Saturday, December 31, 2016

LAW 114: End of the Year, Early Morning Thoughts

New Year's Eve, and one of the most often repeated memes on Facebook is about staying up until midnight this year, just to make sure 2016 really does die. I can sympathize with the feeling, but most surely will not be awake at midnight. I am an early morning riser, even now in the dead of winter i am often up, if not before the sun, with it. I've gotten some beautiful pictures that way.

last sunrise through the stern window

One of the very best things about living on the water, in my mind, is the quiet time i spend every morning with my first cup of coffee watching the light change on the water and shore line.
Last sunrise of 2016 from front deck

In spring and summer it is the verdant greens of the trees filling the air with growth. In the fall, the vibrant colors of change fill my eyes, and in winter the stark beauty of bare tree limbs outlined against a cold gray sky fill my heart with hope that the cycle will, inevitably, turn again.
Fog on the river

Summer hike 2016

fall 2016

Until next year, when we will assuredly meet again i hope that you, those you hold dear, and the entire world experience peace, joy, and love in your lives.

Duck tracks off the stern in ice and snow from our first winter

More later,

Oh ya, what's a blog post with out a cat picture? Happy New Year from Magellan, ship's cat extraordinaire, as well as awesome personal embroidery assistant. The proof is in the picture.

He's so much help!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

LAW 113: Wishing You a Wonderful Christmas Eve, and Why I Love Cabbage, Stuffed.

The above sentiment may sound odd in its juxtaposition, but trust me, it works. The last night before serious eating and celebration starts seems a fitting time to have a very hearty, healthy and homey sort of dish and tonight's meal fits all the above in spades. The origin of this dish is German, i first came across it many, many, many years ago in my first copy of The Joy of Cooking. I don't even know the actual name, and no longer have a copy of Joy, but i have cooked it faithfully for decades. One of the things that appealed to me the most when i first read the recipe was the multiple variations already listed for me.
Assembling the dumpling

Yes, this one is a little bit more work than the average weeknight one pot meal, but...... it is worth it.
So the basics are, cabbage, duh! Preferably a whole head, but hey, use what you've got, i had a large half left from the night before. A protein of some ilk, usually ground pork, or beef, or turkey, or......
a starch, recommendations from the original recipe include, split peas, rice, bread crumbs, pretty much anything you can think of. Over the years i have modified the recipe to be more "Paleo" friendly by cutting the amount of meat in half and substituting diced mushrooms for the missing meat. Last night i added a minced shallot, because i had some. I used a mixture of ground fennel, black pepper and coriander seeds that i had at hand for seasoning, and added some caraway seeds just because it was cabbage, and a touch of thyme. Mix all these ingredients together, last night i used leftover biscuits that i had made for breakfast and set aside.
Putting the cap on the cabbage

Bundle it up nice and warm!

Bring a large pot of water to boil,  you are going to be dipping the hunk of cabbage you have into the boiling water to loosen individual leaves of cabbage. Make sure you completely cut out the core so it separates easily.
Ready for a little hot water bath

Next you need to line a bowl with a clean cotton towel and line the towel with a couple of layers of overlapping cabbage leaves, make sure you build it all the way up the sides. In goes your filling. Gently moosh it around so it fills the entire cavity and smooth of the top. Finish it all off by layering a cap on the cabbage. Gently gather up the ends of the towel and bring them together. Using either string or a large rubber band secure the ends. Don't get it too tight as the dumpling will expand as it cooks. Into the pot it goes, cover it with water bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for at least 30 minutes, maybe as much as 45. This depends mainly on what starch you used. Peas of course will take the longest.
I know, it looks like a lot of onions, but trust me.

Just a touch of nutmeg.

While you are waiting for the dumpling to cook, slice up 2 or 3 onions and saute them in a mix of butter and olive oil. You do not want to caramelize them, just cook them until tender. toss in some chopped garlic, make a roux and add the stock of your choice, maybe a little white wine, stirring until you get a nice creamy, aromatic sauce. Season to taste with a little black pepper. I usually add a touch of fresh grated nutmeg.
Careful, it is very hot!

Too hot to touch!

Carefully fish the dumpling out of the simmering water bath, drain, unwrap and serve. I usually cut this into quarters. Technically it will serve four people. Yup, that's right. Enjoy.

Make sure to divide it evenly.

Yum, yum, and the plate is from Clay Lick Studio

More later,
Morgainne, aka Gail

PS, Bizarre but true, Magellan has developed a taste for good Italian white wine. Hmm.

Friday, December 16, 2016

LAW 112: December Update

Good morning, yes the first thing i must say is it is oh so cold here on the river. We woke up to a thin scrim of ice on the water. Brrrrrrrr!!!!! Ah, but that was not meant to be my topic of the day. Rather i thought i would talk about making art and progress.

