Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's over...

We didn't get as much snow as they predicted, only around 8 inches. 

     Then it turned to freezing rain and sleet which compressed the snow under it. Still, it's more than I want to see out on my deck. At least I can still SEE the patio table. Last year, by March, the snow was so, so deep out on the deck we couldn't see over it to even eyeball the table. Took forever to melt.

So what did I do on my day off?
I watched T.V. and got depressed over all the depressing news. Then I spent time on my computer. I also made these. And then I ate these.
I also made whole wheat bread that turned out bad. Even my husband, who eats anything, said, "what's wrong with this bread?" Oh, it's not my first time making bread, I've made hundreds of loaves.
I've been experimenting in lowering salt content in foods. So I cut back the amount of salt from the 1 tsp. the recipe suggested, to 1/4 tsp. to see what would happen. The recipe also called for 2 packages of yeast and I only had one, but I tried it nevertheless.
The results?
Bread that tasted like wood. Using whole wheat flour always makes bread kind of funky anyway, but it wasn't that. Slathering it with lots of butter made it much better.
Other result?
My new digital scale said that I gained 2 pounds yesterday alone.
I wish there had been school.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not again !

OK, this is what my deck looks like now...

This is the new weather forecast for tomorrow...

Issued by The National Weather Service

Portland, ME 

9 am EST, Tue., Jan. 27, 2009




Maybe we'll have another snow day !

At least it doesn't look like this !

At least not yet....

UPDATE:  No school today, Wednesday. 8:35 a.m. Just started spitting snow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Sunday Picture....

I chose this photo as my Sunday Picture in honor of all the historic events that occurred this past week. This flag has been on this barn year round for many, many years. It's colors are a stark contrast to the monochromatic winter colors.
Here is a link to a great photo collection the New York Post put together of the inauguration. 

And now, another Sunday morning in Maine.

Frost on the window.

Yikes. It's very cold again this Sunday morning, hovering around zero.
This old house was creaking and groaning last night in the frigid temperatures. So much so that our son came into the bedroom around 1:30 am and thought the house was falling apart. It does that, you know.
The creaking, I mean...not the falling apart. Although, what am I talking about? This house is almost 200 years old and yes, it falls apart, too!

Since my husband was out taking early morning photographs, it was up to me to start the fire with the wood he already brought in for me.
A little newspaper, some kindling, some small logs, a match and voila !

That's the rising sun illuminating the woodstove.

Often times I slide my husband's grandmother's rocking chair right next to the woodstove and grab some reading material and revel in the warmth.

I looked out toward our vegetable garden at my forsythia bushes. These were transplanted years ago from a patch of bushes my parents had in New Jersey and have found a home they like, right here in Maine. They don't even look alive right now, but there are lines in a song from "The Secret Garden" that give hope.

"You give a living thing
A little chance to grow,
That's how you will know
if she is wick, she'll grow.
So grow to greet the morning,
Leave the ground below.
When a thing is wick
It has a will to grow...and grow."
"Wick" sung on you tube...

And even my cat found her patch of early morning sun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another painting completed....

   I have painted watercolors for many, many years. This year I switched to tempera paint and I'm loving it. Oh, I have always painted with tempera for stuff I've done for school and with the kids, so it's not new to me, but most of my personal paintings were watercolor. Below is a photo of me starting a painting of a fish  storefront in Portland, Maine. It is a site that has been photographed and painted thousands of times, but not by me....until now.
   You can see my little cups of tempera that I use and refill as needed. I work from photographs. Working plein air is fine for me now and then, but I prefer to work this way as I do not sit down and paint for hours at a time. It might be 45 minutes and then I walk away, and then painting something for 10 minutes and go and do something else. It's an inconsistent method, but it gets the job done.

Here's the painting with the top half done (the easy part !) 
The painting looks curved because it is. I am doing it on a piece of mat board I had and in the process of using anything wet, the cardboard curved up.

