Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I Spied with my Little Eye

.... a robin.

Yes, they're all over the States and Europe.  But I had never seen the European species before.  When I was at Kensington Palace in London, I didn't recognize the bird at first.  It was so charming and tiny.  

I didn't know it's a whole different animal.  The Robin a perching bird / flycatcher, whereas the American Robin is actually a thrush.  European robins' eggs are white or cream.  Only American Robins lay blue eggs.  Robins sing throughout the night, sometimes being confused with Nightingales.  American Robins announce the dawn, and it's a song I look forward to, especially as we sit through another Nor'Easter.   

Please come soon, Spring.  I'm not sure my poppies, with their lush foliage, can take much more.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Unexpected Details

Some of the wonder of Gothic architecture comes from the elaborate ornamentation.  Can you imagine designing and creating all those elements?

The downside to such ornate surfaces is that many wonderful details can be missed.  The gargoyles above the public entrance to Westminster Abbey were a surprise. The whimsy was unexpected.

Each of the gargoyles is unique!

Here's a close-up
Seen from below
Architecturally, this is a good example of implied symmetry and having fun.  Westminster Abbey proves that something can be majestic and have a bit of silliness, at the same time.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

L * O * N * D * O * N

A member of the Queen's Guard
I've just returned from LONDON!!

Perhaps you've been to London, but I'd never been.  When my husband had to travel there on business, I hopped at the chance to join him.

We had to cut our trip short (to three days) due to the impending storm in New York, but the trip was still an absolute delight.  I'll be oohing and aaahing about it for a while, I'm sure, and reflecting on all I learned.  Some things I discovered:

* Did you know that you can observe Parliament in action?  I didn't.  I stumbled upon the opportunity and found it fascinating.  I got to observe debate on prison reform in the House of Commons provided, of course, that I promised not to shout out in response to anything said on the floor.

* Did you know that some of the underground trains have no car dividers?  It's like being inside a long snake as it twists and curves. Rather cool.  But it bungles up some of the James Bond tube foot chases, though.

* Did you know that you can go to free organ recitals at St. Paul's Cathedral?  We used that as an opportunity to see the cathedral on a Sunday, when tourists aren't allowed in unless they are attending a service or a special event.  The organ was a breathtaking instrument.

*  Did you know they still have all the original room keys in the Churchill War Rooms?  It's true.  Even after all these years.  They also still have the asbestos cloths they kept on hand in case of a fire.

I could go on and on, but you'd likely get bored -- or perhaps you have all already visited London.  I'm going to have to restrain myself.  I'm still all giddy from the experience and would otherwise likely do a play-by-play travelogue. So I'll limit myself to a few snippets and images.

The National Gallery at dusk

Sunflowers, 1888, Vincent VanGogh at the National Gallery

St Stephens Hall in Westminster.  The last public place you're allowed to take pictures on the way to the House of Commons

Courtier clothes rendered in paper at Kensington Palace

Regent Street at night

Magnificent Gothic architecture

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Windows and Doors

I recently considered entering a photography exhibition with a Portals theme.  I was searching for a few pictures to submit and was surprised by how many window and door images I had.  Who knew I'd compiled so many.  (Obviously, I didn't.)

Here are a few of the pictures I uncovered in the process.  They brought back many happy memories. It appears that I've tried to capture an eclectic array of windows and doors.  Another surprise.


New York City



Has anyone else discovered a personal series by accident?

Thanks for reading and be well.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Loving Vincent

I recently watched the movie, Loving Vincent.  Have you seen it?  It was a quiet movie, but intriguing. I found it fascinating on many levels.  But now I have MORE questions:

1) I knew van Gogh died of a gunshot wound, but had always assumed his wound was self-inflicted.  But was it really suicide?  Could it have been an accidental shooting?

2) Is the title reference to how van Gogh signed off on his letters to his brother, Theo?  Or was it about the impact of loving Vincent, in life and after death?

3) I didn't know the postman, Joseph Roulin, and his son, Armand, were frequent subjects.  Would I sit today, if someone asked me to sit for a painting? Would I do it more than once?  If so, would I want my own copy or would I be okay with them all being sold?

4) What about the pronunciation of van Gogh's name?  I always said "van GO".  The Brits say, "van GOFF".  Apparently both are wrong, according to the Dutch.

