Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Life in Cookbooks

Wow!  It's spring and I need a new banner.

I have been walking a lot and it is gorgeous in my neighborhood.  A real feast for the eyes, as everything is in bloom.  (Unfortunately, for some it is super pollen time and miserable to be outdoors).

I seem to have a lot of dried beans and lentils that need using up, so that aim sent me into my cookbooks to look up my most used and best loved recipes.  I got to looking at these books as objects of my  life and wanted to share two of them here.
The first is this one:

This book is about 30 years old.  Unbelievable!!!  It is the book that taught me the most about fresh food and herbs and how to prepare them.  It has lots of lists and general basic information that I read again and again.  Some of the recipes are complicated (like Torta Milanese), but most are pretty simple.  Many of these recipes have become ones I have used so often, I no longer consult the book anymore.
My brother gave me this as a Christmas gift the same year my dad gave me a cookbook.  The one my dad gave me was a large, beautiful hardbound one with lots of amazing pictures. When I closely examined the recipes though, I read things like "gas mark 4" and "gateau" and I realized it was an English cook book for recipes in a French style and that wasn't really my zone.  Instead, "Seasonal Vegetarian Cooking" got used way more than I bet my brother ever anticipated!

And then, there is this treasure:

I got this book for one dollar as part of a "Buy one book and get three for one dollar" mail away book club offer.  (I don't even think those things exist anymore.)  I bought this book and wore it out.

There's a note from my now passed mother-in-law about how to hydrate dried tomatoes used as marker on this page.  Her recipes are all around my cooking bibliophily.

This is another one that I have used so much I no longer consult the book.  It is divided by regional ethnic dishes, and some sections I have used again and again.  It has no pictures.  It has reference sections near the back that I needed so much in the course of my adventurous life, for example metric to non-metric conversions and Fahrenheit to Celsius, etc.

These books are like little diaries of my life.  In one of my all-time favorite books called Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie, the character who has lost his girlfriend laments her and all the cookbooks she left lying around with her notes scribbled in them, little testaments of her.  I know exactly what this is.

Recipe from a life long friend and excellent cook.  I was learning Italian at the time as evident by my penciled definitions. So much of my Italian came from recipes and food related instructions.

An instance where I combine a friend's recipe--having had this gazpacho at her house one afternoon--and the recipe in the book to hit the perfect combination of ingredients.

Not that I will be making Nocino again any time soon--because tradition says, you have to steal the nuts before the 24th of June -but when I do make it, I know exactly where to find this recipe, and exactly why one year's batch turned out better than the next year's batch. 

I will never make this Turkish dish, but the recipe was taken down  by my 1st husband ( who is now passed) as he made it with our neighbors across the hall who used to bring a bowl of it to us on occasion.  The paper and idea of this food and so much else, makes this artifact dear to me.

And last, a little shopping list of the kind I still make.

I have other well used cookbooks, but these two are the ones most full of notes and etc., the ones I've relied on the longest.  They're my most comfortable old friends.
(And no, I am not a vegetarian.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Winter of Discontent: Yarn Stories

Finally, finally, somewhere back there, I finished crocheting the Convergence top, a summer project that didn't get finished until late fall/early winter. The sleeves seem a little pokey-outey so I may need to add some more stitches to keep them down, or they may relax with wear.  But, by the time I was done making this, I was just too tired of it to adjust it.  I loved working with the yarn and the cool way the colors shifted, but my passion to make it just wasn't there. I was making it because I had bought the yarn. Making this was not a disappointment as all, just a lukewarm experience that I think will feel all better once it is summer and I am ready to look at it again in new light.

Discontent #1. So, in my spirit of use up yarn, I made a funny little cloche hat with yarn set for that project about 100 years ago when I was learning about yarn weights, etc. and wasn't very good at it. It is gray cotton yarn and I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to make with it--so, a hat it became. I am not including any pictures of this hat because I am not convinced it is any good and the pictures of it certainly aren't.  But at least the yarn is out of the bottom of my project bag that sits by the couch where I often knit or crochet.

Which brings me to discontent project #2.  I wanted to make a dog sweater for my son's shivery dog Nancy.  She has sparse, close fur like a lot of American bulldogs.  I mathed out a sweater in her size and had it more than half done, when my dog ate a hole in it.  !  This is craziness.  She has never eaten any of my projects before.  She has never eaten anything she wasn't supposed to before.  She is the kind of well behaved dog, that if you left a sandwich on the coffee table overnight, she would not touch it.  It is like she was jealous. As if she knew I was make a sweater for another dog and not her. I was so upset, I just abandoned the project until I feel I can look at it again.

