Friday, October 29, 2010

Doris Day on Sirius XM Sunday afternoon!

A picture from one of my favorite Doris Day movies, Please Don't Eat the Daisies.

If you love Doris Day, the singer and actress, you have a real treat in store. From the Doris Day site:

New Interview with Doris to air Oct 31 on WNYC and Sirius Radio

New York - A new, one-hour interview with legendary singer and actress Doris Day is slated to air on Sirius Satellite Radio and WNYC on Sunday October 31 at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Jonathan Schwartz, host of "High Standards" on Sirius Satellite Radio's Siriusly Sinatra channel 73 and his own show on WNYC, announced the interview he recently conducted with Ms. Day will be simulcast near the mid-point of his weekly four-hour Sunday show, 12-4pm ET.

Schwartz, a long-time New York radio presence, former artistic director of Lincoln Center's American Songbook and diehard jazz fan, was thrilled when Ms. Day agreed to speak with him Sept. 23 about her life, her singing career, and her work with Frank Sinatra. Ms. Day taped the interview via phone patch from her Carmel Valley, Calif., home. The interview, which was originally planned to be 30 minutes or less, stretched beyond the one-hour mark as Doris told one great story after the next.

"It was great fun to recall all those memories," Day said after the interview had ended. "I'm always so happy to tell stories to my fans and friends. I hope they enjoy it, too!"

Fans outside of WNYC's broadcast area can catch the interview on Saturday Oct. 30 and Sunday Oct. 31 at 1:30pm ET online by visiting the WNYC website and clicking the "Listen Now" button on the right side of the page.
It is channel 75 on Sirius, and 73 on XM. I have Sirius XM in my Beetle, and I plan to spend that hour or so driving around in utter listening bliss!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Evergreen That Isn't

Occasionally, Tom does a posting here, and today he's going to write about one of his favorite trees.

In late October the tamarack shows up, along with the poplar, as the last of the color in the forest. I grew up knowing the tree as the larch; my grandparents had a large one in their back yard. It has several names--larch, tamarack, hackmatack. It is the only conifer that sheds all of its needles every year, which makes it a deciduous coniferous tree. It prefers moist, swampy soil and doesn't tolerate shade well. Consequently, pines and spruce often overcome it, making it rarer than those two. In the spring, the needles sprout--a soft, vibrant green.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

61. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People - first in the Marriage Bureau for Rich People series
by Farahad Zama
fiction, 2009
Kindle book - 8
finished, 9/26/10

First of all, isn't that a great title for a book? And the book itself is just as wonderful. I really loved it. The story takes place in Vizag, India. As happens with many a retired person, Mr. Ali is bored, and is driving his wife crazy.
I have been running the house for more than forty years, and the last few years since you retired have been the worst. You keep interfering with my routine.
Mr. Ali puts an ad in the paper which says,
For widest choice among Hindu, Muslim, Christian Brides/Grooms, contact Ali's Marriage Bureau for Rich People.
He opens a matchmaking service whose office is on the porch of his home. You may remember that Vish Puri in the Tarquin Hall books is often hired to do background checks on prospective marriage partners because the couple has not gone the traditional route as they do in this book. Mr. Ali will make certain that the parents of marriageable children find the partner most suitable, in caste and in religion, and even in diet and astrological compatibility if desired. The business starts slowly but grows so much that now Mrs. Ali is going crazy for another reason. The phone is always engaged with customers, she must answer the door when her husband isn't in, and he isn't doing any of the work around the house he should be doing. In a short time, they get a business phone and an assistant. The young woman, Aruna becomes an important part of the agency. As we learn the stories of the clients, we also learn about the country, its customs, the different religions and castes, the gardens, and as in the Tarquin Hall books, the food!

This is the first in a series, and I have ordered the second. I love these characters, the locale, and the stories. I am endlessly fascinated by and enchanted with India. So many of us cannot imagine such a thing as an arranged marriage, but reading this book gave me a whole new perspective on the idea. It does work and when you read it you will see the many reasons why.The author himself has an arranged marriage which you may read about here.

"The Marriage Bureau for Rich People" by Farahad Zama (Abacus) wins the Melissa Nathan Award
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama (Abacus) has won the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance.

Introduced by comedienne Jo Brand at the Café de Paris in London, Farahad Zama was awarded with the prize and a cheque for £5,000.

