Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Easy Strawberry - Rhubarb Pie

Easy as pie! I've never thought pies were easy to make. In fact, I've never made a 'real' one. Pie crust simply daunts me. And if you look at my pie recipes under the Recipes tab, you'll see that not one of them has an actual pie crust.

I bought a frozen crust made by a company called Wholly Wholesome. I used the 'traditional' because I get plenty of whole wheat in my bread, and in pies I prefer a white flour crust.

This recipe comes from my friend Caryn, and it proves the adage. It could not be simpler or more satisfying. Delicious!

Mix together and add to crust:

2 cups strawberries
2 cups rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour

Bake in preheated 350º F. oven for about an hour.

It very liquid-y and must be served in a bowl.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Middle Eastern Cannellini Patties

This recipe is a variation of a dish from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, which a friend gave us years ago. I haven't tried nearly enough of the recipes, but here is one I made for the first time today with excellent results. A hearty and delicious supper.

Middle Eastern Cannellini Patties

Cook one cup of cannellini beans in the crockpot for a few hours until soft.
In a saucepan, cook 1/2 cup brown rice, to make one cup cooked. Drain.
Saute´a chopped onion and bell pepper in 4 teaspoons olive oil. Turn heat down and add a garlic clove (or more) which has been put through a press. Cook for a little while. Put aside.
When beans are done, drain off water, and put the beans through the food processor. Then add rice and mix together for a short time. If you don't have a food processor, you could mash the beans with a fork or potato masher, and just stir in the rice.

Put beans and rice into a bowl and add:
the vegetables and 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley.
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
1/2 cup flour.
Lightly whisk an egg and add to mixture.
Stir well.

Heat a griddle to 350º F. and spray with cooking spray. If you don't have a griddle, you could use an electric fry pan, or cook them on the stovetop in a frying pan.
Using a measuring cup (you choose size - I used 1/3 cup), scoop out mixture and flatten it on the griddle with the bottom of the cup.
This makes enough for supper and a couple lunches for Tom to take to school.
We had leftover homemade tomato sauce so topped the patties with it. Tom also used tamari.
Note: the recipe called for cumin, but I decided not to use it this time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coming Back

I am not an indecisive person. I don't wonder and waver. I think pretty quickly and very rarely regret any decision I've made or action I've taken.

I just wanted to say that right out because I am changing my mind, and I want you to understand how unusual this is. I'm going to continue with my Letters from a Hill Farm. And you, my dear and gentle readers, are the reason why. I have never in my life received letters such as the ones you sent me in response to my endpost on the blog. Your kind affection toward me, your interest in these letters, your sadness that I was stopping, and your hope that I would reconsider were overwhelming to me. Your notes brought tears to my eyes. And I missed you.

There aren't words to express my thankfulness for your letters to me. My heart is full.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll just begin again after my week away. In case you missed the previous posting, this is what I am referring to.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saying farewell

My dear and gentle readers,

I am writing to say that this is my last letter. I believe that after four years, lacking two months and a day, the blog has run its course. Over this time I've taken note of the garden, the animals, recipes, books, some music, some movies, and family news. It has been most fulfilling.

I want to thank every single person who has ever taken the time to leave me a note, either on the blog or in an email. I have been touched beyond words by your caring, your kindness, your thoughtfulness.

I am not stopping because of any problem. I am stopping because I feel that I've said most everything I have to say about the garden, the changing seasons, the weather. I live a very simple, quiet life and one July is pretty much like another July. You've seen the flowers and read most of my recipes. As far as books go, I am ready to stop writing about them and just read them. I may not even keep a print record anymore.

I am going to leave the blog on the internet at least for a while. I must decide what I want to 'do' with it. I may want to copy out some postings. I have stopped the comments.

I like the word farewell because it is more than goodbye. It is a word which offers good wishes. And I do wish you all well. I will think of each of you with great fondness and deep appreciation.

Most sincerely,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Winter of Secrets by Vicki Delany

57. Winter of Secrets - third in the Constable Molly Smith series
by Vicki Delany
mystery, 2009
Kindle book - 4
finished, 9/12/10

In our third visit with Constable Molly (christened Moonlight by her 'hippie' parents) Smith we meet a thoroughly disagreeable bunch of mean-spirited, self-absorbed twenty-somethings on a ski vacation in the Kootenay Mountains during the Christmas season. The book begins with a car accident on a very snowy evening. Two of the vacationers are found dead after their car goes into the river. It is discovered that one of the young men did not die in the crash, but had been dead for a while. Why was the driver transporting a dead man in the passenger seat? The two young fellows had been inseparable from childhood. The driver's sister is among those on holiday in Trafalgar, British Columbia.

