Wednesday, November 29, 2006


This book was quite different from Under Orders. Its tone was milder - more friendly, even though it was a mystery with a few nasty characters causing mischief and mayhem for their family. Years ago Dick Francis said that because he and his wife worked together so closely on his mysteries, when either of them died there would be no more books. Mrs. Francis died six years ago and there have been no more books, until this year's Under Orders. If the rest of his earlier books are like Decider, then I think Mrs. Francis was a great boon to her husband's writing.

This story featured a father of six sons as the central character and mystery-solver. While the mystery began at a race and involved a racecourse, neither racing nor horses were the focus of the story, rather the mess families can get into when they close ranks and protect evil-doing family members for the sake of the family name and reputation. This was fun to read, and I'm looking forward to reading Reflex by Francis next.


The Pecan Tree

Thanks to Sherry I have enjoyed researching and reading about pecan trees this month. I found The Pecan Tree by Jane Manaster and read all kinds of interesting facts about pecans. This book was from the University of Texas Press, so it emphasized a lot of the pecan's Texan heritage. Much of the research and development of pecan trees has come from Texas, and this book named some Texas pecan pioneers - among them a Mr. Edmond E. Risien. Mr. Risien was originally from Kent, England, but he settled in central Texas and supported himself by building cabinets. He must have fallen in love with pecans - either the nut or the wood - because he eventually bought land with pecan trees on it, then developed the ring-budding technique to grow pecans. This brought the price of pecan trees down, which made it more affordable to grow pecans, which made pecan lovers everywhere happy because there could be more pecans! Mr. Risien also developed pecan-lovers by sending samples of his pecans all over the world. Among his recipients were Queen Victoria and Alfred Lord Tennyson. One of the pictures in this book is of a postcard from Tennyson to Risien. It reads:


It is very kind of you to have thought of sending me nuts from your beautiful pecan tree and I thank you most sincerely. My gardener shall try and make them grow here. We consider the walnut the best among our nuts I think, but to us your pecan nuts seem better still. May you live long and happily and see your pecan tree flourish!


Mr. Risien also came up with ways of coping with squirrels. I wonder how well they worked, though. Squirrels seem able to outwit any barrier or trap that I've ever seen or used.

At the end of the book were quite a few pecan recipes. Two I want to try are these:

Guadalupe Valley Barbecued Pecans

2 T. butter

1 T. ketchup

4 c. pecan halves

1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes hot sauce

Melt butter in Dutch oven, remove from heat and add seasoning. Add pecans and stir to coat. Bake in 15x10-inch pan at 400 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes, and shake gently every 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt.

Texas Spiced Pecans

1 egg white

1 T. water

3 c. pecan halves

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. cloves

1/4 t. nutmeg

Combine egg white and water. Stir in pecans and coat well. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over pecans. Spread on well-buttered cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring two or three times.


Monday, November 27, 2006

David's fireplace

Here are pictures of the fireplace in David's room: the mantel that Sarah D. cleaned, sanded, and painted, and the faux fire that Joan painted for it.

David's was the first "fire" that Joan painted. I'm going to borrow a firescreen to place in front of it for the tour of homes.

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Reading quiz

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Well, I'm certainly NOT in the final stages of a Ph.D., but I must admit that from time to time I daydream about ways to make money just by reading books that I want to read! And yes, other people's grammatical mistakes do drive me crazy, but I think (I hope!) I'm not as pedantic about it as I used to be.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

The playroom

We've been busy working on the house this weekend. Steve cut trim for the upstairs hallway and Joan primed and painted it. Tom and Steve repaired the door from the stairs to the upstairs hallway. I moved books off the old bookshelves onto new bookshelves. Sarah and Jacy took apart the extra full-sized bed in David's room and reassembled it in the playroom. Steve hung the mirrors over the mantels that he and Mike had attached to the walls on Thursday.

We still need to change out the light fixtures in Jacy's room and Joan's room, attach the trim to the walls, and clean up the library area on the landing, but we're getting there.

