Tuesday, November 25, 2014

July Reading

34. Work Song - book 2 in the Morrie Morgan series
by Ivan Doig
fiction 2010
library book
finished 7/8/14

Morrie Morgan, whom we met in The Whistling Season (April Reading) is the center of this book. He has moved to Butte, Montana in the days when the copper industry ruled, and it was a company town. This is a subject I am very interested in - the idea of one industry being the reason a place exists and thrives. The city of 100,000 people is utterly dependent on the miners who work under dangerous conditions. Do the miners strive to better the conditions at the risk of losing their jobs? The age-old dilemma. Morgan gets a job at the library which shouldn't involve him in these problems, but he finds himself in the middle of the action nonetheless. A wonderful, wonderful book. I'm going to buy it, and The Whistling Season, and the latest in the series, Sweet Thunder. And when I've read them, I want to read everything else Ivan Doig has written. He is one of the best authors I've ever read. 

35. The Secret Lives of Litterbugs: and Other (True) Stories
by M.A.C. Farrant
nonfiction essays 2009
finished 7/9/14

I do so like Marion Alice Coburn Farrant's writing. I read her My Turquoise Years, and wrote about it here. These essays are of the same ilk - about the family she grew up in which was not a bit ordinary, and her family as a mother. I love her wit, her resilience, her attitude toward life. Someone at 49th Shelf, a resource for Canadian books, described The Secret Lives of Litterbugs -
The pieces are funny and sharp, completely original while describing an utterly familiar world. Combining David Sedaris' self-deprecation and deep sense of the absurd with Erma Bombeck's skewering of domestic life, Farrant has a gift for making those observations that would be harrowing, if they weren't so funny.

36. Esperanza Rising
by Pam Munoz Ryan
middle grade/young adult fiction 2000
second reading
finished 7/12/14

I listened to this book in the very month I began my letters - November 2006. I've not forgotten it, and decided to buy a copy for the Kindle. It was wonderful reading it again. I think it is one of the masterpieces of middle grade/young adult fiction, and it is very timely as our country wrestles with the immigration situation. This is a story of a girl who lived a life of affluence in Mexico, but whose life changes drastically when her father is murdered. His brother offers a life to Esperanza and her mother, but it is not a life they want to live. The only escape is to the US but it is during the Great Depression, and poverty and hostility await them. The details of the new life are so vivid and well-written that the reader can almost feel transported. I love this book and highly recommend it.

37. Marmalade's Nap - book 2 in the Marmalade series
by Cindy Wheeler
children's book 1983
finished 7/16/14

I was going to do this months ago as a 'reading with Hazel Nina' posting, but didn't have a chance, so here she is from July 16 having great fun with this delightful book I used to read to her mum and her uncle.

Marmalade walks all around looking for a place to take a nap, and nowhere is satisfactory until the end when he finds the perfect spot.

38. Sheep Out To Eat - book 4 in the Sheep series
by Nancy E. Shaw
Illustrated by Margot Apple
children's book 1992
finished 7/17/14

This is one of the funniest books Margaret and I have ever read. We bought all the others in the series, but still think this is the best. Honestly, we laugh out loud every time we read it. These sheepys go to a tea room to eat, and hilarious chaos breaks out.

And when they sneeze, their knees hit the table, and food goes everywhere and dishes are broken. When they are finally 'asked' to leave, they go outside and find the exact meal they were hoping for.

Hazel Nina's sense of humor is already evident!

39. Around the World in Eighty Days
by Jules Verne
fiction 1873
finished 7/23/14

I've heard of this book all my life, but was never interested enough to read it. You'll laugh when I tell you what finally made me buy my own copy and finally read it. The first Kindles had drawings of writers, and I was drawn to the one of Jules Verne, whose picture I had never seen before. He looked intelligent and kind, and I wanted to read what such a man wrote.

