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Archive for November, 2010

More Trees?

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Life in the Neighborhood
The neighbor across our street has a tiny lot, with a tinier house. The house is just a little bigger than his garage.

He’s a quiet neighbor and he is really into maintaining his yard. In fact, he’s the guy I photographed on a warm day a few years ago, using his snowblower on a dry sidewalk. The guy is not lazy!

Though he has lived across from us for several years, I don’t know him at all. He tends to wear something on his head outdoors which is either full-sized music headphones or industrial-quality ear protection. You can see them peeking out in the above photo behind a leaf, if you look carefully. The dark shadowy bit is not his hair, it’s his ear covers.

He has a very well-behaved dog. Even when he walked the dog past me on my sidewalk, he was wearing the ear covers so we didn’t chat (while my friend was petting his dog). I am guessing he likes quiet.

Quiet Neighbors are an Asset

I’m not judging him, just observing. He’s a great neighbor. The people in that house before him, over and over, were loud and difficult to ignore. He’s a great asset to the serenity of our corner. I’m glad he lives there.

I’m a bit eccentric myself (painted my house trim lavender and salmon in a neighborhood where you can find 5 or 6 white houses in a row). If you do not conform, nobody bothers you in this neighborhood. I love it that way. It is not true in all Lansing neighborhoods.

Trees, Abundant Trees!

Apparently living on a corner lot is a bit public for this gentleman. Either that, or he is really into planting things; perhaps trees are his passion.

tree house

For whatever reason, the lot now looks a bit like an immature forest. We were under the impression many months ago that it was impossible to fit more plants on his lot. Then in late summer, he added a large number of decorative grasses, between fence and sidewalk.

More Trees!

Last week I was on our porch. I spotted the green of landscaping plastic. He had purchased at least 6 more trees, all of them taller than me.

What an industrious guy he is! That sounds like back-breaking labor to me. (In the photo below, I’ve intensified the color of the green plastic root bags so you can see them in the forest.)


I do wonder how he will find places to plant them all.

Riverwalk Theatre Tonight: Fabulous Heftones & More

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Tonight (Saturday), Brian and I are singing as The Fabulous Heftones at Riverwalk Theatre, downtown Lansing. I am honored and excited to be part of this event.

When I was first divorced (1991) I had a need to be creative. I had not done musical theatre in about 16 years. Dancing and singing make me feel whole! I was in Pippin, and a few years later in West Side Story.

In many cities, if they don’t know you, it’s very hard to be cast. In Lansing, I showed up, did a good audition, and was chosen for the show. I’m grateful that this town is open to newcomers. I loved my experiences at Riverwalk.

Tonight we help support Riverwalk Theatre, I’m delighted. Please consider joining us.

Riverwalk Saturday Night
Saturday, November 13th 8 PM

A musical variety fundraiser for the theatre
Featuring Singers and Songwriters:

Gretchen Goodrich-Gleason
Larissa Gleason-Clark
“The Fabulous Heftones” (Lynn Hershberger and Brian Hefferan)
Tom Heideman
Mary Koenigsknecht
Poet / Author: David James
Classical Guitarist: Roger Humphrey
Violinist: Isoa Chapman

$10 suggested donation. All proceeds to the Riverwalk Theatre
Riverwalk Theatre 228 Museum Dr., Lansing, MI
www.riverwalktheatre.com 482-5700

Dessert Booklet, Gluten/Allergy-Free, in Process!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Food as Art

ColorJoy, for me, is an expression of all types of creativity and artfulness. I started this blog almost 8 years ago. Much has changed, but never my enthusiasm for acknowledging artforms which are under-celebrated.

In France, it is accepted that food can be art. In the USA, where we more often choose food for speed or price, we rarely celebrate excellent cooking as I think it could be.

My friend Altu, who owns an Ethiopian-food restaurant in East Lansing, Michigan, is an artist with flavor (and with relationship). I wish more folks could see this as the true art I know it to be.

The Reluctant Baker

I never enjoyed cooking much. Baking was a bit better, because it was optional. I only baked when I chose to do so.

Domestic obligation (cooking meals) rarely inspired me to create with flair or joy. Fortunately, there are some excellent family-run restaurants in Lansing, and I was able to get quality food on the days I did not feel inspired to cook for myself.

First Experiments

Then in 1991, I became clear that eating yeast/bread and aged foods (cheese, yogurt, vinegar) made me function poorly. For me, eating those foods guaranteed me a day of feeling foggy in the brain. Once I realized the cause and effect of that food connection, I gave up those foods.

The result of that choice (and the resulting improved life I experienced) meant that I started to make some foods for myself. I started with simple baking, such as drop biscuits.

At that time I could still eat corn, and I made a pumpkin cornbread (sweetened with applesauce) which was a hit at every gathering. I started learning how to substitute ingredients (the cornbread originally called for sugar to sweeten it and sour cream to stick it together-applesauce substituted for both).

Continuing Journey

Over time I have discovered more foods that hinder me. The list is remarkably long these days,* and I can barely find a restaurant where I can eat comfortably. I make most of my meals at home now, it is just easier than trying and then getting sick.

It seems I meet a new person fighting related issues at least once a month. Each person struggles with what they *can* eat. Health care professionals mostly tell you what *not* to eat, and leave you hanging.

