Saturday, March 31, 2007

Today's Short Story by Eudora Welty

Today's short story is Why I Live At The P.O. by Eudora Welty

I'm embarking on a little challenge for myself; to read a short story every day.

Why I Live At The P.O. is possibly Eudora Welty's best-known story. It was first published in a collection called A Curtain Of Green and Other Stories in 1941. I own it in a book called Thirteen Stories. It is fourteen pages long.

It is a story both sad and funny. The narrator is the least-favored sister in the family. It is really awful how the others in the family believe everything the lying younger sister says about the older one. Finally, the narrator, who is the town postmistress, has had enough. I won't spoil the ending, but it is a great one.

This was an excellent beginning to my short story venture. I got the idea today from reading a post on dovegreyreader's blog. She mentioned reading some Flannery O'Connor short stories, and I began to think about how many I have on my bookshelves, and how I should read them. This is what I wrote as a comment on her blog.

One of the great joys of short stories is that you can sit down and say, "I'll read one story before getting up." There's a discipline or design or something like that which I really like. And I love the way someone can tell a whole story in a few (or more than a few)pages. You've given me an idea to read one short story each day. A little mini-challenge to myself. I won't try and read one author, but I have a houseful of short stories by many, many writers so it will be fun to choose one each day.


Today's cd/Ground Force

Black Dyke Band, composed by Jim Parker/Ground Force/1999

For a long time, I was a faithful viewer of Ground Force. We no longer get the channel, BBC America, so I don't know if it is even still on, but what a wonderful program it was. Though my house and garden aren't like the ones featured in the show, I got many, many ideas. I love Alan Titchmarsh, and all the others on the show.

This band was featured on one of the programs. As I mentioned once, my husband loves brass band music, as do I. One of the (very) many things I love about Britain is the town brass bands. The songs are delightfully titled with many of them in tribute to the hardworking cast; Tommy Tiger, Charlie's Water Music, Whippoorwill, and The Titchmarsh Warbler. This is a wonderful album for Saturday afternoon listening as I work around the house.

Deleted videos

Just wanted to say that I deleted all the "today's videos." They just weren't good. The only one I kept was the December 8 entry about John Lennon. I re-labeled it "miscellaneous music."

Friday, March 30, 2007


On January 12, 2005, I wrote in my Susan Branch Autumn cookbook that these "may be the best brownies ever. Excellent!" Well, over two years has passed and I still think so. They are also really easy and quick to make. Who could ask for more?

2 oz. (squares) unsweetened (or bittersweet) chocolate
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup flour (I used 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry and 1/4 cup white)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325º F.
Butter an 8 inch square pan.
Melt chocolate and butter.
Stir in rest of ingredients.
Spread in pan.
Bake 30 minutes.
Cool completely for chewiest results ("this will require will power"- S.B.)
Pour the milk.

Today's picture/Cat and dog

Not fighting like cats and dogs.

Today's cd/Eye To The Telescope

KT Tunstall/Eye To The Telescope/2006

The song playing is Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. I'm guessing it will be in your head all day. It is only one of many memorable songs on this album. Really great music by a wonderful young singer/songwriter.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I got this recipe from a blog called Teatime In My Garden.

Blue Ribbon Scones

2 cups flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup white)
1 Tablespoon baking powder (I used 2 teaspoons)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons Butter (I used her recommendation, which follows, and used 8 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup buttermilk or regular milk (regular milk)
1 lightly beaten egg

Mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until it resembles pea sized crumbs, add the milk and mix just until it sticks together. Turn the mound onto an ungreased cookie sheet, mound it up, flatten it out and cut into wedges. Brush with the egg. Bake at 425 10-20 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Personal notes (from Teatime In My Garden): I sometimes increase the flour to 2 1/3 approx and the butter to 8 T (1 stick) and add just a touch more milk. Seems to work just fine. It is also easy to add currants, citrus peel, a little spice/seasoning, etc to make the taste slightly different. I also actually knead it a few times to make sure the dry ingredients are mixed in before flattening for wedges. I have tried brushing with milk instead of egg but really prefer the egg. I also sometimes sprinkle a little sugar on the tops of the scones for a shimmer and bit of crunchy sweetness.

My notes: The batter was a touch dry so I added some water. I used my terrific mini scone pan. I did brush them with the egg and sprinkled them with sugar. I baked them at 400º F. I'm quite sure these are the best scones I've ever made! Delicious.

Today's picture/Bag

My daughter's new bag. Photo taken by my husband.