Well, I loved this book. Phileas Fogg makes a bet that he can go around the world in eighty days or less. This is so out of character for this fellow who lives alone and has very regular habits.
He breakfasted and dined at the club, at hours mathematically fixed, in the same room, at the same table, never taking his meals with other members, much less bringing a guest with him; and went home at exactly midnight, only to retire at once to bed. 
When the book begins he has just fired his one servant for bringing him his "shaving-water at eighty-four degrees Fahrenheit instead of eighty-six." His new servant is Passepartout who applied for the job in the hope of "living with him a tranquil life."

The settled life goes right out the window as Fogg proceeds to win the bet. Adventure follows adventure. Anyone reading this book when it was first written would have learned a lot about the world outside of their own towns or cities. The duo come upon bananas in India:
They stopped under a clump of bananas, the fruit of which, as healthy as bread and as succulent as cream, was amply partaken of and appreciated.
One of the book's many pleasures is the chapter titles.
In which Passepartout talks rather more, perhaps, than is prudent.

In which Phileas Fogg descends the whole length of the beautiful valley of the Ganges without ever thinking of seeing it.
        In which Phileas Fogg engages in a direct struggle with bad fortune.

They are both informative and humorous. The edition I read was published by Sterling, and it is lovely in every way. The illustrations were done especially for this book by Scott McKowen. The paper feels and looks wonderful. It has quickly become one of my treasures, and I hope to read it to Hazel Nina and Campbell Walker when they are older.

40. The Scent of Water
by Elizabeth Goudge
fiction 1963
finished 7/27/14

I haven't read any Elizabeth Goudge for about fifteen years. I found that I missed her so bought this book for my Kindle. I completely lost myself in this story. She's one of those writers one is hard-pressed to find now: Elizabeth Cadell, D.E. Stevenson, Miss Read who tell 'plain' good stories. Sometimes I wonder why I read anyone else. There is an excellent webpage devoted to her here. And on that page is a wonderful piece about this book. You may read it here. That will tell you if it is a book you'd enjoy. My blogging friend Clair wrote something six years ago which I kept, and I thought you'd like to read it. It isn't long, and is just so lovely. You may find it here. So, though I haven't told you much about the book, I've offered some sources you may investigate if you think you might be interested. I loved The Scent of Water, as I loved the others I've read by her. I'm happy there are still a whole lot more I have yet to discover.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

June Reading

30. Murder by Mocha - book 10 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery 2011
finished 6/6/14

As you know, I adore Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse mysteries, and even though this one was not a particular favorite just because the plot didn't interest me that much, I still enjoyed catching up with the characters who inhabit this series. And it holds a special place in my heart because three years ago, I won this book (you may read about that here) and owning it set me on my adventures with Clare Cosi, et al.

Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini who co-write these books, are two of the most generous of authors. They have sent me a few other books since this one.

31. The New House
by Lettice Cooper
fiction 1936
finished 6/16/14

I so liked this book. It is slow, quiet, pensive. People really thinking about their lives. It is about one family - some of whom are moving to a new house. I've not read anything like it before. It is my third favorite Persephone book, after The Fortnight in September, and Greenery Street. The bookmark and endpapers are
taken from 'Rope and Dandelions', a block-printed velvet designed and printed by Margaret Calkins James for her new house, 'Hornbeams' in Hampstead Garden Suburb, in 1936.
There are money problems. There are doubts about the course a life has taken, and the choices made. There is much interior monologue which is so my 'cuppa' when it comes to literature. I am someone who thinks a lot, and I enjoy reading about others who do the same.

32. Kaaterskill Falls
by Allegra Goodman
fiction 1998
fourth reading
finished 6/22/14

Back in the days when I used to rent audiotapes through the mail I listened to this book a few times read perfectly by Suzanne Toren. When I saw it at a local used bookstore, I bought my own copy. It never fades in my appreciation. Each time I read it I feel like this is the way a book should be. It is set in the mid-seventies, which now seems almost like ancient times. I live in a community where the Hasidim from New York City spend some of the summer and so was especially interested in this story of Orthodox summer people and the locals in upstate New York. I love this book beyond words. 

