Sunday, July 27, 2008

various items of interest

Really cool story, about twins who have swum in Lake Michigan every day since they were 12 years old. They're 70 now.

Another cool article, this one about Jim Abbott, the former pitcher in the major leagues. Very inspirational story, I thought, about a very humble man.

Made blueberry jam today. If it doesn't set, I"ll give it away as ice cream spread or pancake topping. ;) Two of the batches yesterday didn't set & I think (because they had cherry in them) that the cherry & the high amount of water & not enough pectin caused that to happen. We'll see how they set in the next few days. So far I haven't had any trouble with the lids not sealing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jams, jams, and more jams

My goal for this summer was actually to do some canning. What with food prices, fuel prices, etc. I'm even more motivated to go ahead & get some canning done. Yesterday, I decided it was now or never, so I went to the City Market & picked up a flat of raspberries. Now part of the flat was in the refrigerator, but the rest had been sitting out all day. Still, for a cost of $45, I had an entire flat all to myself & wound up making raspberry jam that very night, and for the first time all by myself.

I'd helped Mom, of course, many a time. I forget when she stopped canning, but it was likely when she went back to working full time & probably about the time my grand father started living between his two daughters' houses. Life just got too busy at that point. Her tomato sauces were lovely & I was always being told to run downstairs & get a jar of tomatoes for dinner that night. When I said there wasn't any, she'd always send me back down again.

Oddly enough, I remember only a time or two when there really wasn't any. Those filled jars hid really well.

Anyway, my goals were simple, to make Christmas jam. I missed the strawberry season for a number of reasons, but was thrilled to find out that I could still buy raspberry flats. Thrilled enough that I went back & brought another flat! Plus ten pounds of blueberries. The dining room table is looking really pretty; raspberry jam, raspberry/cranberry jam, and raspberry/cherry jam. Tomorrow, I need to either freeze the remaining raspberries or make more jam. Or maybe make muffins....

Made blueberry muffins from the King Arthur Baking cookbook. Used Ricotta cheese, because that's what I had, instead of sour cream. The dough was really stiff, so I think maybe the more watery sour cream would've been a better choice. I'll try again tomorrow & will take the results to work.

Another really fun thing I did was, I picked up rosemary & basil plants at the Hickory Corners Greenhouse, which is also at the City Market. Lambs Ear, Phlox, and a couple other things too... and they have some really lovely birdbaths, which, believe it or not, I think I'm going to 'save' to buy when I reach a goal. I'm hoping to reach that goal before the end of the summer.

More reports on my baking & canning will come up later! I really want to make a lot of tomato sauce & can some whole tomatoes because I use a lot of tomatoes in cooking. I think making my own will be fun.

Should add here that I also ate my very FIRST four cherry tomatoes of the season, straight from my very own backyard plants. This is way more fun than TV... and harkening back to Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard, I am also picturing my plants saying, "grow grow grow" in little plant voices....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gardens & tomatoes!

I'm SO thrilled. I have tomatoes that are ripening! They're the cherry or grape tomatoes (I forget which) and there are approximately four or five. I'm sooooo happy! Really made my evening and I'm glad I walked out to look at them. They're not quite ripe yet, but maybe tomorrow, and some of the bigger ones are starting to turn that vestige of yellow. Hurry, you tomatoes!

Brings back lovely memories of the time Bridie got all excited because I had a shiny red ball in my hand (a tomato) and jumped up & down hoping I would throw it for her. So I did, until it split & Bridie gave it back to me while licking her lips thoughtfully... so I threw it for her one more time, kinda guessing what might happen.

Sure enough, little miss mischief stood there with her back to me, looked over her shoulder once (and was smacking her lips) and then I could see motions of chewing... Then she looked around & at me, with the biggest, most innocent eyes, "Mommy, I can't find the ball, sorry." What a silly pooch! It was worth it to throw that 'ball' for her and see those eyes light up like that. My sweetie!

Annie got to go outside with me while I threw some compost items into the compost bin. She was chewing grass as fast as she could, as she saw me returning. My little cat-cow! She's not an outdoor cat, but loves to come outside & seems to have learned that she's not going to be left alone to roam out there.

Hooray for vegetables! Grow, grow, grow!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Culinary memoirs & tracking

Steinberg: Learning to Cook in 1898Learning to Cook in 1898: A Chicago Culinary Memoir

Ellen F. Steinberg • Recipe adaptations by Eleanor Hudera Hanson

Based on the pocket notebook and handwritten recipes of Irma Rosenthal, a young Chicago housewife from the turn of the twentieth century, Learning to Cook in 1898 is a glimpse into American culinary history. "

Found this at the Wayne State University Press website. Doesn't it look interesting?

