Monday, December 06, 2010

The Pose

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I haven't posted poetry in a long time, but this one wanted to be shared. I think I'll link to it over at Monday Poetry Train Revisited.




The Pose


The sun was nearly done with the cold sky when
I turned the corner at the graveyard and noticed
the teenager walking on the sidewalk by the road,
wandering somewhat aimlessly, gracefully.
The young man seemed to pose liquidly,
as if both hyper-aware of his body and also unfamiliar with it.
He didn't pose for me, anonymous in my Camry,
and I don't think he noticed Mr. Baseball Cap in the car ahead.
Perhaps it was in response to what he heard through the
ubiquitous white earbuds connected by a tether to his palm.
I saw the elfin curve of his body in my rear view mirror,
still at the corner, on this side of the cemetery's stone wall,
until the road's bend hid him from me.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

More Summer 2010 Books

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One of these was buried on my bedside table and didn't make it into the last books write-up. The other two I read in the last couple of weeks.


A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg
a memoir

I stumbled across Molly Wizenburg's food blog, Orangette, years ago and was immediately hooked on her writing. It wasn't all about the food, yet the food was integral to each story. I was thrilled to hear she had been chosen to write a regular column for Bon Appetit, since I subscribe to it anyway. I was not disappointed with the columns, each ends with a recipe, but starts with a story, pretty much like her blog.

I knew (from her blog) that she'd been working on a book and finally remembered to buy it. I devoured it. The subtitle is "stories and recipes from my kitchen table" and it has the same delightful touch as the rest of her writing. She starts by introducing her family, pairing each, relatively short chapter with a food or recipe. The end of each chapter has one or more recipes, each written so clearly and with such friendliness that I have no doubt that I could make each and every one successfully.

But this isn't just about the recipes. Any reader of this memoir is granted a gentle view of her life, from childhood to present. Have I used the word "delightful" yet? I see I did, but I have no other word that so aptly describes how I find this book. It is a quick read, and one where an occasional phrase just MUST be shared with people around you. Such as this one:

"It's just that my mother and I have had decades to sync up our priorities. They are as follows: eat, walk, eat, walk, window shop, window shop, and then walk to dinner. As you might guess, we do especially well in France."

How can you NOT want to find out where the rest of that chapter leads you?



Magic Bleeds, by Ilona Andrews
A Kate Daniels Novel, fantasy

Like many series, this is probably not the book to start with, but it does have all the regular characters from previous books. Kate and other residents of Atlanta live through waves of magic that cause tech to fail, and waves of tech that cause magic to fail. They have local trouble-makers enough, but someone new is in town -- a big, bad someone bringing death and plagues.

Kate's investigation leads her to uncover more than even she bargained for. And it doesn't help that she is struggling with her personal life too.

This is a fast-moving, entry in this series and one of the better ones. Kate is sure of herself (mostly) and is surrounded by other characters equally sure of themselves. The stage is set for some fierce struggles.



The High Priest and the Idol, by Jane Fletcher
Lyremouth Chronicles: Book 4, fantasy

I ran the first three books in this series in 2009 and when I saw there was a fourth I decided, "why not?" I'm glad I did because I enjoyed this a lot more than the last one. The earlier books work to set up the relationship between the two main characters and also the response of their world to their relationship. The last book was tedious and heavy on the melancholy.

This book presents the two main characters as quite sure of themselves. It made it a pleasure to read of their adventures. The other thing I liked about this book is that the "getting from here to there" bits were omitted. If the story wasn't advanced by travails of getting from one part of the world to another, the story skips ahead to the end of the schlep. A definite improvement. There were also some nice twists to the story.



Friday, August 20, 2010

Books from Summer 2010

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I've been reading, mostly during vacation in late July but a bit since then. Here's the round up.


Books Read in Summer 2010 (so far)


Fire Sanctuary, by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
fantasy


Years ago I read Fires of Nuala the sequel to this book. I liked it and decided to track down the first novel which took years (partially due to my not wanting to pay $80 for a used paperback).

Now that I have read Fire Sanctuary, odds are that I will reread it. I liked the characters, some from off-world and all thrown for a loop based on the things that happen along the way. Like the other book I had to keep flipping to the beginning where the way the Nualans keep time was listed. I also kept checking out the family tree listed in the front, but be warned - it contains spoilers. I already knew some of what would happen since I had read the sequel, but I don't think it was in the author's best interest to tell all in a chart you see before the novel even starts.