One of the judges, Sophie Kinsella, said of the book “The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is a lilting, funny, warm-hearted book set in the world of Indian arranged marriages and match-makers. It deals with both romance and pragmatism in a witty, beguiling way and charmed the judges with its quirky humour, romantic heart and unforgettable characters.”

Farahad Zama lives in South London and writes on his daily commute to work in the City. He said on the evening “I am absolutely delighted at winning the Melissa Nathan award. When I started writing, it was as a diversion from a stressful job and getting awards was the last thing on my mind, especially from a jury of such well-known authors, comedians and literary figures.”

Farahad Zama grew up in Vizag on the east coast of India, where his novel is set. His parents paid 20p per month for him to attend an English school and from there he went on to university where he was recruited by Citibank. He has since worked in Mumbai, Zurich and New York, before moving to London in 1990. He is a director in the FX technology division of Merrill Lynch. Like many of the characters in his novel, Farahad had an arranged marriage to a local girl from Vizag; they have been married for many years and have two sons.

I've not heard of the literary category, 'Comedy Romance,' before. It is the perfect description. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People was an enjoyable reading experience which still makes me smile when I think about it. This is a book I'd like to read again for the richness of the culture and the pleasure of the characters' company.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

3/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sour cream
2 lemons, rind only
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 10-inch bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs and beat well.
Sift together dry ingredients.
Add to butter mixture.
Blend until smooth.
Add sour cream, lemon rind, and poppy seeds.
Blend well until smooth.
Bake for approximately 1 hour.
Let cool in pan before removing.

I mixed up a cup of confectioners' sugar and a little lemon juice and glazed lightly while the cake was still warm. You could also use a buttercream frosting, or none at all.

A delicious, rich cake.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Making of a Home - part 6

The past few weeks have been very thrilling down at Margaret and Matthew's house.

The inside walls have been put up and varnished.

From master bedroom looking toward master bath.

They've picked out the fridge, stove, and dishwasher. They've chosen to have laminate flooring for the living room, dining room, and master bedroom, and pine boards for the upstairs. There will be tile in the kitchen, bathrooms, and entryway. Some was laid this week.

The outside is almost all stained; a lovely color called Golden Honey. The steps off the sliding glass door, and the porch side steps have been built.

The cellar door is installed.

One of the fun things about this house is that even though it is new, there are eaves and nooks and crannies, much like an older house would have. This is the southwest upstairs bedroom.

Upstairs southwest bedroom closet.

And the loft corner.

The interior doors have arrived.

The heat is going to be propane. No chimney. The silver box is the boiler, with the 3-zone heating pipes to the left; one for the upstairs, one for downstairs, and the third for the radiant heat in the cellar floor.

The baseboard heating has been installed in the upstairs rooms.

The electric panel is on the left, with the water tank on the right; where the water from the artesian well goes.

The lights came on the first week of October! There's such a soft, mellow glow in the house now.

The fixtures are all bought and waiting to be installed.

I love this view looking in. It's a bit blurry because of the protective film which is still on the windows.

October dusk at the new house.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

60. The Double Comfort Safari Club - twelfth in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction, 2010
Kindle book - 7
finished, 9/25/10

As always it is a great pleasure for me to visit with Mma Ramotswe and everyone else in her circle. I love each of these books.

In this installment, Mma Ramotswe has received a letter from an American lawyer requesting her help in finding someone. His client has died and left a gift of $3000 to a safari camp guide because of his particular kindness when she visited Botswana. The problem is that she did not remember what the camp was called, only that it had the name of an animal or bird, or the guide's name, and so it is now up to Mma Ramotswe to find him. She and her assistant, Mma Makutsi go off to a delta region of the country where they must travel by boat to the camp. On the river there is always a danger of hippos and crocodiles. The former can upset the small vessel, and the latter has been known to seize somebody right out of a boat. Happily neither horror happens, and they proceed safely to solve the case.

In addition to the problem in the case, Grace Makutsi has more personal trouble. Her fiancé has lost part of his leg in an accident. Phuti Radiphuti (silent h) - one of my favorite names in fiction - has an aunt who takes exclusive care of him after his operation and doesn't even want Mma Makutsi to visit. She isn't the most self-assured of people and it is very difficult for her to know what to do.

