Breakfast of the Birds

Gabriele Münter’s “Breakfast of the Birds” (1934) has long been one of my favorite paintings and I like it to visit it in person whenever I am in Washington DC at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Right now, I feel so much like the woman in the painting: looking out at the world, watching, waiting, wishing, wondering…

Today, for the first time, I wonder: Why is the title “Breakfast of the Birds” instead of “Breakfast with the Birds.” What do you think?

In the painting, a woman sits indoors at a table arrayed with a meal. We share her view of snowcapped trees and a host of birds through the window. The heavy looking draperies that frame the window add an element of cosiness or claustrophobia, depending on one’s perspective. This interior has been interpreted alternately as indicative of solitude and quiet reflection or entrapment and emotional isolation. With her back to the viewer, the woman portrayed here has been identified by some scholars as the artist herself. In 1911, Münter and other artists, including Franz Marc, Alexei Jawlensky, and Münter’s then-partner Vassily Kandinsky, founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a progressive group based in Munich. Münter’s work is often associated with the expressionist style practiced by members of this group, but she demonstrated a sense of self-awareness and individuality that she applied passionately to her vivid canvases. In the midst of the Nazi era, Münter ignored the limitations imposed on her as a radical artist and continued to produce still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and interior scenes, such as “Breakfast of the Birds.”

Basket of Treats Atop Our Free Little Library

During Quarantine, we place little treats atop our Free Little Neighborhood Library. The king delighted someone today and went home with them. Also a Play-doh. We also place stationery note cards with stamped envelopes for anyone who wants to easily write a letter. Do you see the coffee sachets (like tea bags)? I thought they might be appreciated. We discovered SteepedCoffee.com in October in our Chicago hotel. They make a tasty and easy cup of coffee. They’re quite popular. I ordered more today.

This Little Light of Mine – Part 2

Here’s Natalie singing one of the various verses of “This Little Light of Mine.” We’re singing this song each day in our house. It reminds us that we must not give up. We have to believe that every little thing we do can help make a difference. And singing helps us breathe a little more deeply, which helps us feel less anxious.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine. Let in shine. Let it shine.

Everywhere we go, we’re going to let it shine.
Everywhere we go, we’re going to let it shine.
Everywhere we go, we’re going to let it shine.
Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

We’ve got the light of LOVE, we’re going to let it shine.
We’ve got the light of LOVE, we’re going to let it shine.
We’ve got the light of LOVE, we’re going to let it shine.
Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

“This Little Light of Mine is a gospel song that came to be an anthem of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. People sang this and other spirituals during the civil rights movement as a way of expressing unity as they fought for equal rights and freedom for everyone.

This Little Light of Mine I’m Gonna Let it Shine — Part 1

My letter to the Los Angeles Times Editor about singing this song while hand washing at home and in public was printed in the March 13, 2020 newspaper. Our family has decided to sing “This Little Light of Mine” each day at 5 pm PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), wherever we are. We stop and sing to feel and spread light as far as we can spread it. (I’ve started to sing it quietly as I do my mindful walk around the block and I can tell it helps me breathe into my tummy, which feels really good.)

And this is a very fun version we sometimes play at highest volume 🙂 with Bruce Springsteen’s band performing in Dublin a year ago.

Here’s my Letter to the editor: I’ve read so many versions and variations on hand-washing songs that help people make sure they are really and truly spending the necessary 20 seconds washing hands with soap and water to protect against spreading the coronavirus. I’ve decided to embrace my public hand washing to spread a message of hope that we can work together, not only to face this virus, but to embrace a healthier future with a strong sense of responsible and caring leadership back in place. So when I wash my hands in public, I am singing out loud “This Little Light of Mine,” a gospel song that came to be an anthem of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. People sang this and other spirituals during the civil rights movement as a way of expressing unity as they fought for equal rights and freedom for everyone.

Pancake Chef Cheers Us

It turns out after knowing my husband Bill for 35 years, I (along with Natalie) have only recently learned that he is an amazing pancake chef. We wake up thinking about his pancakes. One night last weekend, I told him I was in the mood for his pancakes and guess what? Yes!! We ate pancakes at 10 pm, after watching a good movie. Any left-over pancakes are delicious to have with afternoon tea/coffee or for dessert with a smear of jam. Pancakes can be left out on a plate for one day on the counter, unless it is a hot summer day. Pancakes made with yogurt instead of buttermilk, olive oil instead of butter, topped with maple syrup and with a side of excellent applesauce, are uplifting for both tastebuds and spirits. Recipe below:

PANCAKE RECIPE

  • up to 1 1/2 cup of plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup wholewheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural sugar cane sugar
  • pinch of salt

Stir dry ingredients in bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to dry ingredients. Bill drops a small dollop of olive oil on our iron skillet, then wipes the dollop to lightly oil the skillet. Bring the skillet up to a medium-low heat. You know it’s ready when you flick some drops of cold water onto the skillet and they burble and dance around. Take a soup spoon of batter and plop onto skillet. It will melt into proper shape. Wait for bubbles to appear on top side, and then check bottom for lightly browned color. Flip. Wait a minute or two, then jiggle the top of the pancake with edge of spatula. If top doesn’t wiggle side to side separate from bottom, the pancake is ready. Caution: Monitor the bottom layer for over-browning, rotating and sometimes flipping pancakes an extra time or two to make sure pancakes are perfect.

