Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Feeling a little jangled today--- it calms me to gaze at this photo I took in Duluth (on an inlet of Lake Superior). I don't even want to learn to watercolor this sort of thing (I prefer ...chunkier subjects), but this practically is a watercolor, eh?

The Yellow Pond Lily is not technically a water lily, I guess. (This plant-naming stuff gets confusing.) It has many names, including Cow Lily; my favorite is Spatterdock.

Whatever you call these plants, they are rooted in the mud, rest on the water, and bloom skyward.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Red Pitcher & Rosemary

 On my back porch.

I haven't watercolored every day this July, as I intended, but I have painted a lot more than before, and I have a little more feel for the medium now. With my expanded confidence, I need bigger paper than the blank postcards I started out with.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Lunch

Laura (left) came over for goat cheese rolled in juniper & black pepper, from the Farmers Market.

Laura is one of my oldest friends. She told stories about being told by her college calculus teacher, for instance, that her grades would be better if she didn't read novels tucked into her textbook during class, and about how she chose a life of art over medicine. 

We water-colored after lunch. If we catch enough summer in paintings, could they warm us in winter?
This is Laura's:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Duluth: Tall Ships

Tall Ship sails into harbor;
Minnesota Slip Bridge lifts to let ships in;
Lake Superior: like mild ice-water.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Duluth: Earth, Water, Sky, Fire

Duluth: Breakfast at Munger Inn

At the Willard Munger Inn--in town to see the Tall Ships, which arrive on Thursday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

All Too Believable

When you're reading about this :

––The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866, by Charles E. Rosenberg (for work)––
THIS doesn't seem far-fetched at all:

Cholera was the public health disaster of its day. It's still around, but at least we know what it is: wormy little bacteria in your guts that cause the liquids to pour out of your body--gallons in hours--leaving an withered blue sack stretched over bones. And how to avoid to: don't swallow shit!
Of course the bones don't reanimate...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Catching Up with Nathan Fillion: Shakespeare, Zombies, and Beano

I. Much Ado About Nothing

I hadn't seen Nathan Fillion since Firefly (I've not even seen Dr. Horrible--yet--must remedy) ...

... so when he came onscreen in Joss Whedon's delightful Much Ado About Nothing (he's bumbling perfection as the inept constable Dogberry), I wondered, is he wearing a bulletproof vest? 

But no, speaking of heavy horses, boy's got chunky.  But while most of what Dogberry says is nonsense, Fillion can truly say:

The whole movie is terrific!

Macros from dogberry on Tumblr
Nathan Fillion print interview about Much Ado from the Nerdist

II. World War Z
I'm reading the book (haven't seen the movie).

At first I was nonchalant:
Oh, isn't it impressive how the author has pulled off this oral history format, like Studs Terkel. So clever!

It's like a puzzle that's fun to put together.
But last night I read until 2 a.m., and was so agitated I had a hard time getting to sleep.

Looks like Nathan felt the same (Mz added our names yesterday, thinking I would stay cool while she would freak out):

III. And here's Fillion's recipe for Seven Layer Bean Dip, via N.F.'s Twitter, plus some of his comments from NATHAN'S SUPER SECRET LOW-FAT SPACE BEAN DIP :

I would like to share with you all my very special Seven Layer Bean Dip recipe. Get out a pen and paper. Or fave the following-

This will be the Bean Dip of the Gods of song in Dr.Horrible’s COMMENTARY! Ready?

Get yourself a casserole pan or some such big, flat container.

Layer one: Large can of fat free vegetarian refried beans.

Layer two: mix taco seasoning into low fat sour cream and spread over beans.

Layer three: four large diced tomatoes (use your jug dement for adequate coverage.

Layer four: Guacamole. (I use avocados mixed with Herdez mild salsa). Tomatoes will anchor the sour cream layer.

Layer five: one cute little can of diced green chilies. NOT JALAPENOS!! TRUST ME!! Suggest wee flinging through fingers for even spreaddage.

Layer six: one cute little can of black olives. Same technique for spreaddage.

