Monday, October 30, 2006

Going All Medieval

At middle school, my sixth-grade daughter took an exploratory class in medieval history. This fit in nicely with the book they're reading in language arts, Crispin: The Cross of Leadby Avi, which is set in the Middle Ages. (I used to live in Avi's attic. How weird is that?)

In class, the students worked in small groups to research different aspects of medieval life. Madaleine's group studied food. They made a nice poster detailing typical meals for nobles and peasants and set up a table with food models -- a plastic loaf of bread, crumpled purple paper grapes, a rubber chicken. All very well and good. But Madaleine decided, on her own, to find a recipe for and make a read medieval dish. What she chose was candied horseradish from a fourteenth century treatise on candymaking, Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits, translated from the Catalan by Vincent Cuenca and available on the Medieval Cookery website.

What a taste sensation! Candied horseradish is to modern candy what lapsang souchong is to tea: smoky. It doesn't have the sinus-clearing bite of fresh horseradish, but the heat remains in a taste reminiscent of campfires. (I can just imagine the castle cook looking at yet another knobby horseradish root and thinking, "What the hell am I going to make with it this time?" and then yelling at the scullery maid who knocked it into the vat of honey. "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" "No, you got peanut butter in my chocolate!" Wait, wrong century.)

Tonight my daughter finished an extra credit project, making a board game out of Crispin. It was so much fun to watch her work. And here it is. Wanna play?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Slide Show Application

Another ultra-cool free doodad, slide shows. Lots of styles, loads of fun. This one hooked right up to my flickr account. And best of all, it's free. I wonder how these people make their money?

Hope you enjoy my critter pics.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Gordy the Horse

You wouldn't know it by my life the last, oh, 25 years, but my dream is to own a horse. I was a horse-crazy teenager and never lost the love. As a kid, I couldn't coerce my parents into buying me a horse (though I certainly tried), and as an adult, I don't have the financial resources. And somehow, I've lost focus. The minutiae of everyday life has swamped the more important stuff that life is made of. The dreams.

Last week, however, my friend Amy took me horseback riding at a local dude ranch and I was able to touch my fingertips to the dream again. My steed was Gordy, a mud-speckled chestnut (it had been raining for days) with a surprisingly pleasing personality for a dude-ranch horse. He had good brakes, a responsive accelerator and reasonably good steering. The Hallowe'en decorations didn't spook him, and when told to do something displeasing (take the path away from the barn, for example), he did so with minimal (but audible) grumbling. We got along just fine.

It was a grey, cool day, perfect for a ride through woods and along soybean fields. We saw several deer almost within touching distance, hens and their chicks scratching in the leaf litter of the woods, and quite a few chopped-up corpses. (The decorations were decidedly gruesome.)

The barn was occupied by a herd of very small ponies who milled around like feral cats. When we arrived, they had breached the tack room door and were busy scattering the contents of a garbage can, nosing around for edibles.

Other critters included a workmanlike cattle dog named Roper and a teacup poodle/Yorkshire terrier cross who resembled nothing more closely than a long-haired guinea pig. He rode around in his mistress' jacket, as one hoof put wrong would have squashed him like a bug.

Thanks, Amy, for reminding me that there is more to life than cooking and cleaning and supervising homework. I needed to touch my dream again.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blue Skies of October

Last year, my local quilt store ran a monthly class making Joined at the Hip's Button-Up wall hangings. Button-Ups are 22" x 40" quilts that attach to a slightly larger quilted base with buttons and button loops. They're designed to let you switch wall hangings easily so you can put up new ones monthly, seasonally, or whenever you wish.

Although their primitive style isn't my favorite, I thought they'd be perfect for my grandmother, who can always use something to brighten her room at the nursing home.
I'm a fiddler, though, and can't leave a pattern alone. Nearly every month I've changed the pattern in some fashion, sometimes abandoning it altogether.

Their October is a Hallowe'en picture of a black cat and a pumpkin. It was nice, but I wanted fall leaves, so I fired up Electric Quilt and banged out a pattern.

Part of the fun (and an economic necessity) was working entirely from my stash. I particularly like the Japanese fan fabric:

and a fall leaf fabric that was fun to use in building a leaf block (a meta-leaf?):
Now I'm working on a November wall hanging. It's not going nearly as well, but we'll see if I can salvage it after a stupid miscalculation. (moral: always, always make a test block before cutting components for all the blocks. One never cuts the pieces too large.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Museum Worthy

My 11-year-old daughter loves to play with Photoshop. Here she took a little candy plane that my brother got at Osh Kosh, put it against a blue sky backdrop, and added little contrails. I don't have her skills, but it was fun uploading her picture to museumr, a fun little flickr toy which puts your photos in a museum setting. Wheee!