Quick update on my journeys! I have been to Canada for the weekend & had a great time, despite a huge downpour of rain that lasted about twenty or so minutes. They needed the rain, so it was actually a good thing. We were at the German Shepherd Club in London Ontario for a tracking test & got to watch a lot of urban style tracking. Good learning experience. Am reading a book about bridge restoration. Hey, it is more interesting than it sounds! It is all about how to save a bridge, what the ropes are for historical restoration, etc. Fascinating book & the title is A Bridge Worth Saving, author is Mike Mort. Otherwise, what with power washing my garage & getting covered with flecks of white paint is about the extent of the excitement around here.

Sister showed up for a lace knitting class at a nearby yarn shop & had a good time. Always enjoy spending time with her.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

today's activities (movies, books, powerwashing?!)

Yesterday & today turned out to be quite active days. I went to the northerly cinema to use the free movie ticket I had (movie clubs are great to belong to! free popcorn & the occasional free movie) and saw Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Pretty fun, and it was really great to see Karen Allen back again. I think she's a knitter now & owns a shop, but can't recall at present, Went & checked & she is!) (Ok, her name is Karen Allen, not my original guess of Smith, but I was... semi-close ;) ) Doesn't hurt that I love Shia LaBeouf too. Fun action movie.

The movie I really wanted to see, however, was Prince Caspian. I knew this movie was going off the big screen shortly, so I went to see that today. I have to admit that I was both pleased & disappointed. I always love the costuming, the scenery is splendid, and the four young actors are terrific. The actor who played Prince Caspian did an excellent job & I look forward to seeing him in the next movie, the Dawn Treader movie. The nice addition was that the role of Susan was far more active, than in the book. However, the romantic sub-plot was totally contrary to what CS Lewis wrote (and totally contrary to what he would ever have written.) Some of the plot lines were shifted in ways I didn't care for, mostly because that's not how the book handled it & because it makes Lucy (the youngest) very much to blame for much of the deaths in the movie. Didn't like that one at all.

Read two really fun books. The first one brought a former coworker (and luckily, current friend, Hi Kate!) vividly to mind. Although I must admit I can't think of the Kate I know doing things like walking on her hands (maybe that's a talent I never saw?) or carrying around a bucket strapped to her waist. She does have lovely purses though.

This one was The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. I can see why it was a New York Times bestseller. It is beautifully done in terms of good writing & good action driven plot, has great puzzles, and gives you a lot to think about. I love Reynie Muldoon & Miss Perumal (the tutor), Sticky, Kate, and even Constance, who is the irritating one in this book. It is lovely, and a great juvenile.

The other book I also just adored, which is the one by Jeanne Birdsall, The Penderwicks of Gardam Street. If you haven't read the first one, The Penderwicks, do that before you read this one. I love the story of the father with four girls. This book absolutely puts paid to the idea that only bad people & bad events are worth reading about. Talking much about the plot will ruin it, so suffice it to say that each girl faces challenges, they all grow up (even the father) and many interesting events take place.

One thing I really love about the book is that I have friends in the Books & Readers Forum on Compuserve, who have complained that their daughters who suffer from depression also suffer from the fact that so many of the books read in schools are issue books. They deal with depression, suicide, divorce, abuse, drugs... and on & on. Why, they said, can't there be books that are not so issue-driven and depressing? One woman actually had a teacher suggest a different book for her daughter to read. The daughter started to read it, sighed & put the book down & walked out. Turns out that in the first page, the father of the main character dies.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need a better balance. And Birdsall does such a beautiful job with this one. (p.s. there's even football & soccer in the book, to give you an idea of Birdsall's talents).

Last but not least, I decided to scrape the garage, to get it ready for painting. But then I realized that someone had suggested using my power washer instead, so that's what I spent the last two hours doing. I have little flecks of white paint all over myself, the yard, and the driveway. The garage never looked elegant before, but now looks distinctly shabby & threadbare. Here's hoping the primer makes it look glamorous again..... (maybe dark green trim will help?)

I wonder what Annie thought, watching all this stuff going on & watching white flakes fly by & water shooting into the air. Here's a picture of her in the window (look above).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Walter Farley

Loved Walter Farley & I think I've read just about all of his work. Another similar author that I really loved is Colonel SP Meek. I may have left off one of Col. Meek's initials! Parts of the following deleted & condensed. There's nothing better for a horse crazy girl, as I was, unless you consider Marguerite Henry. His son (I think, or is this the grand son?)'s blog is here.

Excerpted from Writers' Almanac: June 26th was the

"birthday of children's book author, Walter Farley, born in Syracuse, New York (1916). From an early age, there was nothing he wanted more in the world than his own horse. Unfortunately, his parents couldn't afford one, so he spent all his time reading and writing about horses.

Between the ages 11 and 15, he wrote dozens of short stories with titles like "The Winged Horse," "My Black Horse," "Red Stallion," and "The Pony." He later said they were all rough drafts for the novel that he finally finished while he was a student at Columbia University, which he called The Black Stallion (1941). It's the story of a boy and a wild stallion who survive a shipwreck and become friends on a deserted island.

