Monday, August 31, 2009

Cranberry Squares

Instead of freezing the leeks I picked today, I decided to make Gladys Taber's Leek and Potato Soup. And to go with it:

Cranberry Squares

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Grease 8x8 pan

Melt 1/3 cup butter

Whisk two eggs and add:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
melted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Put mixture in pan and bake about 40 minutes or until golden brown.

I love cranberries, and this was just the ticket for supper on this cool evening.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Stroll - August 30

You may visit Aisling's blog and see other Sunday Strollers on this last Sunday in August.

Astrologically speaking, we are now in Virgo. Virgo is a mutable sign which, in natural terms, means that this period from the twenties of August into the twenties of September is sometimes like summer and other times like fall. Often we have a day which contains both seasons - a cool fallish morning, with a warm summery afternoon, and then back to fall in the evening. Personally, I love it. I love this time of year with the often crisp air and bright blue skies. I even like the gray rains that cool off the summer-burnt lawns and plants.

Late August is quiet, muted, soft. After the hustle-bustle of summer, nature and people breathe a welcome sigh of relief. The end of August is the end of summer here. Other places will have flowers and gardens that thrive well into the fall, and even the winter, but here we are pretty much done.

Brown-eyed Susans





The milkweed pods have formed

Some color starting in the maple leaves

The ugly tent caterpillars

Nest won't be needed till next spring

We've begun the garden cleanup - still have some food, but it looks pretty sad this time of year


Friday, August 28, 2009

Today's cd/My One and Only Thrill - Melody Gardot

While chopping squash and onions for the freezer today, I listened to the wonderful, exquisite new album by Melody Gardot. You may recall an earlier 'today's cd' which featured another album here. Rather than try to find the words to tell you how much I love her songs and her voice, you may have a look and listen for yourself. The cd is for sale at all the regular places. I bought mine at iTunes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Raisin Bread Pudding

Raisin Bread Pudding

Cut off crusts, and then cube about half a loaf of bread and place in a bowl.
Melt 1/4 cup butter.
Add 2 cups of milk to the butter and stir.
Pour over bread and let sit for 15 minutes.

Beat one egg
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir into bread mixture, and then add 1 cup raisins.

Pour into greased 8x8 pan and bake in preheated 350º F. oven for about an hour. Open the oven and stir occasionally.

This is really, really good hot, warm, or chilled.

Quote du jour/Marie de Rabutin-Chantal

Those who are happy enough to have a taste for reading, need never be at a loss for amusement.
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal (1626-1696), marquise de Sévigné

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Heather's Brown Rice Patties

This recipe comes from Heather at beauty that moves. The rice patties are delicious. We've made a lot of patties over the years, from soyburgers to grainburgers, and these are the best we've ever tasted! Her recipe follows with my notes in parentheses. Tom puts tamari on his and I use either leftover tomato sauce or a little catsup.

Brown Rice Patties

3 cups cooked brown rice (I used short grain)
1 cup grated carrot, grated in food processor
1 medium onion, grated in food processor (I used the hand grater)
2 cloves minced garlic, minced in food processor (I put garlic through the press)
1 t salt (I left out both the salt and pepper, and seasoned them after cooking)
½ t pepper
2 eggs
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

Vegetable oil of your liking for frying (I used olive oil)

If you do not have a food processor you can use a box grater instead. Just make sure any onion juice makes it into the bowl, lots of flavor there!

Combine all ingredients except the oil. (I whisked the eggs, and then added everything else to them) If you have the time to make this in advance and let it sit for a bit the garlic and onion flavors will blend even more, but it's not necessary, just nice. If the patties don’t hold together because they are too dry then add another egg. If they are too wet add a little flour.

Heat a frying pan or griddle on med - med/high heat until hot and add oil. (I used the electric frying pan)
Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop out the rice mixture and gently lay them on the frying pan.
Use the back side of the measuring cup to flatten out each patty.
Cook until golden brown on each side.
You might want to keep the oven on 250 (mine was at 200) with a baking sheet (and I used the plate in the photo) in there to put the finished ones on as you cook the rest. Enjoy!

