October 2009

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From the Gutter

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde


It was a big weekend in our neck of the woods, much activity and entirely fun filled.  Friday, I made soup, a variation of my draped in velvet recipe, with a swirl of olive oil on top, as well as bread.  I don’t bake bread often, but every time I do, it makes me very happy.  It smells so good, filling up the house with yeasty goodness, and the kneading is such a satisfying and meditative task.  Push, fold, turn, push, fold turn…  Maybe you’d like to make some, too.  Here’s the recipe, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 75th Anniversary Cookbook.  Gosh do I love this collection of recipes.  Such good basics!

Multigrain Bread

2 – 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 tablespoon flax seeds

In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour and the yeast; set aside.  In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, butter, and salt, stirring until it reaches 120 degrees and butter almost melts.  Add water mixture to flour mixture.  Beat with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes.  It will be very creamy.  Stir in the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, rolled oats, and flax seed.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of the remaining all purpose flour to make a moderately stiff dough.  It should be smooth and elastic, not sticky.  Shape dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size (1 – 1 1/2 hours).

Punch dough down.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Grease an 8″ loaf pan.  Shape the dough into a loaf to fit the pan.  Place in pan and allow to rise again, until doubled (30-45 minutes).

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped.  Immediately remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.


We also went to an Eighties party fundraiser for the school that nearly all of my friends’ children attend.  It was fun.  I replicated, nearly to the letter, an outfit I wore in high school (though my hair did not stay big and fluffy – such is life without hairspray), and then I dressed up the hubster like some of the boys I had major crushes on way back when.  He was even amenable to eyeliner, which was very cool of him.  Besides, it looked good, being so handsome and all.

Here are more photos, but since my friends are generally blog shy, I’m not going to tell you who they are, just that they mean the world to me!

Don’t forget to dance!

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Hello Everyone!  Will you look at that grin plastered on my face?  It’s me, quite giddy that I’ve bridged the twenty years since I’d been in the presence of my friend here, someone very dear to my heart, Ann Balderston.  Actually, now she’s got another “B” name but will always be Balderston to me.  We met in first grade, and though I have zero recollection of our actual meeting, I feel fairly certain that it must have been like lightning striking, because we were pretty much attached at the hip for the next two years.

Every day, on my way to school, I walked to Ann’s house and picked her up before spending the day at Thomson Elementary.  As we both had Ms. Weiss (my favorite elementary school teacher – I had her in first, second, and sixth grade, lucky me!), we’d spend the whole of the day in each other’s presence and rather happily, too, class, lunch, recess, walking home.

As one might expect, I would, quite often, spend the afternoon at her house, playing house, or with dolls, creating wonderfully imaginative schemes to keep us entertained for the ages.  It was such a special time in my life, full of magic.

Part of that, I’m sure, stems from the many firsts tied to our friendship.  She was, my first best friend, the first person to whom I told my secrets and dreams and felt a deep spiritual connection.  It was at her house that I first heard a foreign accent in person, for her mom, ever so sweet and kind, was from England and spoke like someone out of the movies.  Also, it was at Ann’s that I first had tea with milk (and lots of sugar), wax beans, and SPAM – such an adventure!

On another magical occasion, my very first sleepover, I remember sitting in my night gown at the table in the kitchen, sipping tea while Ann’s mom told us a story of some sort.  I wish I could remember what it was about.  We retired to the basement and our sleeping bags and giggled well into the night.

Quite appropriately, it was with Ann that I first found my love of dancing.  This was well into second grade, and being the time that it was, our school was hosting an afternoon fundraiser in the form of a disco.  We played Abba record after Abba record, dancing queens holding hands and twirling around her living room getting ready for the special day.  Sadly, my Dad decided I was too young for such adventures, so Ann went solo, and I imagined us spinning like tops under a glittering disco ball.

Then, as it happens with magic, the spell wore off.  Ann’s family moved to Florida, and I to other friends, other wonders.  She did return the next school year, but by that time we were different somehow, and though nothing happened to make us drift further apart, nothing happened to keep us together either.

But now, in the ever sweet present, we have found each other and a bit of that magic again.  It seems, on many levels, we’ve led parallel lives, both with sweet husbands, cats, bubbling concoctions, gardens, and peaceful, earth-loving ways.  I guess some things don’t change at all.

Also, more photos from my Colorado trip.  Top to bottom:

The Arvada water tower, The North Wing of the Denver Art Museum (Architect Gio Ponti – gosh, do I ever love this building!),  A horse sculpture and beautiful paintings inside the museum, and the last four of Golden, Colorado, home of Coors Beer (my dad worked there for more than thirty years!) and the School of Mines.

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I am spelling out the following number for emphasis: Four thousand seven hundred eighty-two.  This set of digits is hardly impressive when one considers population, drops of rain on my red roof, or annual salaries in America.  However, when one ponders the fact that it is in relation to  how many works of art were amassed by Herb and Dorothy Vogel in their tiny New York apartment over the course of forty years, then it expands into something nearly unfathomable.  Holy smokes – 4,782!

The absolutely adorable couple (they still hold hands and find each other cute), a now retired librarian at the Brooklyn Library and a postal worker, began collecting in order to follow what was, at least initially, Herb’s passion.   He worked nights at the post office, would sleep a few hours, and then go to the library and read everything he could about art, as well as take a painting class or two.  Dorothy, wanting to share in her husband’s interest, decided she would paint, too.  Soon, the walls of their apartment were covered in their work, but then, in 1962, after realizing they could live humbly off of Dorothy’s salary and purchase art with Herb’s, they marched forth with gusto, visiting galleries and studios all over the city and purchasing inexpensive works by unknown artists.

Their criteria were simple – they must like the piece, be able to afford it, and it had to be carried via foot, bus, or taxi to fit in their apartment.  They weren’t looking to collect anything just for the sake of it; they had to love it as well, and love they did.  They covered every possible surface with art: walls, ceiling, floor, amassing piles and rows, squeezing it in among their fish, cats, and turtles, a wonder of physics if the truth be told.  Dorothy remarked, “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment.”  She was right.

In a bold and quite generous move, the couple decided to donate their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the site where it all began, the first museum they visited together as husband and wife.  Of all the museums clamoring for their collection, all of them willing to pay princely sums, I might add, the Vogel’s chose the National Gallery because quite simply, as Americans, it belongs to everyone.  The works will never be sold and anyone can visit, for free, furthering their belief that wonderful art can be both affordable and accessible, just as it was to them.

It is a marvelous portrait of love – for each other and modern art.  It made me weep at how having a benevolent spirit and following our passion is rarely about how much money we have but what we choose to do with it.


Do not depend on the hope of results…you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to that you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

Thomas Merton


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