Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Number please

Do you get telephone calls from numbers that have no real people at the other end? Or numbers who repeatedly leave messages on the answering machine, saying they have an important message for 'Beverly Swanson?' Or no numbers at all appear, but just the word, 'unavailable?'

I type the numbers into google, and read the frustrations that others have experienced from these same phone numbers. Most of them seem to be some sort of debt scam thing.

All I know is that I wish, I wish, I wish they would stop. There seems to be no recourse. For a while we wondered if we gave up the land line and just used our cells, but by golly, this week they've found our cells, too. I just answered one because I have a new cell, and hadn't seen the number before. I thought maybe I knew the caller. Silly me, this fellow asked for some name I've now forgotten. He did say sorry, so maybe he was genuine? Maybe, but when I asked google, sure enough it is another debt related number.

Well, I have no debt. There's nothing to collect, folks. I pay my bills. Period. End of story.

This feels like the worst sort of harassment because it doesn't matter if I answer or not. They just keep calling, from early morning to late evening. How dare they disturb the peace of my life. I've taken to turning off the phone all day. The real people in my life leave messages or at least I see their numbers on the caller id. But sadly, the fake numbers have taken over. Let's see, today I've had eight so far, and it is 2 pm.

I'm trying to relax and not let them get to me, but sometimes I want to scream.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Sally/September 27

Sally: a brief journey; an excursion or trip.

This week's Saturday Sallies:

I love these quotes on Lovely Little Moony Night, especially Beston's words about cottons and wools.

I have watched this video on Bread and Roses of a nurse washing a baby all those years ago a few times this week, and am so touched by it. I can feel that baby 'climbing' - I used to call it climbing Mt. Mumma when my kids were babies.

And I find this living room on Beauty That Moves as soothing as fall foliage or a beautiful sunset or a daffodil in the spring. I keep looking at it in wonder. There's just something about the light or space or order which delights me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Christmas Cookies

I do know it isn't December yet, but Susan asked if I had a recipe for cut-out cookies, and the one I have to offer is the one I use at Christmastime. This recipe makes about a dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Today I just used my round one, made twelve cookies, and I had a little bit of dough left over which I promptly ate!

You may double or triple this recipe to make more cookies.

Christmas Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
pinch of salt

Mix together, wrap in foil, and refrigerate for a few hours.
Roll out on a lightly floured board, and cut into shapes.
Bake on ungreased sheet, in a preheated 350º F. oven, for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness of cookie.

When cool, you may frost with a buttercream frosting. And at Christmas, I mix in food coloring.

For this small batch:

1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cups confectioners sugar
Enough milk to make it smooth

You will find the batter not too sweet, but when frosted the cookies are perfectly sweet and delicious.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Report/I Feel Bad About My Neck

I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts On Being A Woman
by Nora Ephron
unabridged audio read by the author
nonfiction, 2006
finished, 9/24/08

In her latest book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron writes of the "rapture" she feels after she finishes a book she loves. This is exactly how I felt as I finished listening to the audio cds of this book last night at 11:45 pm. I went to bed rather early, fell right asleep, and then awoke. I put on my headphones, and literally could not stop until it was over, and then I so didn't want it to be over. I loved every minute of being in her presence, and it really did feel like being with her because the author narrated the book.

I don't have a lot of accumulated wisdom from my sixty years on this earth, but there is one thing I have learned. Just because someone is "like" you does not necessarily mean you will like this person. And more often than not, someone who lives a different sort of life may become your closest friend.

Nora Ephron lives quite an opposite life from mine. She is a professional writer, I'm at home. She's had a few divorces, I've been with the same guy my whole adult life. She is a die-hard New York City girl, and I'm all about rural living. She loves her apartment, and I own not only my house, but a fair bit of land. And in fact, I don't feel the least bit bad about my neck. :<) None of these differences is earth-shaking. None of them is fundamental. Yet they are differences, and the kind of differences which would probably ensure we would never meet in the real world. So I am even more deeply happy that she writes and I read because here we meet and are friends, though one-sided, of course. :<)

I love humor, but not the sarcastic, nasty, cynical sort. Nora Ephron's humor is warm, friendly, companionable, and very witty. There were several times I laughed right out loud, something I don't do all that often.