Addendum: I now sauté lightly the onions and garlic before mixing them in.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quote du jour/Susan Branch

There used to be an automatic down time. It was just built into everything. You know, now we come home from a trip, and what do we have? A mountain of e-mail, and mountains of phone calls. You used to not have any of that. You used to not have answering machines so there was just none of that. So you came home and your house was all quiet and you just put your stuff away and you got back to life. There is NO down time now. And it’s just not natural.
Susan Branch

You may read the entire interview with Susan Branch here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor

40. In a Summer Season
by Elizabeth Taylor
fiction, 1961
library book
finished, 8/23/09

I enjoyed the time I spent reading In a Summer Season until the last few pages. What a disappointing ending. Quick, dramatic, way too tidy, and unworthy of the story in the rest of the book. But that's just me. Maybe other people found it a perfect way to clear up certain situations. Indeed, the flap on the inside cover says,

... builds to a shattering climax and a totally right resolution

Glad I didn't read that first. I may have skipped the whole book and missed some really nice'domestic scene' writing. It is my first Elizabeth Taylor and I plan to read more, including Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, but if this happens again I will give up on the author.

We meet Kate whose beloved husband has died a while back. She is now married to a man ten years younger, who is the same amount of years older than her son. She also has a teenage daughter. An older maiden aunt lives with the family. So, we have several stages of life all under the same roof. Taylor does a good job of delineating between what people feel in the various decades. Kate and her husband Dermot seem quite in love to the reader, but there are portents of trouble. He can't seem to hold a job and is dependent on either his mother or his wife. Dermot, and Kate's son, Tom enjoy drinking and gambling together; more companions than stepfather and stepson. Louisa, the young daughter is infatuated with the local curate, who is thinking of leaving and becoming a Roman Catholic. The aunt Ethel is the observer who lets the reader know her opinions through conversations with, and letters to, her friend. The book follows each of these characters as they go about their lives one summertime. An old friend and his daughter come back to the area, bringing some emotional turmoil to various family members.

When I write it out like this it sounds rather dull, but it wasn't. The characters were well-drawn and I was interested in them. Yet, I was happier reading the book than when I thought about it afterward. Has that ever happened to you? I don't think it was just the ending that made me feel this way, but since closing the book, I found myself just as glad to be out of the company of these folks.

The book, published in 1961, offered foreshadowings of the times to come: a girl who is a model is very thin, yet is ravenous and eats all the time -probably bulemic; and there is talk of a view being spoiled by the building of houses.

I know there are some big Elizabeth Taylor fans out there, but I'm not sure I am one of them. As I said, I'll try Mrs Palfrey and maybe another one and see.

More reviews here and here.

And a review of a biography of Elizabeth Taylor here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

39. Among the Mad - sixth in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2009
library book
finished, 8/16/09

It is Christmas Eve in 1931. Maisie Dobbs is about to offer a presumably homeless veteran some money when he blows himself up. Maisie is thrown into the air, but isn't badly injured. This event brings us into another story in the tremendous Maisie Dobbs series which shows the reader how the effects of the First World War are long reaching. There's not a person who isn't touched: Maisie's friend Priscilla who lost three brothers, and then her parents shortly afterward; Maisie's assistant Billy Beale who suffers both from his service in that war and poor living conditions since; Maisie herself, having been injured and seen her fiancé injured beyond repair as he stood beside her all those years ago. These are recurring characters whom we get to know better and better with each volume. We see them try to live their lives in the aftermath of the war.

From Among the Mad, I learned some important information such as what being shell-shocked can do to a person. I learned that animals and people were tested for reactions to chemical warfare. I learned about the secretiveness of these experiments and how many prestigious people either knew what was going on or were actually involved themselves. I learned about the horrible treatments given to those in asylums for the 'mad' - not only shock treatments but excessive amounts of insulin to 'startle the brain and lead to a resumption of normal behavior.' And I learned some interesting lighter things.

