Category Archives: Beyond the Brick Wall

What’s cookin’?

Nothing. Everything. This blog is undergoing a major overhaul as I begin a new chapter or two in life. I’ve needed to separate out my felting activity into an actual website now that I’m really running that as a small business. Surprisingly, it seems to be- knock wood- successful. Classes are going well, my own personal work is developing into a process and product I feel good about and wool, fiber and supply sales are picking up. So that part of my life is moving to its own space very soon and I’ll tend to it in a more business-like fashion, with regular updates, product ordering opportunities, tutorials and lots of photos.

Here, in terms of my own stream of barely conscious ramblings, I think the transition to Asheville will refuel my interest in sharing daily news. When I look back over the five years (yup- it was official, 5 years March), it’s evolved and devolved, risen, fallen and risen again periodically along with my social energy. There’s a certain dichotomy I often feel and I’ve expressed before: I enjoy and seem to need a fair amount of alone time but there’s a regular social butterfly in here just itching to interrupt and be the center of attention. I could analyze that for you with one prevailing line (and the accompanying knuckle-rap to the head) from my earliest childhood: “Children are to be seen and not heard” but why bother? I’m done analyzing, for the most part, and I’ve moved on to scooping raptor poop, studying fiber crimp and staple length and starting garden seeds. I will also add that my interest in social networking via the internet has waned substantially as I watch the nation, fed by media slop (the equivalence of an engineered diet of toxic high fructose corn syrup?) deteriorate into mean-spirited, petty yet bloated, self-centered whiners wading about in that primordial political soup, nay, tea, roiling there in DC.  And it seems to be spilling into social networking in blogs and on facebook and I find that discouraging. People who I suspect have many redeeming qualities and are probably regular likable people are reduced to talking/writing in dangerous stereotypes and making distasteful remarks about Mrs. Obama’s physical appearance? Like we’re all so cute. That’s just an example but you know what I mean. What’s happened to people’s ability to just be polite and respectful and NICE?  Anyway, I have a crush on the current first couple and find their White House garden food fare and basketball skills endlessly fascinating. As well as the let’s all be healthy plan.So there you go. Unfriend yourself or whatever but I’m trying to move in a more positive direction.

So, speaking of being nice and starting seeds, here are the best things happening around here:

I planted about 2 dozen datil pepper seeds sent from a really super nice blog buddy of long standing. No sooner did I have them going, tucked up safely against the warmth of the back screen porch, than a busy little gray squirrel go after my efforts and tear through, oh, about 130 pots of seeds. I discovered him just as he dashed off with an heirloom white pumpkin seed, peat pot and all. So now? I have four tiny datil peppers. And I think I see one more sprouting in what was an heirloom pumpkin pot. I am now protecting them like a mother bird, along with my other seedlings. Saturday they will make the trip north to Asheville and that will mark the beginning of a new look here. Excited? I am.The four little seedlings on the right are my datils…the squirrels eat all my strawberries, too.

Speaking of bird mothering, that is going well. Our baby eagle we placed in foster care has become one of the family, falling right in with his two new sibs and getting ready to leave the nest for good. Other than the telescope crick in my neck, it was fun watching minute by literal minute, the process high up in that nest in south St. Pete. The birds at Boyd Hill are all doing well. Recently, we had Wildlife Weekend and yours truly took a bet that she could fund raise 30.00 in one half hour with nothing but a chicken. I raised nearly a 100.00. These are very tough times for charitable causes. Ask Keri or Beverly or any one of your nice blogging neighbors. Go donate 5.00 or two hours to a worthy cause and report back. If you can’t find a cause on your own, c’mon down and volunteer with me at the preserve. Donate, volunteer, add a comment and I’ll throw your name in my Tilley hat, draw a winner and send you this felted bunny. If you  don’t want the felted bunny, I’ll send you a Carolina Wren. Seriously. I’ll wait while you go do that. You have one week. You’re on the honor system here because you make your own karma.Waddles and I fund-raise for the Birds of Boyd Hill

Speaking of Dharma Karma, do those bums have good news or what? Finally! I am so happy for Robin and Roger and I’m challenging them to dueling status updates with photos as we all work on “the home of our dreams.”  Here’s wishing them some wonderful woodsy walks, interesting “pond”erings, and lots of love and peace and quiet.