The mystery is involved, and has roots in the past which must be untangled. In a moment of insight, Constable Molly Smith echoed Miss Jane Marple when she drew on an incident from her own younger days and connected it to what may have occurred in this case.

I loved being in Molly's company again, and meeting some of the familiar faces from the first two books, but honestly the Christmastime visitors were so very unappealing that I didn't have much interest in what happened to them or who did it. Molly has moved into her own place, and though she is still grieving about the death of her love, she begins to be interested in a new man. A villain from earlier books reappears bringing possible danger to Molly and her friend. If you are a skier or snowboarder you will relish the passages about Molly skiing. The descriptions of the mountains and the snow are beautifully done.

This is a fine mystery, well-written and plotted, and I look forward to the fourth in the great series by Vicki Delany.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer

56. Best Foot Forward - a sequel to Rules of the Road
by Joan Bauer
young adult fiction, 2005
library book
finished, 9/12/10

This book begins immediately after Rules of the Road ends, which means I can't really write much about it without spoiling the ending of the first book. Jenna is back working at the shoe store. The book mostly takes place there, with only occasional musings on her family situation, particularly her father.

Mrs. Gladstone is still having trouble with her son. She has a picture of him on her desk.
She looked sadly at the picture of Elden as a laughing child. He'd been a cute little boy. She reached for that photograph. Everything within me told me to shut up, but the truth was stuck in my throat and if I didn't say it, I'd probably choke.
"That's not him anymore, Mrs. Gladstone."
I thought she was going to start yelling.
"It's not him. You've got to have another picture in your mind of him because if you don't, your son is going to keep hurting you."
She put the picture down fast and stared out the window.
I wasn't sure I should say this next part. "Mrs. Gladstone, sometimes the worst thing you can do for someone you love is look the other way when you know they're doing something really wrong." I told her about my dad driving drunk and how I had to stop him.
She looked at me almost tenderly.
"That's the hard part of finding out the truth, ma'am."
"And how is your relationship with your father now, if I may ask."
I let out a big breath. "We haven't got one right now."
"I'm sorry, dear. You deserve better."
"So do you."
She looked at Elden's little boy face. "He was such a thoughful child. I don't understand what happened."
In Best Foot Forward we see that sometimes children are not the people parents want them to be, the people they expected them to be. They don't always hold the same beliefs or choose to live life in the same way. And on the other hand, parents aren't always what their children want them to be.

If I were a teacher I would offer this book right alongside Rick Bragg's The Most They Ever Had, for both of these books are about business, workers, the economy, and our country.

Mrs. Gladstone has found out that the company shoes are being made in Thailand rather than in Maine as she had believed.
The children at the factory were found to be eleven to fourteen years of age. They are forced to work twelve-to-fourteen hour shifts. They are exposed to gross health and safety infractions. They are fined if they do not meet their production quotas of the day, and the quotas are set unfairly high.
They are in the same situation as children were in our country in earlier times. Mrs. Gladstone works hard to try and help the young workers.

The book also shows us that some kids, like Jenna, do find their life path when they are young.
Nobody sets out to sell shoes, really. People aspire to bigger and greater things. But there's something about feet that certain people were born to understand.
Some people say there should be more to life - more money, more prestige. I don't think much about that. I just try to focus in full on the person's two feet in front of me.
This is an excellent book, just as Rules of the Road is. Joan Bauer touches on many important facets of life, as well as telling an engrossing story.

A blurb on the back from School Library Journal says:
"When it comes to creating strong, independent and funny teenage characters, Bauer is in a class by herself."

This is so true. Jenna's life isn't perfect. It isn't easy having an alcoholic father and a mother who has to work really hard to support her two daughters. It isn't easy to have to balance school and work when you are Jenna's age. But she doesn't complain. She gets help when she needs it. She is a good person. Period.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie

55. A Share in Death - first in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series
by Deborah Crombie
mystery, 1993
Kindle book - 3
finished, 9/10/10

I recently read these words and thought I might begin my book reports on mysteries with a quote from Max Mallowan, Agatha Christie's husband.
'The critic of detective fiction,' he wryly observes, 'must be either a knave or a fool, for the elegance of the narrative lies in the arc from crime to solution. One cannot discuss mysteries intelligently,' he writes, 'without discussing their endings.'
I find that I am simply not able to 'discuss mysteries intelligently' for the same reason. I am even reluctant to talk about the characters and their secrets. So, for the most part such book reports will be short and sweet.

