Friday, January 27, 2012


Beer bottle caps made into  pins and magnets.

                                                               Fabric covered tomato tomato tins.

Most of  us want to keep the  landfills in our communities from reaching capacity. Wherever and whenever possible, we recycle paper, glass and metal objects. Some of us go beyond mere recycling to  reinvent  objects First World citizens once threw away. We do what people of  conscience have always done  out of the conviction that  to be  wasteful is immoral and impractical. We follow a tradition that inspired quilters to make useful visually enchanting bedding out of  old clothing--the same tradition that  led women who lived through the Depression  to make beautiful dresses and linens out of feedsacks.
My own contribution to the upcycling movement is minor. It includes turning food tins into receptacles for pencils, pens, sewing implements, small gadgets, plants . I use either  paint, fabric or paper to cover the tins. The result can be pleasant.

I cannot say that I find my first attempt at making pins and magnets out of beer bottle caps was either pleasant nor admirable. Judge for yourself. I find the process fiddly and the result mediocre. Perhaps it is a question of persisting with the craft until I get better at it. Right now have supposedly upsycled Stella Artois  bottle caps I tortured with tin snips and a ball peen hammer before I gussied them up with a French stamp,  printed Redoute roses and glitter glue. The world was just fine without  them.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


on the wall of a 6th.century synagogue in the southern Negev, Israel, shows

two etrogim (yellow citron)  at the base of a menorah. 

Nephrite Budda's Hand lemon, Ming Dinasty,

Let Proust have his madeleines. When I want a treat that evokes sunshine, secluded beaches, a green sea dotted with multicoloured sails, I will take lemon curd. Deliciously tart, versatile, and easy to prepare, this ambrosial concoction probably originated in Elizabethan England. It is not difficult for me to imagine great batches  of it bubbling away in  the very kitchen of the Virgin Queen. She was, after all, a lover of preserves and dulcets.
One does not have to be royal in order to indulge in lemon curd.  Sugar is no longer the luxury it  was in the 16th. century and neither are lemons. The latter are abundant and fairly  inexpensive at this time the year. One can choose less common varieties of lemon as the main ingredient for curd-- Meyer ons, hand of Buddha or the yellow lemon Israels call etrog. I suspect that  yuzu would also work. I will lnow come autumn, if a neighbour decides to ell some of her harvest. Meantime I go with what is available at the local supermarket--Lisbon lemons, I believe. I wash them thoroughly, remove enough zest to fill a tablespoon,  squeeze enough--six or seven, depending on size-- to get three quarters of a cup of juice, add eggs, butter and sugar and cook in an enamelled pot at medium heat  for six minutes. That's it. The recipe yields twelve ounces of curd that  can be used as filling for cookies, as a spread for scones, toast, biscotti. Heck, it is good enough to hold together two Proustian madeleines.

 Tawny at

  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed


  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and butter. Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to hold marks from whisk, and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, January 22, 2012


As Lemon Week winds down, with nary a lemon related craft project, Agatha Christie's Miss Lemon, Poirot's efficient secretary comes to mind. It is her destiny to play  no larger role in Poirot's daily life than that of appointment keeper and fetcher of tisannes.Her greatest ambition is to come up with  up with the perfect filing system. While she  she waits for inspiration, her routine is only interrupted by  Poirot and and his sidekick  Arthur Hastings' s adventures.
 I had  hoped  to run this blog in Miss Lemon's minimalist manner. That is, I would fetch tea and dream of the perfect filing system while  talented artists and artisans discussed their work ad shared projects.   It is too early in the game to know whether this is a good plan. Judging from Lemon Week, I need to to be a bit more aggressive in my search for guest bloggers.  For the moment, I offer a couple of recipes for lemony delights. The first, Preserved Lemons--lemons pickled in salt-- is embarassingly simple. The glorious part only becomes apparent when one dds the results to other dishes, such as an eggplant, tomato, onion and cheese casserole.Then it packs terrific olfactory and gustory punch--think sunshine, blue skies, green seas and tropical flowers in a spoon.

