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The Looby-list of good things: Garden dreams, short attention spans, museum secrets, a pretty house, and lasagna.
Spring is almost here. During these last few days of winter, I always dream about what I will do to the garden to make it come alive and look lush and beautiful. With lots of years of experience behind me of being me, I know the reality is that I might spend one weekend digging up weeds and then find a bazillion other things more distracting to do, leaving the weeds to grow back even thicker and more tenacious. But as this is a newsletter powered by dreams, here are my top ten garden plans:
A full garden bed along the side of the house for dahlias.
Lavender in the beds around the front steps
Containers of herbs and cherry tomatoes on the back deck
Containers of plants to put in cocktails on the back deck
Roses climbing up the walls of the studio
An ornamental vegetable garden - pretty purple cabbages!
Fully clean out the “pond” and foster some kind of flowering water plant
Construct or grow screening of some kind to block out the new neighbours and their colossal rock garden (which I have to pretend is an ancient Iron Age village to deal with it at all)
A small shady spot with a table and chairs for sitting and drawing
“Allison McKeen’s home is like an art gallery, filled with handmade and one-of-a-kind vintage finds. This self-taught artist lives and works in Gardiner, Maine, with her husband, Matt, and together they’ve filled their home with everything from oversized decor to hand-painted details to beautifully-painted vintage finds.”
And what a mug collection!
Open Letters to Children’s Book Illustrators:
Argentine cartoonist, Liniers, created a series of open letter comics to his favourite children’s book author/illustrators. They are the best thing I have seen all week. Liniers also has daily cartoon strips at Cartoon Kingdom.
For your book wish list:
The Secret Museum by Molly Oldfield reveals sixty unseen artifacts from five continents that remain in museum vaults because they are too precious or difficult to display. Items include:
An original Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.
A piece of Newton's apple tree at the Royal Society in London, England
The artist's sketchbooks at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
A space suit in the Smithsonian covered in moon dust
Nelson's flag from the Battle of Trafalgar at the National Maritime Museum in London
Rabbie Burn's handwritten lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne" in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.
A Haida shaman rattle made of puffin beaks
Short attention span:
“Is the trend for epic movies and hefty novels getting too much? Our critics redress the balance with a classic compilation of shorter works – plus 10 long ones that are worth your time”. There are some good ones in here. I point you towards Petite Maman and Shiva Baby, two my film-loving kid put me on to.
Another good creative podcast episode I listened to recently was on Death, Sex & Money; Why the creators of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” treat their partnership like a marriage - which includes some interesting stuff about being creative with ADHD (h/t Rob P).
Also, speaking of Randall Park, have you seen Always Be My Maybe? It’s one of my more favourite rom-coms from the past few years, mostly because of “Sasha’s new guy”… don’t watch this if you don’t want spoilers, but Keanu Reeves is sublime in this film, playing himself. He is almost as good as Nicholas Cage playing himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
Sketchbook Revival is a free two-week virtual meet-up all about sketchbooking. Sketchbook Revival starts on March 20th and runs through April 1st. There are 25+ workshop sessions (check out the lineup!), each led by a different featured artist with a unique background. This year’s theme is colour. I’ve signed up and look forward to tuning in to some sessions.
Crone Cooking: Lasagna
In an effort to cook 52 essential recipes by the time I turn 52 (March 21, 2024), I have started a little list, and this week was dish number two; Lasagna.
Here’s my standard, everyone-demands-it-for-birthdays lasagna. Add some baby spinach to the meat sauce if you are really inspired, but this is good as-is. Double it all for a big one, But this little guy happily feeds four of five.
Meat sauce (see below)
White sauce (see below)
Fresh lasagna sheets
Grated cheddar cheese
First - the meat sauce for which I use this Sunday Night Spag Bol (from the Loobylu archives)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove (or more) of garlic, minced
500 g beef mince (ground beef)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
3/4 cups (180 ml) beef stock
2 x 400 g cans diced (crushed or even chopped up after opening) tomatoes
1 dessert spoon of dark brown sugar
2 tablespoon tomato sauce (ketchup) (use my Mum’s if you can get your hands on it! It’s as rare as hen’s teeth).
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large nonstick fry pan over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add the mince and brown well for 10 mins – making sure to break up any big lumps with a wooden spoon. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add stock and stir until the stock has almost evaporated. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes. At this point, I cover it again and let it bubble away for another fifteen minutes or so.
As Emma said in my comments a couple of weeks ago, are you team béchamel or team ricotta? I am die-hard team béchamel, even though it adds a whole extra recipe to this recipe. I use Stephanie Alexander’s white sauce recipe, which is as simple as 60g of plain flour, 60g of butter, 600 ml of milk (warmed if you are fussy), salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour until it makes a thick paste. Stir and cook for a bit (a few minutes) until it smells like delicious cookies. Slowly add the milk, stirring, until it becomes a nice sauce. Let it cook (stirring regularly) for a few more minutes until it boils. Season to taste.
Layer it up:
Line a greased baking dish with pasta sheets. Then cover with a layer of white sauce, followed by a warm meat sauce layer. Add another pasta layer, then white sauce, followed by meat sauce. Now for a third layer of pasta, and a final layer of meat sauce. On top of a last layer of pasta, add the rest of the white sauce and, lastly the grated cheese.
Bake in the oven at 180°c until the cheese is melty and delicious looking. Serve with salad and garlic bread!
Just a quick note: I incorrectly attributed Understanding Comics to the wrong author in the original email version of last week’s newsletter. The correct author is Scott McCloud, not the waaaay less cool Scott Adams. Many apologies. Of all the Scotts to confuse…ugh. I guess I have been reading about Scott Adams, and it was at the front of my fuzzy covid brain.
That’s it for this week! See you soon.
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What’s coming up on Loobylu (aka The Subscriber Pitch):
The next paid-subscriber-only edition (after a week off due to covid) is about travel sketchbooks - part one; inspiration!
What came before:
In the last paid-subscriber-only issue before the covid break, I drew a webcomic about what to wear to the office for those who have no idea. Also, I recently wrote about a joyful return to the ceramics studio, as well as creating intricate and spontaneously bizarre story plots using spider diagrams, and travelling to the city to buy artist supplies, like a medieval pilgrim.
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