Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stamp of the Day: jorduggla (short-eared owl)

The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) occurs nearly everywhere in the world, except Australia and Antarctica.  I bet it might be more widespread than the invasive European house sparrow...  But this owl has spread naturally, and now flights silently in the night hunting for mice and other small rodents. This Swedish stamp from 2009 shows it in flight, maybe during migration in the fall or spring.  The Swedish name means 'soil owl', because this bird has its nest on the ground, not in a tree or on a cliff.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Top of the Rock in New York City

Empire State Building

Manhattan used to have three high places you could visit - World Trade Center (gone since 11 Sept 2001), Empire State Building (the classic), and then Rockefeller Center, built in the 1930s.  Of these, I have visited World Trade Center and Empire State Building with visiting friends and family years ago, but I never went up in Rockefeller Center until two days ago.  What a treat!  This is where you should be :)

For the record, I am afraid of heights, but Rockefeller Center was no problem.  It didn't move in the wind like World Trade Center did, and it didn't feel claustrophobic and tight like Empire State Building.  We had a calm, clear September day and could see far, far away into New Jersey, New York State ('the Empire State'), Long Island, and Connecticut.  Empire State Building and the new World Trade Center tower are still higher, but the views from this sky scraper is better, I think.  Green Central Park is to the north, Hudson River and the rocky ledge of the Palisades to the west, then southern Manhattan and Statue of Liberty to the south, and Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island to the east.  Fantastic views!

The architecture and design of the building is also classic and wonderful with black floors and shiny brass designs.  Like late Art Deco (PP can fill us in on this, I am sure).  The uppermost floor at level 70 is the roof (called Top of the Rock, of course), and you step out from the elevator straight onto the roof, straight into the sky, but on a big platform... without tall glass round.  Still it felt safe!  The lack of giant hoards of tourists made it nice and pleasant too, plenty of space to look around and see and experience.  Below us, on the other 69 floors are offices, the famous Rainbow Room restaurant (to be reopened next year), and NBC's TV studios.

So, how did it really look like?  Like this! (more photos here)

looking down

central park

upper west side

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Do you Doodle?

Another day and a new meeting... Many results in doodle drawings such as this. Do you doodle? And is it rude to doodle in a meeting or not?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Green, brown, yellow and purple...

For the first time in my adult life I have tried to dye something, and it came out great!

 I have memories of dyeing a cotton scarf at a camp when I was maybe 12. The plant we used as dye was birch branches and aspen leaves. The people that used aspen got these really nice yellow scarves. We that were stuck with the birch got dirty light-green to beige scarves that looked old and worn... It was a major disappointment, especially since I had asked for permission to use the aspen, and the camp leaders said - no, we will split all groups in two parts, and you can't be in the other group. Why not? No idea. Probably some kind of semi-I-will-show-the-kids-I-have-the-power scheme.

Anyway, since then I have not dyed anything with natural colors that I can remember, and I am not counting stains from tomato sauce, blueberry jam, wine, or coffee on my shirts. In early summer I bought some undyed white silk scarves, white cotton yarn, and cleaned wool rowing (basically unspun naturally white wool). We got some books, and read and learned. The materials have to be pretreated with alum, a chemical, so the dye takes better, so I did that.

 Now, what to use as dye? I knew I wanted to make different colors, and base it on all natural, things I had at home.
RED ONION: Natural dyes on silk, cotton and wool
The first batch was red onion skins. Who knew that red onion can give green colors!? Surprise! The colors showed in the book didn't really match what I got, and that is probably due to the chemistry of our well water. I also dyed some filter paper in this batch.
 COFFEE - Natural dyes on silk, cotton and wool
Second batch, coffee... Old coffee grains, cooked up again, filtered off, and then used as a dye bath. I think my coffee was pretty weak, so it became a light brown. TURMERIC: Natural dyes on silk, cotton and wool
Third batch, yipeee, Turmeric! From the spice cabinet. What a color! Bright orange!!! Like, like, I don't know what. A living, deep orange. BLUEBERRY - Natural dyes on silk, cotton and wool
Final fourth batch was a little test. Sometimes we have fresh blueberries from the store that go bad (=mold) in the fridge, so I had saved up a bag of them in our freezer. I cooked the berries down, filtered them, and then used the blueberry juice as a dye bath for 4 days. I had put the textiles and the dye liquid into an old orange juice bottle. Unfortunately I screwed on the top tight and left it out in the sun - after 4 days the bottle was ready to explode. Fermentation! :) Nothing got destroyed, and the colors of light purples are gorgeous.

