Monday, December 8, 2008

today's sunset

Another beautiful sunset. I'm happy with my camera. This is using the zoom and it's not even blurry! I did use the balcony railing as a tripod. Too cold to stay out there for long though! 12 degrees! Brrrrrrrr. That's the top of McGraw tower on the right--the tower that some still-unknown people (rock climbing enthusiasts?) put a pumpkin on at Halloween, 1997. And when I say "on," I mean on the spire. The tippy-top poky bit. 173 feet off the ground. I guess I've been into measurement statistics of landscape features in recent entries. Hmmm... I wonder why...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

not all snow and gray at all

Before I came to Cornell, everyone said "Oh geez it's all gray and gross in the winter there." Actually I have not found this to be true at all. The weather is more like in the U.K., where in many parts there are 10 different types of weather in one day.
Views like above are a frequent occurrence out the windows of the studio. The huge picture windows 8 feet to my right.
Things are pretty okay when a waterfall like this is in the center of my town. Even if the temp was in the teens (I think?) when I took this picture of Ithaca falls yesterday. Note house at top left of falls for scale. The falls is roughly 75 feet high and 150 feet wide (I looked it up.
Measurements vary).
One thing is true: it is cold here. And windy. I need to bring a blanket to studio. These big picture windows let in a lot of cold air. The hot water bottle in my lap helps. We get banshees whistling through the cracks. Especially late at night, when the wind also makes the window frames creak.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Shrapnel from the work bomb that exploded in my apartment over this past week is still lying about. I slept until 11 this morning so there's not much chance of getting this cleaned up before I go to class (if I also want something to eat).
Prior to sleeping for 12 hours last night, I was up for 36 hours. This was the final push for that renaissance garden project and then I resisted taking a nap yesterday even though I had opportunity because I wanted to get myself back on a normal sleeping schedule. Ah, the worklag.* Last night helped me relax into "I can sleep now" mode. Watching "The Pianist" with friends, delicious snacks, red wine, and a warm puppy (Titan, Todd's pup) snoozing on my lap--all very restful and restorative. Sleep helped too.
Now I want to go on vacation to that renaissance villa/garden I created (it's on an island on a lake in Lombardy) and bring all my friends. I think 2 months of relaxation should do it.

In reality, though, in less than a week I will be at home in Dorchester with my puppy, and lovely family, with walks in the NH woods, a toasty wood fire, and leisurely good-food-eating in store.
It will be heaven.

*worklag is what happens when your sleep schedule gets thrown out of whack because of work. Because jetlag is not an appropriate word in this instance... unless your work involves jets? In which case the right word would really be jetworklag?

For now, see my Italian Renaissance Garden. Click on the picture for an up-close view.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Today I worked at home all day, but I got a lot done so it was good, if a little claustrophobic. Above is the sketch-in-progress for my design of an Italian Renaissance garden. The assignment is to take a minimum of 6 pieces from different Renaissance villas, and combine them to make a "Villa Eclectica." That tadpole-head thing on the left will look better when it is balanced by the lemon grove I intend to put in just below it.

catching up

Two huge projects due next week, two huge projects which both mean a lot to me. My head is spinning.

For now, some catching-up in photo form. What has Liz been up to? In sum:

Fall Break: hiking up Taughannock Gorge on 10/11

Making tasty food when she has time:

steak au poivre with red wine reduction, accompanied by rice pilaf, haricots verts and butternut squash (for Mike and myself when he came to visit me over fall break)

omelet with picholine olives, roasted-tomato salsa, and goat cheese

miso chicken broth with soba noodles, shitakes, green pepper, and roasted butternut squash

Walking through autumn mist on the way to class:

In other news, I have moved my orchids and maidenhair fern inside for the winter. They are now hanging out in my bedroom by a southwest facing window. I just have to remember to open the curtains for them before I leave for the day. Fortunately my bedroom is the coolest room in the house so it's not bad for plants, not too dry. Also I have acquired a new orchid, an oncidium. It is about to bloom.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halleluiah! Halleluiah!

