Monday, August 31, 2009

"A good cook artist whom one may bless after having eaten the courses he has served, an officer who will make one's table the envy of all who have shared its good cheer, ”
Isabella Beeton (1836-1865)
The Book of Household Management (1861)

While we were in Pittsburgh last weekend we stopped at Trader Joe's on Penn Ave. in Shadyside. I have heard of Trader Joe's so frequently while I lived in the south that my expectations were high.

Trader Joe's features organic foods at reasonable prices. Within seconds after arriving inside I was over whelmed by the plastic wrap on almost everything. After walking around the store a few times trying to figure out what draws customers to this store I discovered a nice young man cooking food samples for the lines of people. The food featured this day was Cheese Ravioli fried in olive oil, Chicken Cheese Red Wine Hot Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms served with a dollop of Trader Joe's Marinara sauce.
Recipes are an inspiration point for me rather than a formula to follow precisely. The flavors in the sample were enough to send my imagination running wild. Cook in living color with a healthy variety of vegetables each day to make a nice meal.
Imagine an aubergine eggplant washed cut into cubes, leave the skin on, saute in a large pan with heated extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Cook the eggplant down until almost tender the add a generous handful of diced peppers green, red, yellow and orange.
Thoroughly cook the Chicken Hot Italian Sausage in a hot skillet with a few drops of olive oil. After sausage is cooked remove and discard the grease drippings. Then cut sausage into bite size pieces to be added into the sauteed vegetable mix.
Wash, core, remove the seeds then cut the four peppers into small pieces. Toss an handful in with the eggplant & garlic. The remainder of the peppers will be stored in the freeze in an air tight plastic sealed container ready for the another cooking adventure.

Trader Joe's featured a package of dehydrated assortment of wild mushrooms. Rehydrate the mushrooms in a pan of hot water, remove mushrooms then reserve the water after mushrooms are pulp and full. Next heat the water to boil before adding one package of Trader Joe's Cheese Ravioli. Remove from the hot, wild mushroom flavored water after cooking.
This flavorful reserve liquid will be cooked down to coax tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, parsley & Italian seasonings into a wonderful marinara sauce that will accompany your Chicken Italian Sausage, Cheese Ravioli, Wild Mushrooms & Colorful Vegetable Medley. Combined into a one dish then topped with a sprinkle of a good quality Parmesan Reggiano Cheese.
This meal is sure to excite your sense of taste, smell and sight as well as providing a chew that is pleasant to the pallet. Adjust portion size of ingredients to meet your needs.
Good cooking is meant to be savored and shared with friends or family. Invite someone to dine with you or bring extras along to share as a picnic lunch at the office.
"Anybody feel like grabbing a couple of burgers and hitting the cemetery? ..."

Great weekend in Pittsburgh offers many unexpected treasures. My husband's aunt has not been feeling well this summer. We decided in the true Irish family tradition to call a gathering of the clan hoping to cheer her spirits before the surgery. A quick all point bulletin brought together twelve family members for the weekend. I lovingly prepared and packed the Saturday night supper meal of; Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Boston Baked Beans seasoned with Brown Sugar, Onions and Bacon,Brown Bread, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Corn Relish-Sliced Tomatoes. To complete the meal I baked Fresh Peach Pie & Frosted Dark Fudge Pecan Brownies for dessert.

Saturday morning we scrambled from Shadyside to picked Barry up at the Pittsburgh International Airport. First stop Resurrection Cemetery for a visit with my parents.

We didn't really have a picnic at the graves, maybe next time we will. We did place floral sprays I made for the Rice graves, share some stories of good times with grandma and grandpa, catch them up on our latest life adventures then say a prayer before Barry treated us to brunch at Eat & Park an Pittsburgh tradition .

It was during brunch I suggested we stop at a new Shaw Gallery featuring historical maps. Everyone was in agreement to see this new gallery as we all get excited about history. That was easy, with everyone in agreement to go Jim, Barry, Kara and I delved right into the collection of maps. Faces down, squealing with delight we were prompted by the owner to more maps that could be of interest to us, occasionally pointing out areas of interest to each other. EUREAKA !!! One stop that captivated four people;~)

Before I do anything I enjoy doing my research. I had learned that Kurt's interest in maps was fostered by his grandfather who was a fisherman. This sounds nice, I'm thinking, I wish I could have met the grandfather also. I am getting curiouser and curiouser.

After about ten minutes of glee perusing the gallery, I introduced myself as a Canevin alum '74, to the proprietor Kurt Shaw. Obviously a younger man, wise beyond his years, Kurt mentions one of my classmates who also happens to be his cousin. For the next three minutes names are flying back and forth until we had so many names in common that Kurt and I determined a startling revelation. His map collecting, fisherman, grandfather and my mother's older brother are the same person. I had met his grandfather only his was my uncle to my way of thinking.
After getting over the shock and chills of finding a new blood connection we find we have much in common sharing the family tree from different perspectives. Sure hope we can drive back to Pittsburgh to attend the official Grand Opening September 11th 5:30- 9pm.

Friday, August 28, 2009

" Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

" Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

This past year I have had the privilege to move seven states away for home to attend graduate school as an adult learner. Perhaps it is in direct correlation to the stock market collapse annihilating everyone retirement account, oddly enough, Jimi feels this has been the best investment of time and money we could have spent during the past year. Two weeks before I left for school my husband received the news he was not going to have the position that precipitated our move from Pittsburgh to Western New York in 1999.

Early in September while I was getting acclimated to being a student again my husband and I watched the invisible empire of our future retirement melt into a puddle of spilt milk. The world wide economic collapse leaves millions of baby boomer who eyed the exit door with visions of a grand retirement chained to their desk for a few more years. The ripple effect has generated frustration in the younger population who count on natural attrition of the older work force to open opportunities for their advancement up the ladder of monetary success. What we have now with a stagnant economy are disgruntled baby boomers who cannot afford to retire and six unemployed college graduates chasing every one job opening.

Maybe it is because I am 52 years old. Perhaps because I was with a graduate student population between 22 years old and say close to forty year old. Maybe it was because information was coming at me so quickly that I was over thinking everything. This past year has been a significant time of reflection for me.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my life choices, my husband, my children, my extended family and my friends and my aging pet one of whom died during my absence. Through the wonder of email and phone calls my family kept in touch with me regularly. It hurt to hear Barry tell me, " Mom you are out of the loop being down in Georgia." Often I felt like an observer of my family from a point after my death. Kara would call me as she walked around Wegmann's planning holiday meals from our traditional recipes. I dictated from memory the ingredients needed and specifics on how to achieve flavorful results. Over the phone I knew every detail about the holiday meals I would not be able to fly home to attend. Little by little I felt more like I was dead than alive.

No matter how many times the other student and professors tried to convince me it was better to stay in graduate school and focus on my art twenty hours a day I was not buying their vision of success. Feelings of being trapped, frustrated and anger permeated my art as I planned my escape back to life as I knew it. To the life I had designed for myself many years ago. With the force of a cannon I joyfully left the life of a graduate student. My exodus was easy after it was highly suggested to me that I was trying to get out too quickly. You think ???
I should slow down stay, stay at least until next November was not on my radar.

Death is a normal part of the life cycle. People are born and die everyday. World birth date statistic estimate 353,015 births per day balancing the 146,357 people around the world who die each day.

