Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Notes on November 2012 Reading

You may notice mention below of a Kindle Paperwhite. I recently bought one, and absolutely love it. It is a perfect little device. Why would I buy one when I've got an early Kindle and a Nook? Well, because I was using way too many batteries in my reading light. Often I'd fall asleep at night and wake in the morning with the little light right in my eyes. The light in the Paperwhite (and how I love that name) goes off after a few minutes. It is adjustable from quite dim to very bright. The 'print' is very readable. The dictionary is the best yet. It is a touch machine with only an on and off button. It plugs into the computer so I can get downloadable books from the library. As I said, perfect.

In accordance with my post about giving up long book reports, here are some brief notes about this month's reading.

62. Mr. Churchill's Secretary
by Susan Elia MacNeal
fiction, 2012
library book 27
Kindle Paperwhite book 2
finished 11/26/12

Fun, interesting, great setting - London and Bletchley Park in World War II, winning heroine and good supporting characters. And a glimpse of Winston Churchill himself. Delightful.

61. The Poisoner's Handbook
Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
by Deborah Blum
nonfiction, 2010
library book 26
Kindle Paperwhite book 1
finished 11/21/12

One of the most fascinating books I've ever read. I can't praise it highly enough. It reads like a fictional thriller. Great writing, compelling subject.

60. Lights! Camera! Murder! book 5 in the Jake Russo series
by Phil Edwards
mystery, 2012
Kindle book 19
finished 11/14/12

Hollywood is making a series based on Gary's sense of taste, and the whole crew go out to see how it's going. Of course there is a murder. I am so fond of these characters.

59. A Conspiracy of Friends - book 3 in the Corduroy Mansions series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction, 2011
library book 25
Nook book 22
finished 11/12/12

After a rather so-so report on the second in this series, I am glad I went on to the third. I liked it much better. The characters seemed more like real people, and of course the author's kindness abounds throughout.

58. My Hippie Grandmother
by Reeve Lindbergh
illustrated by Abby Carter
children's book, 2003
library book 24
finished 11/2/12

reported on here

57. Holiday Grind - book 8 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery, 2009
Kindle book 18
fifteenth book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
finished 11/2/12

reported on here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Today's song/Anthem - Leonard Cohen

Perfect, perfect song and performance, and the women sound like an angel chorus. 


So, ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I seem to hear them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
and the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every single government -
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
on your bitter broken drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Musical coming attractions

This is the Christmas music I've bought so far this year, and you may expect postings about them next month. Merry December music!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Muffin Monday/Gem and Pearl Breakfast Muffins

Today's recipe comes from The Cornbread Book which you may remember from this post.  These are fun muffins to make and to eat! Jeremy Jackson begins by saying:

Some will accuse these of being cupcakes in a cunning disguise. I plan to ignore such naysayers, cynics, and out-of-work poets and enjoy my muffins without worrying about semantics. The cream cheese buds that crown these muffins do resemble pearls, but the gems - the dabs of jam - are hidden inside. Freeze a whole batch of these for breakfast on the run. In a pinch, call them cupcakes and serve them for dessert. Just don't tell me about it.

Gem and Pearl Breakfast Muffins

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk
 1/2 cup unsalted [I always use salted] butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 large egg

Jam or preserve of your choice
Cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese (Unfortunately, low-fat versions tend to "melt" while baking, leaving you with a hole in your muffin. I call such muffins "Stolen Pearl Muffins" and they taste great, but don't look very nice.)
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling, optional

1. Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
Grease 12 muffin cups with vegetable shortening or nonstick cooking spray [what I did] or line them with paper.

2. Sift the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
Separately whisk together the milk, butter, and egg.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir quickly until everything is just combined - there should still be some tiny lumps in the batter.

3. Fill each muffin cup one-third full with batter.
In the middle of each cup place about 1 teaspoon of jam or preserves.
It helps to make a little well in the batter to hold the jam, otherwise it may leak out the sides of the muffin.
On the other hand, don't make a well so deep that the jam's actually resting right on the metal of the muffin pan.