Finally finished. I was struck how differently I had to handle the top half of the painting from the bottom half. I used larger brushes for the top half, a 1/2 " flat brush and a #7 brush. The technique was rather loose. As I got down to the bottom, there was so much more detail that I worked mostly with the #7 brush and a #2 brush, especially for the words. I really wanted the words to be readable. 
The hardest part for me, when painting a painting that has shadows, is making the correct color for the shadows. You know the colors are the same colors as in the sunlight, just darker, but in the shade, you have to get the color made just right. I don't know if I can do that 100 percent yet. It's a struggle I have. But I think it came out OK.

Thanks for looking !  (you can click on the pics to enlarge them...)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A new day, a new dawn....

I snapped this photo this morning driving in to work. The sun was rising on a new day.
And what a new day it was....
This was a photo I snapped at 6 a.m. from my TV of the crowds in front of the Capital building! Crowds of people just wanting to be there and to witness, first hand, a new era dawning. People of all ages celebrating together, people thinking about their lives past and their lives in the future. People that wanted to be part of a historical moment, the inauguration of a new President.

As Obama himself said in his inaugural address:

"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

Barack H. Obama, I wish you the very best.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yummy and easy cinnamon buns

Here's how we started Martin Luther King Day with 14" of new snow on the ground from yesterday's storm.

REALLY, REALLY EASY cinnamon buns

1 roll of regular frozen bread dough, defrosted.

a bunch of brown sugar



melted butter or butter spray

confectioners sugar

a little milk

350 degrees  ( I have NO idea how to type the ‘degree’ symbol)

When the frozen bread dough is soft, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle, about 12” wide and about 8” high. (I just roll it out until it doesn’t want to roll out easily anymore.)

Brush on some melted butter OR I just liberally spray it with butter flavored spray.

Sprinkle on quite a lot of brown sugar, so the dough is well covered. yum

Sprinkle on some cinnamon, a medium amount.

Sprinkle some broken up walnuts evenly all over the surface of the dough, as much as you want. (you can add raisins at this point, too.)

Drizzle with more melted butter OR spray on some more butter flavored spray.

Start rolling the dough from the long end to make a nice long tube. Pinch the ends of the dough together so it doesn’t uncurl.

Cut in half. Cut in half again. Then I cut each quarter into 3 pieces, but it all depends on how high you want the rolls to be.

Put the rolls, spiral side up, into a greased or sprayed 9”x9” pan. Spray or drizzle more butter on top and then sprinkle a little more brown sugar on the tops.

If I have time, I cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to let the yeast do it's thing for about 1 hour. Another thing you can do is to assemble them all together the night before, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to rise. One way or another, that's the best thing to do, let it rise. OR if it's an emergency, you can do like I did this morning, bake right away! (the buns will be a little bigger if you let them rise.)

Bake in oven at 350 degrees. I check it after 15 minutes and then every 5 minutes after that until it gets light golden brown.

Remove from oven, let cool a little bit, and then turn the whole thing upside down onto a platter so that the melted sugar coats the now new tops.

Cool somewhat or totally. Drizzle a sugar frosting on it made from about 1/4 C confectioners sugar and barely a tbsp of milk. It takes very little milk to make it into a drizzle-able frosting. You may have to add more confectioners sugar so it isn’t too runny.

Drip all over the tops of the buns. Soooo good.

Warm in microwave a little over the next few days, if they last that long.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Sunday Picture....

Hangin' in there !

There are chickadees, blue jays, cardinals and what appear to be dark eyed Juncos  having a field day on our feeders. It's going to snow all day and into the night and it is a winter wonder-land outside.
Me, I'm in my rocking chair sipping a cup of mint tea by the woodstove, watching the cat watching the birds. Peace.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Death of a legend....

July 12, 1917-January 16, 2009.
   Andrew Wyeth spent most of his days between Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Cushing, Maine. His family had a summer home in Maine and he used this as inspiration for many of his paintings.  
   In Rockland, Maine, there is a wonderful art museum called the Farnsworth that has many paintings exhibited there by Andrew and his son, artist Jamie Wyeth. When you purchase a ticket for the museum you can also purchase a ticket for the Olson house. The Olson house is in Cushing, Maine, about a 20 minute ride from the Farnsworth Museum.
   The Olson house and it's occupants, Alvaro and Christina Olson (siblings), were painted and sketched by Andrew Wyeth hundreds of times. Going to the house in person is a humbling experience. It is pretty much empty, just some sparse furnishings left. Once there you can wander about throughout the house and dream.....
   When we were there, I took some photos from specific vantage points in and out of the house that tried to capture the images Andrew painted and studied.
   Here are some of those photos I took, placed in a book I have about Andrew Wyeth. 

