Saturday, September 29, 2007

End of September

Tom, Karin, David, Marley, Sam and I (along with Cocoa) went out to the lake for a few hours this afternoon. We decided to walk out to the point that has the old rock foundation wall.

We had a great view of Mom and Dad's place:

Karin and Marley found some old iron nails.

David climbed a rock and struck a pose:

And later, back at Mom and Dad's, Tom removed a dead limb that was hanging in a sweetgum tree above Karin like the sword of Damocles. ( I asked him to get it down and he said, "How?" I told him to ask his grandfather for a grappling hook. To give him major credit, he didn't howl with derisive laughter, but very quietly and courteously asked me where I thought his grandfather might keep his "grappling hooks." Okay. So we don't have grappling hooks. Tom cleverly took an umbrella handle Sam found on his last beach-combing walk, tied it to some rope we'd brought to use in training Cocoa, and tossed it up in the tree around the limb. Then he carefully pulled the limb down, and manfully carried it to Dad's burn-pile.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's that time of year - Homecoming

This afternoon we sat on the front porch and watched the annual homecoming parade. All the schoolchildren get half the day off on the Friday of Homecoming. Most are in the parade, along with the high school kids. Actually, a lot of townspeople are in the parade.

It starts with the band:

Then comes the Homecoming Court:

Next come the cheerleaders - lots of them, from senior high down to kindergarten:

Followed by various clubs and organizations, beauty pageant winners, and football players of all ages:

Last of all come the horseback riders:


Edge finished

The Lizard Ridge afghan is completely done. I test-drove it last night (draped it over myself while I sat in Steve's recliner reading a book) and found it warm and light. Now it's ready for Jacy.


Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier was my reading list selection for September.

I put this on my list for several reasons. Last October I listened to an audio version of Thirteen Moons, also by Charles Frazier (and read by Will Patton). It so favorably impressed me, that I nagged Steve to listen to it. He did, and he liked it so much, he started telling his friends they should read the book, too. We both decided that we should read or listen to Frazier's first book, Cold Mountain, in order to compare the two.

When Cold Mountain first came out - what? maybe ten years ago? - I checked out a copy from the library, made it about four pages into the story, and decided I did not want to read it. A friend later recommended it, saying it was the best book he'd ever read. So I picked it up again, and didn't get far into it (less than a complete chapter) before I realized that I wouldn't read the book. But after enjoying Thirteen Moons I thought I needed to give Frazier's first book a decent chance - and I could tell Hank I finally read the book.

I want to be nice, but I did not like this book. Yes, it was like The Odyssey. But I'm not crazy about that story, either. Yes, the American Civil War was violent and terrible, and the aftermath of Reconstruction was horrible, too. But most of the gruesome scenes Frazier paints are away from the battlefields and in the heartland. It was as if the most grotesque characters from the minds of Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner came together for this book.

To be fair, the chapters detailing Ada's activities read like the "Foxfire" books that came out of Rabun Gap, Georgia. They were interesting, and pleasant, and made a nice juxtaposition to the grim malevolence of Inman's journey back to Ada and Cold Mountain.

And there were several characters, tales, and events that I recognized from Thirteen Moons. Frazier used them in slightly different ways in his second book, and they were better.

Anyway, the plot, briefly:

Inman, a Confederate soldier, seriously wounded in the neck and recuperating in a hospital in Richmond, decides he's done with fighting and wants to go back to his home in North Carolina. It's 1864, and he doesn't believe the war will last much longer. He's tired of fighting, and he longs for a girl, Ada, he knew slightly back in Cold Mountain.

Ada, meanwhile, is alone at home, her father having recently died. Ada has no domestic or farming skills, and isn't doing too well all by herself with no hired help or servants. A young woman named Ruby comes to Ada and suggests that they farm and work together. Ruby is knowledgeable and skilled, and life turns around for Ada.

Inman escapes ("sneaks off" is more like it) the hospital and starts for home. On the way he is chased by Federals and by "home guard" types looking for deserters to shoot or to send back to the front. He meets a variety of weird and often disgusting people, but he is kind, courteous, and helpful (although he has to kill a person or two on occasion).