33. The Namesake
by Jhumpa Lahiri
fiction 2003
second reading
library book
finished 6/29/14

This is a wonderful book. I also loved the movie. As with The New House and Kaaterskill Falls, this is a quiet book. I enjoyed this second reading fully as much as the first. The language is beautiful, the story compelling, the characters real and interesting.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vegetarian Cuban Sandwich

Two weeks in a row for Weekend Cooking. May I call this a roll?!

Have you seen the movie Chef? It’s a wonderful film about a guy who gives up being a chef in a restaurant and opens a food truck instead. It is a food lovers delight. Scene after scene of cooking. One of the featured items is the Cuban sandwich. I went online looking for a vegetarian alternative, and found this. We bought some great white crusty bread, and Tom proceeded to make his own variation. He chose to make an open-faced sandwich with what was available in the house.

Slice and butter the bread.
Cover with thinly sliced cheddar cheese. He’ll try Swiss cheese next time.
Sauté sliced medium onion, red or white, in olive oil.
Add to cheese.
Put on cookie sheet and low broil in oven until cheese melts.

That’s it. He ate a pickle with it, but next time will try cooking it. He would have added peppers to the sautéed onions if we’d had them. He isn’t that big a mushroom fan so didn’t use mushrooms. He also forgot the mustard but will add it in the future. He thought this was just delicious! 

I found a definition of a Cuban sandwich here. And please do rent the dvd of Chef if you can. You’ll love it! Here is the website.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Passage/The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon

In the home of my childhood there was a room we called ‘The Little Bookroom.’ True, every room in the house could have been called a bookroom. Our nurseries upstairs were full of books. Downstairs my father’s study was full of them. They lined the dining-room walls, and overflowed into my mother’s sitting-room, and up into the bedrooms. It would have been more natural to live without clothes than without books. As unnatural not to read as not to eat.

Of all the rooms in the house, the Little Bookroom was yielded up to books as an untended garden is left to its flowers and weeds. There was no selection or sense of order here. In dining-room, study, and nursery there was choice and arrangement; but the Little Bookroom gathered to itself a motley crew of strays and vagabonds, outcasts from the ordered shelves below, the overflow of parcels bought wholesale by my father in the sales-rooms. Much trash, and more treasure. Riff-raff and gentlefolk and noblemen. A lottery, a lucky dip for a child who had never been forbidden to handle anything between covers. That dusty bookroom, whose windows were never opened, through whose panes the summer sun struck a dingy shaft where gold specks danced and shimmered, opened magic casements for me through which I looked out on other worlds and times than those I lived in: worlds filled with poetry and prose and fact and fantasy. …

Crammed with all sorts of reading, the narrow shelves rose halfway up the walls; their tops piled with untidy layers that almost touched the ceiling. The heaps on the floor had to be climbed over, columns of books flanked the window, toppling at a touch. 

Eleanor Farjeon
Author’s Note to The Little Bookroom 1955

I read this introduction to Hazel Nina as she was beginning to drift off to sleep. I don't have a picture of the little lass sleeping but here she is playing in the crib when she awoke.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pizza Crust

I just checked back and, geez Louise, I haven’t done a Weekend Cooking post since March 2012! 

Recently a friend of mine on Facebook shared a pizza crust recipe from here. The first time I made it, I followed the directions exactly, but last night I changed a few things, and it was so easy and delicious that I thought I'd add it to my letters.  

Pizza Crust

Put 1 Tablespoon baking yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Add a little sugar (maybe a teaspoon). I do all my rising in the oven with the oven light on. It gives just a bit of heat, and is away from drafts.

In a bowl mix 5 cups white flour with 1 Tablespoon salt. Add 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil.

Add the risen yeast and stir well. I didn’t knead it. I just stirred it really well and covered it with a damp towel and let it rise in the oven for about an hour.

I floured my marble board and kneaded the dough. I divided it in two, and spread it out on two pans greased with cooking spray, one a round Fiestaware pizza pan, and the other a cookie sheet.