The playroom, which was once the scariest room in the house, is now bright and friendly and liveable. I need to get some of the "before" pictures and post them (Karin, do you still have any?), but here's how it looks now:

Joan painted the fake fires for the playroom and David's room. After David cleans up his room I'll take pictures of his fireplace. And I still need to put together the fake hearths, too.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Tom surprised us by coming home for the week. Triny, Mike, and William are on their way. We're eating with family and friends tomorrow. Our list of things for which we are thankful is seemingly endless.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Down the Common

Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman is one of the most satisfactory books I have read in a while. This novel by Ann Baer follows the life of Marion, the wife of Peter, a carpenter, through a year of her adult life. Through her experiences and memories, life in feudal England is realistically and sympathetically portrayed.

Times are hard, amusements are few, but families and villages pull together to survive and thrive. The common good, not the welfare of individuals, is what is most important and ever in view. I enjoyed the matter-of-fact recounting of everyday living - it reminded me of how easy my life is. I also enjoyed the frequent references to spinning wool, and it made me want to get out my spinning wheel and wool and spin for my family.

I'm hoping I can find another book like this to read soon.


Under Orders

Last week as we drove to Florida and back I listened to the latest book by Dick Francis. The trip wasn't long enough for me to finish the audiobook, so I checked it out of the library as soon as we got home and read it to the end.

I wish Grandmother was still alive. She loved anything by Dick Francis and read all his books numerous times. When I saw this book in the bookstore I immediately thought of her and how pleased she would have been to have a new book of his. Because Grandmother did not like "racy" books - in the sense of "risque, " no pun intended! - I imagined that this would be good, clean, family-listening. Unfortunately, there were some vulgar words and an adulterous relationship in the story, so I didn't think it fit for our ears in parts. I wonder if all his books are that way?

The mystery - the violent death of a jockey after a race - was a well-tangled puzzle, and though I was able to partially figure it out before the end, the solution was satisfactory and a surprise. Because I am not a horse-lover, nor a racing fan, I was pleasantly amazed to find how much I enjoyed the book - both in audio and in print form. I'll be reading more of Francis's novels in the future.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Tom misses us

Tom is feeling a bit homesick. It's hard to be away from family during the holidays - especially if your family has special traditions for those holidays. While we all are happy to read how much Tom loves us and misses us, we'd much prefer to have him home.

Donna is missing both her boys. Donna, I feel for you!

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Twenty-four years ago today

Chuck walked me down the aisle and represented my family in giving me to Steve to be married.

Dad performed the wedding ceremony.

Joan, Kelley, Glen, and Susan attended me.

A bunch of Steve's classmates from TBS, and Glenn and Aric attended him.

Our families were joined together.

I became a wife and a step-mother.

We began our ever-after life together.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Auburn 22 Alabama 15

Five in a row! Woo-hoo!!!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Harvesting pecans

We won't be harvesting any of the pecans from the trees in our yard. I found this interesting article about the pecan tree and after reading about the ability of one squirrel to eat the entire harvest of two pecan trees, I went outside and looked up into our trees. They are bare of nuts. I remember that a few weeks ago we had a lot of squirrels around, and lately we've seen none. I guess they got all our pecans and moved on.


Thanksgiving menu

Dana is gearing up for Thanksgiving Day and she reminds us that it is very close. For the first time in twenty years we'll be eating Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family. Mike and Triny and William will also join us. Because this is a family endeavor, my part is pretty small, and I had to lean on Mom a bit to get her to allow me to bring the few things we'll take. I'm thinking Kim will also be bringing something, but I don't know what. Here's what I've been told we'll be having:

mashed potatoes (or scalloped potatoes)
cornbread dressing
sweet potato casserole
green bean casserole
tossed salad
fresh fruit salad
yeast rolls
fresh cranberry relish
pecan pie
pumpkin pie
chocolate pie
cake of some kind

I'm allowed to bring the two salads, the rolls, and the cranberry relish. The cranberry relish is my favorite - it's fresh, not cooked.

Fresh Cranberry Relish
1 package fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
1 large Granny Smith apple, washed, cored, and quartered
1 large sweet orange, washed, quartered, seeded, and peeled (save peels)
1/2 c. to 1 c. sugar

In food processor with blade attachment, chop apple quarters and orange quarters and at least two of the saved orange peels (I use all 4). Add cranberries and chop until all is mixed. Add sugar, chill, and serve.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006


Book Moot mentioned this book a few months ago, and the movie plans of it. I'd never heard of the book, so I requested it from the library and read it. I couldn't put it down. Sarah and Jacy saw it and tried to read it whenever I put it down, so I bought a copy. I also bought the sequel, Inkspell, and I'm reading it now.