I know that some people really didn't like the televised version of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and I agree that it wasn't as true to the writing as I may have wished. However, I do think the casting was utterly perfect. Now when I read the books I see the characters as the actors who played them. I am particularly fond of Anika Noni Rose who played Mma Makutsi. She brought the character to life in a way I just couldn't see on the page. Because of the actor, I have become even more fond of the character, which I find amazing.

As in all the books, there is much wisdom and thought, both deep and mundane.
He knew that Mma Mateleke had a tendency to talk at great length; indeed, he could always tell when Mma Ramotswe had been to see her friend because she inevitably came back not only exhausted but also disinclined to say very much.
"Mma Mateleke has done all my talking for me today," she once said. "I cannot say anything more until tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. It has all been said."
No one is referred to as 'dead' in this series.
She used the expression that the Batswana preferred: to become late. There was human sympathy here; to be dead is to be nothing, to be finished. The expression is far too final, too disruptive of the bonds that bind us to one another, bonds that survive the demise of one person. A late father is still your father, even though he is not there; a dead father sounds as if he has nothing further to do - he is finished.
I have read some of these books in the print version, I have listened to some on unabridged audio, and now I have read one on my Kindle. It doesn't matter how I read them. The minute I begin, I am back in Botswana, the land all the characters love so well. The outside world disappears and I can see the landscape and feel the air. The word 'gentle' is sometimes overused, but it is the best adjective to describe these books. There is also a generosity of spirit, even when not every character is a good person.
Having the right approach to life was a great gift in this life. Her father, the late Obed Ramotswe, had always had the right approach to life - she was sure of that. And for a moment, as she sat there with her friend, with the late-afternoon sun slanting in through the window, she thought about how she owed her father so much. He had taught her almost everything she knew about how to lead a good life, and the lessons she had learned from him were as fresh today as they had ever been. Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself.
Alexander McCall Smith's words are guideposts on our paths through life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fruit Salad

Here is another from my mother's recipe collection. Since I had the ingredients on hand, I thought I would try it.

I used 2 apples and 2 bananas and 2/3 cup walnuts, and I added a little whipped cream. This is so delicious and very filling. It would make a perfect lunch or a side dish at supper.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Today's cd/Darius Rucker - Learn To Live

The very best of country albums make the listener feel happy, sad, and thankful. There are songs you can sing along with yet never get sick of. This cd has every one of those facets. I don't know when I've loved a country album quite this much. It all begins with the voice. Darius Rucker has one of my favorite voices in music. The songs are rocky and they are quiet. He sings about love and breaking up and parenting and his late mother.

From Learn To Live:
Grandpa Campbell would sit upon his front porch
And I'd be right there, just sittin' on his knee
He'd tell stories of love and feast and famine
And I'd hang on to every word that he would breathe
He said, boy as you walk through this life
Here's a little wisdom that'll help you get by
You gotta live and learn
You gotta crash and burn
You gotta make some stances
And take some chances
You gotta live and love
And take all life has to give
You gotta live and learn
So you can learn to live

Here is my favorite song on the album.

His latest, Charleston SC, 1966, just came out, and you can bet I'll be buying it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today's poem by Robert Frost

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon

'In the midst of life we are in death.'
The Book of Common Prayer

Only a couple weeks after I began these letters in 2006, I put up a post on December 8, the date John Lennon was killed. And today, when John would have been 70 years old, I am going to offer the same video. It is perfect, I think.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

Every season has its own glory in New England, for every month has its separate identity, different personality. October is the dramatic month, everyone knows about autumn in New England. More and more tourists come during October and eager travelers stop all along the roads taking dozens of pictures.

The air is cool as an old coin teaspoon, and a faint tang of blue woodsmoke spices the wind. The color of the great sugar maples is so dazzling it seems I must have dreamed it. The maples give forth light, like closer suns. The oaks glow with a garnet fire, and all the thickets blaze with scarlets and pale gold and cinnamon. It is like the music of a trumpet.
Gladys Taber
Stillmeadow Daybook, 1955

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apple Charlotte or Apple Brown Betty

Today I decided to make a dessert I haven't made before from this dear little cookbook, which I really should buy. I have offered two other recipes from Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: Macaroni and Cheese and Scrambled Eggs.

Apple Charlotte or Apple Brown Betty (you may compare to the Apple Brown Betty I posted the other day)

This recipe contains only four ingredients and is very easy to make.