With the weather turned cold most of the boats are out of the water. We rarely see anyone other than the or neighbors, there are about five full time live aboard boats here, and of course the Marina owners and workers. For everyone here it is a time of turning in, of introspection. A time to light the candles early and finish all those projects that summer playtime interfered with.

I have finished the letters of my NorthWindsABCdarium. I am still contemplating just exactly what i am going to do with the covers. Specifically how the book title is going to be applied, the covers themselves are done. I'm torn between a clean looking collaged text and illustrating them after the fashion of the individual letters. Still thinking there.

The last letter!

I finally pulled out my UpTown/DownTown book project, determined to finish it of. I had been very close to finishing it when i put it away(longer ago than i care to admit). After a couple of days of work i have finished the last collage elements and, once more only have to do the covers and some tidying up.
Black and White side of UpTown/DownTown

I have to admit that i really like working with the accordion format, although as you can see it can pose a problem for documentation. UpTown/DownTown is the first shaped accordion book i've done. The individual panels can measure as much as 6" tall and are 3" wide, with one panel extended to 8". I do not remember what the original paper size was, but i cut at least three accordions to give the impression of a sky line. There are 19 individual two sided panels, so the extended length would be 57". I'll have to figure out how to create a panorama shot so you can see the entire thing.
Color side of UpTown/DownTown

I've been spending as much time as my fingers will take working on my firebird embroidery piece. I just finished the 6th feather in the tail this morning, which means, yea! i am half done with that part.
Firebird progress shot

Soon the longest night will be past and we will be experiencing the return of the light, and warmth. The wheel always turns. Sometimes it feels more slowly than others.

detail of the tail feathers

Enjoy the season of celebration. Be good to each other.

More later,
Morgainne, aka gail

Saturday, November 26, 2016

LAW 111: More new book projects.

One of the really cool and interesting things that came out of my participation in the Daisy Yellow ICAD 2016 challenge is my re-found interest in drawing. If you are not familiar with Daisy Yellow it is a participatory internet art group moderated by Tammy Garcia, among others. ICAD is a 60 day long make art a day challenge made on index cards. I really did not do much drawing for the challenge itself, but the idea stuck in the back of my head. By the end of August and by August Kalends project i was ready to leave collage alone for awhile and focus on some other media.

Display view of side one

the first two books of this series were in essence zen doodle meditations that were serial in nature. The first, Zen Doodle is a zigzag accordion book. The paper i used,  mixed media Canson 98#, was first used as a "drop cloth"  when we antiqued the grill that went on to become one of two new port holes on our boat. I than cut and formed the book block. I treated each of the pages of the form as a separate drawing(i did one a day) and as part of the overall composition of the book. I played off  the underlying imagery formed by the stencil effect. In essence i had a mandala that i was able to play off from. The second side has a little bleed through, but not enough to create patterning off it. So i simply played with line and connections on this side.

Side two, complete and hanging.

This book can be read as a book, when folded, or can be displayed on the wall as a drawing. The book when open is 14 x 17". The individual 'pages' are 3.5 x 4.25". There are 16 pages per side, with two serving as covers for the book.

The second book of this series, Autumn Moons, is a 'straight' accordion book. A strip of the same Canson paper was painted, than folded into an accordion. The individual pages are 7 x 43/8", with six panels per side plus covers. I used the same circle mandala to start each drawing, the moon of the title. Each drawing was completed in one day, and each informed the other in terms of pattern.

Book cover, and inside shot

I approached these two books as a journal project. I gave myself guidelines to work off from, than allowed my pen, my mind and my emotions to take me where they would. I worked on these two pieces pretty much every day during September and October.

Green side, panel 2 detail
Red side, long shot

More later,
Morgainne (that would be me, Gail)

Friday, November 11, 2016

LAW 110: Another Day in Paradise

Finally the fall color here on the Middle River is approaching it's peak. I've been seeing gorgeous photos of fall color from a lot of you. Finally i can share some of the beauty i am blessed with everyday, as all of this is literally my front and back 'yard', so to speak.

From the end of my dock, looking across the river

We have been experiencing glorious fall weather, cool, crisp nights. Just cold enough to warrant a fire at night and before breakfast. We so do not miss the odor of the kerosene heater; although i will admit that it was a good little heater. The days have been warmer than usual for mid November, most afternoons are pleasant enough to spend a little time under the drinking trees.