This Artist in the Kitchen

I have learned a lot about alternative grains/flours, in particular. I learned how to bake without milk/dairy products, without eggs, corn or wheat, tree nuts or peanuts, potato, xanthan gum, most fruits, and many seasonings.

I feel fortunate that I still can have sugar. I’m lucky that I have enough time and resources to find good ingredients and spend evenings experimenting with baked goods.

Frustration before Triumph

Good pancakes took about a dozen unsatisfactory tries before I found a combination I liked. It took me 6 months to make an acceptable pumpkin pie filling without dairy or egg. It took several years to figure out chewy brownies.

Many other food-challenged folk  just do not have that amount of time or patience to stick it out. Baking is really a science as well as an art. It is truly a skill I have developed over years.

My Goal: a Holiday Dessert Booklet

I realize that we are coming upon holiday season and there are a lot of folks who also struggle with food restrictions. I have developed about a dozen recipes for comforting desserts which might help them get through in a healthy way. Some of them are on this blog in my Recipes Category,  some are new versions of those goodies, and some are new.

It would make me very happy to help other food-challenged folks get through a rough season. My work over time can help them when they need it most. I’m working on it right now.

Keeping Home Bakers in Mind

My idea is to format the recipes for a standard home printer. This would make it easier for you to print out just one page, for one recipe. I know that printing any blog format means too much ink wasted and a frustrating layout on the printed page.

I believe that there are many who will celebrate finding this information. I want to make holidays better for other people suffering from food sensitivities, celiac /gluten intolerance, and those who choose a vegan lifestyle. It excites me to help those people with my hard-earned knowledge.

Current Status

I have recipes ready to format. I’m still playing around to get an even more satisfying pie crust (Brian is enjoying the experiments) but everything else has been tested many times.

About a dozen recipes are ready to be typed into the desired format. I’m not sure how long this will take.

Mom’s books took years longer than expected, but I have learned skills during that process, and I am not dealing with an outside print house. The only way to know, is to dive in.

You will hear from me as soon as I have a better sense of where I stand. I know others are in need of this information!

* For the intensely curious, my own restrictions (may be Too Much Information/TMI for many):

  • Foods I can not eat right now: Corn (including all corn products such as modified food starch, corn syrup), Yeast/mold foods (bread, cheese, yogurt, vinegar), xanthan gum, tree nuts, raw or partially-cooked eggs, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, most fruits, most fish.
  • Foods I avoid eating at home, occasionally eat in restaurants in small doses: wheat, potato, bell pepper/chili peppers.
  • Foods I once could not eat and now don’t bother me: Fully-cooked eggs, un-cultured dairy (milk, whipping cream, butter).
  • Food I can eat if fully cooked, but not raw: Apples, eggs.
  • Fruits I *can* eat safely: strawberries, sweet cherries, cranberries/lingonberries, grapefruit, small amounts of other citrus.

Peek at Developing Shawl Design

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

This design is developing slowly… as crystals of sugar take time to become rock candy. She’s just as sweet as candy, though. Isn’t she beautiful?
zigshawl in development

I have two lovely test/sample knitters waiting for my draft instructions. One set of yarns is purchased, the other set still awaits selection.

I will both chart out the zig/eyelet patterns, and write the instructions in text. Yes, I am rather mean to myself at times, but I know folks who knit it will appreciate the choice.

I am clear now that I was on the right path. The fussing and agonizing over the eyelet rows and what followed them, really did produce a design I can be proud of.  After all, my designs have my name (and my photo) on them. I must stand tall when they are finished!

(The white alpaca/silk shawl peeking out underneath is a circular shawl called “Peace of My Mind.” It was designed, knit, and gifted to me by Allison Jeppson Hyde. I wear this shawl often. The shape is fabulous and was the inspiration for the shape of my own developing design.

Alison’s shawl design is included in her wonderful book of circular lace shawls, “Wrapped in Comfort.” Each shawl is accompanied by one of Alison’s great stories.

Follow her blog at http://SpinDyeKnit.com for a wonderful steady stream of stories, knitting and otherwise.)

Spring? Autumn? Color!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

october riverwalk

Lately I have been october dandelionsreally taking in the beautiful colors of Autumn. The leaves on the trees are lovely, and the individual maple leaves on the ground hold just as much magic for me this year as they did when I was a child.

On my weekly walks with friend Cynthia, we notice each week how the colors and trees change. I took the photo above about 2 weeks ago, mid-October.

We have had frost a few days in the last week here in Lansing. In spite of that, I keep seeing signs of spring activity in nature. I even have seen two mosquitoes in the last week.

My two remaining tomato plants kept flowering until I brought them into the mud porch which is not heated. I finally cut off the blooms a week ago, to give the still-green fruit more plant energy. I was able to harvest 3 red fruits since then, and there is one more on its way to ripeness, thanks to that slightly-protected area.

october violetWe also are seeing wildflowers lately, types which we normally see in spring and summer. There has been a series of dandelions blossoming in my driveway. We have seen a good scattering of wild violets in the side yard as well, and a geranium has a few small pink bits peeking out. It is rather wonderful to see nature working like crazy at a last chance to reproduce before winter arrives.

I had to scrape frost off my car today. That was not the first frost, but the first I saw with my own eyes. I will celebrate the color I can find, as long as there is not snow covering it!

october leaves