2 cups of bread crumbs (I used the food processor)
5 1/2 cups sliced apples
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter

Heat oven to 350º F.
Peel and core apples. Slice very thin.
Grease pan (I used a two-quart baking dish) and sprinkle with some bread crumbs.
Lay a thick layer of apples on the crumbs and scatter some sugar on top.
Dot all over with little pieces of butter.
Start all over again, and continue until dish is full.
The last layer should be bread crumbs.
Pile it high; the apples shrink as they cook.
Bake an hour.
Serve with whipped cream.

As you may guess, this is a sweet, wonderful dessert for an autumn day. I didn't even wait for the whipped cream, and it was perfect.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two books by Martin Walker

59. Bruno, Chief of Police - first in the Bruno, Chief of Police series
by Martin Walker
mystery, 2008
Kindle book - 6
finished, 9/18/10

62. The Dark Vineyard : A mystery of the French countryside - second in the Bruno, Chief of Police series
by Martin Walker
mystery, 2009
Kindle book - 9
finished, 10/1/10

I expect that many of us in the US 'know' the French countryside through the pages of Peter Mayle's books about Provence. I was delighted to read that he is still there, happily living the good life.

Now we have another area to explore - the Dordogne region in the new mystery series by Martin Walker.

From the opening words of Bruno, Chief of Police, I was captured:
The town emerged from the lush green of the trees and meadows like a tumbled heap of treasure; the golden stone of the buildings, the ruby red tiles of the rooftops and the silver curve of the river running through it. The houses clustered down the slope and around the main square...
Though Saint-Denis is a fictional town, it probably looks much like Hautefort.

In Roberta Rood's excellent review of The Dark Vineyard, she says that Bruno reminds her of Hamish Macbeth, the Scottish policeman in M.C. Beaton's series, and I agree. I found myself thinking about Hamish often. These men are both completely contented in their small villages. They don't long to be promoted because it would mean having to move away. They love the routines of their daily lives, and they love the people in their communities. When Benoit Courreges, known as Bruno, first came to be the town's policeman ten years ago, he was given an old tumbledown shepherd's cottage on four hectares (about ten acres) of land. Over time he has made it into a country haven. He grows food and keeps chickens, and has a basset hound, Gigi.

As those of us who read mysteries know so well, in the most beautiful, placid surroundings crime often abounds. In the first book, there is a brutal murder of an elderly war hero, and in the second there is arson and murder. The troubled past invades the peaceful present, both in the village and in Bruno's own memory of his time as a peacekeeper in Bosnia.

I learned so much about life in France during the Second World War; I learned about the effects of France being part of the European Union; I learned about the Algerian War.

So we have an idyllic setting, beautifully described and we have crimes with fascinating details. We have stories of historical interest. What more could we ask for? Oh, yes. Food. The food is very important in the books. People are always eating good food and drinking good wine.

I loved spending my reading time here, and I hope there will be more and more books in this excellent series. Please visit the delightful Bruno, Chief of Police site to learn more about the books and the area.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1929 Black Chocolate Cake

This is another cake recipe from my mother's old collection. The first one I shared was a sponge cake. I don't know who wrote out the original recipe. Perhaps this was my mother's 16-year-old handwriting, maybe it was my grammy's, or maybe it was Emily Cooper Norris herself who wrote it and gave it to my grandmother. I never met her. I presume she lived on a neighboring farm. My mother added 'vanilla,' and I added how much vanilla and the comment at the top.

1929 Black Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup boiling water
Let cool after pouring hot water over

1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sour milk, mixed with 3/4 teaspoonful soda
1 egg

Pour boiling water over butter and cocoa
Add sugar and stir well
Add flour and milk alternately
Bake in moderate or slow oven

Emily Cooper Norris
Aug. 24, 1929

My notes:
To make the sour milk, I put lemon juice or white vinegar in the bottom of the measuring cup and fill it to 1/4 with regular milk.
I add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
I mix it all in the KitchenAid mixer.
Bake in preheated 350º F. oven about 30 minutes.
This makes a one-layer cake or 10 cupcakes.