Layer seven: shredded Mexican cheese mix. Or to taste. I use a whole bag.

This is a hearty dip that requires a sturdy tortilla chip, a strong chip like Mission Rounds. Dip is thick- will destroy lesser chips, and will have you “repeating” the next day. Maybe stock up on Beano, too.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Being Ripe

Picnic in Madrid, the day before we flew home from Camino. 

Did you know a watermelon is a kind of fruit called a pepo: a kind of berry with a thick rind and a fleshy center? (Cucumbers and pumpkins are pepos too.)

I didn't know that (until I idly googled "watermelon").

They are also indehiscent fruit, which means they don't split open when they're ripe. In fact, after we'd bought this watermelon at a little fruit store and carried it down the street a ways, we realized we'd better go back and ask the owner to cut it for us.

As you can see here, figs are dehiscent. 
(D. H. Lawrence wrote a poem about figs splitting open, which gets my vote for  Purplest Overripe Poem Ever, not to mention its excrescent sexism.)
"Ripeness is all" is a line about accepting death (and life), from Shakespeare's King Lear (act V, scene II):
"Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither: Ripeness is all."

When I looked it up, I found this rumination from Maurice Sendak (links to a round-up of his quotes and art):
SENDAK: My big concern is me and what do I do now until the time of my death. That is valid. That is useful. That is beautiful. That is creative. And also, I want to be free again. I want to be free like when I was a kid, working with my brother and making toy airplanes and a whole model of the World's Fair in 1939 out of wax.
Where we just had fun. What I mean by this is I've had my career. I've had my success. God willing, it should have happened to Herman Melville who deserved it a great deal more, you know? Imagine him being on Bill Moyers' show. Nothing good happened to Herman Melville.
I want to see me to the end working, living for myself. Ripeness is all. Now, interpreting what ripeness is our own individual problem. 
MOYERS: That quote of Shakespeare, do you remember the whole quote? 
SENDAK: "Men must endure their going hence as... even as their coming hither. Ripeness is all."So, what is the point of it all? Not leaving legacies. But being ripe. Being ripe. 
MOYERS: Being ripe? Explore that with me. You don't feel ripe?
SENDAK: I am getting riper. I mean, life has only gotten better personally for me as I've gotten older. I mean, being young was such a gross waste of time. I was just such a miserable, miserable person.And so when people say, "What age would you like to go back to?" I say, "Well, maybe 69."
--From an interview with Bill Moyers, 2004. Sendak died in 2012, at the age of 83.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heavy Horses

Ever since I was a horse-crazy girl, I loved the Heavy Horse breeds.  They're the baby rhinos of the horse world (except calmer). 
You mostly see them pulling things, and I didn't know people rode them, but recently I saw this, which I thought was really beautiful:

Then I also came across this statue, "The Heavy Horse", by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott. The breed is Clydesdale, originally bred in Scotland.
From Scott's site: the horse is located "beside the M8 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, it stands 4.5 metres tall at the head and is made of galvanised steel round bars."

And then, this isn't heavy horse, but a horse cut into the turf of a chalk hillside: "The Vale of the White Horse" (c. 1939), another watercolor from Eric Ravilious. 
According to the Tate, "This appears to be the White Horse on White Horse Hill, Uffington, Berkshire." 

More on the Uffington Horse from the wonderful graphic series  "Archaeological Oddities" found on the blog Prehistories: Adventures in Time and Space:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dear Stupid, Crazy, Beloved Country:

I can't help noticing that some of us, and I'm not pointing fingers at any one in particular, but some of us, and I'd go so far as to say too many of us, have been running around acting like hormonally imbalanced squirrels on Twinkies.

Leaving aside questions of who did what, how 'bout we all just put down our guns

Even assuming we mean well, don't you agree we've proven that we are too dangerous to be armed? 

I'm just going to step away for a little... 