Click to enlarge the photos so that you can see them better.

If you are ever in that area in Maine, take the time to visit these wonderful sites. 

In a moment when I thought I was being clever, I put myself in what I thought was a Christina pose in front of the Olson house. (oops, I had it backwards.) So much has grown up around the house since this painting was done it was virtually impossible to put myself into the spot where he put Christina.

This is the Olson house taken from the dirt road.

These are photos taken from inside the kitchen. The famous rocker where Christina Olson spent many hours rocking in front of the woodstove.

This is a photo I took from one of the upstairs bedrooms looking east onto the roof of the kitchen.

This is a photo of the kitchen window from outside in the front yard.

I purchased this book shortly after I went to see an Andrew Wyeth exhibit in New York City many years ago. I have used it repeatedly for reference and inspiration over the years.
   So rest in peace, Andrew Newell Wyeth.

Friday, January 16, 2009

And I thought it was COLD yesterday !!!

This morning.....22 below zero at 7:30 a.m. Driving by the Fore River inlet from the ocean I noticed an eerie mist mulling around backlit by the morning sun. The water was around 30 degrees, I'm told, and the air so very much below zero that the water, in comparison, was downright balmy. I turned around and took this photo.

This phenomenon is called Arctic Sea Smoke and yes, it was. (eskip photo in the link)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bitter cold in Maine today. At first blush, it was -1 degree as I was driving into Portland. On mornings like this the smoke from all the churning furnaces drifts straight up into the lightening sky. Objects appear sparkly as the sun rises higher illuminating the frost.
Up on Munjoy Hill, the distant water is a cold steel blue.
The sun is bright but there is no hint of warmth.
At least not yet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

POTHOLE did this. Ripped the tire as well. $800 plus.........aaarrrghhhh ! 
That is all I have to say about this. (and this is the INSIDE of the wheel !)

(did ya click on the word 'pothole'?)

Monday, January 12, 2009

We made this stew last night to enjoy today. Mr. Downeast Doing Stuff helped me cut up all the veggies. Letting it sit overnight melds the flavors. I also made these Parker House rolls this afternoon after school using rapid rise yeast. 

* 1 lb. round steak cut into 1/2 " cubes. (I use stew beef.)(Partially freeze to cut up better.) (I also dredge the cubes in a little flour)
* 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
* 3 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (3 cups) 
* 1 small turnip, peeled and coarsely chopped (2 C)
* 2 Cups coarsley chopped cabbage
* 3 medium carrots, chopped (1 1/2 C)
* 2 medium onions, chopped (1 C)
* 2 tbsp. snipped parsley
*  1 tbsp. vinegar 
* 1  1/2 tsp. salt (I eliminated the salt and used Mrs. Dash)
* 1/4  tsp. pepper
*  1 tsp. sugar
* 1 bay leaf
*  6 cups water

In a large Dutch oven, brown 1/2 steak cubes at a time in hot oil. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer covered 1 - 1  1/2 hours, or til meat and turnip are tender. Remove bay leaf.  6 servings.


*1 C warm water (about 110 degrees)
*2 Tbsp. sugar
* 1 package rapid rise yeast
* 2 cups plus more as you knead it, flour. (I used White Whole Wheat for the first time tonight)
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 egg (plus one for brushing tops of rolls, if you want to.)
* 1 egg yolk
* 2 Tbsp. melted butter

Combine dry ingredients in a KITCHEN MIXER. Add eggs to dry ingredients. Mix with mixer. Add warm water. Mix.

Use dough hook on mixer. Keep adding flour until dough forms a ball on the hook. Knead with the dough hook until smooth and elastic. Cover with dish towel and let rest 10 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl onto a lightly flowered surface. Cut in half. Cut in half again. Cut each quarter section of dough into 3 pieces. Form into nice round balls. 