This is a pretty typical "quest" story, but I loved the plot: A man, a bookbinder by trade, reads aloud and as he reads, the story he reads comes to life. Really. Characters come out of the book into our world. Years ago he accidentally read nasty characters out of a fantasy story, and at the same time his wife was read into the story. Their little daughter, Meggie, was only three at the time, and was unaware of what had happened. As the story begins, she is twelve, and thinks her mother left them when she was very young. She doesn't know why her father has never read aloud to her.

Meggie and her father, "Mo," are hunted by the nasty characters of the fantasy story, Inkheart. They want Mo to read the story aloud again in hopes that they'll be read back into the book. Mo has to explain to Meggie what is happening and why. The characters and the chase and events along the way make very good reading. Each chapter is also prefaced by a suitable quote from a children's book, thus hinting at the chapter's content. As Meggie and her father are trying to evade the really bad character, Capricorn, they're also trying to find a way to get Meggie's mother back.

The book has a satisfactory ending - among books and an aunt traveling the globe hunting down rare editions - and a good set-up for the sequel.

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A few days in Florida

David, Sam and I drove to the Orlando, Florida area on Tuesday to visit Mike and Triny and celebrate William's birthday. We had a fast, fun time with them, but had to leave today. They'll be coming to stay with us next week for Thanksgiving and we can hardly wait!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sophie's World

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago, after reading it together with Jeannine. This is not a book I would have read without her encouragement.

The idea is that this is a novel about the history of philosophy - presumably to make learning about philosophy more palatable to those who might otherwise find themselves bored stiff reading a straight history of philosophy. I found the histories of the various philosophers and schools of philosophical thought fairly interesting, and thought most were quite good summaries. Unfortunately, the story surrounding the history fell flat with me. The characters were dull, or when not dull, weird - but in a dull way. The action of the story was jerky, moving in fits and starts, interspersed with frequent paeans to the United Nations. If Mr. Gaardner had just written his history of philosophy, this book would have been a lot better, and a lot shorter.

If you plan to read the book someday, and don't want the "mystery" to be spoiled for you, read no further.

If you don't plan to read the book, or have read it already, here's the plot in a nutshell:

Sophie Amundsen, almost 15 years old, begins receiving mysterious - and creepy - letters from an unknown correspondent. The writer begins teaching Sophie about philosophy, and she tries to find out who he is. Eventually, she tracks him down and they begin meeting in person for their philosophy lessons. (Sophie's mom is justifiably worried about all of this - it's like a parent's worst nightmare: your child secretly meets a stranger and develops a relationship with him; he turns out to be a weird, middle-aged man who has no desire to meet the parents.) At the end of the book, after many pages of story distracting from the actual philosophy content, Sophie and her teacher, Alberto, realize they are just characters in a story written by a major in the (SURPRISE!) U.N. to amuse and edify his daughter, Hilde. Sophie and Alberto manage to distract the major, and escape from their story into another dimension - one peopled by storybook characters.

This just didn't work for me. I'd rather have read a straight history of philosophy, followed by a book by Jasper Fforde. However, if anyone read Sophie's World and enjoyed it, or found it thought-provoking, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Monday, November 13, 2006

This is what the census is REALLY for - blog-fodder!
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?


A cautionary knitting tale

This is too funny not to share. Several weeks ago I bought three skeins of autumn-colored wool boucle yarn at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival.

I wound the yarn into center-pull skeins, grabbed a pattern I liked, and knitted a gauge swatch with size 15 needles. The pattern I was using called for size 9 or 10 needles, but I wanted the boucle to knit up loose, so I figured 15's would be good. I did the math with my swatch, and for some reason decided that instead of casting on 240 stitches as the pattern (with smaller needles, remember) called for, I'd cast on 280 stitches. I did and knit merrily away. After I finished one skein, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, this may be too long, and it certainly doesn't look as though it will be wide enough - maybe I should stop now, put the stitches onto a length of waste yarn, and check it out... Nah!"

So I added the second skein. When I finished it, and was ready to knit the third skein, I thought again, "Maybe I should measure this... Nah!"

After I finished with the third and last skein, I bound off all 280 stitches, ran water to soak the shawl prior to blocking it, and looked at the ends needing to be woven in. I thought, "Perhaps I should hold this up to myself - try it on, as it were - before weaving in the ends and blocking it. Then if it's too long or looks awful I can easily rip it all out and start over... Nah. I'll just weave in these ends and block it first."