4. Fill the muffin cups with the rest of the batter, so that each cup is about two-thirds full.
Smooth the batter tops to cover any jam that may be peeking through.
Take teaspoon-size balls of cream cheese (a melon scoop works well) and push one into the top of each muffin.
Don't push them too far - just so they're about half buried.
Sprinkle turbinado sugar [I used regular sugar] over the muffin tops, if desired.

5. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, until golden and firm.

Jeremy offers some alternatives:

Berry Muffins: Instead of jam and cream cheese, stir 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or other berries into the batter.
Cherry-Chocolate Muffins: Instead of jam and cream cheese, stir in 1/2 cup dried cherries and 1/2 cup semisweet, bittersweet, or white chocolate chips.

My cream cheese 'pearls' sunk into the muffin, and the muffins were a little bit hard to remove from the pan, but did that spoil the taste? Not a bit! These are really a delightful treat whether you call them muffins or cupcakes. We had them, not for breakfast but for supper, with Bean, Lentil, and Grains Stew. Perfect. The sweetness of the muffins balances the heartiness of the stew. I will certainly make these muffins again. They are so good.

You may well ask, where's the jam?

I think it must have sunk down through the muffin into the pan. And that's why they were a little tough to remove. But it matters not at all. These are great muffins! Don't be afraid to try them. They are fun to make, and delicious to eat regardless of how they cook.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Today's poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
from Tales of a Wayside Inn published November 25, 1863

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday - Outsider in Amsterdam

The Volkswagen was parked on the wide sidewalk of the Haarlemmer Houttuinen, opposite number 5, and it was parked the way it shouldn't be parked.
The adjutant* had switched the engine off.
The adjutant hesitated.
He had arrived at his destination, Harrlemmer Houttuinen, number 5, and the high narrow gable house was waiting for him. He studied the gable house and frowned. The house had a body in it, a dead body, suspended. The body was bound to be turning slowly. Bodies, suspended by the neck, are never quite still.

*Dutch municipal police ranks are constable, constable first class, sergeant, adjutant, inspector, chief inspector, commissairs. An adjutant is a noncommissioned officer.

I was intrigued by the last part of the first sentence. It says something about the driver, doesn't it? And then the hanging bodies never being 'still' - just the slightest bit creepy, and something we don't always think about. I love that little asterisk and the information about police ranks. I wish more books offered such details. I've spent a fair bit of my English mystery reading time trying to figure out all the police titles like Detective Inspector and Chief Inspector. 

In this 1975 book the adjutant is named Grijpstra and the sergeant is de Gier, and with these words, JanWillem van de Wetering begins his series featuring the two Dutch policemen. The books have been on my to-be-read radar for many, many years ever since I was on the Dorothy L mailing list in my early days on the internet. After I read a posting last month by Peggy I got serious and ILLed the first book in the series so I could finally begin my reading adventures with these fellows. I'm about a third of the way through, and am enjoying it. There are many layers of interest for me: the Amsterdam setting, the policemen who are quite opposite from one another, and the mid-seventies life there. As I've noted before, I really do enjoy reading about a period when it was happening even more than an historical look back from the present day.

For other book beginnings this Friday, please do visit Rose City Reader.

Addendum: If you go here, you may read Janice's post on the same book Peggy wrote about, The Maine Massacre.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Winner of the giveaway


I am thankful on this day for all of you who read my letters, and who take the time to write me notes and emails. You make my world a richer, better place.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Night Before Thanksgiving by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Night Before Thanksgiving
by Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909)


     There was a sad heart in the low-storied, dark little house that stood humbly by the roadside under some tall elms. Small as her house was, old Mrs. Robb found it too large for herself alone; she only needed the kitchen and a tiny bedroom that led out of it, and there still remained the best room and a bedroom, with the low garret overhead.

     There had been a time, after she was left alone, when Mrs. Robb could help those who were poorer than herself. She was strong enough not only to do a woman's work inside her house, but almost a man's work outside in her piece of garden ground. At last sickness and age had come hand in hand, those two relentless enemies of the poor, and together they had wasted her strength and substance. She had always been looked up to by her neighbors as being independent, but now she was left, lame-footed and lame-handed, with a debt to carry and her bare land, and the house ill-provisioned to stand the siege of time.