After weeks/months he does make it back to Ada, declares his love for her, which she returns. They make plans to marry and plan a course of action to take until the war is over.

But there is no happy ending for the two of them. (Ruby gets a happy ending).

Bottom line? If I had to choose only one book by Charles Frazier to read, I'd go with Thirteen Moons.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sarah's afghan

Sarah decided that she would like something different from Jacy's afghan, so she will have the Moderne Log Cabin afghan from Mason-Dixon Knitting.

We ordered yarn from KnitPicks in different shades of red and blue, and black (to be the neutral element). She also wants orange in there, but I'm hoping she'll change her mind about that.

I don't think I'll be starting it until after January, though, because I'd like to knit some socks and sweaters for a while... .


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back to pimiento (pimento) cheese

I just found this this article. I guess it is a uniquely Southern food item.


Lizard Ridge afghan - seamed and ready for a finished edge

Yesterday I finished sewing in all the ends left from seaming. This is a VERY LARGE afghan because I decided to use 36 squares instead of 24. It's more like a blanket.

(I really like the way the stripes meet and change colors from square to square!)

Despite my lack of crocheting skills - and the fact that I've never learned to crochet - I practiced the crocheted edge on an old swatch (the one I made for Dad's Aran cardigan) last night. At least, I practiced what I think was indicated by the pattern. I'm probably all wrong, but Elizabeth Zimmermann said that a mistake repeated is a pattern, so as long as I continue to repeat any mistake(s), I should be okay.

This book, Beginner's Guide to Crochet by Pauline Turner, was extremely helpful.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Pimiento cheese for lunch

Is pimiento cheese primarily a Southern food? There must be some reason why many of my children turn up their noses at it - they must have inherited Steve's Northern food-preference genes. Philistines!

Mom's recipe for pimiento chese is the best I've ever eaten. It's quick, easy, and tasty.

Pimiento Cheese:

about 2 cups grated sharp cheddar (or extra sharp) cheese

about 1 to 2 T. pimiento bits (or use roasted red peppers from a jar and dice them into little bits)

about 1 to 1 1/2 T. grated onion, along with the juice from the grating process

enough mayonnaise to moisten and bind ingredients, but not so much that it overpowers.

Serve with bread or crackers.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quiet afternoon

Earlier today Marley, Sam, Cocoa and I went to the lake. We spent a few hours visiting with Mom and Dad. Marley, Sam, and the dog went exploring and found three nice sticks to use to construct a canopy over Joan's bed, more sticks to use in buiding a palisade on the beach, and a snake skin.

I talked with Mom and Dad and mattress-stitched and Kitchener-stitched several blocks of the Lizard Ridge afghan that I'm making for Jacy.

Then we came home where Sam and I will spend the rest of the afternoon and evening playing, reading, and knitting while everyone else is at the football game.

(Is the game being televised? I don't think so. Auburn is playing New Mexico State, and NMS's record is better than ours! But if it were to be on TV, you might see Steve there in the stands - section 106 - with Tom, Karin, Sarah, Joan, David, and Marley. Jacy will be there, too, but she'll be in the student section. I might try to listen to the game on Sirius radio - if I dare... .)

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Lizard Ridge Afghan - ready to assemble

Joan and I put all the squares on the floor of her room, pinned them together in blocks of 4, and labeled them according to position. I'm ready to seam it up, then add the border.


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Making of a Chef

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman is so good that when I was half-way through the copy I checked out of the library, I realized we had to have a copy of our own for the family. So I bought it, along with two others by Ruhlman: The Soul of a Chef and The Reach of a Chef.

Michael Ruhlman attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) on a fast track schedule in order to research and write this book, but he also really wanted to be a chef. He loves cooking. That love is evident as he details the days spent learning how to cook good food - food that tastes good and looks good, and feels good on the tongue and in the mouth. Starting with sauces, moving through fish, bread baking, waiting tables, Ruhlman shows how the graduates of the CIA get the knowledge and skills they take with them to look for jobs as chefs in restaurants all over the world.