Today's cd/The Lyric

Jim Tomlinson/The Lyric/2005

This is my last day of Stacey Kent week! Here is the latest album put out by Jim Tomlinson, and as you see on the cover, it says, "featuring Stacey Kent." She sings on all the songs except two on this cd, and in Jardin D'Hiver, the one playing, she sings in French, and is credited with whistling. :<)

This is a beautiful, beautiful collection of many different kinds of songs, from Corcovado to The Surrey With The Fringe On Top. There was one I'd never heard, If I Were A Bell. I've since read it comes from Guys and Dolls and was written by Frank Loesser. The words are such fun.

Ask me how do I feel,
Little me with the quiet upbringing
Well sir all I can is if I were a gate I'd be swinging,
And if I were a watch I'd stop popping my spring
Oh and if I were a bell
I'd go ding dong ding dong ding.

The cd features the lovely, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life.

I want to see your face in every kind of light
In the fields of dawn and the forests of the night
And when you stand before the candles on a cake
Oh, let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make

Jim Tomlinson writes his own liner notes, and says:

Stacey sings with the voice with which she speaks, the voice through which she lives and tells her story.
Though most of the songs here are probably familiar, Stacey quietly sets about making each one her own. There are no dramatic departures or radical re-workings, no clumsy emoting, or overbearing attempts to appropriate the songs. Delicately yet indelibly, she stamps her mark on each of them. Stacey possesses an instinctive understanding that great songs, like those presented here, do not need anything added. Rather, she shines a light on what is already present, revealing the song's essence and through that process, she reveals her own precious soul.
The quiet perfection of Stacey's performances stands in contrast to much that passes for art today, like a diamond glinting in a bowl of shattered glass.

He calls himself "fortunate in having Stacey Kent as my musical and my life's partner", as are we, their listeners and fans.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Today's cd/Brazilian Sketches

Jim Tomlinson/Brazilian Sketches/2001

My first introduction to jazz was the 1964 release, Getz/Gilberto. I had never heard music which affected me on such a personal, almost physical, level. I could feel the sunshine, the warmth, the sand on the beach. All these years later, it is still one of my favorite albums. Brazilian Sketches features many of the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

And I love the saxophone. Jim Tomlinson is an excellent musician. I came to know him through his wife, Stacey Kent's albums. As he plays on her cds, she sings on his. They are the perfect musical combination.

This is a beautiful album for quiet listening, or playing at a get-together with friends. Every song is lovely.

One of my favorite signs of spring

Sadly, I did not take this photo. Woodcocks are rarely visible around here, but we sure hear them. They do the most extraordinary little spring mating dance. It almost sounds like a plane in a war movie falling to earth. Then when it lands, it goes "ent." Impossible to spell, but you may hear it on the site where I got the picture. There is even a video of the dear bird digging for worms.

This delightful display occurs at dusk. We always run outside and try to see it in the darkening sky. Sometimes we can but most often it is only the sound which tells us where it is. Occasionally we have a real treat when there are two or three in different areas of the pasture. We are particularly fond of the Woodcock, and were thrilled to hear it again on Monday evening.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What color is your brain?

I saw this fun quiz over at Home At Last Farm.

Your Brain is Purple

Of all the brain types, yours is the most idealistic.
You tend to think wild, amazing thoughts. Your dreams and fantasies are intense.
Your thoughts are creative, inventive, and without boundaries.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking of fictional people and places - or a very different life for yourself.

My list of blogs

If you look over to the right, you'll see I have divided the blogs I visit into two sections, alphabetically. I have come upon so many wonderful places that my bloglist was getting very long (and continues to grow). I drop in to see these people as often as I am able. Sometimes it will be a couple weeks, sometimes a couple days before I come back, but I do always come back. I enjoy each of these blogs. They teach me, inspire me, cheer me.

Today's cd/Close Your Eyes

Stacey Kent/Close Your Eyes/1997

This is Stacey Kent's first album, and in the words of Humphrey Lyttelton, who wrote the liner notes:

I can't conceive of a more auspicious debut than this.

The song playing is the Haven Gillespie/J. Fred Coots song, You Go To My Head, which has one of the best lyrics ever:

You go to my head
with a smile that makes my temperature rise
like a summer with a thousand Julys
you intoxicate my soul with your eyes

I just love that, "a thousand Julys." What is better than July? The middle of summer, the peak of the flowers, no August, no fall in sight. Pure bliss. I do love all the seasons, but there is something about July that is very special.