I topped with tomato sauce. The recipe is here which was actually my last posting for Weekend Cooking. 

I added grated cheese to Tom's pizza. The cheese in our house is Seriously Sharp Cheddar. As I have mentioned before I am not a cheese fan, so my pizza is always sauce and veggies, though this time I didn't have many on hand, just some red and orange peppers, and garlic which I gently sautéed. 

They baked for about 20 minutes. Tom’s was done faster than mine, so next time I’ll either use two cookie sheets or two Fiestaware pans.

I’ve posted recipes for pizza crust here and here but this is the one I’ll use from now on. It is so simple to make, and the taste is perfect. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Today's picture/a painting by Nora Heysen

London Breakfast by Australian painter Nora Heysen, probably painted between 1945 and 1948

A long-time internet friend, Linda, posted this painting on her Facebook page, a share from Prairie Lights Bookstore. I left her a comment saying that it could be me! My breakfast is almost a sacred time for me. I eat the same thing every day (2 slices whole wheat toast, yogurt with fruit, glass of water, and cup of coffee with honey), and always read, though not a book but one of the many magazines I subscribe to. As long as they make paper magazines I shall read them. Currently these treasures come in the mail: The New Yorker, Real Simple, Bookmarks, New Hampshire Magazine, Yankee Magazine, and I await one I just subscribed to, Modern Farmer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hazel Nina at 11 months!

I can hardly believe that this little miracle baby is now 11 months old! She weighed 15.2 pounds today, up from 2.2 at her birth! We are thankful every single day. I made the 1929 Sponge Cake and she loved it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today's picture/Hazel Nina votes!

Such a treat to bring Hazel Nina to vote in the same hall I used to bring her mother and her uncle!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Year of Afternoon Gardens - November

You may notice all the maple leaves. They have been here every single October for the 33 years we have lived in this house, and for the hundred + years before that. But next October they will not be on the lawn and patio anymore, for we had to have the big sugar maple cut down. A forester friend recommended a good person. He came and looked it over, made those ‘tut tut’ sounds that doctors are famous for, and said it was time. And so, on Saturday, October 18, it came down. Two young men did the cutting while a third did all the picking up and chipping of the small branches. Margaret had to work, but the rest of the family was here watching. It rained off and on, sometimes quite hard, but they kept on working. They came back the next day for the final cleanup. 

We actually feel lucky because we had the tree sixteen years longer than we thought possible. In August 1998, we had a very quick, very strong wind; not a tornado but a microburst. In five to ten minutes we lost trees all over our land. Our road was completely blocked. The tallest section of the maple came down in that storm, and we thought the tree would die, but it leafed out the next spring and every spring since then. That’s what made it hard to cut down. It still looked so good as far as the leaves were concerned. But in amongst the leaves were splits and rot. It wasn’t in good shape, and even a small storm could have taken off branches or sections and someone could have gotten hurt. 

Though we all felt a bit sad at heart, we know we did the right thing and are quite surprisingly happy with the result. The open view is wonderful. And we have more light in the house now. But still, but still there is an ache for what is gone. We have ten windows and a glass door that look out to the south, where the tree was. It was what we saw every minute we were in the house and of course outside. But as Joni Mitchell wrote, ‘something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.’ Hazel Nina and Campbell Walker will never know this tree but they will know a different landscape which will be their childhood memory. We have some trees on order for the spring - a rowan, and two hazelnuts. Perhaps we will plant them there, or maybe we’ll leave that open space for games of badminton and croquet. 

This maple tree was in my very first blog posting, and has been in many photographs since then. I thought I’d post a few more I took in the days before it was cut down, during the cut, and some that show how it looks now.

If you are wondering what the chunks of wood are on the patio, Estée had the great idea to make tabletops from the tree. Those in front will go to the kids, 

and Tom and I will have the smaller one. 

Can you see an owl's face? The tufts at the top, the two eyes, and the beak? I am delighted.