She writes of a friend who just had to have a "Kelly Bag." Now, you may ask (as I did, and as Nora E. did) what is a Kelly bag? It is the little handbag Grace Kelly used to carry around. A friend of Nora Ephron's went to Paris and paid almost $3000 for an old, oops I mean vintage, one! This is part of an essay on women's purses, and it is just hysterical, while telling an underlying serious truth. Women pay lots of money for purses, handbags, satchels, bags. And the author's purse was bought in the subway shop for $28, and is yellow and royal blue plastic. Perfect!

There are writings about the apartment she fell in love with, food fashions over the years, raising children, and the death of her friend. She talks about her summer as an intern to JFK, which had me trying to hold in my laughter as Tom slept. :<) She writes about the books and authors who have meant so much to her. Like many of us, she recalls where she read certain books - right down to the couch material!

I recommend this book to every woman, and every man. It isn't one of those how to age nicely books, nor is it a "woman's book." It is incredibly smart and funny and real and important. I loved it beyond words. I was indeed in "rapture." What more could a reader want?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Potato and Fall Onion Soup/Bread

With all those onions and shallots out on the porch, I thought I'd make a soup with them. This is a variation of the Irish Potato and Spring Onion Soup which I made on the last night of spring. In fact, it is exactly the same except that it uses shallots instead of scallions.

Chop an onion and two shallots.
Sauté them in 2 T. olive oil.
Chop four cups potatoes and cook in four cups of water.
When soft, add the onion and shallots, and put the whole mixture through the food mill.

This is very delicious! A basic, plain, stick-to-your-ribs soup.

We're having it with bread I made today. It's my regular bread with the addition of some cooked five-grain cereal.

"The Right to Dry" - my kind of politics

I read something today in The Vermont Country Store catalogue that I wanted to share with you, for it expresses my kind of politics. Usually being political is understood to mean - voting, canvassing for a particular candidate, getting involved in the political process. All that is true, but there is another way to be political, and that is in one's day to day life. I view each decision I make, no matter how small, to be a demonstration of my "politics."

That said, here are the words of the owners of The Vermont Country Store, The Orton Family. It is titled: Do You Have "The Right to Dry" Where You Live?

We've been promoting a new kind of civil disobedience to save energy and help the planet: Set up a clothesline and hang your wash out even if you live in a neighborhood where doing such is prohibited. Is it not the height of snobbery to declare hanging clothes out to dry illegal?

Someone years ago in some rich, exclusive development decided that clotheslines with their hanging sheets - and, oh-my-gosh, underwear! - were déclassé amd declared them illegal. That was the turning point in America, when we started moving from the small-town feel of inclusion to the gated-community exclusion and buying of status. Such ordinances and association rules fly in the face of efficient energy use and it's time to get rid of them.

It's a beautiful thing to see clothes drying in the sun and wind, letting nature do the job for free, without any energy being used or lint accumulating. Do my tighty-whities hanging on the line really shock and embarrass anyone? If I have a clothesline, do you look down on me? Well, certainly not in Vermont!

This past year in Vermont we attempted to pass a "right to dry" law but it failed. You can be sure we'll bring it back this coming year and hope other states do the same.

We are not trying to shame anyone into getting rid of their dryer but we are trying to gain the right for anyone to put up a clothesline and dry their laundry the old-fashioned way. It's not only frugal but a common sense way to reduce out impact on the planet.

The Orton Family, Props

October 6, 2005

(If you type 'clotheslines' into the search bar, you'll find many words and pictures from previous posts on drying clothes outdoors).

Wordless Wednesday - farm animal paths

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

The cool and sparkling days of September flow like golden wine into the bowl of autumn. I cannot have enough of each day; I try to measure out the minutes sparingly, for this is the time of enchantment. The leaves are turning, and I wonder whether I ever saw them before, for the colors are a new miracle of blended tones. Surely this year is a lovelier autumn; the maples have a clearer fire.
Gladys Taber - Stillmeadow Seasons, 1950

Monday, September 22, 2008


Bay Breeze
Belmont Jewel
Between The Sheets
Black-Eyed Susan

Main Meals

"B" Stew

Baked Corn

Baked Spaghetti

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto, 2

Bean and Potato Tacos

Bean Dip (not really a main meal, but I didn't know where else to put it!)