Another offering is the beautiful, More Than You Know by Vincent Youmans/Billy Rose/and Edward Eliscu. And the cheerful Cole Porter, It's Delovely. I love I'm Old Fashioned by Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer:

I'm old fashioned
I love the moonlight
I love the old fashioned things
The sound of rain
upon a window pane
the starry song that April sings

This is a cd you can put on and bring sunshine into a gloomy day. Great songwriters and an excellent singer. It doesn't get any better.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mrs Bale stopping by with a nursery rhyme

Rain, rain go away
Come again some other day.

Temp is in the low 40s with a steady rain. It should help green up the brown lawn and melt the snow, so I mustn't complain.

Today's cd/The Boy Next Door

Stacey Kent/The Boy Next Door/2003

I love the way many of the current young singers combine the old standards with newer songs on their albums. Tony DeSare does Two For The Road, Jamie Cullum does Lover, You Should Have Come Over, Jane Monheit does Love Has No Pride.

On The Boy Next Door, Stacey Kent sings The Trolley Song and You've Got A Friend. She offers her rendition of You're The Top, followed by Bookends. And it works. The listener finds the transition between songs to be seamless. Good songs are good songs, no matter when they were written.

In the liner notes Stacey says,

The idea for this album struck me when an interviewer expressed surprise at the number of men on the list of my favorite singers and the broad range of styles they covered. He thought it natural to assume that female singers and moreover, female jazz singers, would dominate the list and found it peculiar that my own voice should have so little in common with the voices that have inspired me. In the same way that director, Martin Scorsese, who counts the fairytale-like films of Powell & Pressburger as an inspiration, and in whose films it might be hard to see any immediate similarity, I don't necessarily express my influences in an obviously imitative way. But when I sing, all of those beautiful and disparate sounds are with me.

This cd is a "collection of songs associated with some of Stacey's musical heroes" from Tony Bennett to Perry Como to Nat King Cole, along with many others. It is a superb album.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd

1/4 cup butter
1 cup honey
juice of 2 lemons
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 beaten eggs

In the top of a double boiler, over boiling water, add all ingredients. I put the butter in first to melt and then add the rest. Stir constantly until thickened. Do not overcook or it will curdle.

Such a delight! You may put it on toast or just eat it plain. :<)

Sunday Seven/2006 Summer Vegetables

Bush Bean - Roc Dor Yellow Wax

Corn - True Gold

Cucumber - Garden Oasis

Leek - Scotland

Squash - Ronde de Nice

Summer Squash - Cocozelle Bush Zucchini

Tomato - Peacevine

(Cook)book Report/Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters

In January I did a blog entry on the next seven books I wanted to buy, and this cookbook was on the list. I now own it, and am oh, so happy I do. It is just my cup of tea. The book was put together by two sisters from Massachusetts who love baking. They have a website where you can read more about them, and even get a couple recipes.

The cookbook is set up and photographed so beautifully. The end-pieces show old, hand-written recipes and there is even an envelope for the reader to put her own recipes. This is a book I'll be using again and again, and probably will be posting recipes here. :<) Each recipe has a story, and is presented in a conversational manner as if Marilynn and Sheila Brass were in the kitchen alongside us. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. There are photos of old cookbooks, recipes, and kitchen gadgets. Really, a wonderful book.

Yesterday I made their shortbread, called Aunt Liz O'Neil's Shortbread. It begins:

Danese and Barbara Carey still talk about their great-aunt Liz O'Neill, who was married to their great-uncle Mike. A native of Glasgow and a superb shortbread maker, she emigrated to the United States as a young woman. The Carey sisters remember sitting at Aunt Liz's table taking notes while watching her bake. Although shortbread is traditionally made by hand, we have interpreted this recipe using a standing mixer.

1 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups sifted flour (I used just 2)

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter or coat with vegetable spray.

2. Cream butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating just until flour is completely absorbed and dough comes together. Do not overbeat or shortbread will be tough.

3. Gently pat dough into pan. Do not press too hard or shortbread will be tough, not crumbly, after baking. Press down edges of dough with tines of fork. Prick top of dough evenly about 25 times.

4. Bake 35 minutes, or until shortbread is a light brown. Cover loosely with foil if surface browns too quickly. Cool on rack 20-25 minutes, or until slightly warm. Score shortbread with a knife into 1-inch by 2-inch pieces, but do not cut through entirely. When completely cool, cut into pieces along scored lines. The texture should be sandy and crumbly.

This was a delicious, light shortbread. Tom says it is the best he's ever had!

