Sketches of art, watercolor, photos, recipes, books, interviews, Jewish topics and Highland Park, New Jersey

Rudbeckia and Coneflowers

July 28th, 2014 by

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I like to post photos of rudbeckia (black-eyed susans). I grow them in my front yard and in my backyard as well. I have a few growing in front of my cucumber plants. I don’t replant them or plant seeds. All I do is pull them when they look feh, and then I throw them somewhere else in the yard. Sometimes I do scatter the seeds from the tops. Next season I have them growing in new places.

Next to my rudbeckia this year grew the bright magenta flowers from lambs’ ears. The yellow and magenta twinkle together.

echinacea coneflowers
In the front of my house I have one large clump of echinacea (coneflowers). I haven’t had as good luck spreading these about my house, but I have been trying. The rudbeckia must live the sun and soil conditions here more than the coneflowers do.

Both rudbeckia and purple coneflowers (echinacea) are in the flower family Asteraceae.

Do you have flowers that grow easily near you?

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Fermented Daikons – Daikon Pickles

July 26th, 2014 by

fermented daikon radishes
If you want to know what a daikon, a long white radish, looks like, see the bottom of this post.

Earlier this summer the organic stand at the local farmers market was selling daikon radishes. I bought one and made fermented daikons. They are easy to make – you just need salt, water, a jar with a wide opening and a baby food jar. Some people buy special fermenting jars. I’ve been pickling for about three years, and I haven’t had the need to buy one.

Don’t have a daikon? If you have local produce, I bet there is something there you could pickle!

Ingredients and Equipment

  • 1 daikon
  • 1 tbsp. sea salt
  • enough water to cover the daikon
  • 1 wide-mouthed jar (I use canning jars)
  • 1 baby food jar
  • 1 thin, clean cloth
  • 1 rubber band

How to make fermented daikons (daikon pickles)

Cut daikon into slices. Place in jar along with sea salt. Cover with water. Put baby food jar into the canning jar. You need to make sure the daikon slices are floating under the water. You don’t want to expose them to the air. Cover the jar with a cloth and a rubber band to hold the cloth in place.

Put the daikon in brine (sea salt water) in a corner of your kitchen where you won’t forget it. You don’t want it in the refrigerator, or else it won’t ferment. In my kitchen in the summer it usually takes a week for it to taste like a pickle. If you have never fermented before, check it every day after the first three days to see if you think it is ready (you can take a taste of the water or a slice to taste test).

When you do think it is ready, put it in the refrigerator. Serve the pickles at room temperature. Enjoy!

daikon radish

This post was written so I would have something to submit to Batya’s next edition of the Kosher Cooking Carnival.

Melting Candles, Daikons and Raritan Avenue

July 24th, 2014 by

You plan, you plan and God laughs. I had certain ideas about how to focus this blog once I renamed it Sketching Out, but my mind is not there. So I apologize for the potpourri of this post.

I will start with the marvelous video of melting candles produced by my son. See above. No commentary – figure it out yourself. I’m sure somehow you will identify with the candles? In his notes on YouTube, Gavriel writes: “An innocent candle discovers the dangers of fire…” and notes it is “somewhat old film style.”

• • •

I have some photos that are supposed to go with a post called Fermenting Daikons. What is a daikon? It is a strong and long white radish. I bought one for a dollar at the organic stand at the Highland Park Farmer’s Market. Here is one photo:
daikon radish
So you will have to come back to learn how to ferment a daikon. Hint: the only ingredients are water, sea salt and a daikon. Update: here is the post on how to ferment a daikon.

• • •

Last night we walked down Raritan Avenue (was it hundreds? or thousands? Probably close to one thousand) in support of Israel. It was a peaceful march. Lots of smiles, some hugging, parents of IDF soldiers (yes, we have quite a few in this community) glad to receive support. In the short rally at the end, one of the topics mentioned was the appreciation that the U.S. Congress has given funding for the Iron Dome, and how local groups such as NORPAC have played an important role in meeting with senators and congressman to get funding for the Iron Dome.
walk for Israel on Raritan Avenue

soldiers we hug you
The sign reads (in Hebrew, loosely translated by me) “Soldiers of the IDF, we hug you from a distance!”

rally for Israel
Thank you to the owners of the old Y property who allowed us to use the space for a few speeches, including a moving one about a soldier (a family member of the speaker) who had just been killed while on duty.