Heat, by Bill Buford
non-fiction


The author was a writer and editor at The New Yorker and decided he needed to know more about cooking. He decided that the keepers of the knowledge he sought could be found in restaurants. He somehow managed to convince Mario Batali (yes, THAT Mario) to let him learn in the kitchen at Batali's restaurant, Babbo. Buford also tried to learn from some of the people (or same kinds of people) from whom Mario learned about cooking, mostly in Italy.


I enjoyed the story, but I wished it were a little more straightforward. As written, the tale wanders back and forth among Buford's experiences, the history of Batali, and of Italian cuisine, and of food itself. By the end it was a little tiring.


I learned more about Mario Batali (at least according to Buford) than I probably wanted to know. And this book reinforced my belief that restaurant cooks are kinda nuts. Overall I liked it but I'll be passing it on for someone else to read, not keeping it to reread.



Bone Crossed, by Patricia Briggs

A Mercy Thompson Novel, fantasy


This is the fourth in the series of novels about a special kind of shape shifter (Mercy is also a coyote) who has, perhaps, too many other supernatural beings for friends (and suitors). I love Mercy and the fact that she's no-nonsense and smart. She's not flawless (she's even more stubborn than I am and that's saying quite a bit) and I love that she hasn't miraculously recovered from the traumas of the last novel. The past in these books influences the future.


This was a satisfying read with appearances from a lot of key characters from Mercy's past adventures. I happily stayed up last with it one night. I'm now waiting for the next book in the series to come out in paperback.



Summer at Tiffany, by Marjorie Hart

non-fiction


This is a charming memoir set in summer 1945 when Marjorie and Marty, two young women from a college in Iowa find themselves working in New York City. It is no secret that they land jobs at Tiffany's but that is only a fraction of the story. With attention to detail, Marjorie brings to life a good feeling of what their life was like, not only that summer, but in the early war-time 1940's in general. She tells prices and explains how they scrimped to make what little they had go farther.


Between the name-dropping of famous people they glimpsed at work, Marjorie relates the gossip they followed in the magazines, and by talking to the doormen and elevator operators. She also relates end-of-war events as they played out in New York City with a particularity that make each one shine in a way the standard history book recap doesn't.


This was a quick read for me. The book's only flaw in my eyes was the extra information beyond the actual memoir. A page of notes in the beginning was followed by an official "Author's Note" and were unnecessarily repetitious. The edition I had also contained a large section at the back with a transcription of an interview with the author, along with other stories and folllow-ups that I supposed "didn't make the cut". Interesting, perhaps, but a little too much. And there were some drawings in the middle of the books (and photos and souvenirs) that were interesting but the drawings were not credited and it was only much later in the book that I decided that they must be from a booklet she describes.


Nonetheless I can think of two people who would enjoy reading this and will either pass it along or at least mention it to them soon.



Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher

Book Three of the Dresden Files, fantasy


I love the way that this series of books drops you into the middle of action and then catches you up in the next chapter. I am engaged immediately. In this story the Chicago wizard, Harry Dresden, knows he doesn't know enough and keeps making the best guesses he can. I love that I didn't figure out "who done it" before he did, even though I knew that he was wrong some of the time up until then.


I'm enjoying this series and will be reading the next one soon.



The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas, by Elizabeth Scarborough

fantasy


I've been looking for this book for years, having read and liked a number of Scarborough's books. The one called "Goldcamp Vampire" brought back a character from this book, and I was curious enough to want to read it. But it has been out of print.


This was a fun read, though some parts dragged a little bit. The story follows young writer Miss Harper as she travels away from San Francisco and the her overbearing new stepmother. She is looking for inspiration for the (lucrative) adventure novels she knows are inside her. At first she is bored silly and schemes to get out where the action is. Then she finds it, first being kidnapped, then recovered, then wondering at the possibly shady dealings of her new host and his scalp-collecting friend. And that's before the honest-to-goodness fire-breathing dragon shows up.



The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff

fantasy


Tanya Huff is evil in the most delightful way. I can't put her books down and this one was great. It kept me up way too late on way too many nights.


This story drops you in the middle of a very large, complicated family dominated by lots and lots of powerful women. One who considers herself not as powerful finds herself at loose ends when a letter comes telling her she's inherited her grandmother's store in Calgary. She goes to find out what happened to her grandmother, and uncovers more than she bargains for.



Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris

fantasy, a Sookie Stackhouse Novel


This is book 9 in the series and it tells a good story (but whatever you do, don't even think about starting with this novel!) The universe is too complicated.


Not to say that the little town of Bon Temps, Louisiana is complicated - it is fairly simple, as is Sookie's job as a waitress at the bar. But now that vampires have "come out of the closet" and into public view, it is now the turn of werewolves and shape-shifters, some of whom are close to Sookie. For some it goes well, but not for all.


Her boss has to go take care of some family business so Sookie ends up managing the bar just in time to discover a murder in the parking lot. And, oh yeah, there is also a powerful foe of Sookie's great-grandfather who is now trying to kill her. This makes the FBI who are in town to interview her the least of her problems.


I like the way Sookie's emotions in this one seem to run true to what I imagine the situation demands, no matter that this novel is another roller-coaster of a ride.



The Naked Viscount, by Sally MacKenzie

romance


This was a fast, sexy read, regency-style. The woman has a brain and helps piece together the mystery in spite of the man's attempts to discount her assistance. It isn't my usual style and I don't plan to read the other books in this series. But if you are looking for a smart alternative to the old Harlequin's, then go for it.



Shakespeare's Christmas, by Charlaine Harris

A Lily Bard mystery, Book 3


Lily finds herself heading back to her hometown for her sister's wedding, scheduled for Christmas Eve. She hates the idea of being back in town, when everyone knows her as the victim of a crime instead of as the woman who survived. But Lily is putting on the best face forward for her sister's sake.


To her horror, she and her nurse sister discover the town's doctor and his nurse dead, bludgeoned to death. The only bright spot is that her new-ish boyfriend surprises her by showing up in town. Of course that bright spot is dimmed somewhat when she finds out that he is also there on business, and that the groom is a suspect in an old kidnapping case. There are only days left for Lily to get to the bottom of this before the wedding.



The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

fantasy


The authors take us back to Regency England and the continuing adventures of Kate and Cecy (Cecelia) as told by their letters (and those of their husbands). This time each has settled in with their husbands and now children, but danger has not finished with them. The non-magical James is sent by the Duke of Wellington to investigate the disappearance of a powerful foreign magician who was in the country to look into something having to do with the new railroads. Cecy accompanies him, after having arranged for her cousin Kate to take care of her children.


At first I worried I would have trouble telling one voice from the other, but I soon fell into the story and didn't surface until the satisfactory end. I can't say I identify with either character, but I like reading about them nonetheless.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Study in Rectangles

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Carmi at Written Inc has asked for Geometric shapes as the current Thematic Photographic challenge. Since we had part of our chimney repointed this morning, rectangles were on my mind.



First a couple of looks at the chimney "after":




Then a look at some brick on the front of a building downtown (across from the Farmer's Market):



And another with a bonus - check out the small squares (a specialized rectangle, after all) in the tile entry.




I had fun with this. Check out what other folks found with their cameras.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Echoes

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Photo is from AuntieP at Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/auntiep/, used under a Creative Commons License



Echoes

I walked to my car in the dark smelling
wet grass and corn silks and lighter fluid.
One white plastic knife on the dark path
proved it wasn't my imagination.



Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fill-In 177

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Check out the way other folks answered this week's Friday Fill-Ins.

1. Having clean sheets on the bed never fails to make me smile.
2. I'm looking forward to the arrival of some personal business cards I ordered.
3. The echos of an empty office building is what I'm listening to right now.
4. Potato salad must have something people like in it but since I don't eat it I don't know what that is!
5. A tuna salad sandwich was the best thing I ate today. (so far)
6. Today was the end of a very long work week.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to trying to recreate a dessert I remember from my childhood (without a recipe), tomorrow my plans include performing in two concerts, and Sunday, I want to R-E-L-A-X (and maybe create some clean laundry)!



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Black

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Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect set forth a colorful challenge for this week's Monday Poetry Stretch. And while I know she had nature-inspired poems in mind, my brain took a different turn. It does that sometimes.



Dressing in Black

The long skirt is black
and the soft velvet top
and two heels that I pack
with a lint brush I drop
in the bag for the night.

I eat a light snack
then I dress for the show
checking both front and back
in a mirror just so
to ensure everything's right.