Bean, Lentil, and Grains Stew

Black Eyed Peas and Rice

Bulgur and Vermicelli Pilaf

Chickpea and Bulgur Stew


Potato Pancakes - Four - didn't care for and threw away recipe card

Potato Pancakes - Results


Barney's Brownies

Fruit Desserts

Apple Bread Pudding - also under Pudding
Joanne's Rhubarb Coffee Cake - also under Cake
Rhubarb Cake - also under Cake
Rhubarb Crumble Pie - also under Pie
Senebec Pudding - also under Pudding
Sour Cream Rhubarb Cake - also under Cake


Apple Bread Pudding - also under Fruit Desserts

Chocolate Mousse


Julia Child's Chocolate Mousse

Raisin Bread Pudding

Raisin Bread Pudding - geez, Louise why didn't I check before I posted a second recipe?! This one has a bit more butter and sugar but that's the only difference.

Rice Pudding

Senebec Pudding - also under Fruit Desserts

French Toast, Pancakes, and Waffles


Baked French Toast

Biscuits, Muffins, Popovers, Scones


Blink-Of-An-Eye Rhubarb Pie

Chocolate Fudge Pie

Breads (Quick and Yeast)

Blueberry and Orange Soda Bread

Buttermilk Blueberry Cornbread

Buttermilk Cornbread


Cranberry Cornbread

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cookies and Candy


Cake and Frosting

Easy and fun homemade ice cream

1929 Sponge Cake

Apple Cinnamon Buttermilk Cake - also under Fruit Desserts

Apple Rhubarb Cake - also under Fruit Desserts

Banana Cake

Blueberry-Yogurt Coffee Cake

Blueberry Zucchini Cake

Brownie Cake

Busy-Day Cake

Please stay tuned - cook-keeping

That title is just my lame attempt at wit. :<) A while ago, I did what I called "bookkeeping" when I organized book reports, and separated audiobooks from print books. Well, I'm going to try and do something similar with recipes. Over the almost two years I've kept this online journal, I've had a few people tell me that the recipes were their favorite posts, and I thought for them, and for me, I'd like to keep better track of them. I do have a few in the Letters Topics, such as Sunday Suppers and Food and Drink. Now, I'm going to try organizing them by category, and will be setting up separate posts and adding them to the sidebar. This will take a while, I think, and I'm away tomorrow, so it won't be complete for a few days. Please stay tuned.

Book Report/Counting on Grace

Counting on Grace
by Elizabeth Winthrop
read by Lili Gamache
juvenile fiction, 2006
finished, 9/17/08

This is the story of Grace Forcier, a twelve-year-old girl of French-Canadian heritage living in the mill town of Pownal, Vermont in 1910. The life of her family consists of working in the mill, using their paychecks in the company store, not having enough to eat, going to church on Sunday. She is in school when we first meet her; the "second-best reader" in the classroom. Grace is on the verge of leaving school to work in the mill. Her family, and especially her mother, are "counting on Grace" to do good work and add some money to the meager family income. Grace doesn't seem particularly dismayed about the future; this is what she is supposed to do, what is expected of her. She will be a doffer (a worker who replaces full bobbins by empty ones on the throstle or ring frames) on her mother's looms. We see that she is an active little girl, always moving around and completely unlike her orderly older sister who lays her clothes out the night before, and pays good attention to the dangerous work she does. When Grace starts working in the mill, we worry about her dealing with all those machines that can suck the person in and remove digits or limbs. Can she hold still? Can she focus? Fourteen is the youngest a child is supposed to be to work in a mill, but that rule isn't enforced. Grace uses her late sister's birth papers to make the bosses think she's older than twelve.

This would be an excellent read for kids in junior high school; twelve, thirteen, and fourteen year olds because these are important ages in Counting on Grace. It would be quite enlightening for today's kids with cell phones and computers to see how a girl of their age lived not so very long ago. It also portrays in a subtle manner how important education is, and how we take it for granted. Grace spends her one day off from work studying with the wonderful town teacher, who walks miles on her day off to bring the gift of knowledge to Grace and her friend Arthur.