I think I must have been temporarily insane! I wove in those ends - without checking the length of the shawl - and I wove them in very well so that the ends wouldn't show. And so that they wouldn't come unraveled...EVER.

Here's the finished product:

Now I'm trying to find those blasted ends and pick them out so I can rip out and unravel the whole thing and start over!

(Update 10/11/07 : This tale has a happy ending!)


Friday, November 10, 2006

Lake Martin

Yesterday afternoon we went to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park and I saw this book in the museum gift shop. We love the lake, so I decided to buy the book. Before we left the park, I began reading it (Sarah was driving and the park's speed limit is 15 mph, so I felt safe). The author covers the history of Lake Martin and the surrounding area from before the lake's creation to the present. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the interesting people involved in building the dam at Cherokee Bluffs, and about the history of the area from 1540, when Hernando de Soto and his men marched across Alabama, to the present day BASSMASTERs and water wars with Georgia. Since the 1960's my family has enjoyed Lake Martin, and there were lots of stories I'd heard - some of which were confirmed as true in this book. For instance, several airplanes crashed and sank in the lake, and one WWII bomber went unrecovered - and unconfirmed as having sunk in the lake - until the 1990's when one man who'd heard the rumors decided to use his depth finder and a map of the area of the lake rumored to hold the sunken aircraft. He found it buried under 6 feet of mud beneath water 50 feet deep.

The main history features the work of Thomas Wesley Martin who brought about both the dam and the lake, and who served as president of Alabama Power company from 1920 to 1949. From the descriptions of him and the work he did, he appears to have been a modest gentleman, intent on bringing to Alabama a great hydroelectric power system. He got General William C. Gorgas (the man who figured out how to stop the spread of malaria and yellow fever, thus making the construction of the Panama Canal possible) to testify that that the power company wasn't liable for illnesses in the reservoir area of another dam the power company built, thus clearing the legal ground for the construction of the dam to move forward, and he had to be very patient because it was years in the making from the planning, to procuring the land, to getting all the legal hurdles completely cleared - and to clear the land, to building the dam, to seeing the lake basin fill. He appears to have been a pretty good lawyer and one with a vision and a goal that provided a better life for a lot of people in this area. The amazing work of the various engineers involved in making the dam is also a wonder to read. They built 1/100th scale models to aid them in designing the dam and to figure out any problems with how the water would flow or flood. Those models made it possible for them to figure out how to avoid problems with the flood water in the river bed.

All my life I've heard boasts about the cleanliness of Lake Martin's water, and now I know that the purity of the water is partially due to the foresight of Mr. Martin and others at the Alabama Power Company. They decided to go above and beyond the requirements of the Federal Water Power Act of 1920. They stripped all trees and brush from the area of the future lake so that the water wouldn't become fouled with decaying matter. The power company assessed the timber on the land that would be covered, and saw that a lot of the wood was virgin timber or second-growth trees old enough to be of use as lumber. They didn't waste that wood, but set up sawmills in the area of the timber and sawed the trees into wood, which was then used in the building of the dam, among other things. Some trees too large for use were chained to the ground, and some in later years broke their ties or chains and floated to the surface of the lake. When I was a child, I met a man who remembered the clearing of the lake basin. I can't remember if he was the one who did it, or if it was his father, but he said they used mules to drag out the cut trees.

This book is probably only of interest to someone who loves Lake Martin, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it last night.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Happy 231st Birthday, USMC!

November 10th is the birthday of the Marine Corps. The Commandant of the Marine Corps has posted his birthday message.

If I were anywhere near Quantico on or after November 13, 2006, I'd make time to go visit the new Marine Corps Museum. I guess I won't see it until next spring or summer. If you see it before I do, please tell me about it by leaving a comment or by emailing me. The Commandant put up a few pictures of it already, so we can have a preview:

Some books about Marines that I've enjoyed are these:

I have William Manchester's book, but I haven't read it yet. Maybe I will start it in honor of the Marine Corps birthday.

So tell a Marine "Happy Birthday!" tomorrow.

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Yet another pecan recipe

Pecan Cranberry Biscotti

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix and set aside:
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix well and add to dry ingredients:
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of 1 lemon

Mix in:
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. pecans

Make 2 loaves out of dough 3"x9"x1 1/2". Form edges. Place on parchment lined pan.

