Friday, February 27, 2015

A Year with Mrs. Appleyard - February

I will never understand fame - why some are so well known in their fields and others, who may be just as talented are nearly forgotten. Louise Andrews Kent is the example of the latter. I’ve read the very famous Thurber, and I don’t think his humor and wit hold a candle to Kent’s. Of course, humor is a very personal thing. What makes one person laugh, doesn’t even bring a smile to another. 

To me she is hilarious. As I sat reading the February installment, I laughed out loud a few times, and silently smiled all through it. This is the humor of E.M. Delafield, who wrote the Provincial Lady books, and George and Weedon Grossmith, who wrote The Diary of a Nobody.

I love how the February entry in Mrs. Appleyard's Year begins.
Harsh things have been said about February, but not by Mrs. Appleyard. She likes its uncertain temper, its ability to produce snowdrifts one minute and snowdrops the next…
She goes on to write what we mothers of grown-up children may occasionally feel.
Willows turning faintly golden against a dark blue sky with ragged clouds blown across it always delude her into the idea that this year spring will come early. When she realizes she has been fooled again, she stays happily indoors. There is a strain of groundhog blood in her ancestry, Mr. Appleyard says. She sees her shadow and digs in again. She goes to bed early and makes up for it by getting up late. She reads Pride and Prejudice, Walden, Rob Roy - long, leisurely books that she can go to sleep over and pick up another evening. ... Toward six in the morning she sometimes suffers from a few moments of insomnia. Years of getting out of bed at that grim gray hour and chivvying the children into clean clothes, making indelicate insinuations about the backs of necks and the edges of fingernails, juggling with oatmeal and poached eggs, forcing rubbers on reluctant feet, cajoling the sulky motor from the faint pop to the full-throated roar - these cannot be entirely forgotten. She wakes sharply with the nightmare feeling that she must warm the baby's bottle, sew on the lost button, ... So she must get up and begin her duties as policewoman, chauffeur, nose and throat specialist, and dietician. Only, wonderful feeling, she doesn't have to. The children are grown up. She can turn over and go to sleep again.
The author talks about February illnesses, and well I remember this from my childhood. I often wondered who would be able to come to my birthday party, and how many would have the measles or chickenpox.

From writing of guest towels,
Rather than sully such perfection, the guests have wiped their hands surreptitiously on the corner of a stray family bathtowel or on their own handkerchiefs or on the bathmat.
she goes right into world affairs, and somehow brings humor to wartime. It was startling for me to realize that as she was writing, the US was not yet in the war. I so loved reading
Mrs. Appleyard is sure the British are going to win the war. She has several reasons, but the most important are Mr. Churchill, her Aunt Hildegarde, and the British telephone. ... It was Aunt Hildegarde who wrote to Mrs. Appleyard in 1914 to ask why the United States had not yet come into the war to help Britain.'All the other colonies have,' she reminded her niece.
Louise Andrews Kent continues with what we so admire about the British in the Second World War as she explains what Aunt Hildegarde's letter says,
'I will just spend the time the bombers are overhead to write and tell you the family news.' ...'And now the all clear has sounded. Such good luck. I shall just have time to take the socks I have been knitting to the rectory and be back for tea'
The bit about British telephones is very, very funny as Mrs. Appleyard tells of a time in the late 1930s when she was in England and wanted to make a call. 
... a comfortable train with compartments much larger than a phone booth would have taken her to her friends' house in three hours and it had taken her two hours to telephone.
It is no wonder, she considers, that one of the first war measures was to forbid private use of the telephone. With the time saved simply by not chatting with City Directory, Hitler can be pushed into the British Channel. She is sure a people strengthened by contact with Buttons A and B will have no trouble doing it.
I think this is great stuff. The writing is sharp, clever, funny, and filled with warmth. I'm so loving these little monthly readings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On my 67th

All I really need is a song in my heart
Food in my belly and love in my family
All I really need is a song in my heart
And love in my family

Campbell Walker

Hazel Nina

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Uppity Cornmeal Crepes

It’s been ages since I’ve posted a recipe from Jeremy Jackson’s wonderfully fun The Cornbread Book. You may find his Buttermilk Cornbread here, and his Gem and Pearl Breakfast Muffins here. I did a little search to see what he is up to these days, and was so surprised and pleased to find that he mentioned the first post on his blog here. Scroll down just a bit to the September 27, 2012 entry. If you read the comments, you’ll see one from my blogging friend Kay!

He offers two recipes, one for Dinner Crepes and one for Dessert Crepes. I made the former. Delicious and perfect.

Uppity Cornmeal Crepes
makes 12-14 crepes, each about 6 1/2 inches.

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Lightly grease the bottom of a crepe pan or heavy, flat-bottomed 8-inch skillet (I prefer a well-seasoned cast iron skillet)  with a very thin layer of oil or butter and then wipe it out with a paper towel, leaving only a thin film of grease. Let the skillet heat up over medium heat (or slightly higher). 

2. Whisk all the ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Pour about 3 Tablespoons of batter (for an 8-inch skillet) into the hot skillet, tilting the skillet to quickly distribute the batter over its entire bottom. The crepe will cook quickly, with little beads of water rising to its surface. If it burns immediately, the skillet is too hot.