The memoir-like feel of the book is balanced by the science and business of food preparation to make a well-crafted story. Of course I liked some parts better than others, but it was always hard to put the book down and do other things needing my attention.

The chapter on bread baking may have been my favorite. Each day in the bakeshop a different team would make the "lean dough" which consisted of 36 lbs. of water, 18 oz. of yeast, 45 lbs. of high-gluten flour, 9 lbs. of organic wheat flour, and over 1 lb. of salt. This yielded over 92 lbs. of dough!

Ruhlman writes:
"One felt an ease in this bakeshop that did not exist in a kitchen. In a bakeshop, you only put things together; you did not break, tear, or cut things apart first. In a kitchen, everything was about speed, and you could regulate that speed by moving faster, cutting faster. Here everything was determined by flour and yeast, and you had to accept that. In America, a land of durable wheat, ingredients are measured in relation to flour (in France they are measured in relation to water). No matter how much lean dough we'd make, the starting formula was the same: 100 percent flour, 60 percent water, 3 percent yeast, and 2 percent salt. This was called the Baker's Percentage."

And later:
"As in all matters of food, there was an intellectual and spiritual correlative. I'd already discovered that I was a cook. I could know what cooking was, fully, in my bones. Cooks, I had learned, came to cooking not to fulfill a desire, but rather, by chance, to fulfill something already in their nature. The same, I believe, was true of bakers. They were different....
"Because I was a cook or, rather, had "the cook" in my nature (I did not presume to call myself a cook), I could not fully comprehend baking."

Even though he claims not to understand the true nature of bread or of bakers, he does a fine job trying to explain both, and I came away with a better understanding of what goes on when I, in my home kitchen, make bread.

But the entire book is that way - both entertaining and informative.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Recipe - Apple Crisp

Amy took Abbey and Madyson apple-picking recently, and sent us several pictures of the girls enjoying their day.

I don't know how Amy and Glenn used the apples they got, but I know what I would do with freshly-picked apples: make apple crisp. It's easier and quicker than apple pie, and just as tasty.

Apple Crisp

1/2 c. quick-cooking rolled oats

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 to 1/2 c. butter or margarine

2 lbs. apples (or about 6 medium). peeled, cored, and sliced

2 T. granulated sugar

Combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. In a medium baking dish, spread apple slices. Sprinkle granulated sugar over apple slices. Top with oat mixture, then dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Makes about 6 servings. Serve with ice cream.

I often make this for dessert when we have guests. I'll assemble the apple crisp ahead of time, then put it in the oven to bake right before we sit down to eat. As we enjoy our meal, we slowly become aware of the delicious aroma of apples baking. (Beth W. was my tutor in that hospitality tip!)

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Skies after rain

We had the remains of Tropical Storm Humberto come through our area yesterday. The skies after the rain as the sun was setting were unbelievably pretty - and there was a rainbow!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Lizard Ridge afghan - more squares

Here are sixteen more completed afghan squares. I now have a total of 31 squares. Hopefully, I'll have finished the last five by the end of next week. Then I have to figure out how to place them before I sew them together.

I need suggestions. Should I alternate warm and cool colors? Go from lighter to darker? Be totally random (a concept extremely foreign to my nature)?


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Not exactly a senior picture

Because Donna asked her blog-readers to post senior pictures, I'm posting this picture taken the summer after my junior year. I didn't have any senior pictures - I graduated in my junior year, and immediately started college.

But Sarah was playing with the camera yesterday, and took this shot of me and my mom at the lake. I'm battling the wind, trying to read the paper - no make-up, totally unaware that Sarah is taking a picture.

So here's a real "senior picture." (Heh, heh - sometimes I crack me up!)


Joan's art

Yesterday Joan brought home her first painting from her art class. She took to class this picture of the driveway we had at our last home in Virginia:

And painted this picture:

and gave it to me!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

8 random things

Julie tagged me for this meme, so here are 8 random facts about me:

1. My favorite cakes to eat are coconut cake and caramel cake.

2. My favorite cakes to make are pound cakes.

3. I like rainy and cloudy days. Living in upstate New York for 3 1/2 years was great for the overcast days. Living in southern California for 3 1/2 years was hard because of the scarcity of cloudy and rainy days.