Looking through this incomplete list of well known people who died within the last twelve months it is interesting that death has no respect for age, beauty, or economic status.

Summer 2009 seems surreal with the death of Michael Jackson and Billy Mays dead in their early 50's. Granted they both died as a result of drugs, non the less, it is a relatively early time to reach the end of ones life. The deaths of Jett Travolta, Natasha Richardson, Farrah Fawcett, Les Paul, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dominic Dunne... all have a message to us who remain behind.

At any minute of the day we all have an equal chance to be the next on the list. This kind of thinking could be deemed either very depressing by some people or very liberating by others. I align myself on the camp with the optimists. Unlike an animal we humans have the conscious knowledge of our impending death.

Along with the saying " Money and time can only be spent once, choose wisely." I taught my children that "with every privilege comes responsibility." My children learned at an early age never to tell me that they were bored. Boredom shows a lack of imagination and initiative.
Live like you are dying making use of the days that remain. Freedom comes with how we intend to use each day, hour, minute or second of our marvelous gift of life. We may not all have equal status and economic power, however, it doesn't cost anything to smile, stop to let someone cross a street or reach a item down in a store for someone in need. Don't waste a minute, you never know if it will be your last.
Picture top right is a Dress for the Autumn of My Life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Fresh peach pie can lift a bullying reprobate into apologetic courtesy; I have watched it happen."Leif Enger (Peace Like a River)
Last Saturday Kara and I went for an early morning drive to Niagara Produce, a half closed half open air market boasting a large variety of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats as well as flowers, plants, bird feeding supplies and garden ornaments. Located in East Amherst, at the crossroads of Millersport Highway and Transit Road, it is well worth the short drive from many areas around Buffalo. Going to Niagara Produce always makes me feel more ecologically friendly for cooking with local in season produce.
Just seeing all of the colors gets me in the mood to dash home for more fun playing with food in my kitchen. Saturday our main focus was to purchase fresh peaches. Just picked from the orchards there is a plentiful supply of Red Haven Freestone Peaches so I bought a half bushel to make pies and cobbler.

The peaches were just a bit too firm not yet at peak flavor so I stored them in closed brown paper bags in the pantry overnight to ripen. A gentle Sunday afternoon rain dropped the temperature enough to justify turning on my oven.

Let's being by first washing the peaches. I like to give the sink a good scrubbing with a bleaching cleanser then rinse well before filling my kitchen sink with warm water. Add about a cup of cider vinegar to the water then allow the peaches to float and bounce around in the water for twenty minutes.

A grocery store produce aisle product - a spray bottle of "fruit and vegetable cleaner with the main ingredients being vinegar and water can be made very cheaply, for the cost of a spray bottle and a bottle of vinegar (which you probably already have in your cupboard, anyway.)To make the solution, simply mix a few tablespoons of vinegar with the water in the spray bottle (Don't worry, it doesn't leave a smell on your produce, and it works great!)

Since fiber and nutrition are a goal in my baking I prefer to leave the sanitized skins on the peach flesh. Simply cut crosswise into the peach give a sharp twist and the peach should separate into halves if you bought the freestone peaches. If the peaches are not freestone well then good luck you have a mess on your hands. Proceed to remove the peach seed stones beginning with the peaches that have a little give when you apply slight pressure best to begin with the most ripe fruits first. All peels seeds and organic scaps go into my compose.

Slice the fruit into a large bowl add some ground cinnamon, sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of uncooked instant tapioca then add a sprinkle of raw sugar or honey to make the juices begin to flow. Continue until the bowl is filled with fresh peach mixture as you will need a mound of fresh fruits to fill the pie crust. It is nice to bake the extra fruit in a glass dish to be baked whn you place the pie in the oven.

Since I choose to cut the amount of sugar in my cooking the addition of some fresh blueberries add a nice color and natural sweetness to the pie. Experiment with your own combinations remember my goal is to help you enjoy working in your kitchen not to give step by step instructions. YOU are the chef so experiment with what you have in your kitchen and from what you have learned that works for you. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set the fresh fruit bowl aside to create it's own juices while you work on the pastry crust.

There are as many ways to make a Peach Pie as there are people who enjoy baking. Perfectly good quality pie commercial pie crust is available in your grocers freezer and dairy case. My goal is to enjoy being in my kitchen not just have a pie so I make my own pastry. For years I make my own pie crust using white flour and Crisco shortening or butter.

Over the years I have given up the flaky pie crust in favor of a more heart healthy version that is more substantial in texture. All of my pie crusts have begun in the same way for over twenty years in my Cuisinart Food processor. This food processor which my mother would describe as not owing me a penny must be over twenty years old. I know it is that old because the label on the bottom says Made in Japan.

The reason to use a food processor to make pastry crust is because the heat of our hands melts the fat of the butter/Crisco shortening there by make a tough crust. Hence a pastry blender or food processor removes the heat factor from the chilled ingredients until the baking process creates a flaky crust as the fat melts between the flour particles creating layers.

Into the food processor add about two and one half cups of flour ingredients made from a combination of; unbleached flour, whole wheat four, oat meal, wheat germ, flax get the point.

Now add about a 1/2 cup olive oil and a dash of salt. Pulse the food processor on/off cutting oil into the flour in high speed until all of the olive oil is incorporated into the flour. The mixture should looks like sand particles. Now spoon 1/2 cup cold skim milk into the spinning mixture one tablespoon at a time until the pastry pulls away from the sides and forms into a soft ball. It is fine if you need to alternate a bit more flour or a drop of oil or milk. Remember this is not brain surgery, no one is going to die if you make a mistake, the point is to enjoy working in your kitchen so have fun with this.

With your rubber spatula turn the pastry crust on to a lightly floured pastry cloth. Not a big fan of the rolling pin cover as a dusting of the unbleached flour will keep the pastry from sticking. My slightly used pastry cloth can be reused a few times between washings as the flour content and extra dough are dusted away before being folded in a plastic freezer bag and then quickly returned for for safe keeping frozen between my baking sessions.

Roll out the bottom crust into a circle larger than the pie pan, fold in half then lift into pie pan, fit into bottom then around the sides before cutting excess away from around the edges. Flute the edges of the pie crust at this point if making an open pie or roll out another crust for the top. By now the sugar should have drawn some juices out of the peaches. The addition of the instant tapioca will absorb some of the juices to help eliminate the dreaded pie spill over puddle at the bottom of your oven. For extra protection, I place the pie on a Pie Oven Guard in case the pie juice really runs over the edges.

Pies are usually baked in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes to begin browning then turn oven temperature down to 375 for 45 minutes. Experiment with the heat of your oven. Begin at a lower temp then bake for a longer time if pie seems to be browning too quickly.

My pies are more dense and less sweet than commercial pies, however, they are more filling and more nutritious so you will eat it more slowly consequently consuming less quantity.
Experiment with your own pie baking adventure then let me know what you prefer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to p

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

Mathew 7:6 New American Standard Bible 1995

Before I even began my first day in graduate school I received an email from Professor Nan Rainey offering a Teachers Workshop, Friday mornings from 10:00 - 12:00.

SIGN ME UP !!! The teaching workshop was free!!!
This was an excellent opportunity to learn from a multitude of professors with years of teaching experience for six or more weeks each quarter. Since I had already been an Adjunct Instructor for two years this was an excellent way to add value to my educational experience without the burden of added tuition.