5)  I've watched the "how it was made" video on You Tube. The artistry of the movie is terrific.  Now I want to know: How do I get to be a part of such a cool project?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Smitten with a Poet

In the course of my research for Long Winding Journeys, I've been reading the poetry of Hafiz, the most famous of the Persian poets.  He lived from about 1320-1382, roughly the same time as Chaucer.  I happened to have a book of his poems in my stash, though I hadn't had the occasion to read very much of it.  Now I have, and I'm smitten.  Here are a few poems that struck a chord with me.  I'll start with the one I plan to share at docent training, a poem I can easily imagine would inspire an artist.


Between a good artist
And a great one


The voice
Will often lay down his tool
Or brush

Then pick up an invisible club
On the mind's table

And helplessly smash the easels and

Whereas the vintage man
No longer hurts himself or anyone

And keeps on




Keeps the sad game going.

It keeps stealing all your wealth --

Giving it to an imbecile with

No financial skills.

Dear one,




Did the rose
Ever open its heart

And give to this world
All its 

It felt the encouragement of light
Against its

We all remain




Like a 
Clever piece of mutton
Refusing to go down the "well"

Knowing it will so quickly just come out
The "other end"

So it lodges itself between one's teeth --

That's the kind of poem Hafiz
Wants to sing

Thanks for reading and until next time, be well.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Frozen Marigold Dye Pot Update

Here's the 4-1-1.

1) Picking up where we left off ....   I let the marigold dye cloth steep in a dark corner of my pantry overnight.  BUT, in my excitement, I totally forgot to plan for After The Brew Has Stewed.  The next morning I wondered, Where to put the awesomely colored water so I might use it again?  Where to hang the cloth?  Oops.  Thank heavens for old Tupperware, including the bin I used to haul birthday cupcakes to school when the children were younger.  I strained the cloth and liquid through a plastic colander; most of the liquid made it into the Tupperware.

The marigolds didn't look too good after staying out all night.

My pantry now looks like a biohazard lab with the bin of colored liquid sitting on the counter.

A music stand that hasn't seen any action for a while worked as my drying rack. I put a white rag on the floor to catch any messes, but I had wrung out the cloth enough.  Nothing dripped.

2) In daylight, the color looked more ochre than I expected.  In fact, it looked rather mustard-y.  I confess to being a little disappointed because I really liked that vibrant yellow that emerged after I had added the baking soda to the mix the previous night.  Since I wasn't completely enamored with the cloth at this point, I figured I couldn't make things worse.  I sloshed some vinegar on it to add some blotches of lighter color.  (I would have been spritzed all over, but the sprayer was clogged.)

Definitely irregular coloring.  That faint pinkish stain is an area that wasn't completely submerged overnight.

3) I left the cloth to dry naturally for several days in a relatively sun-free corner of my mudroom.  The color lightened to a lovely light lemon yellow.

4) The moment(s) of truth: rinsing and washing.  I scrubbed the cloth a bit with a clean brush,  because a number of shriveled marigold petals were stuck to the cloth and I didn't want them wrecking havoc to my machine. Some color did go down the drain at this point.  Then I plopped it into the washing machine with a white rag for a cold water wash. I was curious as to how much more color might still come out. (Nothing noticeable happened.)

5) Here's the cloth today after washing, drying, and ironing.  It's noticeably lighter and grayer than it was before, but I think the dye is pretty colorfast at this point.  I was surprised to discover that most of the vinegar blotches are gone.  The light sections that remain are the areas of the cloth that were above water for most of the steeping process.  These became more noticeable after ironing, which also surprised me.

An "above the fluid" splotch + a piece of muslin for contrast
Lessons Learned:
1) As much as diving right in is fun, a little bit of planning can be important.  If you hope to keep any of the leftover liquid dye for another use, have receptacles ready. Know where you're going to hang the cloth to dry.

2) I didn't add a fixative.  I'm guessing that's why the bright yellow didn't stick.  Next time I'll try to remember to throw in some mashed acorns or fireplace ash to the brew.  (I'll put those in an old bit of pantyhose first so they don't make a mess.)

3) I had enough water for most of the cloth to be submerged as it stewed; as a result, the cloth is pretty uniform in color.  Next time I'm going to try to either tie some knots in it, snarl in some rubber bands, or, if I'm really ambitious, do a bit of shibori-like stitching up front.  Any of these might make for interesting depth of color.  I'm not sure why the vinegar "stains" didn't keep.  I'll have to do some research on that one. I also don't know if the cooler temps in my mudroom had any effect on the final product.

And there you have it.  Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Until next time, thanks for reading and be well!