This series by Deborah Crombie has been on my reading radar for years, and finally I've begun and am so glad I did. This is an advantage to beginning a mystery series late- there are all those books ahead of me!

Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard has just been promoted and given a little vacation. A relative owns a time-share in the Yorkshire countryside and urges him to go and have a relaxing time. Well, of course we readers of mystery know that never, ever do 'our' detectives have a relaxing time. Something always happens, whether in their jurisdiction or not, and our unflagging heroes get to work. And so it is here. The assistant manager is found dead in the hot tub with a toaster. The local police officer thinks it is a case of suicide, but Kincaid thinks otherwise. He's in a difficult position because technically he is a guest, not a policeman. And he had gotten to know the victim a bit before he died. The dead man 'knew the dirt' about everyone staying there. And there is plenty of it amongst the guests and the employees. Kincaid cannot just stand by. He enlists the help of Sergeant Gemma James in London. She is a single mother of a young boy, living in not such a nice area of the city. They make a very good team but as yet, there isn't any romantic involvement. I think this may change in later books.

I so enjoyed this first in the series and the second, All Shall Be Well, awaits me on my Kindle. Good writing, good characters, good setting, good mystery.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sour Cream Softies

I found this on an email recipe list many years ago. These cookies are really wonderful. Here is a quote from the person who offered the recipe:
This recipe appeared about 30 years ago in Family Circle magazine. Cinnamon-sugar "frosts" the tops of these big old-fashioned puffs. They are soft and a bit cakelike and puff up high in the center. I have added chocolate chips to these sometimes, too and they were quite nice.
They do puff up just beautifully. I didn't add chocolate chips this time.

Sour Cream Softies

3 cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup soft butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream
cinnamon sugar

Measure flour, salt, baking powder, and soda and sift together into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream butter with sugar until well blended.
Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream to make a thick batter.
Drop by by rounded spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
Put a mixture of sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl, dip the bottom of a glass into it, and then flatten the cookie dough with it.
Bake in 400ºF oven 12 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.
Remove from cookie sheets and cool completely on wire racks.
Makes about four dozen.

My notes:
1. I use this great little kitchen gadget to scoop out the batter.

2. Keep checking on cookies. They bake quickly.

3. Pour glass of milk and enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall

54. The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing - second in the Vish Puri series
by Tarquin Hall
mystery, 2010
Kindle book - 2
finished, 9/6/10

Have you heard about laughter yoga? If not, here is the beginning of a recent article in the New Yorker. And here is the official website which offers a video. In the video you see mostly women, but that isn't the case in The Man Who Died Laughing. We are introduced to a group of men in Delhi who meet in the morning outdoors to practice laughter therapy. One of the attendees is stabbed by Kali, a Hindu goddess, who arises out of the mist. The man killed is dubbed, 'the Guru-Buster' because he tries to disprove the many 'leaders' who are making profits off the public's beliefs in the supernatural. Vish Puri, the detective we first met in The Case of the Missing Servant takes on the case to prove that this was no supernatural event. He believes the man was really murdered.

I was so pleased to be back again in this most interesting of countries, traveling along with this delightful fictional sleuth. Many of the same elements are present as in the first case. His undercover operatives with sobriquets such as Facecream and Tubelight are back to take part in the investigation. Unbeknownst to our hero, his mother and his wife are working on their own personal case to find out who stole the money in the kitty at one of their women's gatherings. Again we see the importance of food to 'Chubby' as his wife calls him. There's a great scene where he sits down at his desk, gets his food out, and doesn't think about the case at all as he eats. We read about each food stand he visits. The appeal of the food was so strong to this reader that I bought some frozen Indian meals!

