Sunday, May 24, 2020

Testing a Concept

Sometimes you see something that really catches your artist eye. While in Mexico City I saw some artist books made by Patricia LaGarde, a Mexican photographer. One in particular fascinated me. It was a structured book with cuts and folds within the pages. I liked the way the cuts and folds changed the feeling of the book. When I returned home I started cutting up copy paper and printing small images and folding the paper and images and then I let them sit on my work table for a week or so until another idea came to mind and another round of calculating sizes, cutting and pasting and looking would ensue but always looking for how the light worked with the new version.

While working on it, I realized that I wanted a book that could sit on a book-shelf lined up with other books or it could sit opened up as you see it here, a three-dimensional object sitting on a mantel or table. I am really liking the way the light reflects off of the folded pages and also through the light tunnel made by the projecting images. I like the way the shadows change on each side of the folded image. This concept is kind of a cross between an accordion book and a pop-up book. Unfortunately it is missing the covers. The book board is cut but the bookcloth I ordered did not arrive before I left Mexico. The concept works and maybe it will be the beginning of more variations.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Creole or Cajun

Quarantine cooking is challenging. Thank goodness I have had experience cooking in San Miguel before we had grocery stores like La Comer or Soriana. It wasn't unusual to change up a recipe because we couldn't find the ingredients or sometimes dinner party menus were made as you walked through a market and saw what was available. You learn to substitute and improvise.

One day last week I was digging through the freezer and found one frozen chicken thigh. I could maybe make a little pot of chicken vegetable soup. Then I remembered that I had bought a small package of smoked sausage and that reminded me that I had frozen some okra because too much came in a package when I made okra and tomatoes about three weeks ago. I had the holy trinity, green pepper, onion, and celery. Now things were starting to get interesting. This was adding up to something Creole or Cajun. But what is the difference between the two?

Good ole Google found some good references including The Spruce Eats. Both Creole and Cajun can include roux but the Creole will be made with butter and flour while the Cajun will be made with lard or oil and flour. Creole dishes, even if a gumbo, will have a tomato base and is soupier. The Cajun gumbo usually has a dark roux base and is more like a stew. 

I didn't want to take the time to make a roux so I decided to use my ingredients along with some tomatoes and make soup and I would pour it over rice. When I put the pot on the stove for making rice, the thought ran through my mind that I would have two pots to wash after dinner. Mmm... Why not just throw some rice in my no-name creole recipe and I would only have one pot to wash. It turned out to be a pretty tasty dinner.

BTW, I looked up whether I should capitalize Creole and Cajun. It was a little muddled from different sources but I like the one that said "In some contexts, Creole is used as an adjective, and in some, it is a noun. (We capitalize it in New Orleans, however, so that is how you will encounter it here.)" I'm going with the New Orleans crowd. 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry

It is the merry month of May. I had great plans for May. I had signed up for a photography tour In Oaxaca with Gary Goldberg. It has been 26 years since I've been there on another photographic tour with Geoff Winningham. This year the tour included visits with Mexican photographers and artists, time to photograph but also we were going to stay at Casa Colonial which is where I had stayed 26 years ago. I loved Casa Colonial, a huge garden, comfortable rooms, delicious meals, and filled with wonderful Mexican art. 

I was planning to go a few days early and stay a few days after the workshop. Unfortunately, the Pandemic changed those plans but I was thinking about the trip this morning so I opened the Oaxaca folder that had some scans of the black and white film I shot with my Pentax medium format camera. 

Digital Photography has brought many changes to the way most photographers work so looking at the scan of a film negative was shocking. Film had grain! And to print the negative you had to go into the darkroom, mix chemicals and spend hours on one image making test strips and multiple prints until you were finally satisfied with the resulting print. Then you had to spend a few more hours washing and treating the print for archivability. If you were able to finish two prints in one day, you had accomplished something. 

Looking at these negatives brings back some wonderful memories but I don't want to go back to the darkroom although I do want to go back to Oaxaca. 

This image was made just outside the village of Tlacochohuaya where we had stopped on the side of the road to look out across this wide valley with magnificent clouds hanging in the sky. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Crab Feast

Lucky me! My son Mike, brought me a 16-ounce container of crab meat. He knows how much I love crab. I've been known to sit at the table picking and eating crab and drinking a bit of wine for hours. I could be by myself but it is even better if I am sitting with some other people just picking, eating, drinking, and talking. A crab feast was something Ned and I loved to do when we could find nice fat gulf coast crabs. Although I've seen crabs in markets in San Miguel, they weren't lively. I did not buy them. Now that I have crab, I wanted to savor it so I spread it out over three dinners.

The first night was a salad with crispy, icy-cold hearts of romaine lettuce with Cesar dressing topped with crabmeat. The second night I made a cream of corn and roasted poblano soup topped with crab meat. I had to improvise on the soup. Back in San Miguel, I have a recipe from a cooking class that Ned had gone to. I looked online but none of the recipes seemed exactly right so I took a bit of this one and a bit of that one. It was good but it wasn't as wonderful as Ned's recipe.