Maisie put her hands to her face and rubbed her eyes, pinching the top of her nose to fight fatigue.

She moderated her breathing, placing the fingers of her right hand against her coat, just three fingers width below her waist, balancing herself so that she would breathe with ease, and move with dexterity.

She began to cry, pulling her arm away from Maisie so that she could squeeze the bridge of her nose to prevent the tears.

This is the sixth in the Maisie Dobbs series. The others, in order are:

Maisie Dobbs
Birds of a Feather
Pardonable Lies
Messenger of Truth
An Incomplete Revenge

Someday I'd like to read them all again, one right after the other, to immerse myself in Maisie's time and place. Jacqueline Winspear has given us such a gift: an appealing, interesting, complex heroine, intriguing mysteries, and much information about society and life in this particular time period. If you haven't read the books, you'll want to begin at the beginning for time progresses, Maisie ages, life moves forward. This is a wonderful installment in a much-beloved collection of books.

Here is a look at some of the historical characters who appear in Among the Mad.

Oswald Mosley

The book contained two glaring errors. There are notes written by a troubled man and in one it says:

He always used pencil, sharpened with a keen blade each morning and evening

We read several more entries, always noting the pencil, until almost half-way through the book:

The man set down his pen in the middle of his journal

It jumped right out at me, and I can't imagine how it could have been missed. Another was the misspelling of the Prime Minister's name. It is correct - Ramsay - at the top of a page, and toward the bottom, it reads, Ramsey.

Little mistakes, but still surprising to me.

You may read two reviews of Among the Mad here and here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Today's picture/Tabouli

The first tabouli of the season made with our garlic, mint, parsley, and cherry tomatoes! You may find the recipe here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Books on tv

First we had the websites dedicated to books seen on LOST. And now, here is a fantastically fun article from The Daily Beast on books either seen in Mad Men or written during the 1950s or 1960s.

The Daily Beast offers some advice on how to read like a Mad Man

Thanks to Jeff, Tom and I are totally absorbed in the series. We're watching as fast as we can to catch up to this year. However, I did something I rarely do in books or television series - I watched the third season series premiere on AMC this past Sunday night at ten pm eastern time. I couldn't resist. I'll write more about it as time goes by.

First leeks

I harvested the first of the leeks this hot afternoon, and these little freezer bags represent five batches of Gladys Taber's Leek and Potato Soup.

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

August is a lovely time of the year in New England. It can be horribly hot and steamy and enervating in the daytime. As a reward for this discomfort comes a night that is pure enchantment, flooded with cool, silver moonlight, sweet with flower scent, quiet as deep-running rivers. In fact, I sometimes think that you never get a perfect summer night without having a hot day first. For the heat mellows the land.
Gladys Taber

Monday, August 17, 2009

Library Loot/August 17

Library Loot is hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at Reading Adventures.

I've been meaning to read some Elizabeth Taylor (the other Elizabeth Taylor!) for a long time so I picked up two of her books, and have begun In A Summer Season. And then I asked the children's librarian what she recommended for some J and YA books. I grabbed everything she suggested, and came home with a pile! I've already started Coraline.

Addendum: I got two thirds through Coraline and gave it up. I just didn't care about it. I read In a Summer Season and liked it (mostly). Brought all the others back unread because I've bought some books recently and wanted to concentrate on reading them. Will get Mrs Palfrey another time.

