Saturday, December 20, 2003

This is long overdue. I had been concerned about my readiness to knuckle down to the routine of making entries but (for me) the issue is more one of frame of mind and that is hard to legislate for.
Yesterday I learned that my pictures have been posted on the website of the Sisters of Charity of St Elizabeth, no acknowledgement of course, but that's not a big deal. If they get orders then I will be making the prints so that's OK. They really are beautiful windows and the nuns have done a very nice job of presenting them on the website. It is sad that the concert and art show was cancelled because of the snow but I think that they will set another date to show and sell the art sometime in the spring.
Having these new pictures online has given me a nice excuse to write to the people on my (growing) mailing list and that cannot hurt.
Now that Christmas is almost here and I have not been overwhelmed by orders for cards I can admit to myself and the world that this whole thing is going to take a while to get off the ground - years, not months. However, one thing that I can honestly say is that everyone who has bought from me this year is a real prospect for more sales next year - this being based on feedback I have received.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Still at 60 points but I did pass the Zealot test today which makes me eligible for promotion when I have more points.

Am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I need to revert to my 'day job' in order to generate some short-term income because the stained glass 'stuff' is not likely to generate enough revenue soon enough. I remain totally convinced that it represents the potential for a sound business but it is taking longer than (a) it should and (b) I need to come through.

Found a good reference to some Harry Clarke windows today at the Diseart Centre
I would like to see and photograph the windows he did at Bayonne here in NJ. His work is really very special and I suspect that I could find details in the Bayonne windows (which are high above the sanctuary) that would not be easy to see from below.

Monday, December 08, 2003

I've signed up for something called which I think is aimed at collating and indexing so-called 'non-commercial' sites on the net using an army of volunteers. I joined it primarily to secure some listings for stainedglassphotography but have stuck around and am now clocking up points and getting up the first rung or two of the "Zealot" promotional ladder. I couldn't resist taking the exam which tests editing techniques a la Zeal and knowledge of their rules - it reminded me a bit of taking the US written driving test. However, unlike the driving test I did not pass first time. My first score was horrendous - about 50% - through not having read enough of the rules and trying to "wing it". The second time was a respectable 90% but still short of the required 95%. Third time I got 100%. I have to say that pitting against the likes of Google I don't think that Zeal has much of a chance. The other thing is the viability of separating commercial from non-commercial entities and web pages. One of the things which (IMO) makes Google so effective is that broadly speaking it finds pages and sites based on their assessed relevance. As soon as a search engine splits search data into "paying" and "none-paying" categories the data loses its integrity and so far Google has not fallen into that trap. Zeal, on the other hand, directs all 'commercial' listings over to Looksmart who will try to get them to pay for listing and this IMO is seriously flawed because if they do not pay and are excluded then whatever searches are done by Zeal or Looksmart or some combination are searching a limited field whereas Google searches everywhere. Anyway I'm not sure how long I will hang out with the Zeal crowd. There is a huge disparity between my 60 points and the 235,000 points that some of the Zealots have though I suspect that increases in points happen exponentially and not linearly. Here are 3 of the links which I gave them St John's in Stamford, St James's in Cambridge and Trinity Church in KY

Sunday, December 07, 2003

I don't want to miss a day and so I will add this brief post.

Firstly the slide-show went very well despite a couple of setbacks. Firstly I could not use the large screen set-up because the ambient light coming in from some unreachably high windows was too great and we had to revert to 'plan B' with a smaller screen and different set-up. Secondly the snow kept some people home and so the number present was only 40-50 whereas I think it could easily have been double if the weather had been more cooperative. Nevertheless a good time was had by all and they want me to return in the New Year to do an expanded re-run.

The next items to mention concern Google. Has anyone heard of the Google Dance? If not check here. Much more interesting is that it seems that in its latest update Google has eliminated a HUGE number of sites from top 100 listings which must have caused massive wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially in the run-up to Christmas. For details of this and a neat tool to see if you were affected click here. This is a fascinating website and well worth taking time to look around. I have to be a bit careful because Blogger is owned by Google but you should take a look and draw your own conclusions....