Art poem by Kenneth Patchen (links to article, "All At Once Is What Eternity Is")
P.S. Snopes clarifies the Twinkie Defense:
Dan White shot Mayor Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. His defense said that he was suffering from untreated depression and that his diet of Twinkies and other junk food was evidence of his depression because White was normally health-conscious (like if someone if someone who usually dresses well begins to show up in dirty clothes).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Move Indoors

I gave in: with temps in the 90ºs, this morning I biked to the gym and trotted around the track for the first time this summer.
What a relief! 

I'd wanted to be one of those people who run outside no matter the weather, but I'm finding that the reality of running is different than the idea of running.
Jogging in the air conditioning, my body actually felt lighter, like I'd taken off a cloak of heavy air.

Sister is coming over this afternoon, to sketch while I watercolor in the shady backyard.

"Two Women Sitting in a Garden," 1933, by Eric Ravilious

I just discovered the wonderful watercolors of English artist Eric Ravilious (1903–1942). That's his wife, Tirzah Garwood, shelling peas above

I'd never heard of him, but he's famous in England for being Englishy. Note the umbrella. Did he ever paint a sunny day? 

To me, his art seems to be nostalgic for something that isn't even gone (yet). But his pictures aren't at all glum, so I wasn't surprised to read:
"I never saw him depressed," recalled his friend from the Royal College of Art, Douglas Percy Bliss. "Even when he fell in love – and that was frequently – he was never submerged by disappointment. Cheerfulness kept creeping in."--From "Eric Ravilious: Ups and Downs" in the Guardian.
He became a War Artist at the beginning World War II. Have you ever seen a tea pot in a submarine scene?

Only 39 years old, Ravilious died while accompanying an RAF sea rescue mission off Iceland that never returned.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Postcard Painting #11: Grapes

Laura spend Sunday afternoon teaching me watercolor techniques. Super helpful! since I started watercoloring without knowing any.

It's all about the properties of water, she said.

Watery-me likes that, and my 3-hour still life looks properly watercolor-y. I prefer this bulky sketch (below) I did afterward. 
It took about 10 minutes, but that's deceptive: really, it's the result of me paying close attention for a long time beforehand.

Thank you, Laura!

Friday, July 12, 2013

What is your favorite piece of engineering?

I. One evening on Camino, my pilgrim pals and I ate dinner with an engineer.
It was hard to get a general conversation going * until I asked the table, What is your favorite piece of engineering?

It was a desperate move, to ask such an obvious question, and I was surprised how well it worked. Everyone had something to say. 
The engineer named some jet aircraft (the F7?). When he was seven, he said, he'd had a poster of it on his wall.
bink said her favorite engineering feat (also from childhood) was the step in the Egyptian mummification process when the corpse's brain is pulled out through the nose cavity.

I don't remember what I chose. I bet I talked in generalities about how I went from believing that one's spiritual life was the most important thing in life to realizing that the delivery of clean water trumps all.
Now I know that clean water relies on the proper disposal of human waste, and for my favorite engineering feat, I would be chose the London sewers, designed by sanitation hero Joseph Bazalgette in the 1850s. 

II. Black Mayonnaise

At that time, the River Thames ran so thick with the raw sewage, garbage, and industrial slough of London's 2+ million people, it was like black mayonnaise. 

LEFT: "A drop of London Water,"
 artist: John Leech, 

While previously Londoners had emptied their bladders and bowels into chamber pots and privies (outhouses), more and more people installed the fashionable new flush toilet, which worsened the situation: 
flooded with even more wastewater, cesspools for holding ordure overflowed into the city's insufficient sewers (designed for rainwater only) and into the river. 

Bacteria loved the shitty water. Cholera flourished, and in the hot summer of 1858, the stench was so gag-making, Londoners called it the Great Stink.
In 1850 Charles Dickens described the blighted riverside, in David Copperfield:
Slimy gaps and causeways, winding among old wooden piles, with a sickly substance clinging to the latter, like green hair, and the rags of last year's handbills offering rewards for drowned men fluttering above high-water mark, led down through the ooze and slush to the ebb-tide.
The River, working drawing by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), for David Copperfield, 1850.