In long skirts of black
next to black suits and ties,
queued in line not a pack
we breathe deep with soft sighs
for an entrance sans fright.

With a smile and a crack
of a joke to calm doubts
I move forward, not back,
with sweet songs and grand shouts
for each listener's delight.



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oatmeal Pecan Waffles

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I no longer remember where I got the core of this recipe, but I have tinkered with it myself so much that it is now all mine. Not only is this perfect for this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt (recipe) but is also something I wanted to send to Molly at Orangette. And I have to say it is making me hungry just thinking about this.




Oatmeal Pecan Waffles

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
4 T vegetable oil
2 T honey
1 cup skim milk


1 - Chop the oats in a food processor until they are a fine powder. Put oats in a large mixing bowl.
2 - Roughly chop the nuts and add to oats.
3 - To the oat mixture add the flours, baking powder and salt and mix with a whisk to combine well.
4 - In a small bowl, lightly beat two eggs, then add yogurt, oil, honey, and milk. Mix well.
5 - Add liquid mixture to dry mixture, stirring just until combined (too much will make them tough).
6 - Cook in waffle iron, and serve with real maple syrup.


Some notes:
+ My dad taught me to measure oil first, then honey, because the honey will just slip out of a spoon (or cup) that was first coated with oil.
+ I use nonfat yogurt and skim milk because that's what I have around. If the dairy has some fat, you can reduce the oil a little.
+ I cook some of the waffles a little on the "light" side and then freeze them. Then when I want waffles, I put them directly into the toaster (or toaster oven) to thaw and crisp up without overcooking.




Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Edible Memory

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This week's theme from Carmi at Written, Inc is "edible."




This is a homemade pizza coming out of our oven on New Year's Eve. We have homemade pizza other times of the year, but we don't have New Year's Eve without homemade pizza.

I don't remember how it started, but we've done this for many, many years now. My wife makes the dough, and one or both of us prep the toppings. She shapes the dough and puts it on the peel (previously dusted with something to keep it from sticking - usually matzo meal 'cause we always have that on hand), and she slips it onto the hot, hot, hot stone in the oven.

We like different toppings so we make one pizza each, and then we have plenty of leftovers for the next day or two. We munch pizza while watching the ball drop in Times Square on the TV.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Spring-Theme Photos

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Carmi at Written, Inc asked for spring-themed photos. Here are two of the things that make me think spring.




This was some time ago in the bed that is protected from the elements, in a corner between the house and porch, warmed by the morning sun when the leaves aren't yet out on the oak tree.




This says Passover to me, and that means spring. Where there is Passover, there are matzo cracker crumbs!


Taking up Space

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This poem is a work in progress that has been rattling around my brain for a while.

Taking up Space

I take my turn boarding the bus
and make my way to an empty spot.
I push my wide hips all the way
to the back of the seat. I sit up
like my mama taught me,
squaring my broad shoulders,
but keeping my elbows close,
so I don't poke the man next to me.

I watch the woman across from me
as she perches on half the seat,
hunching her shoulders tight,
and keeping her head down.
The man next to her spreads his knees
and his elbows swing wide as he turns
a page in his newspaper.

I take a slow breath and drop the shoulders
that had started inching toward my ears.
I wiggle my toes and reach
for my newspaper.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Dad's Garden

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A chance comment in FaceBook led me to think about my dad's garden.


My dad was a doctor who, as a young man, had entertained a dream of becoming a "gentleman farmer." My mom's family had been farmers and she convinced him to start with a garden. When I was very small, there were veggies planted against the back fence in our yard. When my second cousins visited one year, we showed them how you could eat peas raw, right out of the pods. The result of that lesson was that we never did get enough peas to the house to have as a vegetable with dinner - we ate them all out in the sunshine, one pod at a time.

When I was a little older, my dad gardened on an otherwise empty lot a block down the street. It was across the street from my sister's best friend's house. Now and then, on a hot summer day, her friend's mother would bring us something cold to drink.

He didn't have that garden long, because he decided to build a new doctor's office there. The garden moved one more block over, on a lot directly across from the county hospital. Like all the town's doctors, he was always on-call for his patients. Whenever we went anywhere he left a message with the hospital's emergency room so they'd know where to find him, should the need arise. The garden was no exception. There were times when we'd see a nurse walking across the parking lot to come get him. If we didn't have our bikes, we'd walk home instead of waiting for him.