I am so proud of Americans right now. I sincerely hope we can join together behind President Obama, and that his wise choices and thoughtful words will help bridge divides between fellow Americans.
This election means so much.
I am full of hope, finally.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Votey vote vote

All the people of whom I know who read what I write here already know this, but VOTE! Participate in the American political process, however flawed it may be, and VOTE! Be an aware and responsible citizen and VOTE! Conquer the grinch of apathy and VOTE!
'Nuff said.

Vote already. I did. Absentee. Hurrah for voting.


I made this deeelicious soup last night. It is perfect for cold weather and I suspect would be very nourishing if one had a cold. It is also surprisingly good left over, I say surprisingly because it even seems to improve the next day.
I will post the recipe when I get a minute sometime (ha ha). I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit. I think because I love eggs that I would add an additional egg yolk next time, if I was feeling extra indulgent, to thicken the broth a little more. Also, because the egg flavor is so important, I would use really good eggs.
This is not a "normal" avgolemono soup, because it includes zucchini. I also want to try asparagus and dill, including tiny bits of sausage, carrots and celery, etc... really its just a great soup base. Also I think it could easily be made with pearl barley instead of white rice.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween!! Marie Antoinette deux (she's back, and better/deader than ever)

A super Halloween. Lots of fun had by all. After finishing the sleeves for my costume (I pick-stitched them to the corset), I went over to Nicole's apartment where we applied makeup and fake blood (gel blood does not melt like the stuff I used last time I was Marie A., and is very easy to remove, plus it started to peel off later in the night, to grisly effect). Her wig looked perfect for the part of Jareth (the David Bowie character from Labyrinth), and her cape billowed out in just the right dramatic way when she walked. Here are a few photos... (la perruque; le costume; in character as Jareth and Marie Antoinette; Todd as creepy clown man and I).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a (mostly) quiet friday night in the studio

In photo, left-right: my desk, Eammon's desk, Eammon, Titan the wonder pup

Saturday, October 25, 2008

new camera!

I have a new camera! Yay! It is a Panasonic Lumix. I can't wait to play with it.

And then comes along a campus-wide PC computer virus spread by USB devices. Now I am reluctant to plug the camera into my computer, lest it become contaminated.

So I will post instead a picture of the funky white deer that live in a former army base in nearby Seneca. I saw them grazing near the base boundary fence. They are not albino, but a genetic mutation that has flourished in this isolated deer population, because of the restricted breeding pool (they are fenced into th
e base completely, which is a huge huge area so it's nothing like, say, a zoo).

Note: These are not photos that I took, to be clear.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

pauvre appareil numérique

My digital camera has pretty much bitten the dust. The forward/back buttons for reviewing photos on the camera do not work. Neither do the flash selection buttons or macro setting buttons work, since they are the same as the forward/back buttons. Add to that the lag time which has seemed to increase as the camera aged, not to mention the very poor low-light performance and the nonexistent motion stabilizing... and you have a useless piece of digital equipment. A moment of silence, please...
My blog will display greatly diminished photo whimsy for now.
Sadly, this also means that my dear readers will not be able to view the cute apple clafoutis I made this past weekend as a treat for Mike and me. But I have a recipe:

Mini Apple Clafoutis

2 fresh apples: one Granny Smith, the other red cooking (I used McIntosh)

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup half and half
pinch cinammon
dash nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon edible lavender flowers (optional)

Accompaniment: Vanilla Ice Cream

special equipment: 1/2 cup ramekins, set of 4

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve and seed apples (I use a melon baller). Do not peel. Cut into ~1/4 thick bite size pieces.
Butter ramekins. Fill 3/4 full with assorted apple pieces. You will have excess apple to snack on. Place ramekins in a casserole pan.
Whisk eggs well. Add about 3/4 cup of milk and 1/3 cup half and half (sorry, I didn't measure, I'll post more accurate measurements when I make it again). Whisk to combine. Add sugar, spices, and lavender. Whisk again.
Dole out the custard evenly among the ramekins.
Use a teapot to carefully add water to the casserole, surrounding the ramekins with water about halfway up their sides.
Bake for 20 minutes or until light brown on top. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.

Chef's notes: I might try making this with the asian pears I just picked. And you could change it a little by adding citrus zest and omitting the lavender.

