Like most east-coasters, I was more than a little inconvenienced by hurricane Irene barreling through the area this past weekend. This is not something I really ever thought I would have to deal with up here. FL, yes, sure, every year. I had almost twenty years of hurricane preparedness under my belt from my time there, but I never expected to worry about it in NJ. And these past two days have been far worse than anything I remember from down south.
My entire town basically shut down; between 48+ hour (and ongoing) power outages, flood waters surging down Main Street, and last-minute evacuations…my neighbors have had it pretty rough. The people immediately next door to me, who had just done tons of renovations on their house, lost everything. They are the first house on the street and almost right across from the park entrance…a park through which the Raritan river runs right through. So when it floods, it comes right up over the road and down our street! The photo below was taken around noon on Sunday. At the height of the flooding, 4:00 or so, not even the top of this sign could be seen. As a matter of fact, a rescue boat may have zoomed right over it.
The waters came both up our street and the street behind us, inching higher and higher into the front and the back yard. When the flooding appeared to eventually slow down, my upstairs neighbor and I were indescribably relieved… but that was short-lived when we discovered that the ground had become so saturated that the water began seeping up through the floor in the basement! With only our flashlights we began navigating through the murky darkness under the house to unhook her washer and dryer. This was a seriously creepy excursion. I felt like I was trappped in that episode of the X-Files in which some sort of deadly creature gets washed up from the sea during a hurricane somewhere in South FL. I worked quickly because I really did not want to feel a tentacle slither around my ankle and yank me under!
After successfully not being devoured by river-monsters in the basement, I thought I might light some candles and read in bed. Currently I am reading Weird Stories by Charlotte Riddell which coincidentally makes marvelous candle-light reading material…lots of ominous atmosphere, chilling ghosts, and excellent haunted house narratives.
Unfortunately reading by candle light is not as pleasant an experience as one with a romantic nature might expect it to be; by the time you are close enough to the flame for the words on the page to be illuminated and legible…you’ve almost set the book on fire!
Now that the power is back on and I can piddle around online again, I have put together a new 8tracks mix inspired by dank waters and dark midnights and which can be found here:
Was awakened by the discordant song of cicadas yesterday morning and from their chatter was foretold the heat of the day. On weekends like this is it wise to lock oneself in a dim-lit room with the shades drawn and a stack of books, and a pitcher of something well-iced within reach, and the AC at the lowest setting possible.
I find that I cannot eat hot foods…or even lukewarm foods in the summer months. It is often salads or here-and-there nibbles for dinner. Bread and cheese and olives. Vegetables and hummus. Or maybe just a bowl of cereal if the heat has made me too lethargic to care, yet my stomach is grumbling and grumping at me. What are some of your favourite warm-weather meals for when turning on the oven is an exercise in torture and you cannot bear the thought of a hot meal?
This isn’t even a recipe, just something I saw over at The Pioneer Woman last summer and tried once and found it to be quite lovely. Mix a bit of plain, greek yogurt with milk (she uses heavy cream), stir until smooth, and top with brown sugar. I serve it over blueberries, but I am sure it is just as nice over other summer berries or whatever fruits may be in season and pair well with creamy, lightly sweetened toppings. Served alongside a special postcard for pretend afternoons at the lake house when one is actually stuck inside an overheated apartment with no central air.
Thanks goes to my sister for informing me that one can make cold-brewed iced coffee with a french press! I had been utilizing a messy method which involved multiple containers, coffee filters and drips and dregs all over the floor. This is infinitely easier and it makes me happy that I can finally put to use the french press I overpaid for 3 years ago. There are some useful instructions for this method here.
The cicadas are at it again, the rise and fall of their droning din a constant background to mornings and well into the afternoon this time of year. I find it rather comforting in a way though; I know that in the colder months I will miss their buzzing symphonies and the simple entomancy of their hot weather insectile hum.
I have always tried to make a point to surround myself with beautiful things.
If they are pieces of art created by passionate peers and visionary friends, all the better! My goal has been to fill an entire room with the various paintings and illustrations and mixed-media art I have collected over the years; so far I am at one wall and a half. Though I do have a few more that need framing, I will hold off on that until I have relocated. It hardly makes sense to rearrange everything to accommodate a few more prints when I am only going to be here for two months.