It was a sizable lot and we shared the space with another guy who lived in the neighborhood. In the spring, the other man and my dad would rototill the whole plot. After that, my dad pounded in stakes to mark the ends of rows, then he tied string to one end and then the other, so that when we helped him plant the rows would be straight.

Planting was one of the first things we helped with. Radish seeds were very forgiving, but the lettuce seeds were tiny and flew away in the lightest breeze. The corn was easy for our little hands to grip, and we planted it two or three together, about a hand-span apart. Planting corn and peas and green beans seemed like burying food, dried though it was. We planted beets and okra and kohlrabi and spinach and cabbage and zucchini and pumpkins. We planted onions and scallions. Later on, Daddy would transplant bell pepper and tomato plants.

We learned to use a rake and a hoe in that garden, mostly to cover up the seeds (but just a little!). When we started getting weeds in between the rows, we put down handfuls of straw to walk on. If it got really muddy, we put down wide boards between the rows and tried very hard not to slip off them until it dried out.

Lettuce and radishes were the first harvests. Some of the lettuce was a little small, but the rows usually needed thinning out anyway. Radishes were the first things I was allows to use a sharp knife on. I would put the red or white orbs down on a solid surface and then (while being closely supervised) I used the knife to cut off the root and the tops.

Peas also came on early, we'd pick bags or baskets full, trying to keep up with the crop, so that there would be more blossoms and more peas. Once it got too hot, the vines would dry up. We'd take the peas home and share the chore of shelling them, peas in one bowl, pods in another. We'd eat a few as we worked, but most made it to the table, or were frozen in plastic containers of water.

I remember hot, hot, humid summer days, when I'd be sent to the garden to pick green beans. And other days when I'd pedal my bike down the street to pull ripe ears of corn from the tall stalks. I'd bring home a paper bag full. Mom would put them in the pressure cooker and 15 minutes later we'd eat them.

The parts of the plants we didn't eat were left in the garden, to be turned under and feed the ground. The only exception were corn cobs. When the corn stalks came down in the fall, we'll pull off any remaining cobs and eat the handful of raw kernels from them right there in the garden.

As we worked in the garden, people would stop as they passed by. They'd ask how things were, and my dad would usually end up giving them produce. He kept extra sacks and boxes in his car.

Eventually Daddy put in red raspberry canes along one side of the garden. And some years we planted potatoes. One year he tried peanuts; another year he planted fennel for the seeds that Mom put in spaghetti sauce. Some years we'd have turnips. And he was always experimenting with squash: green zucchini, yellow summer squash, little white patty pans. He tried eggplants. I remember cucumbers.

Some experiments worked, some didn't. We learned to cook almost everything that came out of that garden. We learned about patience, and about getting your hands dirty. We learned that sometimes things ripen, and sometimes they rot. We learned about generosity.

I might have complained about working in that garden sometimes, but today I smile when I think about it.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Fill-In 170

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It's been a while since I did one of these. Go get your own copy (and see what other folks are up to) at Friday Fill-Ins.

1. All you need is enough room to plant your feet and hang on.

2. The Cake Wrecks Blog fills me with laughter. [http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com]

3. Each generation, as it grows up, has to make a decision of how to be adults.

4. People letting their dogs poop in my yard is something I have a hard time dealing with.

5. A trip to mall is what I need. [No, really! I really want to shop for clothes now that it finally feels like spring.]

6. Give smiles to other people and that's what you get back.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to being at home with my wife, tomorrow my plans include going to hear a Cheryl Wheeler concert, and Sunday, I want to take a second try at a recipe for a cake that fell the first time (I think I know what went wrong)!






Something in the Tree

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I posted this in response to Carmi's theme this week - its about trees. Go check out his website for more tree pics: http://writteninc.blogspot.com/


Back in January some of my family and I were walking down the main street of Hot Springs, Arkansas (why? that's a long story for another time). We were near the hot springs taps where you can fill water jugs with spring water. Since it was January it was cold, but since my family was raised further north, it didn't feel THAT cold.

I was taking pictures, trying out a my not-even-a-month-old camera, when I focused on a tree near one of the fountains. I used the camera to zoom in on it.


That green stuff was NOT tree leaves (not in January!) but I think it is mistletoe, a parasitic plant that lives on trees. Not sure how well you can see it in this view, but those berries don't belong to the tree either. I think you can click the picture to see it bigger (if I did this right).

