Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Christmas here at the Blue Door is a pretty quiet event.  I wait until the Solstice to start decorating, which means it's somewhat catch-as-catch can.  I was able to find a plain wreath and liven it up with a bright red bow (carefully saved from year to year) and some snowflakes I made decades ago.

A tree was out of the question this year, so I made a swag of my favorite ornaments and hung it on the fireplace.

I don't know that frogs and pea pods are particularly Christmas-y, but I like them.

I set out a few wood ornaments that come from a place that was once called "West Germany" 

Glass icicles, a few glass balls, and a foil star liven up the dining room light.
I make the same flower arrangement every year.   The holly comes from a tree that I grew from a seedling I found in my yard.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Friday, December 1, 2017


If you had an opportunity to buy a 1939 edition of the Nouveau Petit Larousse Illustre, of course you'd jump at it, right?

I know I did.  I don't know why, exactly, because my grasp of French is sketchy at best.  But dictionaries are always fun and illustrated dictionaries are even better.  This one sits quietly on my shelf of reference books until I need a little something to liven up a rainy evening.

And so, the word for today is Isba.

(And isn't the end paper design lovely?)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Awfully cute for a space alien

This is Sempervivum arachnoideum subs. tomentosum, but it answers to "Wooly Cobweb Houseleek."  I saw these in a garden in Maine over twenty years ago and always wanted one.  This one came from Joy Creek Nursery, a place I've been meaning to visit for more years than I care to admit.

I had the loveliest visit.  I was the first customer of the day, and there was fresh coffee and a home-made chocolate chip cookie to see me through my perambulations through the plant tables and the twenty-five year garden, which was just wonderful and gave me all kinds of ideas.

Along with the the space alien, I came away with Daphne, Michaelmas daisies in four colors, a white
clematis, and three kinds of fuschias.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Raven Has an Idea

This little raven and this sand dollar have been together in my curio cabinet for years and years and years, but it wasn't until this morning that I saw that Raven has just now had the idea to steal the moon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

When running away to join the circus isn't an option

At the beginning of the month I had a few days off, so I did what I almost always do when that happens - I sewed something.  I like to sew, and this year I've started an effort to draw down the stash of fabric I've accumulated over the years, so there is no excuse too small for me to start a sewing project.

Years ago I got a wonderful deal on twelve yards of lovely Three Cats fabric.  Well, "lovely" may be in the eye of the beholder.  While I love the indigo blue and the hand of this 36" wide fabric, I'm not sure that I'd ever wear big white polka dots outside the house.

So I made an apron, using an antique sewing pattern from my collection.  I finished it just a few days before the eclipse, and while I didn't wear it on the day, it will be my memento of the eclipse of August 2017.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My dear, these are my gardening pearls

Used by permission of the National Portrait Gallery
I would like to introduce you to Nellie Samuels Levy Ionides.   An heiress to the Shell Oil fortune, she was an expert on Chinese porcelain and a hostess known for her excellent parties, gossip, and, I suspect, a rather sly sense of humor.

The story about her that I most cherish is found in Hilary Spurling's biography of Ivy Compton-Burnett. When someone visiting Nellie in her garden at Buxted Park admired her pearls, she is supposed to have said "My dear, these are my gardening pearls." (1)

And why not?  If my rose bushes are going to get all dressed up, it seems only polite to return the courtesy.  As my budget doesn't run to real pearls, I make my own pearl necklaces with Swarovski's very nice glass pearls. For today, I decided on a fairly chunky look to go with my polo shirt and Carhartt double-front jeans.

Kind of uncanny how much Mrs. Ionides and I look alike, don't you think?

(1)Hilary Spurling, Ivy - The Life of I. Compton-Burnett by Hilary Spurling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984),  310.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Twelve Egg Whites Later

My favorite recipe for ice-cream requires six egg yolks, and my housekeeper's sense of thriftiness requires that I save the whites.  Fortunately, egg whites freeze well.  I took advantage of a cool morning today to use up a dozen egg whites by making 12 little white cakes and one larger cake called a Princess Cake, which is essentially a white pound cake.

All tidily packed away in the deep freeze.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


When I was very young, lace was that decorative stuff one had on one's party clothes and sometimes on petticoats.  It was awfully pretty, even if it could be a little scratchy.

When I was very young, one of the very first flowers I was taught to name was Queen Anne's Lace.  Queen Anne was nobody I knew, so that part didn't matter, but I was enchanted that lace could be both a dress trimming and a flower.

I still am.  Opinions and enthusiasms formed early in life can be remarkably durable.  Which Queen Anne has the honor of the flower named after her is apparently open to debate.  It still doesn't matter to me.