The tuition for each ten week was around $3000 per class.

HONESTLY, this tuition became too rich for my nerves.
It was fine;
  • for students who are an only child of two working parents,

  • the kids who have trust funds from wealthy grandparents,

  • the few exceptionally talented over achievers who were on a full scholarship grant,

  • the students who are married to professors who received one free class per quarter,

  • the students who found employment within the college who are awarded one free class per quarter and

  • the ones I like to think of a the truly brave souls.

The truly brave souls are the students who take on student loans to pay for art college. Some of these students admitted to being between $80,000 and $100,000 in debt for student loans with as much as two more years till graduating with a degree.

YIKES, now that's what I am talking about really having nerves of steel.

For a non traditional student who is used to being fiscally responsible for my own debt during the past 35 years it is important for me to pay for my own education. In addition to the Fellowship Grant Award, I paid the first bill with the money earned working as an Adjunct Instructor. Every time the bill was due the price of tuition made me deeply examine my dollar cost average value. Barry, my economist son, says he got his love of economics from me. He laments my not having gone to college to study economics instead of art.

A firm believer that all things work together for good, one morning on my way to an 8:00 class, the back of my automobile was hit. I had stopped to allow a police car to make a u-turn in front of my car to assist a young boy held up at gun point 7:30 in the morning on his way to school in downtown Savannah.

The young girl behind me, talking on a cell phone, neglected to apply her brakes subsequently driving into the back of my Toyota Corolla. The impact was strong enough to send hot coffee and various broken bits of debris like missiles within my car interior.

The poor kid was laughing from the stress and the embarrassment of hitting me when I sprang from my car armed with my; notebook, camera, drivers licence and insurance card in hand. " I'm not laughing." I said. Barry, Kara and any of my former students who tried to pull something over on me are picturing my very, serious, stern facing right now.

Fortunately, I was able to gradually with the help of stretches and yoga worked out my stuff neck and muscle aches. After inspecting the damage, my trustworthy mechanic Noel Tucciarone, deemed my car physically sound suffering only a slight flesh wound to the bumper. With his blessing I elected to spend the $1,400 cash award from the insurance company on my tuition payment for the next quarter confident that I will indeed sustain a future impact from another driver oblivious to being on the road.

As a means of getting more for my investment throughout my year in grad school I attended every Teaching Workshop offered during the three quarter period. Professor Rainey even printed me a perfect attendance record certificate since I was the only student ever to attend every workshop this year. The puzzling question is why I was the only student in the entire graduate program to take advantage of this marvelous free workshop?

Although a person with an MFA degree could be hired to teach at a college level, teaching skills are not emphasised within our program except one Share the Knowledge project. Where are these students going to gain knowledge to describe their teaching philosophy, write their own syllabus, draft lesson plans, handle discipline problems within the classroom, encourage healthy competition within a classroom setting, set professional boundaries between themselves as professor and their students???

The Teacher Workshop held each quarter 10:00 - 12:00 on Fridays is indeed a pearl of great price for those wise enough to seek treasure.

I created these BIG BABY GIRL SHOES because my method in learning is to take " baby steps". When I realized I would only be able to pay for one year of graduate college what I needed was big baby shoes to take bigger baby steps ;~)
Love the movie What About Bob

Thursday, August 20, 2009

" Sixty-five years. They go by in a flash."

" Sixty-five years. They go by in a flash."
William Parrish in Meet Joe Black

Between 1992 and 1995, I was the primary caretaker of my mother while she functioned as the primary caretaker for my father as they were simultaneously, terminally ill. I was 35 years old. Jim and I were married fifteen years, Barry was 12, Kara was 8. Looking back that summer was a summer of endless waiting.
I have since learned that was only one in a series of periods of seemingly endless waiting.
Mother was on a wait list to have double valve, double bypass heart surgery that could save her life, in the meantime, we tried to make her comfortable while her lips turn blue from a lack of oxygen.The stress of mothers failing health had a negative, ripple effect on my father. Dad had a stroke twelve years prior which at the time seemed to have created no physically apparent damage. As a result of stress characteristics of his dementia began to manifest at an accelerated pace. His dementia was growing exponentially until he changed from an intelligent strong man into a huge toddler in need of my constant supervision. Although he avoided to admit it out loud he had become very dependent on my mother. Married forty years; they were the personification of two people functioning as one. Mother was the intellect and dad was the physical strength.
We waited for ten plus hours in Mercy Hospital Coronary Surgery family room to hear the news how mother had survived her extensive surgery. Five hours into the wait daddy looked at me in panic and asked, " Who is going to take care of me?" "I will, daddy, I will take care of you." I promised that day. Through out my middle thirties everyday was consumed with driving my parents to doctor visits, making nutritious meals for Jim, Barry, Kara and my parents, doing laundry, finding home health care nurses, adult daycare, getting prescriptions filled, balancing check books, selling their home and personal belonging then finally making pre-funeral arrangements. There were times I was so sad, exhausted and frightened of what was going to happen next that I used to lie face down on the floor. Being prone on the floor used to help me fight the feeling of falling deeper into despair.
My father used to follow me around the kitchen at meal times so faithfully that my brother Mark joked, "To him, your name is Chuck Wagon." I can read this now and laugh, at the time my life and eyes were filled with tears of exhaustion.

I share just a few of the events from my three years of being a caretaker for my dying parents not to complain but to convey that wisdom may be gleaned from spending time with the elderly or dying person of any age. There is a book by one of my favorite authors M. Scott Peck called, The Bed by the Window. More than just having the privilege of spending their last three years as caretaker for my parents; I had the unique experience of being with them as doctors explained their prognosis of their near and eminent death.
It is a humbling and a powerless positions to look into the eyes of someone who has their days numbered before them. Knowing the roulette wheel was spinning towards an unknown date for my parents deaths opened a multitude of questions in my own life. The thing about being a caretaker is that no matter how good of a job you do the patient always dies in the end. The surprise element was my mom died just before Thanksgiving in 1994. My father died just seven months later on Father's Day 1995.
Part of the healing process for me was to ask myself if I had completed all of the goals for my life? Did I allow fear of failure to stop me from pushing myself into uncharted territories? What do I need to do each day so when I am in The Bed by the Window, I have no regrets of what might have been?
Facing these nagging questions led me to pursue what might happen if I studies art in college. Eventually the quest for graduate school was the driving force that propelled me away from the comfort and security of my home, my husband and my family last year to live on my own in Savannah...
Pictured here is a piece I made about My Life Unraveling at 35. Seven handmade, abaca paper squares are sewn into pockets divided by hairbands covered with my own hair. I had braided then cut my long hair at age 35 as a sign of submission, giving up my freedom, to become the caretaker for my parents. This small piece represents a monumental life experience when I was trying to maintain order as my life was falling apart.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bake Bread in a Slow Cooker

Perfect for Hot Summer Days

In slow economic times it is important for me not to give up life's simple pleasures. Fresh homemade bread is economical, easy to make and more nutritious than commercial breads. By placing my slow cooker on a table in our outside screened house I baked fresh bread yesterday without adding heat to my kitchen. No need to buy a bread making machine if you have a slow cooker. Multi purpose appliances are good so I used my Hamilton Beach Portfolio Slow Cooker that I bought eight years ago.