Happily, though my digital camera is dying, another major machine in my life, my yellow velo, is back on its wheels and all 8 gears. Working in tandem (har har), Mike and I tinkered for a bit and fortunately it didn't take long to locate the problem (cable too tight, probably because it got cold out and the metal shrank), and solve it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I know tis heresy, so help me Olmsted...

Landscape architecture-speak that makes me wince internally:

-dynamic flow
-materiality (and sticking -ality on the end of random words, i.e. functionality)
-organic nature (i.e. I'm really loving the organic nature of this curve. It has real dynamic flow.)
-architectonics (a meaningless word--is it even a word?--that is used in place of the word 'architectural,' a perfectly fine word)

List to be added to as it grows (and I grill my classmates for additions)...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

bad plant mommy

My myrtle plant, which currently lives at my desk in the studio, is now sharing its cachepot with tiny bright yellow mushrooms. Which look rather... manly. Rachel is now carrying the plant around the studio showing off the studly fungi.

I swear the last time I watered it the dirt was dry dry dry. ???
I need to pin up a watering schedule.

Although... the results of my bad plant wifery are entertaining everyone.

In completely unrelated news, I bought a desk chair. Because the chairs provided seem designed to wrench backs.

Edit: The tiny mushrooms grew quite large (okay, three inches tall, but that's large compared to 3/4 inch in this picture), and opened up flat mushroom caps. They are gone now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

grumpy grad student lives below you

The people upstairs are playing Rock Band and jumping up and down, and whooping. I'm in favor of youthful enthusiasm, but when it is in full force and my walls are vibrating I tend to get grumpy. It's actually slightly better than when they play the zombie-killing video game and there are sounds of machine guns and zombie-dying sounds (Sample: raatt tat tat tat tat tat tat ARRrrrrghgurgle ARRrrrrghgurgle raat tat tat tat tat tat tat ARRRrrrrghgurrrgle... repeatedly, at 2:00 am). Also when they play Rock Band they don't tend to scream "die f***ing zombies, die... woo hoo got 'im!" When they did that, I was minutes away from thumping on the ceiling with a broom handle, no joke.

I got a letter from my landlords asking me to tell them my intentions to dwell or not to dwell for the 2009-2010 lease year, by October 15 (as is typical for Ithaca).
Despite the noisy neighbors, I would like to stay here as it is so convenient to campus, and I like my cozy home. It's just the right size and my bedroom is huge. However, I also realize I should explore my options, and try to find somewhere less expensive. I do so hate moving.

campus wildlife

This little furry creature could sit comfortably in my palm, with wiggle room. It is about 4 inches tall, no kidding. I'm not usually partial when it comes to rooting for prey versus predator. I like hawks, I hope they eat many squirrels (especially the ones that live behind my house and gnaw gnaw gnaw on walnuts all the livelong day). And there are really a lot of bunnies on campus. But this little bit of fluff is just the cutest thing, I can't help but hope it survives. Thanks to MRY for the photo. Pretty good for a cell phone pic!
Also on the cute-creature front, I finally got a photo of Mr. Tubs, the sleek and round groundhog who lives in the Wee Stinky Glen. This is not his official name, and I have not asked him what he goes by, but I see him all the time when I'm walking to and from the bookstore, so I thought he needed a moniker. He has a quite handsome chestnut colored coat. He was eating leaves (I could hear him munching) so he didn't notice me sneaking up. I suppose it could also be Mrs. Tubs, or perhaps there is more than one groundhog living in the Wee Stinky Glen, but I am going to take some license.
Now back to studying plants.

By the end of the plant walk yesterday, my whole clipboard was covered with leaves.

Monday, September 22, 2008


That was my bedtime last night. I have only had a couple of nights like that in the past, and it has been a long time since the last one. It kind of amazes me that my body can DO that--I mean the staying up VERY late and then getting up and running on adrenaline. The sleepies and the headache hit after I presented my work, right when we broke for nibbles courtesy of my studio prof. The critique went well, I think. I agreed with the criticism Deni Ruggeri offered, though I am not quite sure if I understand him totally--he basically said that though he became interested in my presentation because my narrative in describing the work and my process drew him in, my work needs to speak for itself more and be more... hmmm... was it obviously interrelated that he
meant? Did he mean that I need more signage on my work? I want to know if it is something in my process that I need to work on or is it just that I didn't have time to put in all the signage I wanted to.