Saturday, December 06, 2003

If I'm reading the stats correctly I'm more or less the only one reading this! Of course it's early days and I have to concentrate on writing interesting and amusing stuff and posting good links in order to attract and hold people's attention.

Well, here in New Jersey we are in the middle of a blizzard. I've just done a (very) little bit of snow-clearing and I would estimate that we have received something like 9 of the 15 or so inches of snow that is being forecast. It just keeps on falling.

At this point I have no clue whether I will be doing the planned slide-show tomorrow. I assume that the church service will go ahead per normal, it is in a town and so the roads should be fairly clear. However, it is possible that they may postpone the AGM to which the slide-show was being attached. I would guess that a number of potential attendees will be snow-bound or ought not to be venturing out in 15" or so of accumulated snow and risking falls on icy pavements and walkways.

From my side I'm game to try to get over to Summit. The roads are likely to have been ploughed by Sunday morning but I will try to find out if the church is going to reschedule the meeting which would probably be the smart thing to do.

Turning to stained glass, I just discovered by accident that Church of the Incarnation has finally re-vamped its website incorporating the photographs which I took way back in January 2001. It would have been nice if they would have acknowledged the work as mine and perhaps even provided a link to my website but alas no. I can't be sure that all of the images are mine but I am absolutely certain that several are.

The Henry Holiday window at Drew University is worth a visit. Unfortunately this photograph on the Drew website does not do it justice.

Friday, December 05, 2003

For the nth time this year my plans, and even income, have been impacted by bad weather. Back in June it was outdoor fairs being hit by rain and unseasonally cold and windy conditions, now it is early snow-storms that are disrupting my plans.

Even if the Verona 'Fair in the Square' happens tomorrow, which I seriously doubt due to the several inches of snow which have fallen today and with more reported to be en route, I will not be setting up shop. Cold is one thing but dampness and snow and ice is something else and these are not the kind of conditions to try to sell anything, much less printed items which should be kept dry. Even if the event happens, which I think is unlikely, there is unlikely to be much business transacted. If I have learned one lesson this year it is that at outdoor events the weather has a direct influence on people's willingness to buy things.

In addition the concert and exhibition of my photographs, which was to have been held at St Elizabeth's convent, has now been cancelled. This was unexpected - I certainly thought that there was a risk of cancellation but am surprised that the decision has been taken today, 48 hours before the event.

At time of writing I still have a slide-show planned to take place in Summit and because the attendees will be, for the most part, from Summit itself that should be safe from cancellation unless the weather gets really bad.

Some good news would be nice. Perhaps the weather will encourage people to stay home and go on the internet and maybe I'll get a surge in orders for my cards - that would be nice!

Selling them online is a real challenge. I have no problem selling them in face-to-face situations, whether it be to retail buyers or to shop-owners and professional purchasers. The cards really sell themselves once people know what they are - actual photographs of stained glass. Online it is different and even though the audience is theoretically predisposed, being people who have come to the website because they are interested in stained glass, it is hard to convey how they look and feel and that they are 'worth the money'.

I think that I may make a curry tonight. Going out, even for a takeaway, is not a good option due to the weather and road conditions and it might be nice to fill up the house with the smell of a simmering curry.......
We had turbot for dinner last night. For a long time I have been buying dover sole which is both 'safe' (no fishy flavour, no bones in the fillets ) and cheap (I usually pay only $4.99/lb) and I have even found a way of creating thicker fillets, as though it was lemon or grey sole, by layering 2 or 3 of the dover sole fillets before coating them with breadcrumbs.

However, yesterday Shoprite had no dover sole and so I bought turbot which is said to be the best of the flat fish and was only $6.99.

The fillet was big - about 22ozs in one piece - and I decided to cook it that way rather than cut it into 3 portions. I cut some onion and a courgette (zucchini) in a large oval oven-proof dish to provide a base and drizzled a little olive oil on them. I then baked the vegetables in the oven for a few minutes because I knew that the fish would not take long to cook. I just laid the whole fillet on top of the veggies, squeezed a fresh lemon over it, added a few asparagus spears on top and put it in the oven for about 10 or 15 minutes.