I had intended to read the print version but since it was out at the library, the librarian suggested the audio cds. And oh, how glad I am that I read it in this way. The voices and the grammar were so much more impressive hearing them. Another terrific feature of the audio version is that we hear an interview with Elizabeth Winthrop, in which she talks about the inspiration for the book, and where it led her even after the book was finished. You may hear a sample of the reading here. My only quibble - a very personal criticism, is the use of music. I don't like mixing music with audiobooks. I just like the words read from the page.

The little girl pictured on the cover is Addie Card, a real child, who worked in the Pownal mill. It was taken by Lewis W. Hine who went across the country taking photographs of child laborers. Many of his photos may be seen here. Mr. Hine is an important character in the book. He comes to Pownal, and has quite an effect on the lives of Grace and Arthur. He boards at Grace's house, and lets her watch while he works on his photos in the cellar. There is a startling, poignant moment when Grace sees an image of herself for the first time.

Hine's caption on the photo of the real girl, Addie reads, "an anemic little spinner." Her arms are so thin, yet there is life and verve in her eyes. Note that she is barefoot. In the book, Grace says she doesn't want to ruin her shoes by wearing them to work where the floors are covered with oil. Though we may look at the picture and see Addie and her surroundings, we cannot hear the din of the machines or breathe in the dust and lint or actually feel those greasy floors. The whole job, the life is so crammed full of sensation. There isn't any quiet or peace or time.

You may read more about Hine and his work here and here. To see the range of Hine's work, you may go to The Library of Congress site. If interested in photographs from your state, you may type into the search Lewis Hine and your state, and if there are any, a clickable list will come up.

Elizabeth Winthrop answers questions about the book on her website. You may listen to a piece on the search for the history and descendants of the child laborers (and please do!) here.

I found myself thinking about my own family history as I sat down to write about Counting on Grace. I'm quite sure that in both my parents' families, the girls all went to high school and on to further education, while the boys all left school to work. My mother's brothers had to work on the family farm. My father never went to school past the sixth grade, and I remember hearing that he had to go to work, but I don't know what he did or where he worked; for his father, who did something with horses - selling, trading?? I fear I will never know. How easily history is lost. But the difference is that they didn't work in mills, they weren't part of that culture, and in the case of my father's family, they moved down to the US, and 'made good' as they say. The men all had successful businesses, and were very well off when they died. Every one of my aunts on both sides had good jobs as teachers, nurses, workers in the telephone company and the post office.

Counting on Grace is the very best kind of book: first - a well-written, excellent story about interesting characters, whom the reader comes to know and care for, and second - a book that engages the heart and mind in a subject that leads the reader to search out more and more information about the topic.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Leek Harvest

No photos, but I dug, washed, chopped, and froze 23 cups of leeks today. They will make 8 batches of leek and potato soup, 2 meals per batch.

Gladys Taber's Anadama Bread

Gladys Taber's Anadama Bread

Pour 2 cups boiling water over this mixture in the Kitchen Aid mixer.

1/2 cup cornmeal
2 T. butter
1/2 cup molasses
1 T. salt

When this mixture has cooled, and cornmeal is smooth, begin adding flour. Add an egg.

In separate bowl or measuring cup, put about 1 1/2 T. baking yeast into 1/2 cup warm water. Add a little sugar and a bit of flour (probably about a T. each). Let rise until doubled and bubbly. Add this to flour mixture. Add more flour. I'd say I use about six cups, and that's whole wheat, so white might be different. All this time the Kitchen Aid is on, beating away with that lovely dough hook.

Remove the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until it almost reaches the top. I then preheat the oven to 365º F.

I spoon it out onto a floured marble board. I make it into four balls, and place two each into a loaf pan greased with cooking spray. The reason I use four balls is well, because my mother did, :<) but also because I've found it eliminates the droop in the middle which happens sometimes to homemade bread.

Cover with the cloth, and let these four balls rise until almost to the top of bread pans. I put the pans on top of the stove, and the preheating oven provides just the right warmth.

Bake for about 40 minutes. You may note my loaves are quite dark. There are three reasons: one- I use just whole wheat flour, two- the molasses makes a darker loaf, and three- I bake it maybe longer than most because I think it tastes better.

And these loaves are out of this world delicious!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

If anyone now asked me what happiness is, I should say it is a September day in New England.
Gladys Taber - Stillmeadow Seasons, 1950

28º F; first heavy frost. The sky is so clear, the air so cool, the world so sparkly.