On the time front, I am totally and completely going to get better at using my time wisely when working on a weeks-long project like this. The guy who sits next to me seems really good at getting steps done quickly, and also at not obsessing and presenting his work well. He's my new role model and I'm going to study what he's doing. Though not in a creepy way.

In other news, my bike is broken. It's this outdated gearing system I have. I need to research how to fix it so I can do it myself instead of spending loads of money and time.

A detail of my design plan--a stone terrace built into a steep, wooded hillside above a creek

stage 1 of any project: site analysis

Monday, September 8, 2008

studio/home, home/studio

I have now moved nearly all art supplies and class-required books to my desk space at studio, so that I have to go over there, like I did tonight, for reading or recreational painting. I prefer it that way. For one thing, I like being in studio because there are people around. For another, I want to get to know these people (those are two things--sometimes there are people around and I appreciate them being there, too, but I don't actually talk to them beyond a "Hi").
But it does mean that I am going back and forth between apt and studio a lot. However on my bike that takes about 7 minutes door to door, so not a big deal. I'll enjoy the flexibility for now since there is no snow on the ground and it is warmish weather.
When it gets cold out... let's just say I may be bringing a blanket and pillow to studio. I already plan to keep some frozen meals there.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

dogwood jelly

A success! Very tasty.

Corneliancherry Dogwood Jelly (edited 9/13/2011)
(make sure the fruit you gather is from Cornus mas. I'd advise looking it up in a plant ID book and making sure you have the right kind of tree before you embark on eating any of the fruit)
Makes 6 cups of jelly
  • 4 packed cups of Cornus mas fruit (measure after you pass whole fruit roughly through a food processor or blender)
  • 1 cup water
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of SureJell
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • canning jars (with two-part lid)
  • Fine mesh strainer
Instructions: Set fruit and water to boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Meanwhile, boil water and wash canning jars all over with boiling water.
When fruit and water mix is at a boil, turn heat down. Measure sugar and SureJell together into a bowl, then sprinkle into fruit mixture while stirring. Stir until sugar and SureJell are fully incorporated. Add cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Simmer for 5 minutes more.
Strain fruit mixture through fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Press on the fruit solids to remove as much liquid as you can. Ladle jelly liquid into canning jars. To clarify the jelly further, you can use cheesecloth or a small strainer as you ladle the liquid into the canning jars at this step.
Immediately as you fill each jar, wipe each jar rim with a moist cloth kitchen towel and twist the lids just into place. Wipe the jars down of any jelly liquid which has dripped on the outside. As the jars cool, continue to gently tighten the lids. Some of the jars may seal on their own (you will hear a *pop* as they seal and the lid will be concave on top). If you want to be sure your jars seal, process in boiling water per directions in SureJell packet or your canning equipment. Be sure to refrigerate until use any jars that do not seal. Cool on the counter for 30 minutes before storing.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I am up late yet again, in the computer lab at studio. I went to bed at 2:30 am the last two nights, and I really wanted to go to bed by, say, 10:40 or so tonight. But then... then in class this afternoon we were talking about technology. Specifically, the kind of programs we're supposed to learn, and also the technology available in the lab. I felt a bit overwhelmed, and I had the idea that for the weekend homework, the first project board (a sort of distillation of my site analysis, a precursor to the actual designing) I would do some of the graphics on the computer. I thought this would help with the drowning feeling. Anyway, in my head the design included some computer-rendered elements. The photo in this post is one of the photos I used on the board. This wildflower is found all over the site.
So I designed the bones of the board in Photoshop (granted, this is a program I'm familiar with, but it's always good to practice), and now I'm waiting for the large-format printer, or "plotter," to wake up and print the damn thing already. It's called plotting, this process of printing to the monster printer. It takes about 20 minutes to print.

And... the plotter just scraped the surface of the paper while printing, so there's a noticable smudgy spot on one of my photos. Grrrrrrr.

At least, maybe, I'll get to bed by 1:00.