6 lemons, scrubbed and seeded
1 cup of lemon juice
1 cup of kosher salt

Sterilyse a canning jar. Fill it with alternate layers of lemons and kosher. Add lemon juice. Seal jar and let it sit for a day or two, turning it upside down, occasionally. Store in the refrigerator for three weeks before using the pickled lemons. Remove pulp before use. Pickles will keep for up to six months.

Tomorrow I will post a recipe for lemon curd, which my daughter used with great success as  filler for Linzer cookies and as a topping for scones.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


What does Goethe have to do with crafts? Not much, besides a poem that expresses longing for warmth and beauty, both of which are common themes in the work of artisans. The poem in question is "Mignons Sehnsuch-- Mignon's Longing",
"Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn,
Do you know the land where the lemon-trees grow,
Im dunkeln Laub die Gold-Orangen glühn,
In darkened leaves the gold-oranges glow, 
 Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht, 
A soft wind blows from the pure blue sky,
Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht?
 The myrtle stands mute, and the bay tree high?
Kennst du es wohl?
Do you know it well?
Dahin! dahin
 It’s there
 Möcht ich mit dir, o mein Geliebter, ziehn.
 I’d be gone,
to be there with you, O, my beloved one!"
This is what I had in mind when I made the earrings pictured above. The day was chilly and grey, and phototropic creature that I am, I needed a reminder of my native place, in northeast Brazil, where lemon trees do bloom. The beads I used were made in the mid-1900s by a gifted glassblower who must have been aided by elves, such is the sweet shimmer and the nearly evanescent quality of the fruit and leaves he created. 
My work was simple. All I did was add aventurine roundels, yellow freshwater pearls and sterling silver finds to the glass beads. The result is jewelry might not be as enduring as Goethe's poetry, but I am sure that it will last through many winters.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, January 16, 2012


John Everett Millais

Limão nutre, cicatriza, limpa e perfuma. E me lembra sempre a evocação à deusa pomareira: Leva-me, Pomona, aos teus bosques, onde o limão e amarga lima, mais a laranja brilhando no meio do  verde, misturam suas cores mais claras. Ou a poção feita com arsênico e presenteada à Rainha de Sabá pelo Rei Poeta. Para Clarice Lispector, as palavras, às vezes, são como pingar limão na ostra viva. Que palavras ela teria ouvido para formular semelhante comparação? Algum insulto velado, ao redor da Praça Maciel Pinheiro, chamada carinhosamente por seu povo de "Pletzele"? Insinuações malévolas nos meios diplomáticos onde viveu, em Nápoles, Berna, Torquay ou Washington? Jamais saberemos. Trata-se, porém de uma boa símile.
 E para além da casca e do sumo, vamos pensar na parte mais suave do vegetal: as flores.  É certo que não carregam a simbologia  dos botões de laranjeiras ofertados aos deuses na Grécia Antiga, por ocasião dos Himeneus, mas são imaculadas, olorosas e cheia de frescor.
O fruto também me recorda as " margaritas" de Jack Kerouac ou a Lira do Amor Romântico de  Carlos Drummond de Andrade, calcada na poética popular: Atirei um limão n'água/ o rio ficou vermelho/ e cada peixinho viu/meu coração num espelho. Atirei um limão n'água/como faço todo ano/ senti que os peixes diziam/ todo amor vive de engano. E ainda os poderes do óleo essencial empregado na Aromaterapia como um ativador eficaz da alegria de viver. Além do "espírito do vegetal", estudado por Paracelso, o limão por sua própria cor é fundamental para o tratamento do stress, fazendo-nos sentir um grande bem-estar ao termos contato com ele nos campos.
Enfim, ácidos ou adoçados, misturados à estonteante aguardent e (caipirinha), ou à aromática baunilha - o fruto e o verbo -  reclamam o seu espaço na mesa e no texto. Maria Eleonora Castelar Vasconcelos
Here, my own, imperfect translation, 