The view from the drinking tree

Magellan, our valiant ship's cat wants to go on record as being in firm opposition to the end of daylight savings time. He generally is not allowed outside after dark, and is in not so quiet rebellion over what he sees as unrighteous lockdown measures instituted by his shipmates. He is currently protesting his illegal detention by conducting sit-down protests in his litter box.

Magellan as figurehead on one of his many boats

Our second round of home made apple cider this season is very tasty. Perhaps the best yet. It actually was a Ciser, or Cyser, just a fancy way of saying, cider with some other fruit, in this case, strawberries from this summer that we had picked and frozen.

Yum yum Strawberry Apple Cyser

The election? Wow! I'm still processing what happened. We were at our local grocery this morning, i was amazed by the rancor, loud and boisterous from shoppers and employees on both sides . Obviously  we all need  a little more time and distance on this. Let's all make an effort to be nicer to everyone, okay?

Yeah me i voted.

More later,
Morgainne, that would be me, gail

Sunday, November 6, 2016

LAW 109: Pollacking and ABCdariums

NorthWind ABCdarium is my newest daily book/journal project. My husband and i 'pollacked' a 22 x 30" piece of unknown watercolor paper. 'Pollacking', a term my gallery mates came up with in reference to the paint style we used on the industrial grade, incredibly ugly grey carpet installed in our gallery when we rented it. We were afraid to see what was underneath it. Yes, it was a lot of fun splashing paint on the floor, yes, we got quite a bit on ourselves as well. You can really develop beautiful color and layering with spatter painting. This project is the NorthWind ABCdarium because we took the paper and premixed paint out to the end of our dock as there was no room in my studio for fun and games like this, it was a beautiful bright sunny and windy day. I can see the strong influence of the north wind in the paint patterns.

Action painting on the dock!

To create the body of the book i folded the paper first in half, then in quarters lengthwise; creating strips 30 x 51/2" long. Two of the strips were than folded into eight panel accordions, which were than overlapped and glued in the middle. This construction gave me a two sided, 28 panel accordion book plus cover flaps. Plenty of room for an alphabet book.

Not a bad studio space, hey?

The individual panels are 5 1/2 x 3 3/4", the background a very thinned liquid craft acrylic paint which was purchased for another project and languishing in dark hole storage in my studio. Since this is another variation of zen doodling i made the decision that an important 'constant' would be the size and shape of the letters. I've used the idea of the circle/mandala for the last two books, it felt right to branch out into other shapes. I toyed with the idea of using a commercial stencil, but rejected all the ones i have to hand as too mechanical as well as too small. So i sat down and started designing my own font.

I had to fold the paper on my studio floor!

A very side note to font design: as a teenager, quite some time ago i was a cheerleader. Needless to say, back in the Stone Age we had no cool tools to help us create our spirit signs. I became my squad's de facto font designer/sign writer. Then as now i utilized the whole design process, hated by all design students, thumbnails, rough sketches and drafts to final project. Since i was overlaying the letter onto a painted surface i really, really did not want to sketch onto that surface. Rather i wanted a smooth one line mark. So, in essence i have created my own font, and turned them into stencils. 

Progress with stencils

The process of the ink drawing feels far more decorative than the circle books. Part of the process has to be grounded in the recognition of each letter. With the circles i was much freer to simply go where the line took me. Both practices have positive and negative elements. Even though i have only finished four letters so far i feel a definite lack of spontaneity.

So, i think that the separate letter panels are all pretty self explanatory, right? If not, i guess it might just be time to go back to grade school. I'll post more of these every few days, along with progress shots.

More later,
Morgainne, aka Gail

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

LAW 108: Blessed Samhain, or what the h… is Halloween?

Just a quick note or two. When i realize how long i have been thinking about writing another blog entry, but actually not doing it, i realize just how wrong some of my fellow employees where when i announced my retirement. "Ooh, you'll be bored! You'll be back to work in no time".

Mr & Mrs Anonymous ready to party!

Well, on some levels they were right, not on the boredom front, never that! But work? Well, there is still never enough time in the day to touch every project that i am working on, much less house(boat)work.

View from the fire pit

Any how, Hallows is come and gone, there was a small, very pleasant party Saturday at the marina. The new fire pit is functional, the weather unbelievably beautiful, the food beyond drool worthy, and thank the gods, election 2016 is indeed almost over.

Samhain dock side altar

I'll post some really yummy fish dishes that we've had real soon now. I promise.

Mungo was not surprised at Flippy the Flounder's choice.

But for now: now is the time to look inward. To sit quietly in the dark, to review the choices we made in this past year, embrace our mistakes and forgive them. Now we have weeks of quiet, calm, dark solitude. We should all use it to recharge our bodies and spirits.