LOVE and PEACE and QUIET. I’m enjoying that at the moment but we’ve had a busy week and the house has been rocking with laughter. I’m discouraged from writing about my number one child on my blog and he actually deletes the inane FB comments I leave on his page (e.g., “Daniel, I love your hat. And I’ve always loved your curly hair!” Okay, they’re not that insipid but you get the idea) but you know what? This is my blog and he’s still sound asleep so I’m taking liberties. Abby and Misha have been around all week because Dan is here and when brother and sister get together the silliness, the remembering, the happy noise- well, it is something to behold.  I’ve been so happy to have him here these past few days, after eight months. Who doesn’t see their child for eight months, for Pete’s sake? But he was on the road with NOMO and his other musical work, a hundred gigs and life was going on. Now, this minute, he is here sleeping under our roof and I am insanely content. I miss him so much when he’s there- Ann Arbor, France, Vancouver and I’m here. He brought Sarah, a smart and calm and spunky elementary school art teacher and she’s an exceptional painter, too. As in, brought her to meet his mother. (And you know how much I love me those teachers and shapers of young minds.) Here is this cute picture of them that I said I was going to post and he groaned loudly. But he is not the boss of me.Yesterday we all went out with friends into the Gulf. Curiously, although we live here surrounded by water, we haven’t been out on it very much, what with the sun thing and all, but this was a great opportunity and the weather was spectacular so I slathered on the 85 and it was grand. In this boat we went very fast and somewhat slow and we meandered and raced about, in amongst birds and dolphins and mullet.And then when we got back to the dock we saw this fellow and we watched him for quite a long time. I wondered if he/she was just a tot because it’s quite small, I think.

Abigail thrives. She is almost done recruiting Hispanics for Big Brother the Census (that was a joke via Robin on FB. We like the census. As Abby says, “Usted cuenta. Cuento. Todos contamos.”). Then she will move into some other supervisory position or other and this has been a good temporary job for her as she plans her future.  She’s still waiting for her big news that I alluded to (and she said, “Mom! Everyone is going to think I’m pregnant!” which she is not and it’s not really such a big deal except I am always overly proud of my children so you know. I get weird. Abby has applied for doctoral studies at a very prestigious environmental college at a prominent university (I believe they excel in basketball, too) and they want her very much because she is so impossibly delightful actively continuing her research on sustainable coastal ecology as is a professor there that she would love to work with. She is what they call an active candidate but she and they are waiting on funding. And mega grants that provide 5 years of funding (at approximately a quarter million dollars/candidate) are hard to come by, especially now. While that is all pending she is working on plan B, which involves another year interviewing rural fishers along the Yucatan peninsula and that, of course, makes me nervous because there are disease carrying mosquitoes and deep dark diving caves that she tends to fling herself into but she will do whatever she is going to do just fine, without my input, because I am not the boss of her you know.

Rich is fine and busy and doing more traveling recently. He went off to do some research related to children’s television programming and came back with what I refer to as Yo Dumpa Lumpa fever (most of you are way too old to understand this malapropism), seeing as how it was an all new germ pool. And then he gave it to me. And that has been aggravated by 4 standing inches of live oak pollen. Swear to God, Florida has it’s issues. The cats have turned yellow there’s so much of it and I sound as though I’ve been smoking 3 packs a day forever when I never. Well, one time, when I was 16 but I dropped an ash and it melted my bright yellow Twiggy-like styrofoam dress that was all the rage in the mid-60s. Right in my lap, melted the dress. I was on a first date, too and trying to look cool so that backfired in a big way and I quit. Anyway, I’ve been endlessly hacking but I can’t complain because I am healthier than most.

I made a friend recently who hasn’t had good health fortune the last couple years and this friendship feels like something special. This woman lives in NC, right next to a university with a great environmental program and a good basketball team- and great oncologists to care for her.  By some small miracle, since I so rarely update here, she found me and expressed an interest in felting classes. And since sometimes life is short, she was ready to hop on a plane and fly down here for a workshop I was teaching on felted bead jewelry. It was over Grand Prix weekend here in St. Petersburg so there weren’t any hotel rooms and I invited her to stay with us (with just a touch of the same trepidation I felt when I volunteered to push Hoss around Las Vegas for a blogging convention). Well, we had a wonderful time and I’m feeling very lucky to have such a fine new friend and opportunity. We will see more of each other when I’m in North Carolina.

And so, when next you hear from me it will be with photos and more photos of the mountain home under construction. Despite sucky weather, progress has been made and I’m going up next week to supervise plant my garden and make more decisions. I love my builder- he’s taken a deserved week vacation with his family but set up a web cam at the house so he can supervise from a distance. He’ll be back next week, too and I figure we’ll drive each other nuts sorting out budgets and details. Or at least I’l drive him nuts. He’s pretty easy-going.

Phew! Nothing for weeks and now this. Sorry. I have a bit of a buzz going since another really really nice person gave us crack* for Easter and I’m just today finishing it up. Really. She rang the bell an hour before the kids arrived from Michigan and dropped off a whole pie plate of it. I guess she figured, quite correctly, that an extra treat while Dan’s here would be nice. And now that I’ve written this, I’m not feeling so negatively about the online social network.


