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RUNES, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Yesterday we went to a book signing at Common Good Books. Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe Francois recently released their second book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The bread was delicious, the authors serious about their work, down-to-earth, engaging and fun. In casual conversation, it came out that Zöe knows Latin. I remembered that I had taken two years of Latin in junior high, a curriculum requirement in the 1960’s. That got me to thinking about language and alphabets.

After the signing, Liz and I did a little Christmas shopping and later went to the studio. I was looking at this set of Runes I made from clay a number of years ago. For a period of time in my life, I consulted with different oracles on a daily basis: the I Ching, the Runes, Tarot, Medicine Cards. I have a passion for learning about symbols in different systems of mysticism.

Symbols are used to create structure within a system, to help us understand complicated ideas with a simple visual. Over time, color has been organized into systems like Goethe’s Triangle and subsequent Colour Wheel, while chakras are symbolized by certain colors. Logos and brands (like red Ravine or ybonesy’s new logo) take their lead from symbols of yore. Graphic designers are always trying to create  innovative new fonts with which to drape old symbols in more imaginative cloaks. (Yet people still like an old standby because Helvetica remains one of the most widely used fonts around.)

I couldn’t find my Runes book last night or I would have drawn the Runes. But I did find an odd book I’d snapped up at a sale, an old Readers Digest Book of Facts. According to the Languages section of the book, all the alphabets around the world can be traced to a North Semitic alphabet that emerged around 1700 B.C. at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. From the Semitic alphabet developed Hebrew, Arabic, and Phoenician. Then Phoenician alphabet was adopted and adapted by the Greeks who in 1000 B.C. introduced a modified form into Europe.

The Greeks standardized the reading of written lines from left to right, added symbols for vowels, and gave rise to the Roman alphabet (used for modern Western languages) and the Cyrillic alphabet (named after Saint Cyril and used in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union). The North Semitic alphabet spawned the Aramaic alphabet which eventually developed into Asian alphabets, such as Hindi.

The earliest forms of writing are picture writings found on clay tablets in parts of the Middle East and southeastern Europe. Some of the oldest found in Iraq and Iran recorded land sales and business deals.

Where do the Runes fit into all this? They are a mystery. The Runic alphabet is one of the oldest in northern Europe with early examples dating to the 3rd century A.D. They have been found in 4000 inscriptions in Britain, Scandinavia, and Iceland but nobody knows for sure where they originated.

For some reason, the Runes remind me of the ancient celebration of Winter Solstice. Some scholars believe the Runes were derived from the Etruscan alphabet of southern Europe and brought north by the Goths after their invasion of the Roman Empire. To me, they are an oracle of mystery. And that’s what draws me to them.


Post Script: The bread baked by Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe Francois was delicious. Their new book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day looks like a winner with many whole wheat and gluten-free recipes. There’s a recipe for their whole wheat Christmas Stollen Bread in the post of their video interview at KARE 11. Or you can visit their website Artisan Bread In Five with fabulous photographs of mouthwatering baked goods. You will come away hungry for more!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 13th, 2009

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Nightshade Of Bridge Blue, BlackBerry Shots, I-35 Bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 


loss runs river deep
vertebrae span the dark sky
nightshade of bridge blue
crossing when we get to it
for time will not let us choose








Berth Of The Nightowl II, Spine Of I-35 Bridge At Night, The Weight (Vertebrae), BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-Related to posts:  WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman), PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15 min (by QuoinMonkey), Berth Of The Nightowl haiku, Memorial — Day & Night, haiku 2 (one-a-day), 40 Days, 8 Flags, & 1 Mennonite Choir

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Ms. Kiev: She Who Rules The Roost, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s been a long week. Except for the house noises, it’s quiet as the wind. Liz went to the hardware store to buy a new shower head. For the first time this week, I’m alone. It was a hard week. I felt sick on Tuesday but went to work anyway. After becoming a national statistic earlier this year, for the last few months I’ve been driving a truck, delivering parts to machinists to be electropolished, drilled, deburred, picking them up again. It’s Saturday morning, a sacred time when I can actually catch up on reading my own blog.

Weekend hours are sweet. I promised Kiev during her morning ritual with Liz that I’d post a photo of her. She’s the only cat in our family who hasn’t made it to the cover of red Ravine. (Mr. Stripeypants was published for his support of Obama; we lost sweet boy Chaco this year.) I was sitting on the couch, writing. Liz called me on the BlackBerry from the bedroom; I picked up to hear her whispering that I should come and see the cats. I tiptoed in and took these camera shots. Family time.

The first photograph is alpha cat Kiev in her favorite position. Liz places her arm just so; Kiev curls up in the crook, same position every time. I have discovered that Kiev is difficult to photograph. She is jet black and her catty panther features all blend into night. I guess I need one of those umbrella reflectors. I do the best I can.

How do you spend your days and nights? What are your weekends like? Do you take any downtime, time to do things you can’t get to during the week? Or are you retired, off of work, and every day is the weekend for you. It seems like when I have time, I have less money. More money, less time. Where’s the balance?