Multi grain Bread in the Slow Cooker

1 tablespoon yeast I keep a jar of Fleishmann's BreadMachine Yeast in my refrigerator
1/4 cup
warm water 105- 115 degrees
1 cup warm
skim milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup uncooked
rolled oat
1 pinch
2 tablespoons
olive oil
2 tablespoons
honey or raw sugar
1/4 cup
wheat germ
2 3/4 cups
whole wheat flour

Spray Canola cooking spray in a deep metal or 1 lb coffee

add 1 cup hot water to bottom of slow-cooker, replace cover, turn on high to preheat

* I always use my Cobalt Blue, Kitchen Aid Mixer, to knead my bread dough. I bought this mixer 1993 to make Kara's First Communion Party Cake, as you can see this appliance is well worth the investment for my kitchen supplies.

In the large metal mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water; combine with milk, oats, salt, oil, honey or raw sugar and wheat germ.
Add flour and knead with the dough hook until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
scrape the dough immediately into bowl or can; cover LOOSELY with foil.

In bottom of slow-cooker, place a trivet or some crumpled foil.
place can or bowl on this; cover and bake on High for 3 hours depending on the shape of the can it may need more time. Insert uncooked spaghetti pasta to test center to make sure it is done.

Yield: 1 medium sized loaf of bread.

As a test I cooked a small, half recipe, loaf of this bread on low overnight and it worked perfectly. Sides of bread brown and crisp beautifully, top will slightly brown and be soft to touch.

So good toasted with fresh ground peanut butter. Today I spread the toasted bread with a little Smart Balance Light and Kurtz Orchard Chardonnay Wine Jelly.

I love to make good, multi grain homemade bread. The other day Jim said he was going to buy some 100 grain bread. My eyes lit up until he laughed, then I knew he was teasing me. Only whole grain breads and pasta in my kitchen.

Bake fresh bread today in your slow cooker.

What's outside of Pleasantville?

Jennifer/Mary Sue: What's outside of Pleasantville?
Miss Peters: What?...I don't understand...
Jennifer/Mary Sue: Outside of Pleasantville...
What's at the end of Main Street?
Miss Peters: Oh, Mary Sue. You should know the answer to that. The end of Main Street is just the beginning again.

Pleasantville is a 1998 film about two modern-day teenagers who find themselves suddenly inside a 1950's sitcom where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world. Nothing Is As Simple As Black And WhiteWritten and directed by Gary Ross.

The movie Pleasantville came out is 1998. It was the year our son Barry graduated from high school. While he was looking at colleges I had an burning desire to see what would happen if I went back to college this time to study art.

As a member of Generation Jones we were given huge expectations as children in the 1960s, and then confronted with a different reality as we came of age in the 1970s, leaving us with a certain unrequited, jonesing quality. The recession of 1970's began during my first year in high school.

My parents were older, although they had three of us within five years, my father was 42, mother was 32 when I was born. I was am a middle child. At the time the 1970's recession hit my father was in his late 50's. That is pretty much the age when companies start to look for young, energetic, more progressive thinking people in their 30's to replace more highly compensated employees. My first experience as a college student was in 1974. Not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Not ready to give up my quest for learning. Not willing to give up the comfort of being a student I enrolled in the local community college. My parents were struggling with inflation of gas, staggering food prices, retirement and downsizing in the 1970's consequently they had no extra money to help me pay for a college education.

I learned at a young age if I wanted something I had to work to pay for it myself. My father made too much money to be called in need and not enough to share with me for advanced education. My father made between $15,000 and $20,000 during the 1970's; this is the could be compared with a family living on between $50,000 and $60,000 today. Not poor by any stretch of the imagination yet not allowing for cash to flow out for luxuries. I did not qualify for need based government grants. In the 1970's a education for a female led her into a career as a nurse, a school teacher or a secretary now called an administrative assistant. None of those options looked appealing to me. Education for a female could well have been considered a luxury especially if she was interested in studying art.

After researching all of the Fiber graduate school programs I selected SCAD for the following reasons: it was in Savannah, large number of female professors, mission statement promising individualized attention to prepare students for professions, seeking input from other graduate students and wanting to build on my undergraduate artwork.

Having only applied to only one graduate program you can imagine my surprise to receive the letter of acceptation. That was interesting yet the tuition is expensive for me to pay for myself. I put grad school on the back burner until a letter followed offering me a combined fellowship grant. How could I say no to an opportunity to live in Savannah while investigating what could happen if I went to graduate school?All of my research, application and acceptation took place in 2007. The economy was strong, I really enjoyed teaching, my future looked bright. All systems go... That gave me exactly one year to complete my teaching position contract, visit the college for grad days in February, meet future grad students, find an apartment, sort and pack my studio and life.

Moving a two days drive away from my husband of 31 years is no easy decision. Although we had lived in the Crane Village apartments, with a pool, when we were first married, we had lived in three homes within our married life. I was used to the privacy that living on one acre lots brings. Living in an apartment means no more walking around the yard in my nightgown late at night to look at the stars or early morning sunrise stroll in the morning dew. Sight unseen I selected an apartment outside of town, half way between Tybee Island and the college, that also had a swimming pool.

My initial packing all summer was purely studio equipment and a necessary items for housekeeping. Two weeks before we packed the truck for Savannah my husband got the unexpected news along with many other employees, his position for the past ten years would be terminated by the end of December.


Deja vu
Are you kidding me?

The slow and steady decline from consumer confidence to tumbling stock prices, rising unemployment and inflated gasoline prices brought back mysteriously, ominous, bad memories of the 1970's.
to be continued...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. An Italian phrase which literally means "cooked cream", it generally refers to a creamy, set dessert from the Northern Italian region of Piemonte. It is eaten all over Italy where it is served with wild berries, caramel, chocolate sauce or fruit coulis. It is not known exactly how or when this dessert came to be, but some theories suggest that cream, for which mountainous Northern Italy is famous, was historically eaten plain or sweetened with fruit or hazelnuts. Earlier recipes for the dish used boiled fish bones in place of gelatin; however, sugar, a main ingredient, would not have been widely available as it was an expensive imported commodity. After years this treat evolved into what is now a gelatin dessert, flavored with vanilla and topped with fruit or spices, and served chilled. Similar versions of this dish are also found in Greece and France.
I've been working on a Low Fat version that is easy to make and tastes great.

Panna Cotta
1/3 cup skim milk
1 (.25 ounce) envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups Land O' Lakes Fat Free Half & Half
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Watkins Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla extract

Pour milk into a small bowl, and stir in the gelatin powder. Set aside.

In a saucepan, stir together the Half & Half and sugar, and set over medium heat. Bring to a full boil, watching carefully, heat do not burn.
Pour the gelatin and milk into the cream, stirring until completely dissolved. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and pour into six individual ramekin dishes.
Cool the ramekins uncovered at room temperature. When cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight before serving.

Light creamy, refreshing ending to a summer meal serve with espresso, or after dinner cordial.

I poured my Panna Cotta into a souffle bowl, chilled overnight until set, dusted with Hersey's Cocoa Powder then arranged fresh strawberry slices in a florette.
Imagine adding lemon, orange or lime zest into the hot mixture. Infuse lemon verbena then use some fresh leaves as a garnish..

Living well and eating well do not depend on having a large budget or luxurious caloric intake.
"The happiest miser on earth is the man who saves up every friend he can make."