My personal aesthetic is forever in flux, but there are certain kinds of imagery that will always catch my eye and call to me: dark dreams, hidden things & secrets & esoteric knowledge, haunted places, shades & shadows, the supernatural & the surreal, magics macabre and melancholy, and the grotesque transfigured into things of incomparable loveliness.
I currently have a few things that need framing, and honestly I find that whole process incredibly tedious. I never know what size frame to get (and I usually have the chop the print up to fit – artists please don’t read that! I am so ashamed). But worse than that, I have a terrible time in general matching the pieces of art with a suitable, yet inexpensive frame! Any tips? These are the three I am working with now:
“Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, by Mon Petit Fantome
“Three Seekers Dreaming”, by swanbones
Family Portrait by Caryn Drexl
I have been collecting ideas for futures spaces on my walls, as well. Here is a small selection from my feverish wish-list. With what wonderful arts do you adorn your abode? Tell me all!
“some ghosts are women II” by Kristamas Klousch
“Pink Twin Rainbow”, Camilla d’Errico
“Runa” by Ellen Rogers photography
“The Bride” by Charmaine Olivia
“Duncan Takes a Break” by KipHolmPhotography
Where to find the artists mentioned within this post:
I can’t believe that it has been over a year since I lost my poor little Inkers. At that time I started knitting a shawl to help me through my grief; I thought a memento, something beautiful and tangible to remind me of her would be a nice thing to have, and the end result can be seen below. Afterward, I sent it to a lady friend on the other side of the country. It was the soothing, intimate process that I needed, that helped me focus on a task instead of dwelling on a loss. Once finished, though it was an item I was quite proud of, I found I didn’t need it at all.
Pattern is “Bitterroot” by Rosemary Hill from Knittyspin Winter 2009. Started May 28th. In loving memory of Inkers. 1999-May 28th, 2010.
There are certain things I will truly miss about New Jersey when I am back in my alternately scorching and sweltering home state. Cool, hidden pockets of summer greenery in this neck of the woods, for one. Leaves so thick on the branches that the light does not pass through. Ivy coiled loosely around a neighbor’s lamplight. Vines knotted and tangled and trailing down a rotted wooden fence. Grass cuttings strewn across the sidewalk on a Saturday morning after everyone has gotten up early to mow their lawns. There is so much green it makes my heart hurt a little and my eyes burn a bit, in the very best sort of way.
And the flowers, oh the flowers. They are beautiful blooming breakers of hearts as well.
Coffret de médecine sounds much more romantic, less utilitarian than plain old “medicine cabinet”, don’t you think? I was inspired to clean out all the glunky and gross products that had been sitting around for much too long when I read verhext’s “coming up roses” post a few months back. Well. While I was inspired in March, it’s taken me until July to do anything about it! Better late than never, I always say.
I myself have not yet reached the point where I am ready to switch to all-natural products, though there are quite a few I have been using for a while now: the arnica gel & aloe vera for bruises, soreness, aches and burns; melatonin and Bach remedies for sleep and anxiety, and tea tree, rosehip seed and jojoba oils for a skin regimen. I suppose I should look into replacing the other items but for now they work and I’ve always belonged to the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” camp. One thing I am particularly keen to find is a nice tinted moisturizer that’s not full of awful things. I had been using a version from Laura Mercier that worked nicely , but $42 for such a small tube didn’t seem like the wisest investment. I then stumbled across the Sonia Kashuk version that I liked even more and it’s a third of the price. It’s really quite perfect (except for the ingredients), but I am certainly open to suggestions – so if you’ve got any, please send them my way!
Next I need to find a better organizational system for the rest of my cosmetics and face paint. Coffee mugs and sake cups perched precariously on the back of the commode are not an ideal system!
After that I will move on to tackling the smelly portion of things. I don’t even know where to begin with this! I’ve got perfume samples scattered willy-nilly all over the place; hidden in nooks and crannies and underfoot and sometimes they even turn up in pockets or marking pages in books! This will not do, of course.