"Lemons nourish, heal and perfume.They bring to mind an invocation to Pomona, goddess of fruitfulness: Take me to your forests where the lemon and the bitter lime, plus the orange shimmering amid the green, mingle their brightest colours, Pomona. Or, the potion made with arsenic and given to the Queen of Sheba by the poet king. For (Jewish Brazilian writer) Clarice Lispector ,sometimes words are like lemon juice dripping on a live oyster. Which words would she have heard to come up with such a comparison? Was a veiled insult somewhere around the Maciel Pinheiro Square(in Recife, Brazil) which he people lovingly dubbed Pletzele? Ws it some malevolent innuendo in the diplomatic circles where she lived, in Naples, Bern, Torquay and Washington? We will ever know but it is a good simile. Besides peel and juice, let us think of flowers, the tenderest aspect of the plant. True, they are not freighted with the same symbolism that orange buds offered to the gods, in ancient Greece, at weddings, but they are  immaculate, pure and full of freshness.
The fruit reminds me of Kerouac's margaritas, and of (Brazilian poet) Carlos Drummond de Andrade's "Poetic Harp", which is based on on folk poetry, “I threw a lemon into the the river/ and the water turned red/and every little fish saw my heart in a mirror./ I threw a lemon into the river,/ as I do every year/All There is yet the the essential oil used in Aromatherapy, to promote joy in life. Besides the “ vegetable spirit” that Paracelsus studied, by  their  very colour,  lemons induce great joy in living when we come into contact with them  in the fields. To sum up, tart or sweetened, added to dizzying caipirinhas or to aromatic vanilla, fruit and verb merit space in text and at the table. Maria Eleonora Castelar Vasconcelos is a retired lawyer whose prize-winning writing has appeared in many Brazilian anthologies. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, January 15, 2012


This is a gentle challenge to gentle readers. Winter is so very  present in my village I wish for long sunny days filled with the fragrance of yellow roses and the sweetness of homemade lemonade.  What do you say we  make lemons  this coming  week's theme? Actual lemons re not required. The literary variety,   such as THE LEMON TABLE, by Julian Barnes,will do. Do you have your  your own version of the old folk song? Send it to me in Audacity format or Soundcloud and I will  post it here. Do you have a story,  recipe, a citrus yellow hat you knitted, a dress you made, a cake you baked,  a painting? How about sharing it here? There shall be a prize for the most popular contribution.
Enhanced by Zemanta


A few months ago, a  good friend sent me a copy of THE SABBATHDAY RIVER, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Having glance at the back cover blurbs, I put it aside until the proper time, which only arrived last week. I will save a detailed post about the story for my book blog. However this is a good place to mention that plot and exquisite writing aside, Korelitz places her characters a very believable world where women artisan struggle for recognition and respect. "The work of women--the sewing bees and quilting circles and nights hooking rugs before the winter fires--has values," she writes. This is a topic I would like to explore with your help. 

Handcrafts  rarely command a fair price. Artisans of either sex  find it hard to make a living from their work. But when the artisan is a woman, the public quite often categorizes what she does as hobby and hobbyists have no claim on decent wages, health insurance or paid vacations. I think that it would be interesting to discuss how society ascribes value to work, but I do not intend to write a treaty on economics, a subject in which I am vastly illiterate. Rather, I  would like to know how  artisans earn the right to be called workers.
In my case, the work I love is often s enjoyable I tend not take it very seriously. It is all good fun. It is just a necklace, a silly sketch, an ordinary photo. No big deal.  Clients who buy my jewelry, note cards, embroidery see the value of what I do  through the filter of my nonchalance. That some have come buy new products or  commission new projects, disregard my attempts at self-sabotage. That I have a horror of puffed up braggarts is no excuse fr my unprofessional attitude. There is a space for me to stand between the self-proclaimed geniuses and the  barely competent.How about you? How strong is your confidence in your ability? What do you think you deserve for your work? Are you a full-fledged worker or a dilettante?