Robert E. Sherwood

One year ago this week was I was busy completing finishing touches preparing for my new adventure graduate school in Savannah. Last summer I was consumed with cleaning our home, sorting through old papers, mending, washing and packing clothing. Not wanting to make duplicate purchases of things I already owned I carefully decided which art supplies, books, chemicals and equipment for dying fabric would be needed in my new studio apartment.

Throughout the month of August appointments to get my teeth cleaned, annual mammogram, dermatologist skin check, and primary care doctor had to be completed because our medical insurance did not cover me while I lived in Savannah.

Maybe it was from living as a young child with the consciousness that my mother was could die at anytime I had learned my own way to measure happiness. I have never measured my success in dollar amounts, titles or degrees. Armed with the philosophy I only get to spend time and money once, choose wisely,Happiness consists of being with people I love and people who love me.

Leaving the students and the place that had been my home for the past six year dragged up grief that was unexpected. For three years, 1992 - 1995, I was the Primary Caretaker of our parents. Although dad was ten years older than our mother they died just seven months apart. My brothers both lived out of town so the day to day responsibility to take them to the doctors, shop then cook nutritious meals, clean out then sell their home of 43 years occupied my life. Being out of my social group for three years as a caretaker left me alone after the funerals. My old friends had moved on with their lives. Being open for adventure I was excited for change when my husband was offered a promotion if we moved to Western NY.

By this time I had become rather adept to seeing my life poured into a blender, push liquefy button on high, pour out content in altered state to create a new life. Recreating a new life has become part of my existence. As one door closes I look for light from an open window. People are in our lives for a reason, a season or forever. Who is still connected when the winds of change begin to blow again? What did I learn during my previous life experience? What do I have left? Where can I take this new knowledge to a new place to grow?

My teaching position, even if I was only Adjunct Instructor, provided a purpose that kept me so busy I could push the pain of not having an extended family out of my conscious thoughts. I was so dedicated to the progress, success and future of my students, many colleagues thought I held a full time position and an MFA already. Often I spent evenings, weekends or stayed after class on my personal time to work with students that needed extra help.

Applying for graduate school to advance my own education in hopes of being more than an Adjunct was the next logical step. Since I was by choice a full time, cookie baking, stay at home mom for twenty-two years going back to college to earn my bachelors degree magna cum laude was a huge accomplishment. Successfully teaching college students who had no clue of the class projects at the beginning of the semester then enjoyed weaving, dying fabric and using correct vocabulary to speak about their work during critiques brought me to tears of joy as they left at the end of the semester. How blessed could I be?

Not only to have had the joy of raising Barry and Kara into successful adults, I also had the privilege to share my knowledge with college students getting paid for doing what I loved. Do what you love and the money will follow is my belief. My next goal was to earn my MFA credentials so I could apply for a full time position where I could earn enough money to support myself. The next questions was, where should I go from here?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Duke Orsino:If music be the food of love, play on ...
Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1–3 Shakespeare

Quick, Easy, Nutritious, Light...

Celery Salad

A cool, crisp salad adds crunch and contrast to any menu. You can also use dried cranberries and walnuts.
chop/ slice into pieces six stalks of fresh crisp celery
1/3 cup dried sweet cherries
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup pecans and or almonds toasted
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons bulgar wheat
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons Smart Balance Omega three fat-free mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients; chill.

perfect for hot day of summer ;~)

Friday, August 14, 2009

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau

During my high school years I carried and read passages from, Walden (first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) by Henry David Thoreau the way some people carry bibles.

As long as I can remember I never fit in with the "in crowd". During high school pep rallies I used to wonder why everyone seemed to be having so much fun. I much preferred the atmosphere of an art studio, where like a duckling that slides into the water effortlessly paddling around, I am in my element.

I'm a funny, old bird who needs to feather her nest until I get it feeling just right. People who know me well lovingly laugh at my need to nest. Creating an environment is very important to me. Barry and Kara say I could be an excellent bag lady. We joke that I am a car camper. In addition to maps, tire gauge, spare tire and emergency road kit, I have a foil emergency thermal sleeping bag as protection against unpredictable lake effect snow storms. There is bottled water, a red plaid car blanket for warmth or impromptu picnics, covered plastic cups and flatware, napkins, Clorox wipes and moist towelettes, three umbrellas to share with my friends, lipstick and shea butter cream...

When I leave the the car my nest transforms into my Blessing Basket Such a signature statement, my basket became a calling card for me at Savannah College of Art & Design. I was told they knew I was somewhere in the area once they saw the presence of my basket. I am a variable Mary Poppins with a basket containing a tea pot & matching cup, variety of teas bags, immersible electric water heater, small scissors, needles & pins in a round red cushion, small sewing project to work on if I have to wait somewhere, and my camera.

Laughing at myself now as I look into my Blessing Basket the present inventory contains; masking tap, a map, a small sketch book & pen, sunglasses, bottled water, 5 daily vitamins, a collapsible umbrella, small container of dark chocolates, orange chewing gum, hand cream ( citrus fragrance preferable), collapsible toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Did you know I am fastidious about my teeth being clean?

Yes, I am the one you want to be with when you go camping or traveling around the world. Perpetual MOTHER EARTH, my sister in law Mari Pat & her friend Rita have likened me to Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth and Home. While traveling in Eastern Europe, a fellow traveler was my best friend when she was ill. I have a remedy for just about any problem that arise at an inopportune time. My specialty is making what I have work by creating new uses to solve the dilemma at hand.

Don't tell anyone, but, I have a crush on Henry David Thoreau. Men who are strong, intelligent, independent and resourceful are irresistible to me. Just like Thoreau, I pride myself on returning everything, I borrow or find to the rightful owner, in better condition then when it can into my hands. Just like Thoreau, I feel out of beat with the common crowd. When I see 500 people going in one direction, I will turn about face and take off on my own.

I have been accused of being. "ALL OVER THE PLACE." This is true. I am equally as comfortable wearing velvet or denim. I love to camp as well as travel first class. Sitting on the floor enjoying a plate of fruits, veggies, wine and cheese and a good multi grain bread can be as wonderful as a banquet in a formal ballroom. I thrive on paradox and juxtaposition. Random thoughts whirl around in my head and I love it.

That each day is new with no mistakes in it yet is exciting to me. Sameness and predictability for the rest of my life frightens me; it sounds what death might be like. I am an open for adventure person. Willing to meet new people all the time, willing to strike out on my own sometimes I get knocked off my horse. Never down for long, at those times, I retreat back to my nest wherever that may be. It could be my Blessing Basket, my art studio, my car, or to bask in the glory of my eclectic surroundings in my home.

Lately I have been working on a Convertible Apron as my identity garment. When I put on my apron it is like wearing my thinking cap. Each two sided apron is one of a kind made from cotton fabric I dyed and printed. These hues were inspired by the flowers in my summer garden. Just like a woman who needs to multitask throughout her day, I designed this apron to serve as a functional costume that can be worn over a skirt, dress or slacks. Each apron consists of pockets that can be folded or arranged to accomplish multiple tasks. Can't you just imagine wearing this apron to gather fresh vine ripened tomatoes, basil and lettuce from your garden?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.