Makes two 10-inch pies

• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
• 1/2 cup light-brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
• 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup light-brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons milk powder
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
• 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 8 large egg yolks
• Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Make the oat cookie: Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all oat cookie ingredients until well combined. Spread cookie mixture in an even layer on prepared baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack.
3. Make the crust: Using your hands, crumble oat cookie into a large bowl. Add butter, brown sugar, and salt; using your hands, toss until crumbly and well combined.
4. Divide mixture evenly between two 10-inch pie plates; pat into bottom and up sides. Set aside.
5. Make the filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, salt, and milk powder, breaking up any lumps. Whisk in butter, heavy cream, and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in yolks until just combined.
6. Pour filling into prepared pie crusts. Transfer pies to oven and bake until filling is set, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 315 degrees and continue baking until top of pie is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Transfer to refrigerator and refrigerate until cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.


perfect day


I think I’m about to hit the sack here, before 8pm. That’s kind of embarrassing but it’s been a fiendish week, work wise. I’m trying to remember how I used to run a fulltime private practice, raise two children, take care of a home, half acre yard and garden, see friends, go out to Wit’s End and mind the cottage duties there. This week I began teaching regular classes at Morian Art Center, taught a workshop yesterday, tended the owls, hawks, vultures and eagle, exercised and went to yoga, spent some time with friends and daughter, felted pumpkins and penquins, began design on a major piece. (The art gallery wants one focal item that no one can necessarily afford but catches attention and I’ve been wanting to work on a door size panel in any case.) The house went to hell in a handbasket- that goes for pretty much everything in the yard as well.

Nevertheless, Rich and I had set aside today for each other and a Sunday drive around. He was on the road for business this week too so we were just passing in the night more than usual. (We do this literally, as we take turns using the bathroom at 3 am. We mutter, “uum uv oo ni” at each other and that’s bout it.) So before we turn into one of those couples who have nothing to say to each other, we took off early, had a beautiful day and talked a lot. We drove north to Crystal River and then over to Rainbow Springs, where we went swimming and hiked around.RBS-RainbowRiverOverlook-ElissaMotter

Then we drove over to just north of Ocala to Rosas Farm to see what was new; they opened up especially for us around 430. We found a couple of delectable cheeses plus some enormous wild caught whole shrimp- they’re about 6 inches long and fat with googly eyes still on. On the way home we stopped at the Blue Samurai in Tampa and had sushi and sake. Then we drove home, got out of the car, gathered our belongings, stood up and there was this sky. The one at the top of the post. And now I’m going to bed before I wake up from such a dreamy day. Good night.

wordless wednesday wings, waterfalls, wool

peacock butt(Some guys look almost as good going as they do coming)dragon(The colors Mother Nature comes up with!)green(another from Rainbow Springs State Park. )white wool(Getting ready for the BCMA Beach and Fiber Festival Retreat. From this…)orange(…to this. The first steps in a long process. More on Marion and  wool rug design tomorrow.)

Life in a box

Just a very brief note before Rich returns all the cable equipment. I have this fantasy that tomorrow, with nothing to do and no place to go, I’ll be able to come around and visit you and actually comment. I’m really going to try.

At this moment, our great moving crew is halfway through loading, Rich is charging up the Kindle for his drive south and I am making sure I have what I need to last for a few days as I head north to help Bud right after the closing on Friday morning. Tomorrow the house is empty, Rich is gone and I will be taking a day of R&R, buying a couple good books, knitting and putzing on the the laptap. My good friends and neighbors will be hosting me.

I wanted to come by now just to say a couple words about Bud because so many of you have been kind and concerned beyond belief and we are so grateful. He is leaving Marquette Hospital, not for Lost Loon Lodge, but to extended rehabilitation in a very fine (we hope) facility right near sister Laurel. The path from hospital to this new place is your classic elder care nightmare, wrestling with red tape endlessly and Laurie is the champion there, but now we have a plan.

Bud has had a rough go of it with many confused and weak, sleepy days. We were sort of gloomy about his prospects for a while there but yesterday he did a 180 and perked up dramatically. We think this is tied to the fact that they re-cultured and discovered a secondary, underlying kidney infection and threw him on Cipro. Whatever it was, he was actually up, walking with assistance and clearly with the program of going to extended care, if only “to get better and get the hell out of these rehab places.” We don’t know if that will happen but that feisty declaration was music to our ears.

I’ll rent a car and meet them all upon arrival in Oshkosh and we’ll make sure the staff knows we are on the job as we get Bud settled in. He has his “mom’s sweater blanket” I made at Christmas time, his digital picture frame and we’re going to set him up on his computer to receive e-mail. The best thing is that Laurel (have I said “bless her little heart” enough yet?) took in those decrepit cats, Robert and Jane, so they will also be close at hand. It’s time for pet payback. Although they are surely in a state after being alone, being driven hundreds of miles and being chucked into a new home with a large enthusiastic lab mix (named, no kidding FC, Bear and I’ll take a pix for you over the weekend…) they are also going to do nursing home duty. I’m taking a spare cat taxi with me and we’ll schlep those hapless beasts up for a visit to Bud on Sunday.

So, that’s it for today and I promise, sincerely, to spend some time catching up with you tomorrow. Thank you again for all the e-mail, cards,photos and good wishes you’ve sent. They’ve made a world of difference and remind me again that there is much love out there, even among strangers.