The book was so popular that Farley went on to write 20 novels about the horse, including The Black Stallion Returns (1945), The Black Stallion Revolts (1953), and The Black Stallion's Ghost (1969)."

Off to see Prince Caspian, before it goes out of the theatres! Next time I post, I'm going to post about making beeswax candles & Jeffery Farnol, one of my favorite authors.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tasha Tudor

This is something I sent to a friend & it is an excerpt from a newspaper article:
"Legendary author and illustrator Tasha Tudor died June 18 at her Vermont home.
She was 92. A family statement on her said, "We thank you for supporting Tasha
Tudor's lifestyle and artwork during her long career. We hope that Tasha's
message of 'taking joy' in all that one does will be remembered as we pass
through this difficult time together." (from shelftalker)

Tasha illustrated nearly 100 books, some of which were her own. Her first book
was Pumpkin Moonshine. Her latest, Corgiville Christmas in 2003. Among her
awards were two Caldecott Honors. There's also a NY Times obituary which may still be retrievable.
She did amazing work and I have enjoyed her illustrations & writing quite a bit. I have a book about her
called The Private World of Tasha Tudor, which has really amazing photographs. There's also a book
about her garden called Tasha Tudor's Garden, which I plan to buy.

I love the fact that she died at home, with her family with her. It must have been a sad time for them,
but I know she loved her home & yard so much that there's no other place she would have rather been.

Sure wish I could have met her, but at least I can meet her through her books. That's the real blessing of books.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NASCAR & other things too (Happy Fourth of July!)

NASCAR article about Jeremy Mayfield traveling over to Iraq & his experiences there. Fabulous article.

Also loved this one, with all the beautiful pictures & people taking their citizenship oath. The guy who sent this to his mother said that he was at the mass re-enlistment ceremony & the atmosphere & spirit there were beautiful.

Thanks to all our veterans, for their service, and very hearty thanks indeed to our servicemen & women currently serving.

Where is Matt?

Thought Matt's story was a pretty fun one to post here. Basically, he has several videos on YouTube, which show him dancing & those are in exotic locations around the world. He's not much of a dancer, but he sure is fun to watch. Such a happy expression! Love the fact that Stride (the gum) sponsored his last two trips & basically told him to go have fun. (great video & fun story!)

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

Another really interesting & mentally challenging book by Blue Balliet. I love her books because you not only learn art, history, and even a little bit of math, you also get to interact with some really interesting fictional characters. She does a terrific job of keeping the whole plot interesting & mystifying. Highly recommended.

Virginia Kahl quote

"Little children should enjoy their books. As long as possible, let them live in a world where characters are basically good, incidents are funny or exciting, and the story ultimately satisfying. I hope that the children who read my books have put them down with sighs of contentment, knowing that their expectations of cheerful uncomplicated tales with happy endings have been vindicated."

--Virginia Kahl, quoted from Contemporary Authors
The Gale Literary Databases

Loved this quote & I have Kahl's book, "The Duchess Bakes A Cake" which is hilarious. I also have a picture of her surrounded by cats, and drawing her cat. She has the happiest smile on her face.

Have just started reading The Region of Lost Names by Fred Arroyo, from University of Arizona Press, 2008. Really interesting book, which starts out from the perspective of Ernestitio (also called Ernest or Ernesto), as he comes to grips with his past, present and future. I suppose that sounds vague, but it is a little hard sometimes to describe books without totally giving away the fun of reading it for the first time yourself. Perhaps it suffices to say that I really like the book and that the author is giving a really good peek into his character's mind & how his mind is freely floating between events of present day & the struggles of dealing with his imperfect parents & his break-away from that past. The book appears to be structured so that you see it first from Ernestitio's mind & then from Magdalene's. Haven't got to Magdalene's yet, but am looking forward to it.

Another aspect that I find very real & very personal is the way the character alludes to past griefs... and slip slides away from talking 'too much' about it. How very human! Really beautiful use of language here too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Carpe Diem

Found these quotes & thought they were appropriate :

If there is no wind, row." - Latin Proverb
"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." - Milton Berle, comic
"Things come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. -- Abraham Lincoln, US President.

Well worth remembering for every day life. Today I seized the day, and after a long day at work, went out with a friend & laid two tracks for her dogs. Then I went to the Master Gardeners meeting at the local university & learned about compost, plus some volunteering activities coming up for the Master Gardeners.

Before you're too impressed that I'm a Master Gardener, remember our motto... we're lifelong learners, not people who know everything there is to know! :) I became one so I wouldn't be so dangerous to the flora & fauna in my yard. Great people, great fun. Sure had fun on the track too & I think every day should be like this.

One thing I would love to "seize" is the opportunity to buy a rose farm. If only! I can put that on my list of dreams, yes? What's your dream?