     For a while she managed to get on, but at last it began to be whispered about that there was no use for any one so proud; it was easier for the whole town to care for her than for a few neighbors, and Mrs. Robb had better go to the poorhouse before winter, and be done with it. At this terrible suggestion her brave heart seemed to stand still. The people whom she cared for most happened to be poor, and she could no longer go into their households to make herself of use. The very elms overhead seemed to say, "Oh, no!" as they groaned in the late autumn winds, and there was something appealing even to the strange passer-by in the look of the little gray house, with Mrs. Robb's pale, worried face at the window.

     Some one has said that anniversaries are days to make other people happy in, but sometimes when they come they seem to be full of shadows, and the power of giving joy to others, that inalienable right which ought to lighten the saddest heart, the most indifferent sympathy, sometimes even this seems to be withdrawn.

     So poor old Mary Ann Robb sat at her window on the afternoon before Thanksgiving and felt herself poor and sorrowful indeed. Across the frozen road she looked eastward over a great stretch of cold meadow land, brown and wind-swept and crossed by icy ditches. It seemed to her as if before this, in all the troubles that she had known and carried, there had always been some hope to hold: as if she had never looked poverty full in the face and seen its cold and pitiless look before. She looked anxiously down the road, with a horrible shrinking and dread at the thought of being asked, out of pity, to join in some Thanksgiving feast, but there was nobody coming with gifts in hand. Once she had been full of love for such days, whether at home or abroad, but something chilled her very heart now.

     Her nearest neighbor had been foremost of those who wished her to go to the town farm, and he had said more than once that it was the only sensible thing. But John Mander was waiting impatiently to get her tiny farm into his own hands; he had advanced some money upon it in her extremity, and pretended that there was still a debt, after he cleared her wood lot to pay himself back. He would plough over the graves in the field corner and fell the great elms, and waited now like a spider for his poor prey. He often reproached her for being too generous to worthless people in the past and coming to be a charge to others now. Oh, if she could only die in her own house and not suffer the pain of homelessness and dependence!

     It was just at sunset, and as she looked out hopelessly across the gray fields, there was a sudden gleam of light far away on the low hills beyond; the clouds opened in the west and let the sunshine through. One lovely gleam shot swift as an arrow and brightened a far cold hillside where it fell, and at the same moment a sudden gleam of hope brightened the winter landscape of her heart.

     "There was Johnny Harris," said Mary Ann Robb softly. "He was a soldier's son, left an orphan and distressed. Old John Mander scolded, but I couldn't see the poor boy in want. I kept him that year after he got hurt, spite o' what anybody said, an' he helped me what little he could. He said I was the only mother he'd ever had. 'I'm goin' out West, Mother Robb,' says he. 'I sha'n't come back till I get rich,' an' then he'd look at me an' laugh, so pleasant and boyish. He wa'n't one that liked to write. I don't think he was doin' very well when I heard, - there, it's most four years ago now. I always thought if he got sick or anything, I should have a good home for him to come to. There's poor Ezra Blake, the deaf one, too, - he won't have any place to welcome him."

     The light faded out of doors, and again Mrs. Robb's troubles stood before her. Yet it was not so dark as it had been in her sad heart. She still sat by the window, hoping now, in spite of herself, instead of fearing; and a curious feeling of nearness and expectancy made her feel not so much light-hearted as light-headed.

     "I feel just as if somethin' was goin' to happen," she said. "Poor Johnny Harris, perhaps he's thinkin' o' me, if he's alive."

     It was dark now out of doors, and there were tiny clicks against the window. It was beginning to snow, and the great elms creaked in the rising wind overhead.

     A dead limb of one of the old trees had fallen that autumn, and, poor firewood as it might be, it was Mrs. Robb's own, and she had burnt it most thankfully. There was only a small armful left, but at least she could have the luxury of a fire. She had a feeling that it was her last night at home, and with strange recklessness began to fill the stove as she used to do in better days.

     "It'll get me good an' warm," she said, still talking to herself, as lonely people do, "an' I'll go to bed early. It's comin' on to storm."

     The snow clicked faster and faster against the window, and she sat alone thinking in the dark.

     "There's lots of folks I love," she said once. "They'd be sorry I ain't got nobody to come, an' no supper the night afore Thanksgivin'. I'm dreadful glad they don't know." And she drew a little nearer to the fire, and laid her head back drowsily in the old rocking-chair.