III. Simple, Troublesome, Elegant

Joseph Bazalgette became the hero of the day. (Actually, it took almost two decades to complete his project.) As the chief engineer for London's Metropolitan Sewers Commission, he designed a sewer system to move the waste away from the city. He said:
"The idea was very simple. The existing streams and drains all ran down to the river on both sides. All that had to be done was to carry main sewers at varying levels on each side of the river, so as to intercept those streams."
Simple in theory, but... "It certainly was a very troublesome job. We would sometimes spend weeks in drawing up plans and then suddenly come across some railway or canal that upset everything, and we had to begin all over again."
  ––quoted in Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map : The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic (2006).

Good engineering is often surprisingly elegant and beautiful, and Bazalgette's sewers are no exception:

"I would never talk just to be social. Now, to sit down with a bunch of engineers and talk about the latest concrete forming systems, that's really interesting. Talking with animal behaviorists or with someone who likes to sail, that's interesting. Information is interesting to me. But talking for the sake of talking, I find that quite boring."   --Temple Grandin

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Base Recipe for Veggie Burgers

My Postcard Painting #10: Oy! Black Beans
I read a lot of recipes for veggie burgers last night, and finally cottoned onto the basic pattern, which is . . .

1. Smash up (with a fork or potato masher) cooked beans (say, black or soy)
––and/or legumes (like, lentils) and grains (brown rice, etc.).
You can also include seeds (e.g. quinoa) and/or nuts (walnuts).

The quantity doesn't matter too very much--if the mix is too wet, you can add more dry stuff at the end.

2. Add vegetables, finely chopped, grated, or puréed (in a blender or food processor)  
–– like, carrots, bell pepper, corn off the cob, spinach, mushrooms, cooked sweet potato, etc.
 And garlic + onion is almost mandatory.

3. Add your choice of spices, herbs, or other flavorings
––say,  ancho chiles + ground cumin
or fresh grated ginger + soy sauce
...and/or fresh herbs, like basil or mint or cilantro

Quantity does matter with spices; if you're uncertain, refer to a recipe.

4. Optional flavorful fats/binders
––a glug of olive oil; 
and/or an egg (excellent for binding, but skip if vegan, obviously)

5. You'll probably need to add something dry 
to help hold the wet mix together
––a handful of bread crumbs, or uncooked rolled oats, or cornmeal
(Don't make the mix too dry---these agents will swell as they absorb liquid.)

6.  Shape into patties, or a loaf, or cake, and cook
––bake (easiest, I'd say, since veggie burgers tend to fall apart), or broil, or fry, or grill

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Make It Doable

I. Doable Networking

I'm still processing my breakup with Facebook. I envy people who can take FB lightly, but that just isn't me.

Still, there's some stuff I want to keep.
Like, when I was facebooking (small "f" for the verb, right? OK--I just small-"g" googled it, and yeah, small "f") ...when I was facebooking, I always shared all owl images to my friend Laura's wall.

I probably won't see as many owls now I'm off FB--owls are popular there--but I want to continue this.

So––Laura? Are you there?–– I found these owls on slim coincidence's tumblr:

I'm loving being back on the blogosphere, after mostly being away for a couple years.
It's changed, eh?
Not sure how, yet, b
ut people have definitely spread out to sites like FB and Tumblr and Twitter, even to Etsy, which leaves here the people who specifically want to blog.

What does that mean now, to want to blog?

For me, blogging grew out of writing [sometimes self-indulgently] long letters and e-mails, and that's what I still want and like. Blogging is a way to indulge myself in writing out loud and not impose it on anyone. (Plus I don't get frustrated if people don't respond in kind, like I used to with private correspondence.)

Facebook felt more like sending the same postcard message to 153 acquaintances, which had its charms. I liked choosing fun pictures and crafting little messages. But reading other people's postcards--well, I felt crankier and crankier, wanting something more.

I really wanted things to work out with me and FB, but with so many networking options, why not use the one that fits me best? 

II. Doable Running

Yeah, why not choose what fits me best, if I have a choice?
Along those lines, I finally came up with a cunning plan for summer jogging:
since I can only run 1 mile before I start to overheat, I now turn around at the half-mile mark (Lyndale) instead of running a whole mile (to Hennepin) and having to walk back feeling kinda bad that I can't go as far as I used to. 