We hear more about the corruption which pervades the country. There is a stretch of road mentioned that is beautifully tarred, and then suddenly it turns into a bumpy path through the fields, and no one knows when it will be finished. As I was reading the book, Tom heard on the news that this very corruption is wreaking havoc on India's plan to host the Commonwealth Games. This page also has a video on the traffic problems there. This is exactly as they are described in the books. Vish Puri has a driver, Handbrake, and tells a visitor:
An educated, well-to-do gentleman such as yourself should not go round hither and thither without a good driver. Frankly speaking, sir, it does not look right. Just you should sit in the backseat only. That way you won't be facing this type of harassment. Police wallahs will know you're someone of importance and not a part of the riff-raff. ... allow me to find a suitable driver. He should be of good character and naturally not a drunkard. Those from the hill states are best. Such types have learned to control their vehicles on all those tight bends. Otherwise they'd go right off the edge.
In this 'largest agglomeration on the planet with a population fast approaching 17 million people,' Vish Puri goes about his business, contented in his work and with his family. He enjoys life surrounded by traffic, people, corruption. There is something about India that is special that way. Great belief and calm sit side-by-side great poverty and problems. May the author give us more and more stories about this wonderful detective and this wonderful country. I love this series.

Addendum: Jenclair left me a comment about a video of John Cleese visiting a Laughter Yoga group, and I thought it so good, I decided to come back here and post it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dear Agatha!

Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie.

Today only, Agatha fans will enjoy searching here.

There is a month long blog tour here.

And you may visit here for all sorts of Agatha Christie fun!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Graceful Death by Ann Summerville

53. A Graceful Death
by Ann Summerville
mystery, 2009
finished, 9/4/10

You may wonder why the photograph of the book is beside my beloved Rosamunde Pilcher books. It is because A Graceful Death reminded of Pilcher's work, and not only because of its setting. There is a kindly spirit throughout the book, even though there are some unpleasant people.

Giovanna's Aunt Grace has died at her home in Cornwall, seemingly from a heart attack. Giovanna is devastated because Grace was like a mother and a best friend to her. She spent summers there as a child, and occasional weekends as she grew older. Her fiancé, Alan doesn't want Giovanna to 'run off to Cornwall' but if she must go then he wants her to sell her aunt's cottage and come back to London quickly so they can get married before Alan's birthday in two weeks. The reader wonders why he is so pushy, and so thoughtless about Giovanna's grief. She manages to withstand his pleas, loads her dog Daisy into the car, and heads out to Lowenna to sort through her aunt's things, and put her legal affairs in order.

Giovanna's sadness is eased somewhat by the beauty of the place and the kindness of old friends, yet there are troubling aspects to her visit. She frequently sees a man hovering near the cottage. The police are calling her aunt's death a suicide. If her long-lost cousin is not found, her aunt's home may be sold, and Giovanna will have no legacy. She also must face the reality of her relationship with Alan, especially when she meets a childhood friend she hasn't seen in years, and he offers her a compassion and kindness her fiancé rarely shows.

The mystery is a good one, and I found myself hoping at the end that Ann Summerville would continue Giovanna's story, including another mystery or not. I so enjoyed the characters and would like to spend more time with them. Both the beauty of the landscape and the interiors of the house are wonderfully described, again with a feeling of Rosamunde Pilcher.
Giovanna nodded, and leaving the smells of yeast and freshly baked bread behind, crossed the courtyard and ascended the steep stairway. Breathless, she reached the top and stopped for a moment. Before her were green fields, flower strewn hedgerows and a stream flowing at the bottom of the hill. A hawk drifted in the thermals and disappeared behind the tree line. She looked back at the house and courtyard. Mrs. Penrose, framed by the French doors, waved and disappeared into the darkness of the kitchen.
This is a lovely book, and one of the best cozies I've ever read. The author has a website and a blog where you may read more about her and her work.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quote du jour/T. S. Eliot

Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time.
Thomas Stearns Eliot

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Farm and Garden Report - August 8 through September 10

One day in August, Tom and I looked up and there were over a hundred crows cawing and flying toward the north. We have never, ever seen such a sight. We are both extremely fond of crows.

The natural life around the farm has been making the turn from summer into fall. My August was a month of sweet routine: from the daily household tasks to reading, and every day around two o'clock heading out to the garden to pick vegetables and then chopping them up for supper or the freezer. Part way through the summer our old, second-hand freezer died, and we bought this adorable little energy saver that fits right in our new butt'ry. The cost was exactly the same as the Kindle - $139!