     It seemed only a moment before there was a loud knocking, and somebody lifted the latch of the door. The fire shone bright through the front of the stove and made a little light in the room, but Mary Ann Robb waked up frightened and bewildered.

     "Who's there?" she called, as she found her crutch and went to the door. She was only conscious of her one great fear. "They've come to take me to the poorhouse!" she said, and burst into tears.

     There was a tall man, not John Mander, who seemed to fill the narrow doorway.

     "Come, let me in! " he said gayly. "It's a cold night. You didn't expect me, did you, Mother Robb?"

     "Dear me, what is it?" she faltered, stepping back as he came in, and dropping her crutch. "Be I dreamin'? I was a-dreamin' about - Oh, there! What was I a-sayin'? 'T ain't true! No! I've made some kind of a mistake."

     Yes, and this was the man who kept the poorhouse, and she would go without complaint; they might have given her notice, but she must not fret.

     "Sit down, sir," she said, turning toward him with touching patience. "You'll have to give me a little time. If I'd been notified I wouldn't have kept you waiting a minute this stormy night."

     It was not the keeper of the poorhouse. The man by the door took one step forward and put his arm round her and kissed her.

     "What are you talking about?" said John Harris. "You ain't goin' to make me feel like a stranger? I've come all the way from Dakota to spend Thanksgivin'. There's all sorts o' things out here in the wagon, an' a man to help get 'em in. Why, don't cry so, Mother Robb. I thought you'd have a great laugh, if I come and surprised you. Don't you remember I always said I should come?"

     It was John Harris, indeed. The poor soul could say nothing. She felt now as if her heart was going to break with joy. He left her in the rocking-chair and came and went in his old boyish way, bringing in the store of gifts and provisions. It was better than any dream. He laughed and talked, and went out to send away the man to bring a wagonful of wood from John Mander's, and came in himself laden with pieces of the nearest fence to keep the fire going in the mean time. They must cook the beefsteak for supper right away; they must find the pound of tea among all the other bundles; they must get good fires started in both the cold bedrooms. Why, Mother Robb didn't seem to be ready for company from out West! The great, cheerful fellow hurried about the tiny house, and the little old woman limped after him, forgetting everything but hospitality. Had not she a house for John to come to? Were not her old chairs and tables in their places still? And he remembered everything, and kissed her as they stood before the fire, as if she were a girl.

     He had found plenty of hard times, but luck had come at last. He had struck luck, and this was the end of a great year.

     "No, I couldn't seem to write letters; no use to complain o' the worst, an' I wanted to tell you the best when I came;" and he told it while she cooked the supper. "No, I wa'n't goin' to write no foolish letters," John repeated. He was afraid he should cry himself when he found out how bad things had been; and they sat down to supper together, just as they used to do when he was a homeless orphan boy, whom nobody else wanted in winter weather while he was crippled and could not work. She could not be kinder now than she was then, but she looked so poor and old! He saw her taste her cup of tea and set it down again with a trembling hand and a look at him. "No, I wanted to come myself," he blustered, wiping his eyes and trying to laugh. "And you're going to have everything you need to make you comfortable long 's you live, Mother Robb!"

     She looked at him again and nodded, but she did not even try to speak. There was a good hot supper ready, and a happy guest had come; it was the night before Thanksgiving.

"The Night Before Thanksgiving" first appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript, Saturday 16 November 1895.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today's poem by Robert Frost

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
 Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
 She walks the sodden pasture lane. 
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
 She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
 Is silver now with clinging mist.         

The desolate, deserted trees,
 The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
 And vexes me for reason why.         

Not yesterday I learned to know
 The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
 And they are better for her praise.

Robert Frost (1874–1963)  

A Boy’s Will  1915

Friday, November 16, 2012

Quote du jour/Christopher Morley

There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way.
Christopher Morley (1890-1957)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today's song/Don't Give Up On Me - Solomon Burke

I so love this song from the 2002 album of the same name, done by the late, and sorely missed, Solomon Burke (1940-2010)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Today's poem by Robert Frost

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

From New Hampshire  1923
Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Muffin Monday/Fluffy Muffins

Today's recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks. There is another recipe from this delightful little book here.