In catching up on red Ravine, I see that Bob was moved by Anna Deavere Smith in our Writing Topic — 3 Questions. Our guest Buzz explained some of the nuances of basketball banter in his poetry post Hoops. ybonesy wrote about art as play, community art, something dear to our hearts on red Ravine. The renga has heated up in the Daily Haiku. And we made April plans to go to Lake Pepin in the Midwest writing group I am a part of.

I’m relieved to know that even though I feel dead beat at the end of my truck driving day, the creative world goes on around me. And sweeps me along with it. I’m grateful for that.

For Christmas, I may ask Liz for a pocket protector and a few cotton work shirts with my first name stitched above the pocket, but I’m still a writer, a photographer, an artist. Still full of wonder at the animal track flannel sheets in the photo behind Kiev. Making a living as writers and artists isn’t easy. All of you make it easier. Thank you for that.


Morning Rituals, Mr. Stripeypants: Paw Over Hand, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 5th, 2009 with gratitude to Liz who holds up the other half of the sky, my family and friends who check up on me, and Roma, the best blog partner a woman could ever have

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Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






visiting Estelle
gravestones outlast the living
markers for the dead


all that’s left behind
a letter, a horseshoe ring
lasting love and luck


face of a pine tree
warm thoughts of the Grandmothers
hover over me







It’s the time of year when I think often of family and loved ones, living and dead. One of the highlights of my October trip to Georgia was visiting my Grandmother Estelle’s grave for the first time. I did not know her well, had not seen her since I was 2 years old. I knew none of my blood father’s family. It was synchronicity when in 2007 my paternal aunts ended up in the insurance office of my maternal uncle and asked the question, “Are you related to….?”

It happened to be two weeks before Mom and I were scheduled to travel to Georgia. After 50 years apart, the question’s answer led them to me.

It turns out, my paternal grandparents are buried down the hill from my maternal grandparents in the same cemetery. I’ve been visiting the cemetery with my mother for years and never knew. These photographs are of the pine tree that grows high over their graves. My Aunt Annette told me that my grandfather loved pine trees. So do I. When I was a child, I would spend hours sweeping pine needles, the scaly bough of a branch curving to make just the right shape, a prairie-style home.

The thing about cemetery trees is that they are many times old growth trees, never to be cut. I like to think this pine is a guardian for my grandparents, its long roots extending deep underground, branches tall and proud (reminds me of another pine in New Mexico that I’m quite fond of, the Lawrence Tree).

There is more to the story — a letter, an obituary, a ring. Perhaps another post. This week I give thanks for all who live, and those who have come before.


Skin Of A Pine Tree, Pine Trunk In The Graveyard, My Grandmother’s Grave, Cemetery Pine, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Post Script: the day Mom and I met my aunt at the cemetery, we also visited the Gertrude Herbert Memorial Institute of Art in Augusta. That’s where my Canon G6 battery died; I had forgotten to charge the backup battery. These photos are all taken with the BlackBerry cell phone camera.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Liz Really Liked It!, BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for our many blessings. And a time for good food. I walked over to the fridge this morning and under a Morton Salt “When it rains it pours” magnet was this faded recipe card for Chicken L’Orange. Liz’s mother (oliverowl) mailed it to us after a discussion on Memories, Writing & Family Recipes.

She told us that Liz’s maternal grandmother, Frances Oliver Biggs, loved that Liz liked the Chicken L’Orange. So much so, that she handwrote her comment on the back of the family recipe card she sent to Liz’s mom:

Does Liz remember the recipe for “Chicken L’Orange” that her Nana sent me? I still have the card in my recipe box. At the end is her comment, “Liz really liked it!” (Sent after Liz’s visit to CA.) It is probably similar to what you had on the Cornish game hens.

My contribution to yesterday’s meal was Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad (OLD family recipe) and a Cranberry Sauce that had orange juice and a whole jar of Orange Marmalade cooked with the fresh berries!

Now the recipe card with Liz’s grandmother’s handwriting hangs on our fridge. I told Liz I want to try Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad this year. It reminds me of my family’s version of Jell-O salad with whipped cream. Below is the recipe that Liz’s mom Marylin dropped into the red Ravine comments.

__________________________________________

 
 

Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad

 
 

1 large box of Lime Jell-O
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 14-15 oz. can crushed pineapple, including juice

 
 

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, so it begins to soften. Prepare the Jell-O, using 1 less cup of water than the recipe calls for. Chill it until it begins to thicken, but don’t let it solidify, or you’ll have a mess!

Since I only have one mixer, I whip the cream and place it in a small bowl. Then I cut the cream cheese in small chunks and place them in the mixer bowl and beat it well. When the Jell-O is a thick syrupy consistency, I add it to the cream cheese and mix until they are homogenized! (You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.) Next, the pineapple is mixed in and then the whipped cream, both at the slowest speed. Refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!