Although considered a weed, I always allow a few plants of Queen Anne's Lace into my flower beds.  In this area we have a local mutation that has a distinct pink cast to the umbels, as the little "flowers" are more properly known.  Once fully open, the pink umbels fade to near white, but are still a slightly different white than the non-pink variety.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It must be summer

I'm not sure when pickled eggs became a summertime treat for me.  I grew up in a household where red beet eggs were the norm.  At some point in my housekeeping career, though, I strayed off into the wild territory of your basic barroom pickled eggs.  I make them right around the summer solstice so that they're ready for July 4th and picnics.

You can eat them straight up, or you can make them into the best egg salad you'll ever have.  Extra points for making your egg salad sandwiches with homemade bread.

Picked Eggs

For the brine
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pickling spice

1 dozen hard cooked eggs, peeled  (I like to use medium eggs, which you may have to hunt for - the big grocery stores rarely carry them.)

Bring the vinegar and water to boil, then add the sugar and salt.  Simmer until the sugar dissolves, then add the pickling spice and simmer for a few minutes.  Let cool to room temperature.

Drop the eggs into a quart canning jar and pour the brine over.  Make sure the topmost layer of eggs is covered with the brine.  Put the lid on and tuck into a corner of the fridge for about a week.

Plan to eat them in a week or two - much longer than that and they get rather tough.

Monday, May 22, 2017

All Folded Up

It continues to be a mystery to me how the irises manage to fold all those petals up into such small buds.  I have a couple of ill-informed theories on how they do it, but I prefer the mystery, I think.

And then they open and have their own faux fuzzy caterpillars to keep them company.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pelargonium baby pictures

A couple of years ago I decided it might be nice to have geraniums growing on a window sill during the winter.  Simply buying a couple of potted geraniums was entirely too easy, so I bought some seed.  And then I got distracted by other things.

Early this spring, when I was desperately looking for reasons to get out of the house and spend a little time in the potting shed, I came across the seed packet.  Two year old seed?  What the heck - why not give it a go!

After several month of careful tending, I've ended up with eight plants in four, four inch pots.  I was intrigued to see how early the leaf markings developed.  And they already have that geranium smell, the cunnin' little things.

 I notice now that one of my chickadee neighbors has thoughtfully planted a sunflower seed in one of the pots.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring in Name Only

I made myself a new shirt to celebrate Spring, and I wore it on the first day of Spring, and I was cold all day.  Heck, we had a frost last week.  Still turtleneck weather, I guess.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Accidental Portrait of a Lone Orange

Sometimes my iPad finds its own subjects.  I like this one of the cheerful orange against the calm wave-like grain of the wood bowl.  The bowl was made from a tree on my parents' property.

Monday, February 20, 2017

On the Edge of Transformation

This is one of my favorite moments in sewing: the place where one can take a deep breath before construction begins.

The pattern has been selected and altered.  The fabric has been purchased, washed, and ironed.  The layout recommended by the pattern company has been studied and possibly improved a little.  The box of pins has been accidentally dropped on the floor, sworn at, retrieved, and reloaded.  The contortions required to cut clean inside curves have been negotiated.

This stack of pieces begins to reveal the garment it will become.  After a cup of coffee, I'll cut the notches and thread-mark the dots, squares, and other landmarks.

And when the signs are auspicious, I'll start sewing.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When centuries collide

The passage of about 150 years means that the ratchet and pawl on one of my old looms are not always on speaking terms.  Thank goodness for Vise Grips (first patented in 1924.)

A good day is one on which the number of pairs of Vise Grips one owns is greater than or equal to the number of needs one has for them.

Today was a good day.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm sure it made sense when I wrote it down

The blackboard in my work room has accumulated a fine collection of...things.  Some of these make sense now, and some surely made sense when I wrote them down.  The random fractions are particularly opaque to me now, but I'm afraid if I erase them I'll need them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snow Drifts into Everything

From the NOAA Winter Storm Warning posted this morning.

It even gets into our words.  (You just can't see it here because of the white background.)

The snow also does a good job of covering the lilac bushes in front of the house.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Self check-out - a solution in search of a problem

I loathe self check-out.  Loathe it.  There was a time when the big box home improvement stores tried to go fully self check-out, but I noticed recently they've backed off from that and have brought back a few human beings.

Today at the grocery story the clerk minding the self check-out terminals hooked me in before I could sneak past her to the express lane.   And you know, she had trouble with the process.  She couldn't get the frozen orange juice to scan (nobody can.)

From a user experience point of view, you have to be seriously wall-eyed to be able to keep track of what the register terminal wants as opposed to the payment terminal, which, unlike the example above, is easily two feet away.

Why do we think it's a good idea to abandon the social contract between the well-trained customer and the well-trained check-out clerk?  My responsibility is to bring bags that stand up by themselves and to put all the cans of orange juice together on the belt.  The clerk is responsible for memorizing all those mysterious produce codes and for balancing the weight evenly across my bags.

I want my check-out clerk, darn it!