Tonight's muffins are called

Fluffy Muffins

Cream together:
1/4 cup soft butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 beaten egg

Sift together:
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add dry mix to creamed mixture.
Add 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup sour cream or heavy sweet cream. (I used sour cream)
Spoon into greased muffin tins.
Bake in preheated 400º F. oven until brown. (took about 15 minutes)

These are very quick and easy to make, and absolutely yummy. We had them for supper with Gladys Taber's Leek Soup.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quote du jour/Alexander McCall Smith

It was now late on Sunday afternoon, an emotionally flat time for many people.
From A Conspiracy of Friends by Alexander McCall Smith

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thoughts about reading, writing, the blog, and life

This has been quite an unusual reading year for me. I have taken advantage of the library more often. I've borrowed many a book, read a little or a lot of them and discarded them. I don't think I've ever read so many pages of a book I eventually quit. I've always been one to drop a book as soon as it didn't interest me. I continued to do so this year. But here is what is so weird. I read over half of many books, liking them quite well, praising them to Tom, and then suddenly I couldn't care less. I became bored or annoyed with the subject matter or the way a book was written. I can barely understand this, even though I experienced it time after time. And then the books I did finish, and wrote about, were fine. They were okay. They were pleasant. Some were exceptional. But as I look back, the overall feeling is one of mild interest. Not a satisfying reading year at all.

I suspect part of this was the daily tension and worry about Tom's father. You may remember me telling you he had Alzheimer's when I wrote about Still Alice. Beginning a year ago, we started thinking he would need to be in an assisted living facility. But then he seemed okay at home. Between his landlord, and Tom, and the people downtown, he had a full life and was well watched over. Yet, I worried. I worried about the steep stairs up to his apartment. I worried about him walking on uneven sidewalks, especially after he fell a few times. I worried because he sometimes went down the hill to Main St. at night, thinking it was time for breakfast. A couple times the kindly police brought him home.

In the past few months, we began to see that the time of assisted living was past, and that his next stop would have to be a nursing home. He was on a waiting list for two of them. But before a space opened up, he went downhill very suddenly, and after collapsing one day while Tom was there, went to the hospital via ambulance, and died the next day. One couldn't ask for a gentler, more agreeable end of life. He was happy, cheerful, and well-cared for.

The wisdom that comes only with looking back made me realize that my reading life the past twelve months has been an anomaly. I couldn't sit still very long. I would read a little and then hop up and do something else. Television in the evening was a bit of a refuge from tension, and I went through seven seasons of Bones, catching up to the current one.

Not only was I not that happy in my books, I had a terrible time writing about them. Although I wanted to keep track of my reading here, it became a chore. And not only after finishing a book, but sometimes during it. Occasionally it felt like reading for the blog entry. What will I say? Will I focus on this part? Was this totally due to my concerns about my father-in-law? I don't think so. I think my state of mind simply clarified a feeling that has been slowly growing in me. I think I don't want to write about my reading anymore. I am tired of doing so. I want to read like the proverbial child, one book after another without stopping to analyze or talk about it. I want to simply enjoy without having to explain why.

I don't know just yet where this feeling will lead, but I know the direction of my letters is going to change. I think I will still keep a list of books read, but I am not going to write about them anymore. Maybe I'll do as I did at the very start of my blog, and do a 'book of the month.' Maybe I'll do end of month postings with just a few words about each book. Maybe I won't do anything but list them.

Time, as they say, is fleeting. I don't have 60 years of reading ahead of me. I want to let myself purely love what I read without any obligation to write about it. And I am going to begin now, with one exception. I was sent a lovely children's book to read and write about, and offer a giveaway copy to a reader, so I will do that. But other than that book, I'm done. I'm not going to join any challenges.
My reading will return to a quiet and joyful pleasure.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Product placement/shower curtain

If you look under Letter Topics, you'll find very few 'product placements.' Of the six postings there, the camera has been replaced by one I like much better, and the crackers are not available in my area anymore. I also never buy that oatmeal now. I got rid of the tee shirt when Ben died. But the remaining two are still very popular here at Windy Poplars. Sadie gets her Sea Jerky every day, and at eight years old her legs are stronger than they were seven years ago. The pudding makes its way into the shopping cart occasionally.