The dyed wool and cotton yarn is now in Baltimore in AREA's artsy hands, to be used in some creative work. I can't wait to see what she will do with it.

What I learned?

  • Always treat your fibers with mordant, then the colors will be better. 
  • Don't hang the finished textiles for too long in the sun or they will become sunbleached. 
  • Do not make fermented blueberry juice. 
  • Big-mouthed orange juice plastic bottles are great for long-term dyeing.  No risk that an animal will drink it and you can shake it a lot to distribute the liquid well. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another week

It is that time of the year when weeks flush past in quick succession, when days get relentlessly shorter, and the daytime temperature cannot make up its mind.  We had a few days with over 95 degrees F here this week, that is far above 30 degrees Celsius.  That is not what I want out of September. But the temperature is dropping steadily right now....

The first red Virginia creeper leaves have shown up, both in our garden and on my favorite art/nature photography blog, STILL (photo courtesy of Mary Jo Hoffman):

'Hello autumn', (c) Mary Jo Hoffman,

On the porch, the hummingbirds no longer visit their feeder, and the praying mantis seems to have forgotten that colder climates are on the way.  All students are back in classes, and all teachers back teaching... just like every year.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Stamps of the Day: Classic cars ('Bilar')

A First-Day-Cover (FDC) from the Swedish Postal Service in 1997, featuring stamps with classic car brands.  Here you have SAAB (of course, with Carlsson's Monte Carlo rally car), an E-type Jaguar in classic green, Chevrolet's Bel-Air, a very French Citroen, a Volvo Duett - 'the car that is two', and finally Porsche...  Nice old shapes... Enjoy!

This morning I read in the local newspaper that someone had stolen a $80,000 Porsche in our town.  It was parked in a driveway and the owner was home, but someone drove off with it, without the owner noticing anything...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Insects and critters in New Jersey - a photo essay from this summer

False Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa juncta)
A dead False Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa juncta) was waiting for me, dead, outside the door to my office building one day. It is similar to the infamous Colorado potato beetle, but its stripes are brown, black and white.

galls on grape leaf (Vitis)
Some amazing galls by some unknown insect on grape leaves in our garden.  Each yellow 'bottle' was about 1 cm long.

sunflower and fly
This is a fly (2 wings), not a bee (4 wings), sunning itself in the sunflower.

caterpillar of Amorpha juglandis (Walnut Sphinx)
LA found a small, but distinctive, larvae of a walnut sphinx (Amorpha juglandis).  Spinxes are big moths that fly at night. This was the first photo from New Jersey in the, a great online photo guide!

We also saw two mosquitoes in the last week that looked like the invasive Asian tiger mosquito.  I am less happy about that. They were tiny, flew during daytime, and have black and white-striped bodies and legs. They can spread diseases, that is their problem (and ours).

I love all the life in our garden, even if it sometimes bites and stings. This morning the fog had made all the spider webs visible, like white cotton thread.  Giant praying mantis are hanging out in the butterfly bush, aiming for the big swallowtail butterflies.  In the garden, too many marmorated stinkbugs are creating problems... it is always something.

More insect photos are coming soon! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy birthday, EH!

Another year, another summer, the life cycle goes on! :)
Congratulations on your birthday with this bouquet of flowers!

bridesmaid bouquet