At the end of the block on the corner there's a garden planted on the edge of the road. It's tucked between the street and a stockade fence. It's so small, and jammed into such a small space, it seems more than a garden. It's a declaration. A fertile sign of determination and grit.
Someone wanted a garden and they were not to be deterred.
They wanted to grow peas, and tomatoes, and peppers. We know that's what's growing because they impaled the empty seed packets on sticks to mark what was in the ground. And we've watch them grow for weeks now.
There's a tradition in New England ... peas and salmon on the Fourth of July. Why? The salmon swim upstream this time of year, just when the peas begin to sprout.
I'm not sure the neighbors will pair salmon with their peas, but the garden's bounty is proof there's plenty to be savored when the seed of determination is planted.
This month there will be no excuses.
It's Anti-boredom Month and we've got adventures to find and things to do.
Are you a chess player, a model boat builder, Scrabble star, space explorer? Yes? Good for you. I'm not, but by the end of the month, they may be hobbies I can call my own.
It can be scary to start something new, but really, doing little more than binge watching your favorite streaming service or scrolling through your phone for hours gets boring. And boring is, well boring. And a bit depressing.
So how can we approach Anti-boredom Month?
Nothing beats boredom like doing something. And, as I've learned over and over again, it's taking action that makes all the difference.
Yes, it's hard to get started. And yes, it takes effort, even a bit of gumption. That can of gumption up above was inspired by Popeye. Open a can of spinach, gobble it up, and find renewed courage and strength. Was it really the spinach that gave him strength? I'm not so sure. Have you tasted canned spinach?
I think it's something else.
I think it's more about stepping up, gathering gumption, and giving it a go. Saying, "OK, I'll try." Or, "Hey, it's my turn."
So this month, I'm going to try new things. And, because it's also Baked Bean Month and I'm inspired by canned goodness, I'm going to try something out of the can. I'm going to make baked beans from scratch. I’m looking for a recipe. If you’ve got one, would you be willing to share it?
Or, if you’re like me and have never made your own baked beans, let's try it together.
Here are more things happening in July. I'll post what I'm doing, and would love to hear what you're up to, too.
International Zine Month
A whole book from one sheet of paper.
National Anti-Boredom Month
We’ve got that covered.
It’s knob easy.
National Baked Bean Month
Cook ‘em low and slow.
Ice Cream Month
Are they sprinkles or jimmies?
National Picnic Month
Take it out to the park.
A wedge will do.
International Cherry Pit Spitting Day
Watch where it lands.
How many ways are there to make this happen?
Embrace Your Geekness Day
Space Exploration Day
What’s a light year?
Paperback Book Day
A real page turner.
National Avocado Day
Check in throughout the month to see what we find. And if you’ve got ideas, share them with us. After all, it’s Anti-boredom Month and you've got a can of gumption waiting to be opened.
p.s. Riddle Me Mail subscribers will recognize that can of gumption. Stayed tuned for new stationery offers and more canned goodness all month long.
Figuring out what works Collage work has become my go-to art form. After trying a bit of watercolor, line drawing, pencil, and more, collage is it.
It's the perfectly imperfect nature of collage that works for me.
It's not that things are sloppy or unfinished. No, I pay attention to detail and form, but its more conceptual than precise.
Finding the rhythm
All of my collage work is done with painted sheet music. No other papers: no book pages, receipts, or found paper. Just sheet music.
That, too, took a while to figure out.
There are no distracting words on the page and I like how the music adds texture to the pieces I cut.
And I've learned it best to keep a supply on hand. A stack of painted sheets. An assortment of reds and yellows, blacks, grays, and greens. Blues, purples, and pinks. Each with varied amounts of paint, rough edges, and dry brush strokes.
Ready when the ideas are
If I have an idea, I like to sit down and start in. If I have to begin from scratch, to paint the colors I want or need, I risk losing some of my enthusiasm, some of the spark that comes with having a new idea.
Having an assortment of colors on hand helps me stay with the idea, to keep my momentum.
I've been running on scraps for a few weeks now and I can feel it holding me back. Little bits of paper cut from larger sheets. Yesterday I ran out of the green I wanted. Lots of scraps, but not enough to finish what I started.
It's time to take stock ... and restock.
Painting the sheets has become part of the process. Part of the preparation.
Be sure you've got what you need to get started. It could make all the difference.
Crumb, cobbler, or crisp?
What's the difference? A fruit crumb is a lot like a crisp with a streudel-like topping, but a crisp has oats in the mix. Cobblers have a dough that bakes on top of the fruit.
They're all good, but I must say, crisp is my go-to preference. It's easy, requires only a few ingredients, it's really good, and you can go from recipe to plate in an hour or less.
4-6 cups fresh fruit
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
Preheat over to 350°F
Arrange fruit (sliced peaches, nectarines, apples) on the bottom of an 8" x 8" baking dish (or a pie plate, or loaf pan will do).
Using a fork or your hands, combine the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt. Add rolled oats.
Sprinkle mixture over the top of the fruit.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling, the edges are browned, and crumb topping is golden brown.
Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or whipped cream. Or eat it straight up. Oh, and it's really good warm.
*You can also use blueberries or a combination of fruits like blueberries and peaches, apples and cranberries (a good autumn combo).
Let me know if you make it or have a different recipe to share.
What came first, the shovel or the pine cone?
I can’t say how many times I’ve been down the road where we found the pine cones, but I’ve always been in a car, never on foot.
Last weekend in search of new walking routes, we set out early for downtown Westbrook. There’s a lovely river walk that beckoned and on Main Street, in the middle of town, a sculpture garden.
