Sister Act

If having everyone in your family have their names spelled with "K" creating aberrations such as Kourtney and Khloe (which Squarespace is showing me with a red underline: meaning fix this), why not one up each other with the fancy, athlete husbands and the butt focus? Khloe has always been the most zaftig in the Kardashian crew so having her curves rounded out and sculpted by a surgeon is not totally out of the realm of possibilities, but now that there is competition....look out. The Hollywood Scoop acknowledges that Khloe wants to be the winner in this arena. TMZ gracefully acknowleges this competition: "Khloe Kardashian has entered the ring, and has challenged her sister by squeezing herself into these fight black jeans, and showing that Kim’s not the only one with some cake back there." And so it goes....picture against picture, sister against sister...when will it end? Ms. Khloe is really working the fashion by wearing horizontal stripes to define her odd proportions, and the world has taken note!  Plus, there are videos of Khloe twerking. I guess this shape is there just to twerk...other than having a bigger tuffet to sit on to eat your curds and whey. "To each his own", said the old woman as she kissed the cow. My sentiments exactly.

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Juju in the Air

 Cazenovia Cider Label, Good Life Cider, Clients: Melissa Madden, Garrett and Jimmy Miller, 2014

Cazenovia Cider Label, Good Life Cider, Clients: Melissa Madden, Garrett and Jimmy Miller, 2014

It has been a while. I should apologize for my neglect, but quite candidly, it is what it is. The past month has embraced many things including an unexpected visit from Alex, Kitty getting into a pattern, a trip to Sagamore and the opening of the new Rongovian Embassy on top of the day to day. We have had some bloopers with the furnace and stove. We have had huge  hedges trimmed and things closed down in prep for winter. And then of course, there is the ginger bug.

Say what? A ginger bug? Well, let me wheel this back a teensy bit. My friends Melissa and Garrett along with Garrett's brother, Jimmy are making hard cider (label shown to the left). They are also making exquisite ginger beer from the organic ginger that  Melissa grows in her high tunnels here in the cold (not tropical) Finger Lakes. The Ginger beer they make is dry and lemon-y and makes a girl wistful for hot summer afternoons or cozy evenings by the woodstove. It is bright and shiny as a blue sky morning and is certainly not kids stuff. I helped Melissa at Cider Week (at the Rongo) --tabling and sampling to get their name out as their hard cider (designed by yours truly) is on the way. But, to get attention on Good Life Farm, they sampled this dreamy sparkling Ginger beer which the crowds went gaga over...and I thought...hey. I should make some of that.

To back up even more, I have turned my new little pantry room into Mommy's Fermentation Room. I pressed a ton of apples -- actually juiced them, and am making big containers of vinegar. I have one of apples. I have one that is apples with one big fat red beet pressed with the apples giving me a vinegar that is rich, deep purple. I have a container of "apple peel" vinegar which is made up of apple peels that are fermenting in water sweetened with honey. There is really not much to make vinegar...it is the cultivation of the "mother", a cloudy amalgam of bacterial that translates the wild yeast magically in the air (I know that there is "science in this" but I prefer to stomp my feet and hope that the juju and the good magic works versus something as sensible and rational as science can 'splain all of this)...and converts the sweetness to alcohol (hard cider) to then the next step which is vinegar. Sounded simple from my reading on the web, and it is. I just need to keep an eye on it and see how sour I will let it go.

The interest in vinegar came from the ton of refrigerator pickling I have been doing in response to our CSA being big on beets this year. And guess what? I am making some pretty fine pickled veggies with beets being at the top of list. They are good enough, we eat them for breakfast (more like I eat them for breakfast and offer them to the crew. "No thank you. Please pass the jam"). The pickled baby brussels sprouts are good too. And, speaking of beets, I am making a slaw these days from shredded beets, carrots, cilantro, oil and lime juice that we eat  batch I grate up another immediately. Big hit here at 2 Camp St.