Today's cd/Let Yourself Go

Stacey Kent/Let Yourself Go/2000

Today's Stacey Kent cd is one of my favorites because I love Fred Astaire. It has the great songs you remember from his movies; They Can't Take That Away From Me, They All Laughed, I Won't Dance, I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket. I love the words in the Gershwin song, They All Laughed.

They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
When they said that man could fly.
They told Marconi, Wireless was a phony;
It's the same old cry.

She wrote her own liner notes for this album saying:

Everything about Fred Astaire is infused with an irresistible, infectious joy. He also creates such a sense of intimacy that when listening to him, I feel as if he is singing for me alone.

These are just the words I'd use to describe Stacey Kent. Her joy in singing is indeed infectious. And each song feels like a personal story she is telling to the listener. I feel so lucky that she is in the world, singing these wonderful songs.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Today's poem - In Green Old Gardens by Violet Fane

In Green Old Gardens
by Violet Fane [1843-1905]

In green old gardens, hidden away
From sight of revel and sound of strife,
Where the bird may sing out his soul ere he die,
Nor fears for the night, so he lives his day;
Where the high red walls, which are growing gray
With their lichen and moss embroideries,
Seem sadly and sternly to shut out life,
Because it is often as red as they;

Where even the bee has time to glide
(Gathering gayly his honey's store)
Right to the heart of the old-world flowers -
China-asters and purple stocks,
Dahlias and tall red hollyhocks,
Laburnums raining their golden showers,
Columbines prim of the folded core,
And lupins, and larkspurs, and "London pride";

Where the heron is waiting amongst the reeds,
Grown tame in the silence that reigns around,
Broken only, now and then,
By shy woodpecker or noisy jay,
By the far-off watch-dog's muffled bay;
But where never the purposeless laughter of men,
Or the seething city's murmurous sound
Will float up over the river-weeds.

Here may I live what life I please,
Married and buried out of sight, -
Married to pleasure, and buried to pain, -
Hidden away amongst scenes like these,
Under the fans of the chestnut trees;
Living my child-life over again,
With the further hope of a fallen delight,
Blithe as the birds and wise as the bees.

In green old gardens, hidden away
From sight of revel and sound of strife, -
Here have I leisure to breathe and move,
And to do my work in a nobler way;
To sing my songs, and to say my say;
To dream my dreams, and to love my love;
To hold my faith, and to live my life,
Making the most of its shadowy day.

Quote du jour/Henry Van Dyke

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
Henry Van Dyke

Today's cd/The Tender Trap

Stacey Kent/The Tender Trap/1998

Songwriter Jay Livingston wrote the liner notes for this cd, and he says,

Nobody singing today is as good as Stacey. In the days before rock and roll and country dominated the charts, she would have been an instant star. Today it will take longer, but there is no doubt in my mind that she will make it big.

He says she has the "soul of Billie Holiday" and the "fine rhythm phrasing of Ella Fitzgerald" and that she "sings the words like Nat King Cole - straightforward, clean and clear."

High praise, indeed, and well-deserved.

It is such a treat to hear these songs.

You see a pair of laughing eyes
and suddenly you're sighing sighs
You're thinking nothing's wrong,
you string along, boy, then snap!
Those eyes, those sighs,
they're part of the tender trap!

Great, great fun.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Today's cd/Dreamsville

Stacey Kent/Dreamsville/2000

Somewhere among the many products of Susan Branch, I saw the lines,

Now in a garden full of lilacs and laughter
I learned the meaning of the words ever-after

They were attributed to a song title, Polkadots and Moonbeams. I had never heard it so went on a search, and found the song on a Chet Baker album and on Dreamsville. I bought them both, and this was my first introduction to the wonderful Stacey Kent.

This cd has the infectious, I've Got A Crush On You which I've been singing all day.

"could you care for a cunning cottage we could share"

Don't you love the word "cunning?" People used it all the time when I was little, but I rarely hear it now. This is one of the many joys of listening to old songs, hearing words from the past that delight the ear.

The song playing, Little Girl Blue is one of the few sad songs on the album. Mostly, this one is full of wildly romantic love songs filled with lines that set the listener dreaming.

A country dance was being held in a garden.

A summer night's magic enthralling me so.

In Dreamsville, time is new.

And there was April in that December.

Simply lovely.

Today's Poem/by Emily Dickinson

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown –
Who ponders this tremendous scene –
This whole Experiment of Green –
As if it were his own!
Emily Dickinson

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Book Report/Recollections of Virginia Woolf

Remarkable, worthy of being remarked upon, is such an over-used word. Its meaning has been diminished. But when I began to write about this book, it was the first word that came to mind. It is thus for many reasons.