Friday, August 14, 2009


A while ago, Aisling recommended a 1925 book to me called The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter. I read it and loved it. In fact, it is probably one of my top ten favorite books. This is what I wrote in my journal six years ago:

A man has been in a California veterans hospital for a year with shrapnel wounds in his chest. He overhears the administration people say that he will be transferred to another hospital because he will "probably" get TB. The man knows that this is the place people go to die. He simply walks away. He meets kind people. He is asked by a beekeeper to live in his house and take care of his bees and gardens while he is in the hospital. The writing is very poetical and philosophical. Simplistic, yet complex in its thoughts and observations. A truly beautiful book - hopeful, optimistic, spiritual. Belief in the goodness of nature and the humanity of people. The author wrote: "To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder working book." Well, she certainly accomplished this in The Keeper Of The Bees.

Later I came across a blog called GPS Outdoors about the restoration of the woods and gardens of Porter's home in Indiana. I lost track of it for a while, but it is now back on the bloglist under Across the US.

One entry had a photo of one of the most beautiful nasturtiums I had ever seen. I asked what it was, and to my great surprise, it was part of the common 'jewel mix.'

I think the little red markings in the middle look like leaves in the fall

I've grown them for two years now, and I think they mirror the daylilies a bit - much smaller versions of those oranges, yellows, reds, and pinks. They are a burst of color in the vegetable garden. Some people eat them in salads. Warning: it doesn't take many seeds to make a huge display. I've had to cut back the leaves to let the flowers show through. I've been picking them all summer and putting just the tops in a little glass plate.

Today's poem - Mountain Blueberry by Elizabeth Yates

Mountain Blueberry
by Elizabeth Yates

Obscurely growing, in land so poor that
nothing else will thrive
save spindle spires of hardhack,
and stubborn roots of sumac
with low-lying juniper;
familiar of loneliness
and of the wind's caress,
a wealth of blue fruit weighs the
gnarled stems down
and each blueberry wears a tiny crown.

These once were pastures, but the waste-
land now is host to bushes
blue as dawn's first thrust, and high,
intimate of far-flung sky
and the wild woodland robin.
Here heaven's benevolence
links with earth's affluence,
and none are present who require renown-
yet each small berry wears a tiny crown.

Another poem by Elizabeth Yates here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blueberries for Sal (and us)

I absolutely adore this book. Margaret, my own little 'Sal,' and I used to sit out on the back steps of the shed to read Blueberries for Sal. That shed was torn down in 1992, but the memory of those steps and the sunlight and the feeling of the air as we sat side by side reading is as strong as if it were yesterday.

The book makes me ache with love and joy and longing and appreciation. I well up with tears when I read it now, just as I did then. Isn't it funny how some books will do this? It is a book about love. It is about sharing with a young child, and creating memories for both the mother and the child. And it is a book about blueberries. The mother and daughter go out blueberrying, while just on the other side of the hill, a mother bear and her cub are doing the same thing.

I can still hear Margaret saying, 'kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk'

And this kitchen. Isn't is just wonderful? Isn't it the kitchen of our dreams and memories even if we never grew up in such a space?

As I have mentioned here before, we are so, so lucky that a man just down the road grows blueberries.

Each year we buy as many as he can sell us. So far this year, we've bought fifteen quarts; eaten some and frozen most. During the rest of the year, each day I take out 1 cup, put 1/2 cup in two bowls, and let them sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, Tom and I add our plain, homemade yogurt to the berries. Delicious and so good for body and soul!

We freeze them on cookie sheets first, and then put them in freezer bags

And we like them too! Antioxidants for dogs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Library loot/August 12

Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at Reading Adventures

A bonanza! The newest in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, and the latest Maisie Dobbs.

Addendum: It was the oddest thing. I read a bit of The Language of Bees, and wasn't interested in reading any further. We meet Holmes' son with Irene Adler. I didn't enjoy the character or his wife's history. Loved Among the Mad.

Lilies of the day/August 12

There are four daylilies left which haven't been featured as a lily of the day yet. They are quite similar to the July 13 lily in that they are all red and yellow. But they are each just the tiniest bit different one from another in size or shade. I guess you could call today's entries, variations on a red and yellow daylily. So that makes 21 different daylilies all around the garden. Each one takes my breath away, and gives me more pleasure than any other flower.