Discontent #3. My dog--who never chews up anything--my 15 year old dog who never eats anything not food--pulled my hat made from lovely (I almost typed delicious!!) blue Misti Alpaca wool off of my coat which was hung over a chair, and ate a hole in it.  It is now fit for a unicorn.

The Guilty Party.  An old dog looking for ways to get more fiber in her diet-ha!

Hat of Christmas Past

Sooooo, continuing in the spirit of use up yarn, I knitted up an Antler Hat which is not on the Discontent list AT ALL.  In fact, I love this hat and have had it on my Want to Make mental list for a long time.  I am making another for my husband who wants a sports team colored one (garnet and gold) which was not in the use up yarn pile, but you know--when someone you love makes request...

Antler #1

I was knitting this hat during the annual Poetry Out Loud contest in fact, and unbeknownst to me, my yarn ball slipped away and rolled, rolled, rolled (down hill of course!) several rows of seats in front of me.  It was a bit of a scramble getting it back--a little like a multi-person Cat's Cradle yarn tangle during the intermission.

Each of these wonderful kids recited two poems while my yarn did a runner.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sharon Jones and Augusta

Some months ago, before Thanksgiving,  I was down in Augusta at a memorial for Sharon Jones, a soul singer who passed away after struggling with cancer.  The memorial was held in a beautiful old theater downtown, and was quite moving as Ms. Jones' long-time friends and church people shared their stories about her. I saw her perform only twice, and found her energy infectious and inspiring.

Students from the James Brown Academy of Music performed.  Trust that their work was loads better than my poor photo!  These kids rocked it! (My  pictures of the horn section were so bad I am not even putting them up.)

We wandered around the small downtown, soaking up the sun that fell warmly against the walls, admiring quirky old buildings and signs.

Look!  Palm trees!

My favorite.  We could've got run over taking this one.  We had to stand in the road real quick.

Many hats for men and women displayed. Clearly a town where people dress for church.

We window shopped mostly, though I did buy a vintage coat, a dark, full and swingy thing with a round collar.  In it, I feel like an early 1960's secretarial girl--either that or an old lady! Haha.

I liked the fixtures in the shops--old shelving and display cases like I haven't seen since I was a child. In one place a tailor consulted with a customer while I moseyed around his sewing machine and tape measures and ironing board.  Nice to be in a place that keeps things old and a little jumbled.

Sharon Jones had two memorials.  One in New York, you know, with all the show biz people.  But, I liked this one.  So many people talking about how she liked to fish, videos showing her digging worms, and neighbors saying how she was when she was "home."  And it felt like a person could get near a real soul somehow, or the essence of a person, breathing in that little town and those people. In the shop where I bought the coat, when the proprietress heard we had been up at the theater for the service, she asked if we'd heard a certain man (I forget his name) sing.  We said we had.

"Oh, and doesn't he have just a wonderful voice?" she exclaimed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Seems that in the past two weeks a lot of marching has been going on!

March for Healthcare at the Atlanta capital

Last weekend was the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  I attended a march for healthcare.  The girl who arranged it said she had only announced it less than a week before, and I would say more than 100 people showed up.  People are upset about health costs.  I am concerned about health and medicine costs.  But Obama is not to blame for that.

Many people just do not know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. Some people want to get rid of Obamacare because it has his name on it, not realizing that many of the benefits they now have are part of the Affordable Care Act which, unfortunately was nicknamed "Obamacare" in attempt to vilify it.  Many people do not realize that much of the Affordable Care Act was put together by Republicans before the Obama administration.

My son's are both cancer survivors, who therefore have a pre-existing conditions and could be denied healthcare coverage if not for the ACA.

They are both eligible now to be covered by my work insurance while they are in their 20's, which is good because healthcare premiums would eat up their whole paycheck otherwise. This benefit is part of the Affordable Care Act.

Relatives of mine depend on medicare and medicaid.  People who were not able to hold steady jobs because of their health problems.  They need to continue to get that assistance.

There are so many other reasons I support the Affordable Care Act--I am not going to list them all here.  It is just that people need to be aware of what they can lose by casting out "Obamacare," (which, by the way, was still under construction and not a finished product) and politicians need to hear the voice of people so that we can get what we need--whatever the powers that be name the thing.

And so, I marched.

 On MLK day, there was a march.  Although I did not, I wanted to attend, especially as our president-elect at that time, insulted our senator John Lewis and referred to his district--the neighborhood which adjoins mine and in which my son lives--in a totally false and derogatory way.

John Lewis was part of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr.  He is a hero by anyone's standards.  To insult and degrade him is unconscionable.  That this happened on the MLK weekend is inconceivable.

That is John Lewis on the far right. Martin Luther King Jr. is third from the right next to his wife Coretta.

