Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sweet Peas and Forsythia

Three years ago this month I did a post on what I called a 'friendship' between growing plants. Then I was referring to flowers and vegetables. This year I saw another friendship between a spring-flowering shrub and a flower. We have a perennial sweet pea which doesn't have the smell of the annuals but does come up year after year with beautiful flowers. Last year we put some wire on the light post, and it attached there. This year, it came up and twined itself amongst the forsythia branches. This sort of thing delights my gardener's soul.

Monday, August 24, 2015

In the Garden with The Totterings

In the Garden with The Totterings - a Tottering-By-Gently collection
by Annie Tempest
fiction 2011
finished 8/22/15

I first learned about Annie Tempest’s work in the English magazine Country Life from a 2002 article in an old Victoria Magazine. I've kept it all these years, 

and finally, this week, bought three collections of her cartoons. I love her tales about this oh, so British couple living in the countryside. I assume they are wealthy, but Daffy doesn’t have help working in her garden. There is a woman who comes in to do some house work but that’s it. Daffy’s husband Dicky is retired (don’t know from what job) and he mostly sits. 

The cartoons are filled with warm-hearted humor. 

Do you see that little drawing in the lower corner? That is Dicky. And one of the many delights of this book is 

He is hard at work on his favorite occupation - sitting, drinking, and reading the paper. His cartoons are on the left pages, and Daffy's are on the right. She is pursuing her never ending attempt to control her garden.

The book begins with a cast of characters.

The reader gets to see the daily life of Daffy and Dicky (perfect, perfect names, don't you think?!). Daffy's day begins with a bit to eat, a cigarette, and relaxation time with her good dog. 

Sometimes the thought of gardening work is just too much!

 Her thoughts rarely stray from the garden.

There's a photo of Annie Tempest at the beginning of the book,

and that little smile on her face is just like the one I had on mine as I read this wonderful book. I love these people. The other two books I have are Tails of Tottering Hall, and Drinks With The Totterings. I expect I will add more as time goes on. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

At this moment

Gosh, I just looked back and saw that I haven’t done an ‘at this moment’ for six years! The three animals I mentioned in the last one are all dead now. If you go to the sidebar under ‘letter topics’ you can see the (very few) other postings. I’ll try to do it more often. I like stopping once in a while and really noticing. It all began as an exercise Tom had his students do. (I did change the 'feel' category to emotional feeling rather than snow on my face or wind in my hair.) Today, just before 5 pm, I sat in the big study chair between the south windows


What I saw: straight ahead

to the left

to the right

What I heard: the breeze outside the three open windows

What I smelled: bread baking in the oven

What I tasted: nothing, though thinking about the quinoa and sautéed vegetables I’m going to cook later.

What I felt: very happy in the study, which is also now a playroom and a yoga room. There are gates on both doors so Lucy cannot get in, and the room stays quite clean. It is a room without any electronic devices, and there isn’t even a clock. Just toys and books and photographs and my desk where I still check my checking account on paper, and pay bills with a check, and write cards. For me, a perfect space. I saw that my very first 'at this moment' was also in this room; and how it has changed since 2007. The computer was in there along with my beloved black reproduction phone and the answering machine. Now I don't have a land line, and the answering machine is in the same category of a VHS machine. Also, the room is all freshly painted with those new picture shelves I noted here. The only thing that remains the same is the quilt my Aunt Susie made in 1927.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Afghan Risotto - Shola

Another recipe from what may become my favorite cookbook.

As with the Turkish Leek Patties, I'll show you the recipe and then tell how I modified it for two people.

Afghan Risotto - Shola

I diced a couple carrots, and cooked them until soft.

Then I sautéed a chopped onion in 4 teaspoons olive oil with

the carrots, and a chopped tomato.

In the meantime I cooked a cup (makes about 2 cups cooked) of short grain brown rice

with 1/4 teaspoon each of tumeric and cumin.

I drained the rice,

put it in a bowl, topped it with the vegetables, some chopped chives and parsley, and the juice of one lemon.

We both loved this dish, and I'll make it often. Delicious, easy, and healthy. What could be better?!

Please visit Weekend Cooking for more food related postings.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd

I’m fast coming to the realization that, at least this year, I may not write even short book notes about all the books I’ve read. It’s still possible, but not probable. You may have noticed that I have been posting a little more often. Last month Margaret began working part-time. It is wonderful for her and for Hazel Nina. She works only three days a week. One of those days is Saturday which is a lovely daddy - daughter day. And the other two days, we take care of Hazel. This is quite a change from four days a week. That left us three days to clean the house and do other various chores and visit with Campbell Walker. Now there are five days, and though it is still busy I am beginning to find my way back to blogging - both writing mine and visiting yours. Being just up the road, we still see Hazel very often, which is so wonderful. And we have been seeing Campbell and his new brother, Indy Thomas as much as possible. 