So back to the bug. So Garrett and Jimmy are making this sublime organic ginger beer, and we are talking about it in the early fall sunshine out at their Farm. It dawned on me that they would love  my newest favorite magazine...so I whip out my new copy of Imbibe Magazine and there is an article on shrubs and Ginger Beer and we all get really excited, sort of like the happy bacteria chomping away on all the sugery goodness in the juice I had brewing in the Fermentation shack--one idea feeding the other. I ended up giving them my copy of the magazine-- and going home to take out all the electronic books the New York Public Library has online. Turns out, there are many ways to make Ginger Beer, but the most interesting way for me, was to cultivate a "wild-fermented"Ginger bug, essentially, a biga or a starter (as in bread) for drinks. It is ginger, water and sugar and lots of stirring and watching. Also...no closed jars (cheesecloth with a rubberband to hold it in place to keep the flies out but let the yeast in) because it's got to to the same thing that our friends, the vinegar do....which is to invite the bacterial to come and chomp on the sugar--and develop it into a fermented base which will give us a spritz or natural "bottle conditioned" carbonation.

Why have a pet when you can feed and be entertained by a Ginger bug. So much fun.

Here is someone who is intelligent and writes charmingly on the magic I am fumphering around to communicate:

The Splendid Table>>

So, I am busy planning Thanksgiving and am going to (hoping I am not going to the hospital this year) be prepping the whole shebang in advance of the holiday. I am making turkey stock as we speak. I have baked a ton of sweet potatoes to make a sweet potato dish (never, ever have done that....not big on sweet food, but I think its a worthy try)>> Ruth Chris Sweet Potato Casserole. I have all the goodies ready to be added to the stuffing bread and parsley all cut, sauteed and frozen. I have the better part of a dozen apples on the stove simmering in lemon juice and cider, ready to make into applesauce for the Thanksgiving leftovers. Tomorrow, the stock will be strained, skimmed and some will become a mess of gravy for the day of and the day after that I will freeze in advance. Gravy is a big deal around here. I will have extra stock for Thanksgiving cooking...ready to go...and a clean refrigerator thanks to all the stockmaking (now referred to, by the hipsters as "bone broth"). I have frozen a pile of grated beets (gold and red) with carrots for a salad. I also have hot beets ready to peel and pickle for another jar of red side dishes.

I have two huge stalks of brussels sprouts that need to be pared down and the sprouts  sliced paper thin to roast on the big day. I will prep the mashed potatoes the day before and let the potatoes sit in water and destarchify. There are the cranberries to be made and frozen. This year, I am going rogue and adding fresh ginger to that mix. I think that will be sublime.

I have baking to do (cornbread and pumpkin bread, ginger snaps, and some pecan bars).  A friend is bringing pies. I might even make a spice cake as I love them...and having a  robust dessert offering is just plain fun and feasty.

Gotta go. Tomorrow I will rant about my planning around this year's advent calendar. I am smiling a lot to myself as I am amused by where this is going.... Lets hope the work measures up to the dreaming.

Tee up.

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I am busy with learning WordPress. I am kind of excited about that as the opportunities are broad and there is a whole lot to this program/ approach. Tons of plug ins, tons of extras (like a calendaring unit that can derive info from either an Apple iCalendar calendar or a Google G-Calendar). Very fluid stuff...only one hitch, which is once one picks a template, you really do not have a ton of room to change except if you want to get into the CSS and monkey around (not my forte..yet)--but hey...once you just go for it, the work arounds with imagery, type, and the few elements that you have to work with--is still better than Blogspot, and not much more difficult. And, did I mention that it is very cost effective too?

Not much bandwidth for anything else beyond the day to day expectations that cross my desk as a designer/illustrator. I am working on some vector silver teapots to fiddle with reflection and study grays as a way of keeping on, keeping on...but my attention span and those things that normally resonate with me, seem to bounce off, versus sink in to make me pick up a pen and draw. But I believe a little more time and focus will help. Somehow just keeping up with the workload and life (as it is) is enough for me. Sad, but true.