3. Loosen the sides of each crepe as it cooks with a knife and peek under the crepe to see how brown it is. When it’s very light brown, slide a thin spatula or flexible knife beneath the crepe a few times to dislodge it, then invert the skillet over a paper towel. The crepe should fall right out, where it can cool for a few minutes. Make sure to stir the batter each time before pouring in a new crepe - otherwise all the cornmeal will sink to the bottom of the bowl.

I did the mixing and Tom did the cooking.

My notes:
I used 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/4 cup white flour.
I used salted butter.
I mixed dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately and then mixed them together with a whisk.

Tom’s notes:
I didn’t wipe out the thin layer of butter, and each time added a tiny bit more.
I didn’t invert it over a paper towel. I gave Nan hers on a plate, and I ate mine right at the stove.

These were sublime. Tom didn’t even butter his, but I did.

And yes, we ate the whole batch ourselves! 

A second offering for this week's Weekend Cooking.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park

Bee-bim Bop!
by Linda Sue Park
illustrated by Ho Baek Lee     
children's book 2005
finished 2/2/15 (and many other days)

I bought Bee-bim Bop! two years ago, and found myself wishing this story of a loving family and a special Korean dish had been available when my South Korean born children were young. Now, miraculously, there are two little ones in my life to read it with. I haven’t read it to Campbell Walker yet because his visits are always packed with activity, and there isn’t any quiet time to sit and read. But Tom and I and Margaret have read it to Hazel Nina many, many times. Here is a picture from today's reading.

After the grandchildren were born, I decided to gather together all the children's books and put them in our bedroom. 

I would bring downstairs a couple at a time, and Bee-bim Bop! was occasionally one of them. A while ago Tom finished building some shelves we had planned for family photographs in the study. Because Hazel Nina could now reach the lowest shelf, I decided to use that one for children’s books. 

Margaret had the great idea to rotate the titles, and I’ve been doing this so that each Tuesday when Hazel comes, there is a new selection. Whenever Bee-bim Bop! was there, it was invariably the book she would pull off the shelf. 

We were all quite amazed. Does she see a resemblance to her mum in those lovely illustrations by Ho Baek Lee? Does she see herself in the little girl? When I recently switched it off the shelf, I decided I’d put it on a new little book shelf I bought for the living room, 

and, you guessed it, as soon as she walked in, she went right over and pulled off Bee-bim Bop!!

As the author explains 
Bop is the Korean word for rice, and bee-bim means “mixed-up.” So “bee-bim bop” means “mixed-up rice."

The book is told through delightful little verses. It starts off with the mother and daughter shopping.

And when they get home, preparations for supper begin.

The book continues on until the special dish is ready.

And when the book is over, the author tells the child and the adult who is reading to her just how to make bee-bim bop.

I just love the 'you' and 'grownup.' I expect that Margaret and Hazel will make this together, and perhaps Tom and I will, too (leaving out the meat).

Publishers Weekly says that Bee-bim Bop! is "Unabashedly happy." I can't remember ever reading a more apt description of a book!

I thought I'd offer this as an entry in Weekend Cooking.

Exciting news for Sherlock Holmes fans

Scottish man finds lost Sherlock Holmes story from 1904 in attic 

Friday, February 20, 2015, 9:18 AM

Walter Elliot, 80, found a short Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his attic while looking through papers for a local pop-up museum.SWNS.COMWalter Elliot, 80, found a short Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his attic while looking through papers for a local pop-up museum.
In this mystery, Sherlock Holmes was the one who went missing.
A Scottish man discovered a lost Sherlock Holmes story in his attic, more than 80 years after the last tale was published, according to the SWNS Media Group
Walter Elliot, 80, said he found the 1904 short story, "Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burgs and, by Deduction, the Brig Bazaar," while looking through old papers to display in a local pop-up museum.
The 1,300-word story was nestled inside a long-forgotten pamphlet that a friend had given to him more than 50 years ago, Elliot said.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the piece for a 48-page booklet to raise money for a bridge in Selkirk, Scotland, Elliot said. The pamphlet, with stories by local authors, was called "The Book o' Brig" after the name of the wood bridge that washed away in a flood in 1902.
The “Book o’ Brig” was sold during a town fundraising bazaar in 1904 and netted about $633, "which was quite a sum back then," Elliot said. The funds helped the town build an iron bridge, which still stands.
The bazaar opened with a lecture from the famed author, according to a schedule of events in the booklet.
"He really must have thought enough of the town to come down and take part and contribute a story to the book," Elliot said.
The booklet also shows the scheduled events for the bazaar, which included a lecture by the famed author.
  • The booklet also shows the scheduled events for the bazaar, which included a lecture by the famed author.
  • The booklet raised funds to build Bannerfield's bridge in Selkirk, which is featured in the  short Sherlock Holmes story and which still stands today.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the "Sherlock Holmes" mysteries, was born in Edinburgh in 1859 and died in 1930.
The booklet also shows the scheduled events for the bazaar, which included a lecture by the famed author.
Although Doyle was born in Edinburgh, he visited Selkirk often, SWNS reported.
The story opens with a journalist hunting down the sleuth detective in London for a quote. He finds Holmes talking with his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, about a trip to Edinburgh to solve the "mysteries of the Secret Cabinet." Watson declines to join the journey because he is going elsewhere that day. Holmes uses his deductive skills to guess where he's going — "to Selkirk in aide of a Bridge."
Elliot, a retired woodcutter, said he does not know how many of these pamphlets were made and sold. He also does not know if the story was published elsewhere.
"Usually people would throw out these books or sell them off," the great-grandfather said. "I've always been interested in history and my family has always passed on stories and I suppose this was one of the stories that was passed down."
It's not the first time a long-lost story from a famous author has been discovered recently. "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee made waves earlier this month when her publisher announced her lawyer found the original manuscript for a second book.
Doyle, born in 1859, wrote four Sherlock Holmes novels and numerous short stories before he died in 1930, according to Stanford University. He initially tried to kill off the detective in 1893 after growing tired of writing about him, but he brought the character back to life in a story nine years later.
The story of the “Brig Bazaar” can be read on the Daily Record's website or seen in person at Selkirk's Pop Up Community Museum from Feb. 21 through March 1.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Terrific book site