You can watch a video of walkers down Raritan Avenue in support of Israel in this nine minute video by Gary Leslie.

When I posted some photos on Facebook, I had a few people in Israel thank me. But all I did was post a few pictures … I don’t have to go and dodge missiles every time a siren goes off. My friends and family in Beit Shemesh have been going to the shelter perhaps five times a day? But that is nothing compared to those who live in the south of Israel. People who are handicapped just have to stay in the shelter. Or pray the missile won’t hit them.

• • •

“What can I do?” seems to be on the mind of many. Here is a guest post on my friend’s A Mother in Israel blog with 21 Ways to Help Israel. Personally, I decided to give to the Lone Soldier organization because I know too many lone soldiers (a Lone Soldier is someone who serves in the IDF and whose immediate family does not live in Israel). And then because one of my friends in Israel recommended it, I also sent a donation to A Package From Home.

Excerpt from a note by a friend in Beit Shemesh (who grew up in Edison, NJ): “The situation here is very tense. Everyone knows someone who is down in Gaza fighting for us. Everyone has experienced a Tzeva Adom (Red Alert) at least once in the past few weeks. Everyone is on edge about possible kidnaps, airstrikes, and the war. Despite all this, life goes on here. People still go to work and sit in the same boring meetings, kids still go to the parks, people still go shopping, and see movies. Life must continue here or the Terrorists win.”

Blue House Illustration

July 18th, 2014 by

blue house illustration
This is third house illustration I have created. You can see one house illustration here and another house illustration here. I left out many details from this one. Is there a door? Do you see one in your head? In front of the “real” house, there are many bushes. I might add a few when I make the composite illustration. This house also has black outlines – the others do not. Oh, decisions, decisions.

And now comes the hard part – putting all three houses together in one mural. Will it work? I don’t know. Wish me luck. Maybe the tree illustrations, clouds and illustrative text will help.

Updated illustration:
blue house illustration blue trim
I toned down all that black outline by adding some dark blue trim. I like the illustration a little better. Still not convinced all those lines work … ah, the problem with too many choices. I’m sure I’ll be fussing with this more.

Here is a third version:
blue house with trim
Let’s play a game: How is this third house different than the other two?

Young Robins in Nest

July 7th, 2014 by

robin babies in nest
Once again we have baby robins growing up outside our porch. Last time we saw them I got photos of the baby blue eggs. This time, I was busy with my daughter’s bat-mitzvah in early June when I first noticed a mama robin sitting on a nest in a bush that I really would love to trim down in size. By the time I had my camera ready to photograph them, they were hatched young robins, asking for food from mama or papa robin.

robin babies want food
I used my telephoto lens to reach the young robins for a photo. Can you see the young robins crying for food?

robins cry
So I will be waiting a little longer before I find someone to do the trimming. These bushes are too big to trim on my own.

robin parent

mama robin on nest
Here’s the mama robin (or is it the papa?) sitting on the nest.

Have you ever seen baby robins? Do you ever find that watching a birth or young one in nature can help when feeling a sense of loss?

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Flowers of Comfort

July 3rd, 2014 by

It was a very difficult week for the Jewish people – some say Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar came early this year. This is not a political blog; I could send you elsewhere to read some important posts, such as this one or this one. And here’s one that is quite thorough on a recent topic.

I will just mention the word nechama – comfort. What do you do or say or post when you need comfort? I’m posting flowers from my garden. Above are the columbines of spring – now gone, except for the seeds. You can sprinkle the seeds from the spring columbines in a different place in your yard, and if conditions are right, you get more columbines!

Mexican poppies
I grow these Mexican poppies instead of grass on my front lawn. Unfortunately, they are only in bloom for a short time in the spring. I have to be careful not to pull them up when the flowers are done – it is easy to mistake them later for weeds. Some of the poppies’ leaves are now turning a brilliant red.

summer rudbeckia
Rudbeckia or black-eyed susan: one of my favorite flowers! These I grow all over my yard, front and back. They seem to be happy here.

summer lilies
Finally, here are some bright summer lilies. My neighbor was admiring these, and I told her I grew them by mistake! I probably pulled a lily in a different spot by accident and threw it by the fence. It took hold right behind a pink rose bush. I think the two look a bit silly together, but whatever.

Do you have favorite flowers? Do flowers bring you comfort?