More later,

Monday, October 24, 2016

LAW 107; A love affair with cauliflower

Cauliflower has always been one of my favorite veggies, raw or cooked i say bring it on. It is an incredibly versatile player in the culinary games; stew it, fry it, grill it, puree it, bake it, roast it. The list of styles and ethnicities of the humble cauliflower goes on and on.

Last night's entry into the cauliflower sweepstakes will certainly becomes a staple dish here on the Floating Empire. So simple, so delicious; stovetop roasted Cauliflower. Yum, yum, yum. I'm sorry i honestly do not remember which Facebook feed i tracked this down from. When i asked Dr. Google he came up with many variations, but not the site that i remember.

Regardless, it is simplicity it self, and i will share it with you. What you need: a cauliflower, approximately 3 TB of butter, sea salt, fresh sprig of thyme or rosemary, a couple of Tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a stove top safe deep dish pan with lid, preferably of course good cast iron.

Trim the cauliflower in the normal fashion, taking care to slice the bottom end so that it can set evenly in the pan. Melt the butter, throw in the herb, sprinkle the cauliflower with salt, cover, turn the heat down to low/medium low and walk away for at least 25 minutes, perhaps as much as 35. I would err on the side of less time than more. At this point the bottom of the cauliflower will be completely caramelized and smell unbelievably good. The cauliflower is likely completely tender at this point. Carefully flip up over, cover and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. All you are doing here is adding a nice brown crust to the top. Gently flip back right side up onto a pretty serving platter. Deglaze the pan with a couple of TB of red wine vinegar, reduce and serve over the cauliflower. The site i got this from recommended serving it with a Hazelnut Gremolata, which i made, blithely substituting for everything i did not have, which was pretty much everything in the recipe. It was still recognizable, but of a slightly different species. Honestly i won't go to the trouble the next time i make this, it was simply to good naked.

Although we did indeed consume the entire head of cauliflower between the two of us, it wasn't the only thing on the menu. Our good buddy Justin, fish monger extraordinare of Geresbeck's fame brought in some whole red snapper the other day. This is not an ordinary event and of course we immediately decided that we would feast on red snapper. Since the weekend was incredibly windy we opted to bake it in parchment, Spanish style. Stuffed with lots of lemon slices, shallots, fresh thyme and stuffed green olives. I bedded it in a puddle of tomato sauce, and topped it with a little more. This, in lieu of our first choice, grilling over an open fire. It was good, but nothing beats whole fish on the grill.

We raved about the cauliflower all night long, it was great, it's not often that a vegetable side dish will completely eclipse a really good entree.

More later

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

LAW 106: Dinner anyone?

One of things that fall means if you live on the Chesapeake Bay is the change of emphasis on just which shelled sea creature will grace your dinner table. The tide and the seasons swing inexorably  in a great circle and our dinner plates here reflect that.

In spring we gear up for crab season, waiting impatiently for those tasty little spiders of the sea. Oh but way before summer is over i, at least, start seriously jonesing for oysters. September rolls around, technically it is the start of Oyster Season, but alas, the water is still to warm and the crabs are still abundant.

This past Saturday that all changed. A slipmate came knocking on our door with the offer of fresh caught oysters. We didn't say no! So armed with a bucket full of oysters they had plucked from the Kent Narrows that morning we prepared for an evening of epicurean gluttony.

Venus, oops, i mean Oysters on the half shell

Evidence! This is round one from Saturday evening. As you can see we enjoy our condiments with our oysters, but let me tell you, they were so wonderfully fresh and briny that we mostly just ate them naked. Surprisingly we were incapable of eating all of them Saturday night. We shared the last dozen or so Sunday afternoon with friends and family here in the marina.

Last night we finally got around to grilling the Black Sea Bass that we had been given. Have i ever mentioned that people in marina's take care of each other? We do. Any way the sea bass was a gift from our local fishmonger. He was passing on the bounty as it had been gifted to him.

Yum yum. Fresh sea bass, stuffed with garlic, sea salt, olive oil and fresh herbs grilled over hickory. Oh my, heaven; not to mention the butternut squash, also roasted over hickory and broccoli with garlic, shallots oyster sauce, ginger and yellow bean paste.

Yes of course there were bones! A finger lickin experience.

Somehow we refrained from eating everything in sight. The squash was really big. With astonishing foresight i cut the halves into half. Roasting it all, buy saving the cups for breakfast.

Into the pan!

Anyone for 'poached' fresh eggs? Yes, free range, yes, also a gift from another slip mate. Anyway, eggs and squash Not a bad way to start the day.

Ready to dig in.

Hmmm, maybe we should all just forget about money and live in a gift economy.

For dessert a shot of the Super moon of the other night.

Night shots are so difficult and the moon comes up so fast.

More later,