4. Someday I would like to have a canoe.

5. I always wear or bring a cardigan when I go anywhere.

6. When I was little (from the age of 4 until I was 11) I loved to swing so much that I frequently wore out the chains on my swing. I would swing for hours in all kinds of weather, except for heavy rain. On Saturdays I would swing all day, until it was time to go to bed. I was very weird. But my parents always knew where I was!

7. I love road trips.

8. The best idea I ever had was when I was 10 and I made paperdoll dollhouses using magazine pictures of rooms that I propped up in my bedroom windows. This kept me and two of my cousins occupied for the summer.

And I tag


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Leaning into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather

Susan Allen Toth's slender little book, Leaning into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather is a perfect get-away for an afternoon or evening. Ms. Toth shares a few memories of childhood, young adulthood, parenthood, and life now as an older adult in various locations in the Midwest. The prevailing theme, obviously, is the weather: blizzards, tornadoes, straight-line winds, crushing heat and humidity, torrential rain. All play a part in this collection which is ultimately a tribute to the huge middle section of our country and the weather its residents endure.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ending the week on a high note

Mom and Dad invited us out to the lake for a picnic lunch yesterday. They served us subs and chips, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was a wonderful way to end our first week back at schoolwork.

Today Tom and Karin went to the Auburn game, and while they're away, I'm painting some doors and trim in their cottage, and David is putting together and installing their pantry and washing up their dishes so they'll come home to a clean kitchen with more storage space tonight.

Still on the TO DO list:
Get kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts installed.
Trim one more window, then prime and paint it.
Finsh Karin's closet.
Install baseboard trim in the kitchen.
Install outlet and plate covers in the few places where needed.
Curtains for the windows.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

A Faithful Heart

A Faithful Heart: The Journals of Emmala Reed, 1865 and 1866 was my reading list selection for August. (Witness pushed me off schedule a bit, so although I began reading this book in August - the 31st - I didn't finish it until yesterday.)

This diary of Emmala Reed, a native of Anderson, South Carolina, was interesting as she chronicled her life during the last year of the war, and the first part of Reconstruction. Of course, the larger events of our nation's history are mentioned in passing, while she concentrates on people and activities important to her family and friends.

The great disappointment of her life during this period was the loss of her suitor, Robert. She writes a lot of him, and her thoughts of him, and why he might be avoiding her, and whether or not the two of them will ever be reconciled and marry. (They don't.)

Of great interest to me was the list of books she read or loaned out during this period. She even gave short reviews of several of them. Among those mentioned were Jane Eyre (which she liked a lot, and referenced many times, comparing acquaintances to characters in the book), Davy Crockett, History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru, both by William Prescott, and St. Elmo, which she characterized as "full of genius & classical love & mixed learning, holy truths & pure womanly feelings, - yet too crowded and pedantic as are all her works as yet with some faults of taste and temper & rather unnatural - yet I hope the world may profit by the good displayed!"

Also interesting was that she met George Bushyhead, chief of the Cherokees - who I think was mentioned (fictionally) by Charles Frazier in his book, Thirteen Moons. Chief Bushyhead and his wife came to Emmala's home on their way to Washington.

Emmala finally did marry when she was 27 or 28, not to her long-time crush, but to another man. As the diary ends before that, I assume that she loved her husband with all the ardor she would have willingly given her former beau, and that her life ended well.

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Mr. Apple's Family

A book I always think of when anyone talks about "apple" books is Mr. Apple's Family by Jean McDevitt. This small book was written over fifty years ago, but the story is timeless.

Mr. Apple and his wife live in the city in an apartment. Their oldest child, a boy, is named MacIntosh. (Mr. Apple firmly believes that a last name like "Apple" should be fully enjoyed, while his wife gently lobbies for "normal" names for her children.) Mac is followed by Jonathan, then a daughter named Delicious. After Delicious is another daughter, Snow. Finally the last child, also a girl, is named Ann ("an apple" - see?)