Truth & Tubman

It is time for me to make a confession: When I noticed in my public library a slick “everything is okay” children’s biography of the current president shelved between Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, I pulled it out and hid it in the library where it will never be found. This president is a soul killer. Neither Harriet nor Sojourner deserve to have him divide them. Nor do our children deserve to be lied to.

I checked out the biographies of Harriet and Sojourner and thought about the issue of “electability” we keep hearing about. The United States is so ready for an intelligent, wise, forthright, caring woman president and we have someone like that in our midst. We need to shift the “electability” (We Aren’t Ready) discussion to WE ARE READY.

87 countries have or had women elected as heads of state or government, as of 29 November 2019.
WE ARE READY.

WHAT IF:
Each of us, once a day, says to someone/anyone/everyone:
The U.S. IS READY FOR A WOMAN PRESIDENT.

Say it for Greta, Ruth, Dolores, Harriet, Sojourner…
Say it for the sake of your daughters and grand-daughters.
Say it for the sake of the country.

Do not allow “We aren’t ready” to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. WE ARE READY.

A Corny Curious Story About Sweet Corn

I love reading. I read every day. I actually don’t feel good if a day goes by without at least a little reading.

I cook every day. Some people think I love cooking. But I don’t think I really love cooking. I think I love eating. I cook good food so that I can eat it. What I love about cooking is that I can choose ingredients I love to eat. So I read books about food and cooking.

Some years ago, I cut out and kept an article titled “Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food” and I stuck it into one of my cookbooks. I have read it a number of times since. The article was written by Jo Robinson, the author of “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.”

I learned from Jo Robinson how “we’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of fruits and vegetables.” Corn is the best example of this. Here is a story about corn that is both fascinating and shocking:

White kerneled corn “was born” in 1836, the creation of Noyes Darling whose goal was to create a sweet, all white variety without “the disadvantage of being yellow.” He succeeded.

But the story becomes strange and more than a little disturbing. Supersweet corn was born in a cloud of radiation. Beginning in the 1920’s, geneticists exposed corn seeds to radiation to learn more about the normal arrangement of plant genes. The corn seeds were exposed to X-rays, toxic compounds, cobalt radiation, and then, in the 1940’s, to blasts of atomic radiation. Then the seeds were stored in a seed bank for use in research. In 1959, John Laughnan, a geneticist who was studying some of the no-longer-radioactive seeds, decided to pop a few into his mouth. He couldn’t believe how sweet they were. Lab tests confirmed they were 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. The radiation had turned the corn into a sugar factory.

Mr. Laughnan realized people would love extra-sweet corn and he spent years developing commercial varieties of this corn. In 1961, he began selling his first hybrids. And within one generation, the new extra-sugary varieties were selling more than the older varieties. Today, most of the corn in our grocery stores is extra-sweet. The sweetest ones contain 40 percent sugar. The disadvantage of white corn is that it lacks nutrients. If you want more nutrients in your corn: choose corn with deep yellow kernels. It has 60 times more beta-carotene, which turns into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps vision and the immune system. When baking, try blue, red or purple cornmeal.

While you are at it: Eat some scallions, aka green onions, which Jo Robinson calls “jewels of nutrition.” The green part is more nutritious than the white part, so use the whole plant. I’ve discovered I LOVE green onions cooked with mushrooms. I slice up an entire bunch of green onions and cook them with mushrooms in a generous amount of olive oil and a dollop of lightly salted butter. Sourdough toast or brown rice is a wonderful accompaniment.

Foundation and Framing

When in doubt, go to the library.

J. K. Rowling

The foundation for the downstairs garage/upstairs library has been poured and our message to ourselves and any future inhabitants has been permanently recorded via a nail as my writing instrument. Bill realized that once the walls go up, we will have to read our message upside down, because it’s in the front corner facing the street. Well, maybe that is okay. It will add an extra detail to the story, plus a bit of laughter.


In the meantime, our Little Neighborhood Library is as active as ever, with readers picking up and dropping off books each day. Sometimes, we even find a note like this one with a new book deposit.

Library + Tea & Biscuits

A retired teacher in Italy converted this charming truck into a mobile library and drives it to rural villages so that children who don’t have easy access to libraries can check out books.

When I told Natalie I would love to convert a vehicle into a Mobile Bookshop/Tea Shop that could visit homebound older people—to check on them over a cup of tea, distribute books, and perhaps sell a small selection of food items—she reminded me that I could turn a teardrop trailer into a traveling tea shop. I am pondering the idea. In the meantime, I found these two examples.

South Africa
Massachusetts