Cook 25 minutes. Cool.

Slice 1/2" thick. Bake at 275 degrees for 20 minutes on each side.

Sue made these for us this summer. I ate them all. Then she made us another batch and gave it to us when I went to Virginia to get David and Joan after they spent a week at her house. I ate almost all of that batch. (I made the mistake of offering David and Joan each a piece, and the little pigs ate their biscotti and wanted more, even when I told them it probably wasn't that good for them! ) That biscotti made the long drive from Virginia to Alabama sweeter. As my friend Layne would say, it's so good you have to eat it lying down!

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You know you have good friends...

...when they're Auburn fans for your sake!


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pecans - from appetizer to dessert

I bought several cookbooks from our library's ongoing book sale this morning. One was a collection of recipes compiled to celebrate Alabama's 150th birthday as a state - back in 1969. It has some great recipes, many featuring pecans. So for Sherry, and anyone else wanting to celebrate pecans in November, here are some recipes. (I've eaten some of these before, but not all.)

Cheese Puffs

1 lb. margarine
1 lb. sharp cheese
3 c. flour
1/2 t. red pepper
1 c. chopped pecans

Mix margarine, cheese, flour and pepper together. Then add nuts. Drop with spoon on greased pan. Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 18 minutes. (~Mrs. McDowell Lee)

Chicken Fruit Salad

2 1/2 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 1/4 c. chopped celery
2 chopped apples
1 c. drained crushed pineapple
1/2 c. pecans
1 t. lemon juice
3/4 c. mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together. Serve on lettuce with crackers. Recipe makes 8 servings. (~Mrs. William V. Neville, Jr.)

Squash Casserole

2 lbs. yellow squash
4 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk
3/4 stick butter
1/2 c.chopped pecans
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and boil squash until tender. Mash and add eggs, milk, butter, and seasoning, mix well. Turn mixture into lightly buttered casserole. Sprinkle chopped pecans over top. Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour, until puffy and lightly browned. (~Mrs. Hugh Merrill)

Wild Rice Casserole

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
2 T. chopped onion
2 T. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
1 c. wild rice
3 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper

Heat butter. Add mushrooms, onion, green pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add pecans and cook about 1 minute. Wash rice well and drain. Add to mushroom mixture. Add broth and season with salt and pepper. Pour into greased casserole, cover and bake in a slow oven (325) about 1 hour. Serves 4. Note: for variety, 1 to 2 cups cooked chicken, turkey or pork roast cut into cubes or julienne strips may be added to the mixture before pouring into the casserole. (~Mrs. Albert Brewer)

Strawberry Nut Salad

2 packages strawberry jello
1 c. boiling water
2 10-oz. packages frozen sliced strawberries, thawed
1 1-lb., 4-oz. can crushed pineapple
1 c. chopped pecans
1 pt. sour cream

Combine jello with boiling water in large bowl stirring until jello is dissolved. Fold in strawberries with juice, drained pineapple, and nuts all at once. Turn half of mixture into 12x8 dish. Refrigerate until firm, then spread top with sour cream and gently spoon on remaining mixture. Refrigerate. (~Mrs. Dan Waite)

Dump Cake

1 small can crushed pineapple
1 small can coconut (or 1 small bag frozen blueberries, or 2 c. fresh blueberries, or 1 can blueberries)
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks butter or margarine
1 c. pecans, chopped

Dump pineapple with juice in oblong pan (11x13), spread coconut (or blueberries) evenly over pineapple. Sprinkle dry cake mix over other ingredients. Dot cake mix with pats of butter. Sprinkle pecans over top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden brown. (~Mrs. Joe Money and Mrs. Ernest Stone)

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Basket Moon

The middle school has a book sale going on to raise funds for their library. Sarah and David went over there this morning to help their Aunt Kim with the sale. When I went to get them I asked if they'd seen any good books to buy. We soon gathered a nice little stack with something for almost everyone in our family.

One of the books we bought was Basket Moon by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It tells the story of a young boy whose father weaves baskets and is set in the Catskills of New York several hundred years ago. Last week we drove through that area on our trip to Rheinbeck, and I imagine that the mountains and the foothills still look like they did at the time of this story. I thought of our drive up the Taconic Thruway, and the beauty of the trees as I read this book.