I came across THE site for readers. Honestly it is so much fun. You may find it here. I tried to copy and paste here but just too much data.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Quote du jour / C.S. Lewis

How one does want to read everything. 
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
written in his late teens

Monday, February 16, 2015

Followup on those three little birds

Last month when I wrote the post featuring the song Three Little Birds I was in the worst despair. My friend was so, so sick. And then he began to slowly get better. His mum and brother posted most every day on Facebook with health updates. Some days were better than others but every day he got a little stronger, and now is at his brother’s home with his mother taking care of him, expected to make a full recovery. Tom and I are so very thankful. This man is one of the dearest people we know. 

And then, almost as soon as he got better a very close mutual friend wrote and said she had some medical tests coming up and she was scared about them. A day or two later we were down at Michael and Estée and Campbell’s house, and the music they were playing was, you guessed it, Three Little Birds. I came home that night and wrote to my friend. I sent her to the blog entry first so she would know what I was talking about, and then told her about hearing the song right out of the blue that day. She wrote back and was incredibly grateful and said she’d be looking for those three little birds. A couple days later she posted on her Facebook page a painting that was in the examination room - it was of three little birds. All her tests came back with good results, and she is just fine. 

Miracle upon miracle. We are filled with gratefulness. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I believe they helped.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Howards End is on the Landing

I can hardly believe it has been four years since I first read Howards End is on the Landing. Then I read it in two days; this time I read a chapter at the end of each day. 

I loved it just as well this time, especially the chapters about Virginia Woolf and PG Wodehouse, but on the second reading, I found myself drawn more to the author's recollections of the past than I was before - her childhood, people she had met, how England has changed. I realized that I am about the age now that Susan Hill was when she wrote the book. 

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on children’s books since I am happily back in that world again. I share the author’s concern when she writes
It is saddening to know that the majority of children never have stories read to them at home. How much they miss, of shared pleasure and fun, comfort and closeness, interest and learning.
I suspect it is even more ‘saddening’ with the proliferation of iPads and smart phones. From taking care of Hazel Nina and spending time with Campbell Walker I see first hand how enticing screens are. The little ones are drawn to them from across a room. They pick up phones with the greatest of interest. The lives of children born now will be more entwined with the internet than any generation before them, which will inevitably take time away from reading books, and being read to.

I bought a couple new books based on her recommendation: The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, and The Third Man by Graham Greene. I was ever more drawn toward the so-called ‘middlebrow’ authors I've been meaning to read for ages, such as Margaret Kennedy and Warwick Deeping. 

She ends the book with a list of 40 books she would keep. I could never bring myself to make my own list of 40. I would include every book I own because I either haven’t read it, or have read it and cannot be without its presence in my life. 

Whimsically, I decided to put this book, and my two copies of Howards End on my own landing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hazel Nina has been home a year today!

And we celebrated with Mahogany Sour Cream Cupcakes!

Staring at the flame

Hmm, not bad

Happy family

You may see the pictures of when she came home here. Counting the day Margaret went into the hospital, and the day Hazel Nina left, it was 101 days at the hospital. And now we are at the anniversary of her homecoming. We are all filled with thankfulness.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Quote du jour/Joseph Joubert

Think of the ills from which you are exempt. And thinking, be thankful.
Joseph Joubert (1754-1824)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Amazing author news!!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Quote du jour/Candlemas Day

I put up a post 8 (!!) years ago about Candlemas Day, and here I am again with another quote I read in my Old Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar today.
If Candlemas Day be stormy and black, it carries the winter away on its back.
Well, it snowed all day. And I saw that Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of winter, which seems just the opposite of the above quote. So, what I'm going to do is put in my DVD of Groundhog Day, and thoroughly enjoy watching one of my very favorite movies.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Today's picture/Crib caretakers

These two take care of the crib on the days Hazel Nina isn't here