In the US, people of both political parties bemoan the fact that so very little is made in our country anymore. I was delighted to find that the cotton duck shower curtains sold by The Vermont Country Store are made in Vermont with US grown cotton. A minor miracle in these times. And I don't find the cost prohibitive at all because these curtains last a long time. All you have to do is wash them occasionally, and hang them to dry. They are thick enough so water doesn't get through, eliminating the need for a liner. And you aren't throwing away those awful, stiff plastic things that take forever to biodegrade.

This is what the company has to say:
We didn't believe it 'til we tried it, but it's true: You can have a cotton shower curtain and your bathroom will stay dry. Which means you can get rid of that annoying, billowing liner that clings to your legs and cuts your showering room in half. Our 10 oz. 100% cotton duck fabric shower curtain's tenacity and tight weave ensure that water won't seep through. Available in 65" X 72" bathtub shower or 38" X 72" shower stall. Machine wash, line dry. Made here in Vermont.

    • Fabric shower curtain has rustproof metal grommets that won't tear out
    • Machine wash and line dry; any wrinkles disappear after hanging
    • Cotton shower curtain available for shower stalls or bathtub showers
    • Tightly woven 10 oz. 100% cotton duck fabric shower curtain will not let water seep through
    • Made in Vermont
At The Vermont Country Store we say it's curtains for the shower liner: Our heavy-duty cotton shower curtain is a solo act.

You may buy your own here. And if you buy two in the next month, you can get free shipping. Or you could buy one and buy some other great products they offer to add up to $65.

The Vermont Country Store Christmas Delivery Cut-Off Dates*

Enter Promotion Code FSPW36 in Your Shopping Bag

*Valid on in-stock items only. Not valid on previous purchases, sales of gift cards, product exchanges, or duties and taxes. Surcharges may apply due to size, weight, or special handling required. Multiple-address orders must have at least a $65 value to each location to qualify for Free Shipping. Not to be combined with any other promotions. Expires 12/12/12 at midnight ET.

In addition to all these positive factors, the curtains are beautiful. I have both the white one, and the blue tick stripe.

You can see the part that got wet during today's showers. The cotton duck absorbs the water. Also, I wanted to show you that it is wide enough to fit on the curved shower rod. Truly a perfect product.

Addendum: from the dictionary:

Cotton duck

Cotton duck (from Dutch doek,"linen canvas"), also simply duck, sometimes duck cloth or duck canvas, commonly called "canvas" outside the textile industry, is a heavy, plain woven cotton fabric. There is also linen duck, which is less often used.
Duck is used in a wide range of applications, from sneakers to use for artists' paintings to tents to sandbags.[1]
Duck fabric is woven with two yarns together in the warp and a single yarn in the weft.[citation needed]


Van Gogh, Vincent, Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, Easel and Japanese Print, January 1889

Oil on canvas, 60 × 49 cm

Courtauld Institute Galleries, London (F527). Van Gogh wears a coat made from cotton duck.
Duck is classified according to weight in a numerical system, with grade 1 the heaviest and grade 12 the lightest variety. Besides this, traditional names exist, which are rarely used today.
A numbering system is used to describe the various weights of duck cloth, based on the weight of a 36×22-inch piece. Weights below 19 ounces are called numbered duck. The grade of numbered duck refers to the number of ounces subtracted from 19 for a 36×22-inch piece of fabric. For example, a piece of #8 numbered duck with dimensions of 36"×22" weighs 11 ounces (19 − 8 = 11); those above 19 ounces are called naught duck.[2]
Numbered duck is nominally made in weights from 1 to 12, but numbers 7, 9, and 11 are no longer used. Some typical uses of various grades (with weights in ounces) are[1]:
  • #1 (18 oz): hammocks, cots, sandbags
  • #2 (17 oz): hatch paulins
  • #3 (16 oz): heavy-duty bags
  • #4 (15 oz): sea bags
  • #5 (14 oz): heavy work clothes
  • #6 (13 oz): large boat covers, heavy work clothes
  • #8 (11 oz): work clothes, clothes bags
  • #10 (9 oz): work clothes, shower curtains
  • #12 (7 oz): light clothes

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle

57. Holiday Grind - book 8 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery, 2009
Kindle book 18
fifteenth book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
finished 11/2/12

The season for Christmas books has begun! This year I set up a reading schedule of the Coffeehouse books so that I'd read the Christmas installment in November.  And now the authors (Cleo Coyle is really Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini) have a new holiday book which is coming out December 4. Since I have three books to read ahead of it, I'll portion out my reading over the months so I can read Holiday Buzz in November 2013. Though I prefer doing so, this isn't a series that really has to be read in order since the author does such a good job of catching the reader up on who's who.