Genius, eh, to do what works?

Then when I get to the wood-chip garden path close to home, I can run some sprints, if I'm up for it.  It's so fun to run fast! knowing I can soon cool off in the shower.

 Me, after a humid jog

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Running, Now and Then

Running surprises me. I surprise me.

Fears and limitations aside, I feel like myself when I'm running. 

I watched a home movie of three-year-old me (above, right), and there I was, running at full speed. I'm impressed by how I used my whole body to pump up speed.
Like kids tend to do, I suppose, but I'd forgotten...

Running does use my whole body more than I'd realized: sometimes even my shoulders get stiff. I go very slowly, though, so my body doesn't move dramatically.

The other day, a woman my age running toward me on the Greenway path asked, "How far are you going?"

Her question confused me. 
"Um... just to the Uptown, about a mile..." I said.

Now she looked confused, and just nodded as we passed each other. It struck me that she must have thought I was one of her age-mates out for a "long run", one of those slower, long-distance runs people training for marathons do once a week. 

I'm not embarrassed to run at a snail's pace in public, like some people. I like to think of myself as a role model:
Oh look, I imagine people thinking, there's a fat, old woman out exercising––isn't she brave and inspiring! 

The other day I asked Marz to take my photo jogging down the alley by our place (above, left).
I don't look like I think I look.  Yeah, I don't look like a slim, young athlete, but my hair is airborne, for heaven's sake. 

Summer is being hard, though. I did jog twice last week, but even on a low-humidity day (rare), I couldn't go more than 1 mile. I thought about pushing myself farther and got back a very clear NO. I don't think of myself as being very in-touch with my body, so I was impressed that it knows how to get in touch with me.
(I am my body, of course, but that's not how I've thought about it.) 

In May I had worked up to 3 miles, and I had imagined that would continue. I've been worried that I'm already failing at running. (Failing by giving up is a big neurotic fear of mine.)
I am reappraising.
It makes sense to think of this––my first running summer––as a time to strengthen my tendons and ligaments with slow, slow short trots, even if only once or twice a week.
The weather will cool off in a couple months.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Postcard Painting #9: Geranium

GOAL: to watercolor a postcard every day in July (even if it's only a paint smear).
This is this morning's fourth attempt to paint a geranium on my back porch. The first three turned into mud baths. I tend to overwork...

Lighten up! Lighten up! Lighten up!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Permission Slip

(Especially for Momo, who is doing some major letting go.

Happy Liberation Day!

AUTHORITY is hereby granted to you to . . . 
"let pass, let go, let loose; give up, hand over; let, allow, grant, permit"

permit: late 15c., from Middle French permetre and directly from Latin permittere = per- "through" + mittere "let go, send" (See mission)

Base calligraphy by Maura, embellishments by me.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Space Shoes

Marz likes shoes, so I've been noticing how cool sneaker design has become. They're still called sneakers though.

I like these high tops ($680, white leather, by Maison Martin Margiela). They look like part of the flight attendants' uniform in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Actually, these shoes are worn by the likes of singers Usher, Chris Brown, and, here--in "gold colorway," by Rita Ora.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hand Writing

I did it.
I deleted my Facebook account. I had to:  my brain would just not stop spinning whenever, to paraphrase xkcd, someone is wrong on Facebook.

I've decided that instead of FBing, I will use up my stash of postcards––some I bought in childhood. 
The first one is below. I bought it this June in Wisconsin Dells. The woman in the souvenir shop told me it's not a reprint--it is from their stock of 1,000s of cards they ordered in decades past.

I miss seeing people's handwriting.
This spring, an anonymous friend sent Mz a Star Trek T-shirt dress. She still can't figure out who it was because neither of us can recognize the handwriting. (Was it you???)

[Update: It was Jill S!] 

In spite of its ominous name, the Demons Anvil holds no terror for the modern day camera fan.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Copyright H. H. Bennett Studio