The Long Summer

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed CivilizationThe Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We are intrinsically enmeshed with the weather.

This book takes us on a trip through the history of the world through the eyes of everyman. It is an amazing journey. It compels us to live with humans starting with the Cro-Magnons of 18,000 years ago as they emerged from their caves to hunt beasts and gather wild berries. We follow our ancestors through the Ice Age, through climate warming and cooling, through droughts and deluges, as they encountered abundance and starvation, as they moved with the changes, developed houses, villages and cities. This is not an imaginary journey. It is documented with astonishing accuracy from ice core samples taken from Greenland to the Antarctic, pollen samples, artifacts, tree rings, isotopes found in bones and teeth, from every facet on scientific study.

The scope of this book does not lend itself to a quick read. A few pages a night left my mind reeling. But I looked forward to continuing this slow trek through time night after night. It has made me more human. The world has been shaped by the weather. And it will continue to be. How will it affect future generations? I would love to arrange for a visit in 1,000 or 10,000 years to see.

View all my reviews

Kedgeree

Time for something a little different from the usual omelet or quiche we have for Sunday brunch. With a couple of family members to join us, I found a recipe in the Breakfast and Brunches from the Academy cookbook that had an Anglo-Indian combination of curry-seasoned rice and smoked salmon. I happened to have some smoked salmon on hand and decided to give it a try. Delicious! Recipe

It also prompted me to remember with fondness my days at the California Academy in 1978 shortly after it opened. It was during its free-wheeling early days and I learned a lot there before we opened our restaurant in Saratoga in 1980.

American Mojo: Lost and Found

American Mojo: Lost and FoundAmerican Mojo: Lost and Found by Peter D. Kiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This journey starts at the opposite pole of the political rhetoric besieging us today. It explores every aspect of today’s middle class without partisanship and with a depth of economic insight and education that has left me giddy. Kiernan looks at the whole scene like a visitor from space might view it, focusing on and exploring interactions that have stretched my vision both nationally and internationally and pulled my focus in many directions. His knowledge sometimes made my brain reel. I could only fully digest a few pages a day. But I could not stop reading and I was compelled to pick up where I had left off on the following day. Occasionally his prose overwhelmed his erudition but, like a challenging college course, I found this book both stimulating and fascinating.

International Women’s Day 2016

Double arc rainbowImpossible to choose just one! But I am remembering and honoring three little-known women from many years ago that profoundly affected my family—the three Foss sisters. These three unmarried women lived together in a house in Des Moines, Iowa. Two of them taught at North High School which my mother attended. The third stayed home and “kept house”.

My mother, one of four children, lost her father when she was four. He fell off the roof of a barn he was helping a neighbor build in Pawnee City, Nebraska. My grandmother moved back to Des Moines and lived with her mother, helping her run a boarding house, while she worked full-time as a clerk in an office. There was little money and no chance of any of her children going to college.

The Foss sisters saw promise in my mother. In the 1920s they gave her the money to go away to college. She had three brothers and was the first and only one in her family who received a college education.

A few years later when I was very young, my mother would take me with her to visit the Foss sisters. I can remember sitting on their horsehair sofa and being admonished beforehand to be very, very good.

As a result of this legacy, my mother later in her life was able to fund a scholarship at the college she attended. And now, although my mother is gone, I continue to use her legacy and inheritance to cover the book costs of young women who are finding it financially difficult to afford to attend college. I share the story of the Foss sisters with them.

The Foss sisters have proved to me that Everywoman can make a difference. May their legacy continue to be passed on through many generations to come.

Bearly Making It

When I discovered this pattern, I knew I had to try it. My stash revealed a partial ball of brown yarn, so I went to work.
knitted teddy bear

Then in a recent clean-out I discovered a notebook filled with yarn color samples from decades ago. The company is no longer in business. This relic needed to go. The samples were not glued but rather looped through a punched hole with the ends pulled through. There were pages and pages of them. I decided to free them so I could recycle the card stock they were attached to. Then an IDEA struck me! I could recycle the yarn samples too by stuffing them into the bear.
stuffing a leg with yarn scraps

When the bear awakes from hibernation, I am sure it will find a happy home.

One fun project!

A Case for the Blues

Who could live without their blue jeans? But what about that blue? Indigo blue has been around for a more than two thousand years. But we still use it–a lot. Today I dyed some of my (white) handspun yarn with this beautiful ancient dye.

To extract the indigo from plants is not a simple process. It takes some chemistry that the ancients figured out and we now replicate with modern chemicals. Mainly we use synthetic indigo instead of the natural indigo that has been around for centuries. But natural indigo is still produced in many parts of the world.

In my trip to Guatemala and El Salvador in 2007 I visited an indigo plantation in El Salvador. It has survived, but barely, for several generations. You can read the story of Grace and her family and the road she has traveled to keep her heritage alive. In the pictures you can see the three huge cement vats used to process and extract the indigo from the plants. What a pleasure it was to be on that hillside looking out to the Pacific on a warm moonlit evening and to feel part of an ancient tradition.

Today I was not the only one using the indigo vat. Other members of Fiber Artisans, who meet once a month, use it regularly. It is a vat that has been kept “alive” for at least twenty years with additions of appropriate chemicals and a warm enough temperature to keep it “alive”.

 

For many years indigo good were prized. Indigo was expensive to produce. True denim is made by having two threads cross over one. So only the blue threads in the weft (the threads that go crosswise in a fabric) were blue. The other threads were less expensive white threads. This is why many jeans are much lighter on the inside than on the outside. It kept costs down by only having to dye the-thirds of the thread. So wear your blue jeans with a new pride. They  have a proud heritage and represent a great link to the past.