In Holiday Grind, our utterly unstoppable heroine, Clare Cosi finds the body of a friend who dresses up as Santa each year. Who would kill Santa Claus?

This isn't a light, cheery little Christmastime mystery. It illustrates that sadness and melancholy and troubles don't magically disappear when December rolls around. In addition to the murder, we see Clare's boyfriend, Mike Quinn's problems with his ex-wife.

As I've noted, each book in the series focuses on a different part of New York City. In this one, we ride the Staten Island Ferry

out to Staten Island. Here is a photo of the damage there from Sandy. I can't help but think that Cleo Coyle will write about this storm in an upcoming Coffeehouse mystery.

The love the authors have for the city and its environs is evident. A great, great series.

I might not have included this as an entry for the Foodies Challenge since there wasn't as much coffee information as in the other books, but a large portion of the book is devoted to Christmasy foods and coffees which makes it practically a little cookbook. Here are just a few of the topics.

Coffee Drink Recipes, Caffe Latte Recipes, Fa-La-La-La Lattes, Holiday Recipes.

I would recommend you buy a copy for yourself and wow your friends and family with food and drink for the season, and enjoy a great mystery at the same time!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Today's song/Hands - Jewel

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be we're all OK
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these

I won't be made useless
Won't be made idle with despair
Gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know
They're not yours, they are my own
They're not yours, they are my own
And we are never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes
Did not steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it was not ever after

We will fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small I know
They're not yours, they are my own
They're not yours, they are my own
We are never broken

'Cause in the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters

I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray

My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own

My hands are small I know
They're not yours, they are my own
They are not yours, they are my own
And we are never broken
We are never broken

'Cause we are God's eyes
We are God's hands
God's mind
We are God's eyes
We are God's hands
We are God's heart
We are, we are

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Hippie Grandmother by Reeve Lindbergh

58. My Hippie Grandmother
by Reeve Lindbergh
illustrated by Abby Carter
children's book, 2003
library book twenty-four
finished 11/2/12

This is a most wonderful children's book by the most wonderful author, Reeve Lindbergh. I've written about one of her adult books here on the blog. She has an incredibly warmhearted, kindly spirit which comes through in every word she writes, and this book is no exception. And the illustrations are just perfect. We see the exuberance, the joie de vivre of this 'hippie grandmother' as the granddaughter describes the activities they share.

We're at the Farmer's Market
By noon each Saturday.
We sell some bread and vegetables,
And some we give away.

The grandmother and 'her boyfriend Jim' sing the little girl to sleep 'on a psychedelic sheet.'

As they sit around the kitchen table with the old wood cookstove beside them the little girl tells us

 My mother is a lawyer.
My dad works on TV.
My grandma says someday I'll find
The perfect job for me.

She says I could be President
Or go to outer space.
Or find the cure for cancer
And save the human race.

And then the book ends
I tell her there's one other thing
I really want to do:
"Become a Hippie Grandmother,
So I'll be JUST LIKE YOU!"

Oh, how I love My Hippie Grandmother. What a comforting book to read just before bedtime.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Dog Who Came In From The Cold by Alexander McCall Smith

56. The Dog Who Came In From The Cold - book 2 in the Corduroy Mansions series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction, 2010
library book twenty-three
Nook book 21
finished 10/30/12