Guess it pays to look up sometimes.






Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mushroom Hunting

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It was an early spring day in 1967, so early in the season that the leaves were barely buds on the trees. The sun was warm but the breeze was cool. We joined another doctor's family and headed into the woods to hunt mushrooms.


With directions from a trusted friend, we hoped to find lots of morels. The locations with the biggest mushrooms would never be shared, but we might find some small-to-medium ones. And besides, it was a nice day to be outside.

My fifth birthday was not until later that year, and yet this was not my first, nor would it be my last, mushroom hunt. I enjoyed being outside, and I loved looking down at the ground as we walked along, spread out across the area, I decided that being closer to the ground was an advantage and I found a lot of them. I had learned to pick them carefully, so that they snapped close to the ground. They were then placed carefully in the brown paper bag I had with us.

The only difference between this hunt and others is the photographic evidence. (I'm the littlest one with the pale blue sweatshirt.)


Once we got them home, the morels were inspected to make sure any insects were removed, then well-rinsed, drained, then tossed gently in flour or fine cornmeal and fried in a large skillet. It had to be large because we always ate them all. I don't remember anything we had with them, though I'm sure there was other food. But when we ate morels, they are all I remember.

The areas we used to hunt mushrooms was gradually lost to us, developed for housing, or changing hands to someone we didn't know (and therefore couldn't get permission from). By the time I was in junior high school the only morels I saw were gifts to my dad from one or another of his patients.

After college I stayed in Massachusetts (where I once thought I saw a tiny morel by the back steps of a building, but only once and it was a many years ago). I never see morels in the grocery stores here, and I have given up looking for them there.

So I was surprised a few years ago to find a package of dried morels in the store. They were expensive, but I couldn't resist them. I brought them home and put them in the cabinet because I had no idea what to do with them. With their water-weight gone they were as light as air. I knew they had to be reconstituted, but was pretty sure I wouldn't want to fry them the way my mom had "back when."

Soon after I was delighted to read a post by Molly Wizenberg at her blog Orangette in which she swooned over some morels. I bravely asked for her advice in the comments and she suggested sauteing the reconstituted mushrooms with green beans or asparagus.

It took me three more years, but while my wife was out of town, I finally gave it a try. In fact, I ran two parallel food experiments. I played with some short-grained brown rice and some black wild rice, cooked together as a kind of pilaf. While that was going I turned to the morels.

I opened the package dubiously, wondering if they would just crumble to a powder. They survived OK, so I soaked half of the package in hot water while I cleaned and cut the asparagus (on sale that week). I heated up butter in a skillet and sauteed the mushrooms and asparagus. I no longer remember which went in first (I got two phone calls while I was trying to cook) but it certainly looked OK.

I plated it with the rice and remembered to take a picture before diving in.


I want to tell you that it was perfect - that the morels had the same taste I remember from childhood. Alas, I cannot. They were good, and they were entertaining, but the texture was definitely lacking, and the taste muted. I can't blame the poor mushrooms, deprived of their water so long ago that they probably barely remember themselves. But what they mostly did was spark a desire in me to track down fresh morels, somehow. I'll be on the lookout.

And on an up note, the rice was very pleasing to me and I even remember the proportions I used. We'll be having that again.



Friday, March 12, 2010

Books Read in Early 2010

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Although I've gotten used to typing 2010, I'm still not used to seeing it. It still looks a little fantastic (as in science fiction) to me. Nonetheless, here we are approaching the ides of March. So far I have read fantasy, non-fiction, and one mystery. And here's what I think of them.


Books Read in Early 2010

Serenity Found, edited by Jane Espenson
non-fiction essays about the Firefly universe
Back in 2007 I was delighted with Finding Serenity, a collection of essays about Joss Whedon's TV series Firefly. This is another collection of essays, some about the TV series, some about the subsequent movie. And again I was pleased with the effort. Some essays are more scholarly than others. Most contain a certain amount of humor. Some might even convince a non-fan to pick up the DVD's and try them out. [And if you liked Warehouse 13 on SciFi channel - OK SyFy - you can thank Jane, she's co-creator of the series.]


Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder
fantasy
I have been meaning to buy this book for years now. And last summer I finally bought it, along with a giant pile of other books to take on vacation. And somehow, it didn't make it to the top of the pile on vacation. When we got home, it stayed in the vacation bag and when I needed to travel in August, it wasn't the book I picked up. I was visiting with family and my younger brother was engrossed with Poison Study - it was keeping him up even later than usual at night. I mentioned I had been meaning to read it and when he finished it before I left, he asked if I wanted it. I gladly accepted it. Then when I got home I was embarrassed to find that I now had two copies of the book.

I started reading and was not sure at first if the book was for me. The opening scene is in a dungeon and that if followed by a chance at redemption layered with deceit. Then there are secrets inside secrets, and a dance of trust with many players. I was hooked. And now I'm waiting to read the sequels (which I will endeavor to remember I have before acquiring duplicates). And don't worry, the extra will go to the public library for their next book sale.


Afterburn, by S.L. Viehl
fantasy, sequel to Bio Rescue
I've had this book for a while, started it twice, but got no further than the first few pages. I don't know why, I liked Bio Rescue well enough, a story set on a world not unlike earth, but whose primary sentient beings are water-dwellers. A world whose land masses are wanted by settlers, refugees, and by military operators for strategic purposes. I picked this up again and pushed past the first section, in which young Burn expresses his frustration, to find a complex story that was a good read. Some characters return from the first book and there are new relationships to follow, across several species. Political maneuvering underlies much of the action, some pulling strings, others trying to react in ways that aren't against their personal ethics. I'm glad I pushed though.


Ponzi's Scheme by Mitchell Zuckoff
non-fiction
During the height of the Bernie Madoff publicity last year, a local man, a professor at Boston University, was interviewed about a book he wrote a few years ago. The book, Ponzi's Scheme, is a very readable biography of Charles Ponzi. I'm don't read many biographies, but this one reads like a story. Zuckoff is a journalism professor and he approached the story by gathering all the info he could, cross-checking the details of one account with another, and finally coming to understand Charles Ponzi. Through this telling of the events that led to one notable spring and very hot summer of 1920 I feel that I, too, have come to know Charles Ponzi and some of the things that motivated him. I can't say I'm sympathetic to him, but I understand how his self-deception and greed led him into a dead-end fiasco. I highly recommend this book.


Shakespeare's Champion by Charlaine Harris
A Lily Bard mystery, Book 2
This is the second Lily Bard mystery, set in the town of Shakespeare. It opens with murder intruding into Lily's life, in the gym where she regularly works out. I'm growing to like Lily, though her (understandable) thick shell often makes this a bit hard. And through Lily I'm getting to know the other residents of Shakespeare, with all their warts. And then there's the attractive and strangely-familiar stranger that keeps turning up...


Gale Force by Rachel Caine
Book 7 in the Weather Warden series
fantasy
This series drives me crazy. Even with the "willing suspension of disbelief" that one must bring to any speculative fiction, this one leaps from one unimaginable improbability to another. But, having said that, at least the main character knows who she is in this book (unlike one of the previous books). And the feisty characters entertain me. And I leave each book forgiving Rachel Caine for the ride she just took me on and wondering when I should start the next one. In this one the Djinn David asks Jo to marry him, and she agrees. Then all hell breaks loose, but since that is nothing new to these characters, that is just the beginning.


Fool Moon by Jim Butchers
Book 2 of the Dresden Files
Fantasy
Harry Dresden, Wizard (the only one listed in the Chicago phone book), pissed off his friend the detective in the police department at the end of Book 1. That means she hasn't been hiring him to help investigate otherwise unexplainable crimes, putting a big crimp in his wallet. Then something turns up, something that the FBI wants no on else to look at. That doesn't stop the Chicago cop or Harry. There are all kinds of predator in this book. I'll be back for Book 3.



Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Rest of the 2009 Books

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Now that it is March of 2010, I'm finally getting around to posting about the books I finished in 2009. I last caught up on a bunch of them in August, and have been posting in the side bar the rest. So first the entire list, followed by comments on those not in the previous posting.