The boy wants very badly to go with his father to Hudson when his father takes the baskets there. He finally gets to go with his father to trade the baskets for provisions one spring. (It took four weeks for his father and the other basket-makers to make enough baskets to sell, and they were taken to town when the moon was full, in case the traveler needed the light of the moon to get home by.) He is amazed by the town - the sights, the smells - but as he and his father are starting back home, several men taunt them for being from the hills. The jibes bother the boy for several weeks, and he decides he no longer wants to be a basket-maker. Then another basket-maker, Big Joe, talks to the boy.

' "Some learn the language of the wind," he said, "and sing it into music. Some hear it and write poems. The wind taught us to weave it into baskets."

An oak leaf blew into the shed. "The wind watches," Big Joe said. "It knows whom to trust."

Right then, I didn't care about the men in Hudson. I wanted to be like Big Joe and Mr. Cooens and Pa. I wanted to be the one the wind chose.'

The boy decides he will make baskets and begins to weave them, content with his choice. At the end of the book is a historical note by the author. Cooney's illustrations are perfect for the story.
This book is going on the shelf of my favorite picture books in my room.

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The hidden grove (or hidden field) - before and after

I did take some pictures of the "hidden field" (or "hidden grove") before it was made pretty, and after it was all cleaned up. A few months ago Mr. G came and worked for two days cutting out the kudzu and privet hedge and other vegetation that had been allowed to grow and grow unchecked for years. The field looks so different now. Eventually Mr. G will cut down the overgrown privet around all the pecan trees that ring the field.


And after:

So what do you think? Amazing transformation, huh? When the privet was cleared away we found all kinds of old rock and brick walls and foundations. I think we found the foundation for the original kitchen. We realized that we have chestnut trees - too bad we're not too fond of chestnuts.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More pecans

Imagine my surprise when I opened the Birmingham News today and saw this article about pecans! Sherry must be on to something.

Our pecan trees in the morning:

I think we'll start seeing more pecans on the ground later this month and into December. The trick is to get to them before the squirrels, chipmunks, and crows.



Sherry likes pecans. She really, REALLY likes them.

I don't think we're quite in her class of pecan aficionados, but our family enjoys pecans also. My dad loves to cook with them. He'll add pecans to every cookie and candy he makes. We can always find chocolate chip pecan cookies and pecan sandies at my parents' house. Dad also makes great fudge and divinity candy liberally laced with chopped pecans. Cakes, pies, puddings? Dad throws pecans in those, too.

One Christmas I made cornbread dressing with pecans in it. Glenn and I liked it. Everyone else said they preferred their pecans elsewhere - like salted, in the nut dish. Joan likes to make salad with lettuces, chopped Granny Smith apples, pecan halves, and feta cheese. At Thanksgiving and Christmas I make pecan pies and sweet potato casserole with lots of pecans.

The best place in Alabama for pecan lovers is Priester's. You can get pecans made all kinds of ways there, and various dainties made with pecans. David loves their divinity. Stopping at their store in Fort Deposit is a "must" if we have to drive on I-65 south of Montgomery. They put out samples of all their pecans and we love to taste them, then select a few to buy and take home.

We have a lot of pecan trees in our yard. They are old, and haven't been tended for many years. Dad is excited at the thought of all those pecans to harvest, so he's been fertilizing around the trees all summer and he thinks that by next year our trees will be healthier. They already produce lots of thin-shelled pecans, but they seem to be weak and easy fodder for insects, etc.

I hope to get some pecans this year - at our leisure. I remember Dad waking Chuck and me early on November mornings (maybe 4:00 a.m.) and taking us around Auburn's campus to gather pecans. It was very dark and cold - ugh! We were probably 12 and 10 - too old to think of it as a fun adventure, and too young to realize what a great addition to baked goods those pecans would be. We were just the right age to grumble at the whole process - the gathering of the pecans, shelling them (yeah, that was our job, too), and chopping them.

Now I enjoy our pecan trees and I'm so glad someone planted them many years ago.

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 c. cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
1 c. sugar (1/2 c. white and 1/2 c. brown)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

Mix all ingredients and put in greased 9x13 baking dish.
Top with blended mixture:
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. butter
1 c. chopped pecans

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

(Steve thinks it's better than pumpkin pie!)

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