For the last bit of my crab, I wanted to replicate the sauce that Goode Company Seafood uses in one of my favorite things on their menu, the Campechana Extra shrimp and crab cocktail. No recipe but that did not stop me. I roasted tomato, green pepper, and onion and then I chopped it up in the blender. Added some catsup, lime juice, jalapeno, salt and pepper, and a little tabasco. It was too thick so the recipe needs some more tweeking. The crab meat was tossed with the sauce and topped with fresh avocado. 

I cleaned my plate. All. Three. Nights. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Yes, I know this isn't a very good iPhone shot of a television screen but it will serve as an illustration for my frustration with the "statistics" that the news channels keep posting about the pandemic. They like to post total numbers. I'd be more interested in what is the percentage of the population who have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus. The USA number is alarming as compared to Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. On the other hand, when you look at the percentage of the population that have had the disease, we still have the second-highest percentage but it is a more relative number in how we rank with other countries. 
  • USA 328.2 million - 3%
  • Spain 46.8 million - 4.9%
  • Italy 60.36 million - 1.9%
  • France 66.99 million - 2.4%
  • Germany 83.02 million - 1.9%
I'm still alarmed. Why doesn't the USA have the lowest percentage? We are more transparent? We have tested more of our population? Are we comparing apples to oranges due to testing procedures in these countries? 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Walking and Thinking

About four or five mornings a week I go for a walk between 6:45 to 7:00 AM. If that seems early to you, remember this is hot, humid Houston. So far, the early morning hours are still cool or at least cooler than it will be from 9:00 AM through the rest of the day. West University Place where I walk has big oaks shading the sidewalks but there are a few magnolia trees scattered through the area. The other morning I was walking and thinking when this lovely scent stopped me. It was a magnolia tree that was just beginning to bloom right beside the sidewalk. Most of the buds and opening flowers were too high to photograph except for this one. I stood there for a few minutes breathing deeply and fighting the urge to reach up and pluck this flower and take it back to the apartment to enjoy the scent and the delicate beauty. I've made photographs of magnolia blossoms and I've seen many photographs made by others, yet I never get tired of seeing them.

But back to the subject of this post; walking and thinking. I was thinking about how major world events affected me all my life and I was wondering how this pandemic would affect my grandsons for the rest of their lives.

I was born to a mother and father who were children during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. I've saved Christmas wrapping paper and bows, jars, old clothes, never hired anyone to do anything unless it was absolutely necessary, knew how to cook cheap cuts of meat and how to extend meals, fretted about mortgages and car payments, packed food to eat along the way when we traveled, seldom ate at restaurants and, well, you get the idea. Of course over the years some of these penny-pinching ways disappeared but I still see that Great Depression influence in my life.

I was almost five years old when the United States entered World War II. I remember my Mom and Dad with chairs pulled up to the radio and knew that something had happened although I did understand what war was. But it was a terrible thing and we had to have black curtains on our windows at night while my Dad sat close to the radio to listen to the news. My parents had brothers who went to war. The passenger train from Houston to Dallas which we rode every summer was crowded and people got up to give their seats to tall, skinny, tired soldiers. There was quiet talk among the adults about the Pacific, about Europe, about England. At five or six years old I didn't have a concept of geography but I knew they were far away. After the war, the brothers came home and while the adults sat listening to their stories, I would slip into the room and sit back against the wall on the floor to hear what they were saying. I think that WW2 was the beginning of my love of history and travel and probably politics as well although I did not recognize the political side of history at that time.

When I think about the Pandemic and my grandsons, I wonder how the economy will affect their lives. How difficult will it be to find jobs? Find the job they have hoped for? I've wondered how long colleges will stay closed and for my baseball playing grandson, when will his college baseball team be able to play again. He has worked to be a pitcher since before he was old enough to play T-ball.  And what about my drummer grandson. When will venues open for live music? And what about the fun factor of being in high school and in college, parties, dates, sports and then of starting a career. The fun factor is important in a young person's life. Will it return soon? I hope so but I truly believe that this pandemic will affect the way they see the world for the rest of their lives.

What about you? Do you think that a world event affected the way you have lived your life? If you have grandchildren, how do you think it will affect their future?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Nesting in Houston

One morning recently on my morning walk I found this plant on the sidewalk where it had fallen from a big old oak tree. I've seen it before both here in Houston and in San Miguel. I looked through pages and pages of tree parasite images but never saw it although I think it is a common one like mistletoe. I love the color and look of this plant. It reminds me of bird nests. So I picked it up and brought it home. Now it is sitting on the counter between the kitchen sink and the dining room.

I didn't really need a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment but that was what was available when I needed a place. It is roomy, with lots of storage, light and close to grocery and drug stores. My furniture is rented except for the dining room table and chairs. which belonged to my mother. Seeing it all day helps to ground me since I am surrounded by so much that is temporary. 

The bedroom is really big with two large walk-in closets but minimal furniture.

The kitchen is well arranged and with adequate storage but I hate the flat-top electric stove. I've cooked on electric stoves for many years but I don't like this one at all.

And, here is the office/gym. 

So now you have seen my temporary nest. If I have to hunker down in Houston, this is a comfortable place.