And then yesterday, I took part in the Women's March.  I took part for so many reasons.
I cannot support a president that is so hateful.  And I cannot support a president--or any man--who could so brusquely refer to grabbing women in their private parts, or belittle women and refer to their menstrual cycle in a public meeting.  This reminds me of those crass boys in high school who sat trash talking girls and snickering.  I will not support that.

I was so happy to see the overwhelming participation in this event.  There were about 63 thousand people there!  I think about 15 thousand were anticipated.
When we got to the metro station, we knew we were in for something big because we couldn't find a place to park.  And then, when we were finally able to ditch our car, the trains were jammed.

I am usually fairly politically active.  I vote in all small elections.  I stay informed.  I put up signs.  But, I've never done anything like this before.  I have never had to.  But now I do.  I have to speak up and speak out.  So much that is going on--or could go on--is NOT okay.  I am so proud to stand with so many in my city.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


It is an icy cold day here, quite literally.  Yesterday, the school day was cut short for inclement weather.  Everyone was hoping for real snow.  But, it's the south.  So we got rain and then freezing temperatures, which adds up to ice.

Today is quite glorious really, sun and ice making everything sparkle.  At times I have been reminded of those Christmas tree icicles made of foil that I never see anymore except in old movies. (They must be a choking hazard or something!)  What wonderful shimmering light!

A few minutes ago I watched a family of squirrels hoping up a frozen tree trunk and walking along the brittle limbs.  Out for dinner, I thought, and then--flash! Swoop!  A pair of hawks landed on the fence.  Also out for dinner, I guess.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year

The new year has started gray and foggy and wet.  I love this kind of weather!  It's the sit indoors under a cozy blanket and read a book kind of weather.  At night I love to listen to the rain--real rain, not the "sounds of rain" I sometimes play on my phone.


This was once a wren house, but squirrels chewed the hole wider.  It has provided shelter for many little critters over the years.  Some of the scratches on the outside were made by talons once upon a time too.

One of my "Happy December" camellias
 I've been glad for these days off work--lots and lots of days!  It's given me time to clean up and rest and finally finish my summer crochet project (more on that later).

Last year, I did several things I wanted to do--learn to knit cables, take a tai chi class, read more books, and start on a memoir about some of my traveling days.

This year, I'd like to continue on with those things.  Specifically with the memoir which I really only started and then put down again.  I think I am afraid of it.  Sometimes writing pulls me down into it so forcefully that it affects my non-writing hours.  And the fog this writing may throw me into is what I fear.  But the fact that it is so emotionally charged is, of course, why I have to write it.

But enough of that.

I also want to use up some yarn I have sitting around before I buy yarn for another project.  This isn't all that much.  Enough I think to make a sweater and a hat.  I have discovered that I am not one for excess yarn hanging around.  Right now I am making a dog sweater.  It's for my son's dog, Nancy. As I sit and knit, I feel myself chuckling a little about knitting a sweater for a dog--like a grandchild! My son is not near having a child (I hope!!)--but there are some weird parallels here I think.

I'd also like to try to keep my blog more active.
And keep bees--or learn about keeping bees! I certainly have the outdoor space for it.
And be active for causes I believe in.
And be a loving, caring teacher who puts in my best each day.

For now, the rain continues.  Here's a little tea cup and saucer I bought on this day in the Czech Republic in 1993, the year Czech and Slovakia split.  --Ah, but that's a story for the memoir!

Monday, December 26, 2016

This is holiday

This sparkle-y little bit of Christmas tree may have belonged to my grandmother or maybe even my great grandmother.  My mom gave it to me a long time ago.  I don't think it has any monetary value, but it is hugely sentimental to me.  When I look at it, I remember a holiday party that took place a very long time ago.

I think maybe someone wore this at a party I went to when I was a very small child.

It was a party at the VFW--a place my grandmother went, or at least talked about--which wasn't too far from her house. This party was the only time I went into this building.  I remember walking carefully up a wet, perhaps slightly snowy, metal stairway on the side, having on boots maybe and holding someone's hand. Inside, it was darkish, though lit with maybe a Christmas tree and lights, a grown-up party.  Everyone was very dressed up--including me, and people remarked on that.  The perfumed ladies had red lipstick mouths and everyone was talking, laughing. Someone made a joke about a Christmas tie. Maybe an uncle?  There was a punch bowl, the now old-fashioned kind with a ladle and glass teacups, and maybe snacks like Spanish peanuts, the ones that are a little oily and the red skins slide off and litter the serving dish.  We didn't stay too long.  It was a grown-up party after all.  The impression I have of the whole affair comes to me through a filter the colors of the rhinestones in this Christmas tree brooch.  That's why I think I saw it there.

Which, of course, may be totally false.

This experience, so slight, so small, was nonetheless, one of those definitive moments we absorb when we are very, very small.  This is holiday.  This is a party.