_____________________________________

 
 

We’re going to stop at the store today for last minute ingredients. What traditional recipes will you be sharing this Thanksgiving week? Are there any that have been passed down by your grandmother? Bob mentioned he’s making Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters. ybonesy’s family always makes tamales for Christmas. And my family makes Southern Banana Pudding for almost every family gathering. Old recipes are invaluable to memoir writers. Family flavor.

Hope you enjoy Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad. And if you put together the two front and back photos of the recipe card in this post, you’ll have the Biggs family recipe for Chicken L’Orange — two great family recipes, one post. And any leftover turkey? Try Amelia’s Soft Dumpling Recipe.

 
 

Chicken L’Orange, When It Rains, It Pours,  BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script: The Morton Salt girl has always been a favorite icon of mine. She’s officially called the Morton Umbrella Girl and according to the Morton website, the slogan, “When it rains it pours” first appeared on the blue package of table salt and in a series of Good Housekeeping magazine advertisements in 1914. The slogan is adapted from an old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.”

You can read more about the history of Morton Salt, view vintage ads, and see the transition of the Morton Umbrella Girl from the roaring twenties to the 1968 image that we still view on packaging today. They’ve also got a recipe section with Winning Kosher Salt Recipes.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

-related to post: Reflections On The Other National Bird*

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Continuity, BlackBerry Shots, pool near Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






streaks of Southern light
splash across concrete pool deck
sink to the bottom


wading through memoir
old gravestones crack and crumble
worn secrets revealed


John Cheever lives on
fine art of the short story
distant memories


pool to pool to pool
we have all been The Swimmer
fighting for our lives






When I travel to Georgia with Mom, we stay at my Uncle Bill’s place on Clarks Hill Lake. Mom likes the wicker room on the first floor with a view of the lake and grounds. This year I stayed in the only upstairs bedroom in the wing of the house dedicated to recreation, exercise, and watching movies. In the past, I thought it a little strange to be the only person sleeping on the whole second floor. But this year, I grew to love the room. It’s quiet. No widescreen TV on the wall, no noise. And it looks out over a sea of Georgia pines on the shore of Clarks Hill Lake.

The dividing line between Georgia and South Carolina runs right through Clarks Hill Lake. I stay on the Georgia side with my uncle; my paternal aunts, Annette and Brenda, live not far from my uncle on the South Carolina side. I reconnected with my blood father’s sisters a few years ago after nearly 50 years. They had not seen me or my mother since I was 2 years old. Small world.

One morning I awoke and saw these streaks of light pulsing through the pool below me. It struck me how they hit the concrete first, then jumped into the water and immediately sank to the bottom. One thing I like about outdoor pools is the way the sunlight plays through the water during the day. Another thing about swimming — you get really good at holding your breath.

My grandfather had a pool when I was growing up. It wasn’t far from the bomb shelter he built outside his new home; it was the 1950’s. Among the things I remember clearly are the few sultry evenings when we swam at night. I also associate pools with John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer. Ever since Natalie Goldberg had us read it for one of her Taos workshops, I’ve never forgotten it. Neither has writer Michael Chabon. In Salon, he calls The Swimmer “a masterpiece of mystery, language and sorrow.”

Who is your favorite short story writer? Have you ever written or published a short story? What do you associate with swimming pools? Exercise, relaxation, water polo, relief from the heat, family fun? Do a Writing Practice on Swimming Pools….10 Minutes, Go!


Lifeline, Lightbending (3), BlackBerry Shots
of pool near Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, October
2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All
rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 14th, 2009, with gratitude to Natalie for all the writers she has introduced us to and made us read in spite of our resistance!

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), PRACTICE — Holding My Breath – 10min, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home”

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November Frost Moon, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The moon is beautiful in the Fall. Maybe it’s because in October I traveled to Pennsylvania, drove down to Georgia and South Carolina, then flew back to Minnesota, that I paid more attention to the skies. Or because I’m out driving during the day and the Moon grounds me to the sky. Yesterday the sun set in a giant orange ball over three cemeteries on the way home from work. It sank before I could get my BlackBerry camera into position.

I’ve been enjoying the new BlackBerry. Have taken a few hundred photos with the phone camera over the last month. It’s quick and easy and I can post to Twitter as soon as I shoot. I like the grain of the nightshots. Not as clear as with my regular Canon G6 point and shoot. But spontaneous and fun.

I wanted to post these shots of the November Frost Moon. Liz and I were stopped by its beauty on the way to get a Redbox movie, drove off on a side road by a local park, slipped out and shot a few images with our cell phones. Do you take phone shots? What do you do with the images? I’m thinking about uploading them into a Flickr set.

I posted a series of Moonshots in 2008. Made it a practice to follow the monthly patterns of the moon. Back then, I missed November and posted Frost Moon (Faux November) instead. This is my way of making up with the Moon. On these dark Fall days, I’m happy for the light of the Frost Moon. Winter Solstice is just around the corner.

BlackBerry Moon, BlackBerry Shots,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2009, all
photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 7th, 2009

-more Lunar posts from over the years by ybonesy & QuoinMonkey in 13 Moons

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