Edit: hmm... don't know why the time posted appears as 8:15 PM. It was actually 11:45. Odd.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


As most of my friends and family know, I really enjoy finding and eating wild edibles. Surprisingly, this has never resulted in a trip to the hospital. So I was happy to discover that the Cornell campus affords a veritable buffet. During my first week I poached some verbena from the Plantations herb garden. I had to restrain myself from picking the corn in the agricultural demonstration garden.
One of the plants I have to memorize for tomorrow's quiz on Cornus, Deutzia, and Viburnums is Cornus mas, or Corneliancherry Dogwood. This plant bears many red fruits which, I learned during class, are edible! Sadly, they are extremely tart. So I am going to make jam out of them. This time I'm going to learn from making fig jam (fig syrup, really), and add pectin. And a lot of sugar. Eating one of these darlings is like munching on an extra sour candy. Except more sour.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

better things to be doing

Yes, there are better things I could be doing with my time. Since I am now a grad student, there are many many better things I could be doing with my time. But reflection is important too.
My first full week of classes is rolling along, though it feels like today should be Friday and actually it is only the second day of the working week. Today I have class 9-10:30, as in 10:30 at night. I'm going to an AutoCAD class after classes. My Tuesdays and Thursdays are rather nutty like that. Monday Wednesday Friday I don't have class until 1:25pm, which means some valuable open time in the mornings.
My classes:
Composition & Theory (studio class)
Landscape Representation 1
History of European Landscape Architecture
Creating the Urban Eden

Urban Eden is probably my favorite class so far, because it's all about learning best plants for which sites, site assessment, and then actually designing with plants for an actual site. THEN next semester a design will be chosen from the class work and we will implement the design, for real. Right in front of Kennedy/Roberts Hall (Kennedy is where the LA studio is located). Plus memorizing lots (LOTS) of plants. I have a quiz on 22 plants this Thursday. I know some of the plants already, so that's good for me. I concentrate on the ones I don't know.
I talked to my professor for Landscape Representation, and he has agreed to advise me on an independent study, since I have some experience with landscape representation. That way I can use the class time for the independent study. Next order of business: deciding what to do for the independent study. Something I can carry through the semester and not get bored with, that will provide me with rich, challenging material. Anyway, something to ponder.
I didn't realize how much my background would help me until I started classes and really saw for myself, but I am very happy about this. It validates my studio art degree, for one thing. It makes me feel I have good dirt to grow in, for another. It also makes me feel more ready to challenge myself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

les petites choses

I'd been thinking all summer of writing about my time spent working at a garden center, and realized as a tangent to that that writerly thoughts often come up while or after roaming the "great outdoors." So this is my nature-girl outlet for those writerly thoughts. I thought about titles, and eventually settled on "le coquelicot." Not only is "coquelicot"--which means "poppy"--one of my favorite French words, but also I think the small, bright red field poppies that one sees all over France are just so darn beautiful. They're kind of a French cliché, seen all over mugs and scarves and handbags sold on the tourist market. Despite that, whenever I've seen one it is just such a burst of tiny, pure-color beauty that it makes me gasp. Gets me every time. That's the statement I'm trying to get at--that beauty and the possibility for beauty is found in all of nature, not only the really grand, but also in what is often seen as incidental--such as the humble poppy.
And that makes me think of the people who came to the garden center this summer with plant-identification questions. Both of the women who come to mind were new to the area and wanted to know: which of these plants is a weed, and which is a flower I should keep and cultivate? Well, I answered this first question as best I could, noting that most of their plants were traditionally thought of as weeds. This led to the question: What is a weed? Ah, such a loaded question in the plant world.
My answer: A weed is a plant that one doesn't want. No more, no less.
Ironically, most weeds are called such because they are really good at being plants: they make lots of babies, quickly, either through spreading roots or through spreading seeds. Adding to the irony is that many of the plants sold in garden centers can become weeds. Weeds are not always ugly! But as soon as the plant starts growing too successfully, taking over your garden and you have to pull it out... no mistake, it's a weed.
A reminder that while people try and try to make clean distinctions among plant groups, Mother Nature is always standing off a little ways, laughing.

Those pretty little poppies on the edges of mono-culture wheatfields in France are tough little buggers. Despite large-scale human agriculture and use of weedkillers, they still come back.