Frank Lloyd Wright quotes (American Architect and Writer, the most abundantly creative genius of American architecture. His Prairie style became the basis of 20th century residential design in the United States, 1867-1959)

The best part of my education as a Fiber Design undergraduate was being awarded a Summer Research Fellowship Grant 2005 from Buffalo State College. The grant supplied me with money for chemicals, dyes and equipment for my research. The contract was to work for eight weeks. Since the college studio was not air conditioned I set up a studio in my garage allowing me to spend the entire summer researching Fiber Reactive MX dyes, removing color with Thiox and the Devore technique.

Learning how to mix the dyes to obtain an exact hue, as well as, having the dye colorfast is important for my wearable art. My research was compiled into information books after making many samples documenting how the hues present in cotton muslin bleached and unbleached, mercerized cotton, velvet composite of silk/rayon, silk charmeuse and china silk.
During a 30 minute presentation I delivered my research, displayed samples and some finished products to members of the college Summer Research Grant committee. They were impressed that my grant was the gift that keeps on giving. In addition to presenting my research to the other students, I taught my first class in the Fiber program.
Writing the lesson plan and instruction sheet for Devore, how to work with velvet burnout chemicals, was great preparation for my position as an Adjunct Instructor. Teaching in the Fiber program for two years until I left for graduate school was my way of paying back all that I have learned. I am proud to say that students in the program today are still benefiting from my research in the summer of 2005. Aware of how much personal interest I have in their education and success many of my fellow students, as well as, the students taught I in my classes still keep in touch with me. As I often remind myself, "You never really leave a place you love, part of yourself you leave behind, part of it you take with you."
Color, texture, pattern and the luxurious feel of velvet make the Devore Velvet Burnout my one of my favorite techniques. Each piece is unique worked with until I get the Nouveau Antique look of something taken out of an old bureau even though it is a new creation. I see my Nouveau Antique Devore as wearable art providing a finishing touch to either a causal jeans look or little black dress for evening out on the town.
My Silk/ Rayon Velvet Devore is available at both the Burchfield Penny Art Museum Store in Buffalo NY and the Shop SCAD in Savannah, Ga.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

O great creator of being grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives." Jim Morrison

From the first moment I entered the Fiber Studio I felt right at home. A large windowed wall allowed daylight into flood the studio. Fresh outside air came in through the open fourth floor windows. Two long padded tables filled the length of the room. Several ironing boards were strategically place near the wall outlets. There was a "kitchen" area with several large stainless steel sinks, a refrigerator to hold the mixed dyes and locked cabinets that contained almost one hundred containers of dye hues for cotton, wools and silks. On the other side of the kitchen was a washer, two clothes dryers and a large area to spray out silk screens. This basic equipment would become my tools for learning to work with Fiber Reactive Dyes, paper making and creating pattern/textures on fabrics. All of the excitement I experienced in kindergarten the first time I saw finger paints came back to me when I entered this studio.

When I was in kindergarten my eyes would dance every time Mrs. Klingensmith brought out finger paints in big mason jars. The jars were filled with red, yellow, blue, black and white thick, rich, smooth color that I joyfully scooped out with a tongue depressor onto special paper. Such a wonderful experience to move the thick, pudding textured, color around the paper to paint with my hands. Even today nothing makes me happier than putting on my apron/artist smock, working with color, getting into my work, walking around the table, getting dots of paints or dye on me as I work, large sinks to wash away the splatter, clean my space, then step back to bask in the joy of my creation.

Little did I know that semester would be the beginning of a six year relationship with the Fiber program. We covered two projects my first Fiber class. Shibori and creating textures using textile ink on fabric with low tech printing techniques.

Thick textile ink is as much fun to work with as the finger paints only now I had a project with guidelines to follow. First I played with what textures could be produced on the cotton muslin. The textures were later developed into a mimicry pattern of an animal in its environment. The class was required to make a Kimono out of the fabric they created.

Oh my goodness, I thought I died and went to heaven ;~)

There was no pattern for the kimono so I volunteered to come in during the College Open House to make the pattern for our class from the dimensions/ drawings in a book. I selected a Tigress for my Mimicry project. Like this mammal I cared for my two babies providing; food, protection and learning experiences to encourage independence for my children. My kimono, made of cotton, is asymmetrical featuring abstracted tiger patterns to represent the tigers journey through the grasslands. The field of design placement facing left and right simulates tigers, although solitary creatures, peacefully meeting then passing by along the hunting trails. My kimono was featured in a student show Spring 2004 Upton Hall Gallery.

Shibori was like instant art to me. Like the Spin Art booth in Kennywood Park where I took a squirt bottle filled with paint then drop different colors onto a piece of paper quicky spinning at the bottom of a gallon size pail. If I added just enough color drops the excess spins off to produce instant art. Shibori is like that to me. If I press the fabric smoothly, follow the fold patterns and tie the blocks securely in place to produce a resist against the liquid dyes more then likely it will produce a pleasing pattern. The results are so interesting that I was captivated by learning the various resist techniques, color application processes and how the different hues reacted when layers together. The only thing more fun than adding color to the cloth with Fiber Reactive Dyes was removing the color in a pattern using the chemical Thiox. My love of color, patterns, creating fabrics for wearable art and sewing grew exponentially in the Fiber program.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking—the strain would be too great—but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest...The question is not,—how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care?"
—Charlotte Mason a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

When I was a student at Canevin High School 1970- 1974, instead of study hall, I registered into art classes five days a week. The studios were not endowed with the plethora of expensive equipment available to students in current school programs. Art History class was not available to us as it was to my daughter in high school 1998-2002.

Art History with Professor Kowsky was shear delight. This was a professor who featured his own slides of places/ works we studied in Janson History of Art. Held captive by his every word, I took copious notes of his personal adventures and read every chapter in the book.

Professor posted his office hours in the syllabus. The week of the first test I made my way down a dark hall to find the professor stunned by my presence. He said he had been teaching for years and I was the only student to look him up during office hours. I explained that I was back in college for the first time in over 20 years for personal enrichment. Professor went over the questions with me. The first test I answered 100% of the questions correctly. I finished the semester earning the 100% on all three test plus 8 questions for extra credit.

Because I want to see a return on my expenditure of money I am not a fan of gambling. If I put money on the table, I want to win. Going back to college was a win/win. The rush I felt after working through each semester was addicting. Pay the money, work as hard as I can and reap the reward. I was hooked.

Working with metals in Jewelry class was challenging after thirty plus years of sewing with fabrics. Metals needed to be annealed to bend, pilot holes needed to be drilled for a place to begin sawing a cut design. Interesting textures could be embossed into the metal when rolled through a press. Slowly I began to purchase a small drill, jewelers saw, polishing tools, files, torch... While working in the Jewelry studio the professor mentioned that there was a new professor teaching in the Fiber program.

What is a Fiber program? As is my practice I research the class and professor before I spend my money to register. Lucky for me he taught a foundation class so I could fill a requirement and decide if I wanted to take a Fiber class with this professor. First day of the foundation class was scary. The professor showed a series of work we would cover during the semester. I could not understand his English through the accent, plus he was a low talker.

I have the best son and daughter in the world. We were all in college at the same time, we encouraged each other, sometimes competition even pushed us to work harder. We subscribed to the Jerry Garcia " The first days are the hardest days, don't you worry anymore..." Uncle John's Band school of phiosphy. Kara sent me back the next class with orders to sit up front so I could hear. Don't worry if I was not confident to do the project, it was the professor job to teach us what to do. Kara reminded me that I was not responsible to be a competent as the professor.