The apartment begins to seem crowded and the Apples want to move to the country and buy a house. They find a house in the middle of an apple orchard and move to the country. The house is expensive ($5000) so they rent it for a year and plan to grow, harvest, and sell the apples from the orchard to help pay for the house. The children get a goat and a lamb to help keep the grass cut, and the family works together to take care of the house and the orchard.

It's not an exciting, adventure-filled book. It's a mellow, slice-of-life book. All of my children enjoyed it as a read-aloud, and several went back and reread it to themselves.

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End of Summer

There were sights to be seen at the flaming end of summer
As we sped over the land like a flying scarf:
The kindled braziers of the mountain-ash
Swinging their wild greetings from tame door-yards;
Gypsy-dressed zinnias, spinsters in masquerade;
The tidy farmer, raking his first brush-fire,
Himself an angular shadow beside its supple aliveness;
Obliging cows, arranging themselves in pleasing groups
Over the stone-sprinkled meadows;
Sun-bleached spread of a hill
And sun-dyed tapestry of an apple-tree;
Obsequious sun himself, Summer's gifted servant ---
All these came running to the roadside
With mocking gestures of farewell.
~Jean Starr Untermeyer


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What happened on Wednesday

Joan got up early (a generous sacrifice on her part, because Joan loves her sleep!) and made french toast for the family.

Sarah and Joan had their first geometry lesson - and liked it.

David finished all his work before noon. Marley moved right along in The Wind in the Willows and gave me frequent updates.

Sam worked another couple-of-days'-worth of arithmetic and phonics.

We made pizza for lunch. Joan had her first art painting class with her grandmother.

David played with Sam before he left for football practice.

Sarah, Joan, and I discussed the first part of Fahrenheit 451 and both girls were very animated and enthusiastic. (Kristi has written some great discussion questions.)

We had a quiet, productive, and fun day.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

First day of school

This was Sam's very first day of school, ever. When I woke him up this morning and told him to hurry up, and get started on schoolwork, he said, "I don't want to do schoolwork. I want to play."

"You will play - a lot. But first you'll learn some arithmetic and phonics, " I replied.

He grumped off to the dining room table where his work was laid out, and started to work on arithmetic. I got the rest of the children started and came back to Sam. He had finished today's work and was half-way through tomorrow's. I told him to stop - he had gone far enough, too far, even.

"But I love this!" So he finished up tomorrow's work, too. Same story with phonics. All-in-all a satisfactory beginning.

And from the rest? All happy with their reading/literature assignments; content with math; enjoying the science and history; pleased with Bible; laughing at their grammar and vocabulary work (it's pretty much review now); and okay with art and music. (Except for David, who is working through The Dangerous Book for Boys for his art lessons. and likes that quite a bit.)

Joan and Sarah are working through a literature unit designed by Kristi E. and they're very excited about reading, discussing, and writing about Fahrenheit 451 as their first assignment.


Apples - muffin recipe

Sherry at Semicolon is spotlighting apples this month. On Saturday I bought some Paula Red apples at the Piggly Wiggly. The label on the bag says they were grown in Michigan, and have a pleasantly tart flavor. I couldn't resist the bright green and red combination.

On Saturday night Triny and I made apple-raisin muffins to take to Sunday school the next morning. They were good, and I think I'll make lots more of these. They aren't very sweet, and the family loved them. (They were eaten by a lot of people at church, too.) The recipe is from my 1981 copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Apple-Raisin Muffins:

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 c. sugar

2 1/2 t. baking powder

3/4 t. salt

1 beaten egg

3/4 c. milk

1/3 c. cooking oil

1/2 t. cinnamon

1 c. chopped peeled apple

1/4 c. raisins

In mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add egg, milk, and oil. Stir just until moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fold in apples and raisins. Spoon into greased or lined muffin cups. Fill 2/3 full. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Makes 10 -12 muffins.

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Best friends

As usual, our time with Mike, Triny, and William was too short. Sam and William played every day from about 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. making the most of their time together. Now they will look forward to the next visit with each other.