My beer labels are out for Roosterfish...and though the labels are nice, the carrier and six pack graphics are really nice (black type on kraft with the six pack having the added white for sparkle). The Blonde has changed from a pin up girl, to that of a silent film star (movies made in Ithaca, with the stars vacationing in Watkins). And the former " Dog Tooth Pale Ale" has changed to Finish Line Pale Ale to celebrate a new change to the formulation, but also to celebrate the history of racing in Watkins Glen. So, more local pride, more loving our history, and embracing it. The cases are very sassy with more little "go team go" phrases that yours truly shoehorned into the layout. I like it...very bold, very woodtype-y. Hopefully, we will be rounding back on more work with this small brewery. Should be fun.

Working on some iterations for the future new Rongo. The Rongo has a tradition of lions heads as part of their brand, so I have revisited, inspired by the original.... interestingly, the head does not reverse well (white image on black field) so I had to redraw it to have it read well reversed (the issues were particularly with the eyes and mouth where it has to be right reading and not "what's black is white and white is black" thinking. We are busy finding things to put this mark on...and I am busy creating some other heraldic type stuff for the Embassy proper. Should be effective when done.

So, this short note is a chance to say "hi". I am still bumping along...though not at 100% firepower though I had glimmers of it last night laughing hysterically with my dear dear daughter as we trolled shopgoodwill.com in the Barbie section and also commemorative plates. A hoot and a holler was heard from above. May we hear it again, real soon.

Tremble Dance

Today is National Honeybee Day. I think that is pretty spectacular, that we have a day to celebrate this community of industrious girls who work to support their Queen (albeit, this is a community with not many job discriptions or titles).  These girls are going far afield for nectar, filling their saddlebags with goods, and then bringing it back to the community while on the way, waving on the sisterhood to good places to gather more food, to ease their challenge of new fields and new destinations. Single minded determination, single minded collaboration. One cannot exist without the other. One cannot exist without each other. These bees work hard...and really do not play but exist to keep the community going, moving, steady, comfortable. Perhaps instead of happiness, there is contentment in keeping the hive stable and keeping the poor exhausted Queen in food and place to keep spawning the next generation of bees.

Think of the winters here. The bees (when they do survive) eat down their reserves of honey--feeding on quick calories to keep them swarming in the hive--surrounding their Queen, generating enough heat to keep the cold somewhat at bay, and to get through this hard season devoid of flowers, of pollen, of nectar, of living life.  My god....look at how hot they keep the hive. Think of the energy needed to keep the Queen warm enough to resume laying...Wikipedia takes my clueless understanding and takes it to a lovely process:"

From Wikipdedia: Winter survival

In cold climates, honey bees stop flying when the temperature drops below about 10 °C (50 °F) and crowd into the central area of the hive to form a "winter cluster". The worker bees huddle around the queen bee at the center of the cluster, shivering to keep the center between 27 °C (81 °F) at the start of winter (during the broodless period) and 34 °C (93 °F) once the queen resumes laying. The worker bees rotate through the cluster from the outside to the inside so that no bee gets too cold. The outside edges of the cluster stay at about 8–9 °C (46–48 °F). The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes. During winter, they consume their stored honey to produce body heat. The amount of honey consumed during the winter is a function of winter length and severity, but ranges in temperate climates from 15 to 50 kg (30 to 100 pounds).[10]

Bees are symbolic of resurrection and immortality. They have been used on heraldic crests or to represent aspects of a religion or faith. Take the beehive and bee as it relates to the Mormons, the Quintessential American religion>> see here>>

So, there is something to think about at the crest of this time of fruitful harvests, glorious sun and rain, and days to buzz, collect pollen and prepare for more difficult times ahead.