It was delicious. Just beginning to break up over the veggies but still firm and very delicately flavoured. The family approved.

Found a good link to accompany this entry

The Worldwide Gourmet which gives some interesting turbot recipes.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Now for some links to examples of stained glass which are not so prominent online: St James, Titusville, PA Not bad pictures, perhaps a little too well lit from the inside and not enough transmitted light coming through.
No photographs here alas. But the description bears reading and I will certainly add it to my 'to do' list.
Grace Church in Middletown, NY makes up for the lack of pictures in the last link. The standard is mixed but the detail is generally quite discernable.
The last one for now is St James, Fordham in the Bronx which has excellent illustrations.

Browsing through these websites reinforces my view that too few beautiful windows have been photographed. Online there are many descriptions and mentions but without a picture where one could make such a difference. Put this together with a couple of reports which I have read recently of windows being destroyed by fire and (to me at least) there is a compelling case for churches to have their windows photographed for posterity and in case there is a need for repairs or restoration.
This talk about Floyd and Stein got me thinking that I will try to get some Mussels today and do a Moules Mariniere as an appetiser tonight. It is one of the simplest and yet heartiest dishes and just right for this cold, crisp time of year. Just gently fry and soften up some garlic and onions in olive oil, add a cup or two of white wine and a kilo or so of cleaned and debearded mussels and it's done.

In Belgium there are a gazillion variations on the theme - some with tomatoes, some with mushrooms, some with various herbs, with wine, without wine, with beer (?) and many others I can't recall off-hand. Moules and frites is a staple there - a large bowl of mussels, a large bowl of Belgian french-fries and some fresh bread.

One version of moules et frites

This next one is a little rich for my taste. Celery is a good addition, scallions would be were it not for the recent health-scare, but ginger and fresh cream are not ingredients I would personally add to moules

This site looks interesting but is either slow-loading or doesn't like interacting with my Netscape. For whatever reason I have been unable to open individual recipes.

To round off here is a link to the menu of Chez Leon
in Brussels. If I was multiplying those prices by 0.8 which was the conversion rate not so long ago they would still have looked a little pricey. At $1/1 Euro they look even pricier but now that I have to ADD 20% it is scary! That means that for the tomato and tiny grey shrimp starter, moules, frites and a beer you are looking at a total of $27.00!
Perhaps feeling a little nostalgic I just ran a Google search to see if Keith Floyd is still alive and kicking, and it seems he is though he may not be in the limelight to the extent he used to be.

Keith is a character in the fullest sense of the word. I used to enjoy watching some of his television shows and admired his style of cooking which I would describe as hearty, relying much on excellent ingredients and cooked with more panache than cordon bleu.

I actually lived near one of the restaurants he ran - the one in Devon - not far from Totnes, though I cannot recall whether I ate there when he was running it.

His book, 'Floyd on Fish' is a must for anyone who is serious about seafood. The recipes are very down-to-earth (or should that be down-to-water?) but are well worth following.

He would always have a glass of wine in his hand while cooking and I suspect that his inbibing over the years has probably taken its toll on him.
Floyd on the BBC

The other fish chef I like is Rick Stein. I have not seen any of his programmes on TV, nor have I had the opportunity to eat in his highly regarded restaurant in Padstow but his book "Taste of the Sea" is excellent.

One of my favourite and most popular recipes from Rick's book is salmon cured with dill and served with a radish, onion, mustard and cream (or yoghurt) sauce. All you do is take two thick fillets of salmon, add salt, pepper, sugar and a generous bunch of dill. Bind them together tightly - I usually use tin-foil wrapped tightly with rubber bands and placed in a ziplock bag. This can then be put in the refridgerator for at least a couple of days, preferably 4-5, until required. From memory the dressing is comprised of grated radishes (the pink ones, not horseradish), grated onion, dijon mustard, sugar, white vinegar and either heavy cream (sinful but delicious) or yoghurt(almost as good and infinitely more healthy). The salmon should be sliced thinly at an angle, running from head to tail, and served with some of the dill as a garnish. One time I prepared it I presented it on a fish-shaped plate with the slices of salmon arranged in the shape of a fish.