That’s where we found these particularly large pine cones. It was only when we got close, really close, we saw the pine cones were made from shovels. They are the work of artist Patrick Plourde.
It made me wonder, what came first, the shovel or the pine cone?
Though my collage work is on a much, much(!) smaller scale, they, too are made from repurposed materials, paper after page of sheet music.
I came to use sheet music after stopping at a yard sale. It was the end of the day and there were three big books of sheet music. As I was looking them, the woman who owned them said, "Twenty-five cents each. Otherwise they're headed to the dump."
Well, I wasn't looking for sheet music, but I was looking for was collage papers I could paint, cut, and make something from. I decided to give it a try.
Don't let a lack of supplies hold you back. Dig a little deeper and use some of this to make some of that.
p.s. Yes, pine cone is two words ... should have looked that up before I did the lettering. Grrrrrr.
The New York Times “Cooking” newsletter is a curious thing. There’s lots of talk of food and recipes, of course, but there’s more to it than that.
Along with the recipes and tips, Sam Sifton, food editor, reliably ends with a sweet treat of notable mentions.
This week I most enjoyed Sifton’s nod to The Atlantic’s “Fifty” series. Photo essays from every state, new ones posted weekly, on Sundays.
Maine hasn’t been posted yet, but Iowa, Idaho, Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, and a number of others have.
Look for your state (if it’s not there yet, keep checking back), and the others as well. This is a beautiful country we live in ... and this series reminds us just how beautiful it is.
Is your hobby or pastime photography? What sort of series could you create? Local landmarks and natural wonders? Use "Fifty" as inspiration and see where it takes you.
Qwirky, QWERTY Love: It’s Typewriter Day!
Last year I wrote a love letter to my typewriter and I want to share it with you.
When I composed the letter, I included as many typewriter terms and sounds as possible:
- cap lock
- royal (Royal)
- space bar
Each typewriter has a different touch on the keyboard and unique bell tone. I typed the love letter on my Olivetti Lettera 35 (with great care ... nearly holding my breath, straight through, with no mistakes...whew!).
Do you have a typewriter? What do you write on your typewriter? The manuscript for a book? Poetry? Love letters? I write lots of letters ... and sometimes, love letters.
p.s. What is QWERTY love? QWERTY comes from the first five letters on the upper left of the keyboard. The term is used to identify the standard layout on an English language keyboard. I do love my typewriter(s)!
Three words on a signboard in front of a local church. Hope was at the top, coming soon sat at the bottom of the sign, referring I’m sure to the day they might welcome parishioners inside. The words weren’t meant to be one phrase, but that’s how I saw it. I like to think hope is all around us ... it’s good to know more is on the way.
Yesterday I became the reluctant fixer when the hose on the back of the dryer disconnected. I couldn’t get it reconnected and it started a string of lefty-loosey, righty-tighty missteps, YouTube videos, and a trip to the hardware store where a patient and far-more knowledgeable expert put and end to my cycle of frustration.
Are you handy?
Most of the time I would say I am. But truth be told, it depends when you ask.
Yesterday when I was in the middle of trying to attach that hose, I would have answered with a resounding no. Today, basking in the satisfaction of a job well-done (well, done anyway), I’m more likely to say yes.
It’s a truth most of us can relate to. Doing something for the first time comes with unique challenges:
The key of course of course is pushing through.
Though I wanted to give up, and nearly did, I knew it wasn’t an impossible task. Connecting a vent hose requires minimal tools and supplies ... there’s no rewiring of electricity or other element involved that would best be left to a professional. But I couldn't do it alone.
It took seven YouTube videos, two hours of trial and error, and two trips to two different hardware stores before I figured out what was missing and found what I needed:
A missing element and some guidance.
It also meant letting go. Of a quick fix, of all I had planned for the morning, of perfection, and frustration.
Though I won’t been installing dryer vent hoses on a regular basis, it’s a good, and constant, reminder that while there can be a quick fix here and there, it’s not the rule.
We’re better served, it seems, to recognize things will take more time and effort than expected. That frustration is part of the deal, and a little help from an expert goes a long way.
That even though what we’re trying to accomplish may not always be easy or fun, what we’re left is increased confidence, a bit more know-how, and a deep sigh of satisfaction.
What to do when your thumb is less than green
Gardening takes time, a lot of time. There's the weeding and watering, pinching and pruning, bug patrol, and more weeding and watering. I like the idea of a garden, just not all the work that comes with it.
I'm not sure if I want a garden or just what comes from the garden. The plump tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and striking magenta-colored potato skin on just-rinsed red potatoes.
And flowers. Seeing what others do with flowers nearly makes me weep. It’s stunning.
I don’t want to do the work, but I yearn for the look and the bounty of it all.
Last year I found a solution: container gardens.
Well, window boxes that sit on the porch railing. There’s a cut-out on the bottom of the box that fits the railing and holds it in place.
It is, for me, the perfect solution.
With container gardens, I satisfy an itchy, but less than green thumb. And having the boxes on the porches where I see them as I come and go ensures I won’t forget to prune and water, and water and prune what I've planted.
But still, I keep it simple.
Marigolds, some geraniums, and a small kitchen garden. Just herbs, really. Four plants: parsley and mint for one of my favorite summer recipes, quinoa tabouleh, along with thyme and oregano for good measure.
Container gardens are the answer to small spaces, and small ambitions ... in gardening.
Do you have a flower or kitchen garden? A more ambitious spread with rows of peas, potatoes, and varieties of this and that?
If gardening is not happening in your world, remember, there’s always the farmers’ market. Green thumbs all around and plenty of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
All aboard! Get on track with new adventures.