Such a simple, yet delicious cake to make, and just the right size if you aren't baking for a big crowd. When it cools, I'll frost it with a buttercream frosting: confectioners' sugar, butter, vanilla, milk. This is the twelfth and last installment of Matt's birthday present. I can't believe almost a year has gone by. It has been such a hit, I may do the same next year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

When Fall Comes to New England

It is becoming a little annual tradition here at Letters from a Hill Farm to post this wonderful song by Cheryl Wheeler. The lyrics follow the video if you'd like to sing along.

When Fall Comes To New England

Words And Music by
Cheryl Wheeler

When fall comes to New England
The sun slants in so fine
And the air's so clear
You can almost hear the grapes grow on the vine

The nights are sharp with starlight
And the days are cool and clean
And in the blue sky over head
The northern geese fly south instead
And leaves are Irish Setter red
When fall comes to New England

When fall comes to New England
And the wind blows off the sea
Swallows fly in a perfect sky
And the world was meant to be

When the acorns line the walkways
Then winter can't be far
From yellow leaves a blue jay calls
Grandmothers walk out in their shawls
And chipmunks run the old stone walls
When fall comes to New England

The frost is on the pumpkin
The squash is off the vine
And winter warnings race across the sky
The squirrels are on to something
And they're working overtime
The foxes blink and stare and so do I

'Cause when fall comes to New England
Oh I can't turn away
From fading light on flying wings
And late good-byes a robin sings
And then another thousand things
When fall comes to New England

When fall comes to New England

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Today's poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


With what a glory comes and goes the year!
The buds of spring, those beautiful harbingers
Of sunny skies and cloudless times, enjoy
Life's newness, and earth's garniture spread out;
And when the silver habit of the clouds
Comes down upon the autumn sun, and with
A sober gladness the old year takes up
His bright inheritance of golden fruits,
A pomp and pageant fill the splendid scene.

  There is a beautiful spirit breathing now
Its mellow richness on the clustered trees,
And, from a beaker full of richest dyes,
Pouring new glory on the autumn woods,
And dipping in warm light the pillared clouds.
Morn on the mountain, like a summer bird,
Lifts up her purple wing, and in the vales
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life
Within the solemn woods of ash deep-crimsoned,
And silver beech, and maple yellow-leaved,
Where Autumn, like a faint old man, sits down
By the wayside a-weary.  Through the trees
The golden robin moves.  The purple finch,
That on wild cherry and red cedar feeds,
A winter bird, comes with its plaintive whistle,
And pecks by the witch-hazel, whilst aloud
From cottage roofs the warbling blue-bird sings,
And merrily, with oft-repeated stroke,
Sounds from the threshing-floor the busy flail.

  O what a glory doth this world put on
For him who, with a fervent heart, goes forth
Under the bright and glorious sky, and looks
On duties well performed, and days well spent!
For him the wind, ay, and the yellow leaves,
Shall have a voice, and give him eloquent teachings.
He shall so hear the solemn hymn that Death
Has lifted up for all, that he shall go
To his long resting-place without a tear.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Apple Brown Betty

This recipe comes from an old internet friend, Anita. She and I were in a Yahoo homemaking group together for years. I posted another of her recipes last year, Apple Muffins.

Apple Brown Betty

Sometimes called Apple Crisp, this delicious baked apple dessert has a crumbly sweet topping that sets it apart from other baked apple recipes.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup water
4 cups of apples, peeled and sliced

1. Combine the sugar, oats, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and stir in butter with a fork until well-mixed and crumbly.

2. Add one-third of the apples, then one-third of the crumb mixture to a greased, 1 1/2 quart baking dish (I used a 2 quart).
Repeat until all apples and crumb mixture are added.

3. Pour the 1/4 cup of water over the mixture.

4. Bake for 30 minutes in preheated 375º F. oven.

Delicious, and believe it or not, this was our supper tonight! I will certainly make the recipe again.

Mrs Bale feels like the Little Mermaid

Mrs Bale needs this warming cup of tea. Since Tuesday, we've had nine inches of rain.

The ground is soggy. Our stream has jumped its banks

Ben leaped over the water

While Sadie waded right in

The nearby river is roaring

Some roads were closed. Today the rain has stopped, and it is cloudy with sunshine peeking through every so often. Every day has been dark. I awoke one morning at nine, thinking it was seven. Our cellar had a bit of rain that came through the fieldstone walls, but the new cement cellar in Margaret and Matthew's house is dry as can be! (update coming soon on The Making of a Home)