Coat a 9 " glass pie dish with the melted butter. Toss the dough balls into the butter until coated. Spray tops of rolls with butter flavored spray and cover with plastic wrap. (the spray keeps it from sticking) Cover with kitchen towel and sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size. (Start checking after 1/2 hour goes by.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg and sprinkle with coarse salt if you want to.
(I don't do this)

Bake until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. (If it starts to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil.)

Cool on rack.

Enjoy !

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Sunday Picture....

Early Sunday morning snow in rural Maine.

Last school year, I took a picture of something that inspired me every Sunday, and made a collection of them. I sent them to some family members every Sunday. 
I stopped when school ended in June. 
I've decided to start up again and post it here every Sunday.
This tree in our yard is ever a source of content and beauty.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Foiled again....

Well, over the last 2-3 days, my 7th graders were making aluminum foil people. We had already studied figure drawing and learned about proper proportion in the human figure. Now we were ready to make a 3-D figure. I'm posting these directions because it would be fun for kids at any age. I myself, even made 4 different figures while the kids were working. Below you will see some of what the kids made. The one with the skirt, I made.
Here are the directions:

Take a piece of aluminum foil (12" wide) and cut it to be 15 " in length. Mark the foil at the top with a sharpie as shown and also on the bottom.

Cut slits where marked. (2 at the top to make arm and head areas and 1 at the bottom for the 2 legs.

Grab the foil in the center and smoosh inward to make the 'waist' area.

Squeeeze together each leg and each arm to make more of a cylinder shape.

Take the foil in the head area and start rolling it forward and crunching it at the same time. This will allow the head to have a 'chin' area.
Continue smooshing the foil to thin out the arms and legs, etc. and shape the head.

Manipulate the foil by pressing on it to make areas thinner and to get a fairly proportional body shape.

Bend the guy into any position you want to.

Then, add some clothes with additional pieces of foil. You may have to glue gun some things in place. To make hats, the kids pressed a circle or oval of foil on a wooden bead that was about the size of the head to use as a form, and then pulled it off and glued it onto the 'real' (foil) head. For a skirt, I cut out a circle of foil, cut out another small circle in the center of it and cut a slit into it to slip it onto the waist of the foil person. Then I 'hemmed' it, just by folding the foil under to give it more strength, and then played with it to get the folds and shape that I wanted.

This student called this 'windy day in France'

hmmm, me when I get up in the morning??


A young lady with a skirt !

This is a boxer.....

So, that was fun and the kids loved it ! I hope you do, too.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It snowed and sleeted all day and it's still snowing and sleeting. Had to drive my husbands 4 wheel drive vehicle to work so I wouldn't go flying off the road. Took it slow and made it just fine.
He had a snow day off.
He waved goodbye from the warm kitchen window as I backed out of the driveway. I waved back from a frigid SUV window, and off I went.
Coming home I snapped some photos while driving down my street.

Almost home....

And then, when I got home, I took off my shoes, put on my L.L. Bean rag socks and made myself a hot, steamy cup of tea. Little by little, took off my jewelry and began to relax....ahhh....the water kettle on the wood stove hissing in the background.
Then a nice glass of Merlot in my Merry Madness wine glass. If you live anywhere near Portland, you may have attended Merry Madness a few weeks before Christmas. The festivities start in a different Portland hotel each year where one can munch on a multitude of hors d'oeurves and purchase an official 'Merry Madness' wine glass full of wine. All the shops in the Old Port stay open late and have beverages and appetizers for everyone that visits. If you carry your Merry Madness wine glass around, you can refresh it's contents with a variety of drinks.
It's really beautiful walking around with all the twinkling white lights suspended in the trees lining Exchange Street and the green garland festooning the shops.

So here is my MERRY MADNESS you can see, it's empty now.
Enjoy the evening.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My warm, little babies....

Winter storm watch for tomorrow....better than a winter storm warning.....but worse than a winter weather advisory. 
But my two little kitties possess that warmth and comfort that we all yearn for and when the weather outside is frightful, well, I just cuddle with my babies.