Should you think of buying either of these books please use this link to go to Amazon because that way will earn a small commission on your purchase. It won't cost you any more, it's just a way of getting Amazon to help with site upkeep costs. Those particular books are not listed but you can get to Amazon via any of the book/links and then just search from there.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Here's an amusing foody item. A postcard-size dinner menu from the Titanic just went down ('scuse the pun) for $49,500! Can you believe that someone would pay almost 50 grand just to get a piece of card with the menu for "a few days before" the ship sank? It was supposedly given by one of the ship's officers to his wife before the ship left Southhampton and so was not even carefully saved and preserved by one of the survivors - "Emily, keep this safe and dry, some day you might be able to sell it and buy a house!". The menu was not especially inspiring either with golden plover on toast being the only exotic-sounding item and that's only because I don't think I've even seen a plover and it sounds like something which belongs on the endangered species list, unlike the roast chicken and spring lamb which were also featured. I could almost understand someone buying a plate or some cutlery rescued from the murky depths of the atlantic like treasure from a Spanish galleon but a menu which didn't even make it to the voyage?? Give me a break.......Courtesy of Netscape

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Took more pictures of the windows in Calvary Episcopal Church today to add to the ones I will be presenting in the slide show this coming Sunday.
The weather was 'interesting'. While driving over it was mostly sunny but with some dark clouds. When I arrived I took a quick walk around the inside of the church and the glass was bright and gleaming. I then went to the office, said my hellos and then got my gear out of the car and into the church. At this point it immediately got horribly dark and a short snow-flurry began. Just my luck, I thought! Fortunately it was brief and quite soon afterwards the snow stopped and the sun reappeared and it actually proved to be quite good lighting for the shoot. There are trees around the outside and too much direct sun results in heavy shadows and so a little cloud is not a bad thing.

It was interesting toi revisit the windows while thinking about my presentation. I paid particular attention to the Henry Holiday and Powells windows because of the history. Holiday was originally commissioned to do the entire church apart from the rose window which had already been done by Tiffany Studios. The project was to be undertaken over time as money could be raised and his first window was Jesus Blessing the Children in about 1902. There was then a gap of some 18 years before the beautiful set of windows in the sanctuary was added, perhaps to commemorate those who fought in WW1.

When I first shot it I just pidgeon-holed it as Jesus Carrying the Cross and Resurrection but having paid more attention to it yesterday I can see that there are actually two distinct subjects on each side. To the left is the Annunciation as well as Jesus Carrying the Cross and to the right the Resurrection and I think probably the Ascension. In the center, high up, is a window which I call Jesus Lord of the Universe This whole set of windows is very impressive in just about every respect - imagination, drawing, colour, design - and produced by Holiday when he was about 80 years old.

A few years later he produced for them a window featuring three scenes from the life of Jesus which I mistakenly attributed to Powell based on what I was originally told. According to a local historian this design was not well received and apparently there was much criticism of Holiday and angry words spoken. "We are not sure whether mister Holiday is alive or dead but his art is certainly dead" someone is quoted as having said. I do not know all the details but it seems that the church parted company with Holiday and commissioned Powells of Whitefriars to continue where Holiday left off. Speaking personally, while the offending window was certainly not as stunning as the works done by Holiday in the sanctuary in 1920 it was nevertheless every bit as good as any of the windows produced by Powells over the next 2 or 3 decades. Holiday died just a couple of years after the falling out and so he would probably only have executed one or two more commissions had the relationship continued.

Yesterday while photographing the windows I was taken by the sharp contrast between Holiday's treatment of The Annunciation and that of Powells.

This exercise of doing a slide show presentation for the people at Calvary is a very good learning experience for me and is forcing me to dig deeper and get a clearer understanding of my subject all of which is no bad thing.