Unfortunately, organization is not something that interests me in the least. I am not someone who gets excited about lists, or calendars or even watches. I am pretty sure I would literally die of boredom in The Container Store. This is going to be A Long, Drawn Out Production, I am sure of it.
I obviously need some painless organizational tips and tricks. What have you got? Feel free to show me your own cabinets and cupboards – trust me, there is no one nosier than me…I am always intensely interested in other people’s stuff!
I am neither a huge fan or coconut, nor ice cream. Apparently it’s pretty weird not to be a an ice cream fanatic, but such is my lot in life, I suppose.
On a 100°+ day in July, however when the AC is scarcely cooling a small darkened corner of the house, something well-iced and creamy and perhaps eaten standing right in front of the opened freezer door does not sound like such a bad idea.
I picked up a small Krups ice cream maker on a whim a few years back when I had made it a daily habit to read food blogs. During that point in time quite a few frivolous kitchen gadgets found their way into my cupboards and though some of them might have been rather esoteric and rarely see the light of day, I will staunchly defend herr Krups, as I have gotten some excellent use out of the little fellow.
That first year we had several lemon sorbets and a dark chocolate chip and fresh mint ice cream; the next year even more lemon ices and vanilla custard ice cream and a wonderful dulce de leche ice cream. I don’t think I used it at all, last year, but this afternoon seemed like a good time to dust it off, survey the ingredients at hand, and give it another whirl.
This is a very loose recipe, the measurements were mostly eye-balled. This is also dairy-free, but I suppose one could use heavy cream if one were feeling particularly decadent. I myself was feeling frugal, and almond milk was what I had on hand.
1 can of coconut milk,
4 limes, juiced and zested
1/2 -3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (any sweetener will, even agave or similar)
pinch cardamom (I should have used more)
Heat the almond milk and sugar in a saucepan until sugar is melted. Cool. In a blender, whiz together coconut milk, lime juice, almond milk-sugar mixture, most of lime zest (reserve some for garnish) and cardamon.
Once blended, cover and place in a refrigerator for an hour or so, until thoroughly chilled. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve softly frozen, or transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 1 week.
I don’t find this to be very coconut-y, which is just as well for my tastes, but certainly shredded coconut or coconut powder could be added for more coconut flavor. Were I to make this again, I would definitely add more cardamom and maybe steep a piece of fresh ginger in the sugar mixture but discard it before blending.
A gift of an esoteric, secret lady language from Miss Lau… Did you know that twirling your fan in the left hand indicates “I wish to be rid of you”? No? Well, this is useful information to have on hand! Thanks for the package, Miss Lau…I love everything!
People say that long ago the dead held a service on the night before Christmas. Once a woman arrived too early for Christmas service. When she entered the church she found it lit up and full of dead people, singing:
Here we sing, our bones all bleached,
Here we sing with beautiful voice,
When shall the day of judgment come,
What yet have you to say?
The story continues on as the woman recognizes her dead sister among the congregation. Warned by her sister that she must flee, for the dead will take her life, the woman escapes, dropping her shawl behind her to confuse her cadaverous pursuers. When the churchwarden arrives on Christmas morning and puts the lights on, he spies the shawl in the empty chapel, torn almost beyond recognition.
This tale is widely spread in Europe and is extremely old, having been set in Autun, Burgandy, by Gregory of Tours in his De Gloria Confessorum. See below for an illustrated version of the best-known Scandinavian variant of this migratory legend, “The Midnight Mass of the Dead” from Asbørnsen’s “En gammelgags juleaften” (“An Old Fashioned Christmas Eve”). These wonderfully evocative images, full of dim shades, grim shadows and midwinter’s eerie light, were created by brilliant artist Chris Van Allsburg (Jumangi, The Polar Express) and can be found in “Ghosts” volume from the Time Life Enchanted Worldseries. These scans are from my personal collection; higher-resolution, more detailed versions can be found here.
Wishing you peace and light in this dark, dying time of the year, and may you not be without your shawl or other talisman this winter holiday when the dead are afoot and hungry for your company.