I find the 44 Scotland Street series, and this one, the Corduroy Mansions series to be an odd combination of thoughtful, gentle musings and quirky, barely believable characters. I like them well enough, but they seem like characters, not people. At least I can continue with Corduroy Mansions. I had to give up the Scotland Street books because the antics of the young Bertie (and others) were just too impossible for me to accept as a reader. The characters in Corduroy Mansions - the apartment building where many of them live - are a little more plausible. Yet they are definitely unusual, and the circumstances they find themselves in certainly stretch the imagination of this reader. All that said, I still enjoy the series. It is mostly pleasant, though a couple dog situations weren't. A dog being loaned to a spy agency to monitor the 'enemy.' Really? I would never put my dog in such a weird and possibly dangerous atmosphere. But, like Temperance Brennan in Bones, I am quite a literal person, and perhaps others would more readily find the humor. The philosophical musings and descriptive passages are what make the books appealing to me, and I will share a few of them.
On Saturday morning there were people travelling to see friends for the weekend, grown-up children returning to parents in the country for much-missed home cooking and laundry services, and tourists in search of an England that had once existed but now survived only in the imagination - an England of quiet villages and cricket greens and tiny, silent pubs.
They went upstairs to put their bags in their rooms. The guest room had been prepared for Jo, and there were flowers in a vase near the window. A small tin of biscuits had been placed on the bedside table, and a bottle of mineral water. The comforts of home, thought Caroline. These little touches.
"It's very beguiling, isn't it?" he said. "I never tire of it. Never. It's home, but it never seems to me to be anything but … Well, just the way the world should be, if we hadn't messed it up. The perfect landscape. What heaven will look like, if we ever get there."
Of course Barbara loved London, as so many Londoners did, in spite of their occasional complaints. … she loved its little corners, its poky little shops run by shabby eccentrics, its oddly named pubs, its gardens, its sudden turns of architectural splendor. She loved its extraordinary tolerance, which felt like an old slipper, she thought - as uncomplaining and as pliant as such footgear is in the face of all sorts of pressures and provocations. In fact, London was exactly that - an old slipper that had been home to countless feet and still welcomed and warmed the feet that came to it fresh.  It was not a bad thing for a city to be, when one came to think of it, an old slipper. You could not call Paris an old slipper, nor Berlin, nor New York. Only London.

"You judge these poor girls too quickly," he had said of one of them, a sound engineer from Glasgow. "How can you tell? You really must give her a chance." "But she has a piercing in her nose," Stephanie said. "You must have noticed. And her tongue too." Sorley shrugged. "The world's changing," he said. "Aesthetic standards change, What's unattractive to us may be just the thing for Hugh and his generation - we have to remind ourselves of that, you know."
She was dressed more or less as Barbara would expect somebody like her to dress, sporting as she did an olive-green tweed skirt with a navy-blue cashmere top - the sort of outfit worn by legions of country women in comfortable circumstances.

I hope these passages convey some of the pleasantness, the kindness, and the decent humanity which are hallmarks of Alexander McCall Smith's work. Certainly at least one of his many series will appeal to a reader, and it does us good to be in the company of such a cheerful, warmhearted writer. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Giveaway for blog anniversary on the 22nd

I began writing Letters from a Hill Farm on November 22, 2006. Here is my first posting. To celebrate the sixth anniversary of that day, I am offering a giveaway - The Old Farmer's Almanac 2013 Engagement Calendar. There is plenty of room to write, and there are fun facts on each day, in the form of quotes, moon phases, and garden lore. I find it most enjoyable and have used one for several years.

You may leave a comment saying you would like to be entered on any post between now and the 21st. I will do the drawing on the 22nd, and will send it anywhere in the world.

PS, I won't be responding to your comments about this, unless you ask a question.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Today's poem(s) by Adelaide Crapsey and Carl Sandburg

November Night

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

by Adelaide Crapsey (1878 – 1914)

Adelaide Crapsey

Among the bumble-bees in red-top hay, a freckled field of brown-eyed Susans dripping yellow leaves in July,
I read your heart in a book.

And your mouth of blue pansy—I know somewhere I have seen it rain-shattered.

And I have seen a woman with her head flung between her naked knees, and her head held there listening to the sea, the great naked sea shouldering a load of salt.

And the blue pansy mouth sang to the sea:
Mother of God, I’m so little a thing,
Let me sing longer,
Only a little longer.

And the sea shouldered its salt in long gray combers hauling new shapes on the beach sand.

by Carl Sandburg (1878 - 1967)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quote du jour/Tom

This is the best 3 1/2 minutes of comedy, ever! 

We've seen this skit many times, and just howl with laughter every time.