doing what had to be done to preserve our food. My daily sleep/wake cycle was almost unchanged.

So - looking back to the outage days - the two things I can point to as ‘accomplishments’ are 

  • 9 books read (and 2 partials)
  • Majority of food from refrigerator/freezer saved