The first comes from what the editor writes in her introduction. She explains that this book is not a critical look at the work of Virginia Woolf, but is concerned with the person, and here is the amazing part, the remarkable thought, "about whom little has been said in print." The book was published in 1972. So much has been written about Virginia Woolf in the 35 years since Recollections came out; her diaries have been published, her letters are available to us.

The second reason for the adjective is the luck this reader feels just knowing these essays have survived. They were written down or broadcast on the radio and kept. One can pick up this book and read not only the eloquent words of T.S. Eliot, but also the honest regard of Leonard and Virginia's cook. These people knew her. That this book exists is a miracle. Joan Russell Noble has given us such a gift by collecting these writings.

A third reason this book is remarkable is that so many different people, really incredibly different people, quite often give the same impressions. From relatives, to close friends, to acquaintances, the reader hears the same descriptions. Which leads me to the fourth reason this book is so remarkable. The picture we get of Virginia, drawn by these disparate sources, is invariably not what we expect. When one hears the name Virginia Woolf, one doesn't immediately think funny, or curious, or mischievously questioning. She is also spoken of by everyone as very, very beautiful. Her face, the way she moved, even the way her clothes hung on her, she who cared nothing for fashion. She made her own bread, and taught the cook to do so. Can you imagine it? Virginia in the kitchen kneading bread. It makes me ache with affection for her.

Today's cd/In Love Again

Stacey Kent/In Love Again/2003

Stacey Kent is, hands-down, my favorite singer. I own six of her cds, and two more she has done with her husband, Jim Tomlinson. Perhaps I will feature one each day for the next week. :<) She is absolutely wonderful. This particular cd offers the songs of Richard Rodgers, those written with Lorenz Hart and those with Oscar Hammerstein II.

In honor of this second day of spring, the song playing is It Might As Well Be Spring. "I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm."

The liner notes on this album were written by the great author, Kazuo Ishiguro. He says:

"... Stacey Kent is a singer to match the greats of the past, with an unusual power to hold your attention and control your emotions from the first note.

Why? For one thing, Stacey's singing never lets us forget these songs are about people. Her protagonists come to life so fully in her voice you sometimes have to remind yourself the CD has no visuals."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tools of the trade/Cosmopolitan

1 1/2 oz. Van Gogh Pineapple Vodka
1 oz. Bols Triple Sec
1 oz. Santa Cruz Organic Cranberry Nectar
Juice of 1/2 lemon

A Year of Morning Gardens

In April, 2006, I began a year long project. On the 19th of each month, in the morning, I took a photograph of the same garden area to document how it changed through the seasons. The results follow, beginning in the April spring and ending in the March winter.

Quote du jour/Henry Van Dyke

The first day of spring is one thing and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.
Henry Van Dyke

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A note to readers

I wanted to say that if you have been kind enough to leave a comment or a question, please check back because I try to respond within a day or so.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Sunday evening visitor

I looked out and saw this little fellow walking in front of the house. I went out and called him and he came over joyfully wagging his tail. I invited him in, and he stayed a couple hours until his people came home. His name is Jake. I gave him dog biscuits, and pita bread (left over from that hummus), and a bowl of dog chow, and water. Those Beagles are hard working dogs, you know. :<) He couldn't have been sweeter.


This is our very favorite hummus, which we have made for over 30 years. You can increase or decrease the garlic according to your own taste. I used to mash the chickpeas/garbanzos with a potato masher, but now I use my food processor which is so much better. It comes out beautifully smooth.


Cook 1 cup of dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans in water for as long as it takes to make them soft. It can be a few hours, or shorter, if you soak them overnight. You can use a crockpot, if desired. When cooked, drain off the water.

I use Joyva brand sesame tahini, and it needs to be mixed up before adding to the hummus. I put the whole can in the food processor, mix it well, remove it, and measure out 1/2 cup to use in the recipe.
Refrigerate the rest, but use it soon.

Put 2 cups of chickpeas in the food processor. Mix.
Add 1/2 cup tahini. Mix.
Add 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix.
Add 1/2 cup lemon juice. Mix.
Add 1 teaspoon salt. Mix.
Add 4 cloves of garlic, which has been put through a press.

Mix again well.

You can eat it plain, or as a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, or
in a sandwich.

Recently we've spread it on baked pita bread.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Split pita bread into wedges, place on cookie sheets, and brush with olive oil.
Optional: sprinkle with salt.
Bake until golden and crisp.

This is so delicious, nutritious, and filling. One of our favorite, favorite meals.