Returning to school when you are 20 plus years older than the other students is a challenge. They after all have more recent practice being a student. I was a wife, mom, caretaker for dying parents, bought and sold homes, served as a scout leader, president of a women's club, as well as taught religious education for 17 years all without knowing how to use a computer or cut a mat board. I soon learned to laugh at myself when I made mistakes and ask for help if I did not understand the directions. I encouraged the other students in the room to work with the professor when they got frustrated. By the end of the semester we had completed 13 projects in 15 weeks. Everyone in the room's work showed improvement. Most of all my workaholism clicked with the professor. The last day of class as I was walking out of the room, he thanked me for a good semester and shook my hand. He could see that my attitude in the room made the students work with him together as a group. Incidentally, I never ask to see what my grade is until the end of the semester

I signed up for my first Fiber class the next fall.

to be continued...

Time and money can only be spent once. Choose wisely "

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quotes (German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist. 1749-1832)

This is my philosophy, " Time and money can only be spent once. Choose wisely."

In the Fall 2002, I resigned from my volunteer positions with the Clarence Garden Club and Clarence Historical Society, then went back to college. My children were in college, I had taken care of my parents for the three years they were ill before they died seven months apart. We moved from Pittsburgh to Buffalo, NY in 1999 for Jim's promotion.

I was open for an new adventure.

Every time I looked at colleges with Barry & Kara the urge to go back to college kept speaking to me. When I went to college the first time it was 1974 during a recession, high inflation time similar to what we have been experiencing this past year. Since I paid for my own college expenses I could not afford the luxury of being an Art major in college during the 70's. I have always be adverse to debt. If I do not have the cash to pay for what I want I work until I can afford to make the purchase, that includes staying away from student loans. This time I had some money from my parents estate. What better way to spend the money than to go back to school?

At age 45, more than 2o years of life experience since I was last a student, I enrolled as a matriculated student so I could register for the classes of my choice. I selected Jewelry Design because I had never worked with metals.

The second class was Art History class with a Professor Francis Kowsky. I had been reading about this professor's research of Frederick Law Olmsted, designed the Delaware Park System for Buffalo, NY. Professor Kowski met the grandson of Calvert Vaux.

My husband professional organization,BOMA International, needed someone to present the spouse tour when they were hosting a convention the May 2002 in Buffalo.
I researched, organized, wrote and served as the tour guide for the spouses attending the convention. I had been on these tours in Beverly Hills, Baltimore and NYC so I was very eager to showcase Buffalo, NY.

BOMA rented a bus, sold tickets and I spoke into the microphone narrating the tour up Delaware Ave to Forest Lawn Cemetery around Delaware Park then back down Elmwood Ave featuring Buffalo as the an Outdoor Museum.
I focused on the Architecture,
Forest Lawn Cemetery,
Pan American Exposition 1901
and the Delaware Park System
Both Buffalo, NY and I were given an rousing round of applause when the entire BOMA group gathered for evening festivities at the Albright Knox Art Museum. One spouse who had an Art History background and had attended numerous BOMA tours of various cities said this was the best one she had experienced.

The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. Anxiously I awaited for the first day to be in Professor Kowski's class. I am the poster child for nontraditional student. My interest is purely academic. Although I work to the best of my abilities, always pushing myself to my limit, grades are not the measure of my success. College credits are an investment of time and money.
I read the course description carefully, research the professors background, purchase the books ahead of time, then full immerse myself in the luxury of life long learning...

" Time and money can only be spent once. Choose wisely."

to be continued...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

“You never really leave a place or person you love, part of them you take with you, leaving a part of yourself behind.”

No time or interest in television today. As a young girls I used to look forward to watching Miss America or Miss Universe pageants with my mother. I would take a bath, wash my hair, dress in a pretty night gown early that Saturday evening. No TiVo or video recorders so this was going to be a long night with with many Clairol beauty product commercials.

My mother and I would set our hair in rollers, shape by rounding the corners of our nails then carefully apply finger and toenail polish. Creams for our face, hands and to soften our feet were applies during our version of a mother daughter spa date.

I enjoyed watching the 18 - 24 years "grown women" (at fifty-two now some people that age look so juvenile to me) perform dancing, singing opera, and ventriloquist acts in talent competition. There was a bathing suit competition as well as a question and answer session where each girl would compete to impress the judges. Daydreams of being a mature woman filled my head as I watched the beauty pageant to see who would be selected as the most beautiful girl in the USA this year. It was very exciting to see the look of shock on the winners faces. The other girls huddled around her then she took her walk down the aisle to begin her reign as Miss America.

Never did I have the delusion that I could be Miss America. I never had the perfect measurements, nor could I sing opera, nor would I ever be caught dead walking around in a bathing suit wearing stiletto high heels while judges assign a number to me. No, I dreamed of winning the title Miss Congeniality. I dreamed of being the girl who was voted by the other girls as nice to get along with. That title sounded most desirable to me.

Around this time that I watched beauty pageants when I was in the third grade at Sts. Simon and Jude School their was a classroom contest with a prize. Today I can't recall the prize, the contest or even who won. What I remember most was hearing my name, Carol Ann Rice, spoken above the noise in the classroom. A classmate, Patrick Raymond O'Donnell said, "I hope someone nice wins the prise like Carol Ann Rice." That was the beginning of a ten year crush and the realization of my self image as amiable by others outside of my family.

During my week return to Savannah it was my pleasure to introduce Jim, Kara and Chewie to people who were kind to me while I lived alone there for the past year. Along with breaking bread with my new friends, packing and seeing the sights of Savannah I was leaving part of myself behind.

To Robert next door, I left a piece of granite rock from the Ancient Lake Tonowanda where I live in Clarence, NY. Robert is moving to Richmond Hill, Ga. today. Now a piece of NY Niagara Escarpment will make its home in Roberts tropical garden bed. In turn, Robert gave me metal coupling from the International cargo barges where he works on the docks in the Port of Savannah.,_Georgia

Chris the upstairs neighbor guy loves plants. He babysat my patio garden plants as well as fed the ferrel cats while I was in Clarence. He lovingly re potted my Mandarin Orange Hydrangea that the cats tore apart in my absence. It seemed appropriate to leave one of the plants with Chris who gave me a parting gift of a wisteria from his transplants for my garden. Every home I move to I plant a wisteria in the garden. This one from Chris will be a good pairing with the established one in NY.

Joan the delightful, exotic native of Savannah is a woman I met during my travels to galleries around town. Joan brought a spark of excitement and shear joy to my craving for adult companionship. She is a few years older than me so it was fun to talk about things without having to give a historical context. Joan gave Kara and I each a garment from her fabulous collection of vintage clothing. To Joan I gave the my wire shoes I created as an homage to Bettie Page

Iona, fellow student in the Fiber grad program was a good fit with me from the day we met in orientation. Her work ethic is admirable. Her art is precise and her maturity made me feel comfortable in a program surrounded by girls many less than half my age. Iona left a small bird on my desk once after seeing my propensity to create nests. When I found the "Waving Girl" on my studio desk there was not doubt it was from Iona. In kind Iona was the appreciative recipient of my baked goods, studio art supplies and excess linens.