Books Read in 2009

Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski
The Postman (Il Postino) by Antonio Skármeta
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser
The High King's Tomb by Kristen Britain
The Exile and the Sorcerer by Jane Fletcher, Lyremouth Chronicles: Book One
The Black Ship by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Dervish Daughter by Sheri S. Tepper
Fiddler's Green by Ernest Gann
Storm Front by Jim Butcher, Book One of the Dresden Files
Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris, the first Lily Bard Mystery
Idaho Code by Joan Opyr
Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews, a Kate Daniels Novel
The Traitor and the Chalice by Jane Fletcher, Lyremouth Chronicles: Book Two
Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, an Alpha and Omega Novel
The Empress and the Acolyte by Jane Fletcher, Lyremouth Chronicles: Book Three
Excuse Me, Sir ... Your Socks Are On Fire; The Life and Times of a Wilderness Park Ranger in the Adirondack Mountains by Larry Weill
From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris, a Sookie Stackhouse Novel
When the King Comes Home by Caroline Stevermer
Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs, an Alpha and Omega Novel
Child of a Dead God by Barb & J.C. Hendee, A Novel of the Noble Dead


The Traitor and the Chalice by Jane Fletcher
Lyremouth Chronicles: Book Two
and
The Empress and the Acolyte by Jane Fletcher
Lyremouth Chronicles: Book Three

I started reading this fantasy series in the summer (see the review of the 1st one here) and decided to go ahead and read the other two. A pair of people falling in love under sudden circumstances (in book 1) are bound to have a time of adjustment. And if that weren't conflict enough, the stories that the warrior told of the missing chalice led the sorcerers to the conclusion that it was dangerous to have loose in the world. So now the promise the warrior had made to look for it for her island village (as an excuse to leave with dignity) was now a task she was forced to take on for real. Book two was a quick read. Book three ended up being a bit tedious with one of the main characters out of commission a good portion of the time, and the other being just generally in a sad, bad mood. The book included a section at the end written as a story - a fable really - passed down through the ages. As you read, you realize that the fable is a version of the novel you just read, but told through the eyes of someone not completely in the know, mixed with what must be local lore. Quite entertaining. All in all, I'm glad I read the series, but I probably won't re-read them (something I do with books I love).


Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
an Alpha and Omega Novel

A new fantasy novel about modern werewolves, and one in particular. Alpha Wolf is a well-known concept, but this explores the Omega Wolf. Everyone (including her) thinks she is the opposite of Alpha, the most submissive of submissives. But everyone is wrong. I like her and I like this book and am looking forward to more of them.


Excuse Me, Sir ... Your Socks Are On Fire; The Life and Times of a Wilderness Park Ranger in the Adirondack Mountains by Larry Weill
True-life stories of the times the author spent walking the miles and miles and miles of trails in the Adirondack woods, as a ranger and observer of the people you find there. Contained some chuckles and some outright laughs for me. It was an impulse buy I didn't regret.


From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
a Sookie Stackhouse Novel
Book 8 in the series was one I liked (better than the last one). Sookie has had ENOUGH of being pressured/blackmailed by the vampires. But she also hasn't heard from her new boyfriend in far too long. This book doesn't go anywhere much, but does introduce a new spin on Sookie's family history.


When the King Comes Home by Caroline Stevermer
In the cities and the country, the saying was "when the King comes home..." yet there was a difference between saying it and seeing it. The King has, after all, been dead for generations. The young apprentice finds the man wandering a bit befuddled by the river and is then caught up in a political struggle, a war, and witchery. All the while, she wants to be true to her art, unless her soft heart will let her stray from that goal.


Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
an Alpha and Omega Novel
The second book in this fantasy series was even better than the first. Now that she knows more about what she is, the Omega in the book is more fun to follow.


Child of a Dead God by Barb & J.C. Hendee
A Novel of the Noble Dead

My love/hate relationship with this series continues, as does the series. The mixed band of adventurers has new information, but still not enough. And the enemy (at least the one they know about) is still plotting and getting more unstable while he's at it. I keep wishing that there would be a bit more action - like wishing that the 2-hour tv movie was condensed to a brisker half-hour show. I like the characters (when they aren't being too self centered and/or peevish that I want to just smack them) but if the proverbial "other shoe" doesn't drop soon... Well I'll probably keep reading anyway.


I'll start catching up on the 2010 books soon.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Working on a Book Post

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Hello, all. In spite of what this blog looks like, I have not actually dropped off the edge of the world. I've just not been in a creative mood, and have had too many distractions.

I have, however, been reading, both blogs and books. So I'm currently working on a post to tell you about those books. Stay tuned!





Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tasty Monochrome

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Carmi's prompt caught my attention this week. My first thought was of snow pictures, because I do like white-on-white, but the photos I have of snow were not taken by me.



I did take this picture this past December. My wife was on a cookie-baking binge. Yum. These are maple bears.