I arranged the foods a bit so you could see what's inside: chopped summer squash, grated summer squash (for cake!), leeks, blueberries, rhubarb, strawberries, and apples. Everything but the blueberries and strawberries came from Windy Poplars.

It is a wondrous thing on a day with temps in the mid-80s to go out and pick tomatoes and find they are as hot as if they had been cooked - truly, the warmth of the sun. I don't know when we've had such a tomato year. We have only three plants - two we bought, one was given to Tom, but I've made several batches of spaghetti sauce, and that delicious tomato salad. We have no idea what varieties they are but they are all great tasting.

I notice that I open the windows in the morning not to invite cooler air in, but to allow the warmth of the sun to enter the cool house. Though we had a little hot weather, for the most part the days are crisp and sunny.

On Labor Day Sunday, we pulled out the yellow beans and the summer squash in the garden. The sweet peas will be the next to go, but they have bloomed for weeks and weeks. I'm sure that those in warmer climes would feel sorry for me with the garden pretty much done by now, but it makes me happy. Planting on Memorial Day and beginning the clean-up on Labor Day is just about perfect for my gardening clock. I wrote about this three years ago, and my feelings remain the same.

The first week in August we had 44 eggs and this week there were 39, so slowing down a bit, but still have plenty to eat and sell. We do plan to get chicks this coming spring. The last time was in 2007, as long-time readers of my letters may recall.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

52. The Murder at the Vicarage - first in the Miss Marple series
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1930
Kindle book - 1
finished, 9/2/10

Last month Simon offered a quote from E. M. Forster's Two Cheers For Democracy, and this portion of it really struck home for me:
I am myself a lover of the interiors of books, of the words in them - an uncut book is about as inspiriting as a corked up bottle of wine - and much as I enjoy good print and good binding and old volumes they remain subsidiary to the words: words, the wine of life.
This describes perfectly why I can love a Kindle book as well as an old, used book or a brand new, first-one-to-read-it book. It is all about the words, the story.

Andi left a comment on my Kindle post:
One great, engrossing read and you won't notice the "device" anymore.
And I found this to be true in my very first ebook. I was completely wrapped up in The Murder at the Vicarage, and fairly flew through it on my Kindle. It is so light and the 'pages' turn so easily and quickly.

There were Miss Marple stories published earlier, but this was her first appearance in a full-length book. The initial adjective used to describe her is 'terrible' and this from the Vicar's wife! She goes on to say:
"She's the worst cat in the village," said Griselda. "And she always knows every single thing that happens - and draws the worst inferences from it."
The Vicar tells the reader:
Griselda, as I have said, is much younger than I am. At my time of life, one knows that the worst is usually true.
Later when she appears, the Vicar describes her thus:
Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner.
And comparing her to Miss Wetherby, who is 'a mixture of vinegar and gush'
Of the two Miss Marple is much the more dangerous.
And there we have it. A quiet entrance for the most famous and often most beloved of all amateur sleuths. I would say that her strongest trait is that of observation. She pays attention. She takes time to really see what is going on. And she 'remembers' other people, other occasions, other situations which are similar to a present dilemma. These associations help her to solve mysterious problems that others cannot begin to get a grip on.

As in many mysteries, the most obnoxious character is the first victim. The reader doesn't feel sorry that Colonel Protheroe has been found shot dead at a desk in the vicarage. The village of St Mary Mead is full of people who wouldn't mind seeing him dead, and quite soon someone confesses to the murder. But is he the real villain? And if not, why in the world did he confess?

I couldn't have been happier within the pages of this book. There's something about Agatha Christie that puts me right into the time and place of her books. I happily traveled through the village wondering 'whodunnit' and why, and was deeply satisfied when I reached the end. A lovely reading experience.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer

51. Rules of the Road
by Joan Bauer
young adult fiction, 1998
library book
finished, 8/29/10

My friend Judi recommended this book to me, and I am so grateful. It is an absolute gem of a book. It is well-written; it tells a good story; and though there are serious situations, there is still a touch of humor. Jenna is sixteen years old. She lives with her mother and sister. Her mother kicked her father out several years ago when she could no longer take his drunken behavior. There is nothing gross in the book, no abuse, but we do see what life is like for the children of alcoholics.
Dad was never a mean drunk, you could put him places, lean him against things and he'd pretty much stay put. That helped when I was smaller and I had to put him places when Mom had had enough.
Father's Day is my least favorite holiday. I can never find the right card. I can't send the "Dad, I can always count on you" ones; I nix "Thanks for everything" and "You're the greatest." What the world needs is an alternative card: "Dad, I love you, even though you haven't been there for me."
I remember that stairway more than my room. That's where I'd sit and watch when my father would come home drunk. I'd hear the car pull up, the door slam shut, Dad clear his throat, spit on the sidewalk. I'd climb out of bed and huddle on the landing. I don't know why. He'd slam through the door, grab at the striped wall to keep standing. Mom would meet him or not, depending. Once he saw me watching from the landing, sitting on the hope chest in my nightgown.
"Whatch you looking at?" he shouted and then vomited on the rug.
Daddy's home.
One of the saddest things about her father's situation is that he will never know how much Jenna really learned from him in his sober moments. She is an excellent saleswoman because of what he, a salesman, taught her. Rules of the Road celebrates what I've talked about before - that the so-called 'little' jobs are very important. Jenna works in a shoe store, Gladstone's, the kind we don't see many of anymore. When I was a girl there were two in my little town of 5000. Now there are none. You can buy your shoes at sporting equipment stores or clothing/ski shops but no one helps the buyer.

There are none of those black metal shoe measurerers that were so familiar in my childhood.

As I read the book and thought about this, I began to wonder about them. I did some searching and found out it is called a Brannock device after the man who invented it. And you may buy your own personal one! The price may seem steep but honestly, it could be worth it. I'm thinking I might. I'm sick of my shoes not being a perfect fit.

My gosh, when you go looking around the internet you can find all kinds of things. Apparently last year the Brannock device was on the Jimmy Fallon show. Amazing.

There are lots of jokes and discussions about foot fetishes but this book shows the importance of good shoes. The famous yoga instructor, Lilias Folan says when the feet hurt the whole body hurts. Rules of the Road is filled with shoe knowledge. Jenna says:
... [I] got her two teenage daughters out of spiked heels when I showed them that they were both developing hammer toe - a condition that causes the little toe to become curled up and sore from too-tight shoes - got them both into a lower cushioning heel.
Before she started working Jenna had a week-long training course, and she learned:
that bones of the feet make up approximately one fourth of all the bones in the body, that the feet are one of the most frequently injured parts of the body. I understood that the average individual will walk about 115,000 miles in their lifetime, which is more than four times the earth's circumference, and came to the rapid conclusion that selling well-made comfortable shoes is a noble profession, providing immeasurable benefits for people the world over.
Jenna is a natural, and this fact is noticed by the owner of Gladstone's Shoes.
You remind me of myself when I was a girl.
You have an unusual knack for appreciating the customer's needs.
Because of this, Mrs. Gladstone hires Jenna to drive her from Chicago to the headquarters of Gladstone's Shoes in Dallas for the stockholders meeting. Naturally Jenna's mother is reluctant to let her daughter attempt such a trip after having her license for only six months, but her father is back in town, calling at all hours and showing up drunk at the shoe store. Jenna's mom sees that this is a good way for her older daughter to get away from the situation for a while.

And so the road trip begins. As with all such journeys, much is learned along the way about life and about oneself. Jenna meets a man who has changed his life after joining AA, and wishes her own dad would do the same. Mrs. Gladstone relies on Jenna's expertise as they visit some of the Gladstone stores along the way. We see a phenomenon that comes up quite often in books - that of what I call the 'soul' child. Sometimes one's own child is not necessarily the true heir to a business or home. Sometimes it is a completely unrelated person who shares one's beliefs and goals. In this case, Mrs. Gladstone's son wants to sell out to a chain.
Mother, this is how business is done now. It's not the same world you and Dad knew. The shoe business is changing and Gladstone's has to change with it to survive.
There is some suspense for the reader wondering just how all this will turn out. Will Jenna's father change his life? Will Gladstone's go in the direction the son wishes? The book is very realistic in its portrayal of family life and business.

When I picked this book up at the library, the librarian told me she had seen an article in the New York Time about adults reading young adult literature. She said they've noticed this at the library for a couple years now. The great joy of Joan Bauer's book is that it is warm, humorous, kindly, and interesting. Here is her website. I have two more of her books I've borrowed from the library that I so look forward to reading.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Toasted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is there anything more fun for a reader who also loves to cook than to find recipes in a book? Peter Abrahams' second book in the Echo Falls series, Behind the Curtain offers a few at the back of the book.
"The secret of this recipe is in the oatmeal; it's toasted in the butter before baking. This makes the cookies crisp and nutty and the best you've ever eaten."