I so appreciate the support and loyalty of my dear readers. You’ve stopped by and left me notes, even though I have so rarely had the time to visit you over the past year or so. Thank you very much.

Without further ado, I’m going to write a bit about a book I just finished today. 

Thursdays in the Park   
by Hilary Boyd
fiction 2011
finished 8/10/15

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember who first told me about this book. I do know that I ordered it as a used copy from England, and have had it a few years. 

I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read any modern English fiction for quite a while. This one featured someone around my age, which was a treat. It is a romance of sorts, but also quite a realistic view of family life and a long marriage. Jeanie's husband George is quite controlling, and it isn’t in her nature to really protest. She kind of slips through life according to his plans. He isn’t really horrible, though I wouldn’t have stayed with him a minute! On Thursdays she brings her little granddaughter to the park, and happens to meet a grandfather with his grandson. They all get along famously, and Jeanie begins to have feelings towards Ray that she hasn’t felt for her husband in a long time, if ever. And they are reciprocated. But falling in love in one’s sixties is not quite as clearcut as earlier in life when there is no family involved. Jeanie has a daughter with whom she is very close, and a son-in-law who mostly drives her crazy, and her beloved granddaughter, Ellie. Hilary Boyd’s descriptions of the way Jeanie feels toward this little girl were my favorite parts of the book because they express exactly how I feel about my three darlings. When she first meets Ray, he says:
‘Odd thing, grandchildren,’ the man said, gazing after the boy. ‘I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. But I find he means everything to me.’
‘I know… I know what you mean,’ she found herself replying, because she too had been overwhelmed by her feelings for her granddaughter since the first moment she’d held Ellie in her arms. It had literally been love at first sight. … ‘It’s a bit like a drug,’ she went on. ‘If I don’t see her for a couple of days I get withdrawal symptoms.’ She laughed, shy suddenly, in a very British way, about the strength of her feelings. Because she hadn’t been one of those mothers who pester their offspring to make them a grandmother.
The writing is good and the book flows making the reader not want to put it down. It isn’t always bright and breezy but it is so true, so honest about family relationships and individual situations. I really found it quite wonderful and heartily recommend it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Blueberry Zucchini Cake

This week for Weekend Cooking, I have a wonderful cake to offer. The recipe comes from here. A friend posted the link on Facebook, and I made it a few days later. Excellent, delicious, perfect cake! And now a couple weeks later, I made it again. The first time I used 2 round cake pans,

and this time I used a 9x13 pan.

Instead of a cup of oil, I used a cup of melted butter. If you’ve read my letters for a while, you’ll know I am a fan of butter when it comes to baking!

Blueberry Zucchini Cake

 3 eggs, lightly beaten
 1 cup vegetable oil
 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
 2 1/4 cups white sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
 2 cups finely shredded and drained zucchini

 3 cups all-purpose flour
 1 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon baking powder
 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

 1 pint fresh blueberries (you can reserve a few for garnish if so desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans. (I greased with cooking spray)

Grate a large zucchini (or two small zucchini) and place in a clean dish towel. Squeeze until most of the liquid comes out. You will want to have 2 total cups of shredded zucchini after it has been drained. Set aside. (I didn’t do all this. I just grated it and used it)

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer (I used the KitchenAid mixer), beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. 
Fold in the zucchini. (I beat in the zucchini at a low speed)
Slowly add in the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (I sifted dry ingredients together first) 
Gently fold in the blueberries. 
Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans.
Bake 35-40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. 
Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest of (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat till well combined.
Add lemon juice and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minute or until creamy.
Fold in zest*.
*If you are piping this buttercream, I recommend leaving out the zest. (I didn’t use zest)

For the 9x13 cake, I halved the frosting recipe. There are no berries on top because I used frozen this time, not fresh. Whenever I make a cake, half goes to my dear neighbors down the hill - daughter Margaret, her fella Matthew, and their daughter Hazel Nina - and they agree that this is a fantastic cake. They were thrilled when I made it again so soon!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Turkish Leek Patties

I recently bought a wonderful new cookbook 

and made a dish called Turkish Leek Patties.

I cut the recipe down to suit two people, which made 7 patties. Tom and I had 3 each, and Lucy had one. 

Chop three leeks and one scallion. Sauté in 1 T. olive oil. Turn down heat and add 3 cloves of garlic. Cook for just a short time.

Cook a few potatoes - maybe 4 or 5 depending on size - until soft.

Stir together and add 1 slightly beaten egg. Blend. I used my little hand blender and it worked great.

Cook on 350º griddle which is greased with cooking spray.

We ate them plain with salt and pepper but I’m sure some sour cream on top would be great, just as with potato latkes. 

I love leek soup, and this is like a leek soup patty. Delicious!!

Please do visit Weekend Cooking for more food related postings.