Also earlier today a small exhibition of my work opened at The Artisan's Touch, a little gallery in Clifton which carries an interesting and eclectic range of work in various art forms. There was not, and will not be, any great fanfare "opening", just Mike Bertelli and I hanging some pictures on the wall and finalising some publicity materials to be distributed around. It will be interesting to see whether anyone visits and/or buys anything......

Monday, December 01, 2003

I find it impossible to conceive of the history and evolution of mankind. It seems that they have discovered a kitchen which is somwhere around 2,600,000 to 2,500,000 years old. Note the bracketing - 100,000 years which is a mere 50 times the number of years since the time of Jesus and the ancient Romans and today. It is really very awe-inspiring and quite humbling. Link thanks to kiplog which is a mouthwatering collection of food and photography stuff. That also led me to
exploding chef a British food blog which caught my eye because I'm British and lived there long enough to miss British things and places from time to time.

I liked the article about the overweight guy who got a seat on Concord by buying about $1300 worth of biscuits (= cookies in Americanese) from Tesco (the English equivalent of Shoprite). I wish I'd been there and figured that one out because not having flown Concord is one of my regrets.

I used to do quite a bit of international travel, and may do again, and have been lucky enough to have flown quite a lot in business class with occasional upgrades to first class but alas never to Concord. I know that the plane was not the most comfortable way to cross the pond but the idea of flying at supersonic speed and being able to look out and see the curvature of the earth was very appealing to me and I am sad that the planes have been retired. It's a shame, though no surprise, that BA would not allow Richard Branson to take them over.

Here is another great food blog excellent photographs and good French cuisine. Pigs cheeks don't quite cut it with me but the scallops looks like a recipe to try.
Tried a keyword search using 'stained glass food' and amongst it found this recipe for stained glass cookies which I thought was interesting. I'm not a cookie-maker myself but who knows what might interest visitors?

I'm wondering if I should have been less specific in naming this blog though hopefully the "anything else" extension will give me enough license to roam off at huge tangents because the confines of food and stained glass are too narrow.
So, how about a stained glass link? Well it just so happens that someone sent me quite a good one and adding it here is easier than updating the links section on the website. The link is to a site featuring the windows in Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio.
December 1st, launch day! Isn't this (yawn) exciting?

Why am I doing this? Well I read somewhere recently that blogs enjoy quite high profiles with some search engines and so I figured that I would try to catch the attention of some folks "out there" with a view to tempting them to visit my real website.

Why stained glass and food? Well I wanted to do something broader than just stained glass and also a topic which I felt I could handle and food seemed to fit the bill. However the real test will be to see how it develops and how quickly I run out of creative thoughts.....

One of the things which prompted me to think of writing about food was that I came up with two (for me) new dishes on Thanksgiving Day which went down rather well with guests at the Ralley household.

The first was a sweet potato dish which I made by microwaving several sweet potatoes for about 4 or 5 minutes each. After scooping them into a dish I added a good pinch of Indian Tandoori spice, some chopped ginger (fresh would be good but I only had the kind you get with sushi), a little salt and a couple of tablespoons of plain, fresh, yoghurt. Everything should then be mixed well together, or even blended, ready for re-heating just prior to serving. Don't look to me for precise quantities, with this and many other dishes I will judge the amounts of various ingedients as I go along, especially with spices and flavourings. Anyway this turned out delish and received universal praise.

The second was an onion dish which I made up as I went along. Beginning by boiling some small white boiling onions until they were soft and starting to fall apart I then decided to caramelise them. I therefore drained them and put them into another pan containing a little heated olive oil and when they began to caramelise I added a little sugar and a pinch of salt and stirred the mixture taking care that it did not overcook. I then removed it from the heat and added two tablespoonsful of sweet (not hot) mango chutney and stirred it in. I zapped it in the microwave before serving but we had some cold the next day and I can honestly say that either hot or cold works well.

I'm not claiming that either of these is unique or a "first" - they are just a couple of improvisations which I made up without looking at a recipe book and yet which worked out well and were very tasty.