Toasted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup butter
2 1/2 cups oatmeal (not instant, not large flakes)
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Melt butter until light brown. Do not burn.
Add oats and stir constantly until oats are golden and toasted.

Remove from heat and cool thoroughly.

Combine egg, sugar, and vanilla and beat until light.
Mix dry ingredients and add to egg mixture, along with oatmeal.
Add chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake in preheated 350º oven 8-10 minutes or until golden.

My notes:
I used rolled oats.
I used Sugar in the Raw instead of brown sugar. As I've noted in other recipes this is the sugar I use when either white or brown sugar is called for.
The cookies took a bit longer than 10 minutes.

These cookies are simply delicious but I can see how they might not be for everyone. If you love oats, and love a chewy cookie this is for you. Though there is a cup of sugar, they aren't as sweet as regular chocolate chip cookies. I loved them and will certainly make them again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Fair

From Charlotte's Web (you may click to read book report) by E.B. White:
The night before the County Fair, everybody went to bed early. Fern and Avery were in bed by eight. Avery lay dreaming that the Ferris wheel had stopped and that he was in the top car. Fern lay dreaming that she was getting sick in the swings.
On fair day:
The children grabbed each other by the hand and danced off in the direction of the merry-go-round, toward the wonderful music and the wonderful adventure and the wonderful excitement, into the wonderful midway where there would be no parents to guard them and guide them, and where they could be happy and free and do what they pleased. Mrs. Arable stood quietly and watched them go. Then she sighed. Then she blew her nose.
"Do you really think it's all right?" she asked.
"Well, they've got to grow up some time," said Mr. Arable. "And a fair is a good place to start, I guess."
After the fair:
Miles away, at the Arables' house, the men sat around the kitchen table eating a dish of canned peaches and talking over the events of the day. Upstairs, Avery was already in bed and asleep. Mrs. Arable was tucking Fern into bed.
"Did you have a good time at the Fair?" she asked as she kissed her daughter.
Fern nodded. "I had the best time I have ever had anywhere or any time in all of my whole life."
"Well!" said Mrs. Arable. "Isn't that nice!"

Yesterday we went to the Fair with several friends. On the way up various businesses noted the annual occasion on their signs:
A business: Fair Enough
An inn: A Fair to Remember

Around Labor Day, the question on everyone's lips is "what day are you going to the Fair?" Even in these modern times, years and years after Charlotte's Web was written, it is still THE local event that ends the summer season.

Three years ago I wrote about the Fair: "Fair time is like Christmas in the way I remember all those that have gone before." And, like Christmas it can be a sad occasion if a visitor has experienced a recent loss or a divorce, as that person recalls the many fairs of happier times.

Every year it is both the same and different.

We visit the animal barns and see our own little "Wilburs."

I listened to a young boy's stories about his Polish chicken who was sleeping on his lap. We walk through the RVs and dream about traveling in such adorable homes.

The men always, always go looking at the zillions of machines for sale.

We go into the commercial hall and see everything from baskets to saddles to heating systems to homemade fudge.

We visit the arts and crafts hall and see the handmade items and garden produce which vied for those blue ribbons.

We stand by a small tent listening to a ten piece local band singing such songs as "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" bringing a tear to my eye with the exquisite harmonies, as good as any on the Grand Ole Opry .

As for the rides, I haven't gone on any since I got sick on the Tilt-a-Whirl and the swings many years ago. Today Matt told me they saw someone throw up on the Dreamcatcher and it spewed out in a mist all over everyone else. It doesn't get much grosser than that!

And then there is the food. It is junk food heaven. Anything that can be fried is on sale, from real French fries to Oreos. You can have plain fried dough or funnel cakes.

We had a perfectly wonderful time, adding the 2010 Fair to the many joyful memories of fairs past.

Could anyone look any happier?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Today's poem by Richard Wilbur

by Richard Wilbur

Piecemeal the summer dies;
At the field's edge a daisy lives alone;
A last shawl of burning lies
On a gray field-stone.

All cries are thin and terse;
The field has droned the summer's final mass;
A cricket like a dwindled hearse
Crawls from the dry grass.

Another poem by Richard Wilbur here.