Along with phone numbers, email address, and promises to keep in touch. I received a nice note saying they wished all of their neighbors were as easy to live around as me. “You never really leave a place or person you love, part of them you take with you, leaving a part of yourself behind.” I have a strong belief I am going to return to Savannah soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep."
Carl Sandburg

What I am feeling this week makes me think of how one might feel while going through a DIVORCE. Granted, I have never been divorced. Still, I can imagine the pain one could feel when you put all of your energy, emotion and economic resources into a relationship that is the cause of great anxiety. Hopefully, no one enters a commitment without counting the cost, unfortunately at some point, it seems more logical to pull the plug than to continue generating excruciating stress.

I have heard from friends who have gone through a divorce that an unexpected outcome, along with the break up, they experienced being shunned. People who previously invited them to holidays, parties or other social gatherings felt compelled to take sides in the break up. A dividing of social relationships along with the property seems to take place.

When someone leaves a marriage, a job or even moves away from a neighborhood we naturally examine our own life conditions and reasons for staying in a place someone else chooses to leave. It is interesting how one mans ceiling is another mans floor.

Upon returning to pack up the apartment that had been my home from last August to end of May I found three of my neighbors were moving out this week also. Unknowingly, my timing was impeccable. One person in particular is the single man who lived in the apartment next door. He had delivered me delicious home cooked dinners along with numerous offers to come over to his place for drinks in the evening.

Although he was a nice guy as well as being a great cook, I explained my reason for being in Savannah was strictly graduate school. I was definitely not looking for trouble. He must have been happy with my response as he now enjoys chatting with my husband as much as he did me. We exchanged phone numbers, kept in touch while I was at home during the summer and will meet again later sometime I am sure. It will be interesting to see how many other people I have formed bonds with during the past few years will remain in contact with me.

People are in your life for a reason, a season or forever...

back to packing...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Savannah Revisited

"This communicating of a man's self to his friend works two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in half. " Francis Bacon

Jimi, Kara and Chewie our Wonder Pomeranian made the long journey from Clarence, New York with me to close up my apartment studio in Savannah, Georgia this week. When you have a difficult task to do, it is best to surround yourself with faithful friends then have as much fun as possible getting the job done. I was ambivalent driving back to Savannah. Many wonderful memories of the beautiful city numerous strangers that were kind to me as I sojourned in a strange land flooded my thoughts. Unpleasant memories also peppered my head. Memories of how I constantly lowered my expectations as I tried to find new ways of being content in an environment where I was not a good fit from the start.
Why had I not seen these potential points of conflict during the open house days? The Southern Hospitality was palpable during the three days I surveyed the campus environment before making my final decision to attend. All visitors were plied with a copious breakfast, a bountiful buffet lunch and mid day sweets, washed down with abundant servings of the Sweet Tea for which I never could acquire a taste. Everyone was smiling during Open House and Orientation Days like they were on Prosac as big as jawbreakers.

The Mission Statement promises "to prepare talented students for professional careers, emphasizing learning through individualized attention in a positively oriented university environment." Where do I sign up?
Who would not benefit from being in the aforesaid environment?

I quit my job as an Adjunct Instructor, packed my loom, pounds of yarns, hundreds of pounds of books, complete studio of Fiber Reactive Dyes, chemicals, beakers, scale as well as enough acutriments to open my own Fiber Studio. Accompanied by my husband for the past 31 years, I moved into an apartment where I would be on my own for the next two years. Jim had complete confidence, reassuring me that I was doing the right thing to follow my lofty ambitions advancing my education during my middle age years. Middle age if I live to be 104 that is.

Jim and I had gotten married when I was young. We met in a German class while we were both liberal arts majors, still students, not really sure what major to study. After dating for four years we married in May 1978. I was just 21 years old wanting mostly to spend my life being his bride. We were blessed with my dream family a son now grown to a successful businessman. Barry is now a vice president with his company a title he tells me everyone has or else they are out. Four years after Barry was born our family was complete with the birth of Kara now a confident, strong, compassionate young woman I am proud to call my best friend. Kara inherited my artistic personality, majored in art in both high school and college is now employed as a graphic designer. Kara is my muse, my partner and my confidant My family had rallied around my choice to go back to college for personal enrichment, they encouraged me to pursue a degree in design. They were with me as I marched with the graduates to accept my diploma. It was my family that backed me one hundred percent to attend graduate school so I could be around people who would talk about art with me. Mostly they desired their ears could have a break from my incessant enthusiasm about art.

No time for a recipe today. Have to keep packing...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kindergarten Hat

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum
Most of what I really need To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sand pile at Sunday school.
These are the things I learned:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life -Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

Although it was 1960 it seems like yesterday when my mother took this picture of me in my authentic Shirley Temple dress. Just home from kindergarten I so proud to share my latest creation. My brother Mark and I took turns posing in front of the electric switch that was immediately left of our front door in our home on Robinhood Rd.

Did I tell you I am an Artist?

My passion to create with art supplies began with Mrs. Klingensmith, the teacher for over thirty years, at Fred L. Akien Kindergarten in Greentree. Only four and a half years old, kindergarten was the first time I had to leave my mother at home while I went out into the world alone. It was scary to leave my mom, after all, she was ill. I never knew if she would be in hospital or be dead when I returned home. Mark was home with her, he could take care of her while I was gone. Out the door, I walked, climbing into a cigarette smoke filled car driven by my mothers friend from church. Mark was young, so this other mother without any younger children, put a coat over her nightgown, lit her morning cigarette and drank coffee as she drove the morning carpool consisting of her daughter, me and one other little girl whose mother didn't drive. My mother would arrive later to drive us home around noon.

Kindergarten was a safe, happy place to me. Similar to Michael Jackson, I really got into milk and cookies snack followed by the nap time on my mat. I met new kids in kindergarten some of whom I can still remember their names when I look at our class picture. There was one special boy in our class. I remember thinking he was really smart, nice to me and very pleasant to my eyes. This could be documented as my first crush. Sorry, I tend to digress... "Art" time in Kindergarten was magical. At home we had crayons, color pencils, coloring books and watercolor paints. My mother was one of those organized people who thought it important to keep within the lines of coloring book images, never tear a page from the book and complete each page from front to back to keep things in order.

Things were different in kindergarten where Art was a time to let loose. There was a huge roll of paper that allowed me to draw pictures as tall as myself, tape both clear and the brown kind, staplers, small scissors, thick crayons that felt comfortable to hold in my hand, tissue paper, colorful glitters, thick glue that smelled good enough to eat
and my ultimate favorite FINGER PAINTS.
In the picture from this day I made what I now title my Kindergarten Hat.
More is more was my spirit of the day; this majestic hat was made of a large sheet of that wonderful thick, brown paper. Tissue paper, aluminum foil, and long lengths of ribbon combine to make my festive chapeau. It is my life long duty to jealously guard the enthusiasm, shear joy and delight I discovered creating during art time in Kindergarten.

Today may be a good day for my favorite kindergarten snack;

Toll House Cookies
Estimated Times:Preparation - 15 min Cooking - 9 min Cooling Time - 15 min cooling
Yields - 60 Ingredients: 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 large eggs 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels 1 cup chopped nuts

Directions:PREHEAT oven to 375° F.COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION: PREPARE dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. * May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.
FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

I imagine Michael Jackson's children miss their daddy like crazy. Money can't buy everything. Spend time with the ones you love today.
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